Fantasy Football: Listener Mailbag Questions from the Commissioner’s Desk

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The Fantasy Footballers “Mailbag” segment of the podcast is one of the most popular parts for the listeners. Andy, Mike, and Jason receive so many listener questions that many simply cannot make it onto the show. Some of the most common questions revolve around being a fantasy football commissioner and running successful leagues. I’ve written many different commissioner focused articles, however, this one will be focused on the common questions that regularly come into the mailbag segment. If you have a specific question you’d like to see addressed in a future article, please send it in!

“What is the right amount of teams for my league?”

A specific number of teams doesn’t exist. The most important determination for the right number is based on what you’re looking to get out of the league. A casual family league that is giving mom and grandpa a taste of fantasy football doesn’t need to be deep. If you only have 6 or 8 people interested, that’s perfectly fine.

If you’re creating a team-building based league to build some office comradery to increase the water cooler talk, it’s most important to make sure that it’s set up to include as many people as wish to participate. Yes, a deeper 16-20 team league may be intimidating for novices, so consider running two leagues if you find yourself with more than 12 owners.

Competitive leagues bring on a different challenge. The number of owners is less important than the quality of the owners. If you’re looking to build a league full of experienced owners, you’ll want to make sure that every owner is committed to the league, and backfilling it with casual players to simply hit an arbitrary 10 or 12 is going to negatively impact the competitiveness of the league. You’re better off running an eight-team league and adjusting the starting line-ups and scoring (see my suggestions in article) to make the owners work harder to win than filling in with owners who won’t reply to trade offers, make weekly waiver moves or, worst of all, not submit their weekly line-up halfway into the season.

This brings us to one of the most common questions…

“How do I find and choose highly-engaged owners?”

Nothing is more frustrating than having inactive owners in a competitive league and finding engaged owners is no easy task. The most common starting spot is your circle of friends and colleagues. If you’re looking to start a new league, you first need to set your expectations. Is this going to be a live draft/local league or are you willing to look to outside your circle to the social media space?

[Editor’s Note: Check out another article 5 Ways to Make Your Live Draft Legit.]

Location-based leagues are often harder to find high-quality engaged owners. The first piece of advice is to keep the league close to your vest as you vet prospective owners. The goal is not to fill the league, and you don’t want the word spreading around to the point that people are coming to you asking to join the league. Saying no is hard enough, especially if it’s a close friend or family member, or worse yet, a co-worker you need to play nice with every day. Your goal is to start off talking about football and more complex parts of the game, either real or fantasy. Rookie draft time is the perfect time to do this. If the person is regurgitating the clichés from the talking heads, run away fast. If that person can speak intelligently about more niche topics and dissect why the clichéd talking points are invalid, you’ve found yourself a potential league mate. Now it’s time to engage their network. Find out who they know that is as passionate as they are about the game. Wherever possible, find a way to meet the person and talk football. Before you know it, you’ll have a group of potential owners that are as passionate as you are.

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In today’s internet-connected society, it’s far more likely that you’re going to play in league with people from all across the country that you’ve never met in person. Building a new league of owners this way is likely a more natural path to highly competitive owners. Social media is everywhere, and for all it’s faults, it’s also a great way to meet like-minded people who are just as dedicated to this game as you are. While I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Andy, Mike, Jason, and Brooks in person, my writing career with the Fantasy Footballers kicked off by having made connections on various social media platforms.

One of the best places to find like-minded fantasy football owners is right here on the Fantasy Footballers website. The Ballers Community message boards are filled with owners just like you. Don’t spam the message boards with “owners needed” messages. The goal is not to quickly fill a league. The Ballers community and other social media platforms will present you with an overwhelming number of potential league mates. The key to sifting through the masses to find people you’d enjoy playing fantasy football with is interacting with people you find interesting. Reading through the discussions, find that person who leaves a well thought out, intriguing note. Regardless of if they are agreeing or disagreeing with the original poster, you’re looking for someone respectful. Engage with them either in the thread or, where appropriate, direct private messages. DO NOT, however, immediately invite them to your league. Building a highly engaged league is like conducting job interviews. You need to get to know this person. Once you’ve connected and feel confident they would make a great owner, you can open that discussion. Even if they are not open to a new league, you can ask them for referrals to someone who is just as passionate. Building connections are your desired outcome; building a league is secondary, doing it this way is far more likely to create a long-lasting, engaged league. Speaking of engaged owners…

“How do I keep owners engaged?”

Keeping owners engaged is all about setting clear league expectations up front. Don’t invite someone who’s never played fantasy football into a high-stakes dynasty league that uses IDP. Conversely, don’t spam the well-known fantasy analysts to be in your league. It won’t happen. Beyond having the correct mix of owners, there is a myriad of ways to keep owners engaged up-to the level of expectation for the league.

First of all, don’t be afraid of change. Whether it is adjustments to the rules or changing owners, change is good for league engagement. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made as a fantasy commissioner was convincing a casual, inactive owner to stay in a league for no other reason than I couldn’t find a replacement before the league draft. That owner did not want to be there but agreed to stay simply to keep the league at a whole 12 teams. Looking back, the league would have been more entertaining running with 11 teams and concocting an interesting schedule than having everyone frustrated with that owner.

Earlier this year, I wr0te an article focused on changes to make for the 2019 season. Proposing rule changes is a great way to engage owners in the off-season. If nothing else, you’ll have your league all talking about fantasy football, which can re-ignite their excitement for the league during a typical lull.

Communication is probably the most important thing that keeps league mates engaged. Communication doesn’t have to be solely focused on fantasy football. Every league I participate in has some form of dedicated group chat. Whether a group text message with my home league, a twitter group DM with a dynasty league of current and former Ballers writers, conversations, even in-season, frequently deviate from fantasy football. The more you connect with your league mates on a personal level, the more likely they are to stay engaged in the league.

Nothing kicks-off league engagement more than an exciting way to determine the annual draft order.

“How do I determine the draft order?”

There is no correct answer to this one. There are so many exciting and creative ways that leagues determine their draft order that it would be impossible even to start to list them because regardless of what is listed, you or someone in your league will have heard or participated in something better.

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There are a few requirements that should be checked off on your draft order determination plan:

1. Is it fair to all owners?

2. Do all owners have the same access to the necessary information or activity?

3. Does it create excitement, fun, or friendly competition?

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