Fantasy Football: The Commissioner’s Guide to 2019 League Adjustments
Welcome back! (although I know some of you never left!) For many people, especially fantasy football commissioners, there is little to no off-season anymore. Things may slow down, but there is always something to do. As the 2018 season came to a conclusion, many owners were clamoring for ways to reduce the luck involved in winning a championship. We can all agree that we want to have the best chance of winning based on skill over luck. After the 2018 “playoff” season (Weeks 14-16), many fantasy players were looking for ways to adjust their league to reduce these crazy swings at the most crucial part of the season. Let’s dive into some of the top league adjustments that have been discussed and how to implement them into your 2019 league.
Editor’s Note: Looking for more ways to improve your league? Check out all of our commissioner-related content.
It’s been a strong trend across the fantasy landscape over the past few years and 2018 may finally be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Many owners were burned in Week 15 when Houston Kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was one of the highest scoring players in fantasy leagues. Fairbairn was coming off his worst game of the season, having no FG attempts and just three extra points in Week 14. Week 15 saw him attempt and make five field goals, (3 from over 40 and a long of 53 yards) topped off with two extra points. Depending on your league scoring, Fairbairn scored between 17 and 23.5 fantasy points. In a Baller’s Preferred half-PPR league, the higher end of that would rank him as QB2, RB7, WR3, or TE…. never mind. We’ll get to TEs later.
Ask yourself a serious question: when doing weekly player start/sit research, where does the PK fall on your list of importance? Don’t even try to give me any fake stories of it being anything higher than second to last, and it only comes in second to last if you have a plug-and-play QB or TE.
Some owners will initially push back, but the reality is that not one single owner, in any league where I’ve removed kickers, has come back and said, “Man, I really miss having kickers, we need to bring them back”. Kickers get drafted at the end of drafts for a reason: no one really likes drafting, owning, researching, or even streaming kickers. It is the last item on the list of importance. Even the best owners have likely forgotten to swap out their PK during a bye week. Speaking of Bye Weeks, the PK is the only position in fantasy football that often sees the #1 scoring player DROPPED for a waiver wire replacement due to the bye week. While there are a few gluttons for punishment out there who claim to like the PK position (Check out 25 Boom-Boom Kicker Stats from 2018), think about the casual owner in your league who is the least active and likely just playing for the comradery in the office. Should they get rewarded with such a huge performance from a Kicker, when they did ZERO research? Pull the plug on the PK position in fantasy football and don’t look back. You and everyone else won’t miss them and will appreciate the additional time opened up for more important things like trade talks.
At the conclusion of the 2018 fantasy season, many people were discussing ways to remove some of the luck from the head-to-head nature of the schedule and, specifically, the playoffs. We all love the head-to-head rivalry of the game, but there is often that misfortune of being the second highest scoring team who happens to play the highest scoring team that week. A few things to consider for next year:
If one game a week is fun, playing against two opponents is even better. This can often lead to a more even distribution of wins throughout the season.
Doubleheader versus the League Average
Instead of playing two teams each week, owners play one traditional head-to-head matchup. A second “win” is assigned to any team who outscores the league average for that week. One of the pitfalls of this format occurs if a team gives up and starts dragging the weekly average way down, awarding points to too many teams.
Instead of a W-L record, owners receive points. You are awarded one point for winning a weekly matchup. The top scoring teams each week, typically the top half of the league, are awarded another point for a total of two points possible each week. This is intended to help reduce the impact of the dreaded L when you’re the second highest scoring team and happen to be playing the highest scoring team.
Victory Points Version 2
In this format, scoring is even more highly rewarded than head-to-head matchups. Owners are still assigned 1 point per win; however, the league is divided into three scoring levels. The top 1/3rd of teams are awarded 2 points, the middle group 1 point, and the bottom 1/3rd zero. This place a much greater emphasis on scoring the most points possible, while not going all-in on the All-Play format.
Doubleheaders with Victory Points
Merging the two ideas together, you play two teams and are award a point per win. Then the scoring comes in and award points outlined in V.2 above. This gives owners a possible 4 points per week. Essentially, a team can lose to the highest scoring team and still be award 3 points for the week. Mid-level teams can also earn 3 points if the cards fall the right way. Imagine the excitement Weeks 12-13 can have with so many points still on the line!
Instead of one or two weekly head-to-head matchups, owners play every team in the league each week. This system rewards the highest scoring team each week while keeping the weekly waivers and start/sit nature of traditional fantasy football. Unfortunately, this format isn’t the most exciting if you get into a hole early in the year.
A lot of press is given to best ball leagues early in the draft season. In this format, you draft your team but do not have the burden of start/sit decisions each week, and in many cases, no waivers. At the end of the week’s games, the hosting site management program uses the best possible line-up for each team. The “draft it and forget it” nature of the format is fun for drafting a lot of teams without having to worry about an overwhelming burden of weekly waivers and setting lineups, but that hands-off management also prevents it from displacing traditional leagues.
If you like the best ball format but don’t want to displace your existing league, consider adding it as a side pot to your league. If you use your draft as the basis for the best ball league, so you only have to draft once. At the end of the year, it’s fun to see how much the rosters changed. You can then reward the owner with the “best draft” at the end of the year as well as the regular league program.
Diversify Your Prize Pool
In an attempt to spice up my home league, which has been running strong for 12 seasons, I proposed that we increase our buy-in by a little bit and create some “other” prize categories. This was well received and after our second year running this style, the owners have come to love it. Here are a few examples of other awards:
- Weekly top scoring team
- Each week the owner with the highest score is given a small prize.
- Highest single week score in the season
- Total Points for the Season
- I include the much-maligned Week 17 in this award for some added excitement. Owners can safely drop players that are not playing to pick-up backups and players projected to see increased roles.
- Highest Scoring Started Player
- Make sure you use starting players only and not bench players. This burned an owner in one league where they benched Amari Cooper after a few dismal weeks and then went out and posted the highest week!
- Largest/Smallest Margin of Victory
- In the smallest margin of victory, both owners split the prize
- Toilet Bowl Champion
- Create a secondary playoff bracket, with the “winner” getting a prize.
Adjust Your Rosters
One of the best ways to highlight skill over luck is to make your league dig deeper for starting players. As a commissioner, one thing that confounds me in the overall fantasy industry is a consistent starting line-up layout regardless of league size. The NFL player pool doesn’t change based on your league size, but yet so many starting roster requirements stay the same regardless of 8-10-12-14-16 teams. The owner to player pool ratio changes, and so should your starting line-up.
Let’s use Quarterbacks as an example. In today’s NFL, there are at least 20 start-able QBs each week. At this point almost everyone is well aware of the “late-round QB” strategy, so why do we still have smaller leagues only starting 1QB?
There are roughly 35 RBs and 45 WRs that should be weekly considerations to start, yet we see the same 2RB, 2WR, 1 FLEX set-up in both 8-team and 16-team leagues. My suggestion is to not focus on the individual team starting lineup, but first focus on the league-wide total of starting players.
In an 8-team league with a traditional starting lineup of 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1Flex – you are only starting 16-20RBs and 16-20WRs. This creates a situation where every team is full of great players sitting on the bench each week and a few bad start/sit decisions can really derail an otherwise stout team.
In all scenarios, I look at the depth of the desired starting player pool, then divide it by the number of teams. We can all agree that there are easily 18-22 quality starting QBs each week. So take 20 and divide it by the number of teams to determine your leagues starting lineup:
If you haven’t heard about Superflex yet, it’s like a normal flex position, wherein you can also start a QB along with normal RB, WR, or TE. The idea is to use more of the available talent pool. Not only does this use more QBs overall, but it forces owners to value them far greater than in a 1QB league, where at least half the league will end up drafting their QBs in the later rounds due to the overwhelming talent available vs the number of drafted QBs.
More Flex, Less Required Positions
If the league is looking to get deeper, I would suggest adding a second or multiple flex positions instead of adding required positions. Flex positions also allow owners to build out a team they think is the best while having the flexibility to work the waiver wire across multiple positions when injuries inevitable strike. It is a lot of fun to have the big variations in team roster construction.
Eliminate the TE
After 2018’s TE performances as a whole, the fantasy industry was abuzz with the notion of eliminating the required TE from fantasy starting rosters. Add in Rob Gronkowski’s retirement and the talent pool for consistent fantasy production is very slim. Last year, in Half-PPR scoring, only 6 TEs averaged over 10 points per game and one of them, O.J. Howard, only played 10 games. Austin Hooper’s 71 receptions, 660 yards, and 4 TDs were enough to rank 6th in overall TE scoring. We can all agree that Jordy Nelson was completely useless in fantasy leagues, but if he was designated as a TE, he would have been TE6. In the chart above, you’ll see that I only recognized 8 TEs as worthy starters. While there are plenty of TEs on NFL rosters, the reality is that only a few are really weekly starters.
Remember back at the beginning of this article when I was comparing Ka’imi Fairbairn’s Week 15 performance to other positions and I said never mind when I reached TE? Well, that is because, in half-PPR scoring and at the LOWEST normal PK scoring format, Fairbairn’s 17 points would have outscored the top TE, Garrett Celek, by 4 points. YUCK.
There are two ways to combat this TE-apocalypse. The most common trend has been to institute a “TE-Premium” scoring system, where TE’s get .5 more points per reception than the RBs and WRs get for their receptions. In a half-PPR league, TE’s would get 1 full point. In a full PPR, TE’s would get 1.5 points. Honestly, it’s doesn’t make TEs any better and it actually creates a bigger gap between the top few TEs and the rest of the field. I also haven’t found this scoring to dramatically impact the way fantasy players draft and deploy TEs.
The other alternative, which I will be proposing to my home league, is to remove the required TE position in fantasy lineups and replace it with a pass catcher (WR/TE) flex. No RBs. This keeps the option open for those who draft the few top TEs but gives the rest of us the option to not start players who can’t crack the top 60 pass catchers most weeks. It’s really no fun submitting a line-up with Austin Hooper or Kyle Rudolph or picking up the random TE-du jour in hopes of a TD reception. When a 1 reception, 1 Yard, 1 TD stat line pushes you into the top 10 at the position, it’s time to make a change.
Increase Bench Depth
While nowhere near as fun as deeper starting line-ups, adding more depth to your bench allows owners to draft some sleepers for later in the year and gives them enough breathing room to actually hold them through the season waiting for that breakout.
Add More IR Spots
With more and more players going onto NFL short-term IR, with a designated to return status, it’s imperative that fantasy rosters keep up, especially in keeper and dynasty leagues.