How To Commish a Dynasty Fantasy Football League

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So you’ve served as commissioner in your redraft home league for half a decade. Not bad, boss. Not bad at all. But are you ready to take the next step? Are you ready to run a league that stands the test of time? Are you ready to commish a dynasty league?

This article will prepare you for fantasy football’s most daunting executive task. Full disclosure: many of these tips are based on my observations of Jeff Greenwood, a former writing colleague and superlative commissioner of my lone dynasty league. This is also just my general advice; your league’s preferences might differ, and that is totally fine.

Dominate the Offseason…

Let’s face it: the NFL offseason is the dynasty regular season. It’s never easy transitioning to life without football in February and March; fortunately, dynasty leagues provide plenty of fodder to stay engaged. You’ve got free agency. The combine. The NFL draft, followed by your rookie draft. And throughout it all, dynasty managers are talking trades and cutting deals to set their teams up for enduring success.

These are the crucial months for a commissioner to shine before redraft fever sweeps over the land in July and August. This is a busy period for trading and waiver wire adds, so make sure that your league settings allow these and that FAAB resets soon after the NFL season ends. Now, your league-mates may want a bit of a break, which is totally fine after an intense season of fantasy. Just don’t go all spring and summer with the league shut down. You’ll miss the best part!

Of course, the lodestone of dynasty is the rookie draft. It’s how new players are inducted into the league and, hopefully, signed on for years of dominance. Take measures to ensure that your rookie draft is as fun as it can possibly be. My two tips here: launch the draft a few days after the actual NFL draft (so managers have time to prepare) and run a slow draft with 24 hours per pick (to get the full experience — there’s also no real reason to rush!). The second point is especially important since, just like in the NFL draft, managers frequently want to trade to move up and down the live draft board.

Finally, lead by example. Use the features on your fantasy platform to offer trades and, maybe more importantly, facilitate trades. What do I mean by facilitating? Label players that you are trying to trade away, and identify players on other teams that you are interested in making a trade for. This sets the tone for an active offseason, which is the most fun part of dynasty.

…But Practice Patience In-season

What is interesting about dynasty is that while the offseason is full of activity, the actual NFL season can be slow by comparison. Rosters are super deep (i.e., 20+ bench spots) so there’s not much waiver wire activity like there is in redraft. And that’s ok — as a commissioner, it’s important to understand the role of dynasty. It’s there to steward us through the slow, offseason months. Of course, while the NFL season is still a blast for your dynasty leagues, it’s less important: you have redraft leagues and, of course, actual NFL football!

One nice rule change that leans into this idea is making your dynasty league a best ball league. Each week, your highest-scoring players are automatically placed into your starting lineup. This eliminates the need to worry about start/sit decisions; coupled with the lack of waiver wire activity, this reduces your in-season workload by about 90%. You’ll just be making the occasional trade and watching your players dominate week in and week out. And, again, that’s not a bad thing: you’ll have plenty of waiver adds and start/sit decisions to occupy you in your redraft leagues.

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Members Make the League

We all know that absentee managers in redraft leagues are no fun. Well, the impact of an inactive manager is tripled in dynasty leagues since they will be around for a while. This is super important to keep in mind when starting up a dynasty league. Prospective managers need to understand that this is a multi-year commitment; generally, if you’re trying really hard to convince someone who is on the fence, they probably aren’t the best choice.

Of course, we can’t always be proactive, and sometimes unenthused managers end up in active dynasty leagues. What can you do in this case? I find that simple, direct questions are the best policy, especially if the manager is someone that you are close with. “Hey ___, you weren’t very active last year. Is this league something that you still want to be a part of?” Often managers are waiting for you to ask this question — maybe things got too busy for them, or they aren’t interested any longer, but couldn’t find a way to easily extricate themselves. If not, then this question can serve as a reminder of the general expectations for activity in the league.

Everything in Moderation

As with all things, balance is key. A crucial tenet of dynasty leagues is communication. Decisions have multi-year consequences: each draft pick, trade, and waiver addition has to be made with the future in mind. As such, it’s important that managers understand the rules, regulations, and schedule of the league. Commissioners need to communicate that clearly; using the ‘pinned messages’ feature in your app can be helpful. At the same time, don’t over-communicate and spam the group with reminders. This runs the risk of watering down the impact of any one of your messages, especially since dynasty is year-round.

The same principle applies to getting feedback. There are many rule changes (like the ‘best ball’ idea above) that you may want to get input on from the rest of your league. There’s nothing wrong with running a quick poll to see how people feel; after all, you want a league to be something that everyone enjoys! However, don’t fall into the trap of holding a vote for every minor decision. It’s ok to use your executive status once in a while.

Finally, the balance of the league itself is critical. It’s no fun when a single team is literally unstoppable for a decade, or another team can’t get out of last place. Probably the best way to achieve long-term parity is with the ordering of the rookie draft. The most common method I’ve seen is reverse order based on regular season standings (last-place team picks first, etc.) — final playoff standings are a bit more random and don’t necessarily reflect underlying team quality. Importantly, the pick order shouldn’t reverse after the first round, snake draft style: the worst team should get the first pick of the second round, just like in the NFL draft. Otherwise, there’s not as much of an advantage in picking first!

Another critical factor is to make sure that incoming managers have an understanding of dynasty, and don’t get fleeced on trades that will disrupt the league equilibrium. For example, an NFL fan benchmarking off of the 2022 Russell Wilson trade (two firsts, two seconds, and players) would very quickly mortgage their dynasty team’s future.

Hopefully, this article gave you a sense of the landscape. If not, you can always hit me on Twitter with questions!

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