Starting a League

People decide to start up new fantasy football leagues for several reasons. Some may be fed up with their existing league while others simply cannot find a local chapter in which to participate or that has any openings. Administrative (problems with the rules and/or league administration) or personality differences (character and/or favoritism) are generally the reasons they quit these leagues while others list financial difficulties or the quality of competition as the culprit. Regardless of your particular complaint, learn from the experience and make it a point to avoid these same pitfalls in your new league. Try to improve upon them as well.

This idea becomes even more feasible if a few of your friends are in the same boat. But be prepared to do most of the work, field the complaints and reap little praise for your efforts if you take on the job as commissioner. I would suggest a service to handle your stats and a reliable league owner or two to share the various duties-- just to take some of the pressure off. Your hard work (and your own team) will suffer if you try to do everything yourself.

That said, here is an easy step-by-step process for starting and maintaining a successful fantasy football league.

1. The number of franchise owners varies in established leagues but we usually recommend 10 or 12. Employ too few teams and you find yourself in a situation where everybody ends up having all-star rosters with plenty of free agents to choose from every week. Conversely, too many teams increase the odds of poor ownership (the more teams in the league-- the greater the chance of a slacker or two emerging). Top heavy leagues also run the risk of stretching the player pool to it’s limits, leaving nothing in the way of available free agents to pick up in the inevitable event of injury. Also, try to keep an even number of teams in the league for scheduling purposes to avoid the problems that bye weeks cause in uneven leagues.

2. Be sure you select your league owners carefully. These people should be knowledgeable, reliable and trustworthy men and women who will stay competitive within the boundaries of the league’s rules. Start with your closest friends and/or co-workers and expand as per their recommendations. Screen them by conducting a brief interview with all interested parties beforehand and rate them on their overall knowledge, fortitude and honesty. The last thing you want is to be stuck with a couple of drones who do not pay their financial dues or fail to make the necessary moves and lineup changes each week to keep the league competitive. These types tend to have an adverse effect on league unity and make the commissioner's job that much tougher having to deal with complaints about them every week.

Try to stress commitment as mandatory for league cohesion at league meetings and when interviewing these prospective owners. Make sure they completely understand that for the league to work, it is absolutely essential they remain competitive even if they find themselves hopelessly out of the race late in the season.

3. Don’t be afraid to delegate authority. When your league members are finally in place, elect a commissioner who will be fair and reliable, a secretary for weekly lineup call-ins (and to act as the stat service liaison if you have one) and a treasurer to handle all of the finances. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Contact a few different stat services if none of the league members are willing to keep the official statistics and standings and select the one that best serves your league’s purpose.

4. Discuss roster size with everybody starting with the format that you feel the most comfortable with. Starting lineups should be called in on a set day after the injury reports come out but before the games begin. Most leagues require a roster of 2-3 quarterbacks, 3-4 running backs, 4-5 wide receivers, two kickers and two defenses. Of these, one QB, two RBs, three WRs, one kicker and one defense should be designated to play each week.

An interesting option is the run-and-shoot offense-- one RB and four WRs. Tight ends are sometimes counted as WRs while special teams are generally lumped together with the defense. You can add additional players as you see fit but we recommend you keep it simple to start, especially if some of your owners are new to fantasy football.

5. Decide on a set of scoring rules and keep it as simple as you can he first year, especially if you sign up a lot of owners who are new to fantasy football. The basic scoring method works best in the latter case which is simply six points for a touchdown, three points for a field goal, two points for a safety and two point conversion and one point for an extra point. (Two point conversion scores are usually awarded to the player who actually catches the ball or runs it in.) You can add bonus points and performance scoring later to enhance the experience. Bonus points are dramamtic and exciting but add a huge eliment of luck to the proceedings because of their unpredictability so use them judiciously.


Optional Bonus Points For Distance

TDs over nine yards = nine points

TDs over 39 yards = 12 points

FGs over 10 yards = five points

FGs over 50 yards = 10 points

These parameters can be adjusted to your liking.


Optional Bonus Points For Performance

100-149 yards rushing or receiving game = 2 points

150-199 yards rushing or receiving game = 3 points

200 or more yards rushing or receiving game = 4 points

200-249 yards passing = 2 points

250-299 yards passing = 3 points

300-349 yards passing = 4 points

350 or more yards passing = 5 points

These parameters can be adjusted to your liking.

Optional Double Bonus Points

Awarded if a quarterback rushes or catches a pass for a touchdown.

Awarded if a running back throws or catches a pass for a touchdown.

Awarded if a wide receiver rushes or throws a pass for a touchdown.

It is therefore possible to score 24 points on one play when combining the Distance and Double Bonus Point methods. Let’s say Ronnie Harmon catches a 60 yard TD pass. He would be awarded 12 points for the 40+ touchdown and double that for being a running back who catches a TD pass. This is exactly why the luck factor is so prevalent when dealing with bonus points so be careful when electing to include them in your scoring rules.

Performance scoring is much more scientific but harder to keep track of. Many leagues opt for this extra scoring measure to add realism to their league and to reduce the aforementioned luck factor. Make sure you have weekly access to the categories that you choose or use a stat service or a reliable league member for this kind of scoring.


Optional Performance Scoring

10 rushing and receiving yards = one point

25 passing yards = one point

Additional points can be awarded for rushing attempts, receptions, etc.


6. Decide on your draft day parameters. Most leagues use the round-robin format. In a 12 team league, each franchise takes a turn choosing a player in reverse order of last year’s standings. The order is then reversed every other round so that the team with the last pick in the previous round has the first choice (back-to-back picks) in the next round. (Round 1 = teams 12 through 1, round 2 = teams 1 through 12, round 3 = teams 12 through 1 etc.)

Some leagues start fresh each year with every player dumped back into the draft while others allow each team to protect or retain a certain amount of players from year-to-year. If you opt for the protection format, we suggest keeping it at a minimum (2-3 players) and with a specific time limit (2-3 years) to avoid dynasty situations. (I know of leagues that drafted Emmitt Smith as a rookie and has kept him on their roster ever since. Not cool.) Bidding on players from a salary cap as popularized in rotisserie baseball is used by a small percentage of leagues but is easily adaptable for fantasy football purposes. This also permits the signing of players to "long-term" contracts but with a time limit as well.

7. Trading and free agents. Allow trading in the first half only to avoid player dumping (the annoying practice of the first division teams loading up on the better players from the second division teams) that is so prevalent these days. Some leagues only permit contiguous trading (by which a team can only trade with those next to it in the standings) after a certain point in the schedule-- usually the half-way point.

Free agent claims are generally allowed each week in order to upgrade rosters and to replace injured players. Claims should be awarded in reverse order of the previous week’s standings. Some leagues hold quarterly free agent drafts in lieu of the weekly claims (also in reverse order of standings).

8. Scheduling. Figure a random schedule of head-to-head play. Some teams will play each other twice depending on the size of the league but that’s OK as long as it’s by chance. Some leagues divide into two divisions if their league has more than 12 teams. They then schedule more games against opponents within each division. Teams win or lose their games by matching the points scored by their starting lineup with their opponent’s points each particular week.

The schedule can last through the NFL regular season (17 weeks) or be cut off 2-3 weeks ahead of time for a fantasy playoff system matching the league’s best teams against one another. We recommend the former to further reduce the luck factor.

9. Draw up a simple but thorough set of league rules. Whether regarding roster manipulation, scheduling, scoring or whatever, adhere to a structure that is comfortable for everyone. Do not make any rule too complex to follow or that will make your league members lose interest. Make sure everybody gets a copy of these rules and discuss them at league meetings or on draft day. The commissioner or a three-member board should rule on all discrepancies. I have had had leagues call me on the Scout Line (1-900-40-SCOUT) to rule on trades, scoring problems and 3-way ties in the standings. The Scout line is generally used for player advice and roster manipulation but we are prepared to field commissioner questions as well.

10. Prizes. The top 4-5 teams make up the first division and become eligible for the prize pool and/or the playoffs. Additional prizes can be awarded to teams that score the most points each week just to keep things interesting later in the year for the also-rans. But remember there is no law that prohibits you of playing just for the competition and for the fun of it. Good luck to all.


Bidding Strategy | Bidding Strategy II | Bidding Strategy III | Straight Draft Strategies

Weekly Lineup Strategies | Starting a League | Kellogg's Komments | Positional Strategies