New Fantasy Football League Rules & Suggestions
I started playing fantasy football in 1999. The game looked a lot different back then. There was no PPR scoring, fractional points, or many of the common rules we take for granted today. Some things never change though, I had a great Fantasy Football Team Name, I researched rookies and sleepers all summer, and had a blast at the fantasy draft, which had to have been in-person, as there were no apps back then.
I remember starting one draft by taking running backs in each of the first five rounds because at that time, outside of a few top-tier receivers, they were pretty much the only guaranteed way to ensure fantasy points. The game has evolved to make other positions equally important and, nowadays, auction leagues, Superflex and tight end-premium scoring are commonplace. New ideas are coming out every year that offer more realism and strategy to the game we love. Here are some of my favorite unique rules that your league should consider implementing in order to encourage more participation and provide a better experience for the owners.
In a doubleheader league, each team has a chance to win two games each week. One game is a head-to-head matchup against your opponent. The outcome of the other game is determined by your team’s points that week. If you finish in the top half of the league, you get a win. Conversely, if you finish in the bottom half of the league, you get a loss. This system is much fairer because it rewards teams who had a good week and would have won against most of the other teams in the league, but had bad luck with the schedule that week. In that scenario, your team would finish 1-1 instead of 0-1 for the week.
Wildcard Playoff Spot
This is my favorite rule because it takes out some of the randomness of fantasy football standings. In my home league, we use one Wildcard spot. It’s a 12 team league and six teams make the playoffs. We determine the top five spots by league record, but the sixth spot goes to the team with the most total points that didn’t finish in the top five. We’ve all seen teams with bad records that are near the top in points. It’s such an unsatisfying feeling for the owner of that team when it happens. The owner does everything right, but because of schedule randomness, his team misses the playoffs. This rule fixes that problem and incentivizes teams who would normally be eliminated from the payoffs, to continue to stay engaged. You can use two Wildcards spots if you’d like, but at that point, it starts to feel more like a Best Ball league than a friendly home league.
Every year, there’s always one person who misses the draft. Although they will offer some lame excuse as to why they couldn’t make it, it’s more likely they know a team that is auto-drafted would be infinitely better than a team they would draft of their own. In a league with this rule, teams that do not participate in the live draft and rely solely on the auto-draft feature would receive a penalty of some sort, such as losing points for the first few weeks of the season. This would encourage managers to participate in the draft and would level the playing field between active and inactive managers.
In a league with this rule, each team would have one “captain” who could choose a player from their roster to receive double points for that week. The one caveat is that a player can only be chosen once per season and only in the regular season. This would add an extra level of strategy and would encourage managers to consider which players are most likely to have a big week. I really like this rule because it forces you to decide when to choose your studs as your “captain”. Do you hold off for the more important games later in the season and risk the player missing games because of an injury or do you use them early in the season and try to build up an insurmountable league in the standings?
In a league with this rule, teams would play their biggest rival in a predetermined week, preferably in the second half of the season. The game would count twice, so that a team would get either two wins or loses that week, making the outcome especially important. In addition to bragging rights, this would add an extra level of excitement and rivalry to the league.
Many leagues use a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) for waivers. If you’re not already, you should be. It’s far better than traditional waivers and gives each team a chance to snag the top free agent of the week. But, you can take FAAB one step farther and allow it to be part of the trading process. For example, a team low on their remaining FAAB might be more enticed to trade a top player if the other team threw in some of their FAAB to complete the deal. I’ve played with this rule and I can tell you, it encourages more trading, which, in my opinion, is a great thing for fantasy leagues.
This one is definitely for the more involved fantasy owners and works with keeper or dynasty formats. In a contract league, also known as a salary cap league, players are signed to multi-year contracts with specific salaries. Each year, teams must decide which players to keep and which to release and can negotiate new contracts with players whose contracts are expiring. This adds a level of realism and strategy to the game, especially when it comes to making trades, as teams must balance their desire to keep star players with their need to manage their salary cap.
Have any suggestions to add to the list? Please leave a comment and we’ll update the post.
Doug Burrell finished 2022 as Fantasy Nerd’s Most Accurate Expert in NFL Picks and Tallysight’s #1 ranked expert Against the Spread Expert out of 200+ experts. He is a veteran, a runner and an avid fantasy sports enthusiast since 1999. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.
Doug is a veteran, an avid runner, and works as a copywriter. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and three dogs. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.