It started three years ago. I was drafting in a 12 team league with other members of the Football Guys staff. The draft was fun. But my team was HORRIBLE. Absolutely a disaster. If I recall correctly, I didn't win a game all year. I imagine that Football Guy Jason Wood, the league organizer, gave serious thought to uninviting me from the league the next year.
In reviewing the season it occurred to me that my team was awful for a couple of reasons. First, the rest of the league's participants were really smart and experienced fantasy football players. But second, and more importantly, I didn't have the enthusiasm needed to draft well and make good roster moves throughout the season. I hadn't done many of my own projections and was minimally involved with trades and waivers during the season. Simply put: I was bored by the standard 12 team format.
That boredom is likely felt by others in the fantasy football community so I thought I'd share how I escaped it and again ended up with great enthusiasm for the game. In fact, I am more excited for this season then I have ever been. And that's how I felt last year as well. Why?
Because I play in leagues that are often mind-numbingly difficult, humbling, and extremely hard to win. These leagues are unorthodox but they pose their own types of challenges that make both following the NFL game and playing fantasy more fun and rewarding. Things like injuries and luck can be mitigated, week-to-week analysis becomes crucial, and any individual edge that can be found often leads to a big advantage. Below are examples of four different types of leagues I have played in in recent years. If you are feeling a little burnt out on standard formats then I suggest giving one of these a try.
- All for One – I play in an eight team "All For One" league. Scoring is PPR but any system would work. We held a 16 round draft about a week before the season began last year. Waivers and trades work similar to most any other league. The difference in this format is that each owner must submit a lineup each week....with only one quarterback, one running back, one receiver, one tight end, one kicker, and one defense. The upside in this league is that with only eight teams every team is full of star players. That means that every week owners have motivation to dig in to each individual matchup instead of simply following the "start your studs" philosophy. Injuries don't take often teams out of contention and while there is the occasional big game sitting on the bench, the fun in looking at weekly matchups and having to chose the single best play at each position is a great thrill.
- Line Plays – The "Line Plays" league takes a standard league and turns it on its head. I'm in a 14 team Line Plays league. We hold a 22 round draft. Scoring is mostly the same except that three additional positions are added: Center, Tackle, and Guard. Each team drafts for these three positions and starts one player at each position each week. They are scored as follows: Tackles receive 50% of the points of their team's running backs AND quarterbacks. Guards receive 30% of the points of their running backs and quarterbacks. Centers receive 10% of the points of their running backs and quarterbacks. While it may appear that the "Line Plays" league is overcomplicating what should be a simple sport, it actually creates both challenges and entertainment. Hardcore fantasy players looking for a different challenge get to spend time analyzing team performance for the Line positions while still digging in to individual performance for standard positions. And there is always the added fun of seeing a tackle like Eric Winston drafted ahead of Tom Brady, as happened in our league last season.
- Elimination – The Elimination league can be played with as many (or as few) teams as you like. Its fairly easy to put together among friends or coworkers as well and is simply a twist on more common office "pick 'em" pools. In the Elimination league, every team submits a lineup each week as they would in a standard league. Scoring is typically standard or PPR (nothing complicated). There is no draft and all players in the NFL are eligible to be played by every team. Each person in the Elimination league can start any player once during the season. So if you submit Drew Brees as your Week 1 quarterback then you can not use Drew Brees the rest of the season. Total points at the end of the year wins.
- Trade League – This is perhaps my favorite unorthodox league in which I play. Like many fantasy enthusiasts, I get frustrated when I'm in a league where trade offers are ignored or other owners aren't as excited about dealing as I am. In the Trade league this is never a problem. A standard 10-14 team league is put together. Standard draft. Standard scoring. Standard schedule with playoffs running weeks 14-16. 16 roster spots ONLY. The caveats...
- Each week a player must be traded or dropped from each team.
- No player may be acquired twice by the same team in a single season.
- Any player acquired via trade may be traded again later in the season. (Example: I trade Rob Gronkowski for Jimmy Graham. Later in the season, I can include Graham in a trade. I can not reacquire Gronkowski at any time.)
- Any player acquired from the waiver wire may not be dropped. (Example: In Week 1 I drop my last round pick, Dez Briscoe, and pick up Damien Williams from the waiver wire. Damien Williams can be included in a subsequent trade but can not be dropped. I can not reacquire Dez Briscoe at any point in the season.)
- Any player dropped may be picked up by another team the following week.
- Any team that does not trade for a player or add a new player has their starting quarterback dropped the next week. It is highly punitive to not participate in a roster move each week.
For example, let's say that Tom Brady is my first round pick...by week 16 I would have had to include him in a trade or (gulp) drop him to add someone from the waiver wire. At first, the Trade league seems like a simple way to encourage more owner activity. But by the third or fourth week, the waiver wire has been picked over and quality players suddenly are forced in to trade scenarios. For fantasy players that like an active league and enjoy constantly reevaluating their projections as the season goes on, the Trade league can be quite a thrill.
There are no doubt countless other variations and formats that can make fantasy football more enjoyable and/or more challenging. As the game continues to grow in popularity, these non-standard formats will also start to grow in popularity and strategies unique to them will be formed, shared, and discussed. My hope is that if you ever find yourself in a funk with regard to fantasy football then maybe you will try a league with different rules like the ones presented above.
As always, thanks for reading. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome to firstname.lastname@example.org.