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Short Bench Leagues

How to plan for a league with a short bench

Quite often I get asked the same questions over and over by Footballguys subscribers (and non-subscribers too, but I answer the subscribers first of course).  When that starts to happen, I think about how I can help more people – and usually that is how the idea of an article is born.  This article is another example of just that circumstance.

Fantasy football leagues vary – we all know this to be true.  Some leagues use PPR, some don’t.  Some like to avoid kickers, while others use two quarterbacks.  Despite all of that variation, I try to find a few commonalities across different formats to give some truths and advice to help as many people as possible.

One common situation is that of a “short bench" league.  I put that term in quotes, simply because many fantasy players often argue about the depth of a league.  Some hardcore fantasy leaguers play in 53+ roster spot IDP Dynasty leagues – that’s great, but that’s not our focus here.  We are talking about the other extreme end of the spectrum, a league in which the bench is short and the roster spots are almost as valuable as the players that occupy them.

For the purpose of this discussion, I am going to define a short bench as six players or fewer.  The size of the league does not matter, although I would say that if the league does not use a kicker, I would have to adjust that statement to five spots for a short bench.  So why doesn’t the league size matter?  Because the bench roster spots and the management of them is more of a function of how many different types of starting roster players you have on a given team.  For example, if you have a typical 12-team league with a starting lineup of a quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a defense (commonly abbreviated as a 1-2-3-1-1-1 league), you have not just nine starters, but six different types of players represented in that lineup.  Regardless of the league size (eight teams, ten, or 14 or more) you still have six different types of starters.  Flex roster spots have a little influence (as in a RB/WR flex), but usually the short bench concerns start to occur when you have an equal or fewer number of bench spots as different starter types.  Note that this also translates over to IDP leagues, where you can have different types of players in broad definition (IDPs overall), semi-broad definition (DL, LB, DB), or very specific definition (DE, DT, LB (possibly inside and outside), CB, S).  I will mention that further in a bit.

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