Commissioner Guide, Part 5: Rule Twists

Our commissioner guide looks at possible rule twists

Experience pays when running a fantasy football league and acquiring said experience gives commissioners the tools to see how rules and settings work in a real-world environment of a league. Over the course of a season, owners develop patterns of behavior and interactions. Owners find gaps in the rules or figure out how to beat the system and use it to their advantage. That is okay as long as it does not harm the league overall. As a commissioner, it is your job to recognize these things and try to implement rules to prevent it next season. In some cases, everything will be great, and you may just be looking to shake things up a bit. Either way, a couple rule changes/additions may be exactly what you need. This article will focus on how to implement general league changes, regardless of your format.


There are a variety of rules you can implement in your league which carry some specific purposes. The ideas listed below range from almost standard to very exotic, depending on the goal of the rule.

Rosters and Positions

  • Lineup Changes - In smaller leagues, you might want to expand your lineups to include more players at different positions. Some leagues require two starting quarterbacks or tight ends, while others expand to three, four, or even five or more wide receivers. Some allow for one or two flex positions where a running back, wide receiver or tight end can be inserted, depending on the team. In general, the bigger the lineup, the more flexibility each owner has to field a starting lineup. As with scoring changes though, make sure to test how an expanded lineup will play out. Allowing two flex positions might give owners the option to start four running backs each week. Make sure to keep the overall league balance in mind. Allowing for flexible lineups can also help in larger leagues where it might be more difficult to field starter-quality players at all positions each week. Allowing guys to start a third or fourth receiver in place of a back can keep a team competitive during those bye weeks where you might lose a stud or two from your regular lineup. Finally, if you expand the starting lineup, also consider:

  • Roster Changes - Expanding the roster will allow owners to draft more players, keeping them on the bench and out of the starting lineup of their opponents (or on the waiver wire). It also allows an owner to protect their starters in case of an injury. With larger rosters, you will see more competitive moves like one owner taking the backup quarterback from his division rival, leaving him vulnerable if the starter goes down to injury. Larger rosters also favor the knowledgeable fantasy players, because they can fill their roster slots with sleeper picks in the hope that they will break out as the season wears on. Guys who know the rookies inside and out can load up on these plays and be miles ahead of the guys who just pick up a magazine on the day of the draft. However, also remember that having larger rosters means a smaller free agent pool. This hurts the weaker teams or the teams struck by serious injuries because they don't have many options to recover. Deeper rosters also mean a longer draft. It may be cool to say your 12-team league has a 30-man roster, but when your draft hits the five-hour mark and guys don't care about who to take in the 26th round, you run the risk of ruining the best single night of the season as another consideration.

  • Roster Position Limits - In general, it is better to let owners build their teams however they want. If one guy thinks drafting five quarterbacks is the key victory, let him do it and see how it plays out. However, in some cases, a position limit may make sense. In a bigger league with deeper rosters, an owner can screw up your season by drafting a bunch of guys from the same position. In most cases, this strategy fails but if an owner insists on doing this year after year, a position limit might be needed. In leagues that allow a flex position or two, guys may load up on four or five running backs early and dominate the league based on their flex. Keeper leagues may have protection limits by position to prevent guys from carrying forward four stud running backs year after year. Approach these types of limits with caution. In most cases, if the strategy is weak, the owner will not be able to use it the following season and if the strategy creates a dominant team, the other teams in the league adjust the following season to give themselves the same advantage. If normal year over year play does not correct these situations, a position limit may be needed.

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