Commissioner Guide, Part 6: League Formats

Our commissioner guide looks at different league formats

The format of your league is the foundation on which it sits. After playing with the same group for a season or two, you learn a lot about the league and what everyone wants from it. Sometimes, you may only need to add or change a few rules to keep things interesting. Other times, you may want to completely change the format of a league, and start out fresh with a different approach. This article will focus on large-scale format changes to existing leagues.


When you are looking at changing the entire format of your fantasy league, the 'why' is the most important aspect of making the change. Do you fall in love with certain players and want to have them on your team year after year? Do you hate the randomness of defensive scoring and want to move to a more consistent format with individual defensive players? Do you hate the draft order and pulling the wrong number out of a hat will prevent you from having the players that you really want? Whatever your reason, make sure that it improves the league and the overall experience of all of your owners. Implementing a big format change may reduce or eliminate the fun for one or two owners and they may simply drop out rather than stick with the new league. You should always consider the good of the league before making any changes.

For changes of this nature, it goes without saying that you should implement it at the end of the season. If you are switching to a keeper or dynasty format (see below), make sure to reset the draft before making the switch. Owners build their teams each year with different strategies in mind. Some draft starters and backups while others play the waiver wire fast and often. Some target specific players because of bye weeks and others draft players from their favorite division. Whatever the case, if you are changing the format of the league, you need to reset everyone back to zero before starting the new format. These types of changes are really too big to fairly implement in the middle of a season.

League rule changes do not always need a consensus, but unlike scoring rules, these types of changes will dramatically impact every owner in the league. They may not have played in the type of league you are moving to, or they may feel like they cannot compete with other owners and want to drop out. You need to carefully consider how each owner will react when you make these types of changes and be prepared in the event someone wants to walk away. Your best bet is to have an open, honest discussion with everyone as to why you want to make this shift and if necessary, put it to a vote. Voting can create its own set of issues, but if 90% of the league wants to make a shift, it can reinforce the fact you are not the only one who wants to move the league in a new direction. If you choose to let the league vote on new rules, as commissioner you should abstain unless there is a tie. Be prepared after the announcement some owners may say "no thanks," and be okay with that. This is like selling your McDonalds and opening up a Taco Bell. You cannot expect all of your customers like tacos.


Keeper Leagues

Keeper leagues are for owners who like to keep a small core group of players but still want the excitement of a full-blown draft. Each team is allowed to keep a certain number of players from last season's roster and prevent the players from being part of the initial draft pool that year. When the draft begins, every team has a few of these players on their roster already. Keeper leagues come in two general setups: everyone keeps the same amount and the player for draft pick format. As you might expect, in the first format, everyone keeps the same number of players – usually two or three players, but there is no hard and fast rule. If you do allow three or more players, you may wish to consider a position limit to prevent guys from carrying forward three or four stud guys from the same position. The player for draft pick format works much like a redraft league, except owners can protect players by exchanging them with their first few draft picks. An owner would give up their first-round draft pick to protect one player, their first and second to protect two players, and so on up to the maximum amount. Weaker teams can choose to surrender all of their players and pick from scratch. Early rounds may have only one or two teams picking from the free-agent pool, but those weaker teams also get the first crack at the rookie players so they can load up for next season. Other varieties of the keeper format are each kept player can be retained by forfeiting the next round higher (or two rounds higher, etc) the following season, which would keep the top-drafted players in the annual draft and provide an advantage to the well-drafting teams especially in the later rounds.

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