Fantasy Football Rules & Settings [5 Ways to Improve Your League in 2021]
I think it's time that we had this discussion. Don’t worry, I’m not playing the role of your mother, passive aggressively poking through your social life to remind you that you don’t want another miniature version of yourself running around. I think MTV has done a pretty swell job of showing the youth that being a teen-parent isn’t something to strive for. Plus, how are you going to focus on the waiver wire when you have a 3-year old screaming sucking up all of your precious attention.
By “we having this discussion”, I simply mean the fantasy football community.
Customizing your league rules is cool and it's one of the things that make this game great, but sometimes leagues and commissioners are doing the most, and bad league settings can be more detrimental than enjoyable. Simply put, your fantasy football league rules and setting can make or break your season.
As the commissioner of a minimum 4 leagues each fantasy football season, for as long as I can remember, I can confidently say I’ve tested every league rule and setting out there: Scoring settings, waiver-wire rules, loser punishments, draft types, keepers, dynasty startups; pretty much the Hugh Hefner of fantasy football - you name it, I’ve done it.
Today, I’m going to share with you my absolute favorite rules, settings and customizations I’ve come across during my tenure as a fantasy football commissioner. Implement one, or all of them to your league and you’ll be in for an awesome 2021 fantasy football season.
Top 5 Fantasy Football Rules & Settings you need to implement in 2021:
1. FAAB > Waiver-Wire
There are too many problems with the current state of fantasy football waiver wires. Well, there are basically two types of them. The first is the standard one most of you are familiar with, where each week the waiver-wire order resets based on standings. The last place team is catapulted to the top of the pecking order, getting his or her choice of the crop of free agents, regardless of how many moves you made in the previous week/s. I assume only leagues consisting of members under the age of 14 use this setting, and only because it was the default and they don’t know how to change it. The second waiver-wire option, which isn’t terrible, but has its flaws, automatically moves the owner who has made the most recent free agent pick-up to the bottom of the waiver-wire order, where they sit until every single one of the other league mates make moves, assuming the guy who was just pushed to the bottom doesn't make any moves during that time. Obviously, you can pick up players during that time, but if anyone in your league attempts to pick up the guy that you want, you’re not getting your guy.
Both systems are flawed, the new wave is here my friends.
That wave being FAAB, or Free Agent Acquisition Budget. Each league member is given a fixed budget at the beginning of the szn. It doesn’t matter what the amount is. After testing numerous amounts, I prefer $100, but $500 or $1,000 is fine too, it’s all relative.
Each week, whenever waivers are normally processed, say Wednesday morning, instead of the waiver order determining who gets which players, there is a "blind bid". For example, it's Week 3 and Le'Veon Bell gets hurt, reports pin his timetable for return at 6-8 weeks. The biggest FA pickup this week, undoubtedly, is going to be James Conner, the Steelers second string running back (this might change, but just an example). Everyone knows this, there are no surprises here.
With the normal waiver-wire system, we already know whose team Conner will be on come Week 4 - whoever is sitting at #1. With the FAAB system, each player puts forth a bid using the FAAB budget they received at the beginning of the year. You can put $0, you could use all $100 of it, it’s up to you. No one besides you (assuming you put a bid in) can see how much your bid for Conner was until Wednesday morning after the bid processes. At that time, Conner is awarded to the team that bid the highest amount of their FAAB. If two league members bid the same amount, it looks at who has made the most recent move to tie-break it. It's by far the fairest way to do the waiver wire.
The only argument I usually have to have with people when it comes to FAAB is what happens after the bid processes on Wednesday: do the remaining players go into the free agency pool where any league member can pick them up at any time from Wednesday through Sunday? That could work, what we do in my big ca$h league is set it up (which Yahoo allows you to do by going to Settings -> League Settings) as shown below:
So, instead of having the players go into the open market, we actually have the blind bid set up to process every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That way it keeps the FAAB process rolling at all times. If a player gets hurt on Friday, you still have to go through a blind bid for their backup, which will process on Saturday morning.
I get why the regular WW's are set up the way they are. But, in my opinion, you shouldn't be penalized for 1) Being good at fantasy football & having a good record and 2) For picking up free agents regularly, they're there for the taking. Thus, FAAB is the ultimate waiver-wire system.
***Pro tip, if you're using FAAB in your league for the first time, your league mates will likely be super cautious when doing their bidding, so if there's a guy that you really want, don't hesitate to spend 15, 30 or even 50% of your FAAB on him. If you run out of FAAB budget, you're still able to pick up players with your $0 budget, but anyone can outbid you with $1.
2. 2QB League or 6 Point-Per-Pass TD combined w/ -3 or -4 Points-Per-Interception
The QB scoring in fantasy football is something that needs to be adjusted too, and this is coming from someone who preaches the late-round QB tactic because it's just so easy to not care about the position and get by without having to invest any draft capital or easily stream the position week-to-week.
The problem I have with the normal fantasy setting what it comes to the QB position is that quarterbacks play an enormous role in real football, but quite the opposite in fantasy football. It shouldn’t be that way. So, I suggest changing your settings to a 2QB league, where you have to start 2QBs OR the scoring rules so that each passing touchdown is worth 6 points instead of 4 AND an interception penalty is either -3 or -4 points.
Drafting a QB in round 10, 11 or even 15 has become so easy because even if you miss, there are going to be 8 usable QBs sitting on the waiver wire that you can stream any give Sunday, shoutout Willie Beamen. A 2QB league forces you to take a different approach, because having two of them will ensure a large percentage of your weekly points come from the position. It also means that at a minimum, 20 QBs will be rostered in your league (assuming your league size is at least 10 teams). And you can almost guarantee that the majority of people will take a third quarterback now. There are only 32 starting QBs in the world, so if 24 are starting and the rest are rostered, your streaming/FA options are minimal, if available at all. It makes the position extremely valuable. It makes trading way more likely in your league too.
If your league is insistent on starting a single QB, that's fine, but you should change the scoring. Boost up not only the good that comes along with exceptional quarterback play (TDs), but raise the stakes with stricter interception penalties. When QBs are getting 6 points rather than 4 points for a score, and losing much more per interception, those late-round quarterbacks who used to suffice in fantasy, and are barely average real-world QBs, start to look a lot less like roses and a lot more like Rosie O'Donnell. An interception in a real game kills the team. It should at least give your fantasy team a smack. For instance, Philip Rivers’ 2016 szn, he finished as QB6 in fantasy despite leading the NFL with 21 interceptions and his team to a 5-11 record... I’m sorry but I just don’t think he should be awarded for being terrible. It mitigates garbage time points as well, for the most part. Because, if your team is truly in garbage time, it's most likely because your QB was shitty all game, and turned the ball over on his route to garbage time.
For the most part, draft day has come down to taking a plethora of running backs and wide receivers. Quarterbacks and tight ends have become an afterthought, something you don’t have to worry about until double-digit rounds are the only open slots on your draft board. But with either of these QB scoring formats, it adds an extra dynamic to your league and makes draft day that much more fun. Drafting quality quarterbacks becomes a priority.
3. 0.5 PPR
This really should go without saying. If you're still playing in a standard scoring league you probably own a flip phone, or start every sentence with “back in my day”, or have loose mints in your pocket.
0.5 PPR is the perfect blend of standard scoring and full PPR. Full PPR also pisses me off.. a player shouldn't get a full point for simply catching the ball and falling to the ground. #AllCatchesAreNotCreatedEqual2018
Half-point per reception opens up a new pool of players to have an impact in fantasy football, that normally wouldn’t in standard leagues. Mainly the running backs who play a big role on their teams as pass-catchers (I.E. Theo Riddick, Duke Johnson, etc.). Without some sort of PPR format, you wouldn't think twice about starting a Theo Riddick, who will probably get somewhere between 40-60 total yards, with a 25-30% chance of finding paydirt on a given week. Throw in 5 receptions, and his weekly fantasy floor is around 7 points. It's not a huge boost, but useful nonetheless and again, makes draft day that much better because the player pool is more expansive.
4. KEEPERS - Late Round & No Free Agents
EVERY league should have some sort of keeper rule implemented. It not only keeps the league engaged throughout the offseason, but it (you keep hearing this) changes the dynamic of draft day!!!!!!
Keepers can absolutely be a double-edged sword, however. Too many can ruin a league. I’ve been in leagues with anywhere from 1 to 5 players can be kept for the following season. I, along with my big-money-league members, have agreed that having one, just a solo keeper is optimal.
But that's not it. How your keeper rule is set up is arguably more important than how many keepers you allow.
For my friends and I (and any of you that do a live draft for your league), draft night is easily the most enjoyable night of the football season. But if Le'Veon Bell, Todd Gurley, DeAndre Hopkins, Aaron Rodgers, Odell Beckham, etc. are already off the board before the draft starts, draft night REALLY isn't that much fun. The smaller the player pool is, the less fun it is, in my humble opinion.
That is why our rule is this: Any player drafted in the 8th round or later can be kept the following season. No free agents whatsoever.
It’s set up in a way to minimize any ridiculous advantage a league owner can have going into the following season. Every year there are players that bust tf out who weren't drafted at all in the previous fantasy season. For instance, if you allow free agents to be keepers.. Whoever picked up Alvin Kamara in 2017 has a monster advantage for 2018. That league member is virtually receiving an additional first round pick along with the one he already has. I understand the argument... he should be rewarded for noticing the player and picking him up last year!!!
He was... by having him on his team last year. He got all of Kamara’s production, all season and didn't have to pay any draft capital. It's the same reason we have the keeper round set at 8. We originally started with Round 6, and the same thing happened, too many really good players were still drafted that early. Every year there are a few 6th rounders that end up being first or second-rounders in the next season, and it didn't take any real research or skill to pick them in the 6th round. We eventually pushed it back to the 10th round which I personally liked the most since it rewards the league members who do their research and are nice with the late-round picks. At the time when our rule was 10th round or later, we also allowed two players to be kept, not one. That led to my friend CHRIS R., who I’ll keep anonymous, being able to keep both David Johnson and Jordy Nelson... that happened to be the szn both guys ranked #1 in fantasy at their position. Sufficient to say, the league wasn't much fun for the other 9 of us.
Thus, we eventually settled on round 8, with one keeper. It's late enough in the draft that people who don't do their research likely won't get lucky hitting on a future first rounder, and if they do, that's all the damage they can do, they can't keep anyone else.
The best part about keepers is its ability to keep you engaged all off-szn. You're thinking about who you can keep, should you trade him? Yes, we allow keeper trades. You can trade your keeper for someone elses, or for a draft pick - just make sure that at the end of the trade every player must still have the same number of draft picks (or draft picks + keepers). If you trade away a keeper player for a draft pick, then you just take away the last round pick of the league member that is keeping someone.
If your keeper rule is set for round 8, you might start drafting differently once that round 8 hits. Rather than taking a high-floor vet, you might take a swing on a rookie running back who is behind a veteran on the depth chart, but that veteran’s contract expires at the end of this year. Stay woke.
Dynasty leagues are great too, but it’s a LOT of commitment to be in one and operate successfully. You need to make sure that every single league member is active and in it for the long haul - I’m talking years on years on years.
5. Winner's Win, and Losers LOSE. (trophies/punishment)
If you ain't playing for something, what's the point?
Thanks to FantasyJocks me and my homies are hooked up with and play for a gorgeous FantasyJocks Championship Belt:
AND a Championship Ring!
and that's just the icing on top of the hefty money-prize. Have each league-mate chip in an additional $5 or $15 on top of their league buy-in to grab a belt, trophy or ring and you'll be gucci. I highly suggest the belt, you pay once and it’ll last years. Bring it to your buddy’s house on Sundays. Bring it to the mall. Bring it to the bar. (just a few places my friends have been with ours) I don’t care. It’s an amazing, high-quality novelty item.
As for your league’s LOSER.... woooo boy - this is arguably my favorite part about my big league. During our annual summer meeting where we discuss rule changes for the upcoming szn, we also decide upon a loser punishment for the upcoming year. We've gotten progressively better, or worse makes more sense, at picking a punishments. We started off with the loser standing shirtless in the middle of our town, in January, with a loser sign. Sorry Joe.
Last year, ya man himself had to do a 5-minute stand up comedy gig at a comedy club in New York City... My league mates were the ones who got to write my jokes...
This is me ^, and everything I’m writing about in this article is #facts. I’ve done it all.
Our league motto quickly became - "If you ain't last... you're first."
This year, our league loser will transform himself into a bathroom attendant at a club for a night. Handing out paper towels, mints, condoms, whatever, he can keep the tips. Lol, Joe (pictured above shirtless) lost again.
Regardless, a punishment ensures everyone plays fully through the entire szn, and to be perfectly honest, watching the last place race is actually more exhilarating than the race for the belt. As long as you’re not in it.
What'd we miss? Let hear some of the best rules changes you've implemented into your league.
- Nick Ercolano