Last Week's Question
I never cease to be amazed at the questions that turn out to be
"hot button" topics with the fantasy football community.
Quite often when I make a deliberate effort to stir up controversy,
I get only a ho-hum response. But then there are times when I ask
questions that I think absolutely no one will care aboutonly
to discover that FFers throughout the country (and even the world,
as suggested by the growing number of international replies to my
columns) have simply been waiting to hold forth on this or that
point of how the game of fantasy football should be played.
To put it simply, I was overwhelmed by the feedback I received to
my simple question about whether transaction fees are good or bad
for fantasy football. Even though I will clearly have to dedicate
this column and the next to survey those responses fairly, I want
to offer my apologies at the outset to those whose responses I simply
cannot include and especially to those who wrote in with long and
detailed replies that I have had to edit dramatically in order to
give readers something that they can digest.
Although those who wrote in all seemed to have a slightly different
take on transaction fees, the overwhelming majority expressed support
for the fees, if for no reason other than the fact that they fatten
the purse. In the interest of simplicity, I'll devote this column
to the responses that champion fees and the next column to criticisms
of the fees. Along the way, I think a few more questions will raise
Ed's league has an interesting policy that manages to encourage
trading while discouraging frivolous waiver wire activity: "In
our 10-team league, we don't charge anything for trades, but all
free agent Pick Ups costs $3." David's league uses similar
We charge$5 for every drop/add and $1 per player for trades. I know
that $5 seems like an awful lot of cash for a one-week pickup. The
reason for the high price of a waiver wire pickup, but the relatively
inexpensive fee for trades is to help stimulate trading in a league
that has traditionally been lacking in that area. If it costs so
much to fix your roster via the waiver wire (due to byes, injuries
or bad drafting), then maybe people will resort to trading with
their fellow league owners instead.
As simple as that sounds, I have to say that this policy is extremely
attractive to me. I think most of us will agree that leagues with
substantial trading are more fun to be in than leagues with 0-1
trades per year, and making trades cheaper than waiver wire pick-ups
sounds like an excellent way of giving owners an incentive to trade.
If you have ever been on the brink of executing a trade that stalled
only because your potential trading partner insisted that you cover
all fees for the transaction, you know exactly what I'm talking
I received a number of responses like the one from Michael, who
points out that his league is "for gambling," and that
it's "the best kind of gambling because 'the house' doesn't
take a cut.'" I think in the vast majority of cases this
is true. If transaction fees are being collected simply to line
your commissioner's pocket, then it's probably time to look for
a new commissioner (or a different league). But different leagues
allocate their transaction fees in different ways. In Michael's
league, for instance,
We use base fees to fund the winner's pool and transaction fees
to create ancillary awards to keep everyone engaged during the
That sounds like a fine idea provided Michael's league has found
the perfect balance between transaction fee costs and ancillary
payouts. But I don't understand enough about the particulars to
comment further. How does this work exactly? If 7 people in the
league perform transactions at $5 each one week, does the high-point
team that week collect $35? Would the high-point team on a week
with no transactions collect nothing at all? Or do all the fees
go into a kitty and get divided up retroactively, so that the owner
of the high-point team in Week 2 has no idea what he won until the
season is over and the fees have been collected? Tom's league has
answered those questions:
In our league, we charge a transaction fee. The fee is $5, and
all of the transaction money goes into a pot, and the highest
scoring team for that week gets all of the transaction money for
that week. Because we also offer $25 along with the transaction
money, everyone has a chance each week to recoup some of their
entry fee. This encourages everyone to keep their teams competitive,
because it only takes a couple of high-point weeks, and you can
win back all of your initial fee. We also can only carry 3 running
backs, and 3 receivers, and one of our rules is that you must
use eligible players, so if you have too many players on a bye
week, then you have to make a transaction to have enough players.
Brian's league takes a very unconventional approach to transaction
fees, collecting them for the purpose of sponsoring a post-season
fantasy season (which sounds very interesting to me, since the only
downside to the NFL playoffs, as far as I'm concerned, is that there's
no more fantasy football to be played):
My league has $5 transaction fees for all roster changes and all
yellow list backups (excluding IR transactions). We take the funds
from this, which typically amount to approximately $400/yr, and
have a playoff draft after the regular season and before the NFL
playoffs. With the playoff draft, we can pick any player from
any NFL team without impacting our keepers. It's a great reason
to have another draft, and this way we can have players on our
team for a few weeks that we'd otherwise never get to root for.
And, of course, it's another opportunity to win more cash!
Clint's league apparently uses transaction fees to fund a toilet
bowl contest that allows the owners of losing teams to win back
their entry fees.
When our playoff weeks begin, the teams with a losing record go
into "Scrubbowl" contention. Here they can win back
thier league dues--in essence play for free all year. It is not
a lot of money out of the pot for the winners, and it keeps all
the teams "active" all year.
I'm not sure that I fully understood Clint's response, but this
does present an intriguing possibility. I suppose if I were to adapt
it for my league, I would propose something along the following
lines. Assuming that my league charges a $50 entry fee and collects
$85 in entry fees, I would set up a toilet bowl playoff contest
for all the teams that failed to make the playoffs. The one that
finished first would get all $50 of his entry fee back. The one
that finished second would get $35 back. If we had collected $165
in transaction fees, I suppose the top 3 losers would all get their
money back and the 4th-place finisher would get $15. But obviously
such a system has room for improvement, since the two top teams
(in the latter scenario) would be playing for no stakes at all in
the Toilet Bowl championship.
Pete's league uses the transaction fee to generate substantial
money during the season:
Our league thrives on the transaction fee. We pay out $225/week
to 3 winners (points league) and pay out over $6000 over the course
of the year. We pay the 3 top-point getters at the end of the
year too (part of the $6000). Oh, by the way, how can one generate
so much money? [We start with an entry fee of] $200. We also allow
multliple owners to own the same players [and to purchase players
for $10 each]. Last week 7 guys picked up McAllister, adding $70
to the purse. Everybody wins something over the course of the
year, and that makes guys want to come back for more next year.
Who can resist a league in which "everybody wins"? By
charging a hefty fee for transactions and setting up a rules system
that encourages players to make transactions weekly, I can see how
this league appeals to the avid football gambler. But the system
Pete uses might be a little overwhelming for the casual FFer who
is just trying to make the playoffs in his office league.
Yet another unconventional approach to the transaction fee (and
one that can be implemented, I think, by the average league) comes
from Neil, who writes:
We've recently implemented a payout for the transaction fees that
adds a bit more strategy/interest in our league. The final transaction
fees will be split into thirds and paid out to the owners with
the highest scoring QB, RB and WR during the regular season (player
must be in your lineup for points to count). This not only may
give teams out of the hunt something to root for down the stretch
(say they had Culpepper and an otherwise awful team), but it also
adds a little more excitement at auction time since you might
spend a little more $ on that QB/RB/WR who you feel will dominate
and get you some extra cash come year-end.
I would have to see this idea in action to be sure that it didn't
just end up giving more money to the teams that had already won.
It seems quite possible (even likely) that the best players at those
key positions will be on the teams that are already advancing deep
in the playoffs, but if even one of them appears on the roster of
a struggling team, I can definitely see the idea from Neil's league
doing wonders to keep owners interested. Another strategy to that
end comes from Rod:
We've had $5 transaction fees for many years (10 or so). We take
the transaction money and put it in a separate pot for what we
call 'skins'. These skins vary and recently we've tried to include
skins that will keep the 'bad fantasy season' team owner interested.
In the past we've have a skin for the most points during playoff
weeks for non-playoff teams. This could be for weeks 15-17 or
whenever your playoffs run. Another could be the highest point
getter for a transaction during playoff weeks. This keeps non-playoff
teams interested. We usually have about 5-7 'skins' each year
that can add up ($100-$150 per skin). Other 'skins' we've used
in the past include 'highest losing score in one week', 'most
points by a special team/def in a week', 'best transaction in
one week' (most points), 'best week to week point turnaround',
etc. These 'skins' may and do keep 'bad fantasy season' owners
Variety is the spice of life, and it looks like Rod's league manages
to keep things fairly spicy. I particularly like the idea of a skin
game for "highest losing score in one week," as those
of us who play in head-to-head leagues know the frustration of putting
up a fantastic performance only to lose by one point to another
team with a performance that is just a hair more fantastic.
However, not all fantasy leagues put transaction fees back into
the pot. I received dozens of responses such as this one from Jason:
"One reason we have kept the league transaction fees is that
all fees go towards our end-of-the-year party that we hold during
the NFL Super Bowl." I'm not sure, but a quick survey of the
responses that poured in this week indicates to me that transaction
fees more frequently go to pizza and beer than to sweeten the pot.
But since more and more leagues are managing to stick together after
job opportunities take participants to all points throughout the
nation and abroad, I also received responses such as this one from
Originally we used the transaction fee pot to have a party at
the end of the season for all of the team owners and families.
However, since our league now is spread out over 2500 miles of
the country, we split the pot up into fifths and add it to the
payouts. We think that having payouts for half the league keeps
everybody interested in playing for the whole season instead of
giving up early because they don't have a chance. Usually 2nd
through 4th places aren't decided until the very last week. 4th
place gets their entry fee back and then 5th place gets a portion
of the transaction fees collected. Seems to work really well for
us and our league has enjoyed it. Makes for more excitement all
the way to the end.
As much as I like the innovative solutions of readers like Neil
and Rod, I suppose that most FFers are more comfortable with arrangements
such as the one adopted by Brian's league. There are a number of
variations on this theme, such as the following from Dwight:
Our league uses transaction fees, but the money generated goes
into a side pot, apart from our entry fees. The transaction fees
are then split between the team that had the best overall record
and the team that had the highest single-week scoring output.
We feel that this way, it rewards 1) the team with the best overall
regular season record, since we all know how much it sucks if
you paste everyone during the regular season then throw up a goose
egg in the playoffs and finish out of the money, and 2) a team
that might not make the playoffs, but puts together an outstanding
week - they have a chance to recover some (if not all) of their
entry fee. By doing this, we give more people a chance to win
some money, and that seems to help us retain players from year
to year, and give people more incentive to put their best lineup
in, even if they're eliminated from a playoff spot.
I confess I had never considered giving a substantial pay-out to
an owner based on a single performance in a single week. But I have
to say I like the idea. A lot. We all know that the David Pattens
of the world are capable of putting up better numbers than the Randy
Mosses on very special occasions. But we also know that they can
only put up those numbers if they are playing. I like Dwight's idea
because any team-even the worst team in the league-has a chance
of putting up the most points in a single game on any given Sunday.
And if everyone knows there is a substantial reward for that accomplishment,
then you won't see David Patten in the lineup on his bye week just
because his owner is out of the playoff hunt.
Another great suggestion comes from Tim:
Our 10 team league has a $1 transaction fee, and our playoffs
are weeks 14-16. That being said, week 17 has always been a real
downer, so this year we are drafting our own teams for week 17
with the winner taking all of the dough in the transaction pot.
Teams can have the same players if they wish [all the teams can
start Culpepper at QB if they want], so you have to add a tiebreaker
(total points scored in the Colts game, for instance). We'll all
get together to sip some suds and see who can really call their
shot for 1 week.
I also received a number of responses along the lines of this one
The cost of Internet services to run leagues have been increasing
each year. In our league, the funds generated by transaction fees
pay for our league service, without taking money out of prize
pool. I've never received any complaints from the other owners
in this league.
I don't think the owners in Mike's league should complain about
this, but I don't understand how a fixed cost (the fee charged by
an Internet service) can be offset by an unpredictable amount of
money (since there's no way to tell, before the season begins, how
many transactions will occur in a league). In my league at least,
we generate far more money in transaction fees than it would take
to cover the cost of our Internet service.
I'll close (for now) with a sort of philosophical statement on
transaction fees that comes from Mike S., who writes:
I think League Transaction Fees (LTF) are an important
part of FF. First, they enrich the kitty--nothing wrong with that.
Second, a fee for transactions rewards those who draft well and
punishes those who draft poorly. If you do the research, make
the right calls, and do the work, your transaction fees should
be fairly minimal provided your rosters are big enough and you're
not unlucky with injuries. However, if you go into the draft with
only an outdated FF magazine, you're going to be making some poor
draft decisions and setting yourself up for a lot of transaction
Now my experience shows me that a well drafted team, with an
owner who generally stays the course because his roster is good,
can be outperformed by a team that executes a large number
of waiver wire moves to both make up for a poor draft and take
advantage of injuries, mega sleepers, and short-term fantasy
wonders. However, this often requires a lot of moves, with many
bad pick-ups to get to those key players.
Now, this is fine with me, as there is more than one way to skin
a cat. However, the waiver-wire junkie should be forced to pay
and stand by his "chance" waiver wire picks. If you
want to take a flyer on Lamont Jordan based on trade rumors
(like I did), then pay your three bucks and be done with it.
Conversely, I picked up M. Moore prior to his blow-up last week
for three bucks, and now I have a quandry for the Jamal Lewis
absence-W. Dunn or M. Moore. But I should have to pay for those
chances. You shouldn't get freebies with the benefit of 20/20
hindsight. No one could really predict on draft day that Moore
would be starting Week 5, let alone accrue 190 total yards.
Poor drafters shouldn't have this advantage without penalty.
I'm inclined to agree with just about everything that Mike says,
but I'm not so sure that the Mewelde Moores of the world are only
important to poor drafters. I think it's quite likely that the
best drafters are going to be the FFers who stay on top of Minnesota's
mercurial running game, and the absence of a transaction fee would
reward them for being so well-informed about the NFL that they
could make as many moves as they like. But that quibble aside,
I stand by the gist of Mike's argument. I'm sympathetic to the
idea that if you want to overcome a poor draft with a lot of waiver
wire activity, you should be able to do sobut at some cost.
LMS Picks for Week 5 (Courtesy of Matt)
This Week's Question
This week's question comes from Randy, who writes, "I'd like
to see an article on keeper leagues regarding 1) roster sizes
and 2) the ideal number of players to keep from one season to
Since next week's column will be a continuation of the discussion
of transaction fees, readers can still weigh in on that topic.
But I will also start collecting answers to Randy's question for
the column that will appear two weeks from now. Those of you who
have been in keeper leagues for a few years, please let
me know why your rosters are the size they are and why you
keep however many players you keep from season to season.
Well folks, unfortunately Matt's other responsibilities prevented
him from writing up his LMS picks this week, which means that you
are stuck with me. Since I was eliminated from my LMS pool in Week
1, I'm a bit rusty, but here's what looks good to me.
#3 Philadelphia over Cleveland
Who proves what to whom in this game? Does Jeff Garcia prove to
Terrell Owens that he never needed an elite receiver? Or does Owens
prove that all he needed to become the best in the business was
a more "athletic" quarterback? ("Athletic,"
you'll recall, is Owens' word for the kind of quarterback he wanted.
Whether that phraseology implied that Garcia was not athletic is
for you to decide, gentle reader.) I don't think this game can prove
anything about whether T.O. or Garcia was the more important component
to the success San Francisco used to have in the passing game. I
think all it can prove is that Garcia's surrounding cast is vastly
inferior to Owens'. And I expect that to be borne out by the score.
#2 Minnesota over Tennessee
If there is one team I truly admire in the NFL, it is the Tennessee
Titans. They are a tough bunch of characters, and they have gotten
off to worse starts than 2-3 and still made the playoffs. But I
saw the Titans falling to pieces at home vs. the Texans on Sunday.
It was bad enough that Drew Bennett (and, to a lesser extent, Derrick
Mason) were dropping passes. Then came the moment when Bennett dropped
yet another pass--and Mason, in disgust, threw his helmet on the
field, incurring a 15-yard penalty on top of a failed 3rd-down conversion.
I think the Titans are in a tailspin and that it's going to get
worse for them before it gets better. The Titans have now lost three
divisional games at home, and I fail to see how they can defeat
the NFL's most productive offense in Minnesota.
#1 St. Louis over Miami
You only need to make one pick each week, and it's starting to look
like you will only be in trouble on Miami's bye week and on the
three occasions that the Dolphins have to face divisional rivals
for the second time. Otherwise, you will be able to pick a new team
every week just by taking whoever the Dolphins are going to lose
to. This week they get to lose to the Rams. Mike Martz will doubtless
do his level best to screw this one up with pointless challenges
and poor clock management, but I don't think that even he can find
the will and determination that it must take to lose to Miami.
For responses to this week's fantasy question or to share your
LMS picks, please email
me no later than 10 a.m. EST on Wednesdays during the football