Fantasy Football Today - fantasy football rankings, cheatsheets, and information
A Fantasy Football Community!

Create An Account  |  Advertise  |  Contact      

Staff Writer
Email Mike

Mike's Articles

Week 8

Last Week's Question
As I indicated in last week's column, I was overwhelmed by the feedback I received to my simple question about whether transaction fees are good or bad for fantasy football. In that column, I included the responses of those who wrote in to support transaction fees and to explain how they were used in their leagues. In this follow-up column, I will survey a few more responses in that vein as well as a number of responses that concerned some problems caused by transaction fees—and how to address those problems.

Again, I want to offer my apologies at the outset to those whose answers 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.

I'll start with what Chad had to say, since he is in an ideal position to compare leagues with fees to those without:
I am the commissioner of two fantasy football leagues. One charges fees for transactions and the other doesn't. Personally, I like charging fees for transactions because there are plenty of owners who pick up player after player just because they are available with no intention of playing them, sometimes dropping the same player after a week or two. In a 10- or 12-team league, some positions are thin the way it is, and allowing people free transactions doesn't deter them from adding players to their roster. In my "free transaction" league, we did put a cap on the number of free agents owners can pick up each week to help reduce the problem. Charging fees, however, makes owners ask a couple of questions - Do I really need this player? Is he worth the couple of bucks I have to spend to get him? I think it evens the playing field a little bit.
I see Chad's point, but it sounds to me as if putting a cap on the number of waiver wire transactions a team can make would have much the same effect as transaction fees, and since not all pockets are equally deep, the cap actually sounds to me like it would level the playing field even more effectively than the fees do. As Dave says,
I'm all for transaction fees as long as they're in line with the financial situations of everyone in the league. We've had them from the start. $1 back when we were all in college and $5 now that we're all a bit more stable financially. It's a keeper league, so there's still an incentive to make moves throughout most of the season.

[In our league,] once you pick someone up, they have to remain on your roster for a week anyways, so you can't do the multiple add/drops of the same player in a single week. So even when I had to keep track of the league by hand, the transaction fees were never there to keep people from making so many moves. They're just a great way to get the pot bigger. Each time we increase the fee, I see a bit of a drop in the number of transactions at first, but then everyone gets used to it and it's not even a consideration. For instance, in the first 4 weeks of this season we had 65 transactions ($330 into the pot). It took us until Week 12 to reach that level last year. Some of that is due to the number of injuries this year, but a lot of it can be attributed to owners being more comfortable with the fee.

But like I said at the beginning, obviously the most important thing is for everyone to be comfortable with the fees. I wouldn't want to price anyone out of the league and give an advantage to owners with deep pockets.
Nate's experience was just the opposite of Dave's:
Since we pay to play in our league, we also pay for waiver wire or trade transactions. The whole point of the fees is to increase the spoils, not to dissuade managers from making transactions. In the beginning we only allowed waiver wire transactions at Week 5 and Week 10 when we would all gather at a local establishment to watch MNF and talk football. Each transaction cost $5. Now that our league uses an online provider, we have a weekly waiver wire period from Thursday night to the first kickoff of the week. Waiver priority is per your standings in overall points with the lowest-ranked team having first priority. This allows the cellar dwellers a chance to rebound from a poor draft or injuries. Rumblings within the league, primarily after Kurt Warner was had off the waiver wire for $5 and led my team to the Points title, called for an increase in the transaction fee based on the premise that "Kurt Warner was worth more than $5." So, we doubled the fee to $10. What we found is that rather than increasing the pot, this decreased waiver activity.
Like most who wrote in, Nate mentions waiver wire priority as going to teams that are struggling. Some leagues assign priority on the basis of points, others on the basis of head-to-head records, and others simply handle transactions of a first-come, first-served basis. But Joel wrote in to explain how priority is established in his league:
We charge $1 per transaction because I have to do them. We are not content with a "first come, first served" or simple "worst record" approach. This need for a more complex system is based on the recognition that different managers have differing degrees of internet access-due to work, family schedules and sometimes their computer skills. One of our members is 73 years old and can barely turn on a computer, but he is a life-long friend, enjoys FF immensely and went to the SB last year and lost to his son. Is ANY system that puts him at a disadvantage acceptable? ABSOLUTLELY NOT!

Our system states that injury related transactions take precedence over straight waiver wire transactions (equity-based rule). Then we go to worst record, worst division record, then fewest points scored. The $1 fee also discourages changing your #5 wide-out twice a week.
Like Chad, Jake has looked at the transaction fee from the perspective of two different league structures, but he reaches a different conclusion:
I play in an ultra-competitive 16-team league with an auction re-draft every year. For the first five years of the league we had a transaction fee, but for the last five years we have done without. I feel that doing away with the fee has increased the competition of the league (always a positive). Some owners are always leary of spending extra money, even to improve their team, and there was also the problem of collecting money due at end of the season. We tried incorporating a pre-paid, refundable fee for a couple of years before deciding to just increase the entry fee and do away with all transaction fees. We have seen an increase in free-agent signings. That means more owners are staying with their teams and trying to improve them. It has also cut down on the administrative work by the commish. Transaction fees are bad for competition.
Here Jake seems to be making much the same point that I raised in my original question: the possibility that transaction fees actually prevent teams that are out of the post-season hunt from making the moves they need to make in order to remain reasonably competitive at the end of the season. But if that strikes you as a problem, you might be interested in Matthew's clever solution:
I like the fact that transaction fees fatten the pot. The problem with them is exactly how you described it: Later in the season, teams out of the running will be discouraged to take transactions in an effort to get back in the running. The answer is simply to have a graded fee schedule. Example: Week 1-10 = $2, Week 11-13 $1, and no fees from Week 14-17. Of course, this is an example and commishes could change it to fit their league preferences.
Brandon's concerns are similar to Jake's but a bit more general:
The two leagues I am involved in both started with transaction fees in place. It was a buck per transaction. All trades cost a dollar and waiver wire moves would cost 2 bucks (one for the add, one for the drop). The biggest challenges with transaction fees were (A) collecting the additional fees at the end of the season and (B) the lack of trading and waiver wire movement due to the extra cost.

As the Commisioner of the one league, I found that trying to collect the extra money at the end of the year was a major pain and delayed prize payouts (since not all owners live in our town).

In the one league, we did away with the transaction fees completely and movement in both trading and waiver wire increased. Owners were no longer worried about accruing large amounts of extra fees on top of the two hundred that was already bucked up at the beginning of the season just so they could try and keep their team competitive throughout the year.

We have started two other leagues in the last couple of seasons and both went without transaction fees and the involvement of trade offers and waiver activity is fantastic. With the websites for fantasy football that are now available, the work on the commisioner is so minimal and no longer a burden. I don't think I would even consider joining a league at this point with transaction fees as they are no longer necesarry.
Both Jake and Brandon touch on a problem that crops up in many leagues with transaction fees: the chore of collecting extra money from participants at the end of the season. Many of us know first hand the disappointment of winning a league and not being able to collect the purse right away because the commissioner is still trying to get the other owners to pony up for their transaction fees. Jim's league has added what he calls an "annual maintenance fee," but apparently this doesn't cover transactions:
To keep the pot size fairly consistent, but reduce the hassle of adding to the pot and collecting from owners, we instituted an Annual Maintenance Fee of $20 that each team must pay at the beginning of the year. This was a pretty close average of what every team was paying anyway, and kept the prizes from dwindling, and pays for our stat software, web space, and domain. But we did NOT eliminate the other Transaction fees. If you choose to improve your team you must pay (just like the NFL). We've tweaked it by dropping IDP FA's to $3, promoting more movement and acknowledging the fact that they don't score as high, in our league.

We get away with it due to a very low league fee, extremely flexible lineups (rules allow for a minimum lineup and then 3 offensive players, plus 2 IDP, of owner's choice) , and large rosters (22 players). It makes submitting a competitive roster each week a lot easier, without resorting to the waiver wire to fill bye weeks.
Billy's league has found another way of filling bye weeks without having to resort to the waiver wire. He calls it the "carryover" approach:
If you wan to "limit" transactions for whatever reason, one thing I have instituted is a little thing called carryovers, so you don't have to start a backup to cover a bye. For instance, I carried over Edge's 26 points from week 5 to week 6, so I can start Edge (and his 26 points) in week 6. Now, this doesn't always work out as perfectly as you would imagine. Another owner carried over Marvin's 5 points, and he's not too pleased about that.

Think carryovers are flaky? Think of it this way: How many times did you see the Colts trot on the field and then Dungy go over to Peyton and tell him to sit out this game? In the NFL, teams have byes, not players. So why should I have to dig into my bench and start Jake Delhomme on the Colts' bye?
Flaky or not, the use of carryovers certainly has to simplify the collection of fees at the end of the season (if only because carryovers would appear to produce fewer transactions). As Alexis puts it,
Transaction fees are good, but are also a pain. I have been in the same league for over 10 years now, and we have done it with and without transaction fees. The easiest method is to have everyone leave a "Transaction Fee Deposit," say $10, the day of the draft. This way, you don't have to hunt people down to pay up. But in recent years we have gone away from the fee as a whole. Our newest method, which seems to be the best thus far, is as follows. Everyone gives a large lump sum at the beginning of the year. This covers the draft and all transactions throughout the year. But, like you mentioned in your article, we didn't want those without a playoff chance to simply give up after week 10. So we implemented a system where the highest point total of the week wins $10, we also pay out the highest point total of the year and the most wins of the year ($25 each). This system gives everyone a chance to win some cash and keeps the league interesting. So far this year, there have been 4 different winners of the weekly $10 prize. I guess we are doing something right, so we'll keep going until it hits another snag.
Clearly the formula outlined by Alexis has been embraced by many leagues, as I received a number of responses to the same effect (but with different numbers) from all sorts of FFers. However, for those who want to make transaction fees cost something without forcing owners to shell out extra money up front or commissioners to track down payment at the end of the season, I will offer this solution from Daniel, whose league uses an imaginary currency system to resolve this problem:
I play in a deep IDP keeper league based in Sweden and have been for quite some years now. We've been experimenting with transaction fees back and forth but have come to the conclusion that it's basically the managers with cash and/or the ones in deep roster problems that pay the winner of the league every year. And since it tends to be pretty much the same managers, we've changed it.

Instead we have a system where everybody pays an entry fee. We then convert that fee into league bucks, which we use as currency for moves, transactions and extra spice in trades. It's a closed currency system (except for the annual aid dispensation, when the commish hands out some league bucks to poor teams who humble themselves in written applications stating how their teams really stink) which means that by the end of the season some teams are in dire need of league bucks and willingly trade away their superstars to the lower ranked teams for some "transaction cash". Now, add a taxi squad to each team where other managers can claim your players auction style, two blind-bid windows, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and a FREE waiver pick-up window on Sunday afternoon for fill-ins and bye week punters and stuff and you get a money management system in a league that is equally fun and fair to everybody.
I confess that Daniel's system is a bit too complex for me to grasp on a single reading, but it does sound like a lot of fun. And of course the coolest thing about his response is that the single most complicated fantasy league I have ever had explained to me is based in, of all places, Sweden.

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 the next." I asked this question in last week's column, but I would still like to receive as many replies as possible for Randy. 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.

Last Man Standing Picks
So Matt missed just one week, and I stepped back in to the old LMS shoes to make a mess of things with what seemed to be an easy pick of St. Louis over Miami. Well, gentle readers, you will be relieved to learn that Matt is back this week, and he did point out a few weeks ago that the Dolphins defense would sneak up on someone, though he admits that he didn't think it would be the Rams.

Trap Game(s): Miami at NY Jets:
Okay, so I said that the last Dolphins vs. Jets game was a trap game. Why shouldn't this game be? The Dolphins knocked off the Rams and the Jets may not be as good as their record. Still, the Jets should win this at home on Monday night. With that said, this is a game that I would avoid unless I absolutely didn't have another choice.

#3: Denver over Atlanta (4-2 This Season):
Atlanta is hurting and Denver has a Mile High advantage. If you have not used Denver before, this is probably a #1 pick. Michael Vick is still not comfortable in the West Coast offense and Rueben Droughns seems to be the next coming of Mike Andersen or Terrell Davis. The only thing that is a concern is that Atlanta's defense is one of the better ones in the league and might be able to trip up the Broncos.

#2: Green Bay over Washington (4-2 This Season):
The Pack is back, even with Favre's hand hurting. I don't like betting against home "dogs" but the Packers seem to be playing better than they were in the beginning of the season and the Redskins, even though Gibbs is back, do not have enough to pull off the victory. As long as Favre can play and Green does not fumble, take the Pack and the points.

#1: Chicago over San Francisco (5-1 This Season):
If you have followed my picks this season, you will know that I am not thrilled with the 49ers this year. Tim Rattay may be playing well but the Chicago Bears defense is the better of the two units on the field in this game. Look for Thomas Jones to get the ball often in this game and the Bears to win in a very close game. The reason to pick this game is that the Bears don't have many games later in the season that you can take them and hope for a win and you may want to save some of your other teams for later in the season.

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 season.