In this step, you’ll need to develop the rules that your owners
will play by. I can’t over state the importance of having
clearly defined and well-written rules, especially in the areas
of scoring, transactions, and deadlines.
The methods of scoring are limitless (I’ve seen leagues
where players lose points for failing drug tests) so I’m
only going to brush on the basic ways offensive players can score.
In fantasy football players typically are given points for scoring
plays and statistical performance. Scoring plays are Touchdowns,
Field Goals, and Extra points. Typical leagues award the same
number of points these plays are worth in the NFL. There are some
common exceptions. Sometimes distance is factored into the score.
For example, a field goal may be worth 3 points from 30 yards
in, 4 points from 31 -40 yards, etc. Some leagues double points
for touchdowns over 50 yards. As you can see there is really no
limit to how you can combine distance with scoring plays to tweak
Statistical performance is the other major offensive scoring
method. Once again, the combinations of stats that can be utilized
to develop a scoring system are nearly limitless, but there are
some common ones that most players seem to like. Generally points
are awarded for yardage rushed, passed, and thrown for (i.e. 1
point for every 10 yards). Bonuses can be set for various milestones
such as 100 yard rushing games. One thing to note when you develop
your scoring system is that each position will have unique trends.
Your scoring system can impact the draft demand for a certain
A simple example of this is touchdowns. Your typical QB will
usually throw almost twice as many TDs in a season as a typical
WR will catch or a typical RB will rush for. If you award 6 points
per TD pass you’ve pretty much assured that Peyton Manning
is your number one draft pick each year. If you drop this to 3
points per TD pass (because generally a QB has more opportunities
to score a TD than a RB or WR) you will lower the demand for the
top QBs. There are many other more subtle trends in the stats
that you need to be aware of when you set up your scoring system.
Many leagues award points for receptions because they realize
that WRs touch the ball less than RBs. This helps make the top
WRs more valuable. It also has the side effect of making pass
catching RB’s very valuable.
When you set up your scoring system it’s important to remember
that points-based scoring is more a factor of chance than performance-based
scoring. What I mean by that is you can have a player run 90 yards
down the field and get tackled at the one yard-line. On the next
play, another player racks up 6 points for a one-yard play. I’ve
seen a game where Jerome Bettis had 2 yards rushing and three
TDs, netting him 18 points. You’ll need to determine the
balance between good fortune and good performance you desire in
your league. One could argue that the best scoring system would
be totally performance-based to eliminate the randomness of scoring
plays. However, the points-based scoring seems to add a level
of excitement to the game that pure statistics don’t. Most
leagues simply combine the two methods for the best of both worlds.
Most leagues include defenses as part of their scoring system.
In general you have two options regarding defensive scoring. The
most common method is defensive team scoring. In this system,
owners draft a team defense, and team stats are used (Points Allowed,
Yards Allowed, Sacks, Turnovers, TDs, etc) to accrue fantasy points.
This is a simple method to include the defensive side of the ball.
A more detailed method is to use individual defensive player stats.
This, of course, requires drafting individual defensive players
and generally doubles your rosters. This simply adds another facet
to the game and to the draft. Now owners have to determine whether
a good linebacker is worth more than a backup running back based
on the scoring system. It’s just another level of complexity
that your owners may or may not want.
After you’ve developed a scoring method, next you’ll
want to determine roster sizes for starters and reserves. The
most common starting lineup consists of one quarterback, two running
backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a defensive
team. This can, of course, be varied in any number of ways. Many
leagues allow 3 wide receivers. Some leagues add a flex position—a
running back, wide receiver, or tight end. My league allows various
combinations of running backs, wide receivers and tight ends.
Some leagues start multiple quarterbacks. This is mostly a judgment
call as to what players you want your owners to start, but remember
the more starters you require, the less depth there will be on
Once you’ve determined how many starters you’ll have
you then need to define how many reserves each team is allowed.
Typically if you have 8 starters you have 8 reserves. This allows
a team to back up its bye week players and prepare for injuries.
More reserves shrink the talent pool, fewer reserves means more
juggling of the rosters to work around byes and injuries. My league
is a 14-team league and we start 8 players and have 8 reserves,
so the talent falls off quickly in the later rounds of the draft.
Also there isn’t much talent left in the free agent pool,
either. In my opinion this is a good thing because we place a
premium on drafting well, not fielding a team through free agency.
In addition most leagues allow a roster spot for injured reserve.
This is used to allow an owner the ability to replace an injured
player without dropping him. Rules vary on how a player can qualify
for IR. In my league he has to be listed as doubtful or out on
the injury report. Once the decision is made to move the player
to IR, he has to sit out that week, even if his condition improves
and he is able to play. An IR roster spot is something that needs
to have clear written rules so there is no confusion on what players
qualify for IR.
Another option with rosters is to limit players by position on
each team. I’ve played in leagues that do this and I’m
not a big fan of it. The logic behind it is to keep teams from
stockpiling players at already thin positions. However I feel
that shrewd owners will evaluate the market and that by not putting
limits on players by position this will encourage trading. It
also gives owners more flexibility in putting together their team,
which is something I think most owners want.
Free agency refers to the undrafted players in your league. You
will need a system for owners to add these players to their team
if they desire. I’ve come across four basic systems for
handling free agents.
Worst-First – Under this
system the worst teams get the first crack at open market players.
This is usually run in a draft type manner each week where the
worst team selects first and on down the line. After the best
team selects a player the order starts over again. This system
can help a league by boosting inferior teams to keep the league
competitive. Many players, myself included don’t like the
system because it rewards mediocrity. In addition, many impact
free agents go early in the season and the teams picking early
in free agency may not really be bad teams, they just happen to
have a bad early record.
Predetermined Order - In this
case, a predetermined claims order is established (usually done
by taking the draft order and reversing it). Teams claim players
and the team with the highest priority claim gets that player.
If a team makes a successful claim, they are reshuffled to the
back of the order. Under this system, teams can hang onto their
claim spot if they don’t utilize it from week to week. This
system is a bit better than the worst-first because it doesn’t
reward mediocrity, but there is still some chance involved based
on the initial order.
Blind Bid System – This
is the system my league uses. Each owner had a set amount of money
to bid on free agents. Each week, teams bid the amount they want
on free agents. If they are successful (i.e. the highest bidder),
they get the player and their free agency cap is reduced by the
amount of their bid. I prefer this system because adds an element
of strategy to acquiring free agent players. Unlike the prior
two systems where your are pretty much slotted into position and
may have no shot at obtaining a player, under this system you
always have a shot, as long as you’ve spent your money wisely.
First Come First Served –
this is pretty self-explanatory. Most leagues use this as a secondary
method of adding players. In the early part of the week, they
will use one of the systems above. Once that period is over, it
then becomes open season on adding or dropping players. The main
drawback of using this as your primary system of acquiring free
agents is that it gives an advantage to those have the time to
make claims at the soonest possible moment. That’s not exactly
a very strategic process.
When setting up your free agent system its very important to
define deadlines during the week at which players can be added.
It is also very important to clearly define the system you are
using so there is no confusion among owners as to when claims
are due and how they can add players to their teams.
In Part 3 of Commish 101,
we'll look at how to manage your league during the season.