OpinionAugust 20, 2010

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Why Not Try a Different Type of League?

By Michael Hawes

Do you play in the company fantasy football pool? Do you play in a few public leagues on Fleaflicker or Yahoo? Do you really enjoy playing fantasy football? Why not branch out and try some more skilled or in-depth leagues? There are literally dozens of different styles to choose from, and speaking from experience I’m fairly certain at least one of them is exactly what you want from your fantasy football. I will list as many as I can with a brief description of what they entail. You can probably find a version of any of these right here at the Cafe, or you could start your own at the Cafe as well.

Redraft League. This is what most fantasy football owner’s play. It is a straight-forward concept: each year, you draft your full team and play out the season. Winner takes all, and you start again from scratch the following season. There is a reason it is the most popular choice as it is the simplest format, no strings really, and it is very easy to find a league to join. The downside of it is really the same, it’s easy. If you enjoy matching your skills in a public league against people you don’t know, maybe the next step is to join a redraft league that carries over with the same owners each year. It is always more enjoyable to beat someone that you know rather than a stranger.

Keeper League. This style is similar to a redraft but you are usually playing with people you know on some level, and the main point in a keeper is that you are keeping a portion of your team each year. There are several different ways to set up a keeper league. You can allow whatever amount of players to be kept, and you can either allow them to simply be kept for free, or you can add a twist and penalize owners for keeping players. There are two main ways to institute a penalty. You can take away the round the player was drafted in or higher, e.g. if Ray Rice was drafted in the eighth round last year, and the rules state you lose a draft pick in the previous round to when your keeper was drafted the previous year, the owner that kept Rice would then lose a seventh round pick. The other main option is to simply allow a certain amount of players to be kept, with owners losing a pick for each keeper. For example, a league allows 0-3 players to be kept. Owner A chooses to keep three players and loses the chance to pick in the first three rounds. Owner B had a really bad year and decides to keep zero players. Owner B now has picks in the first three rounds, allowing him a chance to draft players not kept as well as the newest rookies.

Dynasty League. My personal favorite, and a very simple format. You participate in an inaugural draft and simply keep everyone on your roster year after year. Trade players and draft rookies each year and try and build a dynasty that will dominate your league for years to come. There really is no greater feeling in fantasy football then building an unbeatable team that lasts for multiple years. To achieve this you need to study, study and study. In a redraft league you can source rankings easily, for a dynasty league even the experts are guessing based on college numbers. You have the same information as they do and with enough skill you can find that hidden rookie gem each season to continue your dominance. To me, it is much more satisfying to draft MJD at 1.12 in you rookie draft and to be able to own him forever if you so choose. The dynasty format allows for owners to really get to know each other as once you get a solid group together they can remain that way for years. My longest running current dynasty is 7 years; my longest ever run was 12 years.

Auction League.  This is a different way to draft rather than a different style of league. An auction league can be a redraft, keeper or dynasty; you would just follow the rules to each of those leagues and utilize an auction draft rather than the more standard snake draft. The auction league has really caught on over the last few years because it allows all owners a shot at any given player.

The setup is simple: you list a set amount of players available on which to bid, and you set an auction amount for total dollars allowed per team and let it fly. To keep it simple, I will use $100 per team as an example. A good way to start is to list the top 24 players based on a good set of rankings. Everyone can now bid whatever portion of their $100 they want on a specific player. A player is won when no bids are placed within 24 hours of the last bid (for an online, message board draft). Once a player is won, the bid amount is deducted from the owners cap and the player won is locked out from bidding.  The team that won the player can now nominate another player to be put up for auction thus always keeping 24 players up for auction. Once your dollars are spent or your roster is full, you are done.

The auction league allows for multiple levels of strategies to be tested. When do you nominate that player you really want? When do you nominate that stud player you really don’t want? It is a very fun and enjoyable style of fantasy football.

Salary Cap League.  This is the most complex of all the leagues I know. You can make it as simple as you can (which is still very detailed), or you can add all kinds of subtle nuances, making it a true test of your FF skills. The basic concept is to mirror the NFL with a team assigned a salary cap and players assigned contracts, with total dollars, yearly dollars and length of contracts all coming into play.  You then manage your team to the best of your ability, trying to balance both winning games and managing your cap. Aspects you can add to the basic league to make it even more realistic are restricted free agents, unrestricted free agents, cap penalties, no trade clauses, and penalties for cutting players. The list of features really can be endless. This type of league takes commitment and time to make it enjoyable for you and the rest of the league.

IDP League. IDP content can be added to redrafts, keepers or dynasties to add to the complexity of a league, or it can be a stand-alone league utilizing only defensive players. IDP stands for Independent Defensive Player, and IDP slots would replace the use of the D/ST starting position in a league. A standard lineup for IDP in a league that still has offensive starters is 2 LBs, 2 DLs and 2 DBs. It is used mostly by the more hardcore fantasy players who want just a little bit more of a challenge from a league than picking a team D/ST in Round 15. The IDP league challenges you to understand and be able to project and entirely new set of stats. Scoring is mostly based on tackles, sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions. The most important part of implementing IDP into an existing offensive league is to make the scoring balanced enough that drafting an IDP player is important to your team. If you choose to give a pure IDP league a try, then the scoring and roster requirements can get very intriguing, forcing you to think even harder. To me, that is the most enjoyable part of fantasy football, out-thinking, and therefore out-drafting, your opponents.

Best Ball League. The easiest of all the leagues I have played, best ball is not for everyone. If the most enjoyable part of your fantasy football experience is the draft, then this might be a league for you. In a Best Ball league, you have a regular draft by a set amount of owners, and then you allow a website to field the best possible starting lineup for each team each week. There is no setting of rosters or making WW claims — you need to fill a roster as best you can but you only have the draft to do so for the entire year. The idea is to target high-ceiling players that may hit or at least have the potential to put up a big game to pair with your stud players. The safe steady picks will not win you a best ball league.

Pirate League. This one is new to me, but it has an interesting twist. Not for the traditional fantasy player, a pirate league is for someone who wants to have a little bit of unconventional fun in their league. You set up a Pirate league like a normal snake-style, redraft H2H league, but with three keepers. The twist comes in Week 1. If you beat your opponent you then raid one of his players. You may only raid your opponent’s starting roster. You may give up bench players, but you cannot take a player from your opponent’s bench or any of their protected three keepers. Your entire team will change over the course of the year through wins and losses. It makes for an exciting format with all kinds of strategy involved, and it’s a league that I will certainly try out next season.

Michael Hawes is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Michael in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bungle613.
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