5 Rule Changes Designed To Improve Your League (Fantasy Football)
I began my fantasy sports career way back in 2003. The NFL was much different back then. I remember when the idea of a flex position was first introduced. The opposition was overwhelming, and rightfully so. In the early-to-mid 2000s, the idea that a team could roster three stud running backs would break the league.
In 2004, nine running backs carried the ball over 300 times. From 2013-2019, eight running backs carried the ball over 300 times in a single season. You may not even want to start three running backs now. Back then, with all the bell-cow backs that existed, the best strategy was to begin your draft with as many running backs as you were allowed to start. As the NFL changes, our fantasy leagues must change alongside it. Here are five rule changes your league should consider implementing in the upcoming season.
Before we get into the new changes, I would be remiss to ignore aspects of fantasy leagues that should be universal. When I say universal, I mean it literally. If your league does not do any of the following, you should absolutely leave that league. These are rules so fundamental to fantasy football that it is unacceptable to not have them.
- FAAB Waivers
- No Week 17 Championships
- Fractional Scoring
I have other “dealbreakers” for myself, but those are the big three.
For scheduling purposes, 14-team leagues are the best because every team plays every other team once and then it is playoffs time. In 12-team leagues, leagues have had to tackle what to do with those extra two weeks in a standard 13-week regular season. You play every team once and then what? My leagues have experimented with two “rivalry week” ideas.
- Position Week – Usually these would occur in Weeks 7 and 14. For those unfamiliar with the term, a position week is where matchups are determined based on the standings. First place versus second place, third place against fourth place, etc. It doesn’t solve the issue of playing two teams twice while playing every other team just once, but it removes the randomness of which two teams you play twice.
- Battle Royale Week – One of my leagues experimented with this for the first time in 2018 and it was a huge success. In Weeks 1 and 13 (these are the best choices because there are no teams on bye), instead of having a head-to-head opponent, it’s a straight-up battle royale. The top six scoring teams each week receive a win and the bottom six each receive a loss. Under this system, you play every team once and the two additional weeks you just need to finish with a top 50% point total. It’s a ton of fun. The only caveat is it may require some ex post facto schedule manipulation by your commissioner.
Piggybacking on the battle royale week is the two-win system scoring format. Under the two-win system, a perfect season would be 26-0 as opposed to 13-0. Each week is both head-to-head and battle royale, with a win being awarded for defeating your head-to-head opponent and finishing with a point total in the top 50% of your league. For those of you who have endured the season where you feel like you run into a buzzsaw every week, this would alleviate at least half of your pain. If you’re curious, go back and analyze some of your league’s previous seasons as if you had used the two-win system. You might be quite surprised at how differently things would have turned out.
Change Your Starting Roster Spots
This one harkens back to my introduction about how different the NFL was 15 years ago. Consider giving fantasy owners more flexibility. Instead of two starting RB slots, change one to a flex. With so few NFL teams employing a workhorse running back, requiring fantasy owners to start two is a bit outdated. Running back by committee has become the norm with some teams employing as many as three backs in a rotation.
Fantasy owners should be afforded the same options. Try a starting roster that looks like this: QB, RB, WR, WR, TE, WR/TE, WR/RB, flex. Fantasy owners can still start three running backs if they wish. They can also start just one and roll with five wide receivers.
The NFL is transitioning to become much more pass heavy. Starting five wide receivers may seem like a lot, but adding that extra starting roster spot rewards teams for finding those gem players later in drafts or on the waiver wire. There is certainly a point where too many starting roster spots drastically increases the luck factor. Only requiring one starting RB and adding one extra starting spot is not too much. Give it a try!
Award Final Playoff Spot To Highest Scoring Non-Playoff Team
This is another way to combat the bad luck fantasy owners can experience over a short 13-week season. Nothing is more frustrating in fantasy football than having a great team and watching your opponents just tee off on you every week. Assuming your league has six playoff spots, the teams finishing one through five are in as normal, but that sixth spot would go to the highest scoring team remaining.
That could mean the sixth place team by record gets the boot. So be it. The 5-8 team with 200 more points deserves it more.
Allow Injury Replacements
There is already so much luck in fantasy football. It’s bad enough when your player gets hurt because you no longer have him. When a player gets hurt early in a game, it can cost you a matchup.
The logistics of implementing this on the primary fantasy host sites may be difficult, but first, decide if you like the idea. For quarterbacks, the solution is easy — if your starting QB goes down, you continue to accumulate points scored by his backup. This can also be solved by having “Team QB” instead of the individual player.
For other positions, it’s a bit more complicated. The best solution I’ve come up with is having each team list their bench players in the order in which they would replace injured starters. If a starter gets hurt in the first half and does not return to the game at any point, the replacement automatically takes his spot (it has to be automatic, otherwise fantasy owners could exploit this if the injured player happened to have a monster first half). Obviously, fantasy owners would have the choice to decline setting injury replacements prior to kickoff should they so desire.
Always be open to new ideas. Don’t be the guy that hates instant replay because “that’s how things were back in my day.” Never be that guy. The longer fantasy football exists and the more popular it becomes, the better the community will get at improving the game and making it more enjoyable for everyone involved.