Vampire League Guide (2022 Fantasy Football)
One fantasy football format that has grown significantly over the past couple of years is a vampire league. If you have been invited to play in a vampire league but have no idea what to do, this guide is for you. It is time to learn what a vampire league is, how you should approach the draft and how to win if you are the dreaded vampire.
What is a Vampire League?
A vampire league is a unique setup for, ideally, a 12-person league. You could do it with fewer players. However, the fewer the players, the more advantageous the vampire gets. Therefore, this format works nicely with a 12-team setup. Once you are ready to draft, you then do your draft randomizer. The person who ends up in the 12-spot is then designated the vampire. The vampire does not take place in the draft. Instead, the other eleven players fill their rosters. Once the draft is finished, the Waiver Wire and Free Agency is closed. Only the vampire will have access to the rest of the player pool.
The vampire will then be able to build their team from the rest of the player pool. They start at a significant disadvantage. However, as more injuries begin to occur, the vampire can start to build a more competitive roster.
However, that is not all. The vampire is allowed to control the schedule of who they play. They cannot play an opponent more than twice in the regular season. Also, between weeks 4 and 14, the vampire can only play each team once, so they don’t get an advantage due to byes. This is also true for all the other players in the league.
The last area to cover is that the vampire can steal a player from an opponent’s roster if they win and swap with someone from their starting lineup. The best rule you can use for this is that the team that isn’t the vampire can lose anyone from their roster if they lose. However, the vampire has to send a player in the same position who was in their starting lineup. This stops lineup collusion on behalf of the team that isn’t the vampire, and the vampire is sending over a free agent with no chance of playing if they are confident of a win. It also stops all arguments dead in their tracks.
How to set up and manage a Vampire League
I have found the best platform to host this league style is the Sleeper app. This is because you can add players into the 12-spot on the draft and make it up of retired players. Kellen Moore, the Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator, is still on the app as a QB. He is always someone I like to assign to a vampire squad. That way, the draft can carry on without the vampire needing to participate.
The commission will need to keep an eye on fixtures, make sure people don’t play each other more than twice, and make sure everyone plays each other once during weeks 4-14. This is a bit of work to manage. However, if the vampire makes his selection on a Monday/Tuesday that week, it does give you time as a commissioner to set the week’s fixtures. Ideally, this needs to be done before Wednesday to give players time to set their lineups before Thursday Night Football.
The roster setup typically is 1QB, 2RB, 2WR, 1TE, 1K, and 1DST. And then five but certainly no more than six bench spots. No flex spots and no superflex spots. After the draft, you can lock free agency to players, so no one is tempted to pick up players and make the vampire a co-commissioner. That way, they can make the roster moves they need to throughout the season. There is no limit to the number of transactions the vampire can have in a week or a season.
Scoring tends to be PPR; however, standard scoring could also be used. There is no need to get quirky with the scoring by adding TE premium or points per first down. It becomes more of an advantage to the vampire once they win a few games as they have the largest player pool to choose from.
The lineups should be manually set and should not be a best-ball format, which takes away a lot of the fun. Also, a fun element to keep people engaged in the league are forfeits for defeats to the vampire, like The Fantasy Footballers Wheel of Water app or creating a Wheel of Names with punishments or forfeits. Not something that impacts their team more. But maybe set a funny name, or make someone perform karaoke in the league chat. Something that gets the league together and more active.
Draft Strategy as a non-vampire player
It is incredibly difficult to draft in this format with such a small bench and no flex. There are essentially three strategies.
Strategy 1- Have a backup for every position and avoid multiple bye weeks
This is very much a safety-first approach. With six different positions to cover, you simply use your five or six bench spots to take a backup QB, RB, WR, TE, D/ST, and/or K. They cover your players for bye weeks and injury. It is very safety-first. But it means, barring a disaster, you should be able to put out a full team every week. The other key to this strategy is to avoid drafting two wide receivers or running backs with the same bye weeks. Otherwise, you will have a gap in your starting lineup. This means careful planning in drafts, with a significant amount of prep before your draft to make this strategy work.
Strategy 2- Going heavy at the RB/WR positions and not rostering a backup kicker and or backup TE/DST
This one does take a bit of guts. However, if you want to be brave, you can go with two backup running backs and wide receivers, meaning you roster four. And then, with your backup QB, if you have five bench spots, or backup TE or DST if you have six bench spots, you leave yourself with no backup kicker and no backup TE and/or DST. It does leave you open to being selected by the vampire on a week where you have a kicker, tight end, or DST on bye. However, it does mean you weaken the pool of players for the vampire to choose from at the start. And, you also have more coverage if your star running back or wide receiver goes down for a week or longer. If more than a few players adopt this strategy in your league, it makes it difficult for the vampire to get a serviceable running back early on before the injuries begin. However, it does mean when they start to acquire these positions, they will end up having a surplus of exceptional talent when they start to win some games.
Strategy 3- Double up at RB and roster only one kicker
This seems to be the most used strategy in vampire leagues. It protects you in the scarcest position of all. Yet it does leave you vulnerable at the kicker position on the bye week. The way around this is to find another player adopting this strategy during the draft and copy the same bye week as them. That way, the vampire will have two options that week, or maybe even better options other than the two of you. If you trust and back yourself to draft well, this move could be a masterstroke and might come with less of a disadvantage than you would imagine. Of course, it does add a kicker back into the pool for the vampire, and if only 15 kickers get drafted, it does mean the vampire has over half the active kickers to choose from every week.
There are other strategies, but these are the three most common ones. Try them out and see which one you prefer when you do your mock drafts before starting the draft.
The Vampire’s Strategy
This strategy is remarkably fluid as it depends on the draft results and the players in the league. However, there are some things you should consider when you are getting ready to win your league as a vampire.
Analyze all of the rosters after the draft and map out the weaknesses of teams based on bye weeks
One of the things recommended for a vampire is to have a notebook or a spreadsheet and add all the rosters and their bye weeks to them. That way, they can see teams with a gap in their starting lineup or are potentially weak on a specific week. Then you start to create a mock plan of opponents for every week. However, remain fluid on this. Injuries will change the way you tackle the fixtures in this league.
When a league-mate gets an injury to their team, make a note. Especially as to how long they are out. If a rival league-mate has a player go on IR, note the minimum number of weeks they will miss. If a league-mate gets an injury crisis and cannot put a strong team out, when combined with bye weeks, that might be the time to strike and play them that week instead.
Star, shortlist, or make a note of players who are next man up/ on the verge of a breakout
This one is particularly useful. If you know the depth charts of teams and can keep an eye on who would get the carries if, say, Jonathan Taylor got injured, you can quickly pick them up and make the change when needed to your roster.
Also, monitor who is getting used more. Keep a note and an eye on players who are getting more work. Remember, you have complete control over the remaining pool of players. Therefore you don’t need to act rashly and add too early to your roster. Just monitor them. And when they are about to break out, you can simply add them to your team and use them for the rest of the season.
Study game scripts and match-ups in the NFL to roster the right players every week
This one is something most players should be doing regularly. However, for the vampire, it is critical to success. If a team is likely to find themselves behind often in a game that weekend and therefore unlikely to run the ball as much, you should adjust your line-up accordingly. The same goes with targeting unfancied WR2s on teams likely to abandon the run and throw the ball more. Analyze WR/CB match-ups to find an edge and use the tools here at FantasyPros to make the best decisions possible with your roster every week. Remember, you can make unlimited transactions every week, with no one competing for players in the pool. Therefore, there is no need to stash players. Select the best players for the week and amend your roster the following week.
Monitor rookie’s progress
It is unlikely many rookies outside of Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker, Drake London, and maybe Garrett Wilson will get drafted in the main draft. Therefore, as a vampire, you should have the rest of the rookie pool to yourself. This is no guarantee, as others might take Treylon Burks or others. However, you can star and monitor rookies. Maybe Kenny Pickett can put together a season similar to Justin Herbert‘s rookie season? Maybe Treylon Burks could be this year’s Justin Jefferson or Ja’Marr Chase? You just never know how the rookies will perform as the season progresses. And, if someone is starting to get traction and putting up good numbers, then it might be a good time to add them to your roster and maybe even your starting line-up.
Vampire leagues are fun. If you have never tried one before, give one a go. You will have great interaction and league chats on a Tuesday when the vampire steals a player and when they name their next opponent and potentially their next victim.
If you want to dive deeper into fantasy football, check out our award-winning slate of Fantasy Football Tools as you navigate your season. From our Start/Sit Assistant – which provides your optimal lineup based on accurate consensus projections – to our Waiver Wire Assistant – that allows you to quickly see which available players will improve your team and by how much – we’ve got you covered this fantasy football season.