What’s in a Game?
The game of games. The game about a game. Fantasy Football.
Fantasy football brings people together. Reading this article means you’re probably a dynasty player so crazy about the game that you’re spending time learning about game rules for a sport that won’t see on-the-field action for another six months.
I am one of those nut jobs. So much so that I’m the one writing about the rules of a game that won’t be played on the field for another six months.
I started running my first league my sophomore year of high school to keep in touch with childhood friends as we grew older. There have been some changes, but the league has been everything I wanted it to be and more. Here I am, 11 years later, still running a fantasy football league with nine of my best friends. It’s the best, and it’s not the game or the rules that make it the best. It’s the people.
I spent a few years in college and afterward researching how to make positional values equal and adjusting scoring settings so that quarterbacks weren’t so overpowered and I could minimize the impact of kickers. Somewhere along those lines I was convinced that fantasy football was a game about skill and that I should be working, as commissioner, to create rules that matched the value that players added on the field. I tried start one QB (1QB) leagues, Superflex (SF), tight end premium (TEP), Superflex tight end premium, point per carry (PPC), point per reception (PPR), half-point per reception, point per first down (PPFD), two tight end (2TE) leagues, and the list goes on and on… But after 13 years as a fantasy football player and 11 years as the commissioner of as many as three leagues at a time, I can finally say that I figured it out.
The best way to play fantasy football is to not care about the rules of the game at all. My home league had one flaw that kept hassling us as the years went by. We completely forgot that fantasy football is a game. It’s a game about a game and you make the rules. Why not play around with them? Keep you and your friends on their toes! Give no one an edge by mixing it up with your redraft leagues every year.
I’ve outlined some of the newer types of leagues popping up and why you should give them a try. Let’s dive in!
Two tight ends (2TE)
There are maybe three consistently good tight ends in fantasy football. So why on earth would you expand the startable player pool so you have to throw the likes of a Foster Moreau in your lineups on a given week? Let’s take a look at the value change in this format. You have players like Travis Kelce and George Kittle that are normally second or third-round picks at worst. Those players will rise vastly as some managers will insist on locking up a stud at a position where depth is extremely lacking.
Value Above Replacement (VAR) is the key. Gerald Everett was TE24 last year and scored less than 100 points over the entire year. Being able to snag two top-five tight ends could be the move that forces your opponents to start two players that average less than five points per game each week. It’s drastic, and a format that scares owners away due to the number of players you’d have to research and know about as a result. However, the value shift at the position can help open up trade opportunities that won’t be there in your plain jane standard leagues (1QB, PPR, no TEP).
Point Per First Down (PPFD)
I created my first dynasty league a few years ago and the one rule I was hell-bent on having was point per first down. We ended up with 0.5 PPR and 0.5 PPFD and for someone that was on a quest for “appropriate value”, this fits the bill. There have been some major swings in the fantasy world and I’ve tried to stay as ahead as possible when I see that a platform offers something interesting that I believe will stick. First, there was the shift from standard to point per reception, then the shift to half-point per reception when wide receivers started out-scoring all the running backs outside of the top ones that broke the game, and I believe what’s next in line to be viewed as “normal” is adding 0.5 PPFD.
This is a great addition if the platform allows it because moving the sticks in the NFL is difficult and getting first downs is sometimes more valuable than scoring, yet it was never really looked at from a fantasy perspective. This is the best way to reward players for adding on-field value and distinguishing any random two-yard catches from two-yard catches on third and one that keeps the offense on the field.
Tiered Point Per Reception (PPR)
Fantasy football fans are always playing with reception points. I talked above about the shift from 0 to 1 to 0.5, but there are many owners trying tiered PPR. This is when runningbacks receive 0.5 PPR, wide receivers receive 1 PPR, and tight ends receive 1.5 PPR. Touches, or opportunities, are the name of the game in fantasy. Running backs are normally at the top of the touches ranks by season’s end due to the high volume of carries and their viability as a receiver. Receivers will follow behind running backs in touches, and well behind a large percentage of the team’s top two wide receivers, you’ll find most of the tight ends. This is where tiered PPR comes in. This format tries to even out the value of each position’s receiving opportunities.
Tiered PPR can sound complex when you bring it to a typical redraft league, but it’s a great way to add more variability and enlarge the size of the “Tier One” players in the draft. Instead of automatically going with a running back like most did last year, and getting burned by injuries, this opens up the options to include some of the top receivers and even Travis Kelce, George Kittle, and Darren Waller at the tight end position. Waller would have scored 332 points in this format which was good enough for WR2 on the year and only one point behind Derrick Henry who finished as RB3.
Outside the Box – Empire Leagues
The three scoring formats above are great to spice up your leagues, but that’s just scratching the surface of what you can do. Empire leagues are a special type of dynasty league where the rosters reset when a certain set of conditions are met. I’ve seen people get creative with these and base them on superheroes and movies, but I just joined my first empire league and it’s Pokemon-themed!
All the credit for the creation of this league goes to @FantasyFreezer and @ChrisMiles1017. It was such a cool concept that I had to talk about it. There are 12 teams, each taking a different starter pokemon from the first four generations (I got Totodile). When you win a certain number of games you level up your pokemon. When your starter evolves, you’re given a five-point boost to start your week, and then ten when it evolves to its final form. You can even collect more pokemon by winning games. There are eight badges to collect, each with its own criteria for earning it, and a power. Badge powers can range from adding a multiplier to a random player for one week to choosing your opponent for a week to stealing a badge when you beat a player. The league resets when someone collects all eight badges and becomes a Pokemon master! If you want to know more about this league, reach out to them on Twitter!
Give it a Shot
There are endless possibilities when it comes to fantasy football league formats, so next time someone offers you a spot in a unique league, give it a shot! And if you have some cool ideas for a league format, send me a tweet @DFF_JoeMem on Twitter to let me know. Finally, if you’re looking for more fantasy football content and my dynasty rankings, be sure to subscribe to a Dynasty Football Factory membership so you have access to everything our awesome team has to offer. Now is the best time to subscribe as we head into rookie draft season and have some big enhancements coming to our rankings!