Wednesday, September 30, 2009

What is the Right Size for a Fantasy Football League?

CalculatorImage via Wikipedia

How many teams/managers should you have in a fantasy football league?

Recruiting is essential to how fun, challenging, and rewarding the league will be throughout the season. I've been a fantasy football commissioner for almost 10 years. My experience as head-honcho has taught me a lot about how to structure a league. If you are thinking about commissioning or joining a league for the first time then you may want to consider my thoughts on the right size.

One of the main goals in the league is to have something to play for. Many successful leagues play for prize money. When managers feel they are in it for something it generates more interaction and a more fun league. Another goal is to have the right amount of depth. The league should be both inviting for newbies and challenging for veterans.

My previous leagues have been between 10-14 teams. This number seems to work pretty well because: every manager gets good familiar players, it leaves the right amount of good talent in the free agent pool, teams play each other no more than twice, and there's plenty of revenue for prize money. Currently my league is 12 deep and has the following settings, which are based primarily on Yahoo's default settings:

Roster: 1QB, 3WR, 2RB, 1TE, 1K, 1DEF, 7BN.
Playoffs: 6 teams, WKs 14, 15, 16.
Divisions: 2, with each division winner clinching a playoff spot.

My only change is the additional BN spot to make up for having maximum moves set to 10. I believe these are good settings for a league that's 12-14 deep. Unless you have no maximum moves set, then I would decrease the BN to 6. Having too many players on your team can be frustrating as you'll constantly fight yourself on who to start. Also, it allows managers to horde players just for the sake of not letting anyone else have them.

The question then becomes, "What is the minimum and maximum amount to have in a league?" Most fantasy football applets such as Yahoo allow you to have between 4-8 teams make it to the playoffs. Ideally you want no more than half of the teams make it into the playoffs. Otherwise there's really no reason to be competitive in the regular season. You would also have trouble collecting a good amount of revenue for first, second, and third place prizes. For this reason I think 8 teams is as low as you can go. You might discover an 8 team league leaves too much talent wasted in the free agent pool. A good fix might be to increase the roster size to 16 and add a utility player, like a WR/TE, RB/WR, or RB/TE. I would use these settings for a 8 team league:

Roster: 1QB, 3WR, 2RB, 1TE, 1RB/WR (or WR/TE, RB/TE), 1K, 1DEF, 7BN.
Playoffs: 4 teams, WKs 15, 16.
Divisions: none.

Yahoo allows you to set your league up to 20 teams. This really seems too much since a lot of the talent will be tapped out of the free agent pool. Also, since there are only 32 regular NFL teams it would be difficult for every team to carry backup QBs, Ks, or DEFs, which will lead to frustration with a lot of managers. For this reason I think 16 deep is the largest you want your league to be. I would use these settings for a 16 team league:

Roster: 1QB, 3WR, 2RB, 1TE, 1K, 1DEF, 6BN.
Playoffs: 8 teams, WKs 14, 15, 16.
Divisions: 4, with each division winner clinching a playoff spot.

This may actually be the ideal size for a competitive league. Half of the NFL's 32 teams is 16 and would allow each manager to carry a backup QB, K, and DEF. It would be highly competitive with 8 teams going into the playoffs. 16 teams would give the league a lot of revenue for prize money. You would probably see more action on the trading block since available free agent talent will be scarce. With plenty of competition, depth, interaction, and reward, you would be on your way to commissioning a great fantasy football league.

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