It’s Time to Put the Fun Back in Fantasy Football

12 quick and easy suggestions to add some spice back into your league

It’s August and your fantasy football draft is just around the corner, and you’re bored with the same old, same old. Every year you draft a bunch of guys you know you’ll end up cutting by week three, every fall you add seven more names to your hate list, and every December you swear off fantasy football anew. Wasn’t this supposed to be fun??

Yet here you are again. So how about a chance to play some fantasy football while adding in something fresh and different this year too?

Don’t try everything below at once, but take a look and don’t be afraid to spice up your league with a few new twists this fall.

Never EVER count week 17

Repeat after me: Never play fantasy football in week 17.

It’s just silly. Half of the games don’t matter, and your stars will be resting for the playoffs while a bunch of no-names are lighting up the scoreboards. That’s no way to determine your league’s championship.

Kellen Moore, David Cobb, DuJuan Harris, Tyrell Williams, and Marc Mariani were a few names atop week 17 fantasy scoring last season. Do you even know what team those guys played for? It’s a silly (stupid) way to determine a champ after 4 months.

If you just have to play in week 17, crown your champ a week earlier and let everyone pick a new roster and play for draft position in week 17.

Try an auction draft!

Insert your favorite analogy here about going from a boring old snake draft to a high-octane auction draft. An auction is a great way to spice up a stale league. There’s nothing worse than having a favorite sleeper but being stuck at the end of a snake draft so you know you either have to take him 15 picks too early or wait and risk him getting sniped before you have another chance. An auction solves that. You want someone? Go get him.

You gotta do it at least once.

Get rid of the kicker

In January, I watched 52 of my Minnesota Vikings outplay the defending Super Bowl loser Seattle Seahawks in an epic playoff game only to see the 53rd screw everything up and end our season. Thanks again, Blair Walsh.

We already spend all year with our hopes in the hands of 160-pound kickers; let’s not do the same in fantasy football. This is fantasy football. It doesn’t have to mirror things exactly. NFL kickers have been proven to be almost completely random — both by accuracy and by fantasy point total.

Just get rid of the kicker position completely. There are so many more interesting lineup pieces you can use instead.

Require a starting rookie somewhere in your lineup

This is actually my favorite rule and one I institute in almost every league.

Add one flex spot for RB/WR/TE that can only be used to start a rookie. This is a great way to get to know the new guys every year and reward a little extra research. Suddenly Sterling Shepherd is a valuable 4th round pick, and finding this year’s David Johnson late will change your whole season. If you’re in a keeper league, this is an even more interesting twist.

I haven’t found a website that does this yet, so you’ll have to manually check it. A self-check works. If you notice your opponent didn’t start a rookie, the penalty is that their top-scoring RB, WR, or TE gets benched. You may want to give points for return yards to make a few more rookies valuable.

If you prefer, don’t make an extra roster spot — just require a starting rookie. You might even include QBs or kickers in that case. If your league is dumb enough to require a kicker, then it should be dumb enough to make Roberto Aguayo a top-20 value too.

Look at that impeccable form for Roberto Aguayo!

QB is the most important position in all of sports — so why is it an afterthought in fantasy football? Let’s fix it.

Everything you read tells you not to bother with QB in your draft. And it’s true — the position is deep and you can wait forever and still find a couple of useful guys that will throw for 3500+ yards and plenty of TDs. Unless you get an MVP like Cam Newton last year or one of Tom Brady’s or Peyton Manning’s record seasons, your QB is probably scoring about the same as anyone else.

There are a few ways to spruce this up. Pick your favorite!

  • Up the scoring. Give a point for every 20 yards instead of 25 or 30. Make all TDs worth 6. Subtract more for interceptions, maybe -3. If everything is worth more, those top QBs will stand out and be worth an early pick.
  • Require 2 starting QBs. That’s my preferred solution for leagues of 10 teams or less. There are easily 16–20 QBs that could be started any given week, and if you’re using that many, Rodgers and Luck will definitely be valuable even without increasing the scoring. Be careful if you have 12+ teams though — it can be a mess on the big bye weeks.
  • If you don’t want to require 2 QBs (or your league is too big), offer a SuperFlex position instead where you can start a RB, WR, or even a QB. It sounds like a big advantage but if your backup QB is Jay Cutler and he gets 7 some weeks and 18 others, you might genuinely be better off playing another good PPR WR instead. This is a great option.
  • Start a backup QB. And I mean actual backup QB. You get normal points at the position but only whatever your guy plays. In the days of Tebow and wildcat QBs, it was a way to utilize some of those part-time weapons. Or maybe you play Cutler’s backup if you think he may get benched, or perhaps just Carson Wentz if you’re just a huge NDSU fan.
  • Start a second QB but make it a “bad QB.” You’ll still start Russell Wilson and get his usual points, but you’ll also start Jared Goff and hope he racks up “bad” points for you. The Bad QB actually gets negative points for throwing a TD. Instead, he scores points for taking sacks and turning the ball over or for getting benched. And of course a pick-six is the top score possible. Why not make Goff and Mark Sanchez relevant? Will you start Rivers or Bortles as your good QB or your bad one? It may depend on the matchup. The possibilities are endless.

Start a coach in your lineup

Your coach gets a point for every 2 points his team scores, and he gets -5 if his team loses the game. That’s easy to figure out, and it makes fantasy sense. You can get creative if you want too; maybe winning a game by one score should be worth bonus points for your coach.

Or if you want something wonky, play a bad coach instead — similar to the bad QB idea above. I’ve actually done this before and it’s silly and fun. The more your coach loses by, the more points he gets. And if he accidentally wins? Negative points.

Jim Caldwell might be the Bad Coach GOAT

Fix your playoff set-up

It happens every year. Your team dominates all season, goes 11–2 en route to a first-round bye… and then crashes out with one bad week where your stud RB doesn’t find the endzone and your QB goes down injured. It’s just not fair.

Fantasy football is like most sports. The regular season determines the best team; the playoffs determine the one that got hot or lucky at the right time.

The problem is sample size. Over 13 weeks, luck evens out and the cream rises to the top. A good fantasy football owner will qualify for the playoffs almost every single time. Thirteen weeks is long enough to find the right guys via waivers or trades to fix a broken draft or replace an injured pick. But in the playoffs? It’s just one week, and if your opponent happens to start Danny Woodhead and his 4 TDs that week? You’re out of luck.

Luck will always play a part in fantasy, but there are a few ways you can fix your playoffs to help crown your season’s best team instead of its luckiest.

  • Make playoff matchups last two weeks. You’ll probably need to use weeks 13–16 and might need to limit the playoffs to just the best 4 teams.
  • Make your playoffs Survivor-style. All six playoff teams compete in week 14. The top four advance to week 15. The top two play for the title. Easy.
  • Grant “home field advantage” based on regular season PPG. Points scored is a far better indicator of fantasy prowess than win-loss record anyway. If you averaged 140 in the regular season and your opponent averaged 130, you start with a 10 point “home field advantage” in the playoffs. It’s fair, it’s earned, and it makes every point all season valuable.

Up the ante with your defensive scoring…

Shouldn’t defense matter a little more? It’s half the game after all. Yet so many leagues insist on starting a 5–8 point defense every week that matters so little we all take them in the last round of the draft. What’s the point?

If you’re going to play with the traditional DST, make the scoring count. Points-against should be worth more. A shutout is quite rare — make it worth 15 or 20 points. On the flip side, giving up 35+ should be punishable with negative points, just like we subtract for turnovers from QBs and RBs.

Some websites allow you to award points for limiting yardage allowed. You might consider giving points for return yards — on both special teams or a turnover. If your top defenses can score 20–25 points a week like a RB or WR, I promise the position will be a lot more interesting.

… Or if you prefer, try Individual Defensive Players instead

More and more leagues are adding IDPs. Make sure you get the scoring right. Reward big plays like sacks and turnovers much more than just a tackle.

You’re going to need to play a bunch of IDPs. If you just start 1 or 2, you’ve unfortunately just added another “kicker” to your roster. There’s enough stars for everyone and it’s just random from week to week. Don’t do it. If you want to play with IDPs, start at least 5 or it’s a waste of everyone’s time.

JJ Watt would be amazing in a Points Per Bloody Nose league

Is it time for PPR to go away?

Point-Per-Reception was introduced to leagues as a way to even out the scoring, to make receivers closer in value to the dominant RBs. It was the solution to an outdated problem, like if your league started giving points-per-carry to make RBs more valuable.

PPR simply makes receivers too valuable in 2016. If you want to use PPR, try a half-point instead, so 0.5 points per reception. There’s no reason for Julian Edelman to get 20 points when he catches 13 short passes for a whopping 65 yards. With half-PPR, that’s a 13-point game instead and that seems fair.

Honestly, you might just skip PPR entirely at this point. Davonta Freeman led all RBs in standard scoring with 248 points last year; #1 WR Antonio Brown had 246. RB10 had 166, WR10 at 176. RB20 scored 139 to 146 from WR20. Receivers don’t need our help anymore — they’re already just as valuable.

Some penalties should count for fantasy points

Nothing worse than when RedZone flips to the Bengals game for a 60-yard bomb and you get your hopes up… and AJ Green gets taken down for pass interference just in time for Jeremy Hill to vulture the 1 yard TD.

Sure Hill should get the TD, but shouldn’t that 60-yard penalty get me some points for AJ? He earned those yards!! Maybe it’s crazy, but some penalties like pass interference should count for half-yardage or something.

If nothing else, try something totally different

How about a Survivor league with Best Ball lineups? This is great for folks that don’t want to bother with upkeep all season. There are no trades, no waivers, and no lineups. Everyone drafts a team, and the best possible lineup gets fielded each week. When week 1 ends, check out the Best Ball lineups for the week, and the lowest scoring team is eliminated. Repeat week 2 and each week after until one team remains, and they’re the champ. Easy.

Or for something completely different, try to build your fantasy roster using players from only two NFL teams. The draft is literally two rounds long, snake-style. When you draft, you pick an NFL team and get sole access to every player from that roster. If you want someone from another team, you either need to pick up an entire new team off waivers or in a trade. Imagine a starting lineup of Brees Ingram Cooks Fleener buoyed by Langford Jeffery, or maybe Brady Edelman Gronk supplemented with Gio Hill AJ? It’s silly but fun and bye weeks are as hellish as you think.

Make up your own rule

Make your fantasy league unique!

The Ringer’s Bill Simmons has a league with 11 members and only 10 teams; the winner from the previous season gets to vote one league member out at the following year’s draft. Yes, after you’ve done all your prep work and showed up with beer and wings and everything. It’s brutal and it’s brilliant.

Once I did a league where you had to start two DSTs. It sucked. So did the one where we started a punter, though having Houston’s punter in their inaugural season was pure gold.

Anything is worth trying once and this is fantasy football, so find an interesting new rule and make fantasy football fun again!

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