The beauty of dynasty leagues are that you can make them as complicated or as simple as you like them. They can run the gamut from truly immersive all year long general manager style leagues that are incredibly immersive to very simple, easy to play leagues that mostly activate during the season with some trading during the off season. And there is so much in between I couldn’t possibly capture it all here. That said, let’s touch on some of the key structure decisions you’ll have to make up front that will draw your owners in and make the league fun and dynamic.
Complex or Simple
As alluded to above, dynasty leagues can go either way. They can be very complex and include contracts and salary caps and offseason free agency, auctions, drafts which make this type of league very immersive and truly like you are an NFL general manager. They can also be very simple with an option for off season activity but mostly in season activation. How do you know which way to go on the continuum? You’ll know by understanding your audience. If you have core owners that want that complex experience and you yourself want to set up that type of experience then the choice is easy, complex it is. I would argue most dynasty league fans enjoy the experience though do not want to be weighed down by constant decisions all year long and the need to attend to your team all the time. My advice is to make your league as simple as possible. You want your league to be immersive but not overwhelming. In my leagues I strive to make things easy for myself and my owners. The easier (and simpler) the league is, the stickier it will be and owners will want to stay and be able to play on there terms without getting “screwed” by rules they didn’t understand or didn’t bother to read.
Roster rules are an important component of dynasty leagues. How many teams you have will help dictate how many players each team can have. You want to set up a league that will have enough players on waivers to make that aspect interesting but not too many players so you can pick up RB2’s and drop them when you’re done. That defeats the purpose. You want a deep enough bench to allow players to develop without having to drop them. My rule of thumb is for each starting position have an active roster spot for the starter and one backup plus two. So, if you start one QB, that would be 4 QB roster spots (1 starter, 1 backup + 2) If you start 2 RBs, that would be 6 roster spots (2 starters, 2 backups + 2) and if you start 3 WRs that would be 8 rosters spots (3 starters, 3 backups + 2). In a non-IDP league with a TE and a kicker that ends up being around 26 active roster spots. Add in IDP players and you’re talking about 46 active roster spots, give or take flex positions and so forth. Then you want to think about providing some Injured Reserve slots and Taxi Squad if you want a few slots for deep developmental players.
When setting up scoring for your league the first thing to consider is whether you want to have points per reception or PPR. PPR increases the value of your WRs, TEs and pass catching RBs. You want your scoring to be relatively even between offense and defense if you have IDP. To do that, you may not want PPR if you have IDP as that would tip the scales towards the offense. PPR is great for dynasty leagues where it’s offense only and a kicker and team defense. It helps increase the scoring on smaller roster leagues. Whichever way you go, make sure your scoring makes sense for the magnitude of the play. You don’t want to give 3 points for each tackle and 1 point for an interception for IDP, an interception is much more valuable and should be higher scoring. You want your scoring to make sense and to keep it between 100 and 200 points per game in general. Some leagues get creative and provide points for explosive plays, this can be exciting too. Bottom line, scoring is an important component of your decision making and you want it to be fair, understandable and equitable to the league.
The next thing to consider is free agency. It’s often most equitable to have some sort of process to bring free agents on to your roster. Waivers is a great way to do that and it’s very easy. Set up a weekly waiver lineup, most systems do this automatically, and let it run. Most often it’s the worst team by record or worst team that week that gets the top spot and you work your way down the list from there. Auctions are another way to go and that provides owners the opportunity to bid for players and win even if you have a good team. You could also open up free agency and let it be a free for all! I don’t advise that, but I’ve seen it and it can be fun to watch. Typically there is a blackout period during games so that teams can’t pull in backups under the other owners noses right when a player gets injured.
For the playoffs there is a lot to consider. How many teams get in? How many weeks are the playoffs? Do you play week 17 when some NFL teams rest players? Do you play multiple weeks and add up the scores? These are questions that you have to answer based on your ownerships wants and needs but no matter what you do, make sure it’s fun. End the season on an exciting note. In my main league, we actually have everyone join the playoffs. While this would seemingly devalue the regular season, I have found people jockey for position as the top 4 teams get a first round bye, so there is motivation to do well. Then, anyone who can win 3 or 4 weeks in a row wins it all. I’ve also been in league where playoffs are special and only a few teams get in, that’s cool too and has the added cache of “making it” for the owners.
If you are starting a money league, and most are, you have to have an efficient way to gather and distribute funds. I can’t stress this enough. In my money league I used to accept anything and I would get checks, cash, digital transfers from many different banks which would require me to set up an accepting account. This was, quite frankly, a pain in the butt! Once I was tired of that I made a rule that you can pay two ways, by check or by PayPal. Most of my league pays by PayPal now and it’s very easy and efficient. I take funds in, they sit in my paypal account all season and then get distributed back accordingly. payouts can be a pain, make sure you make it easy on yourself. Another thought on payouts is to consider how much the winner gets and what other payouts you may have. We have $15 payouts each week to the highest scoring team. This helps make sure nobody is taking a dive. If you win 2 weeks you make up have your buy-in. Not a bad incentive.
As you can see, there are many, many decisions to be made and we’ve just covered the basics here. At the end, what I would advise is to make your league as simple and efficient as possible, which is engaging to most people. Make the scoring, waivers and scheduling fair. Make the playoffs exciting and make the payouts easy. If you can accomplish these things, you’re league will last a long time. Next article we’ll start to get into roster building strategy by looking at start up drafts.