Fantasy Football Firsts: Commissioner Life

Maybe you have played fantasy before and are ready to organize your own league. Maybe you’ve never played before, and your friends are looking to you to organize everything. Either way, starting a new league requires you to make several decisions.

Where to Play

The first thing to determine is what platform to use. If the plan is for a relatively simple league with basic rules, then a free platform like Yahoo! Fantasy or ESPN are great and user-friendly. While they are free to use, they do come with limitations. For advanced or dynasty leagues, a paid site like Fantrax, My Fantasy League, or Sleeper allow for more customization.

The Format

Once you have a platform, you then decide what kind of league you want to have: a redraft, a keeper, or dynasty league. A redraft league has a new draft every season, which means you start each season with a new team. A keeper league allows you to keep a set number of players from last year’s team for the following season–and then draft the remainder of your team every season. A dynasty league keeps the same team from year to year, but you hold a rookie draft each season to add new players.

Draft Type

After selecting the type of league, you must decide on which type of draft. The most common draft is a snake draft where the players get a draft position from 1 – n (with “n” representing the number of players in the league). The order is reversed each round, so the person who picks last in one round picks first in the next. If you are playing with more than 12 players, you may want to look into some advanced snake draft settings to help maintain the balance of players in the draft.

A second option is an auction draft. Here, everyone has a set budget. Teams nominate players, the league bids on the players, and the highest bid wins. This gives every team the opportunity to get any player they want. If you go this route, be aware that auction drafts last substantially longer than a snake draft. A 10-12 team snake draft will last around two hours. Auction drafts for the same number of teams can last three to four hours.

Roster Size

Another consideration is roster size. Most leagues start 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, a flex (RB, WR, TE), a K, and a DEF. If you’re dealing with a mostly inexperienced league, I’d recommend sticking to that format. Some basic modifications are to drop the kicker and the team defense. This is becoming more common in fantasy football, as it removes some of the unknowns. A second modification to consider is adding a SuperFlex, the option to start a QB, RB, WR, or TE in this position. Most of the time it makes sense to start a QB in your superflex position.

There are also options to add IDP, or individual defensive players. But if the league is relatively inexperienced, I’d recommend keeping things relatively simple so everyone can get the hang of it.


Once you have the roster set, it’s time to decide on scoring. The main determination to make is whether your league will be standard (no points per reception), Half Point Per Reception (Half PPR), or Full Point Per Reception (PPR). Standard is named as such because it was the basic format for many years. PPR has become quite popular over the past decade. Half PPR is a happy middle ground. The main distinction is that Full PPR–and Half PPR to a lesser extent–gives a little more scoring and balances out player performance to reduce the importance of touchdowns slightly. That, and PPR and Half PPR help give more RBs more value in today’s pass-happy NFL.

Other than receptions, most scoring is standard. Some leagues like to give six points for passing TDs instead of the standard four points. This won’t change things dramatically, but it does reduce the value of the mobile QB slightly. Since you’ve read this far, I’ll assume this is a league for mostly beginners. Again, I would caution against making too many changes to the standard scoring. This makes it easier for the casual player to know what kind of players to target in the draft.

Various and Sundry

There are a few other rules I think every league should follow. The championship should end on Week 16, not Week 17 where some stud players might be resting due to their team’s playoff position already being settled. Your league should use a FAAB (Free Agent Acquisition Budget) auction to process waivers. If you don’t use FAAB, waivers should be rolling all season and not reset to reverse standings each week. You should lock rosters for teams not in the playoffs if it is a redraft league. Don’t create rules restricting trades. If you have issues with people colluding in your league, kick them out. Establish some guidelines for how to handle rule changes, but don’t change the rules mid-season unless it is absolutely necessary.

Finally, being commissioner is a thankless job. Everyone will complain to you about something. It’s part of the job. Find a way to manage the league that works for you. Do your best to organize an in-person draft. It’s much better than online drafting. Stick to the rules and use good judgment. You can’t foresee some of the problems that will arise. Work to honor the rules as they were intended for the season. Then, work to fix anything that the league wants to change for next season.

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