Dream Teams: What’s Up with Fantasy Football?

The secret sauce to any fantasy football league is the group of people in it.

Fantasy team helmet for the Austin Wildcatters, the author's team.

Photo courtesy of JD Harper

In Texas, there are two sporting seasons: Football Season and Waiting for Football Season. If you don’t believe me, just ask one of the Junction Boys, whom I bet couldn’t wait for summer to end and the football season to begin!

This fall, millions of us will be participating in some sort of fantasy football league. For years, the practice of being a geek about fantasy football has been something you don’t really talk about in public for fear of losing dates and friends in droves. Alas, the rest of the world is catching up to how great it is to be a geek.

I am in one league and one league only. In fact, that’s one of our league rules: If you are a member of our league you are not allowed to play in other leagues. Most people treat fantasy football like their NCAA brackets; they have ten going at once. But in our league, we would never dream of diluting the magic that way.

First and foremost, the secret sauce to any fantasy football league is the group of people in it. You’re here to have fun and talk trash. My league is comprised of me and nine of my best friends from high school. We all graduated, went our separate ways and are now spread out over the United States and Panama. The league gives us a great excuse to email each other all year round.

Here are a few different league settings you will see when joining a league this fall or forming one of your own.

Keeper vs Redraft Leagues

The majority of leagues are redraft leagues. This means that every season the league starts over from scratch with a draft. These leagues are for your un-committed, ice-cream-licking whimps.

In my opinion, keeper leagues are the only way to go. You want to build a dynasty and conquer your opponents for years to come. In my league, we have eight keepers every season. We roll with a 20 player roster during the season and a few weeks before the draft, we are forced to cut 12 of those players and retain 8. We keep things fresh by adding in a salary cap. Each player comes with a salary cap dollar amount that goes up $1 every year you have that player and caps out at a salary of $6. This makes it hard to retain the same roster for years on end. If a team has Peyton Manning and four other great players, after a few years, the team is going to have to cut some of their players to be able to afford Mr. Manning. You can offset a few of your team’s high-salary keepers by bringing on a few rookies–who come with a $0 salary cap cost.

PPR vs Non PPR Leagues

Points Per Reception leagues are getting more popular and, I believe, the way to go since the NFL is becoming such a passing league. Ten years ago, the name of the game was to draft RB, RB, RB since running backs were easy bets to get 20 to 25 touches per game. WR’s (wide receivers) might have been lucky to get four or five catches or touches per game. In today’s NFL, teams are passing 65 percent of plays or more. To even further this change, RB’s rarely get 20 carries a game and now teams are employing two to three RB’s to split carries since the position is so physically demanding. Now WR’s are likely to get anywhere from eight to ten catches per game and, with their careers lasting so much longer, it makes them great investments for keeper leagues.

Return Yards League

Our league is a returns yard league, so kick returns and punt returns add to a player’s weekly score. This is fantastic because it rewards total yards from scrimmage instead of just rushing or receiving yards. An example would be Randall Cobb, who catches a lot of passes for a lot of yards but when you add in his 40 to 80 yards a week on kick-off returns...he becomes a top five WR star!

FA Budget vs Waiver Order

Another detail that makes our league unique is having a Free Agent Budget–or FA Budget–every season. In season, free agent pick-ups will make or break any team’s season. The roster you draft is only good for a few weeks at best. Someone will get hurt, someone will emerge as a star...you want to be there to pick that player up. Most leagues have a waiver order, which means your choice for a FA in any week depends on the order in which you started the season. For example, if you started the season at 4th in the order, you get the 4th choice for a FA that week. If you don’t claim someone that week, you have a chance to move up in the order, but once you claim someone, you go to the back of the order. It’s not a terrible set up, but we decided with our league that we liked having a fixed dollar amount of $200 every season. Each week, we bid on FA players and the player goes to the highest bidder. This involves much more strategy. If you blow all your FA money in the first few weeks, it’s going to be a long season of watching the week’s hot new start getting picked up by your hated rival.

My 2014 Sleeper picks

I would never show my hand to the general public. My rivals are following my every move. However, if you’re interested in learning more about fantasy football and team formation strategies, feel free to hit me up at jdharper@v23athletics.com.

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