As you read this, more than 27 million Americans are gearing up for their 2009 fantasy football draft.
That's right, according to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population will be entered in some sort of a fantasy league this football season. In addition, the average participant plays in 2.5 leagues and will kill nine hours of their life per week on fantasy football, which has turned into an $80 million industry.
So, if you're one of the millions and millions of Americans that is going to put that much time and effort into fantasy football during the next four months, you might as well get the most bang for your buck. The staff here at Casino City has more than a few fantasy football buffs. We compared notes and came up with 10 concepts that you should implement this season in order to give your league a little more life.
As always, we want to hear your ideas as well. If there's a fantasy football variation that you know of that we didn't put on the list, send us e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear your ideas. Either way, happy drafting this week and good luck!
10. Penalize the last place team
Not that any of us here at Casino City has ever owned a fantasy team that was out of contention within the first few weeks of the season, but, believe us, we've seen it happen. And – from what we've heard – there's nothing worse that drafting a team that you envision winning the whole ball of wax, only to see injuries and a boatload of bad lack sack your chances by the time the calendar turns to October. So instead of watching these unlucky bastards lose interest in the league and start tanking games, set up a stiff penalty for the team that finishes last – something much worse than simply being the ridicule of the rest of the league's members. Whether it's a penalty that hurts their wallet or something even more humiliating (how about making them mow the first place team's lawn for a month come springtime), do something to keep owners from throwing in the towel midway through the season.
9. More payouts = more interest
Granted, every one in your league wants to win the championship, both for monetary reasons and bragging rights. But your league should be about more than just who finishes atop the heap in December. For instance, in addition to the yearly payouts, you can install monthly or even weekly winners for most points scored. Also, at the end of the season you can award the team that scores the most points in a single week. This way even the cellar dwellers will have something to play for throughout the entire season.
8. Make rookies matter
Rookies can be a scary proposition in fantasy sports. That college stud who was drafted in the first round could turn out to be overmatched or he could be an All Pro. To force teams to take a chance on these precocious players, require owners to draft and hold on to a certain number of rookie players throughout the season. What to make it even more challenging? Make it a rule that every team has to start at least one rookie every week.
7. Make defenses more meaningful
You've probably heard the phrase, "Defense wins championships." Well, whoever said it first, probably wasn't a fantasy football commissioner since most leagues out there treat defense as an afterthought. Instead of drafting just one team defense, have teams select a couple of individual defensive players. Slot one guy as the "interception" player, one as the "sack" player and one as the "tackle" player. And add in big bonus points if a defensive player finds the end zone.
6. Stop the waiver wire madness
Every league has a guy who ruins the spirit of the waiver wire. You know the one – maybe it's you – the owner who is always trolling the waiver wire searching for the player that has slipped through the cracks and could turn out to be a one-week wonder. It seems like every time he makes a midseason pick-up it happens the transaction happens in at 3 a.m. While it is admirable to see someone so dedicated to stealing a player from right under everyone else's noses, it's also quite annoying.
An interesting concept to add to your league is to restrict the number of waiver wire picks a team can make each week or each season. This makes the waiver wire a commodity, something you can trade and get some value out of. Trades are much more interesting and a lot easier to make when you can throw in waiver picks.
5. Award winners with more than just money
Hey, I love cold, hard cash as much as the next degenerate. But sometimes it's nice to have an added incentive to shoot for when it comes to fantasy football. So go ahead and add some intrigue to the final standings. Make the three last-place teams bankroll the food and beverage budget at next year's draft. Allow the first-place team to choose the draft date and location for next year and -- like the Masters -- choose the food that will be served. Or, as one of our associates recommended, have a booze reward league where the teams that finish in the bottom of the league have to buy the upper echelon teams a bottle of liquor or case of beer. The cost and quality of the booze prizes are staggered by the standings, with the last place team buying the first-place team the highest -shelved item. And make it a requirement that everyone gets together during the NFL playoffs to exchange and drink the prizes.
4. Penalize distracted owners at the draft
One thing I can guarantee is that on at least two or three occasions during your draft somebody will select a player that has already been drafted. It doesn't matter how big your draft player board is or how organized the people in your league are. It's just something that is going to happen. So, in an effort to stop this aggravating delay in the proceedings, have some sort of penalty for the people who commit this fantasy crime. Make the offender drop $20 into a pot each time they do it and then put all of the money collected at the end of the draft towards dinner, drinks or adult entertainment. Or make the penalty a shot of tequila. Just use something that might help stop this kind of despicable action.
3. Penalize unprepared owners at the draft
Plain and simple, if an owner can't correctly pronounce the name of the player he is drafting or can't state the team and position of the player, he shouldn't be able to draft said player. This deters unprepared owners from coming to the draft with nothing but a cheat sheet from a fantasy football magazine and very little knowledge of the players on the board in the middle to late rounds.
2. Try a Suicide Fantasy Football League
Suicide Fantasy Football Leagues are a relatively new development in the world of fantasy sports. They're fun, different and easy to operate. And best of all, the dreaded injury factor is taken out of the equation. Here's how it works. There is no draft at the start of the season. The owners pick their team each week and every player is available to every team. Here's the catch: you can only use a player ONCE throughout the entire season. For example, if the league runs for 16 weeks, you will need to use 16 different quarterbacks. There is a lot of strategy involved here since you have to map out when you want to use certain players by virtue of who they're playing and you have to try and save some high-profile players for later in the season when the picking start to get slim. Try it. You may never go back to a regular format.
1. Make draft day special
For most leagues, draft day is the only time of the season when the entire league gets together under one roof where it can conduct the kind of necessary trash talk and ridicule that is a must in fantasy sports in person. Heck, there's a lot of leagues out there that either use an auto-draft format or do it online simply for geographical reasons or scheduling conflicts (family and jobs have a way of spoiling a lot of fun, don't they?). Those are the leagues that are missing out on what it typically the best day of the year for fantasy football owners.
Make an effort to conduct your draft in a live format. Hold the draft at a place where it will be uninterrupted and don't rush through the proceedings. Make a day out it. Plan on having everyone stay after the draft to watch a college football game on TV or play some poker. Make a tradition out of it. And if you're really ambitious, go to Las Vegas for your draft. Some of the major casinos have started to market Fantasy Draft Weekend and are holding specials for fantasy football fans. Take advantage of it. After all, draft day only comes once a year and you should make the most of it.