13 Excellent Fantasy Football League Ideas

Aug 10

13 Excellent Fantasy Football League Ideas

Back in my day, we had to wait until Saturday to watch cartoons. (It was inhumane!) And we’d get detention for passing notes because texting didn’t exist. And my Fantasy league was Basic TD-only scoring. The Fantasy Football league ideas were few and far between back then!

Basic scoring! That’s right. Barry Sanders averaged seven touchdowns over a 3-year stretch, making him a fleet-footed RB2 in Fantasy Football, averaging 42 points a season. Can you imagine!?! He would have been a top-10 player overall in leagues today.

We were barbarians, I know.

But everything evolves, including Fantasy Football over the past 20 years. From adding points for yardage, to adding a third wide receiver, to adding a flex position, to drafting IDPs, to auctions, to survivor leagues, to two-QB leagues, to DFS — a Fantasy Football league is always being modified every five years or so.

It’s time to start modifying again!

By the way, click on these links if you are looking for:


Fantasy Football League Ideas: Fixing What Ain’t Broke!

Fantasy Football League Ideas - Peyton Hillis

Peyton Hillis was an awesome Week 1 pickup for many eventual champions in 2010.

Before you click on the Twitter link to e-yell at me that I’m ruining the purity of the game that your great-grandfather taught you, just hear me out.

I’m not trying to make you throw your league out, and start anew with European scoring rules or anything.

All I’m saying is you’re probably in more than one league already. So think about making some alterations to one of your “other” leagues, with some of these Fantasy Football league ideas. You can even get the same guys from your one league and get them to try one of these alternative Fantasy Football league ideas.

For instance, most leagues are redraft leagues, so consider getting the core of that league to also start a second league that happens to be a Keeper or Dynasty league!

Variety is the spice of life!


You’re So Money, You Don’t Even Know It

1. COLLECTIONS: Collecting league fees is always a pain every season. Maybe make it so that the first six teams to pay their fees get a 10-percent discount and the last three teams have to pay a 20-percent penalty? That would make it a race for owners to pay you!

2. SUPER DUPER BOWL: In one dynasty league I was in, we instituted a rule where each year, all of the teams would pay 125-percent of the league fees. So we would pay $125 for a $100 league fee. That extra $25 would go into a kitty, and then, after four seasons, we had a Super Duper Bowl. This meant the champion that season would take home a prize that had been building for four seasons, adding up to an extra $1,200. The reason this was so great was because it added an extra layer of strategy, as some teams would adjust their strategies in Year 2 or 3 in order to gear up for a big Year 4.

I did not win. So Fantasy Football league ideas like this are dumb! But it did keep owners year after year because they already had non-refundable money invested.


Feeling a Draft

My buddy George is Australian and he loves Fantasy Football. Did you know their Fantasy drafts go in a counter-clockwise order, and the 12th pick selects first and the first pick drafts last? OK, well, sometimes I lie.

But I do think people don’t take advantage of how exciting the draft and the draft lottery can be. Too often, we’re all so excited to get the draft going, that we zoom through the lottery and rush our way through the draft. Take a step back and enjoy it!

Fantasy Football League Ideas - Beer pong draft lottery

Playing beer pong to decide who gets to draft when seems like an AWESOME idea. Just make sure the sober people document the results.

3. DRAFT LOTTERY: Rather than just have the same old hat with the same old names being pulled out of it, mix it up. I read on Reddit where someone set up a beer pong table, and people tossed ping pong balls into mixed-up red solo cups that had a draft number on the bottom of it. That’s what determined their draft order! Be creative! Drink!

4. DRAFTING DRAFT PICKS: Also, consider allowing the lottery winner to choose where in the draft they’d like to pick. Many times, I’d rather have the third overall pick over the first two picks. You’d get a top-three player and you’d end up with a higher draft pick in the second round than the other two owners.

5. WEIGHTED LOTTERY SYSTEM: If you’re in a keeper league, think about putting three names into the hat for the worst team from the previous season, and two names in for the second-worst team. This gives them a better chance at a high draft pick, hopefully, counteracting the fact they likely don’t have great keepers.(Just remember that if you pull names out of the hat for Pick No. 12, then 11, etc., then that team with three names in the hat actually gets the pick when his name comes out for the third time.)

If you are in a dynasty league, they should automatically get the top pick. It might not be a popular Fantasy Football league idea with the rest of your league, until they need that rule next year.


Riding the Waivers

It’s not uncommon to see the teams that lose in Week 1 finding themselves in the championship at the end of the season. A few years ago, Week 1 losers had a chance to snatch up players like Michael Vick and Peyton Hillis, or even the last couple years with DeMarco Murray or Alfred Morris.

6. FROM WAIVERS TO FAAB: So rather than over-rewarding a loser, how about changing to a free-agent acquisition budget (FAAB) system? This allows everyone the same chance at all the players every week. They can bid on players each Wednesday, choosing to spend what they want, with a $100 budget for the year (free agents are free after Thursday).

7. TWITTER WAIVERS: Another fun Fantasy Football league idea is to have your waivers play out on Twitter! Players can be picked up and dropped at any time — even during a game! That would definitely make Sunday dinner at the in-laws stressful!

The first one to pick up a player gets him — and whomever he drops is instantly available to other owners. This reminds me of a boiler room at some finance firm on Wall Street with people yelling “Buy! Buy!” and “Sell! Sell!” and “Who ate my sandwich!?!” (I honestly don’t  know what goes on in those boiler rooms, but I like to think there are a lot of sandwiches being pilfered out of the breakroom fridge.)

Twitter is underutilized by many Fantasy owners. There’s a lot to be learned on there, and I’ve set up a huge list of 66 Fantasy Twitter people to follow that will help you for free.


More Fantasy Football League Ideas

Peyton Manning - Fantasy Football League Ideas

Peyton Manning was an excellent college keeper in Fantasy Football leagues in the late ’90s.

8. RESERVES: In real football, depth is pretty important, as it should be in Fantasy Football. So your Fantasy reserves should go up against your opponent’s Fantasy reserves, and if you outscore their team, you get six bonus points added to your team’s score (but you don’t also get the points from your reserves).

9. HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE: Give the best teams in the regular season a three-point advantage heading into their matchups against the lower seeds. But remember, there’s no home-field advantage in the Super Bowl.

10. RIVALRY WEEK: Set up the schedule so that the second week of the season is a rivalry week — pitting natural rivals against each other in all of the matchups. Brother against brother-in-law. Father against son-in-law. Best friend against best friend. Inmate against warden. And then, give the winner the ability to change the losing owner’s team name and team avatar to whatever he wants for ONE WEEK!

11. DOUBLE-HEADERS: Most commissioner services allow you to schedule double-headers in your Fantasy Football league, so why not make the first week coming off of byes into a double-header Fantasy extravaganza!?! That means Week 13, when many teams’ Fantasy fates are still in the balance, there could be a two-game swing! You can even leave the matchups open until after Week 11, and face the two top teams off against each other, and the third/fourth teams, fifth/sixth teams, etc. Brilliant!

12. PLAYOFFS: Rather than go off of records for the sixth and final playoff spot, reward that last seed to the remaining team with the highest points scored total. For those teams that randomly lost games in which they scored the second-highest points that week, now they have a saving grace.

13. COLLEGE PLAYERS: This last one is kinda kooky (unlike all of the sane ideas above). In Week 12, just a couple weeks before the Heisman Trophy is awarded, allow the two worst teams in your keeper league to draft one college football player apiece. This makes for a great topic for debate in-season, and it injects some excitement into a normally detached group of owners. Peyton Manning, Randy Moss and Ricky Williams were all great college player picks in my old keeper league. Lawrence Phillips, however, was not.

If you liked these Fantasy Football league ideas, then check out the “33 New Fantasy Football Rules to Make Your League Awesome-r!” that I wrote over at SoCalledFantasyExperts.com.

Hopefully, you can install some of these Fantasy Football league ideas — or better yet, it inspired you to come up with some interesting rules of your own! Post a comment below or tweet them to me! (Grown men should not say, “Tweet.”)

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  1. Fantasy football beasthouse /

    Great article David. Awesome ideas and i love the idea of making the draft order a bigger deal. Keep up the good work. Jakaz22 – fantasy football beasthouse

    • Thank you, sir! Very kind! I love leagues that twist things up just a bit to make it something special.

      • PoopDolla /

        We came up with an idea this year to hopefully distribute a few bucks back to (maybe) most of the owners so everyone gets at least a little something. In a $100 12 team league, we will have weekly position winners. Before the draft/season we will randomly pick out of a hat say…1st week = RBs. 2nd week DEF. 3rd week Tight Ends, etc. The guy with the highest RB in week 1 gets the weekly $10 prize. Best DEF in week 2 gets the weekly $10, etc.

    • Check out http://www.betterfantasydraft.com for a new way to determine draft order – it helps pair owners with picks they actually want so every’s (more) happy!

  2. Shannon Fain /

    Good ideas… one that I came up with for my league is a “lottery”. In our league 3rd place gets their money back. Out of what is left after that, 2nd place gets 20% and 1st place gets 80%. With the lottery we had everyone pay an additional amount on top of their entrance fee that is equal to the entrance fee divided by the number of people in the league. So if it is $100 to get in, and there are ten owners, then everyone would pay $100 + ($100/10) = $110, with the end result being we had an extra $100 in the pot. This went to the lottery winner. The 4th place team has the best chance to win it, the 5th place the second best, and so on… so basically it made it where even if you were out of the money (top 3), you still had something to play for as you have a better chance of winning the lottery in 6th place than you do in 9th.

    • To quote the great Prince Charles, “I EFFING LOVE IT!”

      Great idea! Doesn’t screw over the league winners by chopping their winnings down, and definitely makes it a little more exciting for the have-nots at the end of the season.

  3. We have every guy throw in and extra $20. Then the high score from each week gets 1/13th of the pool for that week. We also have the top two teams get a bye the first round. They play the winner of a super set of teams. Two three team games. This way we can get 8 teams in the playoffs and still get the top two teams a bye. It’s madness.

    • That’s pretty crazy, but I like that you guys came up with it. I bet it took on a few different versions before you got to the one everyone liked.

  4. Grumpy Guy /

    There is some really bad ideas here. Waivers on twitter as games are on on Sunday? Reserves vs Reserves for bonus points? Ugh.

  5. Brad Russell /

    Great article. Happy to stumble upon it. I have been the commissioner of the FFL (Fantasy Footballers League) ran out of Indiana for 8 years. Our last few years we have “stepped it up a notch” if you will. A few things I’d like to add that we incorporate are –
    Make Draft Day the best day of the year. It is a huge social gather of the fraternity of your friends and rivals. We did first round videos in ESPN draft format style, where I just edited pictures to look like they are drafted then put together highlight videos on a video editing software. Burn to a DVD and in all, you are out just a few hours, but at the draft everyone will be unbelievably satisfied. If you want some screenshots, a video sample or anything else let me know.

    • That’s pretty impressive! I would absolutely love to see that video! Or at least some samples of it. Did you put it up on YouTube? (Thanks for reading and the comment!)

      • Brad /

        David –
        Sorry it has taken me awhile to get back on this. We are still working out the kinks of the new system we will be using to show our draft videos, but the Sample (Just the video, not the full package) is here:


        We established the videos into a Powerpoint show that is triggered by my iPhone, corresponding to the pair selected. I created 24 different player videos to ensure the first round guys are shown. Once we have complied the finished product, I will post. Additionally, we are filming the first round of our draft this season and I will post when possible!

        Keep up the great work here at davidgonos.com!

  6. John Phillips /

    Great article big fan of the super duper bowl have to try it in the next four years! Thanks.

    • Glad you liked it! Yeah, the Super Duper Bowl is one of those things to do in a league full of people that have all been in the same league for five or six years. It helps make people come back each year, and helps add another layer of strategy. Thanks for commenting, John!

  7. Would love to see the draft video Brad! Were awarding our winner his check in Vegas, super bowl weekend. Good times!

  8. PurpleNGold84 /

    I enjoyed your column Gonos! My league actually has a meeting tonight and I am excited to bring some of your ideas up! Another idea I have come across is having prize money go to the teams who accomplish certain things during the year. IE: scores the most points in one week or wins by the largest margin during a match up.

    • Thanks! Yeah, all the money going to whoever gets lucky in the playoffs kinda stinks. In one league I’m in ($100 fee), we do $5 to the top scoring team in any given week. Ends up being $80 off the top, but takes a little of the sting out of an injured first-rounder in Week 10. Good luck, dude.

  9. Marty Mcfly /

    Some great ideas, thanks! One idea my league uses is instead of a lottery for draft position, we randomly pick a horse for each fantasy owner in the Kentucky Derby. Wherever your horse finishes is where you select in the draft. I also incorporated something similar in my other league but using individual golfers (3 for each owner) in the Masters instead. Makes that weekend fun rooting for and against random golfers.

    • GREAT ideas! Haha, I love the Derby one, that sounds a lot of fun. I wonder if it would be a good strategy to pick the longest shot, hoping to end up with the 12th pick. haha

  10. Craig /

    Great ideas here. This year we are having each owner complete a wonderlic test, 40 yard dash, and however many pushups you can do in 60 seconds. (wonderlic score + number of pushups) ÷ 40 yard dash time = draft score. Highest draft score drafts first. I’ve also heard of punt, pass, kick competitions to determine draft order.

    • I know I’m late to the party, but I thought I’d add how we chose draft order this year. We were randomly given drivers in the Nascar race for the chase (works great since there are 12 of them). However they finish in that week’s race is how we order the draft. If your driver wrecks, you go to last place. It was fun watching together even though we aren’t Nascar fans

  11. How about this idea:

    ESPN and Yahoo should pool up some cash and give out weekly trophies and awards. They can take entry fees, and ad revenue, combine it and give a little bit back to the customers. Everyone wins.

  12. Great article! As commissioner of my league for 7 years now, I’m always looking for ways to improve the league. A few years ago, we started doing something that makes naming teams more interesting.

    Each season, I choose a theme. One year, it was super heroes, the next year it was wrestling, etc. Each manager then had to name their team according to the theme and relate it to football. For example, during the superhero year, one team’s name was Bat-Manning and another was Optimus Prime Time. Best team name got to pick their draft spot.

    Also, you could choose draft order by how the NFL teams finish the previous post season (I’m given Denver, for example, so I draft 2nd next season since they lost in the Super Bowl).

    Cool ideas from this article! I’ll definitely be doing the adding points to higher seeds in the fantasy playoffs… Possibly beer pong too

  13. I love the draft lottery ideas. The possibilities are endless!

  14. Great stuff Dave! 🙂

  15. “11. DOUBLE-HEADERS: Most commissioner services allow you to schedule double-headers in your Fantasy Football league…

    We do this and it’s awesome. 16-team league, 4 divisions. So you play everyone in your division twice, and everyone else once. That’s 18 games for 17 NFL weeks (we do both 17 week regular season schedule and 14 week + fantasy playoff schedule).

    We make it week 14 so teams have a chance to squeak into the playoffs.


  16. Ed Aiello /

    David, awesome read. Great ideas. A commish really needs to sit down and seek ways to improve the league from rules, waivers, draft, scoring, etc.. Year in and year out. A commish that can take the steps to improve the league will have a long lasting league. Don’t get crazy with the changes and don’t do them all at once, face it guys like slow change. haha.

    Also David have the fantasy leagues check out http://www.statchat.com this site ranks entire leagues with a national ranking and provides league wide prizes!

  17. One thing we do in our 12-person league is as follows, which keeps the bottom half interested. The top 6 play for $$ and bragging rights. Teams 1,2 get a first round playoff bye. Top 3 teams get paid 1st place- 65% of total, 2nd place- 25%, and 3rd place- 10%- a little more than money back).

    For the bottom half (7-12), #7,8 get a first round bye, and the bracket plays out, with the winner of the loser’s bracket getting 1st pick overall, second place in bracket gets 2nd pick, etc. Keeps people interested in fighting every week, while also avoiding the “fire sales” for draft pick trades at the end of the season.

  18. Some great ideas here! I run a 12 team keeper league and one thing we do is all the teams that don’t make the playoffs, play each other in the “draft pick bowl”, for draft position next season. 6 teams submit a lineup, top 4 scores move on. Top score plays fourth score and 2nd vs. 3rd. Winners play in the draft pick bowl in Week 16. The winner gets the #1 pick next year and the remaining 5 teams pick after based on their scores. I also like the idea of blind bidding for waivers. Right now it’s the standard worst to first system, but I’ve been considering changing that.

  19. Drinkpbr /

    For our draft lottery last year I had a 10 man league and everybody showed up at my house for the draft. Once they showed up everybody had to drink 2 PBRs in bottles and keep the bottle caps because they have a playing card on the cap. They thought best hand won first draft pick, all they won was the chance for first throw for beer pong, which each cup was randomly marked with the order.

    My draft is tomorrow night and this year we all get a brand new tennis ball and mark it with our name. Then everybody will put the ball in a bucket, My son is going to dump it out in the corner of my backyard and what ever order my dog brings the balls back is the order we draft.

  20. Patrick /

    One other caveat I added to my keeper league this year was making draft picks for next season tradeable. This way teams that were out it could purge some of their better players and rebuild for next season. It made deadline day in my league insane!

  21. Steve /

    In my league we have owners pay a certain amount extra in their entry fee and that goes towards a weekly payout to the team that puts up the most points. It’s keeps people invested week in and week out even if their team is out of playoff contention.

  22. Mike /

    I like the beer pong idea! Each year in our league, a league of old high school buddies, we do something different for draft order. Last year we did the Wonderlic test, this year we filled out NCAA tournament brackets, stuff like that. The only thing we do differently than most is something we have done to make picking first in a snake draft slightly more valuable, so it makes you feel like you win something of value if you win the pre-draft competition without letting a team get stacked. of course we do our draft offline so that is a must, but essentially the snake draft starts after round 2. So rounds 1-2 you draft in the same position, so say you have the #1 pick, you get the first pick in the first and second round but then the last one in the 3rd round, first in 4th and so on like a normal draft after that. Just makes that first spot a hair more desirable!

    • Love the Wonderlic test idea! That’s awesome.

      However, the same pick in Rd 1 and 2 is pretty tough, man. Seems like whoever wins top pick is going to dominate. As a matter of fact, the guys at the NFFC do a “Third-Round Reversal” —
      “…meaning that the draft order will go back down to 12 to start Round 3 and then continue in serpentine fashion after that. The NFFC is using 3RR in 2015 to balance the talent pool throughout these 12-team leagues. Here’s how the draft order will go:
      Round 1: 1-12
      Round 2: 12-1
      Round 3: 12-1
      Round 4: 1-12”

  23. Sumz /

    Hey guys, I run a $100 league and we have incorporated a Survivor game with a $100 prize. Starting in Week 1, low scorer is eliminated, all the way to Week 11 when we have two owners left. You’d think one the top two teams would always win but we’ve done it for seven years now and we’ve had the eventual 5, 4, and two 6 seeds win the Survivor game.

    • I like that, man. Cool idea. I used to run a similar setup but for Daily Fantasy Football each week.

      Here’s a suggestion to make things crazier — award the top team of the week “Immunity” for the following week! Then the second-worst team gets the boot. Makes scoreboard watching a lot of fun on Sunday and Monday!

  24. One of our favorite ideas is to have a revolving Last Place (Sacko) trophy for lowest total points or msot consecutive losses or whatever you choose The idea is that you choose an iconic image of that person’s horrible week, print it out, frame it and make that person hold onto it until someone else earns it. The best image is the Mark Sanchez Butt Fumble, makes for the perfect last place trophy!

  25. We’ve had can coolers, hats and paintings (of players) as the draft pick momento. Next season is clocks. we limit it to $10 per item, it’s a great little thing for the gents to remember the draft day. Great keepsakes.

    Also have a rivalry round as the last round of the season.

    Have 10 trophies (5 being added next season) including the winning trophy, minor premier, a seperate knock out comp, highest points per round, highest points that lost a game, highest bench score etc. we have lots of fun and make it about getting together and having beers and fun.

  26. i am 3 players short for my 30 team league which consists of 3-10 team drafts thru rtsports.com my concern is that i am having a problem locating 3 more players for my ffl and looking to find people to fill this void. i think there should be a pool of people that are having trouble getting into a league and there should be a pool of people to choose from. the 3 teams i am looking for would be all online drafters and i am located out of cleveland ohio. it is a ppr league and is $125 for the year with no transaction fees. it is a ppr league with multiple chances to at least win ur money back. so, again, i am looking for 3 people who might be interested in joinng this league and yes, it is 100% legit! my name is don and u can reach me at mustangsallie87@cox.net i will answer any questions u may have regarding my league and will be more than happy to fill u in on everything about our league. if u r interested, please contact me anytime. ty don


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