Thursday, September 04, 2008

Thoughts on running a fantasy football league.

The skies are overcast, the weather is cold, and there is a familiar tune in the air. Tonight the football season starts in full swing.

With NFL football comes fantasy football, and since my job leaves me with some down time while at work I have been looking at how other people run their fantasy football leagues, I am surprised by what I had learned. So I thought that I would share with you my thoughts on fantasy football.

This year will be the sixth year for the Pirate Islands Fantasy Football (PIFF). The league is a "keeper" league that has 14 teams, and I know personally each of the coaches. The league averages about one new coach a year, which is a nice low turnover rate. Even though I had been playing fantasy football for a couple years p
rior to PIFF the origins of the league actually started when my friend 
Newgen invited all of us Garden City buds to play in a league. After that first year I stole the idea and set up the PIFF.

Currently I only play fantasy football in PIFF. For a couple of years I played in a couple of other leagues as well, but having so many players to track was not fun. It wasn't that there was just too many players- at times I would want a player to do good for one league and then also hope he doesn't do good for another. That just isn't fun.

I think my overall philosophy with running the PIFF is to try to make it as close to real football as possible. The biggest departure from traditional fantasy football leagues is the scoring system that we use. I won't get into the details here but I did my master thesis on finding a good scoring system, keeping in mind that fantasy football should be as close to real football as possible. Using a modified version of the scoring system devised in my paper we end up with game score totals usually ranging from 20-40 points.

Another rule that keeps the "realism" up in PIFF is to require all the teams to have names that follow the standard NFL convention, i.e. Place Name, Team Name. So my team is the Tea Republic Steepers, and the newest team in the league is the Berry Isle Rum Runners. I have been poking around on some other leagues and found the team names to be similar to: "Urine Trouble!" or "Messin' With Sasquatch" (true story). I just don't get why people would play in a league (and some even pay money) when the team names are just throwaway phrases.

The most time consuming thing that I do to try to increase the realism of the league is to make helmets for each of the teams. This takes awhile to do on my part, but I think that it is always worth the effort.

PIFF seems to have a good since of involvement with the coaches. All the teams are up kept and everyone tries to win, but no one is a jerk about it. I think that the main reason that the league rums so smoothly is that we all know each other, well I know everyone, some coaches don't personally know all the other coaches. But having a relationship with the coaches of the league outside of fantasy football makes everything run better in the league.

Another thing that makes the league run smoothly is that there is no money involved. We play for free on Yahoo, and I do not require an entry fee. Generally an entry fee is collected to ensure that there will be no dud coaches, and to add a bit of "excitement". Since the league is invite only we don't have a problem with deadbeat coaches, however I have pondered different ways to reward the championship team, so that there is some extra incentive to win the league. Sometimes I make a championship T-shirt or a trophy, but it seems that just the fact of being the league champion is enough to make the playoff exciting.

Speaking of playoffs that is the area in which PIFF has had the most disagreement. We have always had the last week of the NFL regular season be the championship game, however there has been some objections about this since many all-star players sit out the last week. I can see why this is a concern, however I believe that making the championship game on the last week of the regular season rewards the teams that have depth, and don't just rely on one or two key players to push them through the season. After scoring changes the decision to keep the last week as the championship week is issue that I think about the hardest each year when I set up the league.

Another playoff topic is how many teams to include. In the past Yahoo allowed 4 or 8 teams to get in. The first year of PIFF the playoff field was 8 teams. I found that allowing this many teams to get in the playoffs diminishes the importance in the regular season, so from year two on PIFF has a 4 team Championship Playoff (and 4 team consolation playoff). I believe that Yahoo now offers a 6 team playoff option that mimics how the NFL handles its playoffs. I would like to move to that format, however it eats up one more week of the regular season. But if the NFL axes some pre-season games in favor of more regular season games I will strongly consider moving to a 6 team playoff structure.

After each season each team is allowed to keep any number of players on his team, as long as they have room under the imposed salary cap. The value for the salary cap for each team is found by taking the current NFL cap value and removing some zeros from the number. Also money that was not spent from the previous years is added to this figure. The cost to keep each player is based on well the player performed in PIFF as well as how much the player cost his NFL team. The reason that I chose to use the salary cap as a method to keep players is to allow teams to keep some of their good players while allowing weaker teams to pick up some of the trimmings from the roster cuts. It seems that this has worked so far and some of the crafty coaches have been able to stay on top of the league by keeping key players while dropping expensive players that underperform. But also there is always at least one different team each year that makes a run of the championship. Helping the weak teams is also addressed by having the draft for new players run in reversed finish order, without snaking.

I won't talk too much about the scoring system that we use, you can read my paper for my ideas on that. But one big change for this year is that defensive teams will score negative points based on how many points they allow. I think that this is the best way to represent how actual NFL defenses work. The down side to this is that nobody wants to play a team defense since it will only hurt the total score. So have to impose a rule that each team must play an active team defense each week or face a hefty 20 point fine. I picked 20 points because it is more than what a team defense can lose in a game if they were played, so you can't gain any bonus by not playing one, however there is still a slim chance that you can win your game if you do happen to forget... and by slim I mean I doubt anyone could ever win a game if they don't play a team defense, but there is a chance.

I have many more thoughts on the minor parts of running a fantasy football league, but I will stop here with just some of the major topics. But enough talk, it is time to sit down watch a good game of football and hope Eli Manning doesn’t have a good game but Plaxico Burress does. Yaaarg!


B.E. Earl said...

I've run fantasy football and fantasy baseball leagues for years and years. Almost before anyone else had even heard of it. I just eventually became tired of it, but around this time of year...I start to miss it.

The Math Ninja said...

I didn't realize how cartoon-y the old helmets were until I watched the video. Good job on the new ones.

Mrs. Hall said...

Ok, forgive me if I sound like I have no idea here, but I have no idea about this fantasy football stuff.

So-is the basic premise of fantasy football to choose players throughout the NFL and then assign them to your personally made teams?

And then after they are all assigned, you use the really life stats to determine how you and the other coaches teams are playing?

Seriously dude. wow.

Your like some sort of genius!


Mrs. Hall

Ookami Snow said...

Yeah, you have the basic idea right about fantasy football. But it doesn't have to be as complicated as I make it sound. Yahoo's default settings do everything automatically, so all you have to do is pick the players on your team and then see how well they do.
All the stuff that I am talking about on this post is the extra stuff that you can do, but don't have to.

If you watch NFL football I would suggest joining a free online league, it is a fun game to play. And makes even the boring games like Arizona vs. Buffalo interesting since chances are either your team or your weekly opponents team has at least one player in the real life game.