The Best Fantasy Football Settings for Promoting League Balance

By the end of this article, you will understand why the most common fantasy football settings are usually the best options.  There are drawbacks associated with deviating from the normal and we'll discuss these in details.  

We'll also discuss the role that roster retention plays in fantasy leagues. The three primary approaches to roster retention (re-draft, keeper, and dynasty) are flexible enough to adapt to any league requirements.

Finally, we'll touch on the importance of having a fantasy football league constitution and how it acts as the final say in league disputes.

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How to achieve league balance

In fantasy football, it’s important to have a good balance between the total number of teams in your league and the maximum number of players that can reside on each team at any point in time (also known as roster size).  But why is this important?

If you want your league to be challenging (and engaging), you will want to create an environment where knowledge, diligence, and strategy are rewarded when it comes to roster management.  The secret to achieving this goal is to configure your league such that you have just the right level of talent on the waiver-wire at any point in time.

The art of fine-tuning waiver-wire talent

Think about it.  As the number of teams in your league gets larger, the players available on waivers begin to diminish.  Similarly, if your team roster size is large this will also reduce the number of players you can pick up from week to week.

But why is it important to have just the right level of serviceable talent on the waiver wire?

Avoiding having too many players on waivers

For starters, if configure your league to have too many players on the waiver wire, it may be too easy to find good talent.  In this scenario, those owners who drafted well will not be rewarded with an advantage because the level of talent on waivers is so high.  

If everyone can build a stacked team from players on waivers, any element of strategy is removed from the game.

Avoid having too few players on waivers

At the same time, you don't want the waiver-wire to be completely void of talent.  If this were the case, no team would be able to improve or recover from unavoidable injuries.  

A limited waiver pool will lead to reduced league transactions and growing disinterest for owners hit by the injury bug .

Finding that sweet-spot for waiver talent

If you strive toward a serviceable level of waiver-wire talent, your league will be rewarded as all teams will have a reasonable chance of recovering from a poor draft or player injuries.  This will in turn improve your league engagement, which is what fantasy football fun in the first place.

In order to fine-tune the level of talent on the waiver-wire, it is imperative that you properly balance the number of teams and roster size for your league.  

The right fantasy football roster size for your league

A best roster size for a new fantasy football league is roughly 15 players. This number allows you to start 9 players and leave 6 on your bench each week. In a standard league, each team starts the following combination of players:

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    Quarterback (1)
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    Running Back (2)​​​​
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    Wide Receiver (3)
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    Tight End (1)
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    Kicker (1)
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    Defense / Special Teams (1)

Having a 15 player roster allows you to have at least 1 backup at each of the 4 main positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) and another 2 players to configure how you choose. Some leagues restrict the total number of players you can have at any one position, but we advise against this configuration as it restricts strategy and serves no significant purpose.

The right number of teams for your league

When someone starts a fantasy league for the first time, they normally determine the number of teams by the number of people they can find to join. Taking this approach, a league could end up with anywhere from 5 to 20 teams.

In cases where there are either too few or too many teams, the league will frequently end in disappointment. This is due to a bad balance between team and waiver-wire talent ,where teams will either be too stacked with talent or too devoid of any talent whatsoever.

Balancing teams with roster size

With a roster size of 15 players, the general consensus is that you should have 12 teams in your fantasy league. Twelve is the magic number as it results in just the right level of waiver-wire talent

If you have any more than twelve teams in your fantasy league (with roster size 15), then chances are the talent-level on each team will be low and the serviceable waiver replacements will be hard to find.  Also in this situation, teams that draft well could establish an insurmountable advantage because the remaining teams will have little chance to improve.

On the other hand, if your league has fewer than twelve teams, chances are every team will be stacked with talent.  This will leave little room for strategy and the outcome of the league will be largely up to chance. Twelve teams create just the right balance for your fantasy league and I suggest you stick with this configuration.

Choosing a scoring system

Along with team and roster size configuration, the scoring system you choose for your league is one of the most important decisions you'll make in your league settings.  As a person who has been in many fantasy football leagues, I can tell you that the best leagues are the ones with the simplest scoring systems

If you are just starting out, I encourage you to begin with the standard fantasy football scoring system and then tweak the system in the future as desired. The fantasy football points settings outlined in the standard scoring system are tried and true and will guarantee that points are awarded fairly.

Some new commissioners try to get cute and configure bonus points for things like high rushing or receiving performances, but resist this temptation if you can help it.  If you absolutely have to add some spice to your scoring rules, consider implementing a PPR scoring system.  A PPR scoring system would allow you to increase scoring without creating too much imbalance.

The 3 primary approaches to fantasy roster retention

If you plan on keeping your fantasy league together from year to year, you need to determine what type of roster retention rules your league will adopt.  Roster retention comes in three varieties: Re-draft, Keeper, and Dynasty.

Re-draft leagues are the most common

In a Re-draft league, teams aren't allowed to retain any players from year to year. This type of league can be attractive because each team starts on a level playing field each and every year, regardless of how they performed the previous season. 

Re-draft leagues are especially appealing to those teams who consistently finish at the bottom of the league as they know that they’ll get a fresh start the following year. Re-draft leagues also make the fantasy draft more entertaining since all players are placed back into the playing pool at the beginning of the fantasy season.

Dynasty leagues are for longstanding leagues with hardcore players

In a Dynasty fantasy league, teams retain all of their players from year to year.  Dynasty leagues are very challenging because you can't simply draft a team for the present.  You have to consider how your players will perform now and for many years to come.

One big problem I see with dynasty leagues is that any amount of owner turnover can leave the league in jeopardy.  If one or two owners quit because their team is awful, It can be very difficult to recruit replacements who want to take over bad teams with little chance of improvement.

Dynasty leagues are for the more hard-core fantasy-footballers, so consider these cons before you adopt this retention scheme.  It could be short-lived league if you can't convince the bad teams to stick around.

Keeper leagues are in the middle-ground of roster retention

In a Keeper league, each team is permitted to retain some small number of players from season to season. The number of players retained differs from league to league, but generally ranges between 1 and 4 players.

In keeper leagues where multiple keepers are allowed, there is usually a rule which states that you can only keep one player from each position. This rule prevents teams from keeping multiple stud running backs which could give them a significant advantage. 

Keeper leagues are a nice trade-off between Re-draft and Dynasty leagues.  This is because they allow owners to  build a team legacy from year to year, while at the same time providing an enjoyable fantasy draft experience.

Establish a fantasy league constitution

Every fantasy football league should have some set of rules to complement their league settings.  This set of rules is commonly known as the League Constitution.

The fantasy league constitution and establishes how the league will operate and handle league disputes. As your league evolves and disputes are settled, the number of league rules will naturally grow larger and larger. 

Conclusion

League settings are the foundation on which you build your fantasy football league. A smart but practical league configuration will ensure your league is balanced and enjoyable for all of your fantasy owners. 

About the author

Brad Perniciaro

Brad is a software developer and has been running successful fantasy football leagues since 1999. When he isn't playing fantasy football, he's writing about fantasy football.

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