In Part 8 of this article series on starting a fantasy football league, we discussed the most important part of the NFL fantasy season: the draft. In this article, we'll cover the benefits of ideas for awarding yearly fantasy football prizes. The privilege of talking smack is rewarding in itself, but awarding one or more prizes each year adds a great touch to any fantasy league. The best leagues always award prizes Every fantasy sports league should award some type of prizes to the most successful teams. Fantasy football league awards are great because they give each team something tangible to play for. This, in turn, encourages participation throughout the NFL season. League awards could be monetary, one or more trophies, a championship ring, or even a fantasy football championship belt. Award categories also vary from league to league. Some leagues choose to simply award to the league champion, others give a fantasy prize to both the league champion and playoff teams, and some even present weekly awards to the team with the highest fantasy point output. Even if the awards are minimal, the idea is the same: recognize the top teams and promote participation among all league owners. Fantasy awards are reasonably priced for most leagues Unfortunately, free fantasy football leagues with prizes are rare. Most leagues have to raise at least a little cash in order to be able to award cool fantasy football prizes. If you want all of the benefits that a league prize offers, then a minimum league entry fee is a must. What some commissioners don't realize is that best fantasy football league trophies (or any other type of prize for that matter) can be purchased with only a small, one-time entry fee. For example, the quality, perpetual league trophies can easily be purchased for less than $10 per owner. They can then be reused year after year. With those kinds of prices, there is no reason why your league shouldn't finance a league championship prize (at a minimum). Here are some of my top fantasy prize ideas organized by type. I'll discuss each type of prize in detail below, but you can click on any of these links to quickly check their current price on Amazon. The Top Fantasy Prize Ideas The Best Fantasy Championship Belt Undisputed Belts Fantasy Championship Belt The Best Fantasy Championship Ring Fantasy Jocks Championship Ring The Top Perpetual Fantasy Trophy SDL Chrome Football Perpetual Trophy The Top Single Year Fantasy Trophy Decade Awards FFL Silver Lombardi Unique ideas for fantasy football prizes For years, the most cost-effective fantasy prize was the trophy. But due to the popularity of fantasy football, and the introduction of new prize vendors to the market, trophies are by no means the only option. Unique and unconventional prizes have made huge strides in recent years. Some of the most popular awards in 2017 were not even on the market a decade ago. If you want to make your league stand-out, consider one of these unique football award ideas and your league will love you for it. Fantasy football championship belts enter the ring For the last five years or so fantasy rings were the most unique idea for a fantasy football prize. But over the last few years, fantasy championship belts have risen in popularity. I actually dedicated an entire review to the best fantasy football championship belts on the market. For those leagues in which your owners really want to put their championship bravado on display, nothing will get attention like a fantasy football championship belt. If anyone in your league tries to talk smack about your fantasy gold, a DDT be may be in order? Belts are a very cool alternative to the same boring trophies that are standard in most leagues. You can even have your belt customized later by getting your league logo or champions' names engraved on the blank end-plates. Pretty cool! One of the best fantasy belt vendors is Fantasy Jocks. If you like their merchandise, check out my comprehensive Fantasy Jocks review for even more prize options for your league. Two of the most popular fantasy football belts Fantasy football rings become affordable Championship rings for fantasy sports have been around for several years. But until recently most of the offerings were very expensive and only offered by companies that specialized in the ring market, like Jostens. Most people should be familiar with Jostens as they are the brand made popular through senior class rings. In some leagues, a championship ring will be a hard sell to your owners. Because ring sizes vary, it would only make sense to go this route if you are awarding a new ring to the champion every year. Depending on your league entry fees and prize pot, a yearly championship ring may or may not be a sensible choice. If you're considering going the championship ring route, check out my article on the best fantasy football championship rings for the 2017 season. All of the rings in that review are very reasonably priced (most comparable to a nice, single-year fantasy trophy). Some people love fantasy rings, some hate them. But they're a great option if you're looking to add some bling to your yearly awards ceremony. Prize ideas for the best fantasy owners Fantasy standouts, whether they be the overall champion or weekly high scorers, should always be awarded. Sometimes leagues even recognize the worst teams with some type of gag prize (more on funny fantasy awards later). Obviously, the biggest prizes should be reserved for the best teams. In the next few sections, I'll cover fantasy football league awards for the top teams in your league. Fantasy football award ideas for the league champion At the very least, all fantasy sports leagues should award the league champion for his dominance. Winning a fantasy football championship isn't easy, especially when you consider how much luck plays a factor when picking NFL players. If you don't recognize the best owner in your league with something tangible for his achievement, then what's the point? But what kind of fantasy award makes the most sense for a champion? Should it just be straight cash? Should it be something the champ will keep and cherish forever? Is it a prize that he can keep for a year, but then has to pass it to the next league champ? These are valid questions and the answer will depend largely on your league's budget and personality. In the following sections, I'll present specific ideas for awarding your league champion along with some quality, affordable options. Use a perpetual trophy for league champs If your league is budget conscious, but also like the idea of awarding the league champion every year, then a perpetual fantasy trophy would likely be your best option. A perpetual trophy front-loads the price of the championship prize, but it's an award that can be passed along each year to the new champion. If you've never seen a perpetual fantasy league trophy, they are usually larger than standard trophies because they have one large or many small engravable plates for recording the team name and owner (and sometimes the fantasy team logo) of many league champions. The trophies featured below support the engraving of 10 to 18 champions. Choosing a perpetual league trophy provides the best bang for your buck when it comes to picking a championship prize for your league. It's what we do in my leagues and it never fails to disappoint. Pay the champ with cold, hard cash! Whether it comes to presenting gifts or awards of any kind, you can never go wrong with cash. Money makes the world go round and no one has ever been disappointed when someone places a stack of bills in their hand. Yes, it's true. A beautiful, shiny perpetual trophy can add character and a touch of class to your otherwise embarrassing and dysfunctional fantasy league. But a trophy doesn't make it rain at the local strip club, does it? Cash is also the simplest fantasy football prize when it comes to awarding a league champion. No debating what to buy, which trophy is nicer, or how many owners should win an award. You simply pool the league money together and pay champ. Choosing the best payout structure How much you choose to pay the champ will depend on your owners' personal preferences, how much money you have to work with, and how many teams you plan to award with a cash prize. I think the best fantasy football payout structure is when the entry fee is roughly $100 per owner. That's enough to ensure your top four teams win an acceptable cash prize. Here are three fantasy football payout ideas that you can use as a starting point based on your league configuration. Each scenario is based on a payout structure for 12 teams with varying entry fees and playoff scenarios. League Payout Scenario 1 12 team / 4 team playoff / $100 entry Champion - $600 2nd Place - $300 3rd Place - $200 4th Place - $100 League Payout Scenario 2 12 team / 6 team playoff / $100 entry Champion - $425 2nd Place - $225 3rd Place - $175 4th Place - $150 5th Place - $125 6th Place - $100 League Payout Scenario 3 12 team / 4 team playoff / $10 entry Champion - $120 Award the champ a personal trophy each year Some owners don't like the idea of sharing their championship with others. If most of your league feels this way, you can opt to award a different fantasy trophy each and every year. The prices for trophies have come down substantially in recent years so it isn't out of the ordinary to find a great championship trophy for under $40. Even if your league is comprised entirely of penny-pinchers, a nominal entry fee of $5 should be more than enough to purchase a trophy each and every year. Below are some of the best single-year trophies available from Amazon. Prize ideas for your playoff teams An alternative to awarding only the league champion is to award all teams that make the playoffs. Prizes for playoff teams are almost always a cash prize of some sort. While playoff cash prizes are generally quite small compared to the champion's prize, it's nice to award each playoff team with a prize that will at least cover the cost of their entry fee. This payout scenario obviously becomes more costly as the size of your playoff bracket grows. It is much more applicable to a 4-team playoff than a 6-team playoff configuration. Award draft seeding in free or low-budget leagues If you run a league that doesn't have much cash flow, consider awarding playoff teams with higher draft positions the following year. Short of cash, coveted draft slots are the next best prize to encourage owners to put their best foot forward all season. If you want to get really crafty, award choice of draft position instead of a specific draft slot. This adds another layer of strategy as some owners prefer to pick in the middle or toward the end of the first round. Encourage participation with weekly fantasy football prizes If your league entry fee is substantial ($100 or more), then you should strongly consider presenting fantasy football weekly awards to owners with the highest point total each week. The idea behind weekly prizes is to encourage league participation because owners will always have an incentive to improve their team and start their best players (even if they have already been eliminated from the playoffs). In leagues without weekly prizes, one of the biggest problems stems from owners who stop actively participating once they are eliminated from the playoffs. This can lead to a situation where other teams get an easy win toward the end of the NFL season when everyone is vying for playoff position. Obviously, no owners (especially those fighting for a playoff spot) want to see other teams get an easy win because of the lack of participation from another owner. By incorporating a weekly prize, you're encouraging everyone to stay active and give their best effort throughout the entire fantasy season. It's a win-win. Payout scenario ideas for weekly prizes In this section, I expand on the previous payout scenarios to include a weekly prize. You can use these as a basis for your own league's payout scenarios. Weekly Prize Scenario 1 12 team / 14 weeks 4 team playoff / $100 entry Champion - $400 2nd Place - $225 3rd Place - $150 4th Place - $75 Weekly Prize - $25 Weekly Prize Scenario 2 12 team / 14 weeks 6 team playoff / $100 entry Champion - $325 2nd Place - $200 3rd Place - $175 4th Place - $140 5th Place - $120 6th Place - $100 Weekly Prize - $10 Weekly Prize Scenario 3 12 team / 14 weeks 4 team playoff / $10 entry A weekly prize is not practical in this scenario. A better option would be to use final standings as a basis for the following year's draft order. Champion - $120 One final note regarding giving cash prizes to weekly high scorers: some owners will protest taking any money away from the playoff teams' or champion's prize pool. Just remind them that the best teams will naturally win the most weekly prizes. So, in the end, it will likely even itself out. But, it also promotes competition late in the season.