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Fantasy Football League Configuration

Updated 10/26/2017 by Brad Perniciaro

Fantasy Football Configuration Options


In Part 6 of this article series on starting a fantasy football league we discussed guidelines for choosing a fantasy football hosting service. In this article, we’ll cover common fantasy football league configuration settings and the importance of achieving league balance. The most common configuration settings (roster size, number of teams, and scoring system ) have an accepted baseline, but commissioners sometimes tweak these as desired. By the end of this article, you will understand why the accepted configuration baselines exist and the repercussions associated with deviating from the norm.

We'll also discuss the role that roster retention plays in a 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 the fantasy football league constitution and how it acts as the first and final say in league disputes.

Achieving 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). 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. To achieve this goal it is important that you have just the right level of talent on the waiver-wire at any point in time. And 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.

Obviously, the more teams in your league, the lesser the level of talent on the waiver wire.  Similarly, as team roster increases, the talent pool that is available on the waiver wire begins to diminish. The key to choosing the right combination of total teams and roster size is to choose configuration settings such that the waiver-wire talent level remains serviceable, but not too far above or below average. This configuration lends itself to greater strategy because roster moves are encouraged and become much more challenging.

You don't want studs or even high-quality players to be available on the waiver wire as this would make it too easy for the teams who drafted poorly to re-gain their ground. 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 injuries, ultimately leading to limited league activity.  If you strive toward a serviceable level of waiver-wire talent your league will be rewarded as teams will remain engaged and all teams will have a reasonable chance of improving.

Roster Size

A good 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:

  • Quarterback (1)
  • Running Back (2)
  • Wide Receiver (3)
  • Tight End (1)
  • Kicker (1)
  • 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.

Number of Teams

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.

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 creates just the right level of waiver-wire talent. If you have any more than twelve teams in your fantasy league then chances are the talent-level on each team will be relatively low and the availability of serviceable replacements on the waiver-wire will be extremely low.  Using this configuration the teams that draft well frequently have an insurmountable advantage because those teams that did not draft well (or who run into unexpected injury issues) will have little chance to improve through waiver-wire pick-ups.

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


Scoring System

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 system. 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 guidelines 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, adopt the PPR (Points Per Reception) variation. Under a PPR system, a player is awarded one point each time they catch a pass. This system would allow you to increase scoring without creating too much imbalance.

Roster Retention

If you plan on keeping your fantasy league together from year to year, you need to determine what type of roster retention your league will allow. There are three main varieties: Re-draft, Keeper, and Dynasty:

  • Re-Draft

    In a Re-draft league, teams aren't allowed to retain any players from year to year. This type of league is attractive because each team starts on a level playing field (no pun intended) each and every year. This is 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 the best players in the league are always there for the taking.

  • Dynasty

    In a Dynasty league, teams retain all of their players from year to year. Dynasty leagues are very challenging because you have to consider how your players will perform now and for many years to come. The problem with dynasty leagues is that any amount of owner turnover could leave the league in jeopardy. If one or two owners quit because their team is awful, you’ll have a hard time recruiting 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.

  • Keeper

    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. Even when 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 would afford them a significant advantage. Keeper leagues are a nice trade off between Re-draft and Dynasty leagues as some people favor the idea of creating a team legacy to carry from year to year, but still want an enjoyable fantasy draft experience.

Establish a League Constitution

Every new fantasy football league should establish some set of rules well before the season begins. This set of rules is commonly known as the 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. Some basic rules to address in your league constitution:


Configuration settings are the foundation on which you build your fantasy league.  Proper league configuration will ensure your league is balanced and enjoyable for all participants.  In the next article in this series we'll discuss options for organizing your fantasy football draft.  The fantasy draft is one of the most exciting events of the fantasy season; we'll cover the major points to ensure your draft is successful.


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