The Route Less Run – An Appreciation of Alternative Fantasy Football Rules

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Published on : September 3, 2016

 

In terms of being a football nut, I haven’t actually been playing fantasy all that long: only the last five seasons or so. I can’t really remember why I decided to jump in when I hadn’t before, but I’m sure it was something as simple and uninspiring as getting an invitation to join a league run by a friend. “Why not?”

 

It was pretty apparent from the get-go that I was hooked, but it wasn’t until the end of the first season or the beginning of the second season that the league I was so dedicated to, and eager to come back to each year, was very different from the leagues my other friends and coworkers were playing in and talking about.

 

As time has gone on, it’s only become more apparent just how far off the reservation this league’s rules are, and how much fun it is to play against this dedicated collection of lunatics, psychotic geniuses, and unhealthy obsessives like myself.

 

The league at a glance:

 

– Draft type: Auction with $1,000 worth of funny money

– General: PPR Scoring / IDP

– Positions: QB – RB – RB/WR flex – WR – WR/TE flex – TE – LB – DL – DB

– Bench: Four slots

– Roughly sixteen members per season

 

So it’s an auction league with PPR, which is a little unusual, but what really stands out is the use of actual defensive players instead of a team defense. I sat down with my friend, who for purposes of this story we will call “Professor Evin” to get some of his thoughts on alt fantasy options and his league:

 

professorevin

 

“I began Fantasy Football in 2006 and I was in two leagues. One Yahoo and one ESPN. The Yahoo league was begun by a friend of a friend and had a good number of people I knew personally, but the league was as standard as standard could be. There might not have even been a flex position. The ESPN league was by many measures, the polar opposite: PPR, IDP, league dues, home team advantage etc. From the beginning, I remember finding the ESPN league more fun, but that fun was limited because I didn’t really know the guys I was playing with.

 

When I began Members Only Goal Football Club in 2009, I wanted to combine the fun of the ESPN league with a group of owners who knew each other and enjoyed the playful competitiveness of fantasy football.  This was especially important because looking back, I had just become a father, a large number of my close friends lived far away, and I wanted something as fun and intimate as when we were all living closer to each other.”

 

“My first experience with it was identical to that of many people’s with auction. It was long, confusing, with a significant learning curve, but it was undeniably exciting. The auction draft allows for the human element in a way that snake drafts don’t. You enter a snake draft with your rankings. When it’s your turn to draft you take the next player available on your list. While you enter an auction draft with rankings, the team you end up drafting can be wildly different. You find yourself drafting players you never thought you would because they are undervalued and you can get them at a discount. Similarly, if you are too committed to your pre-draft rankings you can risk your whole team because you overpay for a player, cutting into the money your budgeted other positions.”

 

American football field

 

“As far as the rules of our league, they are definitely unconventional, but as fantasy becomes more popular I can’t believe that they are rare. Roster wise IDP and no Kickers are definitely less popular than team defense, and kickers. No one really enjoys picking kickers, if they are on a team, they are usually cut every week, and often their points feel arbitrary. The spirit behind the IDP is to have owners, put more thought into their roster than simply “this is a good defense.” The league is full of good IDPs and if you were doing team Ds you would just be drafting that team for that one player (JJ Watt).

 

IDP gives you more ways to tweak your team week-to-week. But in a way that is more thoughtful than, ‘pick up the D playing the worst team.’ One big weird thing about our league is we have two flex positions RB/WR and TE/WR, as two TE formations become more popular in the NFL it was a way of reflecting that in the league. And finally, I think we value pass TDs equal to rush TDs, which is unique, but I think important considering over the last five years (and before) RBs are less reliable in fantasy and the NFL is a lot more pass happy.”

 

“I think that email I sent about the balance between competitive fun and dickish behavior speaks to the challenges of being in the league and finding new owners. Like I said in that email, at its heart this is just a way for friends to connect over distances. Because of that, when friends decide they don’t want to do the league anymore, it’s a little heartbreaking. Sometimes they give reasons, sometimes they don’t. If they do, it might be because they are busy or don’t have the money, but in the back of my head, I always feel like it’s because they didn’t have fun. I take it more personally than I should but I do my best to run the league like you might host a party, doing my best to ensure everyone is enjoying themselves. I think that’s probably why I do the weekly updates. One of the big challenges with losing and keeping owners is that the league is large. Part of the competitive spirit of the league comes from the fact that is has 16 teams, we could easily run a season at 12 or 14, but I do my best to keep it at 16. But it can be hard to find new owners to keep it there.”

 

Thanks to my buddy, the professor, for answering some questions and for running such a fun league.

 

 

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