Monday, June 29, 2009

Fantasy: The Revolution Continues

Check out Fanball's Fantasy Football 2009 magazine. In "Darn the Luck! Fantasy Football Play Formats" (26-27), Danny Goldin discusses the flaws of head-to-head formats, and suggests a few alternatives. One of those alternatives will be familiar to Hazelweirders, and to regular readers of this blog:

"Another format that I personally recommend utilizes what is called a power scheduling system. In this format, every team plays every opponent every week. For example, let's say you play in a 12-team league. If you score the most points in the league on a given week, you'd accumulate an 11-0 record. On the flipside, if you end up with a lowest point total, you'd go 0-11."

Terrific! We call this cross-country scoring, but by any name I support the revolution. Thank you, Danny Goldin, for helping to spread the revolution.

However, Goldin's power scheduling system also includes "a creative playoff format." I believe the concept of fantasy football playoffs is absurd. In fantasy football, you have no control over your opponent's performance; the game is more like golf, where several competitors play independently and the best performer wins, without impacting each other's performance in a concrete way. A fantasy playoff, then, simply rewards a team for having a hot performance in week 15, 16, or 17, or for facing an opponent (or opponents, in Goldin's variation) that has a cold week. I understand a playoff in real football: the teams compete in a contest in which they directly engage with each other. But in fantasy football, why should week 15 be more important than, say, week 8? Or week 11? Or week 2? It's just random. Fantasy playoffs are another way in which luck gets injected into the system.

Luck will always be a part of everything. However, when devising a fair competition, you should attempt to limit hazard as much as possible. Awarding a fantasy team that had its best performances in week 15 and 16, but may not have been the best team over the course of the entire season, allows hazard too much control. With cross-country scoring, you can just eliminate the playoff entirely. The Hazelweird League has no playoff, and it's pretty rare for the champion to be determined before week 17.

A few other suggestions:

We've also developed a way to maintain interest and competition to the very end of the season. We now determine the next year's snake draft order by the order of the final standings the previous season. Not reverse order, but the same order. This will be the first season we try it, but it is an effort to prevent people from tanking at the end of the season for better picks (I've done it: in 2005 my entire week 17 lineup was Minnesota Viking players). We hope that people will compete with interest to the end of the season, partly for pride, of course, but partly to secure better picks the next season. I also don't think it will lead to a great competitive imbalance, since I'm not sure there's a direct correlation between early picks and winning a league.

I also have a recommendation for other leagues. Determine your snake draft order early, then allow for trading of draft picks. This can add a few months extra fun to your fantasy football league. It also allows for even more strategy and control. Of course an auction draft is preferable (it's fair and extremely fun), but if you must do a snake draft, allowing the trading of picks gives you a little more control. And why wouldn't you want to stretch out the fun of fantasy football?


  1. I've never really been in a keeper league, so I've never had to deal with tanking and the like.

    One idea I had, though, that I've always wanted to implement, is that you can keep as many players as you like, but each of them counts as your draft pick for next year, three rounds earlier.

    Thus, in 2007, when I picked AP in the 6th round, I could have kept him and skipped my 3rd round pick the next year. If I'd been really lucky and gotten him in the 7th, I could have kept him two extra years -- as my #4 in year two and my #1 in year three.

    And Kurt Warner, my 13th-round draft pick in 1999? Ooh, baby!

  2. Anonymous10:56 AM

    DG is an awesome dude, I went to college with him.

  3. Hey Joe,

    I'm Danny Goldin, one of my buddies posted this link on my facebook wall today.

    First off, thanks for the critique, it's really cool to see that the magazine is making its way into plenty of readers' hands.

    Also, I wanted to combat your argument against a playoff system. Basically, this is completely a preference/opinion-based debate, so there's no real answer. Anyways, I obviously too am against luck being a factor when it comes to fantasy, and thus try to promote the power-scheduling/cross-country format that we both love. Still, I think that having a playoff system makes fantasy football a bunch more fun at the end, and while that does obviously mean someone can luck out with a great final few weeks, they first have to qualify for the playoffs to make it their in the first place. You can also argue that it is in fact at least partly skill to be able to maintain a competitive team throughout the year while still attempting to ensure your team is in a position to excel over the final few weeks. In the playoff system that I suggested, you also can't get beat by one team that happens to have a lucky week (aside from the Championship match), but instead really only get beat out if your own team underperforms. Also, we allot a bit over half the payout toward the top-3 finishers of the regular season, so they are still rewarded.

    Anyways, I'd also like to note that I'm an avid Vikings fan; I split my time between Madison (where I graduated in May 08) and Chicago now, but was born in Plymouth on Medicine Lake. I'm really hoping Favre signs, not only b/c it'd be amazing to beat the Packers with him, but b/c I think he can help keep defenses honest from stacking the box to stop AP with nice weapons like Bernard, Sid the Kid aka Baby Moss, and Percy Harvin ready to freak on opposing Ds. Hopefully our D can tread water for four weeks until the Williams Wall is back up.

  4. Hi Danny,

    Thanks for the comments. I was really happy to see a writer in a fantasy magazine pushing for alternatives to head-to-head scheduling. My critique of a playoff was meant to be minor: I'm glad you're writing about a "power scheduling system," as I too think it is terrific.

    I'd make one other argument in favor of abolishing a playoff. A playoff might keep things fun at the end--but only for the people in the playoffs. By keeping everybody competing to the end (even if they are eliminated from championship contention), everybody can stay interested. But that depends on the people in the league, too: most people in my league care about trying to finish in, say, 5th place rather than 6th place (and now that future snake draft order is determined by the standings, that should increase interest further). It keeps everybody watching with interest to the end.