Best Fantasy Football League Settings To Add Excitement to Your League

As the NFL changes, so must fantasy football. Here are some of the best fantasy football league settings to implement for maximum excitement.

Some might call me an elitist snob when it comes to fantasy football leagues. Those people are correct. If a league doesn’t meet my very lofty and very specific standards for settings, I’m probably not going to do it.

Ultimately, the reason for this is simple — I want to have fun. What is fun for me is what is the right balance of excitement and fairness. Here is how I think you can accomplish that in your leagues.

Best Fantasy Football League Settings

If you ever want to really get under my skin in a debate, just say this to me regarding change: “Well, that’s how it’s always been.” I’m sure all of us have encountered this in arguments before. It’s no different in fantasy football.

I started playing fantasy football way back in 2003. To give you an idea of what the landscape was back when MySpace was first founded and before Facebook even existed, here it is.

In my first fantasy football league, we had continual rolling list waivers, no Flex spot, and whole-number scoring. No one thought anything of it.

By 2007, all of my leagues had converted to fractional scoring and added a Flex spot. There wasn’t much resistance to that. But waivers were a whole different story.

In the early 2010s, FAAB (free agent acquisition budget) started to emerge as the clear best method for waivers. While most of my leagues adopted it relatively quickly, some holdouts didn’t want to deviate from “how it’s always been.”

Think about all of the things you might do in a day. Maybe you watch a show on a 4K LED TV. Perhaps you surf the internet on a tablet. Then you go heat some food in your microwave. At various points throughout history, none of those things were possible.

Times change. The NFL changes. And with it, fantasy football must change. Your league may be behind the times and you don’t even know it! Here are a handful of the best settings changes you can implement to your fantasy football leagues to improve excitement and competitiveness.

Add More Starting Roster Spots

I played a lot of video games growing up. When I played those games, I enjoyed them. I spent literally thousands of hours playing Halo 2 on Xbox. Then, the Xbox 360 came out. Along with it came Halo 3. I didn’t play Halo 2 anymore because there was a newer, better version of the game. I didn’t play on my Xbox anymore because the Xbox 360 was a newer, more advanced console.

The point of this anecdote is to showcase change. My favorite memories of gaming were those Halo 2 and Halo 3 years. But am I about to go play either of those games on either of those consoles in the year 2024? Absolutely not.

As we press forward, things can and should be left in the past in favor of newer, better things. That includes fantasy football starting lineups.

The default starting lineups on platforms like Yahoo and ESPN are like playing Halo 2 on an original Xbox in the year 2024. On most platforms, you’re starting two WRs, two RBs, and one Flex (along with the onesie positions of QB, TE, DEF, and K).

Given that kickers and defenses don’t get drafted until the final couple of rounds, even if we assume every team in your fantasy draft takes a quarterback and tight end before any bench wide receivers or running backs, that would mean every player picked after the seventh round is going on your bench.

Realistically, plenty of managers are going to wait on QB, TE, or both. They will draft more RBs and WRs in the sixth and seventh rounds. Should those players really be on benches? Maybe you disagree, but I certainly don’t think so. That neither promotes skill nor fun.

One of my longest-running leagues initially had three WRs, two RBs, and one Flex. I was actually an advocate for removing a WR to reduce the size of the starting lineup about a decade ago … and we did! We removed a WR spot in 2013. Looking back on it now, it’s crazy to think I was that guy.

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The reality is a change like this is necessary because the best fantasy football leagues change their settings with the NFL. For example, back in the early 2000s, having a Flex position was not even standard, and it was the right call by fantasy platforms.

Let’s use my first year in fantasy, 2003, as an example. Back then, 13 running backs had over 300 carries. Last season, there were zero. In 2022, there were four. And in 2021, 2020, and 2019, there were just two. That’s a total of 10 running backs with 300+ carries in the past five seasons combined.

Football in 2003 is like a different sport than football in 2023. Replay was in its infancy. Players could launch their bodies into each other as weapons with no recourse. The league showcased violent hits. There was no concussion protocol. There have been dozens of rule changes in the NFL over the past 20 years.

We’ve also seen significant changes in the way NFL teams run their offenses. Almost every team uses a committee at running back. Offenses revolve around passing as opposed to running. Scoring is up.

These changes have produced more fantasy-relevant players across the board. That inherently alters the threshold of a replacement-level fantasy starter.

In 2023, the WR36 averaged about 12.0 fantasy points per game. Twenty years ago, that same WR36 was around 10.0 fantasy points per game. I love where my league settings are right now, but it would be foolish of me to assume that we’re set for good. There will inevitably be required changes at some point in the future.

To account for the differences in how football is played, your fantasy league cannot start only five WRs/RBs anymore. My preferred league settings are three WRs, two RBs, and two Flexes.

Two seasons ago, I experimented with a three-WR, two-RB, and three-Flex league. It still works. I enjoyed it. I certainly prefer it to a basic two-WR, two-RB, one-Flex format. However, I did feel it was a bit much.

That 3-2-3 format created razor-thin margins when it came to injuries. It was basically impossible for a team to overcome even one major injury and made it incredibly difficult to deal with minor injuries that naturally occur throughout a season.

While still better than the default, I believe the three-WR, two-RB, and two-Flex lineups seem to be the perfect starting roster size for the current NFL. You can also alter it to be a two-WR, two-RB, and three-Flex lineup.

The most important number is the total number of WRs and RBs you can start. In my experience, I’ve found the optimal number to be seven.

I won’t pretend like the primary factor in recommending this starting lineup isn’t promoting fairness and skill, but I also want to have fun. You know what isn’t fun? Drafting a bunch of good players and having to leave them on my bench because my league doesn’t allow me to start them.

I like rooting for my players to score fantasy points. It’s fine to have quality fantasy assets on the bench, but they shouldn’t be starter-level players.

If you hit on a wide receiver in the eighth round or grab a gem off the waiver wire in Week 2, your opponent shouldn’t be able to stream a guy just as good. Adding starting roster spots makes your league more skill-based and more exciting.

Implement the 2-Win System

Fantasy football traditionalists scoff at the notion of doing anything other than classic head-to-head. In actuality, there are many different ways to score the game.

I like the excitement of head-to-head, but man, it can be frustrating at times. Anyone who’s played this game long enough has experienced the misery of getting buzzsawed week after week.

We all lament over those incorrect lineup decisions that cost us matchups, but I still find it easier to swallow a loss when I know I could’ve reasonably done something different.

For me, the most frustrating loss is one where I scored the second- or third-highest-point total of the week and still lost my head-to-head matchup.

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Enter the two-win system — add a second weekly win for finishing inside the top half in scoring in addition to your head-to-head matchup. This way, you get the best of both worlds. You get the excitement of head-to-head and you provide unlucky managers with something when they have a big week but ultimately lose.

Assuming your regular season runs during the usual weeks (1-14), that means there are 28 potential wins available each season. Fantasy football godfather Matthew Berry is a noted proponent of adding the second weekly win vs. the league median.

Sleeper has this option as a league setting. It requires nothing other than your commissioner clicking a box when creating your league. The platform tracks it for you.

Awarding a second win for the top 50% of teams each week allows your league to maintain the excitement of head-to-head matchups while adding an element of fairness in rewarding the teams that score the most points on a given week. So far, only one of my fantasy football leagues has done this, but it’s easily one of the best settings changes I’ve made.

Tiered PPR

I will admit I have not implemented this setting nor advocated for it in any league yet. I would stop short of calling it something I want to do, but I’m intrigued by it enough to put it out there for you to consider.

Let’s start with the obvious: Non-PPR fantasy football is awful. And yes, it is non-PPR, not “standard.” The term “standard” is defined as “used or accepted as normal or average.”

Remember those Halo 2 and pre-Facebook years from before? Yeah, that’s when non-PPR was standard. OK, maybe that’s a bit unfair. It was still standard as recently as the mid-2010s, but it’s not anymore!

For multiple years now, the default on ESPN and Sleeper has been full PPR. Yahoo’s default scoring is half-PPR.

The issue with the name is me being a bit nitpicky. The more important takeaway is your league should have an element of PPR. Non-PPR overvalues touchdowns and increases randomness. Most of all, though, it’s boring.

Of course, by no means is PPR perfect. There are criticisms of full-PPR scoring that are quite justified. Why should two meaningless catches for five years each be more valuable than a 20-yard carry? As a result, I find half-PPR to be the best compromise, but tiered PPR scoring might be the wave of the future.

In tiered PPR scoring, the amount of points per reception is correlated with the length of the reception. Here is an example of how tiered PPR scoring could work:

  • Four-yard reception or shorter: 0 PPR
  • 5-9 yards: 0.25 PPR
  • 10-14 yards: 0.5 PPR
  • 15-10 yards: 0.75 PPR
  • 20+ yards: 1.0 PPR

Catching the ball is a skill, and receptions should matter … but perhaps we can link the value of receptions to their value on the actual football field.

The most efficient running backs in the NFL average five yards per carry. In full PPR, a catch for no gain is just as valuable as a 10-yard rush. Tiered PPR rewards players for receptions relative to how impactful those receptions actually are.

Auction Drafts

I love me some auctions. My fantasy football league distribution has reached a point where 50% of them now have auction drafts. Year after year, I can’t help but notice my best teams are consistently in leagues with auction drafts. At this point, if I decide to join new leagues, I will only look for auctions. Part of that is my burning desire to give myself the best chance to win. But also, they’re so much fun!

Your first thought when considering an auction draft may be, “That sounds complicated. I don’t want to learn an entirely new drafting style.” Completely understandable. But hey, there was a time when you didn’t know how to do a snake draft, right?

There is so much more nuance to auction draft strategy than a snake. I neither can nor will cover all of it in an article centered around settings. Let’s just go over the basics.

The main appeal of auction drafts is equality. Every player is potentially available to every manager. That is not the case in snake drafts. Your draft position dictates what group of players you can realistically draft from in each round.

The moment your commissioner publishes your draft order, you already know dozens of players you simply cannot draft. Did you draw Pick No. 8? Don’t even think about Christian McCaffrey or CeeDee Lamb. In auction drafts, the entire player pool is open to you. Build your team with the players you want.

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Every season is different, but every year you can bank on a portion of a snake draft where you don’t want to draft any of the players. You think to yourself, “I wish I could just pick twice in the next round.” In auction drafts, you can!

What I love most about auctions is the variance in team composition. In snake drafts, every team is built the same way. Each manager takes one player from each round. In auctions, you can forgo the expensive guys and build a roster loaded with players from Rounds 3-5. You can also decide you want two mega-elite guys up top, hoping to fill out the rest of your roster with late-round upside.

The point is you can do whatever you want with your roster. In snake drafts, you can’t draft players with similar ADPs. You have to choose one (two if you’re lucky). What if you really like four guys that go in the fifth round? In an auction, you can try and get them all.

Have you ever looked down at a draft board and thought to yourself, “I guess I have to do this?” and take a guy you don’t really want? That doesn’t happen in auction drafts.

The biggest drawback of auction drafting for most people is the duration. An auction draft takes double the time of a snake draft — if not more. But if you love fantasy football, this might be the single best league-setting change you can make. What’s another couple of hours in early September for 17 weeks of fun anyway?

Award the Final Playoff Spot to the Highest Scoring Non-Playoff Team

I remember when I first heard about this concept. It’s one of those things where your kneejerk reaction is to push back at the notion. The top six teams by record make the playoffs, and that’s how it is! Resist the urge to be the “That’s how it’s always been” person.

This is still a relatively new fantasy football league-setting idea. There are expert leagues that implement it, but I have yet to see someone I know implement this. I would like to see my leagues do it, though.

The concept is as simple as the heading above suggests: The final playoff spot should go to the highest-scoring team not currently in the playoffs.

To alleviate any confusion, let’s run through a hypothetical season. As should be the case in every fantasy football league regardless of size, six teams make the playoffs. You have your two byes up top. Typically, the next four teams by record get in. This new system would put the 3-5 seeds in the playoffs, but reserve that No. 6 spot for whichever one of the remaining non-playoff teams scored the most points.

If you’ve been playing fantasy football long enough, you’ve been on both sides of the ledger here. You’ve probably had a season with a bottom-six point total but still made the playoffs, and you have had a top-six point total where you missed the playoffs.

I’ve seen the points leader miss the playoffs entirely in a league one year because of bad scheduling luck. I think it’s fair to say the points leader should never miss the playoffs. This setting ensures that will never happen.

If you somehow finish 5-9 but lead your league in points, you will get into the playoffs over that 7-7 team with a lower point total. Not only does this increase fairness, but it adds excitement over those final couple of weeks as securing that No. 5 seed and dropping a high point total become more important.

None of my leagues have implemented this … yet. However, each time we get a season where a top point scorer misses the playoffs due to bad scheduling luck, something like this comes up. This is also a good alternative if your league doesn’t want to go to a two-win system.

Third-Round Reversal

This is another setting I’ve yet to implement in any of my leagues, but I plan to push for it this year.

When it comes to snake drafts, the third round is a bit of an inflection point in the draft. It is the round where you find the biggest cliff regarding talent drop-off. Most notably, this occurs at running back.

The running back dead zone typically starts somewhere in the middle of the third round. That means the teams picking toward the back are picking in that dead zone.

The theory behind a snake draft is that although the teams picking toward the back will have a worse first-round pick than the teams at the top, both of their first two players drafted will be better than the top-picking teams’ second player drafted. While that’s true, the problem is that the scales tip heavily in favor of the earlier-drafting teams in the third round.

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So, the teams at the top get the best players in the first round, and they get the safer, more reliable third-round players.

Third-round reversal is exactly as it sounds — the draft flips in Round 3. Assuming a 12-team league, Rounds 1 and 2 proceed as normal. Round 1 goes 1-12. Round 2 snakes back and goes 12-1. Third-round reversal flips the draft in Round 3, with it once again going 12-1, meaning Round 4 would then go 1-12, and so on.

Historically, the earlier you pick, the better your team will likely be. By reversing the draft in the third round, you allow the teams with the lower draft positions to get the select few third-rounders off the board before the cliff. It’s a great way to increase fairness without sacrificing any excitement.

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