Over the past several years, dynasty fantasy football leagues have become increasingly popular. Football is the most popular fantasy sport by a wide margin. It is also the shortest of the major American sports. Dynasty leagues come in all shapes and sizes, with dozens of potential rule variations. Not all dynasty leagues have taxi squads. Should your league be one of them?
What Is a Fantasy Football Taxi Squad?
Maybe you’ve heard the term mentioned before but never really stopped to think about what it is because you didn’t play dynasty fantasy football. There was a time when I had no idea what a taxi squad was. At some point, everything you ever know was presented to you for the first time. For those of you wondering what a taxi squad is, now is going to be that time.
The good news is the idea isn’t overly complicated. In fact, your dynasty league may have been using taxi squads for years without even realizing it had a formal name.
A taxi squad is a set number of players on your roster who do not count toward your overall roster limit. It’s tantamount to minor-league spots in a fantasy baseball dynasty league.
The closest comparison in redraft fantasy football would be IR spots. When you put a player in your IR spot, he’s still on your team, but he no longer counts against your roster limit. Think of a taxi squad like a non-injury IR.
What Is the Purpose of a Taxi Squad?
Stashing players is fun. It’s also necessary. The way to dominate dynasty leagues is by finding those unheralded long-term assets. Some leagues like to push back on the ability to stash players. In fairness, it’s largely because they want it to be a skill — not just throwing a bunch of darts at a board and hoping one hits the bullseye.
With that said, there’s certainly a happy medium to be found. That’s where taxi squads come in. They can help you find it.
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Taxi squads are specifically designed not merely to act as an extension of your bench. Typically, players must remain on your taxi squad until you “call them up” to your main roster. At their purest form, taxi squads are designed to enable fantasy managers to stash players.
The way in which the rules guard against taxi squads being a glorified bench addition is by prohibiting players from being placed on the taxi squad more than once. Once you promote a player to your main roster, that is where he must stay.
The biggest pitfall of dynasty leagues is so many of them fold within the first three years. If you want to expedite the collapse of your dynasty league, implement rules that force managers to drop future assets in order to pick up one-off starters in the current season. These draconian rules only serve to hinder rebuilding teams from being able to compete with the win-now teams.
Taxi squads protect against this, allowing fantasy managers to keep those future hopefuls on their rosters. They provide a way for fantasy managers to retain players they believe in long-term without sacrificing win-now players.
Taxi squads also help maintain competitive balance. Consider this. A rebuilding team with no chance of competing still has a couple of productive veterans. Late in the season, a few potential future starters emerge, and that manager wants to stash them.
Without the taxi squad, what’s stopping that manager from outright dropping impact players for the current year to throw a few extra darts at the future? Of course, that manager will look for a trade first. But if they can’t find one, why should they care about gifting a playoff team a free WR3? Taxi squads give those managers the ability to pick up the stashes without forcing them to drop relevant players.
What Players Should Be on Your Taxi Squad?
You want to carefully curate your taxi squad based on your team’s immediate goals.
Are you trying to win in the current season? If so, you can use your taxi squad to handcuff running backs and other players with a plausible path to relevancy in the current season.
Do you already know this isn’t going to be your year? Is your goal this season purely to plan for the future? If so, don’t bother with veteran handcuffs or older players who might have a role later in the season but are unlikely to have any long-term value.
Take shots on young players with good talent profiles, hoping they stumble into opportunity and break out. You only need to hit big on one to turn your team from an afterthought into a contender or from a contender into a juggernaut.
All of this comes with the caveat that you need to be mindful of your league’s taxi squad rules. Most leagues will limit taxi-squad-eligible players to young players, or specifically, rookies. There are leagues out there that allow anyone on the squad, but they’re far less common.
How Long Can Players Remain on the Taxi Squad?
The only universal rule when it comes to duration is players can remain on taxi squads for the entirety of their rookie season. Beyond that, it’s really up to the individual league.
Some leagues will let you keep players on taxi squads for their second or third seasons. Others will let you keep them there indefinitely. It’s up to you, your commissioner, and your leaguemates to determine the policy best for your league.
Once a player reaches the end of his taxi-squad term, managers have three options: keep, cut, or trade him.
When Can Players Be Activated From the Taxi Squad?
This is another issue without a universal rule. Your options really are limitless. Some leagues allow activation at any point during the season. Other leagues have specific windows during which activation is permitted. An example of this would be anytime before Week 1, then after Week 4, then after Week 8, then after the season. Something like that.
Once you activate a player from the taxi squad, he usually must remain on your active roster. However, some leagues may have exceptions that allow players to return to the taxi squad, either in specific circumstances (such as injury) or just a predetermined number of reversions.
Again, there’s no objectively correct way to do this. Part of the beauty of dynasty leagues is the wide range of possibilities at your disposal. You and your leaguemates can craft the league you want.
Stealing Players From Other Teams’ Taxi Squads
Some leagues like to treat fantasy football taxi squads like NFL practice squads. The player is yours, but someone else can potentially sign him.
I know what you’re thinking, but no, you can’t just take players from other teams for free. If you claim a player from another team, there has to be a method by which that team can retain the player.
The two most common ways to go about this are:
- Teams can designate a specific number of protected players prior to each season
- The team that rosters the player you’re trying to steal can opt to call that player up to their active roster rather than let you take him.
If your league uses the second rule, it adds an element of strategy. There could be situations where it’s strategically beneficial to try and force a team to use an active roster spot on a player they would otherwise prefer to leave on the taxi squad.
Should Your League Use Taxi Squads?
In short: absolutely. I’ve played in keeper leagues over the years where managers were insistent upon finding ways to limit stashing players. I’m the opposite. I like when more players are on rosters. I want to be able to stash under-the-radar talents that might surprise in a year or two.
I don’t like being forced to burn roster spots on players I’m not using. Even worse, I don’t like being forced to drop stashes because I need to spot-start a WR4 because the league requires managers to set full lineups (which I do think is a rule that needs to exist as well).
The biggest issue with any fantasy football league format where players are retained across seasons is competitive integrity. There will inevitably be a situation where a bad team is either incentivized to lose or to not care about the quality of it starting lineup. Taxi squads are a great way to protect against teams starting non-competitive lineups.
At its core, fantasy football is a game about predicting the future. That goes for every version of it. Dynasty fantasy football just magnifies it in that you’re doing more than just predicting player performance for one season. It’s designed to reward you heavily for being correct.
Stashing unproven young players before they emerge into fantasy studs is one of the most rewarding aspects of this game. Taxi squads allow you to do that without having to sacrifice too much of the present.
Ultimately, every league is different, and I can’t tell you what you and your leaguemates will find to be the best combination of fair and fun.
With the fantasy football season behind us, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.