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League Types: Decisions, Decisions

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Do you want a league type where Sam Bradford is a must-own? Photo by David Welker/Getty Images
Do you want a league type where Sam Bradford is a must-own? Photo by David Welker/Getty Images

Football season is just around the corner, and all over the globe the buzz is starting to build. Who should you take in the first round? Who is the highest upside rookie this year? Is Russell Wilson for real, or should I take Colin Kaepernick? The real questions you should be asking yourself is what league format do I want to play in, and what are the differences between them. One of the more important things to know about fantasy football is that it comes in different forms, so if you aren’t fond of the league your co-workers set up last year, it doesn’t mean you have to use that same format this go-around. Maybe this is your first go at fantasy football, and it would be a good idea to know your options going in before you get stuck in a league you hate. Having a constitution for any league is always a good idea as well, it helps allow every owner understand the rules, which will make it a better experience for everyone involved. This article will go over a variety of options for you to decide what format best suits your comfort level and understanding of the game we love.

Head-to-Head: A large majority of people play in Head-to-Head leagues, mostly because they get to play another team every week. Having your team duke it out against another owner’s team makes for an exciting week of trash talk amongst friends, co-workers, or just a random stranger. Usually a team starting roster will consist of 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 Team Defense/Special Teams unit, and 1 Kicker, and allows for seven bench spots. The scoring system can differ from league to league, but the end game is to use the best lineup so that your team outscores your opponents for the week. The more weeks you win the better, as your win-loss record directly relates to the league championship. Teams with the best win-loss record advance to a playoff system that’s usually structured to end Week 16 or 17 of the regular football season (Week 16 if you're smart). If two teams have the same record, the tie-breaker can be decided by the total points scored in the regular season of the two (or more) tied teams.

Total Points: Another heavy hitter format, where the points earned from week to week accumulates over the course of the season. This allows the teams with the most points earned to qualify for the playoffs, instead of your win-loss record. In some cases players will bypass a playoff system while in a total points league, making it a rotisserie league which some traditional fantasy baseball players enjoy. Some also enjoy combining head-to-head and points leagues, getting the best parts of both systems.

2-QB: This format is starting to gain more momentum in fantasy circles, and it’s basically what it sounds like. Instead of starting one Quarterback as in traditional standard leagues, you would start two, making the position much more valuable. In a standard league, the top quarterbacks can go pretty fast, and guys like Matt Flynn and Kevin Kolb may sit on the free agency list the entire season. Players like this have a much greater value in 2-QB leagues; especially given the “garbage time” points that can be gained when their teams are behind and trying to mount a comeback. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go and grab both of your QBs in the earliest rounds, but it does change the draft strategy of each team owner. The roster shakes out similar to a standard league other than the obvious addition of one extra starting quarterback, but be aware that there is depth at the lower ends, and you should be fine.

Dynasty/"Keeper": For those of you who enjoy knowing what you have to work with year in and year out instead of redrafting each season, try a Dynasty or “Keeper” league. Depending on the rules that are constituted by the league commissioner and it’s owners prior to the original draft, you are allowed to “keep” a set number of players for a particular length of time. For example, if you drafted Doug Martin last season and are allowed to keep three players, it’s assumed that Martin is one of the three you’re going to hold onto. This adds another wrinkle to the draft where you can start to build your team from year to year. Most dynasty leagues have a deeper roster allowing for drafting of high-upside rookies that may not play so much in their first season, but could become a bigger part of the team from the second year on. This format can gives the owners a more tangible feeling of “owning” the team, and owners not contending in that particular season can start to trade for players that can develop, making it something to shoot for as the season progresses.

IDP: IDP (or Individual Defensive Player) is a format where you don’t just draft one particular team's defense but draft individual players building a defense all your own. The scoring system changes a little where you’d typically get points from a whole team that got an interception, you’d now only get those points if you owned the player who actually caught the interception. It also adds new stats that aren’t in most fantasy formats, such as tackles. This format gives players a real sense of being a GM having to prioritize positions on both sides of the ball to where you can get the most value depending on your point system in place. For example, if you give two points per solo tackle and four for a sack, then defensive ends could be viewed at a higher rate, but good linebackers like Chad Greenway can be just as valuable. IDP leagues are great for players that like to have as much control over their team as possible and it's an underrated format that is starting to grow.

PPR: PPR (Points Per Reception) leagues can be played in a variety of ways, typically with RB, WR, and TE gaining an extra point for every catch they make in a game. This format is quickly becoming the new “standard” in the fantasy world, and with the variations (i.e. 1.5 points to tight ends or 0.5 to running backs) it gives more value to players in fast-paced pass happy offenses. Giving a tight end an extra 0.5 point changes the draft position, where guys like Jimmy Graham become early second round choices, while the Jacob Tamme type guys can jump up from the 10th round to the eighth. The more pass catchers you have on your team the better off you will be, but make sure you don’t overvalue players that “can catch” but don’t do it as often.  This can be said of wideouts and running backs as well, so be aware of your leagues scoring and draft accordingly.

Whichever format you choose you can’t really go wrong; it’s always good to have options, and you could always give them all a try to see which one fits for you.