Introducing the RotoViz Dynasty League: The Rules and Rationales
On June 1, 2013, at 12 AM precisely, the slow-play email draft for the RotoViz Dynasty League (RDL) will begin. Of all the leagues I’ve ever been a part of, this league is already the one about which I’m most excited.
During the next month or so, I expect that the RotoViz staff will produce articles describing various parts of the draft and the rationale for (and critique of) certain selections. With these future articles in mind, I am pleased as the commissioner to introduce to you the format of the RDL.
First, let me say that I am the commissioner of a successful twelve-team dynasty league that is entering its sixth year. Why do I say that this league is successful? Of the original twelve owners, ten are still in the league, and the two replacement owners have been in the league for several years. During the five years of play, we’ve had five different champions. Six teams make the playoffs each year, and in the last two years eleven of the twelve teams have qualified for post-season play. We have astounding parity.
Additionally, we’ve experimented with various formats and settled on a system that works for its members. We’ve allowed our league to evolve through a gradual process of trial and error. And as problems arise we continue to tweak here and there. We have a league that is fixed yet adaptable.
And we have a large amount of sophisticated shit-talking. We still make fun of bad trades that occurred three years ago and bad picks that guys made in the original startup draft. For the most part, we are all invested in the league, and even our “Taco” (a San Diego guy we sometimes call “Kiwi” or “Skinner”) is still invested to a degree—hell, he somehow won his division and a playoff game in 2011 and he almost snuck into the playoffs again in 2012.
With this experience—and with the voluminous feedback and fantastic ideas that the RotoViz staff has contributed—I believe that the RDL will be a long-lived group distinguished by these features: 1) incredibly active, 2) highly competitive and instructive, 3) devoid of much of the painful randomness associated with many fantasy leagues, 4) envied by people who wish they could be a part of it or a similar league, and thus 5) emulated by other leagues already existing or just starting.
Allow me to tell you why we are already proud of this league:
- 14 Teams.
- 30 Rosters Spots in 2013 with an additional 3 IR spots.
- No Kicker or DST.
- 9 Starters: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 RB/WR, 1 TE, 1 WR/TE.
With fourteen teams and thirty roster spots, this is a deep league—and that’s just for the 2013 season. In 2014, we’ll be expanding to an IDP league with 53 roster spots per team. This league aspires to kick your league’s ass.
Why are we forgoing the practice of starting kickers? Here’s why: 1) None of us fell in love with fantasy football because of kickers. They are not a vital part of our fake sport, and we are trying to cut away all the excess fat from this league. We want it to be as lean and muscular as possible. 2) Would you rather roster a deep sleeper who could be a stud in a year—or would you rather roster Dan Bailey? 3) Last year, I was “lucky” enough to roster the kicker who led the league in scoring for much of the season, Lawrence Tynes. When he went on bye, I was faced with the options of A) dropping him and picking up another kicker, thereby losing my “prized” kicking asset, B) dropping one of my roster stashes, such as Aldrick Robinson or Jarius Wright (look for the upcoming article!), in order to pick up a one-week replacement kicker, or C) dropping no one and simply not starting a kicker that week. It’s like Sophie’s Choice! No one should be faced with those decisions. A fantasy kicker is like foreskin—no one finds it attractive, and it should just be removed. (It’s OK for me to make these jokes. My last name is “Freedman.”)
And what about DSTs? Most of the reasons for eliminating kickers can be applied here. And since we’ll be going IDP in 2014 we feel that we’re ultimately not shortchanging the guys who play on the defensive side of the ball. It’s just that we’ve decided, as a league, that in 2013 we’d rather roster 14 deep sleepers than 14 DSTs that we’ll just have to drop next year.
We toyed with the idea of making this a 2-QB league by either starting 2 QBs or having a QB-eligible flex position. In the end, though, we felt that a 2-QB league would place too much emphasis on the QB position. At the same time, we believe that QBs should be valued more than they normally are in standard fantasy leagues, since 1) QBs are vitally important to winning organizations in the NFL and 2) the NFL is increasingly a passing league. In order to render the QB position more valuable, we have made a few appropriate adjustments to our scoring system (see below).
You will notice that our starting lineup emphasizes WRs (and TEs to an extent) and deemphasizes RBs. Our reasons for this decision are manifold: 1) The NFL itself has started to devalue individual RBs through both a shift toward RBBC and a shift away from the running game in general. 2) The NFL has shifted toward the passing game, and more WRs are viable fantasy options than was the case a mere five years ago. 3) As the NFL has shifted toward the passing game, TEs have benefitted as much as WRs. If the Patriots can support two viable TE options, then certainly some of our dynasty teams can.
Why do we have two different types of flex options? We feel that the RB/WR and WR/TE flexes will provide roster and drafting optionality to our franchises. If a guy wants to go RB heavy while still having the option of starting 4 WRs, he can. If a guy wants to draft and start both Graham and Gronk, he can. If a guy wants to “spread the fantasy field” with a five-wide set, he can. The two different flex positions provide, aptly enough, flexibility.
We also feel that the RB/WR and WR/TE flexes reflect the hybridity we find in the NFL today. The RB/WR flex—while not delimited to these players—calls to mind Reggie Bush, Dexter McCluster, Percy Harvin, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, and maybe even Denard Robinson: players who themselves are actual NFL RB/WR flexes. Additionally, the line between WR and TE has merged in recent years in the NFL, with Gronk and Graham putting up WR numbers and A-Hern, J-Cook, and J-Fin playing as slot WRs while Colston and Boldin function as glorified TEs. All of this is reflected to a degree by the WR/TE flex position.
What else is cool about the RDL?
- No Divisions.
- 13-Week Regular Season.
- Three-Week Playoff Tournament with 6 Teams.
- The top two teams by record are the top seeds and receive first-round byes.
- The remaining 4 playoff teams will consist of two traditional “record wildcards” (the two teams with the third- and fourth-best records) and then two “points wildcards” (the two remaining teams with the most points scored on the season).
- Week 14: Round One.
- Bye week for top two teams. The scores from their non-competitive Week 14 can be applied to their Week 15 matchups.
- The four active teams compete in a free-for-all first round, with the two highest scoring teams advancing to Week 15.
- Week 15: Round Two.
- The four remaining playoff teams play another free-for-all round. For the top seeds, the highest of their Week 14 or 15 scores may be used. The two highest scoring teams advance to the league Super Bowl.
- Week 16: Super Bowl, “Week 2.” The two championship contestants will compete head-to-head in Week 16. Their combined Week 15 and 16 scores will determine the league champion. [Note that the Week 14 scores cannot be used in the calculation of the championship score if one or both of the top two seeds advances to the Super Bowl.]
OK—how awesome is this? Almost all of the BS that you have to put up with in regular fantasy leagues?—gone. In standard leagues, almost invariably one of the two or three divisions is weak, and someone gets into the playoffs with an inflated record as a result of playing subpar competition. Here, each team plays every other team in the league once. To the extent possible, we all have exactly the same strength of schedule. This abolishment of divisions should mitigate some of the randomness typically associated with fantasy football.
Additionally, the points wildcard should ensure that, even if a high-scoring team does have remarkably bad luck in its individual match ups, it will make the playoffs as long as its point total is near the top of the league. Again, randomness is minimized. The teams legitimately competing for a championship in the playoffs will be the best teams, not those that got utterly lucky with an easy schedule. And, best of all, the points wildcard should keep more teams in the playoff hunt longer and thus more invested. In a standard league, the typical owner with a strong but snake-bitten team might just start tanking his season if he starts out 0-4. Here, as long as a guy has a team that is putting up points, he’s got a legitimate shot at making the playoffs regardless of his record.
And as for the playoffs, I’m excited about the free-for-all system we have established: Just another way to minimize randomness. I’ve seen enough Round One splits of 127-119 and 85-79 to know that often the two most deserving teams don’t both advance to the semifinals. Here, the teams with the two highest Round One scores will advance to Round Two. That’s the goal of Round One, right?
I also like the idea of giving the top seeds something to do during the first-round bye week. The scores that their teams are able to put up that week should count for something. How much does it suck to have a bye in Round One and see your team explode for 150 pts. and then see the exact same lineup produce only 75 pts. in Round Two? In general, we felt that 1) the top seeds should have some investment in what happens in Round One and 2) they should get some extra benefit from being the top seeds (since their “easy playoff matchups” have been taken away through the free-for-all format), and so they get to use the higher of their Week 14 and Week 15 scores in the Second Round. That’s quite a benefit.
Finally, by bundling the Week 15 and Week 16 scores into a two-week championship game, we’ve 1) avoided the randomness that sometimes accompanies one-week championship games and 2) deftly refused to expose the championship to the vicissitudes of Week 17.
And the playoff tournament isn’t the league’s only cool post-season feature. We also have a Consolation Tournament for the eight annual losers among us. I think perhaps the only thing in fantasy worse than having a crappy team that loses games is not getting to play (and lose) more games late in the season. Here, the non-playoff teams still get to participate in a tournament, and the prize is substantial.
Now, I know that a lot of leagues have a bracket for the losers, and some of these leagues even have consolation prizes. With apologies to those leagues and prizes, we think that the format we’ve created has, so to speak, more balls than yours.
- Three-Week Consolation Tournament with 8 Teams. Seeds are determined by record.
- Week 14: Round One. A two-bracket free-for-all round.
- Bracket A: #1, #4, #5, and #8.
- Bracket B: #2, #3, #6, and #7.
- The top two scoring teams from each bracket advance.
- Week 15: Round Two.
- The four remaining consolation teams play another free-for-all round. The two highest scoring teams advance to the Toilet Bowl.
- Week 16: Toilet Bowl, “Week 2.” The two Toilet Bowl contestants will compete head-to-head in Week 16. Their combined Week 15 and 16 scores will determine the winner of the consolation tournament.
- The winner of the consolation tournament will receive 55 extra balls for the next season’s lottery. The runner–up will receive 34 extra balls.
What’s that you say? “Lottery?” Boom!!! That’s right. Starting in 2014, our rookie draft will feature a lottery for the non-playoff teams, with the number of balls each team receives being directly related to its standing at the end of the previous season. With the two exceptions mentioned earlier (55 and 34 extra balls for the winner and runner-up of the Consolation Tournament), here are the numbers of balls for each positional finish for the non-playoff teams (based on the Fibonacci sequence to provide reasonable probabilistic and consistent ratios):
- 34 balls: 14th seed
- 21 balls: 13th seed
- 13 balls: 12th seed
- 8 balls: 11th seed
- 5 balls: 10th seed
- 3 balls: 9th seed
- 2 balls: 8th seed
- 1 ball: 7th seed
In the lottery, a team is eligible to move up or down no more than 3 spots. For instance, the team that would receive the #1 position in a standard league will receive a position no lower than #4, and the team that would normally receive the #8 position can do no better here than #5. If a team drops 2 or more spots below its “projected” drafting position, it will receive a compensatory pick at the end of the third round, with any compensatory picks being ordered according to the previous year’s final standings.
But so much for the big picture. What about the day-to-day stuff? I’m glad you asked.
- Waivers: The 24-hour waivers are processed on Wednesday.
- Waivers: Blind bid auction, with a $1000 budget for the season.
We decided to forgo a waiver priority system. At its worst, it rewards each week the teams that perpetually suck. At its best (with a running order), it still enables teams that don’t value available players highly to acquire them. We felt that a blind bid auction was the best way of allowing the league’s free market to dictate the value of available players. Speaking of free market . . .
- Trading: No Vetoes.
- Trading: Year-long trading capability (except during the three-week playoff tournament).
- Trading: Unlimited transactions allowed.
We’re all dudes who care about our teams, our leagues, and our reputations, and so each owner should be allowed to run his team in the manner that seems best to him without league interference. No vetoes. Only in the instance of blatant collusion will I inquire (as commissioner) into the logic behind a trade. (And if we ever reach that point the RDL will be in serious trouble.) As long as all the parties in a trade believe that they receive some benefit from the transaction (even if the benefit is miniscule), the trade will stand.
And what about scoring? Here are the details for our decimal scoring system.
- 1 pt. per 20 yards
- 6 pts. per TD
- 2 pts. per 2-pt. conversion
- -2 pts. per INT
- 1 pt. per reception
- 1 pt. per 10 yards
- 6 pts. per TD
- 2 pts. per 2-pt. conversion
- 1 pt. per 10 yards
- 6 pts. per TD
- 2 pts. per 2-pt. conversion
- -2 pts. per fumble
- 6 pts per Random TD
- 1 pt. per XP.
- 3 pts. per FG, 1-39 yds.
- 4 pts. per FG, 40-49 yds.
- 5 pts. per FG, 50+ yds.
- 2 pts. per INT
- 1 pt. per sack
- 2 pts. per fumble recovery
- 2 pts. per safety
- 1 pt. per XP Blocked
- 3 pts. per FG Blocked
- 2 pts. per Punt Blocked
I’m sure you have some questions. I’ve got answers. First of all, we use a decimal system. In the NFL, a yard counts for something, even if it’s only the 79th yard that a guy gets. In our league, we want all the yards a player accumulates to count. Similarly, we don’t give bonuses for the achievement of certain statistical benchmarks. In the NFL, a TD from 2 yards out is still worth the same as a TD scored from 85 yards away. We’re following suit.
As I said earlier, this league (like the NFL) places an emphasis on the passing game, and so 1 pt. will be award for every 20 passing yards (not every 25), and 6 pts. (not 4) will be awarded for each passing TD. Why should Geno Smith receive 6 pts. when he rushes for a TD but only 4 pts. when he throws for one? The exact same player is scoring a TD! Here, we want the true value of QBs to be realized.
Additionally, each reception (regardless of position) will garner an additional point. (Notice that phrase “regardless of position.” That comes into play in just a little bit.) In general, we believe that the PPR format will place a premium on receivers and especially pass-catching RBs, and given the pass-happy nature of the NFL we find this premium on guys who catch the ball to be acceptable.
And now we come to the hairier part. If a player scores a miscellaneous TD of some sort, he’s going to get 6 pts. So if T.Y. Hilton or Percy Harvin returns a punt or a kickoff for a TD, he’s getting rewarded. If Mark Sanchez fumbles at the goal line and Stephen Hill picks up the ball and scores, Hill’s getting the credit for a TD. If Jason Avant is playing as a defensive back à la Troy Brown and recovers a fumble and returns it for a TD, then he’s getting the points for the TD and the fumble recovery.
Regardless of position, if a position player accrues meaningful statistics in a non-offensive phase of the game, that player will receive points. If Julio Jones intercepts a pass at the end of a game on a Hail Mary or if one of your bench WRs recovers a fumble on punt coverage, points will be awarded accordingly. If Matt Prater pulls his hamstring in a game and Wes Welker has to kick a game-winning 52-yard FG, Welker will be rewarded accordingly.
By and large, we don’t view these potential accumulations of points as random occurrences to be avoided. Rather, these possibilities are contained in the players we draft. The decision about whether to draft Cordarrelle Patterson or not is in part informed by the knowledge that 1) Patterson fielded 10 kickoffs and returned 3 for TDs in his last year of junior college; 2) he fielded 4 punts and returned 1 for a TD in his only year of FBS play; and 3) he is likely to have the opportunity to return kickoffs and punts for the Vikings early in his career and thus has the potential to accrue some additional (non-scrimmage) scores. We believe that any TD deserves to be awarded 6 pts.
Does the RDL sound a little crazy and a smidgen intense? With a smile of pride and a fistful of steel, we here at RotoViz answer in the affirmative. On behalf of the league’s other thirteen participants—Frank DuPont, Shawn Siegele, Jon Moore, Jonathan Bales, Bryan Fontaine, James Goldstein, Davis Mattek, Ryan Rouillard, Jon Krouner, Max Mulitz, Charles Kleinheksel, Jacob Myers, and Ryan Lessard—I hope you enjoy following the progress of this league for all the seasons to come.
[I would like to thank Jacob Myers for suggesting that we all do a dynasty league, Davis Mattek for seconding the motion and suggesting that I commish, and especially Shawn Siegele (perhaps the best fantasy player in the world—according to him!) for providing the league with many creative ideas for the RDL format. Who wouldn’t want to commish a league with such players? Also, I would like to thank FleaFlicker for providing a website that is so user- and commissioner-friendly. If you’re in an active and complicated league and have been looking for another (simpler) website, you may want to check out FleaFlicker. It’s easy to use, and the staff is quick to respond to any questions you may have. In short, FleaFlicker rules.]