Let's Talk Rules Changes
As promised, I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss the rules changes that will be in place for the 2021/2022 season and why I made these decisions, as well as share some of the findings from the survey that was sent out to last year's participants. The response to this year's survey was great and we had almost 100% of participants provide their thoughts on how things went. Participant feedback helps drive the FFIC forward and allows me to always be refining the rules set to ensure that the competition operates at an optimal level. I'm not going to talk over every change as some are pretty simple, but there are a few that I do want to talk about in a bit more detail.
The distribution of funds to rewards winners is, in my opinion, one of the most complicated things about the setup of the FFIC. The 2020 season was the first attempt at creating a pay structure for a competition that ran without an entry fee in it's original form. The system that worked to pay participants based on placement in individual leagues was created out of a desire to encourage members to continue to participate even when they may not have a shot at placing in the top-3 for overall standings. However, this system does have a flaw in the fact that it results in a smaller reward for the overall winner. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but the time and effort it takes to perform well in so many leagues should be rewarded.
Imagine yourself playing in a single, standard fantasy football league. It is not uncommon for the winner to receive 50-60% of the total prize pool. By offering payouts as incentive to participation, I am essentially taking money away from the overall winner and they'll likely only see 35-40% of the total prize pool. This is a tough tradeoff, but one that I still feel is necessary, which is evident in the fact that I have yet to move away from this payout structure and instead chose to simply readjust the payouts slightly. Based on the survey responses most people felt that the payout structure was pretty good, but did wish a little more was shifted towards rewarding overall placement. By readjusting how much money was paid out within the individual leagues I am able to give a slight increase to the overall winners.
After receiving feedback from a few different people I came to the conclusion that, at this time, this slight readjustment was the best approach to find a bit of a balance between my initial vision for payouts and providing winners with a payout that felt rewarding. It is still not a perfect system as there is still variance between the return-on-investment (ROI) for a normal league versus what you're seeing here, but for now this seems to me like the best approach. I do have some other thoughts on how this may be structured in the future including switching my approach of rewarding all levels of individual league placement to rewarding all levels of overall placement, but until I feel more certain about another approach we're going to continue with this simple readjustment of funds and can reevaluate in the future.
There were not a lot of big changes made to our drafting process, but there are some unsaid things that I wanted to definitely talk about. One of the survey suggestions was for a later start time. Obviously, this change was not made and I want to explain why. With the current draft structure we are conducting 3-4 live drafts a day. If there are a lot of participants who time out on their draft clock these drafts could take us a full 12-hours to complete. While this is unusual, it is a concern and not just because of the fact that we have a few participants from odd time zones. The endurance required to complete these live draft days is already a built in challenge, but if those days then had to continue on long into the night it is made that much worse. I understand that for certain time zones the start time is very early in the day, but for others that start time is very late in the day.
The reality is there is no perfect answer for the start time; however, I'll continue to do whatever I can to make the drafts approachable. As we did last year, the Live Draft dates will be set, but I'll continue to keep scheduling flexible. To remove some of the confusion I'm also going to stop posting specific times for each draft and instead just let people know the day's agenda as well as the start time. This will be done with the understanding that when a draft is completed, a short break is taken, and then we move onto the next until all are completed.
Further efforts will be made to ease the impact of the Live Draft days by lowering the requirements for an Email Draft, so that it now encompasses all leagues with a total roster size of 18 or more players. While I understand the appeal of email drafts I don't want to completely remove the Live Draft days as I feel this is an important part of the competition's challenge. By lowering the requirements to 18 or more players, we're now looking at just under 50% of our leagues having a slow, email draft or no draft at all. In my mind this is an ideal balance that may even allow us to reduce the live drafts to a single day in some years depending on league selection.
The only other change to the draft process will be a small adjustment to how order is assigned for the Rookie Drafts going forward. Seeing as this may change how individuals would have approached the previous season, this will not go into effect until the 2022 Rookie Draft.
While it may seem like a small change, I have decided to reduce the run length of some leagues so that we have no leagues running in the last week of the NFL season. It has long been understood amongst players that playing fantasy football in this final week is a bad idea due to the fact that some NFL teams may be resting players. For some formats, like our Contest League, this has no impact seeing as participants do not draft a team. Other formats that had previously extended to the full season, including BestBall and Rotisserie, were still impacted by rested players since rosters were drafted by participants. Leaving the Contest League as the only variation running in Week 17 didn't make much sense as there was little motivation to participants to submit lineups when the overall standings for the competition may have already been decided.
I also made the decision that the upcoming season will continue to follow the standard protocol of ending in Week 16 whether or not the NFL decides to expand the regular season to 18 games. At this point we have no idea when this change might happen or what it might look like. As such, I have decided for all of my leagues that it is best to just continue for this season as if it were business as usual and make any possible adjustments for the following season when we have a better idea of what an 18 week season would look like, and how it would play out.
I know this was a big talking point during the previous season. Several people, through Discord and their survey responses, have indicated that they want to see more leagues without participants being broken into divisions. As I had mentioned last year, I will be removing divisions from the Dynasty league; however, I am going to stick with the use of divisions for other formats going forward. I understand the appeal of a league without divisions, but personally feel they bring an added level of excitement to fantasy football competitions. By placing participants into divisions you have an extra element of competition between individuals in a divisions from week to week. While I do admit there are occasionally times where a team will make playoffs due to being placed in a weaker division, this is less common than you would think. For years I have tinkered with different approaches to divisions and have found that the best way to minimize the risk of someone making playoffs that does not deserve it, is with three divisions of four. While I know some participants may have been disappointed by my decision to basically move forward with divisions as they are, I hope they understand that I am doing so with the belief that it is the best approach to minimize a "luck" factor and provide excitement to each week's games.
Double Header Scoring
In my long tenure as a fantasy football commissioner I have also learned that another way to help ensure a good team doesn't miss playoffs is through the use of what I call "double header scoring". This means that in addition to participants playing in a weekly head-to-head match they are also awarded a win/loss based on how they performed versus the league average. This means that week-to-week teams can go 2-0, 1-1, or 0-2. While a week where a participant goes 0-2 feels brutal, it helps raise up teams that consistently score well, but find themselves matched against other top scoring teams. We all know the pain of being the second or third highest scoring team in a week and losing because you faced someone who had a monster game and got top points.
In practice this keeps the excitement of weekly matches while helping reduce the impact of "bad luck" on teams that are consistently performing well. At this time we're going to move forward by adding this to all Standard Tier leagues that are run on Sleeper. This is being done to provide a bit more interest to the somewhat stale, standard league types. Going forward we'll evaluate how people feel about this format and increase/decrease the number of leagues that it applies to as necessary.
League Tier Realignment
This is probably the biggest structural change to how the FFIC will be operating this year. Prior to now the competition used a series of color coded tiers that represented varying levels of complexity. One of the common themes from the survey that was sent out was that people enjoyed the league variety. It was apparent that part of the appeal of the competition was the fact that it was so different from any other league. To me, this meant that people wanted to see more league variety and participate in less standard formats. With that in mind I already had a few additional league types that I wanted to add to the league selection pool. When it comes to the FFIC my philosophy is that the more leagues to choose from the better. The entire point of the league selection process was to encompass any and all possible formats to provide the greatest level of challenge adn variance from year to year.
Adding additional leagues does run into a bit of a challenge due to the limitations of various fantasy football platforms. One of the reasons that the original format of the FFIC had leagues across so many different platforms had to do with the restrictions that were in place. For example, we still have to run our Auction league on Yahoo because Sleeper has yet to implement this draft format. While consolidating leagues to one place is an important part of this competition, it is not always possible in order to accommodate a specific league format. When it comes to league customization MyFantasyLeague (MFL) is unmatched. There are a number of different fantasy football approaches that simply cannot be implemented on any other platform, so when I added these new formats the number of available selections for the MFL Tier was now doubled.
The first challenge here is that, based on the previous league selection tier structure, only one of these leagues was selected annually and that meant you could see a league only once every six years or longer. With the idea in mind that we wanted to increase the variety of league usage, the only solution was to now select two league types from the MFL Tier, but this too has issues. The only downside to MFL is the fact that it comes with a usage cost, which is what prompted the creation of the MFL specific tier in the first place. While the entry fee could be increased to cover this increase, I also felt that $100 was an appropriate entry amount and didn't want to raise this at this time. This means the usage cost on the second MFL fee will no be taken out of the current prize pool as a thank you of sorts to participants for their time, effort, and ongoing feedback.
With the cost issues worked out, I now had to make a decision on how to approach the restructuring of league selection. By increasing the selection from the MFL Tier from 1 to 2 leagues, I now had to remove a league selection from another tier. Based on the feedback from everyone, it only made sense to take that selection away from the Green Tier which held the most standard league types. This meant that now we would be choosing only 4 leagues from the Green Tier out of a total of 8, but again there were issues with this adjustment. When choosing 4 out of 8 does that mean you're simply rotating half one year and half the next? Do you still repeat? How would that work out nicely?
When creating these tiers in the first place, I had tried to use number totals that would provide appropriate variation of selections. In order to maintain this variation I have decided to now increase the Green Tier by 1 additional league to maintain a balance when it came to selection. Then, knowing that people wanted more variety I decided that we could achieve that by combining the Red and Yellow Tiers. While this may not seem like a big alteration, the combining of these leagues does allow for increased league variety. In my mind the league pool approach for the FFIC will be forever evolving to include more styles and provide more challenges to participants. Additional information for the structure of each new league will be posted as I finalize their formatting.
I think that pretty much covers everything that I wanted to go over with regards to the rules changes for the upcoming season. Over the next week I'll be updating all the rules on the website and rules document to reflect these changes. If any participants want to further discuss any of the recent changes feel free to reach out!