What’s going on footballaholics?! If you’re reading this, you’re either already a fantasy football commissioner or are looking at breaking into the (self-proclaimed) elite group of fantasy puppet-masters. Unfortunately, most fantasy managers don’t know how to become a next-level fantasy football commissioner immediately. Most see being Mr. or Mrs. Commish of a league as a thankless job. That can be true in a lot of situations, but it doesn’t have to be. I started playing fantasy sports in 2001 when I was 13 years old and instantly fell in love. Once I went to college, and had a bunch of free time on my hands (from not going to class… funny how that works out), I decided to try out the commish gig.
However, I’ve never been one to do something half-assed. It’s not in my nature and I take pride in the activities I choose to own. This opened up a world of possibilities in the quickly growing ecosystem of fantasy sports. I’d always organized/prepared my own rankings before jumping into snake drafts to help eliminate the panic aspect when that clock starts ticking down. Post-draft I would look at everyone’s team and start to put them into tiers to figure out who my competition would be throughout the year. Then, I had the thought to create power rankings! I wanted to know where my team stood within the league immediately following the draft, and as it turns out, so did everyone else in my league. People in general all enjoy immediate feedback, reassurance, conflicting opinions, to be the underdog, etc. Creating Power Rankings for your league allows all the above to happen.
I’m going to outline below some of the next-level ideas & mentalities that you should think about before heading up your own league. If you already run your own league, I’d suggest reading through them to see if you could look at yourself or your league(s) in a new way.
Step 1: Choose Your Style as a Commissioner
This one may seem straight forward but think about what type of person you are, or want to be portrayed as (this is fantasy remember). What type of leader do you want to be? Sure, being a fantasy commissioner isn’t the same as being the CEO of a company, but you are still managing an organization made up of many different people. Do you want to be the funny guy? Do you want to be a dictator who only plays by the rules? Do you want to get creative with league settings or just run a basic league that so many people nowadays are getting into? Figure out what you like and want, then start there.
After 4-5 years of commissioning my own leagues, I decided to create my own completely different keeper league to add multiple dimensions to the sport of fantasy that I loved so much. I became infatuated with auction drafts but saw that there weren’t a lot of auction keepers out there. The ones I did see were very straight forward and lacked creativity. I created a “Franchise of Leagues” called General Management, with the idea of managing your fantasy team as a GM would. You don’t just pick keepers – you sign players to 1-3 year contracts and add $’s to their auction price based on how long you keep them. I implemented a rookie draft, so each manager would have a shot at locking down a young-prospect for multiple years at a discounted price. Managers can trade drafted players, keepers, draft cash, waiver acquisition budget… there isn’t much that’s off limit. I curated a 1,000-page word document with rules, regulations, restrictions, and examples of how the league would work. I also created an excel-sheet tracker to show each manager’s keepers, draft budget, trade history, cap penalties, etc.
Pro-tip: be a voice for the people but stick to your beliefs. If you create a league with settings that are different, don’t back down because 1 or 2 managers think it’s weird. It’s your league so find people who want something different. That being said, if managers bring up holes, issues, etc. with the league, listen to their requests and make a fair decision (typically done by a league poll in my experience).
Step 2: Identify Your League Makeup
Are you looking to run a league with friends? Are you going to fill a league with a bunch of randoms from across the country/world? It’ll likely be a mixture of both, as is the case with most of my leagues. Do you want to run competitive, high buy-in leagues or casual, free/cheap entry-fee leagues? I choose to fill my leagues with as many people that I know as possible. I like to trash-talk my managers within my power rankings, so I want managers who aren’t going to take offense to what I say. When I need to fill the league with people I don’t know, I preface what they are getting into: “Hey, just to make sure you know this coming in, this isn’t your average league. I write power rankings in which I trash everyone’s team (including my own), we have message board posts dedicated to trash-talk, blah blah blah”. Again, I want to be funny and entertaining as a leader, but I don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way.
In my GM league detailed in Step 1, I filled the league with people who were open to new ideas and who would be helpful in improving it going forward. This included some of my best real-life-fantasy-playing friends, managers who had been in my regular leagues for the past few years, and some completely random managers who found my overly-detailed post/thesis on Reddit or Yahoo. I even have a Yahoo sports writer in all of my GM leagues! The rules haven’t changed drastically since inception, but there have been plenty of change-worthy suggestions incorporated to make this league my absolute favorite to play in.
Step 3: Find Your Differentiator
As I mentioned previously, I chose Power Rankings as my differentiator. This was/is my thing. It gives me a differentiator that not many other leagues have. It’s not like I’m out there advocating for players to pick me over other commissioners for the right to be the Commish-king, but those in my leagues are very engaged. Digging back into the archives, when FakePigskin was just starting up, I had my own blog and posted one of my league’s power rankings. There’s no need for you to actually read this unless you are instantly ready to start doing this for your league. I just wanted to give you a sense of the depth, effort, and feel for some of my power rankings. They have surely evolved over the years – I continue to change them up and add more data-driven analysis into them, but I still use it as a platform to connect with my league on a more personal level.
How I do it: Immediately after the draft, I write 4,000-5,000 words talking about each manager’s draft, with a witty, joke-filled intro and conclusion. My goal is always to get it out the night of the draft or the morning after to keep the momentum of that draft-night-high for everyone. If you’ve played fantasy for quite some time, you know it’s a rollercoaster of emotion and fun starting at draft-prep, peaking at the draft, then going up and down from there, setting rosters and managing weekly adds, waivers, trades, etc.
Halfway through the season I then write the Mid-Season Power Rankings to account for current standings, trades, free agent/waiver acquisitions, and injuries. I compare original rankings to actual standings (and usually attempt to defend why I so grossly misjudged some of the teams), but also take a stab at what the playoff scene would look like. This may seem like something minor, but I can tell you from my league’s feedback that it’s invigorating. The managers who think they are out of it suddenly have something additional to drive them. The managers who are sitting pretty on top of the standings either take their ranking and let it go to their head, or use it as fuel to keep driving for that win. Those in the middle typically see it as a motivational boost to keep going even though their chances could be slim.
It’s not always easy to come up with your own differentiator but think about 1) what you like to do within fantasy football, 2) the time commitment you want to make, and 3) what your league would appreciate. You don’t want to put additional work into something if your audience doesn’t want it or see it as valuable.
Examples of differentiators: post-draft power rankings, weekly matchup previews, weekly matchup recaps, weekly waiver winners, trade recaps, and consistent, general NFL commentary. Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter if you want some more info on any of these ideas or if there is any content you’d like to read about!
This article isn’t meant to be your one-stop-shop owner’s manual for being a Fantasy Football commissioner. This is to help get you started, thinking introspectively, and share some ideas to spruce up any current leagues that you may have. Being a commissioner takes work. Being a great commissioner takes even more work + a real passion for what you do. Stay tuned for more commish-related articles this pre-season and throughout the year!
PSA: Remember to thank your commissioners!