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What I Don’t Like About ESPN Fantasy Football

ESPN's Fantasy Football could use a few key changes next season.
ESPN's Fantasy Football could use a few key changes next season.

Fantasy football has been in my blood for about six years now, and I’ve spent more than enough time exploring all the different website options to know one thing: ESPN really needs to give League Managers more control over their leagues.

It’s a curious fact that the fantasy football website that provides arguably the best draft-day and in-season experience, is also one of the least functionally fit in the business when it comes to league options. In particular, I’m talking about things like Keeper league options, which no serious fantasy site should be without, and yet ESPN continues to trudge along without them.

Limiting Keeper Options

If you wanted to set up a keeper league on ESPN that rewards owners for having a great draft by letting them keep players in the round they selected their stud player in, then you’re out of luck. That means if you drafted Randall Cobb in the 10th round this year, ESPN would force you to spend a first round pick to keep him. For whatever the reason, there’s no way to accomplish that task without skirting the entire draft-day experience that ESPN provides. You can imagine how bummed me and my co-manager were when we found out that a huge strategical element of keeper leagues was essentially wiped out of existence on ESPN snake drafts.

The odd thing is, adding this sort of functionality doesn’t even have to be all that complex. Simply allowing teams to keep players and letting League Managers remove the desired pick from the team would be enough, but currently you’re forced to forfeit a first round pick to keep a player (and subsequent rounds after), which makes that manual work-around a bit pointless.

Luckily enough, ESPN does have a great Auction Draft system that is perfect for keeper leagues, which can allow you to manually set the prices of keepers. Unfortunately, that also means you have to say goodbye to draft pick trading, which is one of the more unique and interesting trade propositions in fantasy keeper land, and you can say so-long to the snake draft format, which always brought with it an element of surprise that really enhanced the draft-day experience.

Lack of True Positional Scoring

Lack of flexibility for League Managers in keeper leagues is a tad frustrating, but so is the lack of true positional scoring options. My league mate and I thought it would be a great idea to change the points-per-rushing-yard specifically for QBs to try and find a value that stopped rewarding bad quarterback play just because of a few rushing attempts, while still rewarding dynamic QBs that find a way to pick up yards with their feet and impact the game. Sadly, this idea was stopped short when we realized ESPN doesn’t give you the option for true positional scoring, meaning we wouldn’t be able to adjust points-per-rushing-yard for QBs, without it impacting RBs.

Without a good system for positional scoring, you can also forget the idea of ever seriously entertaining an IDP (Individual Defensive Player) league. If you can’t adjust how many points a DB gets for a tackle as opposed to a Linebacker, or how much a sack is worth for a DT as opposed to a defensive end, then you’ll never be able to truly create a balanced IDP league that makes all the positions useful. I’m not entirely sure if I would ever participate in a true fully-IDP league, but I would have been interested in at least checking out how 1-2 dedicated roster spots might work out.

Don’t Get Me Wrong, I’ll Still Play

I’ll still be playing fantasy football on ESPN this year, don’t get me wrong. I love the presentation side of their fantasy football system, and I think their coverage throughout the season is equally as impressive (if not partly weasely on the podcast side). Still, when @MatthewBerryTMR asked his followers to send ideas to improve the League Manager product for next season, I felt compelled to write this article. I can’t see myself leaving ESPN fantasy anytime soon, but it’s certainly possible we could be moving at least our draft day in the future to a different medium, which really spoils a lot of the fun.

P.S. PETA is concerned with the way you’ve been treating your Weasel, TMR.

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  • GoMadden

    Keeper options plz