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Anatomy of a League: Backyard Brawl

All dynasty owners are looking for the same thing- a great league to be a part of. But, what makes a dynasty or keeper league successful? How can an owner find (or even create) a league that will be fun, active and competitive? In this ongoing series, I will take a look at some successful dynasty and keeper leagues from the perspective of the  commissioners who run the leagues and the owners who participate in them.

Several years ago, the love of dynasty football was exploding and while Steve Wyremski knew what he was looking for, he could not find it. So, rather than joining a league that did not meet each of his specifications, he created his own and entitled that league Backyard Brawl. In the years since, the Backyard Brawl leagues have grown to a total of five different leagues and featuring many of the most well respected players in dynasty football. Here’s more about the great leagues run by our own Retired Rookie:

League name: Backyard Brawl
Commissioner: Steve Wyremski (@SteveWyremski)

The Backyard Brawl Dynasty leagues are each 14 team dynasty leagues featuring an annual developmental draft.

DLF: How many years has your league been in existence?

SW: There are 5 series of Backyard Brawl, but the inaugural startup was in 2004

DLF: What made you want to create your dynasty league?

SW: Back in 2004, I’d played in some dynasty leagues, but I wanted to add a college draft component (otherwise known as developmental draft). There weren’t any that I was aware of. There also weren’t all that many PPR leagues at that point, either. The combination of these two moved me to start my own leagues. I’m glad I did. People seem to enjoy the format/league structure.

DLF: How did you go about finding owners for your league?

SW: I typically have used the Footballguys message board in the past, but more recently started to use Twitter given the huge community built there.

DLF: How many teams do you feel is ideal for a dynasty league?

SW: 14; I feel that the rosters are deep enough and it makes the league much more competitive and interesting as compared to a 12-team league.

DLF: What are the starting lineups your league uses? 

SW: QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 2 Flex (WR/TE/RB), D (no kicker and no required TE)

DLF: Does your league have any unique rules?

SW: There are a few and some of which were alluded to above. I’ll bullet point each:

– No TE required.

– Backyard Brawl II through V all have TE point per reception scoring at 1.5 per reception

– Developmental draft in August annually. Each owner gets one developmental draft pick to select a college player who will be draft eligible in the following season’s NFL Draft. These picks are tradeable one year in advance. Each team has the ability to put one college player on their taxi squad, but any additional picks/players acquired must be rostered in place of an NFL player. Prior to the draft, each player can be traded as well.

– No kicker required. We felt that the kicker scoring was too random and decided to eliminate them.

DLF: How are divisions setup in your league?

SW: In the past we used divisions, but since everyone plays each other only once in these leagues we changed the structure since the divisions did not have any impact with the exception of an optical presentation. We decided to eliminate them.

DLF: How is the rookie draft handled? Any special rules or features?

SW: It’s a slow draft with a 12-hour timer per pick. It occurs annually the week after the NFL draft. No special features other than the impact of the development draft, which dilutes the rookie draft pick value and pool to select from.

DLF: How did you go about creating rules that has resulted in a successful league?

SW: I used the rules from some of my other leagues and then tailored them to the extent I wanted to incorporate new philosophies. I think one of the most important things is to add rules that keep people engaged throughout the year and keep them interested (such as a college draft, year-round waivers, trading throughout the year, etc).

DLF: What are some of the specific rules you have that makes your league unique and successful?

SW: The most frequent positive feedback I’ve received relates to the roster sizes and the first come first served waivers year-round. Many like the fact that roughly 310 rostered players makes the waiver wire activity compelling and the add/drop decisions difficult. It’s difficult to hoard players in a 14-team league with 22 player rosters. You ALWAYS have to keep tabs on the waiver activity. If a drop occurs, more often than not… the dropped player is scooped right up by another owner in the BB leagues.

DLF: How do you handle controversy in your league? Can you give me an example?

SW: Controversy is about being objective as a commish and asking the other owners in the league for assistance (especially if they’re experienced owners and/or commishes).

I had an instance of suspected tanking a few years ago where an owner suggested that an owner who was in the bottom 3rd of the league was tanking by trading away their only starting QB (McNabb) for a college player (CJ Spiller). People claimed this was tanking. I felt that it was a legit move and he was playing for the future. It turned out to be a great move in hindsight, but I understand where the concern was coming from. I decided to get two other owners in the league together who weren’t involved in the trade and who I knew would be objective from my previous experience with them. We privately interacted via email and decided it was a legit move with a 3-person vote. It worked out quite well for all parties involved and the league was satisfied.

DLF: Are league decisions made solely by you, or does that league vote on issues?

SW: All decisions are by a league vote with the exception of adding a new owner. Sometimes that’s put to a vote if there are two quality potential owners, but more often than not, it’s a decision that I’ve made. I know some treat it differently in other leagues where a new owner must be approved, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen a prospective owner voted down as a replacement.

DLF: What is something that could ruin an otherwise strong league?

SW: Bad attitudes, owners who don’t care, and/or a biased commish. Owners with bad attitudes create grudges amongst the other owners and lead to spit fires on the message board, in the chat, etc. Owners that don’t care or tank can also create resentment and there’s a fine line there, but as long as the commish is engaged and monitoring things – that should keep a strong league going.

The last thing is a biased commish. I haven’t come across many in the 15 leagues I’m a part of, but as a commish it’s important to be unbiased. You have a vested interest since most are also an owner. However, I’d say that as a commish I typically put the league before myself and sometimes end up with the short-end of the stick.

DLF: What are the main reasons your league has become so successful?

SW: Great owners. It’s all about the owners who are interested and competitive. Oh… and slight rule twists like the college draft and 1.5 PPR for TEs doesn’t hurt.

DLF: How many leagues do you commish?

SW: Five!

Next, I contacted three owners that participate in the Backyard Brawl leagues to get their opinion on the leagues.

Dan Furman

DLF: Is there a rule or feature that sets this league apart from others?

DF: The BB leagues have a lot of flex options, and TE/WR are interchangeable. Plus, TE’s get 1.5 ppr. You can build a competing team many different ways. This was also the first league I played in that used college developmental players. Adds another layer of strategy to the whole thing, whether you pick players or trade your devy pick.

DLF: What are some things the commissioner does or has done to help create a strong league?

DF: Steve is a great commissioner, and he makes sure he gets good owners. Any problems are handled quickly, and he pays out right away.

DLF: Overall, what are the main reasons this league has become successful?

DF: There’s always activity. We have smaller rosters (21/22 players), with 14 teams. Combine that with FCFS waivers all offseason (with no player lockout), and you have a lot of activity/movement. It’s not unusual to see one WW move create a chain reaction of people picking up each other’s drops.

Michael Rapolas

 

DLF: Is there a rule or feature that sets this league apart from others?

MR: One rule which I particularly enjoy is the fact that there is no K position.  While I admit that I am a purist at heart, one mantra that I live with is “Dare to be different.”  I participate in both BBI and BBV, and last year’s BBV startup draft eliminated the kicker position from the outset.  It allows for an even deeper roster and at least an additional position to be able to speculate and take a flyer on a player that might otherwise be sitting on the wire.  BBI then voted to eliminate the kicker as well, so there is a consistency across the BB leagues.

DLF: What are some things the commissioner does or has done to help create a strong league?

MR: I think the biggest reason is that Steve is very much on top of things, which is not exactly easy to do when you have people spread across the country.  Being on top of things also allows him to make swift decisions and take the sometimes tough necessary actions, which unfortunately needed to be done recently in BBV.  One other item is the level of detail taken when adding someone to a league.  When I first made my interest known in BBI four years ago, Steve did a thorough background check to ensure that I was going to be a quality owner who would add a level of intelligence and reliability, including directly contacting the long-term commish of my local Dynasty league.  It’s that type of thoroughness that has led to a group of strong and dedicated owners across all the leagues.

DLF: Overall, what are the main reasons this league has become successful?

MR: The promotion of general camaraderie of all owners by far has allowed for a friendly, yet competitive, level of competition.  While there is turnover, which is inevitable in just about any league, it is always smooth and effortless at least from every experience I have had.  A quality commish, serious and knowledgable owners, and a competitive format has allowed these leagues to thrive.

Rob Pitzer

DLF: Is there a rule or feature that sets this league apart from others?

RP: I’m in three Backyard Brawl leagues and the scoring and roster setups there do a great job of making players at all positions valuable.  WRs and TEs are interchangeable, there are two flex positions and TEs are favored with 1.5 PPR.  Combined with 14 teams and pretty deep rosters it means that you can afford to roster any decent prospects and there’s an incentive to do it.  It’s pretty rare that a guy starts to break out and is available on the WW — he’s usually rostered by that point.

DLF: What are some things the commissioner does or has done to help create a strong league?

RP: I think these two answers are basically the same and I think my answers here probably apply to all good leagues — certainly including the Hyper Active leagues that Ryan runs (I’m in two).

Steve and Ryan do a great job of making sure that everything happens when it’s supposed to, and keeping the league informed of anything coming up on the league schedule.  It also helps that the leagues are active year round — the commissioners know a lot of committed players and fill any empty positions with people who are going to check in often and respond to trade talk or offers quickly.  Those two things sounds really basic, but some leagues have commissioners just aren’t as attentive or communicative, or have too many owners who are slow to respond or take the off-season off and IMO the leagues really suffer as a result.

Another thing that both of these commissioners bring to the table that helps make a good league is that they’re mature, fair and have good judgment.  There are always going to be unexpected situations that come up when you have a dozen or more really competitive players going at it, so having commissioners you can trust to sort things out helps a ton.  Even when you ‘lose’ an argument you know that the process was fair and the commissioner did what was in the best interest of the league.

Editor’s Note: Thanks for all the support of DLF in July – we posted a house record of 64 articles in a single month. It’s the enthusiasm of our followers here that continues to drive us to new heights.

Ryan McDowell
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Jimmy Graham Cracker
10 years ago

I’m commishing my first dynasty league this year – love these articles, thanks for the perspective.

jeff hemlick
10 years ago

great article. I will be presenting the idea of the developmental draft to my league. Thanks

repeat
10 years ago

I wonder what the TE requirements are and if a TE gets 1.0 or 1.5 Points per reception?

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