Whether you are a beginner or veteran dynasty manager, joining a league can be one of the best experiences in fantasy football, but it can also become one of the worst decisions you can make if the situation isn’t right for you.
With over 20 years experience as both an owner and commissioner, I’m here to help guide you toward the path of success when it comes to joining the right league. I’m going to steer you through the important aspects of selecting a dynasty league, and perhaps by the end of this article, you’ll be ready to expand your ownership by a team or two.
League Type and Offering
When looking for a new league to join, don’t dive into the first opening you find. Instead, you should figure out what you are craving the most beforehand, and then find a league that matches your criteria.
Similar to buying a house, you should narrow down your search to core “must-haves”. Should it be a 1QB, 2QB, or Superflex? Should it be a tight end premium, IDP, and/or Devy league? Should it be a small 10-team league or would you rather join something larger?
The other aspect of joining a league is (a) taking over an already existing team or (b) joining a new league from scratch. Each of these options comes with its own set of variables, positive and negative, that will be deciding factors towards your decision:
Existing League Pros:
– The league will have a track record and a history you can search
– Draft picks are usually pretty decent since vacant teams usually have the weakest rosters
– You may be part of a dispersal that adds the ability to put your fingerprint on creating your roster
– The team name and banner has been created, which you can choose to keep, saving you time and effort
– Rules have already been created and agreed upon, eliminating the sometimes excruciating process of constitutional discussions
Existing League Cons:
– The roster you take over is probably pretty bad, or;
– The dispersal draft is probably thin since most vacant teams have bad rosters
– Another team or two in the league is usually loaded with talent and will be hard to beat in your first year
– You don’t know the other owners that well, so you don’t know who the sharks and fish are right away
– Other owners know intricate details of the rules, and if you aren’t wise to them yourself, trades can become lop-sided without you realizing it until it’s too late
New League Pros:
– The startup draft is arguably the best part of any dynasty league
– Everyone starts from scratch, nobody is better or worse off than anyone else
– You might get to have a say in the rules before they are cemented into place
New League Cons:
– With no league history to rely on and an unproven commissioner to lead the way, there’s a small chance this league dies in the immediate future, ruining any time and effort you’ve invested into it
– Rules discussions may take place, and arguments and disagreements may fracture any developing relationship within the league
– Hiccups often occur in year one, and the solution for such issues isn’t always obvious
I would never get too bogged down in the minutiae, but your main must-haves should be easily obtainable. Smaller details can be adjusted to later, or even changed if the league by-laws allow, but the main theme of the league will almost always be unchangeable, so make sure you are all-in on such a format before you decide to join.
Once you figure out the kind of league you are interested in and the type of team to take over – new versus existing – the next step is to find out where one such team is available.
This is going to sound like a homer pick, but my go-to for any league I’m looking for is on the DLF forums. We have a dedicated league-finder subforum that allows anyone to post if they are searching for a league or if a spot is available. The sub is moderated and sorted by activity, so you always see the newest available leagues at the top.
Another website I like is the Find-A-League subreddit, which has been another favorite of mine over the past several years. It has a wide-reaching audience as one of the largest websites on the planet, and the sub itself is growing every day as a result.
You may also feel compelled to use Twitter, Google, or another platform to search for a league. Whatever site you choose for your search, make sure it’s a reputable site that’s moderated daily. Find a league yourself by reading and replying to the want ads. Don’t be the one to create an ad, or else you’ll be bombarded with DMs and be pressured into joining a league you aren’t interested in.
Always be on the lookout for potential scams, which is a problem that has grown over the years. There is an intricate post I made on the DLF forums on how to spot scams, and what to do when you suspect you may be part of one. I have found many scams over the years and I work to make sure nobody on DLF forums becomes a victim of one.
In the more elaborate scams, a league commissioner will advertise for a new league or a league that’s one year old to give the impression that it’s trustworthy. The settings will be general with no specific intricate details to appeal to a wide audience. The website league host will be free. The league chat will only be filled with new owners, and the payment for these scam leagues will usually be $100 minimum.
What is actually happening is that the commissioner owns half the teams in the league with fake emails. They will get you and all the other new owners to fork over their entry fees, and then the commissioner will then use the fake emails to vote a full payout to himself and disappear.
The best ways to avoid these scams are to research a league, find out the history of the commissioner, and if possible, talk to already existing owners within that league. Don’t fork over any money to any commissioner without doing research first, as explained below.
Researching A League
When you come across a league or two that piques your interest, make sure you take a good long look into the software it uses – Yahoo, Sleeper, MFL, etc – and what other programs the owners use in its day-to-day operations, such as Slack or GroupMe to communicate. Make sure you know, use, and trust those websites before you make a decision.
Read the rules from head to toe. Make sure questions you had were answered within the rules, and any interesting quirks about the league aren’t too off-putting to turn you away. If something is unclear or ambiguous, ask the commissioner to explain. Any commissioner worth their weight will make the effort to satisfy your requests.
Free leagues need less scrutiny, but pay-to-play leagues require the use of a decent third-party website, such as league safe, in order to handle everyone’s funds safely. If the league you’re interested in doesn’t have a history beyond a year, or uses PayPal or Venmo to handle their operations, I would be suspicious and probably move on to find one with a history and payment processing that I can trust.
This too often overlooked aspect of joining leagues is probably the single most important aspect of joining the right league. If the commissioner is always too busy to reply, or gives you quick one-sentence replies, then you’re either looking at a commissioner that isn’t fully committed, or someone who is looking to scam you out of your funds.
Make sure you research the post history of the person who placed the ad of the league you are interested in. Does the person sound intelligent and mature? Is the person talking about politics and taking a rather aggressive stance on issues that you’d rather avoid? Does the person who made the ad only have posts that recruit people and nothing else?
Don’t join a league if the commissioner is short with you, doesn’t answer your questions, and doesn’t appear to be organized. A decent commissioner will be easy to get a hold of, will have created a thorough ruleset, and will take the time and effort to make a satisfactory advertisement that explains the details without being confusing.
If the commissioner has taken the time to spruce up the appearance of the league like you can with the settings in MFL, take that into consideration. A commissioner that goes above and beyond in any aspect of running a league will be someone who is often reliable short and long term.
Lastly, if you can, make sure the commissioner is mature enough to handle tough situations. You shouldn’t join a league that’s run by a teenager, and you shouldn’t join a league whose commissioner is running ten or more leagues at the same time. A commissioner that’s spreading himself thin will often lead to mistakes made at some point down the road, or he or she could ghost the league if things become too stressful.
I hope this article has helped you see more than just the face value of finding a new league. I invite any reader out there to share their experiences and offer their advice and insight below. We’re all in this together. Too much information is never a bad thing. Let’s help each other achieve success by joining a league that manifests a fun inclusive environment.
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