When the USFL was announced a few months ago, many people were excited for the promise of spring football in general, but some hardcore alt football fans immediately thought of other possibilities. The first big topic that came up was betting lines, and just the gambling aspect in general, and with this train of thought it isn’t too many stops before you reach fantasy football! Now, while there isn’t a way currently to play through a network or big company ran site, the lovely football fans over at AltFantasySports.com have got you covered!
AltFantasySports.com is a smaller website that doesn’t have all of the glitz and glam of ESPN or Yahoo, but they are growing and still bringing a great user interface and avenue for fantasy football in the USFL. With the smaller site aspect there is bound to be a few bugs and things to overcome, but have no fear, Ace is here, with some tips on setting up a league and having a successful draft! The other big hurdle we have come to learn from our own USFL Network league draft was a few ways to strategize for a USFL draft as far as choosing your team, which we will discuss in the second part of this article.
Setting Up a USFL Fantasy League
DISCLAIMER: This article is written with a H2H league in mind and not a Most Points style
The first thing you need to decide when starting a USFL fantasy league is how many teams you want to have in your league. This can be tricky as there are currently only 8 teams in the USFL (Bring back the Chicago Blitz and Denver Gold!) which limits player selections and most importantly, quarterbacks. The three most common league sizes you will see are 4, 6, and 8 man (or woman) leagues. Each of these sizes is a completely viable league size, each with their own advantages and drawbacks.
With a 4-team league, you are basically scrimmaging all season until playoffs which are basically set from the get-go. With a 6-team league you have 3 team divisions which makes playoff seeding a bit odd. With an 8-team league, every team is basically locked in with their QB, DEF, and Kicker for the entire season which adds extra pressure and importance to these picks. No matter what league size you pick, you can still have plenty of fun and beat your friends in good ole fantasy football.
With a league of only 8 teams, and the options given to you on the AltFantasySports.com website, you can get pretty creative with your positional setup. The website gives you the normal position options of QB, RB, Flex, etc, but where it can get Miami spring break wild is the option of a Super-Flex. A normal flex position can hold a RB, WR, or TE in it, but the Super-Flex adds QB to the flex list. A large struggle with USFL Fantasy Football is that there are only 8 starting quarterbacks in the league. This fact makes it a little difficult to put together a fantasy league with more than 8 teams in it. To be completely transparent, I assumed 8 was the limit, but in our first Blitz Brothers Fantasy Show on the USFLNETWORK we had guest Matt Morse, a writer for the Sports Gambling Podcast Network, and he showed us the light. You can have a league with all Super-Flex positions! This makes having a QB not a necessity, but instead a luxury. Like I said earlier, Miami spring break wild.
Other than the super crazy setups, we would recommend having a fairly simple setup for your league. We believe the sweet spot for rosters setups is:
As some explanation behind this setup, we like having one of each of the normal positions, but give a little creative liberty with a second flex position. It is hard to have more than one specific RB roster position as there are only 8 teams and only half have more than 2 running backs on their roster in general. Also, only 2 bench positions as there is a much more limited player pool for waivers than in an NFL league, and for any super intense fantasy football players out there, exciting waivers is a MUST. Also, nobody knows with any actual degree of accuracy how these players will actually be, so having a smaller altogether roster helps spread the talent evenly and keep things interesting and more importantly, fun!
You have the option to set up how the scoring works in your league much like a main stream fantasy football app. All of the normal scoring is there such as passing TDs, passing yards, interceptions, etc. One of the only wonky rule we found was that a field goal is scored per yard. For those of you imagining a kicker racking up kick yards like a QB racks up passing yards, I’m sorry not sorry to disappoint you. The default setting is that every field goal earns .1 per yard the kick was. For those who don’t feel like doing the math, I put my degree to more use than I have in years and did it for you! A 30 yards field goal will be 3 points, a 65 yard field goal would be 6.5 points, and also madly impressive. Other than kicking, we recommend setting up your league scoring system the same as you would for any other fantasy football league. Unless you don’t want it to be normal, in which case you do you, it’s not our league!
USFL Fantasy Draft Setup
Scheduling your draft is going to be an integral part of any USFL fantasy league for a multitude of reasons. The first reason is that it is most fun to have a fantasy football draft when everyone is actually drafting. It isn’t nearly as fun to draft when half of the league is auto-drafting and your draft basically just goes down the player ranking list verbatim. Other than the shear boredom and unoriginality of having people auto draft, it also causes a few other problems.
The AltFantasySports website has its pitfalls, but we don’t want to dwell on them too long, instead we will just give you some ways to mitigate problems. One of the large problems we noticed with auto-drafting is that it does not take your roster positions into account. During the draft you can click on the roster tab and see who the other teams have drafted so far, but it will only show a list of the players on the team and not what positions you have filled and what positions you have left to fill. In our Network league we had a few auto-drafters and they ended up with no kicker, defense, or backup QB. Another thing we noticed, was that teams that were predominately auto-drafted ended up with more tight ends than most people would most likely want on a smaller fantasy roster (no offense to our tight end friends). The main lesson to take away here, is that you should try your hardest to have everyone in your league agree on a time and date, and BE THERE (online or in person).
There isn’t much that goes into the actual draft setup itself. You are basically responsible for three things which are what time & date, how long per pick, and draft order. Super simple and hard to mess up, right? WRONG. It is important to understand the limitations of the website and how fast the mind and computer can work during the draft.
For our league draft we had 8 teams and 30 seconds per pick. It was over in about 20 minutes. Even the people who were online for the draft, myself included, ended up having the computer auto-pick before we could lock in our picks. This led to some… disgruntled people, and a mess of post draft rosters, but that’s showbiz baby! I would recommend a minute and a half per pick, at minimum a full minute. The website gets a tad overwhelmed, who doesn’t, and will lag and freeze here and there. You want to attempt to guarantee everyone actively participating will have ample time to make their pick. If you are able to get everyone on at the same time, and most picks are actually picked, you should consider your draft a success.
USFL Fantasy Drafting Strategy
The USFL is a smaller alternative football league that is extremely similar to the NFL as far as rules and play go, but when drafting a fantasy team in a USFL Fantasy league it has its differences. The main differences will be the smaller player pool to draft from, the fairly top heavy talent, and the different position setups. The nice part of having a fantasy draft for a brand new professional league is that every pick is basically a toss up, as we have no idea how players will actually turn out, but we can still strategize.
Your First Pick
There are only 4 to 8 picks in the first round depending on your league, and where you land in the draft order determines your first pick (obvious I know). But there are some strategies to think about. If you get one of the top two picks then we highly HIGHLY recommend that you take Bryan Scott or Jordan Ta’amu. There is no strategy to the first two picks as they are basically a no brainer, but from here is where you can play it a few different ways.
With pick three and on in the first round you can either run down the list of quarterbacks, or you can take a risk and take the best RB or WR on the board. A running back like former EFL MVP Madre London or Stars WR1 Jordan Suell could be the move here as outside of the top 2 QBs, its basically up in the air. Many writers and USFL analysts have Sloter of the Breakers as a top 3 Quarterback, but he was the last QB drafted in the first round, and we think there is possibly a reason for this, so we say take the risk and grab a RB.
The Mid-Round Picks
After the first round you probably still recognize some players and feel fairly confident in their abilities. Take the players you know and have a bit of trust with. In the mid rounds, we would say it matters more to get players you like and have confidence in than focusing on filling out your starting roster. In the mid rounds, if you see players that you know such as Teo Redding or maybe a Jay Adams, but you already have the max wide receivers that you can start at once, just jump on them and add some depth you can rely on rather than filling out your roster with mediocrity that you will probably drop after week 1.
Drafting Your Defense
In this league there are only 8 defenses, which means whichever one you draft, you need to be happy with. The odds are that there won’t be a lot of screening defenses week to week in USFL Fantasy Leagues. More than likely, you will be stuck with the defense that you draft for most of the season. In a normal NFL fantasy league, I have never drafted a defense before the final two rounds before, but I have to break this thought process in the USFL. If you think that the Houston Gamblers defense is the best defense (I do), then when you have filled out your starting roster and see that the talent has thinned, grab your defense, don’t hesitate. Having the best defense could be the difference in a winning and a losing season.
Late Round Picks
Luckily, the drafts in the USFL Fantasy Football don’t last too long unless you have a crazy deep roster setup, but I hope for your sake you don’t. Unluckily, once you get to the deeper part of the draft you get to players that you, and sadly I, know very little about. At this point what is the best route would be to spread your depth amongst all the teams in the USFL. What I mean by this is that if you don’t have a receiver or running back from a specific team in the league, then go for those. This league will have some stars, but the likelihood of multiple being on the same team is fairly low. Having two or three receivers from the Stallions may not be a great move as they are all sharing touches within the team’s receiver core, and in one game likely only one if any will put out a decent fantasy day. Now if you have one receiver from the Stallions and one from the Breakers, then there is a much higher chance that both could have a good day than if they were on the same team. So, in the late rounds, I would say this is the time to hedge bets and provide yourself with some coverage around the league.
Don’t Freak Out
When you look at the big picture, this league is a total crap shoot as far as fantasy football goes. If you don’t get a lot of the guys you had circled on your list, don’t freak out! Every fantasy team drafted for a USFL league has an equal chance until we actually see some play. Now that you’ve drafted, all you need to do is sit back, relax, and prepare for an awesome season of Spring Football! Watch the games closely as I believe these fantasy leagues will be won by playing the waivers and trade blocks in 90% of cases. If you draft a team that requires zero roster moves throughout the entire season, then post it on twitter because I refuse to believe it. Now get out there and draft like a champion!