Roto Football: It’s a Thing!
Congratulations, you have just taken your first step into a happier world. The world of Fantasy Football with no kickers, no defense, no matchups, and no excuses. You have the chance to control your own destiny from week to week. You are now in a world where a Fantasy owner’s early season triumphs cannot be erased by one bad week in December. Welcome to Roto Football. Welcome to the Fantrax Rotisserie Football League.
For those of you who are unaware, “roto” stands for “rotisserie.” It is the original format for Fantasy sports, and it is amazing and pure. The concept is simple. Track statistics of preselected categories throughout the entire season and the Fantasy player who achieves the overall best results is declared the winner. Amazing right? A format where the best team actually wins. The format is the standard for Fantasy Baseball and I am here to spread the love to Fantasy Football with the help of Fantasy experts throughout the industry.
An Introduction to Roto Football
I will be covering the 15-team Fantrax Roto Football League from pre-draft to championship. We will highlight the strategy and philosophy for drafting and running a team when faced with a brand new format than head-to-head. So, with that being said, let me get into the specifics of the league itself starting with…
Roto Football Rules
As explained above, the roto football format is quite simple. We have selected 10 categories that will be used for scoring. The idea is to finish as high in the standings for each category as you can. How is the score kept you may ask? Good question. Let’s say you have 10 teams in your league and the first category is “passing yards.” Every week the total passing yards accumulated by each team is added to the standings. The team with the most passing yards will be designated a score of 10 points. The worst team will be given a score of one. This is because there are 10 teams in the league. Each team will be assigned a score based on how they performed in each category.
At the end of the season, the point designations will be made final for each category. The winner is decided by who holds the overall highest score by adding all of the category scores together. Make sense? Trust me, it’s easy and painless. So, now that we know the rules why don’t we take a look at…
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The categories will be the specific statistics being tracked to keep score in the league. They can be anything you wish, but there are some standard categories that most are comfortable with and that is the direction we decided to go with. The official categories for the Fantrax Roto Football League are:
- Passing Yards
- Passing Touchdowns
- Completion Percentage
- Total Rushes
- Rushing Yards
- Rushing Touchdowns
- Total Receptions
- Receiving Yards
- Receiving Touchdowns
The strategy in roto is to perform as well as possible, in every category. I should say, the strategy is to finish with a better overall score when all categories are combined than everyone else in the league. If you concentrate all of your attention on drafting the best wide receivers and pass-catching running backs then you are going to dominate “total receptions” and “receiving yards”, but you are likely to suffer in “total rushes”. For the sake of argument let’s say a team did exactly that, and they finished number one in the league in both receptions and receiving yards. That would give them 20 points (10 for each category for finishing first in a 10-team league).
Let’s also say that in order to do that, the Fantasy owner neglected to draft a ground and pound running back and finished last in the league in “total rushes.” The player would receive one point for this category, giving them a grand total of 21 points for the three categories. Hey, two out of three ain’t bad right? Wrong. Why is it wrong? Well, I will tell you. While “Team A” was busy dominating the receiving categories, “Team B” decided to have a balanced attack and finished third in “total rushes” and 4th in both receiving categories. “Team B” was awarded eight points for the rushing category, and seven points each for the receiving ones. Therefore they have 22 points in those categories and the lead over “Team A.”
The funny part is that the first team finished way out in front in all of the receiving categories, with no one else was even close. On the other hand, “Team B” barely finished in front of the team behind them in all of their categories. Does it matter? Nope. “Team B” is still the winner in this scenario. The idea is not to win categories, it’s to build a team that will allow you to compete in a way that will allow you to get the most league points as possible. Welcome to Roto folks. This is chess, not checkers.
Roto Football Rosters
The team rosters can be configured in any way you wish for a roto league. This is how we have decided to do it in the 15-team Fantrax Roto Football League:
- Quarterback (1)
- Running Back (2)
- Wide Receiver (2)
- Tight End (1)
- Flex (4)
- Bench (6)
The flex sports can be used for a running back, wide receiver, or tight end. We considered using a “Super Flex” roster spot. This would allow a QB to occupy a flex position but decided against it due to the size of our league (not enough quarterbacks to go around). Believe me, we did not agree on this matter. I highly recommend trying a super flex spot in shallower formats, as it adds a new dimension of strategy and fun to the league.
Here are the fantasy football experts who will be participating in the 2018 Fantrax Roto Football League. Feel free to reach out to them to discuss the format and seek out fantasy advice (or just to bug them, doesn’t matter to me):
- Matthew Williams (@MattWi77iams) – Fantrax, FantasyPros, Fake Teams, Rotoballer
- Mark Abell (@MWAbell) – Fake Teams
- Doug Anderson (@RotoDaddy) – Fantrax
- Chris Allen (@ChrisAllenFFWX) – Fantrax, Co-host of Dynasty Manual Podcast
- Ghoji Blackburn (@Blacks08) – Fake Teams, Co-Host of the Double Switch Podcast
- Pierre Camus (@pfunk00) – RotoBaller, Host of the Fantasy Bomb Podcast
- Paddi Cooper (@PaddiCooper) – Fake Teams
- TheFFGhost (@TheFFGhost) – Dynasty League Football, RotoViz
- Nate Hamilton (@DomiNateFF) – Dominate Fantasy, The Fantasy FootBallers, Co-host of the Fantasy Tilt Podcast
- John LaPresto (@TheJohnLaPresto) – So Called Fantasy Experts
- Chris Meaney (@chrismeaney) – Fantrax, Fantasy Pros, The Fantasy Footballers
- Joe Pisapia (@JoePisapia17) – Fantrax, Author of “Fantasy Black Book”
- Kyle Richardson (@krich1532) – RotoBaller, Co-host of RotoBaller Game Day
- Jen Smith (@TheOnlyJenSmith) – Fantasy Authority, Co-host of Redshirts Fantasy Football Podcast
- Steve Toroni (@Steven_Toroni) – Fantrax
Roto Football Strategy
This format should favor those with a balanced attack. As a fantasy team owner in roto you want to make sure you have consistent production you can count on all season long. You do not need to gamble on huge upside guys from week-to-week in order to win a matchup. You will not need to bench a “safe” running back on a Monday night because you need a huge score and a volatile wide receiver gives you that chance to win that week. The strategy in roto is to chip away, week after week. You do not need a great week, what you need are a lot of good ones.
I asked each member of the Fantrax Roto League to give their thoughts on the format and how it may change their strategy going into the season. While some league members choose to keep their philosophy close to the vest, others like Pierre Camus from Rotoballer, chose to open their playbook a bit for readers to see. “I am an open book,” were the exact words from Camus. We have a few roto veterans (mostly from playing Fantasy Baseball), but the league is mostly comprised of those that are new to the format. Let’s take a look at what some of this year participants had to say:
“Being in a Fantasy Football Roto League may prompt you to reconsider your previous game plan when it comes to drafting, but for me, nothing is changing. The main thing when joining a new league or participating in a league that is different is to not overthink anything. Yes, you may have some new rules or settings, but if you have been playing fantasy sports for a while, you know what has worked and what hasn’t worked in the past.
I am a RB heavy guy. Very rarely will I go without getting my RB1 option. Since I will be picking fifth overall, I have a good chance to land one of the big running backs if someone else decides to go receiver. I prefer picking at the back end of the first round, but like I said in a new format, don’t over think anything. I get to pick a top five player. That is always a good start. Give me a top running back or if they all go first, I get to pick between Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins or Odell Beckham Jr. More than likely Brown will be my choice here if I can’t get the running back I want.”
-Kyle Richardson (RotoBaller)
“Though the premise of the Roto football league is new to me, it broadly follows the scoring pattern of fantasy soccer leagues, something I’ve played in for many years. I love the idea of the format, trying new types of leagues is something I try to do every year to improve my ability to analyze players and develop draft strategies and I can already see that my strategy will be quite different to how I draft in redraft leagues. I’m excited to get started.”
-Paddi Cooper (Fake Teams)
Are you ready to play #FantasyFootball with no excuses? Check out the Fantrax Rotisserie Football League w/ 15 of the industries best experts. No Kickers, No Defense, No Matchups, No Excuses. The revolution starts Tues on @Fantrax w/ an intro of the league. #FantraxRotoFootball pic.twitter.com/8a0dh2Ls2a
“At first glance, the Roto format looks like it doesn’t reward risk. The scoring system awards points to owners that have the greatest amount of stats in each category. In order to amass the required amount of yards or touchdowns, you’d need a solid base of players with weekly upside. You’re looking for guarantees or as close to it as you can come to fantasy sports. Production or, better yet, the sustained production looks to be the recipe for success. The players you can count on for 15-20 touches a game or 7-10 receptions are the key…
My strategy will most likely revolve around these thoughts. Players that are regarded as volatile will have their place, but it’ll require some added research into the most optimal weeks to use them. For instance, a player like Tyrell Williams or Ted Ginn would be more matchup-based starters. I’d rather sacrifice the deep threat upside for more reliable, yet lesser, stat line. Admittedly, this approach won’t always be viable based on available players, bye weeks, or injuries. However, I’d consider it a tie-breaker in most cases while drafting.
Overall, minimizing risk appears to be critical in this format. Weekly updates will change the landscape and make trades more appealing, but during the draft, seasonal projections and overall team outlook/role will be critical. Consistency will be prioritized over most other descriptors (therefore suppressing rookie value) with an eye on some volatility later on in the draft.”
– Chris Allen (Fantrax)
“I don’t think my strategy will change too much from a H2H to this roto league. With categories like “receptions,” I will treat the draft as if it is a PPR league. Although with the QB categories, I probably won’t devalue QB as much as I do in H2H.”
– Ghoji Blackburn (Fake Teams)
“Roto is associated with most major fantasy sports, so why not football? As an almost exclusively H2H weekly format, fantasy football relies heavily on matchups and individual performances to win. I think the roto format will make owners think more about player skills rather than team context. A QB on a team that will be in the top 10 in pass attempts usually leads to high volume of yardage and touchdowns, but the inclusion of Completion % and turnovers will force each team to think about quality rather than just quantity.
Our particular scoring rules definitely favor the running backs, which will make things very interesting now that the league is so heavily dominated by the passing game. In a 15-team league, I have a feeling the early rounds will be completely dominated by RBs while waiting on a QB makes more sense than ever. In an expert league like this, each owner will have to think carefully about each pick. Having 15 teams also means that this league will surely be won on draft day, as waivers will be tough to count on.”
– Pierre Camus (RotoBaller)
“I’ve never done this scoring format before and frankly am a little surprised I haven’t, having now looked at the pros over a H2H format. Roto allows fantasy owners to stay invested throughout the year, as their W-L records aren’t what dictates their opportunity to win the league. You just have to outscore your opponents in each category to accumulate the most points. In most leagues, you need a solid record to make playoffs and have a shot, so owners’ motivation and investment decreases if their squad struggles as the season progresses. It also eliminates the frustration of monstering the same week as your opponent, losing, and then realizing you outscored the majority of your league. Yet, it doesn’t matter. You lost your matchup for the week. We’ve all been there.
Secondly, I anticipate drafting to be more balanced across the skill positions, as it doesn’t make sense to stack one position and punt another unless you’re trying to gather trade bait. I think this will decrease the strategies of zero-this and zero-that and move towards BPA and balanced rosters, which I like. Plus, even the scoring system is more well-rounded and you can tweak it to your league mates preferences. We will have 10 scoring categories in our league for example. So instead of just fantasy points dictating your success, it is #of carries, completion percentage, pass yards, etc.. It just lends itself to a more well-balanced approach to the game and paying attention across multiple categories.
Lastly, it just seems like the league will be more active than most of my redraft leagues in the way of trades. It’s never been my strong suit because I’m a redraft player at the core and these leagues (at least mine) tend to trade minimally. In Roto format, you could get a strong enough lead in one category to feel comfortable trading a “top dog” in order to gain ground in another category and strengthen your chances of winning in the end.
The idea of trading a top-tier position player isn’t so absurd because you’re not counting on him to carry your team each week in H2H. Overall, I’m just excited to participate in a different kind of league, as I think this is how seasoned fantasy football players stay intrigued and involved with the game. If you get bored with monotonous scoring formats and inactive leagues, you lose touch with how fun this game can be. At the risk of sounding nerdy, I want to win, but I want to learn a new part of the game and be a well-rounded fantasy player/owner too. Bring it on, Roto format.
– Jen Smith (The Fantasy Authority)
For me, the roto format makes Fantasy sports more about us than the actual players. Sure it’s still important to properly evaluate NFL players, but this format creates so many more opportunities to implement our own unique strategies. There are now more things I can do to affect the success of my team. I may not be the best evaluator of football talent, but if I can manipulate the categories, I can still win this league. Gameplay is now much more important. Isn’t that what Fantasy Sports is supposed to be about?
The Fantrax Roto League will begin it’s 15-team slow draft on Wednesday, July 11. Every Tuesday throughout the season I will be bringing you insight into the progress of the league. We will break down the entire draft, with thoughts from our league experts on how their strategy played out.
You will get a behind the scenes look at how I run my squad and the decisions that are made that differ from head-to-head. You will also get to see our waiver wire strategy and lineup decisions while even mulling over trades that go down all season long. By the way, just because I am documenting the league for “scientific” purposes doesn’t mean I am not going to take the championship down. I am. Let the games begin. From the draft to the championship, you are going to see what it’s like to be in a no excuses roto league for Fantasy Football.
If you are excited about the format and want to start your own roto league, be sure to head to the league creation page of Fantrax.com. If you have any questions about the rules and settings of the Fantrax Roto League, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @MattWi77iams and I will be sure to answer. I have been looking to do this project for a long time, and I am excited to see how it turns out.
- Part One: Roto Football, It’s A Thing (7/10) (Rules/Format/Scoring) : Currently Reading
- Part Two: The Anatomy of a Roto Football Draft 7/18 (Pre-draft)
- Part Three: Roto Football: Slow Draft Results & Analysis (7/24)
- Part Four: (Coming Soon….)