Do you think you're good at fantasy football? Do you always seem to do well in your local league or free Yahoo or ESPN league? Eventually, the really skilled fantasy players get to the point where they crave a challenge that goes beyond beating up on their local buddies. Let's face it, the "dope factor" can be pretty high in these leagues sometimes. Sure it's fun to take their money and run, but don't you crave something more of a challenge? It may be time you promote yourself to the big leagues and take on some of the "big boys" of fantasy football. If you have the means to do so (meaning cash), it can be a fun ride knocking heads with some seasoned fantasy players. There is an opportunity for a big payday, but the overall experience is priceless. It is important to note that just because these are national competitions, it doesn't mean that everyone's skill level is off the charts. Rather, these are open invitation type leagues where anyone with enough money can get into them. You will find players with different levels experience, so if you are at all intimidated, don't be. Jump into the ring. If you do well in your "smaller" leagues, you are likely to fare well in one of these high profile competitions as well.
There are three well known high stakes leagues:
- WCOFF (World Championship of Fantasy Football)
- NFFC (National Fantasy Football Championship)
- AFFL (American Fantasy Football League)
The number of high stakes leagues is growing (and some others have previously been started and failed), but these three represent the ones that are most established. Each one has, at its core, a "main event type" competition where hundreds of teams compete against each other for a chance at a big payday. They all follow a similar model. Quite simply, win your individual league, then move on to the championship round where all of the league champs (and high point scorers) are lumped together to battle for the grand prize. Each offers a consolation championship round as well, where entrants battle for lesser prizes. Consider it an NIT bracket.
All the gory details of fees and prizes are available on each event's website. In this article, we'll try to touch on the items which distinguish each from the other.
AFFL - American Fantasy Football League
- This is an on-line only league, meaning that the draft is conducted exclusively over the internet. The draft engine itself is pretty slick (and powered by MockDraftCentral by the way). When you register for your league, you are assigned to a 12 team league and are generated a random draft slot. Various dates and times are available for the drafts, which makes it convenient to fit into one's schedule.
- Prize Payouts
- There are various levels of play, distinguished by their entry fee and total prize payout. AFFL prize payouts are top heavy. In other words, a higher percentage of the overall league fees taken in are put toward the overall top prize in each level. Here is a cross reference of how things were distributed last year.
|Level||Entry Fee||#Leagues Filled||League Champ $$||Overall Champ $$|
- Note: It seems they actually lost money on the bronze payouts last year given the number of entrants. But that's the cost of building a strong reputation and business sometimes.
- Notable scoring elements include point per reception, 6 points per passing TD, and signifcant points given (or subtracted) for points allowed on defense.
- If you can't swing the travel expenses and time committments associated with the other two events, this is a good alternative. However, it doesn't have the same feel as NFFC or WCOFF, in that it lacks the personal attachment you get with the other ones because you are drafting live, are part of a weekend long event, and can establish relationships with all the other fantasy football enthusiasts.
WCOFF - World Championship of Fantasy Football
- The draft is held live in different cities. Originally offered only in Las Vegas, it is now offered in Atlantic City and Orlando as well. Because the draft is held on the first Saturday of the football season, there is already one game completed of the NFL season. This is somewhat odd in that you know the results of certain players, albeit for just one game, before you draft them. The draft is held in a large ballroom, with each league set up side by side, all drafting at the same time. It is quite a spectacle and you really feel part of something special. As your league drafts, you can't help but be distracted (in a good way) by the names of the same players being called out at the table next to you. It's interesting to walk around and see the differences in position runs, and overall draft spots of various players. Who went at #4? How early did Peyton Manning go? How long did Tony Gonzalez last until? Each league is different.
- Prize Payouts
- WCOFF offers the single largest prize payout of the three leagues discussed. Last year the winner took home $200,000. This year, they are targeting a payout of $300,000. Last year there were 70 leagues in the main event. Entry fee is around $1600 per team. There is also an additional fee if you want to bring along a co-owner.
The top 3 winners of each individual league take home $7,000 , $2,500 , and $500 respectively for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishes, after they have competed head to head for the first 11 weeks of the season. As mentioned previously, league finalists advance to the championship rounds to compete for the overall top prize of $300,000.
It is worth noting that WCOFF pays out prize money for various other accomplishments during the season. Overall top scoring league, for instance takes home $11,000 for distribution among teams finishing 2nd thru 12th. And if you are the overall high point scorer in the event, there's and extra $5,000 waiting for you.
- The system for this competetion is based on a point per reception model. It has widely been adopted in fantasy circles and is simply referred to as the WCOFF system.
- WCOFF provides several offshoot competitions that you can participate in beyond the main event. They also have auction leagues and draftmasters leagues that you can participate if you like. But even if you just stick to the main event, your fantasy football season will extend beyond the regular 11 week season. Anyone not qualifying for the championship brackets will be put into the giveaway bracket with a chance to win free entry into the following year's event. Plus, everyone in the main event also gets to participate in One and Done contest as well as a Postseason contest. A $500 prize is awarded to top finishers in either of these events.
- Participitation in WCOFF comes with a whole lot of fun beyond the actual fantasy football leagues themselves. There are scheduled parties before and after the draft as well. These provide additional opportunity for getting together with the competition.
- The Atlantic City event is less of a spectacle based on reviews by past participants. So if you're thinking about entering, shoot for Vegas. It's the perfect setting for this event.
NFFC - National Fantasy Football Championship
- Note: We've never actually participated in this event, so we'll just stick to some of the key differences from the WCOFF. However, based on the feedback from participants, this event is every bit as enjoyable as the WCOFF. It's a bit smaller, about half the overall size in terms of participants.
- The draft, like WCOFF, is held live in different cities, including Vegas. However, this event is held BEFORE the season actually starts, so there's no influence from actual results. Each league consists of 14 teams, instead of 12.
- Prize Payouts
- A bit less straightforward for league payouts than WCOFF, but first place gets $5,000, second gets $2,500 , third gets $500. Another $2,500 is awarded to whomever is the overall Head-To-Head and points scorer in their league. (See their site for more specifics on this).
- Scoring twists include 6 points per passing TD, and only a half point per reception for running backs.
- Give points to NFFC for innovation. They're not just out there trying to copy the WCOFF. They're forward thinking and applying some new techniques that hard core fantasy footballers will appreciate. In an attempt to minimize the fabled advantage of having the top picks in the draft, this year they are implementing a "Third Round Reversal" pattern in running the draft. This allows the bottom of the draft order to begin Round 3 after also starting Round 2. It's one way to balance the talent in a 14-team league. See their website for more details
To sum it up, the choice is yours with where you would like to head. If you just want to get your feet wet with WCOFF or NFFC, you might want to try some of the various on-line satellite leagues that they also offer.