Deep League

Fantasy Football Definition of "Deep League"

A "deep league" in fantasy football is a league with either more teams than normal (more than 12) or more players per roster than normal (more than 16-18). Generally, any league with more than around 216 roster spots is considered a "deep league". This a somewhat counter-intuitive, since one might naturally equate a deep league with a deep free agent pool - when it's just the opposite.

Deep League Draft Strategy

Deep league draft strategies are different than they are for standard size leagues. From one type of deep league to the next, draft strategies are radically different. That's because a league with 14+ teams is going to favor the team with 1-2 big star players and those rare well-balanced lineups, while the league with the normal number of teams that have deeper rosters require you to stash more players on your bench. In either case, the deep league de-emphasizes free agency and puts a bigger emphasis on the fantasy football draft, so someone drafting in a deep league draft has to be even better prepared for the draft day than in a standard league, because you aren't going to get as much help off the waiver wire.

14 and 16 Team Deep Leagues

Teams in the 14-team and 16-team leagues are going to have less depth than they would in your normal 12-team league, so the teams who can build a balanced and deep roster have an even bigger advantage in a deep league than in a standard size league. At the same time, since there are more marginal fantasy football players being started every week, the teams with the highest-scoring individual players have a more decided advantage than they would in a 12-team league. Having the 1st pick is a bigger advantage, but you have to make sure that pick counts, because the person with the last pick in the 2nd round will actually be drafting a player who would normally go in the middle of the 3rd round in most drafts. So there's less of a margin for error in a deep league.

The mid-to-late rounds in the deep league draft become much more important, because you'll be drafting players who need to come through for you. If you miss on these picks and have any amount of injuries to your high-rounders, you're likely to have a big hole in your weekly starting lineup, because you're less likely to get a good replacement off the waiver wire. Drafting sleepers and breakout players in the bottom half of the deep league draft gives you added depth, allowing you to weather injuries or become a power-broker in the trade market in your league.

Trading in Deep Leagues

First of all, you have more potential trade partners in deep leagues, so you're simply more likely to find a willing trade partner in a deep league format. Two, productive fantasy players are a more precious commodity in a deep league, because they are spread thinner among the rosters in your league. So if you have excess productive players on your bench, you can be a major factor in your league's trade market, trading 2 or more of your sleepers for one big name stud player. Trading depth in a deep league is always a risk, though, because you won't be able to replace your solid backups as easily as you might otherwise.

Big Roster Deep Leagues

The other type of deep league, where there are 12 teams with much bigger rosters, present an entirely different kind of challenge. Here, the challenge is to draft the most sleepers and breakout players, because everyone will have a better bench and therefore be looking to build incredible depth. Free agency will once again be less of a factor, because the free agent pool will be severely depleted. Also, trades will be less of a factor, because everyone should have a sufficient bench to sustain multiple injuries and other disappointments in their roster. I've found that the deep roster leagues tend to be more about the fantasy football draft than just about any other format, so you need to be prepared on deep league draft day.

Free Agent Strategy and Deep Leagues

Finally, free agency takes on a special importance, especially early in the year, in deep leagues. Once again, this may seem counter-intuitive, because I've repeated that the free agent pool is depleted in these leagues. But there are always a few guys who go completely unnoticed on draft day (Mario Manningham, Johnny Knox, Julian Edelman) who contribute once the season starts. Since there are fewer of these players in the free agent pool, the teams who are aggressive and add potential difference makers have a decided advantage over their competition. So if you have a bad feeling about any of the players on your deep league roster after one or two weeks of the NFL season, I would suggest you be very aggressive in the free agent market of your deep league. Take a shot at those free agents with the potential to have breakout years, and you can cover up deficiencies in your draft.

Since most of the teams in the deep league won't be able to say the same, your advantage in free agency will be even more decided than in the standard sized league.

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