For some fantasy football obsessed fans this question will seem ridiculous, but we’ll explain the premise of this article more fully in a moment. If you both A) play fantasy football and B) are a social human who has a lot of coworkers, friends, and family members that also enjoy fantasy football, then there is a very good chance you’ve been invited to be in several different fantasy football leagues. This is good. After all, fantasy football is fun and it’s a great social catalyst. But as you enter into more and more leagues you will notice an increasing number of “fantasy conflicts of interest”. As an example, you have Aaron Rodgers in League A, but your opponent has Rodgers in League B, meaning Rodgers is both playing for, and against you, simultaneously.
These conflicts of interest are part of the fantasy sports terrain, there are only a finite number of players, so each team in each league is just a different combination of the same parts. But as you add more teams to your fantasy sports portfolio your odds of conflicts of interest go up exponentially. Literally. Now having a conflict of interest in your fantasy football life once and awhile is not the end of the world. It also doesn’t mean that both (all) of your teams can’t win in the same week even when there are conflicting players that are scoring points both for and against you. But we contend that having a lot of conflicts takes away some of the enjoyment of fantasy football. If you manage a team in just one league you are purely rooting for the success of those players, no matter what. But when you have 2 or more teams you are opening up the possibility of all kinds of bizarre bargaining, hedging, and counter measuring in your football rooting experience. For longtime players in multiple fantasy leagues the following types of scenarios will be all too familiar:
You need a player to score at least 8 points to help you win in League A, but less than 12 points or you will lose in League B.
A player you own in League A goes off for 35 points during the Thursday night game which makes your victory in League A almost certain, however, you are playing that same player in League B, meaning you have basically lost already in that league.
You need points out of your defense in League A, but they are playing against your quarterback in League B, essentially guaranteeing you will lose in one of the leagues.
So, if you find conflicts of interest in your fantasy football life to be annoying, then how many fantasy football leagues can you be in and avoid them as much as possible? We crunched some numbers to help you find your ideal number of leagues for fantasy football nirvana. Our math is based on 10-team head-to-head format leagues with 10 roster spots, the numbers would only vary slightly if you are in leagues with more or less players (odds of conflict actually increase in leagues with less teams). We also assumed that only the top players at each position are being started in each league, allowing a little wiggle room to account for bye weeks.
When you go from playing in just one league to playing in two leagues you are now exposed to the possibility of conflicts between the two rosters. However, with just two leagues your odds of a conflict of interest are still relatively low. There’s only a 34% chance that you’ll have a player on your roster in one league and be playing against them in the other. So you can expect a conflict once every 3 weeks. That’s pretty reasonable and most would find that amount of conflicting interest to be tolerable.
When you add a third league to the mix the possibility of conflicting rosters goes up dramatically. Now you risk conflict between League A and League B, but also between League B and League C, oh, and also between League A and League C. When you are juggling 3 leagues you can expect conflicting rosters 75% of the time. And the odds are that it won’t just be one player that appears on your roster and one of your opponents, there’s a 55% chance there would be 2 or more players that conflict. Only 1 week out of every 4 would be expected to have no conflicts. With three leagues conflict is common, this is kind of the tipping point before things get really absurd.
First it should be noted that being in 4 fantasy football leagues is a common occurrence. The most I have heard of a single person being in is 17. But backing up, once you get into your 4th league conflict of interest is almost guaranteed. 93% of the time you would have at least one player going both for and against you that week. That means over the course of a season you might have just 1 or 2 weeks without muddled rooting interests. As you can imagine, beyond 4 leagues things just get more and more conflicted.
This article is not intended to encourage anyone to start dropping out of their leagues. If you are having fun in 4, 6, 9, 17 leagues, great! Keep it up! You are an impressive specimen. But if you find yourself getting annoyed about conflict of interest among your fantasy teams perhaps this guide will help you simplify your fantasy life. Based on the numbers 2-3 leagues seems like the reasonable amount that still allows you to have relatively clean rooting interests more often than not.