So, you’ve decided to join the world of (MDL). Welcome to, in my opinion, the most fun you can have playing fantasy football. As a favor to yourself and the rest of the team owners in your league, you need to know what you’re getting into.

Before we get started, I will have a quick disclaimer. Our leagues require a large time commitment even in the football off-season, and if you cannot be an active owner and devote the necessary time to your team, maybe these leagues aren’t right for you.

With that out of the way, here is a guide of the first things you should do after you have paid up and commish has given you access to your team.

Please DO NOT make any trades or roster moves until you’ve followed the necessary steps to understand how the league works. Some owners like to try and take advantage of the new guy, so while you might get sent an offer that seems like a no brainer when you first log in, I can assure you that you are not the smartest guy in the room right away. Name recognition is far from the most important thing in this league, and you could be stuck with multiple team killing contracts or with no stars at all if you don’t take your time and follow these steps.

Step 1- Get the Groupme app on your phone or on your computer and introduce yourself

We use a free app called Groupme for a lot of league communications. In the offseason and even during the season there is a lot of random discussion, but there is also a lot of important on topic talk as well.

You don’t need to be in there all the time and involved in every discussion, but this platform allows for direct messaging to every owner in the league and makes communication so much easier. Make an account, come in and introduce yourself. Tell us what team you are and tell us a couple of things about you. We don’t need your life story, but it’s nice to know who we’re dealing with.

This app allows for direct communication with every owner in the league and is invaluable for the negotiations you will be having later on.


In my opinion this is the most important thing to do before you do anything else.

Every one of the five MDL leagues has their own bylaws, and while many of them are similar, no two are the same. As soon as possible after you are given access to your team, take some time, sit down, and read the bylaws over two or three times.

Don’t understand something? Come into the Groupme chat room and ask, some of the guys can be trash talkers, but we do make a point to help new owners for the most part. So anything you aren’t sure of, do not be afraid to ask.

The rules of each league are very complicated, and you need to understand them fully or you will put yourself at a large disadvantage against all of the other teams in your league.

Step 3- Make an Excel spreadsheet of your roster including every player on your current roster

Please do this before you make any roster moves. Microsoft Excel is a wonderful program that does all of your cap math for you and when roster changes are made, a quick change will keep you up to date.

I like to list everything for the next year and the next three years. So at any given time, my spreadsheets have the real-time current cap space for this season the next three seasons.

If you aren’t great with Excel, don’t be afraid to ask another owner to help you with one. I know at least one has offered to make franchise spreadsheets for people in the past. If you don’t have access to Excel, Google docs spreadsheets are free to access and serve the same purpose.

Step 4- Look at the previous year’s website and examine the roster construction of the playoff teams

Every year, the leagues are transferred to new sites for the next year. However, at the top of the league page, you can gain access to the site from the previous year and figure out which teams did well and which ones did not.

Examine the rosters of the teams that did well and take a look at the players they have at each position and the amount of cap space devoted to each position. This allows you get get some idea of the strategies used by the teams that did well and gives you a base on which to build your team for the upcoming season.

It is critical that you have an understanding of the league economy and how much players at each position should be worth. Look at the top players at each position and what their contracts are, and do the same for middle-tier and lower-tier players. You will need to roster some players that are not ideal at least as bye week fill ins and it is important to squeeze every dollar out of the cap that you can to be successful, especially in MDL 5.

It’s rare for a team that has players at contracts over $200 for multiple years each to be successful. With a 20% increase is contracts from year to year, every player you have on such of a contract will lead to a larger cap hit every year and make it more and more difficult to build a successful roster. You might be able to get away with one such contract, but you should not make a habit of it.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t own players on high contracts, I’m one of the biggest proponents of the “studs and scrubs” strategy there is, but when you win an elite player at auction for a high price, you should probably not give him a multi-year contract. You can always tag that player the following off-season if you’d like to try and keep him around for a longer time.

Step 5- Compare your current roster to the successful rosters from the previous season

Go back and open up your spreadsheet and look at your current roster construction. How many players do you have each position? Where are your stars? Where do you need help? Do you have any terrible contracts? Do you have any great contracts?

You are given one amnesty and possibly two depending upon the state of your roster when you join, if you have any contracts that could be team-killers, don’t be afraid to use them. But you should never amnesty or drop a player without first trying to see if another owner is interested. You may have to essentially give the player away if the contract is really bad, but you can get that contract off your hands with no penalty if you are able to trade the player and free up some valuable space to construct your team.

Step 6- Look at the rookies, tagged players and free agent pool for the upcoming auctions, see how your needs can be filled

Now, you are finally ready to possibly start making some roster moves.

As of the time of this writing, there are only a few days left in the franchise tag auction period, but there is still time to make bids. However, before you give up potentially high picks to go after these players, look at the list of unsecured transition tagged players and the overall free agent pool. Take the time to examine the rookies in the upcoming draft and come up with rookie rankings of your own for both overall and by position. Don’t be a sheep and just read some other guy’s rankings, you really should have your own.

See what players fill your needs and come up with a big board. What is plan A at each position? And how much will you spend to get those players? After that, come up with a plan B, a plan C, and maybe even a plan D, E, F, and so on. Come up with dollar figures that you are willing to spend on each player, and stick to them. It is important to be realistic with your projections here, however, or you could wind up with nobody you want. If bidding on plan A gets way out of hand, move on to your next target, then the next, then the next, until you get a player you want for close to the price you want.

If you aren’t happy with what you see available among the players available as rookies, the tagging period or the free agent auction, then you can take a look at other team’s rosters. Determine if your positions of strength can possibly fill a need for a team that has strength at a position you need. Send a direct message on Groupme to that team’s owner and see if a discussion can be started. Are you in win now mode, building for the future, or both? This can determine whether you are looking to acquire players that will provide immediate production or if you are looking for prospects that you can possibly stash on your taxi squad.

It is possible to have an all-around well-built team that has production now and a stockpile of prospects for the future, but it is difficult to do so. Don’t be so quick to throw draft picks into trades unless you think the value is there.

Don’t make any trade ever without examining the consequences on your cap situation going forward and how it will affect your positions of need. And for the love of God, don’t use some one size fits all trade calculator to determine if your trade is good or not. I promise you there is not one in existence that would in any way apply to MDL leagues, so just don’t.

Now for some more notes about rookies. Rookie contracts are a great way to get production for a low price, but there is risk, especially with lower picks. Keep in mind that most rookies will not come in and immediately give you starting numbers, so unless you see someone who you believe is a can’t miss prospect, you need to have some veterans to fill the gaps until your rookies are ready to contribute.

The taxi squad is a wonderful thing, and do not be afraid to fill it up. Those players can always be dropped for no penalty if they don’t produce, so I like to have a few late round fliers that have a low chance of hitting but can potentially provide great rewards for essentially no risk.

Step 7- Have a thick skin

Not every move you make is going to be well-received by the other owners in the league. As long as you are following your plan and sticking to it, the only person whose opinion matters is you. That isn’t to say it’s not possible to make bad trades or to bid too much for players, but a lot of the time in hindsight the trades that look the most lopsided in one direction turn out to be absolutely one sided in the other.

As long as you have an understanding of the league economy and think that a move puts your team in a better position, don’t be afraid to pull the trigger. There is a lot of trash talking on Groupme and you will be the victim of some of it. Be prepared for it and realize that it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. All that matters is that you try to put together the best team that you can. Just please, don’t make any trades until you’ve followed the steps listed above!

While there is money on the line, the point of these leagues is to have fun! So welcome to the world of MDL and good luck!

About the author

Keith Roller

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