If you’re reading this, you are probably playing Fantasy Football for the first time for one of two reasons. Reason one: like me, you made the last minute “game-time” decision to play Fantasy to see what all the fuss is about. Reason 2: you were forcefully coerced by your family, friends or coworkers to get in on the action. Whatever the reason, you came across this guide because you don’t have a clue about how the Fantasy Football process works. Or, if you have played before, you’re just looking for any useful tips to get a leg up on the competition because you probably came in dead last the previous year. Well, there is good news for you. I’m here to hopefully (emphasis on hopefully) help you navigate the complicated, yet thrilling, world of Fantasy Football. To put it simply, fantasy football is a math-based game based on the real-life production of NFL players.
Joining A League
When you decide to play fantasy football, you have two options: a private or public league. A public league is open to anyone. A public league is free, but has a member limit. Private leagues require an invitation. These are usually created by friends, family, and coworkers, and invitations are sent via email. Before joining a private league: make sure everyone will play the entire season, or else it ruins the competition.
Based on how you want your NFL Sundays to go, you can choose to be in a casual league or a competitive one. If you want to spice up your Sundays with a little action with minimal pressure, join a casual league. If you have the passion and burning desire to crush your opponents, then a competitive league is for you.
Knowing the intensity of the league beforehand is also important. Some people play just for fun (and for bragging rights, of course) and some people choose to make their league a little more interesting by raising the stakes. Some people play for a cash prize for the player that finishes first. Some leagues even have a punishment for the player that finishes last, like taking the SAT, or running a “hungry mile”, whatever that is.
It’s also important to mention daily fantasy sports because of how popular they are. Basically, daily fantasy sports are just accelerated versions of the traditional Fantasy Football model, conducted over short-term periods, such as a week or a single day of competition.
Drafting Your Team
It’s a common practice to do some research before the draft. A lot of players like to research the players’ statistics to determine which players they want to pick. It’s as if you were a coach scouting the players you want to build a winning team. Researching the players will give you a leg up on the competition because you can rank the players you want based on your personal preferences.
The next step is the actual draft. This is the most exciting day of the fantasy season that can leave you feeling confident or nervous going into the season. But hopefully you will listen to me and do your research before so that you will be on the confident side after the draft. A lot of leagues are different in how they conduct their drafts. Here is a list of the different draft styles:
- Standard Draft: a live draft that follows a “snake” drafting order. That means that once each team makes a pick, the draft order is reversed in the next round.
- Auction Draft: a live draft where players are nominated in a linear order and the draft order never changes. You spend money from the set “budget” to get the players. The highest bidder wins the player and the amount that they won that player for is deducted from their budget
- Autopick Draft: operates based on NFL Fantasy experts default rankings or a pre-established team owner’s ranking of players. According to the official NFL Fantasy website, “this draft type is an excellent choice for both beginners in the fantasy game as well as leagues which can’t agree upon a live draft time.” Players are assigned to your team automatically. It goes off your preset player rankings or it selects the best available player for the position that you need filled.
- Offline Draft: the league drafts their players outside of NFL.com. “Whether the draft is held in a conference room, restaurant, basement, backyard, or the phone or by email, the offline draft is for users who choose not to use the free NFL.com draft application,” according to the NFL Fantasy website.
During the NFL season, you will be scheduled to face another person in your league, so while the real teams are playing on the field, so will the fantasy teams in your league.
Each week, “you fill out a roster by ‘starting’ players at the various positions allowed based on your league settings,” says Alex Gelhar, fantasy writer/editor. The roster includes one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one kicker, one tight end, one defense, and one “FLEX player”. The FLEX player can be a running back or wide receiver. You will want to make sure that you choose the right players each week to have the best opportunity to score the most points. That includes pre-checking your players statuses regarding injuries. You have extra players on your roster in the instance that one is injured. You also are able to bench players each week. Your bench is where you can put players with injuries or players who have a bye week.
The statistics your starting players accumulate on the field goes hand-in-hand with their point total for the week. The total of your weekly scores is based on the total accumulated points of each player in your starting lineup. Your “bench” players will still score points like the players in you starting lineup, but those points will not count towards your weekly total. If you have a higher total than your opponent, then you win for that week!
How The Point System Works
To win, your team needs to score more points than any other team in your league. A team can score points based on each player’s performance and personal statistics. These points also go hand-in-hand with the NFL’s point system for touchdowns, field goals, extra points, and safeties. The good thing is, is that the scoring is not affected by the NFL teams’ wins and losses. Below, I have included a list with the basic point breakdown, starting with the offensive players.
- Passing yards: 1 point per 25 yards
- Passing touchdowns: 4 points
- Passing interceptions: -2 points
- Rushing yards: 1 point per 10 yards
- Rushing touchdowns: 6 points
- Receiving yards: 1 point per 10 yards
- Receiving touchdowns: 6 points
- 2-point conversions: 2 points
- Fumbles lost: -2 points
- Fumble recovered for a touchdown: 6 points
Now the defensive/special teams point system is a little different. Instead of having a different player for every defensive position, you have an entire NFL team’s defensive system. This means that the point distribution is going to be different for the defensive players. Take a look below.
Team Defense/Special Teams:
- Sacks: 1 point
- Interceptions: 2 points
- Fumbles recovered: 2 points
- Safeties: 2 points
- Defensive touchdowns: 6 points
- Kick and punt return touchdowns: 6 points
- 2-point conversion returns: 2 points
- Points allowed (0): 10 points
- Points allowed (1-6): 7 points
- Points allowed (7-13): 4 points
- Points allowed (14-20): 1 point
- Points allowed (21-27): 0 points
- Points allowed (28-34): -1 points
- Points allowed (35+): -4 points
*Information gathered from fantasydata.com*
When you are reaching the end of your season, you may qualify for the post-season playoffs, which begin on week 13 or 14 of the NFL season. Hopefully you were able to qualify so that you aren’t in danger of being that 40+ year old man or woman taking the SAT because you came in last place in your league.
In a standard league, the four teams with the best records will qualify for the playoffs. There is nothing complicated about the structure of a standard playoff. It’s just like any simple bracket. The fourth seed will compete against the first seed. The third seed will compete against the second seed. The winners of these two matchups will compete in the finals the following week. The two losers, yes I said losers, will compete for the third place concollation game.
In bigger leagues with 12 or more teams, the six teams with the best records will make the playoffs. This creates the need for “BYE weeks”. I have provided a graphic that shows the structure of playoffs for a bigger league.
With all of this in mind, I hope that I was able to help you understand the basics of playing Fantasy Football and I wish you the best of luck during your first season playing!