A Beginners Guide on How to Play Fantasy Football

Aug 22 4:15pm

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So, you want to learn how to play fantasy football. I’ll give you a firm warning before we go any further. It is life changing and addicting. If you have a bunch of hobbies, there’s a solid chance that they may all be replaced by fantasy football. That sounds insane and scary, but trust me, this is a worthwhile endeavor.

Not only will fantasy football help you gain a superb knowledge of the game, it will also allow you to cheer for some of the best players in the league without feeling like you’re cheating on your favorite team. Not to mention, if your favorite team happens to be a horrible one, you still have plenty of reasons to watch football every week!

The social aspect is refreshing as well. For me, fantasy football is how I stay in touch with my friends from college, but I know others that play with their family, childhood friends, or in some cases, strangers that become friends through this common interest. Also, social events with people that play fantasy football are usually never dull, because you have your respective teams to discuss. Now, as a friendly reminder, remember to acknowledge the people at the party that don’t play fantasy football, otherwise you may lose all your other friends real fast. Or better yet, recruit them to play also!

Anyway, now that I’ve given you a quick pitch on why fantasy football is so great, here are some of the basics that will help you get started.


Why is it called fantasy football?

Before you learn how to play fantasy football, you should know why it’s called fantasy football. The fantasy part stems from your ability to draft a customized team of players from around the league, that normally all play on separate teams. You can have Peyton Manning on the same roster as Calvin Johnson, and cheer for them both every week. And regardless of how each of their respective teams do in real life, as long as they perform well individually, you benefit.


How many people do I need in order to play?

Just yourself! Or, you and a group. That’s one of the beautiful things about fantasy football. You don’t need to depend on anyone else to get into the game. In pretty much every format there is the option to start your own league with people you know, or join a public league with other users that are also riding solo.


How do I put together a team?

In fantasy football, you are team owner, general manager, and coach. Like any good member of a front office or coaching stuff, you need to prepare yourself for your draft.

Pre-Draft Homework

Print out a list of player rankings, consult experts online, figure out what kind of league you play in, and make sure to become aware how the scoring system works.

League Types

As far as leagues go, there are a bunch to choose from. There are head-to-head leagues, where you face a different opponent each week, and total points leagues, where a winner is determined by team production over an entire season. Those are fairly traditional ways of playing. If you want to get fancy, a keeper league allows you to keep a specific number of players for next season, and forces you to draft with the future in mind. Daily fantasy leagues have also grown rapidly, giving you the opportunity to play at your leisure, instead of being locked into a full season with the same team. Daily fantasy games are usually based around a salary cap, which is often an option–not the rule in season long leagues. Within the salary cap format in season long leagues, some go with a straight up salary cap, where you pick within its boundaries and have a set pick each round. Others do things auction style. Auctions force you to bid on players, determining who is most worth breaking the bank for. “But how do I know which players are worth it?” That’s a good question. The answer to this for any league format lies within the scoring system.


Once you have your league set, you must know how scoring works. There is standard scoring, where players are given a certain amount of points for their level of total output (rushing/receiving yards, touchdowns, sacks, field goals etc.), but one of the more popular scoring metrics is PPR, or “Points Per Reception.” If your league is PPR, you will find that there is less emphasis on drafting an elite quarterback, as most people are focused on those who catch the most passes. Your thinking changes however, if your league is scoring based or yardage based. A scoring based league essentially ignores all statistics except for how many touchdowns or field goals a player totals, while a yardage focused league ignores scoring and doles out points for the accumulation of yards by your team. The bottom line here, is that scoring is paramount, and should always shape your draft mentality.

Mock Drafts

Now that you have selected a league, and looked at how the scoring works, what do you do now? When it comes to drafting, a lot of people don’t feel comfortable entering a draft cold, and utilize mock drafts to help them prepare for the real thing. A mock draft is formatted the same way a regular draft is, and is used as practice, allowing you to pick up on draft patterns and players that you would like to target.

Other things to know before you draft

Your team’s ┬ároster size is always predetermined, but a standard team is usually made up of one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one flex player (a WR/RB/TE), a kicker, a team defense, and a handful of bench positions. The team defense position is the only position in fantasy football that isn’t manned by an individual player (Usually. In some very advanced leagues, that can change.). Here, you will have to rely on the strength of an entire defense to help you score points. Also, some leagues go heavy on one position (e.g. two quarterbacks, three running backs etc.), making those players a valuable in your draft, as they will all come off of the board fairly quickly.


Ok, I have drafted my team. Now what?

Roster Monitoring/Bye Weeks

Once you have compiled your team, it is up to you to make sure that all of the players on your roster are healthy and playing on a weekly basis. Additionally, it is a good idea to try and draft players that have different bye weeks. A bye week in football is a week where a certain team doesn’t play. For example, if you draft a ton of Dallas Cowboys, your fantasy team may be in trouble during their bye week, as none of them will be eligible to play or score points.

Waiver Wire

Another key element of your post-draft strategy should be the waiver wire. This is a giant pool of available talent, that is accessible, provided you drop a player on your team that you don’t find useful. Many leagues have a waiver priority order, which assists in solving disputes, should more than one person claim a specific player. If you are in a 10 team league, and your waiver priority is 10, you will be trumped by any other team that tries to claim the same player as you. Conversely, if you have the fortune of being listed higher on the priority list, you get a wider array of choices. In many cases, in the interest of fairness, the team that is in last place is the one that gets the best waiver priority.


If your team needs help and the waiver wire isn’t cutting it, you can always try and make a trade. Trades are a good way to bring new talent to your team, and are usually pulled off when both teams involved feel that the deal is mutually beneficial. Be aware though, some leagues impose a trade deadline, at which point you will no longer be able to access this option when seeking to freshen up your team.


And finally, have fun, and try to win it all!

To circle back to the beginning, the key is to have fun, and if you have a good team, enjoy the bragging rights! There may even be a trophy to be had at the end of the season! Hopefully this has been helpful, and you are now ready, feeling like you know how to play fantasy football.


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