I talk to people all the time who enjoy watching football, so I’ll ask them about fantasy football and I get a response somewhere along the lines of “I’ve always wanted to play but never knew how”. They already know the sport, all they need is a little fantasy football advice. Here are some basics.
What is fantasy football?
Fantasy football gives points for what individual players do on the football field. Passing yards, receiving and rushing yards, touchdowns all give points for your fantasy football “team”. So does sacks, interceptions and points given up by the defense your select, as well as field goals and extra points made by your kicker. How many points your get for these actions all depend on the league your are in, so the biggest piece of advice is—
Learn your league scoring rules
Every league is a little different. Some leagues give your a point for every 10 yards of receiving or rushing yards, while others may only give you a point for every 20 yards. PPR is another important term to learn, it stands for point-per-reception, which means every time your receiver or running back catches the ball they get a point, whether it is 1 yard down the field or 40. That changes your drafting strategy, because this makes receivers and running backs who catch the ball out of the backfield more valuable.
Another important item to look for is bonuses. One league may give your a bonus for your receiver hitting 100 yards or your quarterback throwing for over 300 yards. That can drastically change a game. Many leagues give bonuses for long touchdowns, such as if a running back breaks a long run for over 40 yards for a touchdown. Some leagues you don’t even have to have the touchdown to get the bonus, just for the play to go over a certain number of yards (typically 40).
Most leagues have you select a defense every week as well, which also includes that teams special teams. That means your will get points for any punt or kick returns for touchdowns, and possible the return yardage as well. That should be taken into consideration for taking a defense, but remember that even if a team has a great return man, if their defense lets up lots of points your may still not do very well. Choose carefully!
Not all leagues use kickers, but if your league does your’ll want to check out those scoring rules as well. Some leagues give your more points for longer kicks, and some give you negative points for missed kicks! They may not score a lot of points in fantasy football, but kickers can be the difference between a win and a loss that week.
After your familiarize yourself with the scoring opportunities in your league, the next important thing to do is—
Go over the league’s settings
You want to know how many of each position are started each week. A more common starting lineup will consist of 1 quarterback, 2 wide receivers, 2 running backs, 1 tight end, a flex position which can be a receiver, running back or a tight end, as well as a defense/special teams (one unit) and a kicker. In addition to your starting lineup there will be 5-6 bench positions that your will use throughout the season if one of your players gets injured, or during teams bye weeks.
Waiver systems is important to understand as well, which we will go over later in more detail but your do want to know what the waiver system is, and when is the trade deadline.
Read through any other information on the leagues settings page, and if you have any questions ask your commissioner (the person running your league).
So after all of the research you put into the league, now its time to draft your team. Grab your fantasy football magazine or your freshly printed off player rankings and get ready. Just about every league I have ever been a part of has done what is called a snake draft, which means that the person who has the first pick in the draft in the first round will have the last pick of the second round, then the first pick of the third round. A 4 team league would go 1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1-1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1 and so on until everybody’s roster is full (most leagues have between 8 and 12 teams).
Luckily, with the invention of the internet, there are many ways to do a “mock” draft before your actual draft. This is where your basically practice drafting. The results will be discarded after the draft. Some leagues your learn what your draft order is before the draft, others you have to wait until the day of the draft. Obviously if your know your draft position, practice in that slot, if your do not, practice some as the number 1 pick, some in the middle, and some as the last pick of the first round to get an idea of how the draft may play out.
Most importantly, have a general idea of what your want your team to look like. If there is no ppr, then running backs may be more important to have in that league. If the quarterbacks get 6 points for every touchdown pass then your may want to draft a quarterback earlier than your may in another league (it is more common that they get 4 points a touchdown pass). Have a list of players, whether your get a fantasy football magazine or print a list from the internet, available so that your can mark off players that have been drafted already either by yourself or other people. And make sure your have backups in mind, there’s nothing worse than having the player your are targeting taken by the person drafting right before you. Since most drafts have a time limit on each pick, you will probably end up with someone that you do not want on your team that will end up being dropped later.
Now the fun begins! First things first, make sure you set your lineup. Some fantasy football apps automatically place players in the starting lineups after the draft, others do not. Either way you want to check and make sure the players you want to get your points are in. Typically, this will be the first players you picked in your draft, but sometimes you may notice that one player is going against a much easier team, and you think he will have more success that game.
Most leagues have what is called head-to-head match ups, where you put up the points from your starting line-ups against the points from another person in your league. Others leagues just accumulate the points and at the end of the year the person with the most points overall wins. I personally enjoy head-to-head leagues more, allows for one of my favorite fantasy football pastimes, trash talking!
Eventually you are going to want to drop one of your players and pick up another one. Most leagues have a process called waivers to do this fairly. Essentially after every players game starts they are put in the waiver system, so you are unable to pick them up until the waivers have went through for the week. This is typically 2 or 3 days after the last game is over on Monday night. Depending on the league, your waiver order may be determined by a rolling list, which means after you pick up a player you are moved to the back of the waiver line, or some leagues the order is based on how the standings are, with the last place team getting first waiver priority.
Each player dropped in a waiver pick up are placed on waivers themselves, and will be on waivers until the allotted time for the league. This stops the possibility of one person dropping a player for another to pick up.
If a player is not picked up on waivers, then he becomes a free agent, and is able to be picked up by anybody immediately. sometimes it is best to wait on some players, like switching out your kicker for a bye week, until they are a free agent, so your don’t use a waiver pick.
After about 13-15 weeks, the top teams in the league will advance to the playoffs. Depending on the league there will be 2 or 3 rounds, possible by weeks, just like the NFL. If your are able to survive the regular season and make it through the playoffs, your will be a fantasy football champion! Get a trophy from amazon.com, put it on the mantle so all of your friends will be jealous when they come over! Or if you want to really show off, grab a title belt to wear around town!
If your have any questions or comments, please leave them for me. I am a fan of all fantasy sports, but fantasy football is my favorite! Good luck and enjoy the season!