How To Play Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football (Fantasy 101)


Definition of Fantasy Football

Fantasy Football is a game where the participants (called fantasy owners) draft a team of real-life NFL players and then each fantasy team scores points based on all those real-life players’ statistical performances.

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The Basics

Fantasy Football was created in the 1960s. Since then, the game has evolved into a multi-million dollar industry where millions play each and every season. As stated above, your “on paper” team of real-life NFL Players have to play well on the real football field for your fantasy team to have success.

Many new people to fantasy football ask if every “owner” can own the same player. The answer is usually NO. If everyone can draft the same guyWhile in some cases, usually contests and not leagues, everyone can own the same players, but typical formats only allow one real-life NFL player to be on one fantasy team within a league. Being able to is why fantasy leagues typically have a “fantasy draft” before the actual NFL Season actually begins… this allows all the owners in your league the chance to predict, and draft, players that they like heading into the upcoming NFL Season. You build a team constructed of all kinds of players from different NFL teams… Now, sometimes some leagues allow players to be owned by multiple owners, but usually leagues will not use this format. Usually if you own a player, no one else can have that player!

Some fantasy leaguers play for prize money in the hundred-dollar range, others play for thousands… some even play just for fun. The ultimate driving force behind any fantasy league is the mere competition. You want to be the one that scouted and constructed the best fantasy team around. It’s all about pride, baby!

Back to the initial “fantasy draft” that each league has before the actual NFL Season… the order of that draft, as the owner of the first overall pick often has a clear advantage, is typically created at random. One can draw this random order out of a hat, or use an online league draft order randomizer. The commissioner usually handles this type of thing.

What is a fantasy commissioner? What does a commissioner do? Basically, each league is going to need one owner to manage all the tough stuff, like trade protests (if a trade seems unfair in your league)… or setting dates and writing league rules. Each league has to have structure and a good set of rules. You’d be surprised how controversial things get in a fantasy league. Deadlines for “adding/dropping” players… all these types of things need to be decided on before the actual fantasy football season kicks off.

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Types of Fantasy Football Leagues

Standard Redraft Leagues (Head to Head)

In Head to Head Leagues, owners face off each and every week against other owners (team vs. team) and the winner gets a “Win” and the loser gets a “Loss”. A typical fantasy regular season is from weeks 1-13 of the NFL’s regular season and the entire fantasy season typically ends in week 16, as so many NFL teams sit their best players in week 17. The fantasy teams with the best Win/Loss records in that fantasy regular season (weeks 1-13) typically meet in the league’s fantasy playoffs (usually starting in week 14 of the NFL season and lasting through week 16). Now, the term “redraft” means that after each season all of the owners toss all of their NFL players back into “pool” of players to be drafted from. Each season you start out fresh.

Standard Redraft Leagues (Total Points)

In Total Points Leagues, the ultimate goal for fantasy owners is to score the most total points by the end of the fantasy football season. A typical fantasy regular season lasts right up until week 16, but doesn’t usually play week 17, as so many NFL teams sit their best players in week 17. Now sometimes teams play a combination of Total Points with a touch of Head to Head, it really just comes down to preference and how many different awards you want to give out at week 16′s end. Now, this type of league is a “redraft” league, which again means that after each season all of the owners toss all of their NFL players back into “pool” of players to be drafted from. Each season you start out fresh.

Auction Draft Leagues

Auction Drafts are one of the newest breeds of fantasy football, but they are thought by many to be the most fun. Each owner basically starts out with the same dollar amount and has to use that cash to build a fantasy team. The amount can vary, but typically each owner gets $100 or $200 dollars. These leagues usually have an auctioneer that runs the fantasy auction much like any real-life auction. A player gets nominated (usually by using some kind of draft order) and everyone in the league is then able to bid on that player if they wish (and if they have the available money to win the bid). Now, each league is different, as some force each owner to leave at least one dollar available for every single roster spot, and others allow you to bid all your money on just two players. Either way, the best part about these types of leagues is that any fantasy owner can go after any player that they want, unlike your standard type of draft. An example of all of this would be where the auctioneer announces that it is owner Bob’s turn to call out a player. Bob might then say, “I’m putting LaDainian Tomlinson up for bid at a starting amount of $40″ – then, the auctioneer will run the bidding process as owners yell and scream the amount they are willing to spend on the runner. The owner willing to spend the most will be awarded the player.

Dynasty Leagues

A Dynasty League is a league where all fantasy owners keep their entire roster from season to season. In the first year, the fantasy owners have what is called an inaugural draft. After that initial draft, which can be by way of a normal draft or an auction, all players are kept unless traded or released. The only way to ever add players to a roster is by way of free agency or by way of a rookie draft, which takes place every off-season. The order of this draft is usually decided by who finished where in the previous year (like the last place team getting first, the first place team getting last). Note that these drafts are going to be a lot different than your typical draft, as the players will hold different values when longevity is taken into account. Shaun Alexander may have top 5 value in 2007 redraft leagues, but he may not crack the top ten in a dynasty-style of league. Younger players often have a lot more value as well in these types of leagues.

Keeper Leagues

Keeper Leagues are very similar to Dynasty Leagues, but instead of keeping all players, fantasy owners usually have a predetermined number of players that they are allowed to keep from year to year. Sometimes leagues allow owners to keep any three players of choice, and other times the league allows for just one keeper. Some leagues use a different approach and they force fantasy owners to give up draft picks for every player that they decide to keep. For example, if an owner drafted Frank Gore in the 4th round in a 2006 draft and wanted to keep the runner entering 2007, they may have to give up their 4th round pick in 2007 in order to keep Gore. Some leagues even use the auction-style of league (listed above), but then allow owners to sign those players to 1-3 year deals… so if you spend a ton on a player, you have decide if you want to lock that player down at that cost for the long-term. Can you imagine owning Frank Gore on a two-year deal for $5 (in a $200 keeper league)? Spending can also go the other way, as you could sign a player to a huge contract for 2-3 years and he could get hit with a season-ending injury. These leagues are very challenging and much more time consuming than your typical league. The options and modifications are limitless in this type of league.

IDP Leagues

IDP Leagues use both offensive players and defensive players. The defensive positions typically drafted are DL, LB and DB. The additions on defense make this a much tougher format to prepare for. This is for the hardcore fantasy owner.

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Scoring Variations

There are all kinds of ways to set-up scoring for a league, but most leagues use what is known as standard scoring.

Standard Scoring Leagues:

  • 1 point every 10 yards rushing
  • 1 point every 10 yards receiving
  • 1 point every 25 yards passing
  • 4 points for each touchdown pass
  • 6 points for each touchdown run
  • 6 points for each touchdown catch
  • (-1) point for each interception
  • 1 point for each extra point
  • 3 points for each field goal
  • Defensive Scoring: 1 point per INT and FUM recovery, 0.5 points per sack, 1 point per TD, 5 points per safety, 10 points for shutout

Typical Additions To Standard Scoring Formats

  • Points Per Reception (PPR): 1 point per reception (which makes players like Reggie Bush a TON more valuable)
  • Bonus Scoring: 5 point bonuses when a player does one of the following: passes for 300 yards, rushes for 100 yards or receives for 85 yards

TD-Only Scoring Leagues

In this type of league, the only things that matter are touchdowns, field goals and extra points. In a league like this, a runner that only receives goal line carries can often be as valuable as a stud every-down back. These leagues are very basic and are not as recommended as the other styles of leagues.

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Line-Up Variations

1QB, 2RBs, 2WRs, 1TE, 1K, 1Def

This format was probably the “standard” back in the day, and while there is nothing wrong with it, most leagues have expanded line-up requirements at least one roster spot for reasons of excitement and more scoring.

1QB, 2RBs, 3WRs, 1TE, 1K, 1Def

This format is being used quite a bit in today’s world of fantasy football. Having to field 3WRs makes knowing the depth of the NFL a must. This is a great format for beginning leagues, as it isn’t too complicated (like leagues with FLEX positions), but it is exciting enough to roll with form the start.

1QB, 2RBs, 2WRs, 1FLEX, 1TE, 1K, 1Def

This format is often thought of as the most fun in terms of the draft. Adding a FLEX, which typically can be a RB or a WR, allows for tons of different strategies and approaches. If the RBs are getting slim and you need to fill your FLEX position, you can draft a WR. Or, if during the season your 3RB goes down to injury (and you were using him as your FLEX), you can toss in a productive WR to fill the spot. This makes free agency more exciting as well, as finding talent and being able to use it becomes much more of a reality when you have that “flexible” roster spot sitting there waiting to be used, bended and creatively positioned.

Other Variations

Really, we could go on and on with different formations, ones that do not include a TE, or have 3RBs and 3WRs… the variations are endless. There is no real or wrong way to construct a league’s line-up requirement… but do note that if you make your line-up requirements too crazy, you may not be able to find Fantasy Football Info Sites that can produce rankings that fit your expectations. If you stick to, or close to the above “standards”, you shouldn’t have any problem when looking at Fantasy Rankings from almost any Fantasy Football Info Site.

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Draft Preparation

The key to draft preparation is:

A) Knowing your rules and scoring format
B) Studying the most recent ADPs (Average Draft Positions)

Knowing your League’s Rules is critical for fantasy success. If your league awards players with 1 point per reception, this drastically alters the player values heading into that draft. Players like Reggie Bush are worth a ton more than they would be in a league that didn’t award 1 point per reception. If your league forces you to start 3WRs, know this so that you can draft your line-up so that it can handle such requirements. Know your rules and take the time to read through all of them before you draft. Reading your rules will likely take you 10-20 minutes… it is worth the time if it can help you dominate your league.

ADPs are a bunch of drafts averaged together – looking at this data helps because you can get a feel for where players are currently being drafted in fantasy drafts. If you like a certain player and feel that he is about to breakout, that doesn’t mean you take him extremely early (or well before his “average draft position” ). Instead, you figure out where he is typically getting drafted in current drafts, then you maybe plan to draft him slightly before that average position. Here is an example: If you knew for a fact that Tony Romo was about to become a top 3QB this upcoming season, that doesn’t mean you take him as the third best QB in your draft. You get to know his ADP, then draft him slightly ahead of that to ensure that you get your guy, but you must stay as near to the ADP as possible in order to ensure that you are getting good “draft value”. Know where players are going before you draft! Check out our ADP section, where we provide all of our Expert Draft Results as well as some solid ADP sources to view.

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Free Agency Formats

First Come / First Serve Free Agency

First Come / First Serve free agency is when fantasy owners can pick-up players whenever they want with no waiver order or restrictions. Usually even this type of free agency is turned off during scheduled games (typically from the kickoff of the first game of the week up until the last play of the final game of the week).

Waiver Order Free Agency

Waiver Order free agency is when a specific order is created after the end of each week. The team in last place in your league usually gets first pick-up of the week and the team in first gets the last pick-up of the week. Some leagues allow for just one pick-up a week, while others allow for 3-4 add/drops, and others allow for unlimited add/drops. This part varies a ton from league to league.

Bid Process Free Agency

Having a Bid Process means each owner is given a certain dollar amount (or points) to spend on free agents all season long. Once the week’s games are over and the new week is about to begin, fantasy owners can place a bid on a player using their dollars/points given to them at the start of the season. Now, some leagues allow for just one player to be awarded to each team (per week), and others allow owners to bid on as many players as they want (just as long as they have enough money/points to win the bids). Most of the time these bids are all done blindly, meaning no one knows who is bidding on who, or for what amount. Once the bid deadline hits, which is usually on a Wed. or Thurs., the results are announced and players are awarded to the owners that have won the bids. The variations to this type of process are endless. Some leagues even combine the Bid Process-style with First Come/First Serve, where the bidding takes place at the beginning of the week and all the players still available are free to grab all the way up to kickoff of that week’s games.

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