What is fantasy football ? Dipping your toes in the fantasy football waters for the first time? Want to know a little more about different league formats than you’re used to? Here’s everything you need to know before you start.
What is Fantasy Football?
Fantasy football … That thing everyone talks about around the water cooler. Well, fantasy football is a game that allows you to be the owner, GM and coach of your very own football team.
Competing against your friends, you draft a team made up of NFL players and based on their on-field performance in a given week, you score points. For example, if you have Lamar Jackson on your team and he throws a touchdown, your team scores points. Add up all the points and the team with the most at the end of the NFL week is the winner. Not too complicated, right? Well, maybe, maybe not.
In addition to drafts at the start of the season, there are also auction leagues. This is another league type that will be further explained later. As the game has grown, the complexity has grown along with it. But at the end of the day, your team competes in a league typically composed of 10 or 12 teams. Each week, you go head-to-head against a different team.
If a player is struggling, you can release him, just like in the NFL. You can trade with other teams. And if no one has a player on their team, they are available to be added to your roster from the waiver wire.
Just like the NFL, your league has a postseason as well. The fantasy playoffs are usually played from Weeks 14-16. In the final week, a champion is crowned! You can play for fun, you can play for money. Either way, that’s fantasy football!
Redraft – This is the most common type of league. Every year, you draft a new team.
Keeper – In this league, the owners stick together and play together every season. Each owner keeps a certain number of players from his or her previous year’s roster. Let’s say that your league agreed to allow three keepers per team. You begin the league like a redraft where everyone drafts a team.
In your second and every subsequent season, each owner selects three players from their team to hold onto for the upcoming season. So say, you drafted Patrick Mahomes as a rookie. You could theoretically keep him for his entire career! Players not designated as keepers become eligible to be drafted by any team.
Dynasty – Like a keeper league, the owners stay in the league for years. Instead of keeping just a few players for the upcoming season, you keep your entire team. In a Dynasty league, younger players have more value because they have the potential to play many more years than veteran players. This makes trading a lot more fun. Do you trade the productive but aging veteran?
Head-to-Head: Two owners play against each other every week. The team with the highest score gets the victory. At the end of the fantasy regular season, the teams with the best records advance to the playoffs.
Best Ball: Each week, instead of making lineup decisions about who to start or sit, your team’s score is optimized. Your highest scorers at each position are automatically plugged in.
Think of it as a “set it and forget it” type of league. There are typically no waivers and no trades. You draft and you wait to see how the season unfolds. This is for those who love to draft, but maybe don’t like (or have time) to manage multiple teams throughout the NFL season.
Rotisserie (Roto) – Leagues determine a set of statistical categories their teams will use as a scoring system. For example, touchdown passes. If there are 10 teams in a league, the team that leads the league in touchdown passes would score 10 points. The team with the second-most touchdown passes would score 9 points and so on.
Every statistical category produces a number of points which are then added up to produce a total score. The team with the most points at the end of the season is the champion. This scoring system is very rarely used in fantasy football and is more commonly used in fantasy baseball.
Points Only – Instead of playing a different team every week, your squad’s overall point total is all that matters. The team with the most points at the end of the season is the champion. This scoring system is almost never used in fantasy football.
Standard (Snake or Serpentine) – There are multiple rounds in each draft. A drafting order is predetermined or randomly selected. Each team takes turns picking players for his or her roster. If there are 10 owners in your league, the team picking last in the first round would have the first pick in the second round (1 to 10, 10 to 1, 1 to 10, etc).
Auction – Mentioned above, auction players add an interesting wrinkle to a new league that a standard or snake draft can’t capture. Instead of drafting in a set order, each team starts with the same budget of “money” to bid on players, let’s say $100. Owners take turns announcing a player to be auctioned. Any owner can bid at any time as long as they have enough money to pay the winning bid.
Let’s begin with the basics
Joining a league: All right, so you want to play fantasy football. How do you get started? First, we’re going to find a league for you: public or private. Many people who play fantasy football get started via an invitation to a private league.
A league full of family members, office mates or high school friends typically makes for good banter. Your commissioner will send you an invite to join and you’re in. If you’re looking to play and don’t have a group to do it with, there are endless public leagues available to join on ESPN: a simple sign-up link on the ESPN Fantasy Football home page will lead you there.
What type of league? The two most basic elements that matter in your league are size and scoring type. A league of 10 teams is rather common, but you can go smaller or bigger.
Anything smaller than eight may feel a little light, while more than 14 leads to some roster crunches. As far as scoring goes, ESPN’s default setting is Points Per Reception (PPR), in which a player receives a point for every catch he registers. Non-PPR is the other introductory option and you get no points for a catch.
Let’s talk rules: I’ll use the most generic of settings for ESPN as my template. Each week, you’re setting a lineup that includes: one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one flex player (RB/WR/TE), one kicker and one defense/special teams. You will also have seven players on your bench. Scoring is as follows in a basic PPR league:
- 1 point for every 25 passing yards
- 4 points for every passing TD
- 1 point for every 10 rushing yards
- 6 points for every rushing TD
- 1 point for every 10 receiving yards
- 6 points for every receiving TD
- 1 point for every catch
- 2 points for a 2-point conversion
- 1 point for kicking an extra point
- 3 points for a field goal
- Defense/special teams start at 10 points and can lose points (based off points/yards allowed) or add points (for sacks, turnovers forced, return TDs, etc.)
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