If you’re interested in learning more about fantasy football, you’re not alone. It’s massively popular to the point that it’s led to numerous fantasy football podcasts, blogs, and more.
The only problem is that if you’re new to it, it can feel overwhelming and somewhat complicated to play fantasy.
With that in mind, the following is a guide to all the things you should know to get started if you’re a complete beginner.
Table of Contents
What is Fantasy Football?
When you play fantasy football, it’s a game driven by points based on the real-life production of players in the NFL. The players put up points when they play in games. If you own the player on your team, you get points.
Your team consists of different actual NFL players from varying teams and positions. The players you choose are selected in a draft taking place with friends or other people in your league.
Most fantasy leagues include 8-14 fantasy players, and each player in fantasy chooses a real player to fill out their roster.
After you have a team, every week you fill out your roster. Your roster includes your starting players at different positions, which are allowed based on league settings.
You’re usually going to fill the following positions:
- 1 quarterback (QB)
- 2 running backs (RB)
- 2 wide receivers (WR)
- 1 tight end (TE)
- 1 kicker (K)
- 1 defense (D/ST)
- 1 FLEX (usually an RB or WR, but this can vary depending on the league)
Each week, the statistics that your starting players accumulate on the field will contribute to their points total. Point totals for your starting players are tallied into a weekly score, with the person in the league having the most points winning the week.
A fantasy football player’s roster will also include bench players, and many leagues allow five bench spots on average. These players can also collect points for the week, but they don’t contribute to your weekly points total. The importance of bench players is because they add depth to a roster and can cover you for injuries and bye weeks.
You compete each week until the end of the fantasy football regular season, which usually is up to week 13 or 14 of the regular season in the NFL. The fantasy football playoffs will usually take place on weeks 15 and 16.
Then, teams with the best win-loss records go into the playoffs for head-to-head matchups or elimination matchups. The fantasy player that wins the rest of the games in the playoffs is then the league champion after week 16, but leagues can differ in their playoff settings, scoring settings, and timelines.
If you’re interested in playing, there are a lot of free sites that serve as a platform to facilitate it.
In fantasy, there are different types of drafts players can use. These include:
- Mock draft: This isn’t your real draft—instead, it’s a way to practice figuring out how you want to draft your players. You can develop strategies for the actual draft.
- Automated drafts: In this situation, you’re not making your picks. Instead, the picks are automated, and a database decides on the best player available at the time.
- Linear: This type of draft is most similar to the actual NFL draft. There is an order that’s followed in each round. If you pick first in the first round, you pick first every other round. While this is used in the NFL, it’s not commonly used in fantasy.
- Snake: Also known as the serpentine draft, this is the most common style in fantasy. The snake draft mirrors the first two rounds and goes from there. If you’re in a 10-person draft and you pick first, you also pick 20th and 21st. The snake draft is considered very fair.
- Auction: In these scenarios, it works like a real auction. A team gets a starting amount of money, and then will offer money to get a player, with the highest bidder winning him. Auction drafts tend to be best suited to experienced players because they can get somewhat complex.
- Value-based: In these draft strategies, you choose the best player compared to different factors of value compared to the average.
Finding a League
Finding and choosing a league are big decisions in fantasy.
A few things to consider include:
- Do you want to play in a dynasty or redraft league? A redraft league is something we’ll detail more about below, but these are where you do a new draft every season. Dynasty leagues include managers who keep their players as you go into the next season.
- Most people find a league by competing against friends, coworkers, or family members, but you can also join public leagues online or create your own.
- When you find a league, you need to make sure you understand the settings and rules. Fantasy platforms will have default settings, but commissioners can also customize the settings. You could have a PPR league format, for example, or standard scoring.
- Doing a mock draft is so important when you’re new to fantasy. You need to be able to learn how to use the app or website serving as your fantasy platform.
Below, we give an overview of some of the types of leagues:
- Standard draft: A standard draft league is the most popular type of league in fantasy football. Most of these leagues start with teams choosing their players in a serpentine or snake draft. Then, an owner sets the lineups every week based on the number of players per position that are allowed by the rules of their league. There are two different types of standard draft fantasy football leagues. There are head-to-head and total points. In a head-to-head league, teams match up against different teams every week. The team that gets the most points of the two for that week wins. When the regular season ends, the teams with the best win/loss records come together in the playoffs. The total points leagues don’t track wins and losses. Instead, teams accumulate points on an ongoing basis. The standings are based on their total points. The team with the highest total points at the end of the regular season moves onto the playoffs.
- Auction: In auction draft leagues, you can use head-to-head or total points systems, as is the case with standard draft leagues. The main difference is that an owner gets a pre-set amount of money to bid on players. Every owner can bid on any player they prefer, and an individual player can be on more than one team. The challenge here is making sure that you don’t spend too much on one player because it can cause the rest of your roster to suffer as a result.
- Dynasty: These leagues are for serious and often experienced fantasy football players. They require that you commit over a period of multiple seasons. After the initial draft, a player stays on the same roster from season-to-season, unless they’re released or traded. Every year after the inaugural season, the draft is held but only for rookies.
- Keeper: A keeper league is like a combo of a standard draft and dynasty league. In keeper leagues, every preseason, most of the players are drafted, but owners can keep a certain number of players on their roster to carry over from the previous year. In most leagues, the rules say that you can only have a handful of players you retain year-to-year.
- IDP: In this type of league, defensive players are used on an individual basis rather than as a unit.
There are variations not only in drafts and league format that you should know about before you play fantasy football, but also scoring variations.
In the standard scoring format, 25 passing yards is one point. A passing touchdown is four points, ten rushing or receiving yards is one point, and a rushing or receiving touchdown is six points. An interception or lost fumble causes a loss of two points.
An extra point earns one point. A field goal of 0-39 yards is three points, 40-49 yards is four points, and a 50+ yard field goal is five points.
There’s another approach, which is a point per reception or PPR. This is the same as standard scoring, but one reception will earn one point.
In PPR leagues, tight-end running backs who catch passes are more valuable. In half-PPR leagues, each catch is awarded ½ point.
Some leagues will use bonus points for particular milestones. If a quarterback throws for more than 300 yards, just as an example, he might get three extra points.
In a defense scoring model, the teams are scoring points based on their defensive performance. Points are awarded for interceptions, fumbles, and sacks.
Finally, in an individual defense player or IDP model, you draft IDPs from different NFL teams. The IDP scoring is based on the statistical performance of the IDPs on your team. There’s no standard scoring system for defensive points in these leagues, and every defensive stat will usually have its own set points value.