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An Introduction to Fantasy Football from an Expert

Expert Tips

Fantasy football is a game that has really increased in popularity over the past decade. Despite that increase there still are quite a few people each year that enter a league for the first time. Fantasy football is a game that does not require that you put a lot of time into it to have fun. Actually, some people in my league have succeeded only working on their teams one or two lunch breaks a week. Yet, if you want to succeed, more often than not you will need to do your research and manage your team effectively. The management of the team can take several articles to give expert tips, but many of you probably want to know what the basics are for fantasy football.

I’ve been playing fantasy football for almost fifteen years now. The past ten years have been when I got into a more regular league with a great group of owners. We all enjoy the competition. Some years we lose owners but they are quickly replaced by others that are interested. In general there is a camaraderie that forms within your league. In my past ten years playing fantasy football, I have managed to win my league title seven times. Therefore, hopefully you can understand that the information I will give you in this article introducing the game, and in future ones discussing strategy come from someone who has a strong knowledge of the game, along with just enough luck to help at times.

The Game Itself

Fantasy football is a game where a group of “owners” play against each other week after week, determining who wins and loses based on the actions of NFL players in that weekend’s actual NFL games. In general, fantasy football concentrates more on the offensive players than the defensive, yet the defense and special teams are not ignored completely. Most leagues will have strict guidelines on how many players you start each week at each position. These in general include at least one quarterback, two running backs, one wide receiver, a tight end, a kicker, and a defense/special teams team. Some league require that you start additional wide receivers or running backs, meanwhile others give you several “flex spots” that can be filled by running backs, wide receivers, or even tight ends. Most leagues will not allow you to use a quarterback, kicker, or defense in the flex position.

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After you set your roster each week (which must be done before the start of the game for that player, and sometimes earlier depending on league rules), the fun really begins. Now instead of just watching your favorite team you are watching all your fantasy players as well. My biggest suggestion to new fantasy football players is either to watch a game on television while sitting at the computer to track additional games online, or to go to a bar that has multiple televisions. You might think this is too much work, but believe me after you start it becomes an obsession of fun. At the end of the weekend the points are tallied and the opponent you were playing that week based on your schedule has their points compared with yours. Whoever has more points wins that week’s game.

At the end of the season there are playoffs. The number of teams that make the playoffs depend on your league rules. In general fantasy football playoffs are played during weeks 14, 15, and 16 of the NFL season. This is because many teams that have locked up playoff positions in the NFL sit their star players or play them sparingly in the last week of the season. It is up to your league if you pay entry fees and transaction fees with the money going into a pot for the top two teams at the end of the playoffs, or if you just play for bragging rights.


Scoring systems vary from league to league. It is very important as a new player that you understand what your league’s scoring system is. Generic leagues tend to give out four points for a touchdown pass and six points for any touchdown scored by a receiver, running back, tight end, defense/special teams team, or rushing or receiving by a quarterback. Other ways to score involve points for receptions, passing yards, rushing yards, and receiving yards. The generic league will give 1/2 point per reception, 1 point for every 25 passing yards, and 1 point for every 25 receiving or rushing yards. Again, this varies by league so find out your league rules when you decide to join.

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Kickers and defenses score as well. In general kickers receive one point for an extra point and three points for a field goal. Defenses usually score points for fumble recoveries, interceptions, and safeties along with the points for touchdowns on fumble and interception returns. In most leagues the defensive team you start is your special teams team as well, for special teams most league only award points for touchdown returns on punts and kickoffs. These are the basics, of course there are bonuses as well.

Bonuses vary greatly from league to league. Most will give them for if a player surpasses a certain total such as 300 yards passing or 100 yards rushing or receiving in a single game. Field goals also earn bonus points based on length of the kick. Some leagues will award bonuses as well for the length of the scoring pass or run. My suggestion for new players is to try to avoid leagues with bonuses for the length of scoring plays your first year as this is can be a little advanced for new players. Of course once you know your leagues rules and scoring, it’s time to do research for your draft day!

Draft day for fantasy football fans is like Christmas, they get a team full of presents. Draft day will also show you how much research your opponents did coming into the league. In the past leagues would all get together in the same room, and have a live draft. Now with the popularity of the internet and internet fantasy league websites this is not necessary. Many leagues will do their draft online and have owners in the league from across the country. Regardless of if the draft is on the internet or live it is a lot of fun. This is a day where people will jokingly (usually at least) make comments about picks other owners make in the draft. There will be some jovial trash talking, and in the case of live drafts there will usually be food and beer. Draft day is a social occasion.

The draft itself is rather simple to understand. Each owner gets a draft position pulled from a hat before the draft. Don’t worry if you have a bad position, because in most leagues the order reverses every other round. The draft continues until each owner drafts the requisite number of players. This is usually between 12 and 16 players on a roster. At the end of the draft, trading season begins as you wait for the season to start.

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The Season

During the season as mentioned above you have an opponent you play each week based on your schedule. Standings are updated weekly, as teams battle for playoff positions and to see who will fail to make the playoffs. Not only will you have the weekend to watch your players, but during the week you have things to do. You can entertain trade offers from other owners, adjust your roster between starters and bench players based on how they are playing and their bye weeks, and pick up players from the waiver wire that are free agents. Of course trash talking is encouraged during the season as well among you and the fellow owners in your league.

It’s A Game Of Fun

Fantasy Football is a lot of fun, which explains it’s surge in popularity in the past decade. You can spent as much or as little time as you want working on your team during the week. To be successful you need to spend some time, but I have seen owners that only do minimal work on their team make the playoffs and contend for the league title. This article did not get into the strategies for the draft and choosing your players each week, that will be covered in future articles, hopefully you now have an idea of what you are getting into and the great fun a fantasy football league can be. Once you join league, check back for information on strategies.