Ever sat in front of your computer, having read your team’s latest news, and thought “We should have totally traded/released/drafted/given more reps to [Insert Player Here]”? Well Armchair GMs, while you may have no control over what the team you support does, here is your chance to show what you’re made of.
Where to start with Fantasy Football? The truth is that there are so many different versions and formats it can be hard to keep up.
In essence, Fantasy Football puts YOU in control. You join a league, and prior to the start of the season, everyone in that league gets together to have a draft, where you select the players you think will put up the most points, and beat your opponent each week. It should be noted that in some leagues you don't have weekly opponents, instead they simply rank you by your running total points, much like many other fantasy football games (such as Premier League Football, MLB or NHL). This is fairly uncommon.
As the season progresses on, you have to make decisions to best help you win on any given Sunday, whether it's picking up a player who is a free agent in your league, benching a player who isn’t performing very well, or attempting a trade with another team.
Towards the end of the season there are usually a couple of playoff games between the teams with the most wins in the league. As with playoffs, the team that wins those games wins the Championship.
Scoring tends to vary slightly to from league to league, but the differences are usually relatively minimal. I'll include some links to different leagues scoring styles later on in this article. Essentially your individual players earn points by doing what they do every Sunday on the field: gaining yards and scoring touchdowns, with bonus points usually given for certain milestones.
The biggest difference in scoring you might encounter is between "PPR" and "Non-PPR" leagues. PPR stands for "Points Per Reception", and as the name suggests, players are awarded extra points for catching passes, on top of gaining yards and scoring touchdowns.
Defensive players can also be in your fantasy team, "IDPs" or "Individual Defensive Players" often score points by making tackles, interceptions and sacks. Defensive players rarely score as many points as offensive ones and are left till last in most drafts.
Scoring is usually completely customisable, set by the Commissioner. Make sure you are familiar with the scoring before the draft.
Before you do anything when you join a league, a draft is held to determine who gets which players. Most drafts will operate in a “Snake” order, where teams 1-10 pick, and then the order reverses, with teams 10-1 picking 11-20 (and so forth until the end). The early rounds of the draft are critical, as it really defines what your team will be like in the long run.
A less popular, yet still widely used method of drafting is an “Auction” draft. An Auction draft couples your knowledge of players with your ability to balance books; you are allocated funds (a salary cap of sorts), with which you purchase your players. A player will come up on the draft block, and a furious round of bidding ensues between all the team owners. After a certain amount of time passes without any bids being placed, the person with the highest bid is awarded the player.
Make sure your computer has an up to date version of Flash, or else the draft client may not run properly. If for some reason you can’t be present when the draft is done, don’t worry too much; your team will be automatically selected for you based on the stock, pre-determined rankings (which can be either a blessing, or a curse), or your own rankings if you take the time to make them up.
Because they earn the most points Running Backs, Quarterbacks and Wide Receivers go off the board very quickly, so you want to plan to draft those positions early. If you are completely new to Fantasy football, I recommend looking at and basing your picks off NFL.com’s player rankings, which can be found here.
Some tips: Do Not Pick a Kicker in the first round, you can Not just trade for good Running Backs later on, and both Mannings still play in the NFL.
An average player slot layout looks like this (note: it will not be like this in all leagues):
Most of the positions are pretty self-explanatory. Where it says “W/R”, this stands for “Wide Receiver/Running Back”, and is commonly known as a “Flex” slot/player (some leagues also allow you to put a Tight End into your flex slot).
Your Defensive team also includes some Special Teams play (Kickoff/Punt Returns, mainly).
In your league, you will have a host of ‘starters’ (see above picture), and a few players on the bench. Only your ‘starters’ contribute points to your team. Your job is to rotate in the players you think will generate the most points in their upcoming game. You also need to be mindful of bye weeks; a player on their bye will score no points, so it's crucial to have someone ready to substitute with them, if only for 1 week.
To change players, it is as easy as clicking and dragging their icon from one point to another, and then saving the changes.
Throughout a portion of your fantasy season (before a deadline), you can trade players with other teams. You have 4 Good Running Backs on your team, but only 1 good Wide Receiver? Why not propose a trade with a Wide Receiver strong team, to give you better play at the Wide Receiver position?
Note: People are often hesitant to trade players, so don’t expect it to happen very often. Also, if you play in a random league, expect other owners to offer you 3 rubbish players in exchange for one of your superstars.
[caption id="attachment_16324" align="aligncenter" width="969"]
A Trade Request[/caption]
There are a plethora of players who aren’t drafted when initial teams are picked. Those players become free agents, and are free to be signed by anyone who wants them, as long as they ‘release’ one player to compensate a spot on their roster. Managing the free agent market is crucial to your success, as you can find some real gems who remain undrafted - I picked up Arian Foster before the 2010 season following an injury to one of my RBs, and he went on to lead the league in rushing.
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Some Free Agent players in the "Add Players" list.[/caption]
Remember how Torrey Smith had that breakout game for the Ravens last year, where he caught 3TD passes in the first quarter? Well, in Fantasy Football, he wasn’t even owned in most leagues when that happened. As soon as it did, everyone jumped in to try to pick him up. This is where the waiver wire comes in. As you go through the season, each team in your league gets ranked from top to bottom (initially this is usually by reverse draft order). For a few days following a game, free agent players can’t just be signed (as they normally would be able to). To pick them up, you have to submit a ‘waiver request’. After the allotted time (usually a few days), the team who submitted a waiver request with the highest priority gets that player (for example, if my team was ranked 4th in waiver priority, and my friend’s was ranked 6th, I would get the player ahead of him).
The Waiver Wire generally ensures that all teams get the chance to strengthen their rosters equally, rather than having to race the other owners to sign key players.
After you successfully sign a player off waivers, if you beat somebody out to claim that player you go to the back of the line and are last in waiver priority for the next round. The team who missed out has their waiver priority bumped up for next time (as is everybody else who didn't make a claim at all).
Waivers can be confusing, check out the short guides here
for more clarification.
There are many, many different leagues to choose from. Here are some of the more common ones.
Standard Leagues are pretty much everything I wrote about above. You have a draft before the season to get your players, and then compete head to head during the season.
If you take your fantasy football quite seriously, you may want to look at setting up a "Keeper League". A Keeper league is one that runs across multiple seasons. Scoring stays the same, however your acquisition of players changes. Instead of starting your team off from scratch, you can choose to keep some of your players from the previous season on your roster, how many you can keep varies between leagues, it's usually only 1 or 2.
Dynasty Leagues are similar to keeper leagues, but take player management to a whole new level. Requiring multiple seasons of dedication, a dynasty league leaves you with all
the players you had during the previous season. There is a draft before each season, however this is only used to select rookies; to get veteran players, you either need to trade for them, or sign them as free agents.
Survivor leagues generally utilise the standard league format, where you draft a whole team from scratch at the start of the season. However, when game time comes, it ups the anti somewhat. Instead of head to head games, an overall points format is used. The team who scores the least amount of points each week is eliminated from the competition. Hence, the last team standing is the team that wins.
and PPR Leagues
(mentioned in the scoring section above) should also be noted as league types, although you can have IDPs and PPR in any of the above.
The 3 Major Fantasy Sites
Generally, there are 3 major websites that people choose to play their fantasy football on:
NFL.com has a very simple, straight forward and user friendly Fantasy format which is very easy to use for people new to the game. Initially, you can choose to create/join a league with friends, or jump into one with complete strangers.
Being the official site of the NFL, they are often the first to break news about player status’, such as if they are injured, or whether or not they’re starting, however the other sites usually aren’t too far behind.
A list of how they score games can be found here.
ESPN Fantasy football operates similarly to NFL.com, however offers up more options with relation to game types, scoring, player management, and competition. In a standard league, the only changes from NFL.com are 1 additional player on your bench, and the ability to put a Tight End into your flex position.
A list of how they score games can be found here.
Once again, Yahoo Fantasy Football only differs a little from ESPN and NFL.com. Perhaps the most notable change is the fact that, in a standard league, you select 2 Quarterbacks for your roster, instead of 1. Scoring also has a couple of minor differences.
A list of how they score games can be found here.
(Note: Yahoo has a lot of different means of scoring between leagues, so that may not always be accurate.)
Again, we should stress that in all leagues the scoring and rules are determined by the Commissioner, make sure you check it out before you draft. There's no reason why a Yahoo league couldn't have the same rules and scoring as a NFL.com one.
Final Thoughts (and some tips)
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If you can get an amazing trophy, like the one our Editor Dominic has for his league, it makes the entire season much more exciting. This one can be found at http://www.iwonmyleague.com.[/caption]
If you love your NFL, then you have to try Fantasy Football. It gets you more in touch with the game, and gives you an exciting, competitive and just plain fun way to interact with the sport. You also learn a whole lot more about what is going on with other teams and players.
For first time players, I recommend NFL.com above all else. It is definitely the easiest to use, and packs a whole lot of fun. If you do end up playing on NFL.com, and you have an iPhone/ Android phone, it is well worth downloading the Fantasy App, as you can control everything that is going on with your team, from wherever you are.
If you take your competition seriously, you might want to consider watching Michael Fabiano’s Fantasy clips on NFL.com. Every week, he comes out with news, analysis and predictions, which can sometimes swing the balance of the game in your favour.
When you get to rounds 7 & 8 of your draft, don’t feel obligated to draft a Kicker or Defence, just to fill a starting roster spot. In previous years, I have found that the kicker/defence on my roster at the end of the year tends to be one that I picked up out of free agency, so you don’t really need to consider it until the very late rounds.
And finally, a warning: Fantasy Football can become very addictive. Be prepared.
The NFL Down Under Australian Fantasy Leagues
Yes we will be having our Australian only Fantasy leagues again this year with prizes in tow.
Watch out on our Facebook page
and Twitter for updates towards the end of the season.
We traditionally have our draft in the 3rd week of pre-season.
Are you excited yet? How do you rate your chances this year?
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