For some fans, football exists only on game day. On this day, they cheer on their favorite team, tailgate (whether at the stadium or at their own home), and celebrate a win or quickly forget a loss.
There’s a subset of fans, however, who make football an everyday experience. Seven days a week for the entire season, those who play fantasy football take a casual interest and turn it into an obsession.
Going from rooting for your favorite team to playing fantasy football involves some prerequisite knowledge. Much like a rookie at training camp who is picking up the playbook, you’ll want to practice before jumping in. Just because you’re a Cleveland Browns fan, doesn’t mean you need to draft Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, or Terrelle Pryor. We’re here to help you think outside your team’s locker room. Our Fantasy Football for Beginners Guide will have you going from dud to stud – even if it’s your first season.
Fantasy Football isn’t a solo activity; you’ll need to join a league on one of the many popular sites – ESPN, Yahoo, NFL.com, CBS Sports – with as many as 15 other “owners,” individuals or groups that are running a team (usually friends or co-workers). In reality, you’ll see between 10 and 12 owners in most leagues.
There are different formats that dictate how players are selected – or drafted – by the owners in your league. The most common format is a Standard League, in which the first player to select in round one picks last in round two (“snake draft”). This process repeats until each team completes their roster, picking the minimum number of players by position and reaching the maximum team size.
The game takes place weekly, pitting you head-to-head against another owner. Typically, players will log on and set their lineups early in the week. Then, using the associated website or mobile app, they will follow their fantasy team’s performance as the games are being played in real time. The fantasy season coincides with the NFL season with most leagues taking their top four, six, or eight teams with the best head-to-head records into the playoffs during weeks 14, 15, or 16.
Assemble Your Team, but Know the Score
It’s important to read through your league’s scoring system! This directly affects your strategy heading into drafting players. On draft day, you need to fill a minimum number of players in each position. In most standard leagues, it goes as follows:
- Quarterback: 1
- Running Back: 2
- Wide Receiver: 2
- Tight End: 1
- Flex: 1
- Defense: 1
- Kicker: 1
Starting with nine total players (1 Quarterback, 2 Running Backs, 2 Wide Receivers, 1 Tight End, 1 Flex spot for a Running Back, Tight End, or Wide Receiver, 1 Defense, and 1 Kicker), you’ll end up with some extra bench players, usually seven. This allows you to prepare for “bye” weeks – when your first-choice quarterback is potentially busy enjoying a Sunday on the golf course, and you need to substitute him with another starter. While you generate your first roster on draft night, you’ll be able to trade or pick up players throughout the season in case “sure things” don’t pan out and you need to make an adjustment.
How these individuals perform in their games each week, determines if you’ll be a hero or zero. Each player receives positive points – touchdowns, passing yards, rushing yards, field goals – or negative points – fumbles, interceptions – for everything they do on the field. This generates a total overall score for you. In most standard leagues, a quarterback receives fewer points for scoring a touchdown than the running back or wide receiver. It is important to note that fantasy players draft team defenses, not individual players. Your fantasy defense will earn points based upon how well the actual team’s defense performs. Knowing how your league’s scoring works will help you prioritize your draft-day selections.
On the Draft Board
Looking at each position, here’s one player in each position that you should target:
- Quarterback: Drew Brees. Coming off of a season leading the league in passing yards, Brees is primed to put on another show in New Orleans.
- Running Back: Le’Veon Bell. With his three-game suspension, he might ride your bench for a few weeks, but once he returns, he could be the top player in the league.
- Wide Receiver: Odell Beckham Jr. Targeted 288 times last season – 68 more than any other WR on the Giants – look for some big points from OBJ.
- Tight End: Jordan Reed. A top scoring TE in 2015, the only question mark about Reed is his health. He’s missed 14 out of 48 games in the past three seasons.
- Defense: Cardinals. It would be easy to draft the Denver Broncos, but you’d be reaching. Look to see if you can snag the “Bird Gang” after the Broncos go off the board.
- Kicker: Roberto Aguayo. Even though he’s a rookie, the Florida State Seminole turned Tampa Bay Buccaneer is a “weapon,” according to their general manager. We agree.
Make the Call
Now that you’ve taken an introductory course on fantasy football, you’re ready to call the shots. Will you draft a big-name quarterback first, or will you stock the cupboard with running backs and wide receivers? It’s up to you to make those decisions.
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