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A beginner’s guide to Fantasy NFL

Fantasy NFL as an addictive hobby

So, you want to enter the world of fantasy football? I warn you now, this is a highly addictive, frustrating and a bitterly cruel hobby to undertake. You’ve probably got an interest in the NFL and may or may not have a group of friends sharing a desire for a league too. If you have, great! If not, then I’ll help you to find a league to take residence in. Just be aware, this is nothing like any other fantasy football you have ever played before and it will take over your life.

The concept

NFL fantasy all begins with the draft. The draft order will be randomly selected and each team takes it in turns to select a player on their roster. Therefore, every player in the NFL can only play for one team in your league. This is where it becomes tactical. A kicker may be the best at his position but will score half the amount of points as the highest scoring running back will score so won’t get drafted in the late round. However, the highest scoring quarterback will outscore the highest scoring running back, but because there’s an abundance of high scoring quarterbacks these won’t get drafted until late rounds either. Confusing, right? Don’t worry though, we’ll talk draft tactics closer to the time.

Your league will be made up of 8, 10 or 12 teams (anything more or less is just ridiculous) who play head to head against each other each week. In a 14 week, eight-team league, teams will play each other twice. Your league table will reflect the win-loss and ties record. After 14 weeks of battle, the top-four teams will enter the playoffs. These are seeded so 1st will play 4th and 2nd will play 3rd. The winners of these games will then face each other in a week 16 showdown, with the winner being declared the master of fantasy football. It’s usual for leagues to invest in a trophy. You can choose to have your Championship week in week 17 so that the championship game is played on one night, however, many starters in the NFL are rested so we choose week 16. This means that your Championship game will be played across four nights, which last year included Christmas Day.

Teams are made up of quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers and defensive units. You can select how many of each of these you have but a fairly standard format is 1 x QB, 2 x RB, 2 x WR, 1 x TE, 1 x Flex (RB, WR or TE), 1 x K, 1 x D/ST and seven players on your bench. Smaller leagues may increase the number of players at each position. You select your lineup each week from your squad depending on the form of players, byes, favourable matchups etc.

Points are awarded to skill position players by accumulating passing yards and touchdowns; receiving yards and touchdowns and rushing yards and touchdowns. However, they can also be lost for turnovers of the football. Kickers get points for (you guessed it) kicking. Defence and special teams lose points for conceding points but also gain points for causing turnovers and scoring touchdowns. Other formats are available such as PPR (points per reception) and IDP (include defensive players) but we’ll focus on standard fantasy football.

During the season, you will want to make adjustments to your roster. Players will pick up injuries, get dropped, fall out of form, fall out of favour or just generally stink. Therefore, you’ll want to add free agents. There will become a time when every team owner in the league is tracking the same guy. This is where waivers come in. Once a player has played, he can’t be picked up off free agency. Therefore, he must go through waivers. Each Wednesday morning, the league will process waiver requests and allocate players depending on who has the highest waiver priority. Waiver priority is decided by your position in the league table (last being the highest). So, if you are last in your league, you have priority over which player you choose. Once a player has been selected, you will have to wait for your rivals to select their players before you can have another pick.

Finding a league

If you have at least seven other friends wanting to start a league then life will be easy for you. You need to register to a league such as Yahoo or ESPN but the NFL fantasy league comes recommended. You’ll need to select a commissioner. The commissioner is responsible for managing the league, submitting the paperwork, sorting any conflicts and everything else in between. This is not an easy job. If you don’t have enough players for your league or you have an odd number, tweet me @Dav_TidyNFL and I’ll retweet to try and help you find players.

When should you draft?

I know how it feels to be itching to play and pushing to get your draft done as soon as possible, don’t. There is a lot of time between now and the season opener, you could well find that your number one overall pick has been cut by the team or suspended for violating the PED policy. The draft should be done as close to the start of the league as possible. The draft takes place on the Saturday before the opening Thursday night game. This is the last week of preseason and most cuts have been made, so we have a good idea who’s hot and who’s not. The draft should be a fun night, maybe with a takeaway, a few beers and a draft board. There’s plenty of online draft boards but nothing quite beats making your own. It’s a fun tradition for the winner of a Championship to host next year’s draft.

What can you do between now and then?

There is plenty of research to be done. Stats are the easiest form of research but they can end up leaving you highly overvaluing a player or undervaluing a player. Therefore you need to evaluate the stat, why did David Johnson score so many points last year? Why did Keenan Allen score so few? There are answers to every one of these questions but it’s down to you to find them. Watch game tape, listen to podcasts, read articles from ‘experts’, take part in mock drafts. will set you back around £15 but comes highly recommended. You need to create a foolproof cheat sheet as fantasy drafting is all about taking the best player available.

I can’t recommend fantasy football enough but be warned, it will take over your life.

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