How to Play Fantasy Football


How Do You Play Fantasy Football?

It’s August and you’re approached by a co-worker, “want to join our fantasy football league”? Sudden panic sinks in, your heart pounds, you begin to sweat…You think to yourself; what is fantasy football? How do you play fantasy football? I don’t know anything about fantasy football. Is this going to be a big time commitment? This sounds complicated. Is this going to cost me lots of money?

Don’t worry; will explain to you how to play fantasy football. FF is great fun and makes every NFL game ten times more exciting. Why do I care that the Browns and Bengals are playing? Because I have Josh Gordon on my team and I need him to score a touchdown! It’s even a great way to build relationships at work because you now have a common bond with 11 other co-workers who ordinarily would have said hello at the coffee pot and kept on about their day. You’ll probably spend a couple of evenings before and after the season (draft day and year end party) having drinks and socializing with a fun group of people whom you may not have known well before joining the league.

You’ll recall from our previous post, what is fantasy football, common people act as owners and general managers of simulated NFL teams. Players gather points by scoring touchdowns, rushing for yards, catching passes and kicking field goals, for example. Most leagues are head to head, which means simply, if your team scores more total points on Sunday (and Monday) than your opponent, you win. The “regular season” is typically composed of 13 head to head matchups. The teams that have the most wins throughout the regular season qualify for the playoffs. The top three or four teams that win the playoff tournament win money. The ultimate prize is winning the league championship. The league champion is the team that wins first place in the fantasy year-end tournament (matchups in NFL weeks 14-16) and oftentimes get to hold the league trophy for one year-along with a whole bunch of bragging rights.

Leagues, Cost, and Draft

How Do You Play Fantasy Football

If you are joining an established league, there’s probably an established website from the previous season. However, if you are creating a brand new league, consider ESPN. It’s free fantasy football League site and contains a high number of customizable features. For more features, complex rules and scoring management, look at a website such as CBS Fantasy Football League Commissioner or They offer even more customizations. Setup is pretty simple and settings carry over between years, making it a one-time configuration.

How Do You Play Fantasy Football

It’s extremely important to understand your league rules and especially scoring. I joined a new league a few years ago and it took me three quarters of the way through the season to realize how valuable running backs (and particularly workhorse running backs) were in our league, due to the fact that RBs were awarded one half point for every carry. I discovered the top teams had at least three RBs garnering the majority of their team’s carries; even though talent-wise, they weren’t the best in the league. With some strategy adjustment, I was able to dominant the following season and thereafter.

The cost of most leagues range from $20 to $200, which covers the cost of the website and creates a prize pool awarded to the top teams at the end of the season. In one of my leagues, we chip in an extra $10 for the person hosting the draft and year end party. We all bring a snack to share and he supplies good craft beer and a 100 inch big screen!

So where do all the players come from?

Prior to the start of the NFL season, your league will hold a draft. Many argue that this is the best part of the season. Most drafts are sort of a social occasion, but there’s some homework that you need to do by analyzing how players project for the upcoming season – if you want to succeed in fantasy football.

During the draft, owners will build a roster by taking turns choosing what he or she feels are going to be the most productive players for the upcoming season. Usually the team that finishes in last place the previous season will select first, proceeding in reverse order of finish from the previous season, until all roster spots have been filled.

To make it easy, dozens of good websites establish a fantasy football mock draft. These are practice sites that you can participate in to get a feel for where certain players might be picked. If you don’t have the time to participate in a mock draft, you can just view the results from previous mock drafts. Some sites have hundreds of these and will even aggregate the results for analysis. Your best bet starting out is to find a reputable fantasy expert, print out the rankings and bring it to the draft. If you have a laptop, some companies even offer an inexpensive piece of software that tells you who to pick when it’s your turn.

Some leagues play an auction style format. (Look for upcoming articles related to auction strategy to learn more). I’ve been running a 12 person league for nearly 20 years. We switched to an auction style about 12 years ago and the owners love it. Each team gets a pool of $200 (fake money) to fill a 17 man roster. Each owner takes turn nominating a player for bid. Each bid increments by $1 and when the bidding slows down, the highest bidder is awarded the player. Owners must bid at least $1 on each player and cannot exceed his or her $200 cap. In my opinion, this is the best way to run a draft. You get the opportunity to select your favorite players (if you’re willing to pony up the dough), unlike in a traditional snake style pick’em draft. To learn more about auction leagues, there are plenty of sites that show you how to play auction fantasy football.

Roster Management, Lineups, and Waivers
The objective is to maximize the points of your starting lineup and outscore your opponent each week. Simple, right? Well, the toughest and most fun part of playing fantasy football is managing the roster and deciding who to start each week. The most common Monday morning reaction is “I should have started player X instead of player Y”. The simplest method on choosing which RB or WR to start is to study the rankings posted by top analysts on ESPN, CBS Fantasy Sports, Rotoworld and Yahoo. These folks devote their livelihood to picking the most productive players each week. Fantasy football for beginners can choose the higher ranked of two players as a good rule of thumb.

However, roster management can be trickier throughout the season. Who should I drop? Who should I pickup? How do I handle bye weeks? Oftentimes, newcomers (undrafted players who rise to stardom early in the season), can make or break your season. This might happen due to an injured starter or teams may want to develop an unknown rookie player into their ultimate weapon. Every year, a handful of undrafted players end up producing some of the best results for the season. Managing your roster effectively means doing some research to identify these players and adding them to your roster in place of injured or underperforming players. I’m constantly reviewing my bottom two players in hopes of replacing them with new players that offer better long-term potential. Sounds cold, but remember its just fantasy!

Your league will have predefined rules for acquiring players (called free agents or waivers). Usually, the waiver period to pick up a new player starts on Wednesday each week and lasts until kickoff of the first game for the next week. Rules will vary, but often the team with the worst record chooses first, followed by second to last, etc…Sometimes, leagues will allow any players to be selected on a first come first serve basis following the predefined waiver period (as long as the next week’s games have not started). Check with your league commissioner to learn exactly how your waivers work. You don’t want to miss out on a key player that could help you win your league.

If you stay active researching new players and watching for those players on the waiver wire (players not already on a team), your chances of success increase greatly.

There are a number of resources available that can provide key information throughout your fantasy season. For starters, check back to frequently for key advice. As you gain experience, you’ll benefit from consuming our advanced and expert articles that will help you win your league.

How to Play Fantasy Football

How to Play Fantasy Football

Other helpful sources include analyst shows, such as ESPN NFL Countdown and Fantasy football Now, which has a daily show on the NFL Network. There are tons of excellent websites such as,,, and just to name a few.

Author, Sam Hendricks, provides The Ultimate “How-to” Guide for Beginners, available at This book is a quick read consisting of just 141 pages of exceptional information for beginners. Read my review here.

Well, you now have some base knowledge. You now know some key resources for how to play fantasy football. You know about the draft. Even as a rookie, you’re now ready for the fantasy football 2014 season! Well, maybe not entirely prepared. The process of putting together a championship team is challenging, involves a little luck, but most of all it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Learning how to play fantasy football and learning how to build a roster that dominates the competition is a great way to fulfill the entertainment need as the weather starts to turn cooler and you’ve watched all the episodes of Breaking bad. With the your newfound knowledge, at least you can stop sweating and accept the co-workers offer to join the league!

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