Fantasy Football for Beginners
There’s tons of information out there. It can be overwhelming. I’m going to touch on variations in fantasy football leagues, critical draft strategy and a few tips to aid beginners through the season. If you haven’t read our articles what is fantasy football and how to play fantasy football, please do so first. Otherwise, enjoy the valuable fantasy football advice for beginners from FantasyFootballAid.com.
Fantasy Football leagues
The number of league options is insane. What the heck is PPR, Dynasty, and re-draft?
Re-draft leagues – A redraft league is extremely common. All rosters are reset every year and all players are eligible for draft.
Keeper Leagues – In a keeper style, one or two players are designated as a player to retain the following year. In other words, no one else can draft them, you can keep them. In the tradition snake style draft, you have the option to forfeit the round the player is drafted in (or sometimes round minus one). For example, if you selected Josh Gordon in the 11th round, he can be designated as a keeper player by forfeiting your 10th round pick in the current draft. In our auction league, we allow teams to keep one player, but the value of that player is last year’s auction price + $10.
Dynasty leagues – dynasty fantasy football is a league format where part or a team’s entire roster is kept for the following season. Instead of drafting an entirely new roster each year, only free agents and rookies are drafted.
Daily leagues – In a daily league, rosters reset every week. Players usually have a dollar value and owners must create a starting lineup while remaining within a preset cap of money. It’s like having a brand new draft every week. FanDuel, DraftStreet and DraftKings are popular daily leagues.
Scoring variations: There are a number of scoring variations, but these are the most common.
TD only – Points are awarded for passing, rushing and receiving touchdowns. There are no points awarded for yardage. This is one of the original scoring formats and is losing popularity with fans.
Standard – Points are awarded for TDs, as in a TD only league, but players also acquire points for length of touchdown and yardage gained.
PPR – Similar to the standard league, plus receivers earn a point per reception (PPR).
IDP – Individual defensive player. The starting lineup includes a defensive player, such as a defensive end, linebacker or defensive back. Points are awarded based on sacks, tackles, fumble recoveries and interceptions.
My recommendation is to join multiple leagues. Each league is a little bit different and fun in its own way. Why not enjoy some variety?
Choosing a team name
A large part of fantasy football is having fun. One of the most interesting aspects is hearing all of the wild and crazy team names. It’s your identity. Choose a good one. Be clever. Make it interesting. Here are some of my favorite examples from the leagues that I participate in and a few online…
4th and Infinity, Child Please, Busted Play, Not All Madden Team, Blocking Dummies, Tight End Sharts, Enuff Said, Chupacabras, Need More Cowbell, Sofa King Winning, MattStaffordInfection, I Pitta the Fool, JamaalCharlesinCharge, Not to Schaubby, LaFell In Love, Orton Hears a Who, My Favorite Marshawn, 4th and Lynches, Luck Dynasty, Kaepern Crunch
…and a few that are perhaps inappropriate to share.
Research and Analysis – Make sure to perform lots of research on players and teams leading up to the draft. Don’t be caught picking the player that just broke his leg in the previous preseason game or even a kicker that just got cut the night before. You’ll get laughed out of the room.
Author, Sam Hendricks, provides The Ultimate “How-to” Guide for Beginners, available at Amazon.com. This book is a quick read consisting of just 141 pages of exceptional information for beginners. Read my review here.
Scouting Player Profiles – Rotoworld and Yahoo provide excellent snapshot profiles on nearly every player in the league.
Rankings and Lists (cheat sheets) – Check back toward the season for fantasy football rankings. We’ll have player rankings and fantasy football projections for the draft as well as weekly rankings to help set your lineup.
Mock Drafts – practice makes perfect – ESPN is known for having some of the best fantasy football mock draft data available. These lists are actual drafts conducted by owners prior to the season. Data is aggregated into ADP (average draft position) which will give you an idea which round a player is being selected on average.
Sleeper list – Compile a list of lesser known players and rookies that have the potential to produce strong numbers. Typically target a sleeper toward later rounds – seldom early in the draft. I keep a spreadsheet handy at the draft with sleepers displayed in a bold blue font.
A couple other pieces of wisdom about the draft….don’t draft players from same team. This is a common mistake that many owners make. They think that by drafting the QB and WR from the same team that they’ll double up on points. While this happens occasionally, it’s also a huge risk if the players have a tough opponent or an off day. It’s better to minimize the risk by drafting a similar value receiver.
- Don’t draft with your heart – There’s a Cowboy, Steeler or Packer fan in every league that over values a player just because he plays for their team. Draft with your head. The player may not be as valuable as you think.
- Draft RBs early. Most leagues are won or lost based on RB performance. If you’ve played enough years, you’ll agree that by mid-season, RBs are a premium because few exist on the waiver wire. Make sure to get a couple of top notch backs early in the draft.
- Draft for a few surefire stars – not depth. Don’t get cute during the draft trying to take a flyer on a speculative player that didn’t perform the previous year. Grab a player that has proven that he can put up points and target those players early in the draft.
- Wait on QB. QBs are consistent and there’s less drop-off between the stars like Drew Brees and the mid-tier QBs like Tony Romo.
- Draft defense and kickers last. It might be tempting to take a defense toward the middle rounds or even a kicker before round 16, but don’t give in to the temptation. All kickers are pretty much the same and many can be acquired during the season. Same goes for defense. Due to personnel changes from year to year, it’s difficult to project which teams will finish toward the top.
Tips for a Successful Season
- Improve your roster. Never be complacent in first place and never give up on the season in last place. Injuries can play a huge role in fortunes or misfortunes of fantasy teams. Frontrunners can quickly drop to the middle of the package due to an injured star running back. My team last year looked great at the draft, but quickly headed south with injuries to David Wilson, Doug Martin, Danny Amendola and Randall Cobb. With Josh Gordon on suspension and Brady starting slowly, I was in a deep hole to start the seasons. I knew Amendola was a risk, but did not expect other key players to get hurt. Stick with it. Don’t give up. Brady got hot midway through the season, Gordon came off suspension to become the best WR in football, and I added Zac Stacy and Riley Cooper from waivers. Before I knew it, I was back in contention.
- Remember, the draft is for a few stars. Free agency is for fine-tuning your depth.
- Play the matchups. This is especially true with defenses and RBs that face weak rush defenses, but it’s important to evaluate your players’ opponents each week when making critical start-sit decisions. Deciding which player to insert into a starting lineup oftentimes determines the outcome of at least a couple games throughout the season. One or two extra wins-losses may be the difference between making the playoffs or not. Don’t forget to evaluate the favorable schedules late in the season and playoffs. Knowing which players have weak opponents in weeks 14-16 of the fantasy playoffs can provide a big advantage toward a championship run. Perhaps there’s a star player that has been injured throughout the season. Pick him up through free agency and stash him on your bench for later. Your opponents will be more concerned about the current week and often ignores 5 weeks down the road. Don’t wait until the player is already cleared to play, otherwise, it will be too late and your key rival will beat you to the punch.
- Forget the big names. Part with the deadweight. If it’s week 7 and the star player you picked in an early round is still underperforming, get rid of him or at least put him on the bench. If you can work a trade with someone – do it. Many owners will jump at the chance to get a CJ Spiller because they’re in love with the name. He was projected to be one of the top backs in the league, but breaking up is hard to do. Trade him away and go get someone that can improve your roster today. Much of your decision may be based on your current win-loss record. If you are toward the top of the league, it’s much easier to ride the storm and bench the star player. Perhaps he will turn it around toward playoff time. But if you are in desperate need of win, unload him now and try to get some value in return – even if it’s a lesser known player.
Pick a league format that fits your personality, draft wisely, follow our fantasy football rankings each week and following these simple tips for a successful season. Don’t forget to conduct plenty of research prior to the draft and continually look for ways to improve your roster throughout the season. This will help you maximize your points toward a fantasy championship. Don’t think that just because you’ve never played before that you can’t win. Rookie owners win leagues all the time and you can too.
One more suggested 5 star read is Fantasy Football Basics by Sam Hendricks. Sam is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. ” I realized this was an exceptional “how to” book–one written by a true expert who knows not only the game but how to write. It is extremely well-organized, with easy to read and easy to follow instructions…”
Read my review of Fantasy Football Basics here.