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How to Play Fantasy Football

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 2 3

5 Basic Tips to Get Started Playing Fantasy Football

Everyone has heard of the National Football League (NFL).  Almost everyone has heard of fantasy football.  The issue is that many of you still don't know how it all works.  This shouldn't discourage you from learning how to play.  It's very simple once you get the basic idea of how to score points and set up a team.  These next five steps will help you understand enough about fantasy football to have fun while playing with your co-workers, friends, family, etc.

1) Learn what skill positions are.

First, I can already hear people saying, "They all have skill!"  Yes, I know.  For whatever reason, football people have labeled quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends as "skill positions."  These four positions will make up 70% (estimated) of your fantasy football team.  It may help to watch a game or two before you join a league to fully understand what each position does on the football field.  However, I'll give you a quick breakdown.  A quarterback is the player that gets the ball on every play.  The lineman hands the ball to the quarterback from between his legs to the quarterback.  The quarterback then hands the ball to a running back or throws the ball to a wide receiver or tight end.  A football field totals 100 yards with two ten yard end zones at both ends.  The quarterback/running back/wide receiver/tight end will throw or run the football with the hopes of getting into the end zone, which is referred to as a touchdown.  Although NFL teams don't score unless they get into the end zone or kick a field goal, you will earn points by either accumulating yards with throws, runs, or catches or getting into the end zone.  Please note that you will lose points if they have possession of the football and lose it by throwing the ball to the other team (called an interception) or dropping the ball while running with it (called a fumble).

2) Learn what kickers and defenses are.

This may look pretty self-explanatory but this makes up the other 30% (estimated) of your fantasy football team.  The kicker is the player that comes on the field to attempt to kick the football through the yellow uprights, which is called a field goal.  In the real game of football, the kick is always worth three points, but in fantasy football you may get more or fewer points depending on the length of kick (longer = more, shorter = less).  However, each league is different.  The defense is the only position in fantasy football that accounts for more than one player.  The defense is exactly what you think it is.  A defense is the eleven players on the field during a play that opposes the offense.  A defense will score points in fantasy football by catching a pass thrown by the opposing quarterback (interception), pick up a loose ball on the ground (fumble), tackling the quarterback (sack), or preventing the other team from scoring throughout the entire game.  The defense can also run the football into the end zone after an interception or fumble and score bonus points for fantasy football.  Please note that many fantasy football leagues also consider the special teams a part of defense.  The special teams are the players on the field for field goals, punts, and kickoffs.  You can score points with special teams by blocking a field goal, blocking a punt, or returning a kickoff for a touchdown.

3) Pay attention to the individual player, not each team.

Fantasy football centers around individual players and the NFL teams don't matter.  You can call it the current generation of "me-first" players or even a general shift towards brand marketability, but teams are far less important in today's pro football world than the teams they play for.  That mentality can definitely be a problem in football circles, but it's ideal for fantasy football.  For example, you want to own a running back that runs for 160 yards and 2 touchdowns even if his team loses 40-14.  Don't feel bad about selecting a player that plays for a hopeless football team as long as he continues to score fantasy football points.

4) Read the league rules to know position requirements and point awards.

It's very important that you know that each fantasy football league is different.  I could write about all the hundreds of variations of leagues, but even then I would still be missing hundreds of different kinds.  They usually are very similar in nature, but the point totals might be slightly different or there could be a variation of roster requirements.  So it's essential that you read through the league rules to understand your league's framework.  The two main things to look at are: roster/position requirements and point awards.  First, it's extremely important that you understand how many QB's, RB's, WR's, TE's, K's, and DEF's play on a team each week.  For example, you may have 15 players on your team but only 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 DEF can play each week.  So you'll need to select your best player's for each of those categories.  Hence, you'll need to make sure you have enough players for each of those positions on your overall roster.  Second, double-check how your league awards points.  Some leagues will award 1 point for every 10 yards a running back runs with the football or another league will have 1 point for every 50 yards.  There are many variations and every league is different.

5) Select high-ranking players in the draft and adjust your roster throughout the season.

You select your fantasy football team before the NFL season begins by having what is referenced as a "draft."  The draft is the time when every participant in your league gets together (either in person or online using a fantasy football website) and selects the players for their team.  Every NFL player can be selected.  The owners of each team (also called the other participants playing in the league) rotate in a predetermined order by choosing one player at a time.  The quick tip is to go online before the draft and print off an expert's rankings of each position.  Make sure you cross off each player as they get selected so you know who is available.  Then when it's your turn to choose a player, you know which players the experts would suggest.  As noted in the fourth point, take note of what positions you need to have on your team as you pick players.  Once the draft ends you will have your entire team selected.  However, this does not mean that your team is set for the rest of the season.  It would be nice (and healthy) if players didn't get hurt or if they met expectations for their stats, but that doesn't happen.  The players that didn't get drafted will all go into a pool of players that can be selected at any point.  So if you need to replace one of your players or want to select a player that is playing really well (and nobody has him on their team), then you can move to the pool and replace him with someone you'd like to take off of your current roster.  Please note that the league will have a maximum number of players you can have on your team thus you need to remove a player every time you add a player.

Please add any other tips in the comment section below or if you have any questions that I can help with!



Jan 23, 2013 6:03pm
You actually do need to pay attention to the team. For example a running back on a team that has a terrible defense and is constantly behind isn't gonna get as many carries as a back on a good team that is leading going into the 4th quarter. On the flipside a team like the Detroit Lions that has a bad defense and strong passing game will always be passing and put up huge numbers. Just look at Calvin Johnson this year.
Jan 24, 2013 6:07pm
Well definitely don't draft Tim Tebow ;)

One important thing to do is to draft backups for your key players... For instance if you draft Arian Foster with your first pick later on in the draft look for his backup Ben Tate. Backs get hurt all the time and you always want somebody that can step in just in case....(see Ben Tate production 2011)
Nov 16, 2013 7:09pm
I personally like to use ESPN's average draft position charts. It usually helps the most when I am attending live drafts so I don't allow any good players to slip through the cracks.
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