Since it’s never too early to discuss the coming NFL season, I thought it could never be too early to discuss something else involving professional football, that being fantasy football leagues. This will be a two part discussion with the first intended for the uninitiated or new participants to fantasy sports, in general terms, and the second going into further detail with regards to fantasy football specifically.
This post will cover the some basic steps in getting started in the fantasy football realm, as well as help describe many of the options available upon starting. I will try to explain the different styles, scoring formats, and subtleties involved with fantasy football in hopes of helping someone to decide what might provide the most rewarding experience. So, if you’re feeling a little cramped Alice, just drink the Falcohol I’m serving and you’ll be normal in no time, I promise!
So, now that those basics are covered and you have decided to join the millions of people in the wet wild web, what do you do? Most sites will require that you are a registered member so pick one that you feel comfortable with and sign up. My main email provider is Yahoo, and you could easily make your choice based on that alone. Also, because I am most familiar with Yahoo’s service, I will provide information from that experience, but a lot of these details will serve you across most sites.
Once you are registered, find the fantasy sports section and then choose Fantasy Football. There will be plenty of links to take you to all sorts of info about how that site runs its service, from rules concerning different sports or styles of leagues within one sport, to simple FAQ’s that might solve many of your inquiries. Feel free to peruse those as needed.
After that you will probably have two or three options presented to you. You could create your own custom league with your own custom rules and settings and invite friends and family to it, you could join a public league with a bunch of random people using the site’s default rules and settings, and in some cases you will have the choice between pay leagues and free leagues. Choose what suits you and follow the on-screen steps to get set up and you’ll be off in no time!
In fantasy football there are a bevy of options to choose from so I’ll try to cover as much as I can. There are two primary types of leagues, Single Season leagues and Keeper leagues. Single Season leagues are exactly that, you get to manage one team for one season and then next year you start over completely. Keeper leagues allow you to draft your team then hold a certain number of players from season to season, much like a real franchise. Keeper leagues are fun, but manager turnover can sometimes cause problems if it’s not organized. I like both styles equally because they offer completely different experiences. A lot of people like having that chance to start fresh each season. Some people like the franchise feel. I do both so I suggest trying both for a few seasons, especially if you are just getting started.
There are also two other types of leagues that might interest you, Suicide leagues and Salary Cap leagues. In Suicide leagues, you can have as many managers as you want. Each manager picks a team for that week. If your team wins, you move on to the next week. If not, you’re out, done, finished. Simple and crazy. I’ve won a league in Week 1 before.
In Salary Cap leagues, again, you can have as many managers as you want. Each manager gets to pick a certain number of starting players, but each player is assigned a dollar value and you have a limited number of funds available to field a team. If the limit is $1mil, then that is what you have to work with, so you probably aren’t going to field an All-Pro team. Every manager can pick from the same players, so it’s possible that some teams will be the same or close to it. Scoring is then based on stats and their respective multipliers. Highest scoring team at the end of the year wins. One other thing, the player’s values change each week depending on not only their performance, but also on how often they are dropped or added. So, if a RB that no one really had goes off and everyone picks him up in the fantasy world (not just this leagues realm), then his value is going to go up and cost you more, which can make things tricky. Some of these leagues force you to field a full squad or you get zero points for the week as well.
The next level of options is the scoring type. Whether Single Season or Keeper, you can choose from a Head-To-Head format, a pure Points format, or a hybrid H2H/Pts format. In a H2H format, the winner, or the playoff seeding if you choose to have them (see, options galore), is based off the final record of the teams and the teams go against each other every Sunday just like in the NFL. This provides a more realistic feel to your league. The scoring typically is based off who scores the most in each stat category available, with the winner of that match up getting a win. For example, if Team A had more rushing TD’s than Team B, then Team A would “win” that category. Whichever team wins the most categories gets the win for the week. In a pure Points format, each stat is assigned a point value multiplier and points are awarded based on stat accumulation each week. The winner is the highest point scorer. In the hybrid H2H/Pts format, each team faces each other every Sunday like in the H2H format, but it adds the stat multipliers to the mix. Instead of “winning” stat categories, you get points for the stats your team accrues and whichever team has the most points at the end of the week (after MNF, so Tuesday morning) gets the win for that week.
After those main options, everything else comes down to personal flavor if creating your own league, or going with the defaults when joining a public league. If you are creating you own league, you can control which stats are tracked, how much they are worth, how many starting and bench positions each team gets, and many more things. One of the most rewarding though, is the draft type. One of the biggest draws to fantasy sports is the experience of drafting your own team. And like everything else, there are options. The three to choose from are Offline, Live Online, and Auto.
An Offline draft is really where it’s at though. I’m sure everyone has seen the commercials of the guys all sitting around drafting players and laughed at the guy who can pronounce Chad “Whos-ma-nilla”, Chad “Whos-ya-mam”. Well, trust me, it never fails that at least one person will do that in every draft, especially when there is beer involved. Plus, it’s a great excuse to get everyone together, grill out, drink beer, and talk some pre-season smack.
And while the Live Online draft isn’t as good as the Offline draft, it can more than hold its own because unlike Offline darfts (sometimes, just depends on how hardcore you are I suppose), there is a time limit on picks. That can easily lead to some insane player choices. The Auto draft is simply where the site you have chosen makes all the picks for each manager based on a pre-set Player Ranking list that can be edited beforehand by each manager in the league. Simple and effective, but it doesn’t come close to the experience or the flexibility of making on-the-fly decisions.
After all that, really everything else is gravy on your league Salisbury steak, but some final things to keep in mind. Try everything. What I deem to be a user friendly site may not be for you, so while I find Yahoo to be extremely easy to navigate ad CBSSportsline to be rather tedious and annoying, you mileage will surely vary. Personally I like to use a H2H/Pts hybrid system, but you might like a strictly Points system for your league. I use individual defensive players in my leagues, but I know plenty of people who think that is too much to manage and would rather use a Defensive Team style instead. When it comes to fantasy football, definitely taste the rainbow!
Be prepared. While many sites provide all forms of information regarding individual players as well as teams, it never hurts to do a little of your own research before the draft and during the season. Part of being prepared means knowing your league and how its scoring system is working. I’ve seen a league won by a team using nothing but KR/PR guys for his WR’s because it just happened that the league’s scoring system favored returners heavily in the same year that Dante Hall was ripping off return TD’s in every single game. Some sites will show you what players would score in the current scoring system with the previous year’s stats making it so you can easily project trends.
And the final and most important thing to remember, HAVE FUN! I’ve seen long running leagues blow up over some of the most mundane things because people blew things out of proportion or got bent because something didn’t go their way. There is no need for that. If you aren’t having fun with it, try something different, be it a different site or a different scoring format. There are just too many options out there for you to not have fun.
Hopefully this answers any question people may have about fantasy football. Feel free to reply here with questions, or email me specifically. Peace!