Playing Fantasy Football - Football for Everyone - Football For Dummies (2015)

Football For Dummies (2015)

Part V

Football for Everyone

Chapter 18

Playing Fantasy Football

In This Chapter

arrow Getting to know the basics of fantasy football

arrow Putting together a team

arrow Discovering where to get the scoop on players’ stats and injuries

arrow Outlining a basic strategy for fantasy football success

Have you ever watched a football game and said to yourself, “If I were an NFL team owner, I’d do things differently, and my team would make it to the Super Bowl”? Well, you can live your dream of becoming an NFL team owner by participating in a fantasy football league. These leagues give you the opportunity to put together a dream team of NFL players and pit your team against other fantasy football teams. And at the end of the season, you may even win prize money — and more importantly, bragging rights!

Fantasy football leagues are everywhere, and many types of leagues exist. I know a lot of fans are obsessed with these leagues because people ask me for advice all the time. Some of them would rather have me advise them on whom to trade for than ask for my autograph. For example, during the 1997 season when San Francisco 49ers receiver Jerry Rice suffered an injury that forced him to miss much of the season, fans were asking how they could replace him. But there’s no way to replace a player like Rice, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer and receiver.

In this chapter, I focus on the rules and method of play of the most popular type of fantasy football league: the head-to-head league. I also point out resources for you to use to investigate other types of leagues.

Exploring How Fantasy Football Leagues Work

In a head-to-head fantasy football league, you and your fellow owners draft teams of NFL players and compete against each other’s teams each week. Your fantasy team roster includes individual offensive players (quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, and kickers) and may include defensive or special teams units, depending on the particular setup of the league.

Throughout the season, you track the performance of the players on your team and tally the points, yardage, and other statistics they accrue. You earn points based on those real-life statistics. For instance, if your team’s defense or special teams unit scores a touchdown or records a safety, you get points. Table 18-1 lists the common scoring categories and the number of points awarded in most standard leagues.

Table 18-1 Typical Fantasy Football Scoring Categories


Points Awarded


6 points

Field goal

3 points


2 points

Two-point conversion

2 points


2 points

Passing yards

1 point per 25 yards

Rushing yards

1 point per 10 yards

Receiving yards

1 point per 10 yards

remember If your team outscores your opponent’s team for the week, you get a win. At the end of the season, you compare your win-loss record against those of the other teams to determine who makes the playoffs — the head-to-head competition of the top teams in the league, leading up to the Fantasy Super Bowl. The last team standing in the playoffs is the champion.

Figuring Out How to Play

Entire volumes have been written on playing fantasy football. I’ll skip over most of the intricate details found in other books and instead try to give you the basics you need to get started. Refer to a good fantasy football reference, such as Martin Signore’s Fantasy Football For Dummies (Wiley), to get detailed coverage of the nuances of fantasy football.

Starting a league

Starting a fantasy football league is easy. Here’s how:

1. Recruit enough friends, co-workers, or neighbors to have eight, ten, or twelve teams (each person fields one team).

tip Definitely go with an even number of teams. Scheduling is too difficult with an odd number of teams.

2. Name your league and have each owner name his or her team.

Each owner must submit a team name. (Get creative!)

3. Select a date for your annual player draft.

This date is when you choose the players for your team. The weekend before the start of the NFL regular season usually works best.

4. Agree on an entry fee.

This dollar amount can be as high or low as you like. Pool the entry fees to form the pot, the cash paid out as prize money to the lucky winners. (Note that you can skip this step if you and your fellow team owners don’t want to play for money.)

That’s it! Grab your clipboard and start scouting players as you begin the countdown to the draft.

Choosing a fantasy football site

Your first order of business after forming your league is to appoint an almighty commissioner. The commish arbitrates any and all disputes that crop up (and trust me, controversy rears its ugly head in most leagues).

After a commissioner is in place, find an online fantasy league site to join. (References like Fantasy Football For Dummies can help you in this regard.) The sites offer articles, message boards, injury reports, and stats. These head-to-head online fantasy football leagues are the most popular:

· CBS Sports Fantasy Football:


· Fleaflicker:

· Fox Sports Fantasy Football:

· Fantasy:

· Yahoo:

· RT Sports:

Drafting a team

The goal for each owner is to draft a team of 15 to 18 players. (Determine the roster limit for each team beforehand; see the next section for the breakdown of roster spots.) You generally draft offensive players from different teams along with the defense and special teams units from a single NFL team.

remember The number of players to draft at each position is up to you, but here’s a safe combination for a 16-member team:

· Two quarterbacks

· Four running backs

· Four wide receivers

· Two tight ends

· Two kickers

· Two defense/special teams (punt and kickoff return) units

During the most common kind of draft, the snake draft, each owner selects one player at a time. Generally, the commissioner draws numbers out of a hat to determine the draft order. The owners make their picks in order for the first round. Then they reverse this order for the second round. For example, in an eight-team league, Owners 1 through 8 make the first eight selections in order. Then Owner 8 gets the ninth pick, Owner 7 gets the tenth pick, and so on down to Owner 1, who makes the 16th and 17th picks, and so on until all owners fill their rosters.

tip Before the draft, designate two people to record all the player selections. Accurate records can help resolve conflicts that may arise later.

Filling out your roster

Each week, you enter a starting lineup — in a standard league, that lineup is made up of a quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a defense/special teams (punt and kickoff return) unit.

The remaining players are reserves. These players’ statistics don’t count while the players sit on your reserve squad; instead, reserves serve as backups for your starting lineup. Here’s why reserves are important:

· They replace poor-performing starters. If your quarterback, for example, plays poorly, you can replace him in your starting lineup the following week with your backup quarterback.

· They replace injured starters. If your star running back breaks his leg (gulp!), you simply start your backup running back the following week.

· They replace players on bye weeks. Each NFL team has one bye week (a week when they don’t play). Because of bye weeks, you need to insert backup players for your starters whose teams aren’t playing that week.

Managing your team after the draft

Fantasy football requires active weekly participation. You can’t just kick back after the draft and expect your team to be successful. For starters, each week you must submit your starting lineup. At a minimum, you should

· Monitor the schedule. Don’t start a player whose team isn’t playing that weekend.

· Check out the injury updates. You obviously don’t want to start an injured player.

tip Consider the following options to try to improve your team over the course of the season:

· Free agent acquisitions: Closely monitor the pool of undrafted players; you may be able to acquire a great player no one else drafted.

· Trades: As a general rule, you must trade equal numbers of players. For example, if you trade two players, you must get two players in return to keep your team whole.

Note: The rules for free agent acquisitions and trading vary widely. Consult Fantasy Football For Dummies or fantasy football Web sites to find out more about other leagues’ policies regarding free agents.

Figuring your point total and winning

As long as you know how many points go with which actions (see the earlier “Exploring How Fantasy Football Leagues Work” section), scoring fantasy football just comes down to basic math. Table 18-2 shows you an abbreviated scoring example. Using this example, you pit your 69 points against your weekly opponent’s total. If you outscore that opponent, you get a win; if he or she outscores you, you lose; if you score the same total, you get a tie. Simple, huh? As the season progresses, you can gauge how well (or how poorly) your team is doing by comparing your win-loss record with the other teams’ records.

Table 18-2 A Scoring Example


Scoring Play

Points Awarded

Aaron Rogers, QB

1 touchdown pass 278 passing yards 24 rushing yards

6 11 (1 point per 25 yards passing) 2 (1 point per 10 yards rushing)

DeMarco Murray, RB

2 touchdown runs 149 yards rushing

12 14

Rob Gronkowski, TE

1 touchdown reception 99 receiving yards

6 9 (1 point per 10 yards receiving)

Sebastian Janikowski, K

1 field goal

Chicago Bears, defense/special teams

1 kickoff return touchdown

69 (total)

At the end of the regular fantasy season, the teams with the best records make the playoffs. These high-powered playoff teams vie for the pinnacle of fantasy football — the Fantasy Super Bowl!

Of course, financial incentive exists for fielding a strong team (but feel free to eliminate entry fees and play for pride only). Here’s one easy way to distribute prize money (dollar amounts will vary based on the number of teams in your league and the entry fee amount):

1. Award a small amount ($1 or $2) for each win during the regular season.

2. Give 20 percent of the pot to the Super Bowl loser.

3. Give the remainder of the pot to the Super Bowl champ.

Finding Information to Help Your Team

Prior to the draft and throughout the season, you need to stay informed about your players. You can stay up-to-date by searching the Internet.

Fantasy football Web sites abound. The following some sites offer player profiles, team stats, injury reports, lots of good insider information, and links to even more fantasy sites:

· ESPN Fantasy Football (

· FOX Sports (

· (

· Sporting News (

· Sports Fanatics Player Drafts (

· Sports Illustrated (

· USA Today (

Considering Tips for Fantasy Football Success

Everyone who plays fantasy football will give you a different set of tips, but here are a few that should serve you well in any league:

· Check out the prior year’s stats. Make sure you know who the best players are at each position. Pay special attention to touchdowns scored because that’s the name of the game in fantasy football.

· In the early rounds of the draft, take the best player available regardless of position. For example, if most of the top-notch quarterbacks are taken by the time it’s your turn to pick, snag the best available player, such as a running back or wide receiver. Remember, however, that you must fill in all the necessary positions to field a legal team.

· Don’t draft a kicker in the early rounds. The NFL has plenty of decent kickers, so use your early draft picks to acquire players at other positions.

· Consider a player’s opponent for the week when selecting your starting lineup. If one of your running backs is going up against the best run defense in the league, you may want to start another running back.