I can't tell you how many times I've mentioned fantasy football and the response I get is "Oh cool...I've never understood how that works."
And then I take 10 seconds to try to explain it as simply as possible.
"Yeah I still don't get it."
I'm going to try to lay it all out there as simply as possible so instead of having that sad, sad conversation, I can just give them a link to an article and be on my way.
I'm sure you could have guessed this, but experienced fantasy football players should probably just move on now. This one is for the beginners or the ones who want to be beginners.
Note: There are a ton of variations in terms of league settings and procedures, but I'm going to try to stay as basic as possible.
As you may well know, there are 32 teams in the NFL, each comprised of 50ish players. Most fantasy football leagues (but definitely not all) focus on the offensive players, the kicker (though a lot of leagues are starting to get rid of kickers), and a "team" defense.
The offensive players include the Quarterback (QB), Running Back (RB), Wide Receiver (WR), Tight End (TE), and a slot for your choice of a RB/WR/TE called a FLEX. Kicker is abbreviated with (K) and team defense is abbreviated with (D/ST) for Defense/Special Teams.
You select players at those positions in a draft (more on that later) among any player in the NFL and then have to choose a certain group of them to start each week (more on that later too).
In most of my leagues, we draft 16 players. The roster construction generally looks like this:
Starters: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, 1 D/ST (9 Total)
Bench: 7 spots for any position (16 total)
Let's move on to the draft for now, then we'll come back to the rosters.
So, you understand the concept and you're ready to just dive in. Most leagues conduct a draft anywhere from a few days to a few weeks before the NFL season begins. I'm required by United Nations Internatinoal Law to recommend that you gather all of your draft intel from the FantasyFusion draft kit.
Let's say you have yourself and nine others that want to start a league. You have ten total, which is a pretty typical amount - usually ten or twelve members is what most consider ideal.
You have to schedule the draft at a time that works for everyone, which, trust me, is not easy. Most leagues do some kind of random selection to determine draft picks, and then you "snake." Snaking means that the picks go from first to last, then last to first, and so forth. In a ten-team league, the picks would look something like this.
First Round: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
Second Round: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1
Third Round: 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10
As you can see, the member picking first obviously gets their selection of any player in the NFL but then has to wait about 20 picks until they get to choose again. On the contrary, the member choosing tenth has to wait nine picks to make his first selection, but then he gets two in a row. This is designed to minimize any advantages due to draft position, and all major fantasy football hosting platforms (ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, CBS Sports, NFL.com, etc.) default to snake drafting.
Go ahead and set a date, get your names in there, and start to think about who to pick.
If you're looking to get started with a draft board or trophy or championship belt or funny license plate cover, you can get 10% off at FantasyJocks with code "Fusion" from now until August 31st.
The Player Pool
I think this is where a lot of people get hung up.
As I mentioned earlier, you can choose anyone in the NFL to make up your roster. Your 16 players could represent 16 different NFL teams if you'd like, or they could represent just one (don't do that). You obviously want to choose the better players that play all the time so you aren't just throwing darts, but any drafting site provides rankings to give a general idea. If you're completely clueless, you can go in and just pick the hosting site's "best available player" and you'll probably come out okay. Beyond that, there are literally troves and troves of research out there, both on this site and many, many others. FantasyPros is a good place to start.
See the sample starting roster below. This would really never happen, but I'm trying to use high profile names so hopefully you recognize the players.
QB: Tom Brady - New England Patriots
RB: Ezekiel Elliott - Dallas Cowboys
RB: Marshawn Lynch - Oakland Raiders
WR: Odell Beckham, Jr. - New York Giants
WR: Demaryius Thomas - Denver Broncos
TE: Rob Gronkowski - New England Patriots
D/ST: Arizona Cardinals
K: Adam Vinateiri - Indianapolis Colts
As you can see, our nine starters span eight different NFL teams. You can choose literally any player in the league at those positions, and it doesn't matter what NFL team they represent. As a result, there are a kabillion combinations of players you could have, which makes it a lot more exciting.
So you set the draft date, select your players from across the NFL, now what?
In fantasy football, you'll be matched up with one of your other league members on a week-to-week basis. The goal is to have your starters (see below) score more points than their starters, which will give you a win and put you on your path to redemption.
The regular season is generally 13 weeks long, and the playoffs can last 2-3 weeks. As with any sport, playoffs seeds are given to the teams with the most wins during the regular season. If you're skilled enough to make it to the playoffs, you'll have to win every game after that to take home a championship, which you will do, obviously.
The reason setting a lineup is so important is that the points that you accumulate will only come from your nine starters, as mentioned above.
How do I accumulate points?
The points that you receive are determined by how well your fantasy player performs in his real-life NFL game that week. Fantasy matchups coincide with the NFL schedule, so your players Week 1 Matchups will coincide with the NFL's Week 1 matchups. If Tom Brady is playing the Browns in the NFL in Week 1, he's playing the Browns on your fantasy team as well.
Most scoring settings for quarterbacks look something like this, though this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Passing: 1 point per 25 passing yards, 4 points per touchdown, -2 points per interception
So, if Tom Brady threw for 250 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception, how many points would he accumulate?
250(passing yards)/25(yards per point)=10
2(touchdowns)*4(points per touchdown)=8
1(interception)*-2(points per interception=-2
10+8+(-2) = 16 fantasy points
Any hosting platforms do this math for you, so don't think you have to whip out the calculator.
Running backs, wide receivers, and tight ends both generally accumulate 1 point per 10 rushing/receiving yards and 6 points per touchdown. Kickers gain/lose points based on making/missing field goals of different ranges, and D/STs gain/lose points based on yards allowed, points allowed, sacks, interceptions, and all that other fun stuff.
Ultimately, the stats that your players put up in their real-life NFL games determine your points. Let's say your team's combined score was 103 and your opponent's was 99. You just got yourself your first win.
Setting a Lineup
Okay, so once the regular season starts, you have some decisions to make. You have 16 players on your roster from the draft, but you can only start nine of them on a week-to-week basis. You can change them based on how they've been playing or who they're playing against, and you can even use more "off-the-wall" material like inclement weather, if he's playing a team he used to play for, if you had a dream about them and just have to start them, etc. It's up to you.
In Week 1, you may start Tom Brady because he's awesome and you really don't need another reason. In Week 2, let's say Tom Brady is recovering from a minor injury and he's playing a really good defense, but the backup QB on your bench played well in Week 1 and he's playing the worst defense in the league in Week 2. You can go ahead and toss him in if you'd like. In Week 3 you can move Brady back to your starter.
Keep in mind that you still only accumulate points from your starting nine players, so when Tom Brady breaks a bunch of NFL passing records on your bench, you just have to cry and suck it up.
You obviously want to start the best lineup every week, but that's a lot easier than it sounds. You can consult us here at FantasyFusion or check out recommended starts on any one of the many fantasy football websites.
Trades and Pickups
Ah yes, another piece that makes it much more fun. Throughout the season, you have the ability and opportunity to trade players to another person's team in exchange for someone else that you need. Remember that good backup QB we talked about earlier? Maybe league member Billy Joe's QB is awful, and your starting RB Marshawn Lynch just suffered a bad injury. You can go out and offer your backup QB for one of his RBs and, depending on the quality of those players, you may agree to a swap and both fill some holes on your respective teams.
In addition, there are always random guys that end up being very productive that no one saw coming, and, thus, they weren't drafted. If they are a "free agent," you have the ability to go out and pick them up in exchange for dropping one of your current players. If any of your players suffer a season-ending injury, you can drop them and pick up some promising talent.
Most leagues employ a "waiver" system on a weekly basis, which basically means that there is a priority list for certain players and you have to submit which player(s) you want. The higher you are on the priority list, the more likely you are to get your guy.
In short, it's fun! It gives you another venue to harass your friends and it makes you more interested in football in general. Patriots fans suddenly care about the Browns vs. Jaguars slop fest, and Browns and Jaguars fans have legitimate reasons to watch better teams. It's a win-win!
Plus, if you're good at it, you can end up being profitable through your leagues or through Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS).
One step at a time, though.
Feel free to reach out to me @DonaldGibsonFF if you have any additional questions, and follow @FantasyFusionFF on Twitter and like FantasyFusion on Facebook. We're here for you.