How to play fantasy football

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Is this the year you learn how to play fantasy football?

Every year, millions of fantasy football fans put serious work into preparing for their fantasy football draft. Some people play fantasy football for fun while others have big bucks at stake. 

NFL Fantasy Football
Are you ready to win your fantasy football league?

Either way, it makes an already exciting NFL season even more thrilling. Whether you play daily fantasy football or you are in for the long haul, winning at fantasy football requires both skill and luck.

How to play fantasy football

In fantasy football, competitors assemble a “fantasy team” made up of several individual NFL players. Whenever a player on your fantasy roster plays, that player hopefully earns points for your fantasy team. If the player performs poorly, then you don’t earn many points for your team. If the player has a great game, then you will likely earn a lot of points.

Each week, your fantasy team plays a scheduled match against another team in your league. Whoever racks up the highest point total that week is declared the winner. These regular-season contests usually take place up until Week 13 or Week 14. At that point, qualifying teams enter the playoffs which usually end Week 16.

There are many different formats, but each team typically consists of:

  • one quarterback
  • Two running backs
  • Two wide receivers
  • One tight end
  • One Kicker
  • One flex player which can be a running back, wide receiver, or tight end
  • One defensive unit

On top of these players, teams also have reserve players on their benches. These reserve players fill in for your regular starters if they are on a bye week, injured, or under-performing.

Preparing for the fantasy football draft

An old adage from the great Yogi Berra tells us that baseball is 90% mental and the other half is physical. Following that logic, fantasy football is 90% preparation and the other half is luck. Experienced NFL fantasy football enthusiasts don’t randomly pick their players. They do a lot of research, identify key players, and devise a fantasy football draft ranking system.

It is almost certain that the players you have targeted will be drafted by another team. This is why it’s so important to have several contingency plans for each player position. For instance, almost everyone is high on Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes heading into the 2019 season. 

It’s important to use a fantasy football cheat sheet to have an organized view of the players you want. Or simply make your own.

Many fantasy GMs are sure to have him targeted, but only one will get him. Be sure to study several other quarterbacks so you can get the next best one when it’s your pick. It is also highly recommended that you take part in fantasy football mock drafts and remember those fantasy football cheat sheets. These prepare you for the real thing when you need to act quickly and implement your contingency plan.

When does fantasy football start?

The NFL fantasy football season officially begins with the kickoff of the first NFL match of the season. The 2019 NFL fantasy football season gets underway on September 6 when the Packers take on the Bears. Unofficially, the fantasy season starts well ahead of this. The season starts when you begin to prepare for the NFL fantasy draft. 

You then draft your team and set your Week 1 lineup. Don’t worry if you haven’t drafted a team before the start of the NFL regular season. Many fantasy leagues hold drafts for several more weeks. Your schedule will just be shorter.

It is a good idea to wait until after the preseason is over before drafting your team. While it isn’t always possible, you must realize that players get injured during preseason play. Those who drafted Andrew Luck as their QB1 are kicking themselves after learning of the Indianapolis Colts quarterback’s untimely retirement. 

You can also get a better sense of where players like running backs Ezekiel Elliott and Melvin Gordon stand. Those guys are high-scoring fantasy football stars but their statuses are up in the air due to contractual issues. Why waste high NFL fantasy football draft picks on players who might not even suit up?

Fantasy football trades

A lot will happen during the course of an NFL season. Perhaps you weren’t able to draft very good receivers. Maybe one of your stud players suffers an injury or, like running back Kareem Hunt in 2018, gets suspended. Then there are always cases of players not performing to their potential. Whatever the reason, good NFL fantasy football managers have the knack for making beneficial trades.

If you are weak at a position, check out the rosters in your league. Try to identify a player that would help you. Some GMs like to stockpile running backs and have one or two decent ones on their bench. See if you have anything of value to offer them and propose a trade. Don’t try to fleece the other GM as others may try to avoid trading with you. Come up with something that benefits you both.

On the flip side, you might have an up-and-comer rotting on your bench that another team might be interested in. This can give you quite a bit of leverage in trade negotiations. Find out which team in your league is weak at that position and see what you can get. Hitting a home run on a fantasy football sleeper in late rounds of the draft can be immensely beneficial.

Fantasy football waiver wire

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and the NFL fantasy football waiver wire can be a treasure trove. The NFL fantasy football waiver wire is where you find all the players who not owned by someone in the league. The smaller your league, the better players you’ll find there. Every year, players get completely passed over in the draft only to get off to a hot start. Likewise, some players get hot during the season. 

In both cases, claiming those players off of waivers might be a worthwhile venture. Of course, you don’t want to drop a top-tier player of your own. In the 2019 NFL fantasy football season, Cleveland’s Kareem Hunt isn’t eligible to play until Week 10. He might be a valuable late-season NFL fantasy football waiver wire pickup if you need a running back later on. Naturally, he might not be if Nick Chubb is on a roll.

One of the most commonly claimed waiver wire pickups is the team defense. Savvy fantasy GMs usually pick them last in the fantasy football draft. This makes them an interchangeable part of your fantasy team. Kickers are also dropped and picked quite frequently. Keep your eyes peeled, it can make a big difference in a close matchup.

Fantasy football sleepers

Fantasy football sleepers refer to players who far exceed expectations. They aren’t easy to identify but you might find one if you do your homework. These aren’t players you want to burn a high draft pick on. You usually pick them in the later rounds of the fantasy football draft or claim them off of waivers. Getting your hands on one of these under-the-radar guys can make a huge difference in your fantasy football trophy quest.

Can you play fantasy football for free?

Absolutely. There are loads of free NFL fantasy football leagues. These are perfect for those who are just learning the NFL fantasy football ropes. You can form a free fantasy league of your own and invite family and friends to compete for bragging rights. Maybe even kick in a few bucks each to make it more interesting? It’s up to you. There are even a few free NFL fantasy football leagues that have cash prizes up for grabs.

What are the types of fantasy football leagues?

There are a few different types of fantasy football formats. A common type is a kind where you are randomly assigned a draft position and you pick your team. You draft a player when it’s your turn to pick. Salary cap leagues are also popular. With these, you have a certain amount of money with which to buy players. 

Some leagues run for a single season while others, known as keeper leagues, run for several seasons. You should know that there are also different scoring formats. Be sure to check things like how many points quarterbacks get per passing touchdown. How many points do defensive teams get for sacks and interceptions? Every league is different.

In recent years, daily fantasy sports have become very popular. Normally played for various buy-ins, these leagues last for one week. You pick your team every week and compete for cash prizes. This type of NFL fantasy football league was popularized by DFS operators like DraftKings and FanDuel. 

In addition to daily fantasy football, DraftKings and FanDuel also offer many other daily fantasy sports like hockey, baseball, and basketball. Use the DraftKings promo code or the FanDuel promo code when you deposit to qualify for various bonuses. Both of these operators run full season fantasy leagues too. Know what type of league you are entering before you pay your entry fees.

What kind of prizes can you win?

The answer to this question depends entirely on the type of NFL fantasy league you compete in. Generally speaking, players in free leagues don’t gain much beyond a sense of satisfaction. However, some free leagues offer up cash and other prizes to the winner.

There are oodles of cash leagues for those who want a shot at guaranteed cash prizes. The amount of money you can win mainly depends on:

  • The entry fee
  • How many teams are in the league
  • The prize payout scale
  • How much the operator charges

Both DraftKings and FanDuel have interesting cash formats that yield significant payouts to the winners. Multi-player daily NFL fantasy football tournaments boast huge prize pools. These tournaments are normally salary cap based with thousands of fantasy teams competing in one group. Teams that score the most points win the prize money.

Conclusion

While it helps, you really don’t need to be a football guru or stats nerd to enjoy NFL fantasy football. There are plenty of free resources available to help you choose and manage your team. Many sites are dedicated to fantasy football and offer loads of helpful insight and statistical data. They let you know the status of every player and even make recommendations for your weekly starting lineups. 

The most important thing about NFL fantasy football is that you have fun playing it. The season is full of ups and downs and you’ll need to roll with them. Many players have rebounded from a slow start and won their league. The more you are willing to put into it, the better your chances of success.