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How to play fantasy football and how to pick the best players

Fantasy football 1

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This concise guide outlines how to play fantasy football, the steps to join the game, and how to pick the best players.

Fantasy football seems to become more popular with each passing year. Even if you’ve never played fantasy football, you’ve likely at least heard of it, especially if you live in the United States where about 46 million people play fantasy sports. Fantasy football players spend countless hours researching football players, hoping to build the perfect fantasy team. 

Accumulating fantasy points based on real-life football statistics lies at the heart of the fantasy league. The more players know about real-life football players, the better their chances of competing successfully in fantasy football leagues. Betting is also an integral part of fantasy football, allowing participants to benefit if their team wins. Many of the largest sportsbooks offer free bets to new customers. It’s an excellent way to test your skills before making a significant commitment. 

If you’re new to fantasy football don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we tell you everything you need to know to get started playing fantasy football. 

How to play fantasy football: overview

Fantasy football 1

Fantasy football lets players step into the role of NFL or college team owner or manager. As a player, you draft a team and generate fantasy points based on real-life players’ performance on the football field. Many football fans enjoy playing in the fantasy league because it adds another layer of excitement to watching football. A Sunday night football game between the Cowboys and Washington takes on new significance when you play fantasy football. 

We mentioned statistics earlier because this is a math-based game where the real-life performance of college and NFL players determines your standing in the fantasy league. Each week, you build your roster with players from various positions depending on your league settings. A typical roster includes the following positions: two running backs, one quarterback, a kicker, a tight end, one defense and one flex.

You receive fantasy points based on the real-life statistics your starters collect on the playing field. Your weekly points are tabulated based on the point totals of all the players in your starting lineup. If you have more points than your opponent at the end of the week, then you win. Your bench consists of players who don’t start. They accumulate points like your starters, but they don’t count towards the weekly total. 

You’ll play the same way each week until the end of the fantasy regular season, which usually lasts until week 13 or week 14. After that, if your team has one of the league’s best win-loss records, it enters the fantasy playoffs. If your team doesn’t win in these competitions, your season is over. The team that wins the playoff games becomes the league champion after week 16. Depending on your league, this time frame may differ by a couple of weeks. 

Steps to creating your own fantasy football team

Now that you understand the mechanics, let’s take a closer look at what you will do from joining a league, through to the end of the season. 

  1. Join a league: You can either join a public or private league. If you join a public league, you can sign up on the spot, no questions asked. An invitation is required to join a public league. Most beginners join leagues for fun, although some join to play for money. Before joining a league, make sure you understand the rules. The league you select will have a significant influence on how you experience your first football season. 
  2. Scout players: This step is research-heavy because you want to get as much information as possible about available players and rank them according to your personal preferences before you select your fantasy team. To complete this step successfully, you need a thorough understanding of your league’s scoring system and roster set-up in order to develop a solid strategy. 
  3. Fantasy draft: Draft day is one of the most exciting days of the fantasy football season. The draft consists of each fantasy owner choosing one NFL player at a time until all of the rosters are complete. Fantasy drafts usually take place online; however, drafts for private leagues made up of friends or coworkers often take place in person. Be sure you draft players for all available positions, so you have a complete team roster. 
  4. Gameday: Fantasy football follows the NFL’s regular schedule, with teams facing off each week in your league. Your league’s provider will convert players’ real-time stats into fantasy points, with the highest scoring team becoming that week’s winner. Your goal is to win as many games as possible and make it to the playoffs. 
  5. Playoffs: If you make it to this stage, you’re doing really well. At this point, it’s survival of the strongest with your league’s top teams playing each other in a single game elimination tournament to decide the league champion. Depending on the league, if your team is crowned champion, you may win a trophy, cash prize, or simply bragging rights. 

How to choose players to draft

Since the goal of fantasy football is to accumulate as many points as possible during the season, you want to select players that will get you a lot of points. While you’ll find many expert draft philosophies online, there’s usually a consensus among fantasy football players about who the best players are.  

If you need help with the draft, check out ESPN’s fantasy football draft kit for mock drafts and rankings as well as cheat sheets and analysis. It’s a one-stop shop for everything related to the fantasy draft and is updated every season, so you can check back each year to get a leg up on the competition. 

Another option is checking out your league’s default rankings while participating in the draft. The system will auto-draft players for you if you don’t do anything. However, we don’t recommend that option because participating in the draft is such an exhilarating experience.  Also read: How to understand football plays

There you have it, everything you need to get started with fantasy football. Once you get the hang of it, we wouldn’t be surprised if you become a lifetime player. It is that much fun.