So, you’re new to NFL Fantasy? Guess what, 6 years ago so was I.
I grew up as an Aussie Rules-only Australian. That meant I thought any other form of football was inferior to the great sport of my country. Oh, what a fool I was! It was not until late high school that I started to take notice of American Football/Grid Iron/NFL. A mate of mine was planning to go to college to be a punter. He did, but from being their punter he then became the team’s placekicker due to injuries and was so good that he won the Lou Groza award for best college kicker in 2014. So, my interest grew through this time as I followed my mate’s college career.
I was an Aussie Rules Fantasy player for a long time, and it was through Fantasy Sport that I was truly initiated into the NBA. The same went for the NFL. I had just started a new job in 2015 and one certain colleague (who I now do a certain podcast with) worked hard to bring people at our work together to play in a 10-team NFL fantasy league. He did not have to work hard to convince me. The year of 2015 was my first foray into the NFL, and I have not looked back. Being a proud Carson Wentz Fantasy Coach in 2016 led me to follow the Eagles as my NFL team. And now I spend way too much time in the NFL offseason doing research and thinking through my draft strategy for the year ahead.
I love NFL Fantasy and it has since become my favourite (don’t mind my Australian spelling!) Fantasy Sport. I hope you will find the same enjoyment in this as I have. So, let me run you through how single season NFL Fantasy works and what makes it such a great fantasy sport.
The Main Idea
NFL Fantasy is where you select a combination of real-life NFL players for your Fantasy Team. Filling certain positions on your roster, these players score Fantasy Points based on their real-life in-game stats. You match your team against another team in your league each week with the highest points total winning the matchup. After 13/14 weeks the teams with the best win-loss record enter the playoffs with the League Champion being crowned at the end of Round 16 with bragging rights lasting for the next 12 months.
Achieving this greatness is not easy, so dive in with me as we dissect the different aspects of this great game.
If you are very new to the NFL, then give this section a read to understand how the game itself generally plays and relates to Fantasy. But if you know how the sport works feel free to skip ahead to Scoring.
Each NFL team has an offense and a defense, and unless you are very deep into the NFL Fantasy rabbit hole, you will mostly be focusing on players on the offense. In particular; Quarterbacks (QB), Running Backs (RB), Wide Receivers (WR), Tight Ends (TE), and sometimes Kickers (K). Most leagues will ask you to choose a whole team defense (D/ST) to play each week as well. The way each position earns points is a little different so read on…
These guys throw the ball. Every single play (for the most part) that the offense plays will see the quarterback touch the ball. He will either throw the ball to another player (WR/RB/TE) or hand the ball off to an RB. The QB scores point based on the distance he throws (Passing Yards) during the game, and the touchdowns (Passing TDs or Rushing TDs) he scores. A QB can also choose to run the ball and score points that way as well (Rushing Yards). If a QBs pass is intercepted, then they usually lose points.
The Running Back usually plays next to the QB and can run with the ball from a QB hand-off (Rushing Yards), be an extra blocker to give the QB time to throw the ball, or receive a pass from the QB (Receiving Yards). While they earn no points for helping block, RBs gain most of their points from the distance they run the ball from the Line of Scrimmage (LoS) which is where the ball begins each play, as well as touchdowns (TDs).
Wide Receivers/Tight End
A wide receiver/tight end gain their points from predominantly receiving passes. The distance they gain from the LoS (Receiving Yards) and touchdowns (TDs) provide WRs/TEs with the bulk of their points, as well as the number of receptions they have for the game (PPR/Half-PPR).
Not every league will have kickers, but those that do will earn points based on the Field Goals (FGs) and Extra Points (XP) that they score.
A team’s defense will usually gain fantasy points through keeping the opposition to minimal scoring, sacks (where the Defense takes the QB to ground), interceptions, and recovering fumbles. Basically, turnovers and score restriction is what makes a good fantasy defense.
The brilliance of NFL Fantasy is that each league can alter and change their scoring settings, making each league unique. Being aware of scoring can alter how certain players are valued in your league, so paying attention to your league settings is very important. But there are some generally accepted standard scoring settings. Let’s run through them.
25 pass yds = 1pt (1 pass yd = 0.04pts)
10 rec/rush yds = 1pt (1 rec/rush yd = 0.1pt)
*can be negative points if the player is tackled before advancing across the line of scrimmage
“Standard” Scoring: 1 Rec = 0pts (standard scoring is becoming less normal)
Half PPR Scoring: 1 Rec = 0.5pts (a good middle ground, this is the regular setting on platforms such as Yahoo)
PPR Scoring: 1 Rec = 1pt (has gained popularity for quite some time, is the regular setting on platforms such as ESPN)
Passing TD = 4pts (this is usually achieved by the QB)
Rushing/Receiving TD = 6pts (this is usually achieved by a WR/RB/TE, but QBs can also score Rushing TDs)
*some leagues give 6pts for all types of TDs.
Passing Interceptions (Turnover)
1 Int = -1 or -2 pts (regular league settings will usually be either -1 or -2, it is rarer to see bigger penalties than this)
Fumble Lost (Turnover)
1 FL = -2pts
The D/ST has quite a few ways of scoring points. The main way being a restriction of the opposing team’s offense in scoring.
1 Sack = 1pt (this is where the opposing QB is tackled while still in possession of the football)
1 Int = 2pts
Fumble Recovery/Forced Turnover
1 FR = 2pts (this is where the opposition offense loses control of the ball before being tackled or coming to ground and the defense secures the lost ball, causing a turnover)
Opposition Scoring (Points Allowed)
0 pts allowed = 10 pts
1-6 PA = 7pts
7-13 PA = 4pts
14-20 PA = 1pt
21-27 PA = 0pts
28-34 PA = -1pt
35+ PA = -4pts
*There are some other ways of scoring points for the D/ST so make sure you check your league scoring settings.
Every week you will field a select team from your roster. The team you field will add to the points that count; any points left on your bench will not. Again, the required team you field is customisable for your league so check your settings. There is the possibility of a FLEX spot, which allows you to play a WR, RB, or TE along with the prescribed spots, or a Superflex which allows an extra QB to be played as well. Some common league set ups are:
2 Wide Receiver
1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, 1 D/ST + BENCH of X amount of players
3 Wide Receiver
1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, 1 D/ST + BENCH of X amount of players
1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 SUPERFLEX, 1 K, 1 D/ST + BENCH of X amount of players
The highlight of the NFL Fantasy calendar is your league’s draft. Whether you can gather, or must Zoom/Skype/draft online, the opportunity to sledge your opposition, snipe a player from someone else or be sniped yourself provides a lot fun and is the launching pad for the season ahead. This is the moment your team comes together. It is often said you can’t win your league at the draft, but you can lose it. You will take turns picking players in your set draft order with the order reversing each round, this is called a Snake Draft. There are other ways to draft out there in Fantasy land, but for the everyday Fantasy coach the Snake Draft is the way to go.
To best prepare for the draft do some mock drafts. These are fake drafts, either with other people or against a computer which simulate a draft for you. The site you will draft on will most likely have a spot for you to do mock drafts. Doing some of these during a lunch break or as you lay in bed before you go to sleep allows you to get a feel for how the draft might eventuate each year.
As you pick players and construct your roster there are some tips worth following:
- Have an idea of the rankings. Check out Arch and my rankings here at The TFL Podcast and have a look at other expert rankings at sites such as FantasyPros, ESPN, and Yahoo.
- ADP means Average Draft Position. This is where a player is being picked on average by the public. Knowing this can give you an idea about when to expect a certain player to be picked off the draft board. You might have a favourite player, but you may not need to draft them with your first few picks if their ADP is not very high.
- RBs and WRs are the core of your team. Value them above the other positions. Unless you’re in a Superflex league where QBs are more valuable.
- Pick a QB late. The difference in total points between a top 5 QB and a top 15 QB is often not as large as you might think. Do not waste your early picks by not getting a stud RB or WR.
- Draft your D/ST and Kicker last! These positions are often the most unpredictable so do not take one early. You will most likely change these positions as the year goes on more than your other positions, so do not value them very highly.
- There is a lot of depth at WR, not so much at RB, so picking a stud RB or two early is highly recommended.
- Do not get stuck into picking your whole starting roster first. A good strategy is to pick good bench players (WRs and RBs) before your K, D/ST, QB, and TE.
- Have fun, pick players who you will love to watch. NFL Fantasy is better when you can enjoy watching the games!
Waivers and Trading
The Waiver Wire
After the draft finishes all the unclaimed players move onto the Waiver Wire. Each week you will have the opportunity to make a claim for players on the waiver wire and nominate who you will drop from your roster to make room for the incoming player. The claims will process at a set time each week with players going to teams based on your league settings.
The settings could be reverse ladder order, where the worst team each week gets first choice, or a rolling waiver order where you go to the bottom of the order after you make a claim. Or, my personal favourite, where you are using a Free Agent Acquisitions Budget (FAAB). FAAB is where you place a bid from a predetermined budget (usually $100) on the players you wish to claim, and the team with the highest bid wins the player, subtracting their bid from their budget. Once the budget is gone you can still make claims however you cannot bid more than $0.
Trading is what makes the season go round. Work trades with the other teams in your league. Have a weakness at WR, but strong at RB? Make a trade. Want to jump on an under-performing player from another team, try and trade for them. All players have a price. Trying to negotiate and find that price is all part of the fun.
The bottom line when it comes to playing NFL Fantasy or any Fantasy Sport is that you enjoy it for the community it builds. The simplicity of having your fake team going against your friend’s/spouse’s/colleague’s fake team is strangely something special. It fuels rivalries that last decades, it sees last minute victories which are recalled every time you catch up, it sends normally calm people into frenzies, and brings people together regardless of race, gender, religion, or age. I love this game and I hope this guide has been helpful and that you too will get great joy out of playing NFL Fantasy this year.