We’re taking a short break from our 2014 Preseason Profiles to do a quick fantasy football feature. Considering the season starts on Thurday, September 4, we figured it would be a good time to encourage you to draft your first team. We’re catering to people who have never done fantasy before, so if you’re a fantasy veteran, some of this may not apply to you.
If you’re still unsure about playing fantasy football, you obviously haven’t read our Top 10 List of Reasons You Should Play Fantasy Football.
1. Where should I set up my fantasy team?
There are a handful of fantasy websites out there, but the big 3 are probably NFL, Yahoo, and ESPN. All of these have smartphone apps so that you can check your team on-the-go. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
NFL – The user interface is great. Visually, we think this is the best one. On game day, the Game Center feature has a live graph of your match-up, as well as projected points. We’re partial to this site because it’s where we started playing fantasy.
Yahoo – Yahoo was one of the first major fantasy football platforms. A neat feature is that they color-codes your players depending on how good of a match-up they have on a weekly basis. (For example, a running back going against a team with a week run defense will be green. A running back going against a team that allows very few running yards will be red.) There’s a lot of tools at the disposal of advanced players, but the site is simple enough that any newbie can pick it up quickly.
ESPN – We’ve never used ESPN for fantasy before, but we do know people who have used it and like it. There are a lot of fantasy experts on ESPN, so if you want convenient links to expert advice, this is the platform for you.
2. What’s the difference between Standard and Custom scoring? Which one should I choose?
Standard and Custom scoring are pretty self-explanatory. Standard scoring involves default point values for each type of play. Sites give the option of Custom scoring so that people can change the scoring values if they so choose. For example, some people prefer 6 points per passing TD instead of 4.
The settings are made at the league level, so everyone in your league is awarded the same number of points for the same plays.
We recommend standard scoring leagues for beginners.
Standard scoring is mostly the same across the different sites, but there are a few differences we’ve highlighted below.
3. What’s the difference between the Standard and the Auction format? Which one should I choose?
This refers to how you draft your players. In a standard league, participants are assigned draft numbers and can take any player that’s available when it’s the participant’s turn to draft.
Auction leagues are a little more complex because participants are given a budget. (Standard amount is $200, but this can be customized.) Participants nominate players to go up for bid. The nomination order is usually randomly determined prior to the start of the draft. Once a player is on the bidding block, participants place bids for the player. The participant with the highest bid gets the player.
The whole auction concept is pretty neat because it mimics real life. NFL teams have to deal with a salary cap. Auctions force you to work within a budget.
We recommend the standard format leagues for beginners.
4. How many players at each position do I need?
If you are in a standard league, the number of players in each position is as follows:
Quarterback – 1
Running Back – 2
Wide Receiver – 3
Tight End – 1
Defense – 1
Kicker – 1
Bench – 6
It’s up to you who to put on your bench. We recommend a backup quarterback (who has a good match-up during your starting quarterback’s bye week), at least one more running back and at least one more wide receiver. Filling up your bench is often about taking players with the best value while they are still available.
Customized leagues have the option to change the number of players for each position. Sometimes you will see a flex spot where you can put in a running back or a wide receiver. Some customized leagues also have individual defensive players, which are awarded points for tackles, sacks, etc.
5. What is auto-drafting?
Auto-drafting is when the site selects your team for you. If you don’t log in for your league’s draft, the site will automatically draft your team based on how players are ranked. If you are logged in, but don’t choose quickly enough (most leagues give you 30 seconds to 1 minute to make your drafting decisions), it will automatically select a player.
If you are unsure about your draft skills, feel free to use auto-draft. (Once you participate in your first draft, you will see how easy it is to do manually. Players are ranked and you can see the player’s points from the prior year and projected points for the upcoming year. Most sites also include an average draft position (ADP), so you can see when the player has been drafted in other leagues.)
6. Is it going to cost me anything to join a league?
Not unless you want it to! There are plenty of free options out there and the sites we described above all have free leagues.
On a personal note, we’ve never participated in a league with a payout, with the exception of our annual family playoff challenge, which had a $2.50 buy-in last year. ($2.50 is not a typo. We mostly play for bragging rights.)
7. What if I don’t have any friends with a league for me to join?
First of all, get some new friends. (Just kidding!) You should join a random league. All sites have this feature. These are great for your first foray into fantasy if you are anxious about playing with people you know. Feel free to pick any league that drafts at a time that’s convenient for you.
Another benefit to random open leagues is that some people join them just to practice their draft skills and then they abandon their teams at some point in the season. This means they aren’t taking injured players or players on byes out of their starting line-up. This means easy wins for you, which is a real confidence booster.
8. How long does a fantasy draft take?
Usually about an hour to an hour and a half, depending on how many people are in your league, the number of people auto-drafting, and the draft time settings (how many seconds you have to make your decision for each draft pick).
Side note – We think the perfect number of people in a league is 10. 12 isn’t bad either, but 14 is terrible. As the number of participants in a league increases, the number of really good players that you can draft decreases. Sure, it’s more competitive, but it also gets really frustrating. You will definitely not recognize most of your roster if you are part of a 14-team league. You get to the last few rounds of the draft and find yourself saying, “Should I draft the guy with the broken leg or the guy who is suspended for 14 of the 16 weeks?”
9. The season has already started and I forgot to draft my team. Can I still participate?
Yes! Many sites still allow you to sign up after week 1, so no excuses if you haven’t signed up for a league by the first regular-season game.
10. What’s your best advice for a fantasy football novice?
Know your bye weeks. Pull up the bye week schedule in a different tab so you can reference it during the draft. Bye weeks are when teams have a week off during the season. They happen week 4 through week 12.
It’s important to know your bye weeks so that you don’t draft too many players with the same bye week.
If you decide to draft a backup quarterback, this is especially important. What’s the point of having a backup that isn’t going get any points during the one week that you know your starter is going to be out?
If you have 3 wide receivers and 2 running backs that all have bye weeks during week 10, you are either going to have to accept a loss that week or do a lot of trading and picking up on wire waivers just to get points on the board. Don’t put yourself in this position.
Have any other questions that we didn’t answer? Tweet us (@thesnapfootball) or comment below.