Considering the season has started and this is a really popular topic, we’re going to answer some more fantasy football questions for beginners. If you missed our original post on this, here it is. Knock yourself out.
1. I really don’t understand fantasy football. Can you explain how fantasy football works?
Don’t know about you, but my motto is: When in doubt, Google it. In this case, Google has a pretty good basic definition of fantasy football – “a competition in which participants select imaginary teams from among the players in a league and score points according to the actual performance of their players.”
Most everything fantasy mimics how things work in the NFL (I’m about get pretty detailed here and describe fantasy football at the most basic level, so feel free to skip ahead to the next question if you aren’t completely new to the concept.)
– You join a fantasy league to compete against other fantasy teams. A league means there are usually 9 or 11 other people with teams of their own competing against you. Within a league, everyone follows the same rules and everyone selects from the same pool of players.
– You select players that are currently in the league to be on your fantasy team. You acquire them through a draft (or if you are in a “keeper” league, they roll forward each year). Just as people can’t be in two places at once, players can only be on one team at any given time.
– Throughout the season, you can change your roster by trading players with other fantasy teams within your league, as well as picking up players that are currently not on any other teams.
– In real life, teams score points by scoring touchdowns, successfully kicking field goals, or safeties. In fantasy football, your players score points for these same activities, in addition to others. In a standard league, you also get points for how the defense did, which doesn’t happen in real life. Additionally, you get points for how many yards someone ran, how far a wide receiver ran to catch a ball (in addition to yards after the catch), and how far a quarterback threw the ball. That doesn’t happen in real life, although maybe it should.
– Your team goes up against other teams in your league on a weekly basis. You earn points based on the performance of your players that week. The fantasy team with the most points in that match-up wins that week. Your fantasy team has a win-loss record during the season.
– The last 3-4 weeks of the regular NFL season are devoted to fantasy playoffs. Fantasy playoffs do not occur during the actual playoffs because not all teams make the playoffs, and thus, their players cannot earn any fantasy football points. Fantasy teams that make their league’s playoffs play tournament-style to determine a winner. That means you cannot lose a match-up in fantasy playoffs in order to win your fantasy playoffs.
So basically, fantasy football allows you to be a pretend NFL owner and coach, without the financial commitment. It’s pretty fantastic.
2. How many people do you need in a fantasy football league?
Most leagues have 10 or 12 people. That said, the three big fantasy sites (ESPN, Yahoo!, and NFL), will allow you to have as few as 4 people and as many as 20. Keep in mind that all fantasy leagues require an even number of teams (10, 12, 14, etc.) because every team needs another team in the league to match-up against on a weekly basis.
Remember, the more people you have in your league, the weaker your roster will be, because the good players will be distributed to more teams during the draft.
3. What are the standard number of players to draft in each position?
This depends on the site you use and your league settings. The standard roster settings on the big three fantasy sites (ESPN, Yahoo! and NFL) are as follows:
Remember, these are standard settings and can be changed when setting up custom leagues. These are the NFL’s custom league setting options. These are Yahoo!’s custom league settings options. These are ESPN’s custom league settings options. You’re welcome.
4. Which order should I draft my fantasy players?
There are so many schools of thought on draft order. The best I can do is tell you my tactics, as well as some other strategies.
– Draft your starting lineup first, with the exception of kickers and defense.
– Wait until one of the later rounds for defense and one of the last two rounds for a kicker, unless you have your heart set on a particular defense or kicker. (You probably shouldn’t.) Draft your defense before your kicker because top defenses generally produce more fantasy points than the top kickers.
– Draft a proven running back or wide receiver in the first round. These players will be ranked in the top 15 overall on the draft site.
– I like to draft a quarterback in the 2nd round. Many people disagree, but I’ve found success with this method. Quarterbacks have proven to be a little more durable than other positions and I know that I want one the top 5 quarterbacks because it helps me sleep better at night. You can still get a quality quarterback in the 4th or 5th round of your draft.
For people who want a more specific answer, here are two scenarios that should generally work in standard leagues with 15 players per team:
1) RB, WR, QB, RB, TE, WR, WR, RB, DEF, QB, WR, WR, RB, DEF, K
2) RB, QB, WR, WR, RB, TE, WR, RB, RB, QB, TE, DEF, WR, K, RB
This is actually a pretty helpful article about fantasy drafting order and explains my answer above in more detail. It describes a “total points” and “point differential” draft strategy that has you compare the total potential points players can earn at each position. The author gives a great example using the top 20 players at each position.
“Only 72 points differentiate the best and worst starting quarterback; however, 158 points differentiate the best and worst starting running back. This positional points differential is what leads team owners to draft running backs in greater quantities before quarterbacks, […] before wide receivers and tight ends.”
5. Who should I draft to be on my bench?
Mostly extra running backs and wide receivers. A backup quarterback is also a good idea if you have your heart set on a specific one. It’s not uncommon to see a second tight end or a second defense, but your bench should be full of RBs and WRs with a variety of bye weeks.
People don’t generally draft a second kicker because you can very easily pick one up on your starting kicker’s bye week.
The bench is a good place for handcuff players, which leads us to…
6. What is a fantasy football handcuff?
Handcuffs are players who are convicted felons that have been let back on the field. Just kidding.
Actually, it’s a tactic that involves you drafting a starting player and his back-up. For example, you draft Montee Ball AND Ronnie Hillman from the Broncos. In case that star player gets injured, you will be able to start his backup, who will be receiving significantly more reps. You probably see this the most with running backs, because they are probably the most prone to injury.
Some top handcuffs to consider are:
– Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman (Denver Broncos)
– Eddie Lacy and James Starks (Green Bay Packers)
– Frank Gore and Carlos Hyde (San Fransisco 49ers)
7. How do individual defensive players earn points in fantasy football?
If you are in a custom league that also includes individual defensive players, you will most likely be responsible for starting a defensive lineman (DL), linebacker (LB), and a defensive back (DB – safety or cornerback). (Or some combination of these. For example, I’m in a league that only has the LB and the DB). Below are the ways that individual defensive players can earn points on NFL.com and the default point values on that site:
- Tackle (1 point)
- Assisted Tackle (.5 points)
- Sack (2 points); Note: Half Sack will be recorded as half of a sack’s point value
- Interception (2 points)
- Forced Fumble (2 points)
- Fumble Recovery (2 points)
- Touchdown (Interception Return) (6 points)
- Touchdown (Fumble Return) (6 points)
- Touchdown (Blocked Kick, Punt, or Missed FG Return) (6 points)
- Blocked Kick (Punt, FG or PAT) (2 points)
- Safety (2 points)
- Pass Defended (1 points)
8. When do I draft individual defensive players?
The total points method described above in question 4 works for defensive players as well. It really depends on the total number of players you will draft to your team, but I would draft them after you’ve secured your starting lineup and some strong bench members. I wouldn’t draft an individual defensive player before the 10th round.
It’s a little counter-intuitive, but I’ve found that the best fantasy secondary players aren’t usually considered the “best” in real life. Richard Sherman of the Seahawks is good at what he does. As a result, quarterbacks are less likely to throw the ball in his direction and he will have fewer opportunities to make tackles. Thus, less fantasy points.
9. How do I decide which players to start in fantasy football?
Here are the 5 things I consider when deciding who to start on my fantasy football team:
1. Look at bye weeks. This is obvious one, but bye weeks are super important because if you leave one of your bye week players in your starting roster, you’re going to get zero points for that position that week. It’s a stupid thing to overlook and can be easily avoided.
2. Look at injuries. You don’t need to be like Val and read up on your NFL news on a daily basis. Most sites will have links to articles about the player and their health, as well as letters by the player’s name indicating their status for the week. (For example, Q for questionable, D for doubtful, O for out, etc.) If a player is really injured, there’s a chance he won’t even make the starting line-up. Remember – teams are required to submit their final rosters of active players 90 minutes before the start of the game. Teams may only activate 46 of their 53 players on their roster on game day. This means you need to check that list if you have any questionable/doubtful players who could potentially not start, so that you can remove them from your lineup if that’s the case. Also, if another player of the same position on the team is severely injured or out, you can expect your player’s carries/catches to increase.
3. Look at their match-up. Imagine this scenario: you can’t decide between two running backs. They both received the same number of fantasy points in the prior week and they are both healthy. If one is playing against the best run defense in the league and one is playing against one of the worst run defenses in the league, you should choose the running back who is up against the poor run defense. An easy way to know which defenses suck or do really well is to look at Points Against statistics. These stats tell you how many fantasy points teams allowed to each position. For example, if a team’s defense allows the most points against running backs in the league, it might be a good idea to start your running back who is playing against that team.
4. Read Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em columns. Our favorite is the NFL’s. They don’t list every player in these columns, but there’s a good chance that one of the players you are questioning could appear on the “Start ’em” or “Sit ’em” list and it can make your decision a little easier. Here’s an example of what we’re talking about when it comes to Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em.
5. Eeny, meeny, miny, mo. If you’ve considered the first four, and you’re still like WTF, “eeny, meeny, miny, mo” can be effective. Sometimes you can have all the information in the world and you still won’t make the “right” decision.
10. I’ve got questions specific to the site I’m using for fantasy football (the mobile app, trade settings, site features, etc.). Where do I go to find answers?
You go the site’s Frequently Asked Questions page. Once again, I will do the work for you and give you the links because I’m just that nice.
NFL – NFL Fantasy FAQs
Yahoo! – Fantasy Football Help
ESPN – Fantasy Football FAQs
Have any other questions that we didn’t answer? Tweet us (@thesnapfootball) or comment below.