Fantasy Football: Calling All Newbies – Part 1

Calling All Fantasy Newbies – Part 1

By: Mathew Silverman (@MathewSilverman)

Did you ever want to play fantasy football but were afraid you would be overwhelmed?  Did you want to get involved in what your significant other is always obsessing about?  Or maybe you are a teenager that wants to get into what your Dad is always talking about at the dinner table.  Well this column is for you.  Look, if you are an experienced fantasy player, you probably know everything I will be talking about in this column, but just to be sure, might as well keep reading.  Besides, if you have forgotten something, this will surely remind you.

The last week in July is such an amazing time.  Kids are out of school, yet relief is in sight.  The weather is fantastic. Who am I kidding? The reason it’s so great is football is back. Look, I love baseball too, but there’s just something about the NFL.  Even better is at this time of the year, every team thinks they can win the championship.  It is the same for every fantasy owner.   That’s the beauty of fantasy sports, you can win right now!  Unless you are joining a keeper league (which I will discuss later), every owner starts off with a blank slate, a clean bill, a new start.

Let’s start by talking about what fantasy football is.  Basically, it’s a fake team of real players.  Real players get real statistics in real games.  These statistics turn into points for your fake team.  Whichever team has the most points as the end of the week wins the matchup.   Each league has their own scoring system involving fractions, bonuses, deductions and more, but don’t worry, you don’t need to do any math.  Well, not anymore. Back in the day I used to have to calculate scores by hand, now we have fancy websites like ESPN, Yahoo, NFL and many, many others that are all competing to be your fantasy site.

Before we worry about how the scoring setup effects WHO you want to have on your team, we need to discuss HOW you get players on your team.  There are two ways fantasy owners fill up their team.  Depending on the league there is either a draft, or an auction.

A draft is just a sequential picking of players in a predetermined owner order.  When it’s your turn to pick, you can pick anyone who is still available.  Most drafts will snake, or flip the order backwards every round.  Put simply, this is a way of trying to make it less important what draft slot you get.  Most people believe the best picks are in the beginning of the round, followed by the end of the round, with the middle coming in last.  Rest assured you can win in any year regardless of what pick you have in the draft.

Conversely, an auction is just as it sounds.  Each team is given a predetermined budget and has to fill out the best team they can bidding on players.  I was once very afraid of an auction, but once you get used to it, it can be very fun.  Regardless, for most inexperienced fantasizers I would recommend a draft.

Many people believe the draft is the single most important event in fantasy sports.  I won’t disagree with them, but, the season doesn’t end with the draft.  Case and point: the first time I ever won a fantasy league was when I got dragged into a team that someone else drafted and quit.  The drafted team was pretty good, but if not for a few key decisions I made throughout the year, I would not have won.

In over 15 years, of doing multiple leagues I have seen someone “win” the draft and be in last place, and vice versa.  What does this all mean you ask?  It means the draft is important, but it’s not the end all be all.  Fantasy football regular season is usually 13 or 14 weeks long.  What fun would it be if 13 of them where meaningless?  None, and that’s the classic pitfall a lot of experienced owners fall victim too.  They rely too much on their draft.

Before I mentioned being in a keeper league.  A keeper league is one where owners are allowed to keep a number of players from last year’s team on this year’s roster.  It is an effort to make it a little more like real football, and reward owners for knowing their stuff (a.k.a. catching a break on a good player).  Regardless, keepers are an advanced feature of Fantasy Football and usually work best when the league has a low turnover of owners.  Every league has their own way of doing keepers, so if you are in a keeper league, I suggest talking to the commissioner to get the details.

We’ll continue with the rest of what you need to know in Part 2 which is coming soon!

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