How to Play Fantasy Football: The Guide for Beginners

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How to Play Fantasy Football: The Guide for Beginners
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Fantasy football is an entertaining way to gamify real-life NFL football. Fantasy Football allows players to compete against each other in a league. 

The best part is that unlike playing in the NFL or even being a gamer, Fantasy Football takes no practice so anyone can play! This guide will show you how to set up your team, draft your players, and win your league.

What is Fantasy Football? An Explanation.   

Fantasy football is a game that allows you to be the General Manager and Coach of your own football team. 

Friends and family get together every year to form a league that usually consists of 8-12 teams to draft real life NFL players to form a team for each manager in the league. 

Every week these teams compete against each other to see who can score the most points during that given week of games. 

Towards the end of the NFL regular season the fantasy football playoffs begin. The winner at the end of the playoffs is crowned the champion of the league. 

The Basics of Fantasy Football

If you’re new to fantasy football, there are some things you should know before you begin playing. First off, you’ll need to decide what type of league you want to join. 

There are two main types of leagues: head-to-head (H2H) and rotisserie (roto leagues). 

  • H2H leagues pit teams against each other in a winner-take-all format. 
  • Rotisserie leagues allow players to build their own rosters and then trade them throughout the season.

How Many People Play Fantasy Football?

Fantasy football is growing every year. While fantasy football is extremely popular in the United States, it is also growing in multiple other countries across the world. 

According to a report below in an article by ESPN, 150 million people may play fantasy football next year for the 2022 NFL season according to Business Wire.

How many People Play Fantasy Football

While fantasy football is the most popular in the United States, other countries like India have 20 million players each year. 

Fantasy football isn’t played by all men either, a lot of women play fantasy football every year as well.

How Many Players on a Fantasy Football Team?

The number of players on a fantasy football team varies from league to league. 

The league commissioner who sets up the league has the ability to choose how many players start each week and how many total players are allowed to be on each roster.

How many Players on a Fantasy Football Team

The ESPN standard league has 10 starting players plus seven bench players. Commissioners can also decide to add more players to the starting lineups and/or the bench to have more than 17 total players. 

There can also be less than 17 players, usually if there are a lot of teams in the league.

Drafting and Naming Your Team

Once you’ve decided what kind of league you’re going to play in, you’ll need to choose a team name. You can use any word you’d like as long as it’s not trademarked by another company. 

Then, you’ll need to pick your starting lineup. Each week, you’ll draft a different position group. For example, you might draft quarterbacks first, followed by running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, etc.

How Many Weeks does Playing Fantasy Football Last? 

In ESPN standard leagues the regular season lasts for the first 14 weeks of the NFL season. It is also unable to be changed in public leagues.

How many weeks does playing Fantasy Football last

However, if you create your own custom league, the league commissioner can set however many regular-season games they want. 

Commonly, after week 14, the playoffs then start in week 15 and end in week 18. A lot of leagues also commonly omit week 18 and have the championship in week 17 due to NFL teams resting a lot of their key players for the final week.

How to Play Fantasy Football? 

To play fantasy football, all you need to do is to set up an account on whatever site your league is playing in and accept the invite to join the league. 

From there, league managers can decide to never check their team again if they want. It is probably not the best strategy to do this, but fantasy football sites will automatically draft for you if you don’t make the draft and they will also add those drafted players to your starting roster. 

For more involved managers, after the draft they will need to set their starting lineup every week to ensure the players are set to play and are not injured or on a bye week.

Managing Your Roster

After you’ve drafted your roster, you’ll need to manage your players throughout the season. This includes making trades, cutting players, and setting lineups.

If you’re new to fantasy football, you should read our guide on how to set up an NFL fantasy league before playing.

What is a Fantasy Football Draft?

The fantasy football draft is where each team manager selects their original team for the year. Teams will select from a list of every NFL offensive player until every single position, including bench players, are fully filled. 

After a player is drafted, they cannot be taken by another team. This is one of the most important parts of fantasy football as team managers want to make sure they draft a good mix of some of the best players at each position and pick players who are expected to be top scorers on the year.

What is a Mock Draft? 

A fantasy football mock draft is essentially a practice draft that anyone can join to do a practice draft before their real one. 

This team drafted in the mock draft is not used for anything, but it gives owners a chance to see how the real thing could go down during their league’s draft. 

Mock drafts can be fully customized to set up exactly how your league will draft. This gives users a good idea of what they can expect to happen. 
More features are available on the Fantasy Pros mock draft.

What is a Mock Draft

How Many Rounds are in a Fantasy Football Draft? 

The number of rounds in a fantasy football draft depends on how many players are set on each team. This includes the starting players and then the bench players as well. 

In ESPN standard leagues, there are 17 total players on a team that includes the starters and the bench players. 

The number of players on each team can be customizable, which also changes how many players will be on each team.

How do I Decide Who to Start in Fantasy Football? 

The basics of setting your fantasy football starting roster each week is making sure every player in your starting lineup is not injured and not playing or also not on a bye week where they would not be playing and getting points.

How do I Decide Who to Start in Fantasy Football

Beyond that, ESPN does a projection on how many points that player will score in each week, so using the projection of whatever site you are playing on to put out the highest potential scoring lineup is another option. 

There are also a ton of other resources on the internet that rank and project how many points each player will score in a given week.

How does Scoring Fantasy Football Points Work?

For the most part, scoring is based on the real-life players stats such as touchdowns, yards, catches, two-point conversions, and other stats that are specific for kickers and defenses if they are used in your league. 

All of these point categories and amounts are changeable, but standard points are: 6 for a touchdown, 1 for every 10 receiving and rushing yards, 1 for every 25 passing yards, and 0.5 for every catch in a points per catch league.

For kickers, extra points and field goals have various point values and defenses also have point values for points allowed, sacks, interceptions, etc.

How does scoring Fantasy Football points work

What are the Different Scoring Systems in Fantasy Football? 

There are three main factors that determine the scoring system in your fantasy league. The first is a standard scoring league, which is what was described above. 

The second type of scoring system that greatly changes the way fantasy managers draft and set their rosters is based on a having a points per reception league or not. This means players get either 0.5 points or 1 point for every catch they make. 

The third factor that changes scoring systems is getting a bonus for various stat milestones such as a three points bonus for getting over 100 receiving or rushing yards or over 300 yards passing. 

Fantasy Football Strategy for Beginners

The best overall strategy for fantasy football beginners is to make sure you have a good all-round draft. 

Drafting a good balance of players at each position and taking some players later in the draft that have the potential to break out into a fantasy star is a good way to cover all of your bases while drafting with some upside to win your league. 

When in the middle of the season, the best strategy is to go by your sites projections for how many points they will score. Also, use the waiver wire to pick up players that are available to pick up who are projected to have more points than players you have on your lineup to start each week. 

How do you Make Trades in Fantasy Football? 

To make a trade in fantasy football, you need to navigate to either the ‘trade’ tab or the team you want to trade with. 

There should be a trade button directly on that team as well that you can offer a trade to. To offer a viable trade, you need to offer at least one player for another player on another team. 

Managers can also offer multiple players for one or more players. If the manager who you offer the trade to accepts, then the trade will go through as long as it is not vetoed by either a league vote or the commissioner of the league.

How do you make Trades in Fantasy Football

How Many Players in Each Position in Fantasy Football? 

Most leagues are fully customizable where the league commissioner can choose to pick how many players are used in each position. 

The standard settings for how many players per position in ESPN standard fantasy football leagues are listed below. 

While these are the standard and typical settings, it is possible to start two quarterbacks, four wide receivers, or other variations similar to that. 

When setting the positions for fantasy football, keep in mind how many starting players there are at each position. 

For two-quarterback leagues, there may only be 24 starting quarterbacks in a given week, so having a fantasy league with more than 12 teams could be problematic. 

What is the ‘Flex’ Position in Fantasy Football?

The ‘flex’ position in fantasy football is a starting position that can be a variety of different positions. In most leagues, the flex is either a running back, wide receiver, or tight end. 

Some leagues allow a quarterback to be used in the flex as well or only a wide receiver and running back. The ‘flex’ allows for a flexible position on your starting roster, hence the name ‘flex’.

What is a ‘Bye Week’ in Fantasy Football? 

A ‘bye week’ is a week where a team does not play. 

In fantasy football it is when there is an odd number of teams in the league, which means every week there has to be at least one team that is on a bye week not playing. 

It can also be when the playoffs begin, the top seed or seeds can get a bye to automatically advance to the second round. In the NFL, the ‘bye week’ is when each team doesn’t play. 

During the regular season this happens once for each team.

What is the ‘Waiver Wire’ in Fantasy Football? 

The ‘waiver wire’ is where all of the players in the NFL who are not on a team in the fantasy league you are in can be picked up. 

After the draft these players are able to be picked up in addition for dropping a player on your current roster. 

Certain leagues allow for any player to be picked up at any time, while others take a couple days to see how many players want to add that player and then awards the team with the best waiver wire position the player. 

Additionally, there is an auction system where players are auctioned off from the waiver wire with fake money that each team gets at the beginning of the year. 

What are ‘Free Agents’ in Fantasy Football? 

‘Free agents’ are the actual players that are available on the waiver wire. These players can be picked up to add to your fantasy roster at any point after the draft. 

To add these players, managers must abide by the league’s waiver wire rules. Free agents are commonly picked up when players break out into fantasy stars, a player gets injured and a replacement is needed, or if a starter on your fantasy roster is on a bye week.

How Many ‘Bench’ spots in Fantasy Football? 

In ESPN standard leagues there are seven bench spots. This is usually the case with other fantasy football leagues as well. 

It is commonly a good idea to have a good mix of positions on the bench in case of injury or the inevitable bye weeks from each NFL team which will leave a hole on your starting roster. 

There can be more or fewer bench spots and it depends on the league you are in or how the commissioner sets it up.

What are ‘faab’ values? 

‘FAAB’ values are a way of deciding how much each manager in your fantasy football league can wager on free agents on the waiver wire. 

Instead of having a waiver priority that awards the free agent to the team with the highest waiver priority, teams get a set balance to wager on free agents. 

Commonly, managers get $100, $250, or $1,000 of fake money that they can use to bid on free agents throughout the fantasy season. 

It is a good idea to use this wisely and bid high on free agents that have proven to be fantasy stars that year already with a path to continue that for the rest of the year. 

What is ‘Average Draft Position (ADP)’? 

Looking at average draft position is important for managers to check before and during their fantasy draft. 

This essentially means the position where they have been drafted in all of the previous drafts on whatever site your fantasy football draft is on. 

If your pick comes up in the No. 10 position, you are probably not going to want to draft a player with the ADP of 20. 

Instead, look for a player with an ADP lower than 10 or just slightly higher if you are really high on them. ADP is usually a good sign of where a player should be drafted.

Where to play Fantasy Football? 

Some of the best places to play fantasy football are on some of the top websites in the industry. This includes ESPN and Yahoo!. 

While Yahoo! has fallen off as one of the biggest tech companies in the world, one thing that they still do really well is fantasy sports. 

The good thing about these websites are that they have been around basically since the inception of online fantasy football and have very few bugs. 

Another bonus is that the majority of your friends or family who you are looking to play fantasy football with will already have an account on these sites. 

It can be a barrier for some people to play if they know they will have to make a new account on a site they either haven’t heard of or dont trust. 

Other popular fantasy sites are CBS, NFL, and Sleeper.

Does Fantasy Football Cost Money?

Fantasy football doesn’t cost any money, unless you want it to. Of all of the popular fantasy sites mentioned above, they are all free. 

There are some other sites out there where you can deposit money into and draft a team directly on there to win money at the end of the year depending on the position your team comes when it is all said and done. It is definitely not mandatory to play-to-play fantasy football though.

How to Play Fantasy Football for Money? 

The most common way that people play fantasy football for money is by collecting money either before, during, or at the end of the year from each manager. 

Commonly, each manager will put in a set amount of money that are called ‘dues’ which are then distributed to the winner and possibly for those teams that came in second, third, or even lower places as well. 

Other sites can handle this for you where money is deposited directly to the site before people can even sign up for the league.


Fantasy football is a great way to get friends and family together. It gives people a reason to reconnect with those people for a portion of the year to compete and collaborate with each other. 

Fantasy football is great for those NFL and football enthusiasts who want to get deeper into the sport and enjoy digging into stats and strategies as well as common fans or even non-football fans. 

It definitely can be equally as fun for those who are not NFL or even football fans. With millions of people playing each year, it is a fun and simple way to enjoy a game with friends. 

For those who are intimidated by or think that they don’t know enough about football to play fantasy football, it is made extremely easy to play on these sites like ESPN and Yahoo! and is worth a try!

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How to Play Fantasy Football: The Guide for Beginners