We’ll start off with a quick PSA because (as much as we all want it to be), Fantasy Football has nothing to do with The Bachelor’s Fantasy Suite. Sad, we know.
Here’s the deal: fantasy exists in pretty much any sport (yup, there’s fantasy hockey, baseball, etc.) and is kinda like a computer game with real-world counterparts. We all know that football exists IRL and we all cheer for our favorite teams/players. But, as viewers, we don’t have any decision-making power or skin in the game — players are chosen by the teams’ owners/management, and viewers don’t have a choice in who the teams sign. That’s where “fantasy” comes in! So us regular folk can create our ideal team — our “fantasy” team, if you will. The catch is, this team is built online. You choose players from across the league that makes up your dream team. Your fantasy team then squares off against other people’s fantasy teams. What’s cool is that as much as your fantasy team exists online, the statistics of actual players in real-life games dictate how your fantasy team does.
Still with us? Great! This may sound a little bit complicated, but you really don’t need to be a die-hard fan to participate in fantasy sports. Having a basic understanding won’t make you basic; any smart and strategic babe (that’s you!) can win it all. Before we get into it, there are a lot of football references in this guide (duh), so make sure you brush up on your football 101 before diving in.
Why is fantasy such a big deal?
As we at The GIST say all the time, sports have a unique way of uniting people, and fantasy sports are no different. It’s a pretty unreal feeling when you get to brag about knowing a rookie would have an incredible season before anyone else, or picking up a player before he has a breakout game. There’s also the less poetic aspect of having cash money on the line. And everybody likes winning money.
In fact, the market for fantasy football is so huge there’s an entire TV show dedicated to it. There are radio stations dedicated solely to fantasy football and the NFL website has its own fantasy football section. Basically, FF is a BFD, so it’s time to get on board.
Okay, but what’s a sports pool and what’s fantasy?
In terms of betting on sports IRL against other people, there are generally two main ways to do it: pools and fantasy. A “pool” in sports typically means you’re picking one team to beat the other. “Fantasy” on the other hand usually means you’re picking players to make up your team, which will then face other fantasy teams.
To start, the simplest type of pool is a standard pick ‘em. That means you just pick who you think is going to win in each head-to-head match-up each week. The person in the pool who guesses the most victories wins that week.
Another type of pool is a survivor pool. Each week, you check the matchups and pick one team that you think will win their game. For example, if the New England Patriots (all-around awesomeness) are playing the Cincinnati Bengals (general sad pandas), you would choose the team you thought was going to win and then hopefully move on to glory. As long as the team you choose wins, you move on. The catch is you can only choose each team once throughout the 17 week season, so you may not want to choose all the obvious winners upfront. Oooo some strategy, we love it. Choosing a wrong team means you’re kicked out of the pool. Bye Felicia!
Now, it’s time for fantasy standard draft leagues. These require more effort and understanding, but once you get it, it’s hella fun! Let’s base things off Yahoo Fantasy because it’s the most common website used.
First you draft your team, which means selecting (usually) 16 players. These are real pro football players who are top-dogs at their positions. Imagine an all-star season of your favourite reality show: only the best are worthy.
This is what the Yahoo draft page looks like once it’s live:
While this dashboard looks a little complicated, here are all the parts you need to know:
- Time in the top left corner: How much time you have to make a player selection. You only get 1-2 minutes to make your selection, which sounds like a lot, but it goes fast!
- Red bar underneath: Your spot in the drafting order (see below on how that’s decided).
- Draft order: This is where all the teams in your league are listed, so you can see the order in which each team will select their player.
- Middle top: When you click on a player, this is where his face and stats pop up. If they haven’t been drafted yet and you want to pick him, you can click “Add to Queue,” which is basically a waiting spot on the top right of the screen. This makes it easier to find the players you’re interested in.
- Middle of the screen: This is where all the available players are — you can search by position to make it easier to navigate. If they have a little red plus sign, it means they’re injured.
- Top right: If you’ve added players you want to your queue, this is where you’ll see them. If someone drafts them before you can, they’ll disappear from there.
- Middle right: This is where you’ll see the players you’ve taken that make up your team!
Drafting works as a snake. What the heck do snakes have to do with sports? Let’s say your league has 10 people. The computer uses an algorithm (#math) to randomly assign you a number from 1-10 and then the order for picking your player will go from person 1 to person 10, then start with person 10 down to person 1, and then repeat, until everyone has filled their rosters. So if you’re drafting 8th, 9th or 10th, you should have two picks ready to go cause that snake moves fast.
Standard leagues draft the following positions: quarterbacks (QB), wide receivers (WR), running backs (RB), tight ends (TE), kickers, and a team defence (meaning you choose the whole Green Bay Packers defence, not an individual player).
W-R-T means you can fill that spot with either a WR, RB or TE — it kind of acts like a wildcard. BN is your bench. The bench is like a holding spot for the players you aren’t using that week. IR stands for injured reserve, the place you hope your star players never end up. Welp.
Once you draft your players, you set your roster each week. Yes, you’ve got to pick a roster EACH week! Also, FYI: The football week is Thursday to Monday with usually one game on Thursday, 14 on Sunday and one on Monday. Setting your lineup means deciding who you think is going to get you the most points. So, if one of your running backs is facing a team that has a killer defence, it might be better to bench him for the week. Yahoo provides predictions to help you out.
How do you get points?
Your commissioner (a fancy way to say organizer of the league) can change how each player earns your team points, but the standard Yahoo scoring is super easy to understand. Here’s a quick breakdown:
There are two kinds of standard leagues: head-to-head and total points. Head-to-head means your team faces off against another team in your league each week, and whichever team gets the most points, wins that week. Total points leagues are similar, but instead of a winner and loser each week, your team’s total points are counted over the entire season to determine placing.
Here is an example of what a head-to-head matchup could look like:
TBH, it sounds more complicated reading it than it is actually playing it.
First time? Here are some tips and tricks:
Step One: come up with the best team name ever! A common formula is a player’s name plus something culturally relevant. Some examples include Turn Down for Watt, Pimpin’ Ain’t Breesy and Diggs in a Blanket. Think outside the box!
Next, you need to do some research – don’t think of it as boring, going to the library, citing your sources research; but rather using your incredible intellect to assess the scene of the NFL. Plus, there are a lot of websites that kind of do everything for you. These include:
Each site has articles, lists, projections and rankings. Don’t feel like you need to read everything and try not to feel overwhelmed — most of these sites say the same things. They’re valuable for newbies to get an idea of who’s hot and who’s not (although we all know Tom Brady is hot hot hot). Once you have a basic knowledge of who’s injured, sleeper picks (those guys who are fairly low key, but could have high potential to get you a lot of points), the top defences etc., you’re ready to draft!!
Some hot tips to get you started:
- Most importantly, it’s key not to stress too much during the draft because nothing is really permanent. You have the ability to drop and add different players throughout the season, or even trade with other people in your league. If you took someone you regret, do some more research after the draft and drop that player for another one. If your QB gets injured or that one RB just isn’t performing well, get some new ones! You learn a lot as you go.
- Don’t pick a quarterback first! While he may be Queen Bee (but not Queen Bey), there will be a lot of good ones available.
- Go for RBs and WRs first. They do most of the scoring.
- Take your defence second-last and your kicker dead-last. Some leagues will even eliminate the kicking category because it’s the least important!
- Don’t take too many players from one team. Each team gets a bye week (a week off), so you’ll be f***ed if they’re all on your bench.
- Stay relaxed, especially if the player you want gets taken, cause it’s def going to happen. Have a few lined up so you’re always ready. Remember, you only have a certain amount of time to choose each player.
Bonus: watch out for injuries during the season. If any player goes down, whether they’re yours or not, try to get their backup!
Good luck and have fun, GISTers!
Written with Guest Writer: Kara Steyn
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