Featured Fantasy Tools
Articles From Experts
Ever wanted to have a team of your favorite football players? Whether it be due to discussions online or among your friends, you might believe that you have the best requisite knowledge to build the best team possible to succeed on the gridiron. That is where fantasy football comes in. While a video game like Madden can give you simulations and projections based on your plays or AI, fantasy football lets real-world actions dictate your success.
Based on the various football leagues in the country, the purpose of fantasy football is simple: To prove that you have the best eye for talent and could make the best team imaginable for an NFL season. However, there are variations to this framework. Typically, there are 3 ways that the fantasy football league functions:
The first, or the traditional redraft method - Fantasy leagues where players compete for the entirety of a season and are the closest you get to a full-scale GM-lite feeling. Running throughout the season and culminating in the playoffs, the participants form a new team every year based on a draft.
The second, or keeper dynasty leagues - These are quite similar to the traditional model of fantasy football. However, they include one crucial caveat. After the conclusion of each season in a keeper league, before next year’s draft, the team can retain some of its players. In dynasty leagues, all players are retained with the new draft adding rookies only, ala the real NFL model.
The fastest, or Daily fantasy - If the goal is for immediate success and validation, daily fantasy football is the place to be. What stretches for an entire season in other fantasy leagues is instead condensed into a much shorter period, be it a week or even a day. These leagues are usually a big source of income and are managed by major betting firms. Currently, Draft Kings and FanDuel are the biggest names in the business.
More often than not, fantasy football is a way for the fans of the game to accumulate evidence for football-related dialogue. With valid proof in their hands about the team and players they’ve chosen, they can engage in discussions about a certain player’s efficacy. So, typically, smaller groups of friends or family members engage in fantasy leagues, competing in a friendly jest or with small prize money.
However, the highly-contested ones are online fantasy leagues, run by companies like Draft Kings and FanDuel, where the main objective is monetary gain. In such cases, large groups of people share a collective betting pool, winning based on their self-crafted teams and their players’ performance. Due to its nature, some parts of the country view fantasy football as a kind of gambling and regulate it as such.
Fantasy Football History
Previously, in the introduction, we explored a few general varieties of how fantasy leagues can be divided into types based on the retention or duration aspect. However, with a source as diverse as football and choosing teams at random with all of the various combinations, it has given rise to a multitude of ways for different players to engage in fantasy football.
While each type has its popularity and fanbase, the most common and popular version is the one with head-to-head matchups. Others, like the total points system, are also variations in the types of leagues that fantasy players can engage in. By and large, however, the competition is divided based on two major metrics.
Either, the variation is due to the type of competition for that particular league, or based on the way they handle rosters.
Fantasy Football Competition Variations
For distinctions based on the type of matchups the league engages in, there are 5 major categories:
Head-to-head: Perhaps the most famous of all fantasy leagues, this allows players to engage in some true competition. As the name suggests, it involves one-on-one matchups between different fantasy teams each week. Every week, a team will clash with another fantasy team directly. The victor, chosen based on the total number of points for both teams, is awarded a win. At the end of the season, the team that has the best record advances to the playoffs much like the actual NFL.
Total points or best-ball leagues: A more season-inclusive league that doesn’t focus as much on individual matchups, the total points system has teams amass points week by week. The rankings then become a straightforward measure of which team has the most points. It gets its best-ball name due to the lack of a true starting lineup. Based on individual player performances, the roster automatically adjusts to reflect those. However, this type of system does eliminate the possibility of trades and waivers.
All-play leagues: This is a broader version of the head-to-head league. Rather than each team facing off against one opponent each week, every team plays each other. Supposedly, if a league has 7 teams, then the team with the best record would have a 6-0 score, the second best at 5-1, and so on.
Pirate Leagues: A more consequential league than most, the Pirate League follows a rather unique rule. Each winning team gets to pick a player from the team he defeats’ roster and add it to his own, thereby further strengthening his squad.
Guillotine leagues: Taking the pirate concept, and stretching it to the maximum, guillotine leagues see the lowest scoring team each week lose all of its players. By default, the team is removed from the league and each of its players is up for grabs for the other teams to snatch. The process continues, until eventually, a victor is crowned.
Fantasy Football Roster Variations
But, on the type of roster flexibility, there are also many variations that a fantasy league can have:
Keeper Leagues: As discussed earlier, these leagues are designed with a continuation and consequence approach in mind. After a standard start to the league, each progressive year sees players retain a certain number of athletes that are determined beforehand. The number can vary from 1 to all players except one.
Dynasty Leagues: In the case of a keeper league retaining all of its players, it is called a dynasty league. In essence, dynasty leagues are an extension of the keeper leagues with the added advantage of the new draft containing rookies exclusively.
Devy Leagues: These are a combination of two different leagues serving as potential choice options. While the standard NFL teams can make it to your teams, so can college athletes, with the added choices providing extra opportunities.
Campus 2 Canton Leagues: A variation to the standard devy league, the C2C league offers a different kind of variety to the players. In essence, they are in charge of two teams simultaneously. One, at the collegiate level; and the other at the professional level. While the points are separate from each other, eligible players from the college to the pros can leap to the Canton teams as well.
Salary Cap Leagues: In such variations, the players have to keep in mind a salary cap like real-life teams making the process of building a roster a much more strenuous process.
Superflex Leagues: Apart from a traditional flex position, which is typically associated with Running Backs, Wide Receivers, and Tight Ends, the Superflex leagues offer an additional advantage. In such scenarios, even the Quarterback can be taken at a flex position. The Superflex works independently of the traditional flex position and may or may not exist.
Two-Quarterback Leagues: Some of the most high-point total leagues, as the name suggests, two-quarterback leagues allow for each player to select two quarterbacks in their lineup every week. As a result, the already indispensable position further increases in value.
Individual Defensive Player Leagues: While most rosters see defensive units selected as entire units, the IDP leagues offer players further variety. Rather than choosing the entire Chicago Bears roster, for example, a player could rather just select Myles Garrett and try to pair him with other big-time names.
Empire Leagues: An extension of the dynasty leagues, empire leagues follow a similar format. From the entrance fee, the winner receives a predetermined portion of the sum. The other pot, instead, goes to the special pot known as the empire pot. The empire pot is up for grabs for a winner who’s already won. A consecutively two-time winner finally wins the empire pot.
How does the Fantasy Football Draft process work?
Fantasy leagues typically have their own set of rules that govern how players draft their rosters. Typically, three forms are most prevalent. With a draft taking place every year for players, whether all, or a portion, or rookies, based on the type of league, drafts are perhaps the most important staple of the entire fantasy league setting.
Usually, the order of draft picks is either determined randomly or according to the leak standings from the previous year. In such a case, the team with the worst record gets the 1st pick, the 2nd worst team the 2nd pick, and so on. For subsequent rounds, the order of draft position can go one of two ways. Either the owners retain the same draft position in each round, or they follow A snake-like method where the picks alternate from start and end in each round. In simple terms, a team with the 1st pick in the first round would get the last pick in the 2nd round, and so on.
Another common method of drafting involves the use of Auctions. This is a rather preferred way of going about with the draft for a fantasy league, as it offers each player a chance to make a bid for their preferred athlete.
Since most leagues are online, they are conducted simultaneously between players. Even in this scenario, two possibilities exist. Either a player can choose actively at each specific pick from the remaining pool of players, or they can set a draft order, with the highest remaining player automatically making it to the team. Depending on the availability, players choose either of the two. In special cases where the draft takes place in person, selections are made on a computer or through a physical copy of the draft board.
What are some typical Fantasy Football Draft Strategies?
Each owner typically makes their strategy for drafting based on which position and which stat they value the most. Cortana fantasy football websites send out their projections based on past and trending player performances.
A key denominator for drafting is usually the average draft position. In such a scenario, the fantasy points a player is projected to produce are put in comparison with other players around the league playing the same position. So a player that has high value, but a low average dark position would typically be undervalued because similar alternatives are available.
Usually the offensive players, in particular, the running backs wide receivers on quarterbacks have exceptional value due to their high fantasy points projection. As a result, they are typically taken in the earlier rounds with players focusing on defense and kickers in the later rounds.
However, there is one more factor that could play into how an owner chooses to draft his team. Based on the type of scoring that the league follows, specific players could hold more value. For example, a league focusing on points per reception would give more value to a running back, especially in comparison to leagues based on standard scoring.
How are Fantasy Football rosters formed?
Each Fantasy League makes its denominations clear about the number of players that the owner can have on his team. Further, a specific number of starters at each position is solidified that can be used in particular matchups. Each week, the owner gets the choice to choose the players that will be “playing” for him, and the others get “benched”, meaning the starters are the players whose points count toward the team’s total tally.
Typically, you change the starting lineup due to injuries, a player vastly underperforming, or the team going through a bye week.
Each week, owners make the decision for which players count for the team’s starters. These are the players whose point totals combined to form the team’s performance that particular week. Usually, in the case of NFL.com, ESPN, and Yahoo, a typical starting lineup looks like this:
2 Running Backs
2 Wide receivers (WR)
1 Tight end (TE)
1 Flex (RB, WR, or TE)
1 Placekicker (K)
1 Team defense/special teams unit (D/ST)
6 Bench players (BN)
Of course, just like every other criterion, some variations can exist in this traditional structure. Whether it be the number of starters, bench players, or slots reserved for injured players, each variable is changeable. The positional numbers can also be altered, with special flex positions also bringing in a chaotic element.
In a superflex league, for example, any player could fill in multiple slots, whereas leagues that have a two-quarterback system bring their variety. Rather than a one-team defense unit, IDP leagues have players selected from each team that count as individual starters rather than 1 unit.
The Fantasy Football Scoring System
Now, coming to the main metric that decides how wins and losses count in fantasy leagues. We have the scoring configurations that different leagues can follow. The scoring is done through fantasy points that are awarded to a player based on their performance in that particular week for their NFL team.
The points accumulated by each athlete are purely statistical based. Just as athletes gain points for spectacular performances and yards covered or turnovers forced, similarly, a negative system also exists for each yard that is lost for turnover committed.
In rare scenarios, a player can also earn fantasy points that are typically not associated with them. For example, if a team decides to have a bite receiver run quarterback for one particular snap due to his physical advantages, then his pass would count for the same number of fantasy points as it would for a typical quarterback passing the ball.
As for the actual way points are awarded, there are two distinct scoring systems that leagues typically follow. One is the standard scoring, and the other is the points per reception (PPR) system. In a PPR League, each reception accounts for one additional point, while half-PPR leagues, as the name suggests, award half a point. In such scenarios, pass catchers like Wide Receivers, Running Backs, and Tight Ends have a greater influence placed on them.
Typically, the scoring system in a Fantasy Football PPR League looks like this:
1 point for every 25 passing yards
1 point for every 10 rushing or receiving yards
1 point for each reception
4 points for each passing touchdown
6 points for each rushing or receiving touchdown
6 points for each fumble recovered for a touchdown by the offense
2 points for each passing, rushing, or receiving two-point conversion
-2 points for each interception thrown or fumble lost
1 point for each extra point made
3 points for each 0-49-yard field goal
5 points for each 50+ yard field goal
1 point for each sack by the defense
2 points for each interception or fumble recovered by the defense
2 points for each safety by the defense
6 points for each touchdown scored by the defense
6 points for each touchdown scored by a player returning a kickoff or punt
* Point to note: points are redacted at the same rate for yards lost as they are awarded for gains.
Further, some fantasy leagues also have points allocated to the defense’s efficacy. Based on the points they allow, they can also have points awarded or subtracted from the team’s total fantasy points:
10 points for a shutout
7 points for allowing 1-6 points
4 points for allowing 7-13 points
1 point for allowing 14-20 points
0 points for allowing 21-27 points
-1 point for allowing 28-34 points
-4 points for allowing 35+ points
The pure scoring system is simpler to calculate. With points reserved for touchdowns, field goals, and extra points only, a team’s tally is easy to maintain throughout the year. Over the years as yards became easy to calculate, more complicated scoring methods became popular in fantasy leagues.
For leagues that adopt a pure-yardage system, it is only the yardage stats that account for player’s points. Yards passed, received, and rushed are the only stats that matter in these leagues.
While defenses get points awarded to them as a whole, in IDB leagues, with each player accounting for an individual spot, the points are awarded to players based on their performances. Plays such as tackles, sacks, interceptions, quarterback hits, safeties, and other statistics make way for the points for each player.
Beyond these typical rules based on the collective agreement of all owners involved, leagues can adopt different variations, whether it be in the drafting, in the scoring, in the type of league, in the roster variation, or the type of competition it indulges in. The fantasy football spectrum offers a variety at every stage imaginable, thus making it as big of a phenomenon as it is today.
Fantasy Football Rankings
The rankings and projections play an essential part during the draft and even following draft night. However, both these terms play a very significantly different role and have different contexts behind them. While projections are a statistical analysis of likely future events, rankings take into account more real-life factors like injury, public perception, and biases.
Based on these predictions and rankings together can help inform an owner of the players that he might choose for his team.
Featured Fantasy Tools
Sportskeeda brings to you three major tools to keep you up to date with all NFL fantasy football projections and rankings, helping you build the ultimate fantasy team each week. While our Fantasy Trade Analyzer and Start/Sit optimizer deal with specific functionalities, we will cover them later on in this article in depth.
For now, we head our attention to the DFS Lineup Optimizer which helps owners make the best possible lineups using real-time projections to craft the best lineup imaginable.
Sportskeeda DFS Lineup Optimizer
Specifically, designed to take into account the various weekly variations in projections of players, Sportskeeda's DFS Lineup Optimizer aims to provide the best combination of players to its users every week.
With various options for slates and customization, users can craft their lineups based on all the information available for the week and all players involved, making for a truly informed decision when it comes to their fantasy teams.
The engineer reports before each week play an important role in deciding your team based on players from your squad that might be injured. You can replace them with players on your reserve list and make those decisions in an informed manner based on reports that each team puts out each week.
Fantasy Trade Analyzer
What our Fantasy Trade Analyzer does is offer an in-depth look into users’ trading strategies. While taking into account projections and predictions, it also gives proper credence to future draft capital and the value it could hold. With considerations for PPR, Non-PPR, and Half-PPR leagues, it offers a variety of options for players from all types of leagues to browse.
Who Should I Start?
A typical question for most fantasy players becomes the choice of which player to start and which player to put on the reserve bench. Sportskeeda brings to you its very own Start/Sit Tool to make those decisions easier for you. With comparisons for 3 players at a time, players from various configurations and types of leagues can make use of the tool.
With a maximum of six players to choose from at a time, the tool can give users a comparative analysis based on projections and rankings with the various players in the match of the mind base. Further, it takes into account injuries and other unforeseen circumstances to allow the users to make a well-informed decision about their squad.