Every passion and hobby has an individual genesis, a moment when one is introduced to an activity or subculture that they may pursue for the rest of his or her lives.
Several years ago, my then-technophobic dad asked me exactly where the Internet was (the man is a doctor, mind you) and I told him that it was housed in a building outside of Cleveland. These days, after years of acclimation, the guy is the Gordon Gekko of eBay, placing bids on wooden gnomes, classic beer bottles and 5-irons (unrelated hobbies) with precision.
The point is that we all have the potential to evolve from rookie to expert quite quickly, particularly thanks to all of the amazingly accessible resources at our disposal.
Fantasy football may seem like a complicated and consuming activity from the outside, but once you’re immersed you’ll find it to be a generally easy game to navigate. My duty here is to illustrate the framework of fantasy football and introduce what could become an enjoyable, empowering and enduring hobby for you.
Fantasy football participants are “owners” and “managers” of teams that engage in competitive leagues, accruing “fantasy points” based on the statistics of real football players. The vast majority of leagues are scored on a weekly basis, matching up teams in a head-to-head scenario in a rotating schedule. The teams in the end with the best records make it into the fantasy postseason (often held from Weeks 14-17 of the NFL schedule).
The goal is to collect the most productive players across a variety of positions. In a standard league, you are asked to fill out your starting roster with a quarterback, two running backs, one “flex” player (a slot for either a running back or wide receiver), two wide receivers, one tight end, one team defense/special teams (you draft the entire Pittsburgh Steelers defense and special teams, for example) and a kicker. To fill out your roster with depth you are afforded seven bench spots. This may seem like an absurd number of players to manage at once, but as the season wears on you’ll wish you had even more room on your roster.
Fantasy leagues can adhere to any variety of rules and settings desired, but for the sake of simplicity, I suggest perusing the scoring settings in the ESPN standard leagues. Before you join any league, it’s imperative to have a sound understanding of the scoring and roster settings so that you can capably build a successful team. The players make up a marketplace, so consider the players as commodities; that their value fluctuates based on the rules and regulations of a given league. In the Draft Kit you’ll find a number of helpful scoring-specific guides.
The draft marks the beginning of the fantasy football season. Often held in the weeks leading up to the NFL season, the draft is when you initially construct your roster. Most leagues are comprised of 10 to 12 teams and the drafts are conducted in either “snake” or “auction” formats. Pick by pick, you build your team and fill out your roster. Draft day for many leagues has become a holiday of sorts, with spirited trash-talking and camaraderie becoming core traditions. Once you get a good grasp on the elemental rules and settings in fantasy, take a few minutes to read Christopher Harris’ valuable take on drafting strategies.