Fantasy Football 101: Introduction

First off, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to contribute to Windy City Gridiron on a more consistent basis. I have a lot of passion for football in general, especially our own Chicago Bears, and I am sure my wife would affirm that I have a wholly unhealthy interest in fantasy football in most of its formats. I hope that these articles can give all of the WCG followers some entertainment and set the stage for some (mildly) insightful discussion.

Today marks the first in a series of articles under the title “Fantasy Football 101” outlining some of the fundamental concepts of fantasy football and how it works. In this first article, let's tackle the most basic information: what fantasy football is, how it works, and how you can get started.

If you have ever played fantasy baseball, basketball, hockey, you have a head start here, but if you are like me then your first introduction to fantasy sports came with an invitation, "We are setting up an office league, you want in?" Well, nice as it feels to be included and all…

What is this crazy thing we call fantasy football? Fantasy football is a competitive league-based virtual football simulation where you take on the role of the owner/general manager of a “fantasy” football team, composed of real NFL players. You and your fellow owners control your roster through drafts, trades, waiver wire claims, and free agency to get the best possible lineup week after week. When the real players play, their stats are converted to points based on a standardized scoring system, then, as Madden or Nutt might say, “whoever scores the most points, wins”.

Sounds Pretty Simple, Right? The good news is, it actually is. If you are planning on starting/running a league yourself, we will have a separate article for you later on in the off-season. For now, let’s talk about how you can get started as a team owner.

Where Can I Play? You can go to any of the major sports news venues to find a free to play fantasy football site. ESPN, CBS, NFL.com, Fox, and literally hundreds of other sites provide free to play fantasy football leagues (more on leagues in another article). Our Windy City Gridiron league is hosted on CBS, and was a lot of fun this past season.

Once you join a fantasy football league you are ready to get started. You can edit the name of your team, change the logo of your team, and usually add a few more customizations to personalize your very own new virtual NFL franchise. Once you get done with that, I would urge you to go study your rules pages for the league. The scoring and roster systems will impact your team strategy quite a bit, so get familiar with them early on.

Know the Rules. After you familiarize yourself with the roster and scoring rules you can start thinking about players who will fill those positions. Most rosters include starters at Quarterback, 2-3 running backs, 2-3 wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and then a group selection of Defense/Special Teams (D/ST). D/ST usually perform as a single unit. 

The Draft. The fantasy draft is essentially an NFL wide re-draft. Every player (or D/ST unit) starts off on the board in a new league, and you go through a draft against your fellow owners to come up with a roster of starters and backups to fill in when bye weeks and injuries take your stars out of action for a week. There are tons of sites and magazines out there dedicated to providing fantasy football rankings, but it really isn’t that hard. Look at what gets you points, compare against player stats and you will have a good feel for who is better at each position from a fantasy perspective. The bottom line is, you do NOT have to dedicate an immense amount of time to have a decent time and build a decent team in this game. Some people get really into it, like me..But I lose half of my leagues to people who spend 25% of the time on it, so it comes down to personal interest.

Upkeep. After you draft, you will monitor your players to determine your opening day roster, and keep your eyes peeled for ways to improve your team. If you drafted well, you probably feel pretty confident, but chances are someone dared to take the guy you wanted at some point, and there are ways to fix that. Trading is allowed, cut players can be waiver claimed, and un-drafted guys that blow up during the season are sitting on the free agency line waiting to be added to your roster.

The fantasy season usually goes the length of the NFL regular season. You will play a set number of games over the first 12-14 weeks of the regular season, and then if you do well enough, enter the playoffs series for the rest of the NFL regular season, playing for that ever elusive championship.

This is just a primer of sorts, and there will be a ton more information coming in future articles, but this one is too long as it is, so if you have any specific questions/comments/suggestions you can feel free to leave them below. Otherwise, thanks for feigning interest, and hopefully you will all stick around to join us for WCG Fantasy Football again this upcoming season.

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