Fantasy Football for Beginners

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Be sure to also check out: Fantasy Football for Beginners Pt. 2: Advanced Strategies

I chose to write this piece because I’ve seen the amount of joy and excitement that can be incited in an individual who never thought that they would care about fantasy football. It’s a spark that can quickly ignite into a full-blown inferno when they suddenly realize all of the fun they’ve been missing out on all this time.

Every year since I started playing fantasy, I have done my best to recruit a few newbies. Whether it was to replace a player in one of my leagues because they decided not to participate that year (a decision most of them later came to regret), or talking a friend into joining an office league, a league with other friends or their family league, etc. It comes down to the fact that we all have to start somewhere, and if you want to learn, it would be my sincerest pleasure to help you get started.

My intention is to provide you with the “Intro to Fantasy Football” crash course that I wish someone had written for me before going into my first season. I guarantee that the learning curve between a first time player like yourself and someone who has played casually for years is nowhere near as steep as you might think. The fact that you’re reading this article in the first place likely means that you’ve got what it takes.

Things that you should know:

1. It helps tremendously if you do some preparation before your draft.
A fantasy draft is like a game of poker except there’s no dealer. Instead, all of the cards are face up and their values are less than clear. You take turns selecting the cards (players) that you want, based on how valuable you think that they can be in building the best overall hand (roster). The more preparation you do in advance, the easier it is to draft what SHOULD be a great team. Just bear in mind that these fantasy points are generated by real people playing a sport with far too many variables to ever be 100% sure of their exact value over an entire season. The best that you can hope for are well educated and researched opinions.

2. Have rankings that you can trust.
Luckily, these are available for absolutely free. If you want to take it a step further, I highly recommend the Ultimate Draft Kit. It will give you all of the information you need to fully prepare for any draft, and then some.

3. Doing mock drafts is a great way to learn.
I recommend you start out with the Fantasy Draft Wizard. Here you can participate in a simulated draft that you can customize to be just like the league that you will be drafting in. The more mocks you do, the more you will learn about how drafting works. Use your rankings as a guide for which players to select. Also, whatever you do, ignore the “grade” that they give you at the end. Those grades are based on the decisions that a cold, lifeless and frankly imperfect computer program thinks you should have made.

4. Listening to podcasts can be very helpful. 
Podcasts like The Fantasy Footballers are a great way to stay in tune and informed about what’s going on in the world of fantasy football. They can also be extremely entertaining!

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5. Understand that the team you draft will not be the team that you finish with.
There’s a whole season’s worth of adding, dropping, and trading players, as well as weekly conundrums of who to start and who to bench. The more involved and active you are on a week to week basis, the more likely it is that you will have success.

6. Know that winning in Fantasy football is not about making money. It’s about having fun.
I’m sure by now you’ve heard the people who can’t stop bragging about how much money they’ve made playing fantasy sports. While money can be a factor, and will undoubtedly come more into play the further you travel down the rabbit hole away from casual indulgence, it is far from the point of this game. If you’re mostly interested in playing for money, you can do so by playing daily fantasy sports rather than season long leagues. Many people, myself included, do both. The best part of fantasy football is discovering it for the first time and the connections that you can make with friends and even like-minded, complete strangers. It is a community and if you find that you love doing it, you will never be too hard-pressed to find those that welcome you.

  • ADP: Average Draft Position is a number that is assigned to each player that tells you where they are drafted on average based on compiled data from blah, blah…
    • Basically, it tells who is getting drafted ahead or behind who.
  • Sleeper: A sleeper is a sneaky pick that can be snatched up in later rounds who is being undervalued for the potential that experts (or any insane person with a computer, so choose your sources wisely) see in that player.
  • PPR: Point Per Reception refers to a single point awarded to WRs and RBs for merely catching a pass, regardless of what they do before or after the catch.
  • Waiver Wire: The waiver wire is where leagues are won and lost over the course of a season. It is the pool of un-rostered players that you can choose from, to add to your team at the expense of dropping another player.
  • Streaming: this refers to the process of starting a player who was acquired at a great value, in some cases a player that you’ve only recently acquired from the waiver wire because you believe that they will have a good week.
A few “rookie mistakes” to avoid:

1. Taking a QB too early.
In 2015 the difference between the QB that finished 5th (Carson Palmer) in fantasy points and the QB that finished 15th (Alex Smith) was 38.2 points. Since both played all 16 games last season, that’s only an average of 2.4 points more points per week. For perspective, the difference between the 5th best WR in standard scoring Odell Beckham Jr. finished with 63.9 more points than 15th placed Jarvis Landry. A more than doubled average of 4.9 points per week. It’s also worth pointing out that OBJ played one less game last year.

2. Drafting too many players from the same team. 
Most fantasy players have a favorite team/home team that they root for every year, but be aware of your bias, and don’t let it hurt your fantasy team. Even if your favorite team is Super Bowl winning caliber good, it still isn’t likely to help you in the world of fantasy football, if you over-invest in that one offense. The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl last year and finished with the 3rd highest overall winning percentage in the league. Their top QB, RB, WR and TE finished with a combined 486.2 fantasy points in standard scoring. In contrast, a team that finished tied for last in win percentage, the Cleveland Browns, saw their top performers at the same positions finish with 533 fantasy points.

3. Drafting multiple Defenses and Kickers.
Don’t do it. Wait until the latest rounds of the draft and grab one of each.

4. Drafting to fill your roster rather than taking the best player available. 
Say you take 2 WRs and 2 RBs with your first 4 picks. Your 5th pick comes around and there are still very highly ranked players available at these two positions. If you’re not used to drafting you will likely feel pressure to start filling out your starting roster with a QB or TE. There’s really no need to do this unless there’s a player you feel you must have. Similar options will still be available at these positions in later rounds while the same can not be said for WR and RB. Again, this is something that mock drafting can help with tremendously.

OK, that’s it young blood. You are now ready to enter into my world. Nay, our world.

Get ready to have the way that you watch football games forever changed; made exponentially more exciting on a play-by-play basis. Get ready to laugh, to cry, to jump out of your seat and dance around your living room like a fool, only to feel ridiculous when the play you just celebrated gets erased by a penalty.

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At times you may feel like a guppy swimming in a shark tank. Don’t worry, I’ve got your back. So go ahead and take that dive into what has become one of the fastest growing pastimes. You won’t regret it.

Be sure to also check out: Fantasy Football for Beginners Pt. 2: Advanced Strategies

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