The Housewives’ Guide to Fantasy Football (Part 1)

If you live in the United States, chances are good that you’ve long heard about fantasy football.  Your friends, family and coworkers play it every fall and they certainly seem to have a lot of fun doing it.  Now you’re thinking about giving it a shot whether it’s due to sheer curiosity or a dear friend/family member’s annoyingly persistent enthusiastic urging.  The only trouble, of course, is that you have no idea how to play fantasy football nor are you even 100% sure you quite understand all of rules of the game itself.

As it turns out, I’ve been there myself  and as someone who now plays in more leagues than my husband (true story), I’m happy to be your guide in this new fantasy-football-playing chapter of your life.  In part 1 of this post, you should learn all you need to get you started in playing fantasy football with a comprehensive run-down on football basics, why you should play fantasy football and, last but not least, my best-practice tips for getting started with drafting your very first fantasy football team.  Later, in part 2 of this post (coming soon!), I’ll walk through the ins and outs of managing your fantasy football team throughout the season for the best performance.  With no further ado, let’s get started learning about and playing fantasy football!

Quick & Dirty Overview of American Football

Learn American Football in 5 Minutes

If you’ve really got no time for a more comprehensive overview, watch the below video as a starting point:

Football Basics

-The National Football League (NFL) is the professional football league in the United States, made up of 32 teams.

-At its most basic, football is a game between two teams wherein the team who has scored the most points by the end of game wins.

-A football field measures a total of 100 yards from end to end, each of which is aptly called the endzone

-Most common ways to score points in football include:

Field Goal (FG) – 3 points – when a team kicks the football successfully through one of the goal posts at each end of the field

Touchdown (TD) – 6 points – when a team successfully runs or passes the football into the endzone

Extra Points/Points after Touchdown (PAT) – 1 or 2 points, respectively – when, immediately following a touchdown, a team successfully throws (and catches) the football in the endzone or successfully runs the football into the endzone, both from the opponent’s 2 yard line.

-A football game consists of 4 quarters, each 15 minutes long, and is over at the end of the the 4th quarter assuming one team has more points than the other.  If a game is tied, the game will go into overtime (10 minutes long) until one team scores more points than the other or both teams fail to score more points, which will end the game in a tie.

-At any given time, the team with possession of the ball is called the offense and the team without possession of the ball is called the defense.

-The offense consists of the quarterback (QB) (the guy primarily passing the ball), running backs (RB) (guys who primarily run the ball), wide receivers (WR) (guys who primarily catch thrown passes), tight ends (TE) (guys who can block OR catch thrown passes) and the “offensive line” (the guys who protect QB from being sacked and provide extra run and/or pass protection).

-The defense consists of the “defensive line” (the guys who line up against the offensive line and try to tackle the quarterback), safetys (S) (the guys primarily tasked with pass coverage toward the deep middle and deep sidelines of the field), cornerbacks (CB) (the guys primarily tasked with blocking wide receivers) and a number of defensive linebackers (LB) (these guys do a little of everything – calling defensive plays, tackling running backs, providing pass coverage for various offensive players and rushing the QB on blitz plays).

-During gameplay, the offensive team will be given 4 plays or “downs” (i.e. chances/opportunities) to either run or throw the football a total of 10 or more yards and if they do so successfully, they are granted another set of 4 “downs” and so on and so forth.  If the offensive team fails to gain 10 or more yards, they will either punt (i.e. kick) the ball to the other team or, if they are close enough to the end of the field, attempt to kick a field goal.

Extra Credit

Each team should have 11 players on the field at any given time, though, if you’re a Detroit Lions fan, you should get used to your team having only 9 or 10 players on the field at any given time while they struggle to get their shit together (*le sigh*).

Each NFL team belongs to 1 of 8 possible NFL “divisions”, mainly utilized to determine a team’s playoff eligibility at the end of the regular season.  Each year, the 8 division-winning teams plus 4 additional “wildcard” teams (i.e. remaining teams with the highest win-to-loss ratio) will go on to the playoffs.

-The regular football season consists of 16 games, not including pre-season games, playoff games or the Superbowl.  The regular season typically runs from early September through late December with playoff games occurring in January and the Superbowl occurring in February.  Pre-season games are played in August but generally do not have a lot of viewership given that they don’t count against a team’s record whatsoever and teams typically don’t even bother playing their starters much in these games.

What is Fantasy Football & Why to Play it

What is Fantasy Football

suburbanaf housewives guide to fantasy footballIn a nutshell, fantasy football involves selecting real players to create fake “fantasy” teams that earn points based on real players’ performances on the field.  So essentially, it’s like a dream team that YOU create utilizing all of the very best players in the league.  Think of it as a what-if scenario to the tune of “what if all of the very best players in the NFL played for the same team”.

At its core, fantasy is really a numbers game based on the real-life production of NFL players.  Each week you fill out a roster by “starting” players at the various positions allowed based on your league settings. These can vary but usually include one quarterback (QB), two running backs (RB), two wide receivers (WR), one tight end (TE), one kicker (K), one defense (D/ST) and one FLEX (usually RB or WR, but some leagues allow for a TE to be played here as well). The statistics your starting players accumulate on the field (yards, touchdowns, etc.) contribute to their point total for the week.

There are a couple of different ways leagues can be setup but most commonly, you will go head-to-head against one other fake team in your fantasy football league each week and if your fake team scores more points than your opponent’s fake team, you win!

Each week will proceed like this until the end of the regular fantasy season (usually Week 13 or Week 14, depending on your league). At this point, the teams with the best win-loss records will enter the fantasy playoffs for a few more win-or-go-home matchups. Whoever wins the remaining games in the playoffs is typically crowned league champion following Week 16. (i.e. the end of the regular NFL season)

Why to Play Fantasy Football

You Can Make it as Easy-Breezy or Challenging as You Want

When reading a football expert’s column or overhearing your husband discussing fantasy football with his buddies, it’ll be clear that some people actually take fantasy football as seriously as NFL general managers do the real game.  If you want to get this Type-A about it (ok I confess: this is me), you can feel free to research obsessively and compete with the top teams in your league knowing that you’ve put your best foot forward.

However, even if you don’t take it nearly this seriously, the good news is that you can still have a lot of fun playing without it becoming a HUGE time-suck.  In this case, all you really have to do is sit back and let the experts do all of the heavy lifting for you.  In this case, you can just spend a few minutes each week setting your ideal player lineup strictly based on the player notes and/or ratings.  Then, at the end of each week, you can choose to add or drop additional players based on the experts’ recommendations made readily available to you in whichever platform your league runs on.  It can be that easy if you want it to be, seriously.

It’s Fun!

suburbanaf guide to fantasy footballAs ridiculous as the fake teams probably sound at first glance, playing fantasy football is first and foremost a LOT of fun, even if you know very little about football.  Yes, really!  You could easily end up with a dynamite team even if your football IQ is dangerously low.  In fact, many beginners do in my experience, and can even go on to win the league.  However, while winning a championship is definitely the ultimate goal, enjoying the camaraderie of your friends, family and coworkers is what really draws everyone back each season and makes it fun no matter what.

On top of that, when you start getting invested in your players and rooting against the players on your opponent’s team each week, you’ll find a new way to actually enjoy watching NFL games.  Prior to playing fantasy football, you may half-heartedly watch your home team’s football games with your significant other with little motivation to watch the remainder of the other games played in a given week.

When you’re playing fantasy football, suddenly all of those games between two teams you never would’ve cared about carry some meaning to you when your star players are lighting up the field.  In all likelihood, you’ll start to find yourself tuning in (or at least reading the recaps) to NFL games – on purpose – because you are genuinely interested in how your fantasy players are performing.  If you’re really getting into fantasy football, you may even start watching games just to scout out potential new pick-ups for those players on your roster that underperform and/or become injured.

10 Best-Practice Tips for Your First Fantasy Football Draft

Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with all of the football basics and signed up with your first fantasy football league, you’re ready to gear up for your very first fantasy football draft!  When I was a newbie myself, this is what intimidated me the most; I just really had no idea what I was doing, who any of the players were or how to go about choosing them for my team with any strategy whatsoever.  If you’re in the same boat, no fear!  Just keep the following 10 tips in mind and you’ll be a drafting pro in no time.

1. Get to know the two options you’ll likely have for drafting your team.

These are:

Live Draft – At the date and time that your fantasy football league commissioner sets, you’ll be actively on your computer (or live in-person, though this is pretty uncommon these days) choosing your own players manually.  If you’ve done your homework, this is the best way to draft as it allows you to better customize your strategy and follow the remaining best-practice tips I’ve listed below.  Use these 2019 consensus ratings as a starting point for stack-ranking players in various positions to help you get the best available players available across your roster at the right times.  Think of this as a master list compiling all of the research you’ll need presented in a perfectly easy-to-understand format.

or

Auto-Draft – For your very first league where the very concept of fantasy football is still so new to you, you may be feeling really overwhelmed at the start, particularly if you don’t have a good grasp of how the game of football is even played (yet) or any familiarity with players.  Essentially, what this does is enable an algorithm (ahhh the beauty of technology) based on expert rankings to select your team for you based on the best available players available in a given position during each round of the draft.  Easy!

While I would definitely encourage you to participate in a live draft if at all possible, auto-draft can be an absolute godsend if you’re still feeling REALLY overwhelmed with information when draft time rolls around.  A good rule of thumb as to when to use auto-draft would be to use it as a fallback if: 1) it’s truly going to make the difference between you feeling comfortable enough to play vs not play; and/or 2) you are not available to join a live draft at the time/date your commissioner chooses.

2. Pay attention to bye weeks.  Even football players deserve a break once in awhile, right?  In fact, the NFL thinks so too and every season, each team is granted one weekend where they’re off the hook on playing and can spend their weekend relaxing (or partying it up with hookers and coke in Cabo, whatevs).  This is called a bye week, and will be important an important consideration as you choose players both for your starting lineup as well as your backup or “bench” players.

Generally speaking, it is usually not a wise strategy for a majority of the players in your starting lineup to have the same bye week since that essentially means you’d have to sub in a lot of your backups (i.e. guys who don’t usually score as many points as your stars) at one time which could result in a significant drop in your point total.  Likewise, it’s important to make sure that your bench players have different bye weeks than your starting lineup players since they’ll hardly be able to be good backups to your starters if they’re also not playing in a given week.

3. Practice makes perfect!  Participate in a few mock drafts before your real fantasy league draft to get exposure to your league’s drafting process, test out a few different draft strategies (and observe others’ strategies) in different draft positions and get a better feel for how quickly players are being taken on average despite what their composite rankings may be.

4. Know that all fantasy positions are NOT created equal!  The top scorer in fantasy football each year is almost always a quarterback which is why you’ll often see the top quarterbacks taken in the first round of a fantasy draft.  However, this is also one of the most costly mistakes you can make.  Try to remember that the value of a player in fantasy football is always relative to his position; in other words, it is much easier to get a good fantasy QB later in the draft than it is to get a good running back (RB) or wide receiver (WR).

5. Select the highest-ranking available RB or WR with your first (and second and possibly third) pick.  Your running backs (RBs) and wide receivers (WRs) will truly be the backbone of your fantasy team and are what will make the most significant difference in the ultimate performance of your team in relation to other teams in your league.  As such, they are worth prioritizing above nearly all other positions, even quarterback.

6. When the time comes, draft two quarterbacks.  If you draft a highly-ranked QB for your starting lineup in a relatively early round (but still after your first few RBs and WRs), you can probably feel more confident about waiting until a much later round to choose your second/back-up quarterback.  However, if you do wait a little later to choose your first/starting QB, you probably wouldn’t wait too many more rounds thereafter to choose your second/back-up QB.

It’s all a game of averages so if your first/starting QB is a more risky pick, you will want to choose someone fairly solid as his backup in the case that it all starts going downhill 3 games into the season.  Make sure to pay attention to bye weeks as well; your backup needs to be available when your primary QB is out.

7. Get a top 7 TE if possible.  Of any position in the NFL, there are the fewest Tight Ends (TEs) and among these, there are even FEWER TEs in the entire league who will make a significant contribution to your fantasy team.  I generally wouldn’t recommend drafting a TE in the 1st round by any means but if you’ve got a few good top picks on your roster already (mostlly RBs and WRs) and the opportunity presents itself, go ahead and draft a TE.  If you don’t get a top 7 TE, you can wait far longer to draft one as the point totals start to level off pretty significantly after this point.

8. Select more RBs and WRs (including slots on your bench) before drafting the remainder of your starting line-up.  I know this probably sounds counter-intuitive but trust me, there are WAY fewer RBs and WRs who are likely to make a positive impact on your fantasy team/point totals than there are team defenses and kickers.

9. Draft two team defenses, but don’t draft them too soon.  Seriously, every time someone drafts the Jacksonville defense in the 8th round (and it DOES happen), an angel loses its wings.  Compared to other positions, there is a MUCH smaller standard deviation between the top-ranked defense and the many mid-range defenses which will still be available to you much later in your draft.  Do yourself a favor and try to hold off on selecting a team defense as long as you can.  Then, nearing the end of your draft, pick up a second team defense as a back-up to your first with a different bye week than your primary.

10. Draft your kicker in the last round.  At the end of the day, your fantasy team does need a kicker, sure, but much like team defenses, there tends to be a MUCH smaller degree of difference separating the top-ranked kickers from those that are mid-range and even bottom-ranked for that position.  In other words, your kicker is the least likely to make or break your team so while it’s a mandatory position to fill on most (if not all) fantasy rosters, your choice of kicker should be prioritized last.

 

By keeping these best-practice tips in mind, you should be a force to be reckoned with no matter how much or how little exposure you’ve had to fantasy football previously.  Congratulations on completing your first draft and good luck to all of my fellow suburban housewives now playing fantasy football nationwide!

In part 2 of this post (coming soon!), I’ll walk through the ins and outs of managing your fantasy football team on an ongoing basis throughout the season for the best performance.  In the meantime, please feel free to like, share and/or join in the discussion with comments below to share your own fantasy football tips and tricks.

You can also bookmark my page and follow me on Facebook, Instagram and/or Pinterest to stay in the loop with new posts from Suburban AF coming your way every Tuesday.

About The Author

Lisa

Hi! I’m Lisa, creator and owner of SuburbanAF.com, a women’s interest/lifestyle blog for women living a suburban lifestyle. This blog is the natural evolution of earlier blogs I managed, including Becker it Yourself, centered primarily around DIYs. Join me on the suburban journey to Master Mrs. with Style with topics including friends, family, fashion, home, food, travel, fitness and health/beauty, all in good humor.

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