Fantasy Football: Tips for Beginners

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I love playing fantasy football, but if we’re being totally honest I got dragged into it.  A couple years ago TIm’s fantasy football league needed a new team, and I needed to understand football because that’s mostly what Tim talks about.  Cue the beginning of my fantasy football career and an overwhelming journey into figuring out just who all of these non-Packer players were.  Needless to say I was pretty overwhelmed at the thought of learning and analyzing stats and information about 200+ players and 32 teams. So I made a list of players and dug through sites and research and bugged Tim constantly about who this person or that person was. But I had absolutely no clue what I was doing.  So here’s the Beginners Guide to Fantasy Football for anyone who was dragged into this crazy game. The fear that you won’t be able to learn you need to know in less than a month? Yeah, I’ve been there, and somehow I survived. So if you want some practical beginner tips, here’s what I’ve learned on this journey:

Preseason Research

Research is your best friend, but you don’t have to read the whole internet.

Seriously, there are a million websites, a million articles, a million rankings, A MILLION. You can’t read them all, but how do you pick one? Well here’s what I do.

Don’t worry about paid sites because the information they offer will probably confuse you more than it helps.  The sites you can buy a subscription to give really detailed analysis which you can chose to buy in a few years, but for now you probably want to focus on the basics.  You can do a lot with what’s out there for free, and I think I only looked at articles Matthew Berry wrote my first year. (See those here: Matthew Berry at ESPN.com). You can pick any analyst you want, but find one or two that you like to read, and stick with those. You’ll get enough information without going overboard. And remember that person that dragged you into this? Ask them what sites they like! I bet they would love to point you to some resources to help you out.

P.S. Here’s some sites I think are great:

Podcasts are an Excellent Resource

If reading isn’t your thing, or you just want another resource, I highly recommend Podcasts. Most Fantasy Football websites produce a podcast as well.  This is great way to start understanding how to evaluate players, because you can listen to other people discussing the important things about players.  I listen to a couple Podcasts daily as I drive to work, and they are invaluable for analysis and player news.  Here’s my two favorite

Flag Football

Bonus: Picture of me as a 9-year-old playing flag football. I played on my brother’s team and had big dreams of being the first girl to play in the NFL

2.  Preparing for the Draft

This is it, the first real step, the day that the players you take make or break your team.  Not that your team at the end of the year will look anything like it does now by the end of the year.  Who you draft gives you a very important base to build off, and can make or break your team and trade options later.

ESPN.com has a lot of great resources, including a brief description of any fantasy relevant player, here:  Top 300 Rankings – ESPN.com

Create a Master Cheat Sheet

Since when I first started playing fantasy football, I thought Randy Moss was a Quarterback, my best friend in this game is my handy dandy cheat sheet with all the pertinent information about every player.  My first year, I printed out the top 200 rankings and then wrote notes about every single player. Actually I did that my second year too. And I’ll be doing it again.  You really need to know certain information at the draft and if you can’t remember it all (which is pretty likely if you’re new) I recommend showing up to the draft with some notes.  Here are some basic things you may want to take note of

  • The Basics: Team and Position,
  • Injury history
  • Current status on the team (Are they the starter? Are they a back up who will only play if someone else is hurt? Are they fighting for a spot with someone else?)
  • Who else on their team will affect them (for example, Tom Brady does far better if Gronkowski plays.  So if you are nervous about Gronk’s injury status, Brady may also drop in your rankings)
  • Any other news you feel is relevant: like how are they doing in training camp? Are they currently facing suspension? (cough cough, Josh Gordon)
  • ADP – ADP stands for Average Draft Position, which means the average spot a given player is being taken in fantasy football drafts.  So if a Player’s ADP is 2, they are on average being taken 2nd overall in the draft.  This is a really relevant statistic when you’re evaluating where to take a player on the day of the draft.  Say you are at the 30th pick in the draft and trying to decide between Player A and Player B.  Player A’s ADP is 35, Player B’s ADP is 45.  You think they’re pretty equal players and you have another pick before 45, so you take Player A, because in all likelihood Player B will still be around for your next pick.  Now ADP is not a given, just because Player B’s ADP is 45 doesn’t mean he won’t be chosen before then, but it gives you a pretty good idea of what players will be left at a certain round in the draft so you don’t take someone in the 4th round you could get in the 8th.

If you have all this written down in a handy cheat sheet?  You will be golden.  You will have plenty of info to go into the draft strong.  Don’t do it all at once! I take notes on 10-20 players a day.  And remember in a ten team league, only 200 or so players get drafted, and a twelve team league might have a few more than that.  You only have to research as many players as will be drafted, so don’t waste your time on super deep sleepers unless your league is that deep.

Check out Part Two (coming soon) where I’ll talk about what to do on the day of the draft.  If you’re new to fantasy football and have any questions or have a topic you’d like me to cover, feel free to comment and I’ll try to help you out!  

Other Resources

Here is a great beginners guide created on Reddit. It covers some stuff I didn’t go into because this was getting lengthy.  There’s a great glossary of terms, discussion of the different types of leagues, and links to tons of resources.  All in one convenient spot.

Fantasy Football Glossary – Reddit 

Fantasy Football Beginner’s Guide – Reddit

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