By Zack Peñalva, Sports Editor
Fantasy football has become an annual tradition for millions of people, and if you’ve never thought about joining your own league, this could be your year. Skeptical? Don’t be. Follow this guide and be ready for this season.
Know the League Rules
Every league is a little different. Before you draft your players, you want to make sure you know how scoring works and how your team will be set up.
For this guide, I’ll base everything off of the standard rules that ESPN.com has in place for its leagues. Every week, you have to set your team’s starting lineup. This will include one quarterback (QB), two running backs (RB), two wide receivers (WR), one tight end (TE), one defense/special teams unit (DST), one kicker (K) and one FLEX player that can either be a RB, TE or WR. Based on the performance of your starters during their real-life football games, they will earn points for your team.
All of your starting players, plus, seven bench players, are initially picked during your league’s draft, which brings us to our next step.
Pick your team
Before the season starts, your league will have a draft that will allow everyone to pick players for their teams. A general rule of thumb is to pick running backs first. Elite running backs are in short supply and are often the players that will score you the most points every week. Snatching up players like Eddie Lacy, Le’Veon Bell and Adrian Peterson will make sure that your team has a solid foundation.
Next on the priority list are quarterbacks and wide receivers. Elite quarterbacks are a safer pick because you will always get points for touchdowns they score, regardless of the receiver.
Elite wide receivers like Antonio Brown, Calvin Johnson and Randall Cobb can still produce a lot of points, but you always run the risk of a good defense limiting the amount of times they get the ball. Tight ends operate in the same way, but they have a smaller chance of producing monster points.
Drafting depth at RB and WR should be your biggest priority. Players will get hurt and all NFL teams have one bye week where they don’t play. Tight ends, kickers and defenses should be drafted very late and in that order of priority. Once you have your players picked, it’s time to determine who starts.
Set the lineup
We’ve already gone over what players you’re allowed to start every week, so how do you pick? This is where the real challenge and fun of fantasy football comes out. The biggest factor to look at is matchups. Sometimes it’s easy, if you have a wide receiver that is scheduled to play against the NFL’s leading pass defense, it would be wise to rotate him out with someone who has an easier game on their schedule.
Don’t overthink these matchups though. You never want to bench an elite player unless they’re hurt or on a bye week. These players will always be getting the ball and getting chances to score points.
Be on the lookout
As the season goes on, you’ll notice that some of your picks aren’t working out. Maybe they’ve picked up an injury or their production is way down. In that case, you can always pick up new players from the waiver wire. This is a pool of players that were dropped by others in your league or were never drafted in the first place. There is always gold to be found in the waiver wire. See who’s heating up and take a chance, they could be the difference maker that takes you to the championship.