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A Guide to Fantasy Football Leagues

It’s easy to say that you want to join a fantasy football league this year. It’s another thing to figure out from the smorgasbord of league options. That’s what FSO has in store for you this week. I’ll get into the different kinds of fantasy football leagues available (full-season, daily fantasy will be dealt with closer to the regular season).

First, you need to know your types of fantasy football leagues. Second will be to find a league.

Best Ball: Do you love drafting, but hate it when you sweat over your starting lineup and that guy you added to your starting lineup at the last minute gets you a big fat zero? Best ball is for you. Draft your team and you are finished. The league will automatically pick your best players every week.

Want to try it? My Fantasy League offers Draftmaster leagues that are free and will give you better insight into player value than a mock draft. MFL offers similar leagues for money, the most popular being the MFL10. In short, you put down $10 and the league winner (12-team league) gets $100.

Redraft: This is the granddaddy of them all. Find a group of friends and pick players either in person or on the internet. The most common format is the “snake” draft in which the team with the #1 pick in the first round gets the #12 pick in the second round. Draft your players and take on your opponents in what is usually one head-to-head matchup a week. Most leagues have pre-packaged rules if you want something simple.

Want to play? Sites like Yahoo, ESPN, and NFL.com let you do it for free.

Keeper: This isn’t too different from redraft. In a keeper league, the league continues from year to year and you get to keep a set number of players. I play in a keeper league that lets you keep three players, one per position, for up to four years. This allows you some continuity from year to year while keeping most of the same setup as a redraft league.

To play in a league like this, you’ll need to get into a league that allows you to continue from year to year, like My Fantasy League or CBS Sports.

Dynasty: The difference between a keeper league and a dynasty league is that a dynasty league lets you keep players as long as you’d like. You conduct an initial startup draft and every year there’s a rookie draft with all of the new players. This kind of league requires a greater commitment, and over time you develop rivalries that are as fierce as Seattle and San Francisco.

Want to play? MFL is the place to go to set up a league like that. It’s fully customizable and you can create your own league art and team icons. If you’re ready to find some league mates, I recommend the forums at Dynasty League Football.

IDP: Most “standard” leagues play with a team defense/special teams unit, and that’s about as fun to play as a video game with a broken controller. If you want to play the full fantasy game, you have to add individual defensive players. Instead of focusing on QBs, RBs, WRs, TEs, and sometimes kickers, you have to look at defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. It’s a lot of work, study, and spreadsheet sweat at first but it’s a lot more fun ultimately. Every site that offers fantasy leagues worth its salt will have this option.

Auction: One downside to a fantasy-football draft is that you’re locked into a draft slot. Sure, you can trade, but your options generally are limited. In an auction format, every team gets a “salary cap” and the option to bid on every player. That means you can try to pick up two top-ten running backs if you want, with the caveat that you won’t have much of your money left to pick up other players. In this format, you can do it in person or online. Each owner “nominates” a player and bidding continues until nobody wants to up the ante. It’s more involved than a draft but the end product means you get the team that you want.

How do I play? Most major “free” sites offer auctions as well as drafts.

What kind of league is for you? I wouldn’t narrow it to one. That wouldn’t be any kind of fun. This is a primer for different kinds of leagues, so you can figure out what’s for you. The main point is you get a starting point from which to begin your glorious fantasy journey.

About Zach Law

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