How To Manuel for Fantasy Football by Utter Fantasy Writer & illustrator Doug Bowles
HOW TO GET STARTED PLAYING
Chapter 1 – What Is Fantasy Football?
Chapter 2 – How You Score
Chapter 3 – Ways to Compete
Chapter 4 – Keys to a Successful Draft
Chapter 5 – Managing Your Team
Chapter 6 – Fantasy Football Etiquette
Chapter 7 – Starting Your Own League
At Utter-Fantasy.com, we get a lot of questions from people who are
interested in playing fantasy, but don’t know how to get started. So, we
decided to put together this quick guide that explains the basics of the
game, and answers the questions we get asked most often.
The most common question that we get asked by people who are totally
unfamiliar with fantasy football is, “Does everyone have the same players?”
The answer is actually the opposite. No team in any fantasy football league
will have ANY players in common.
Hopefully, after reading this How-to-Manual for Fantasy Football, all of your
questions will be answered and any confusing pre-conceptions about fantasy
football will be cleared up, so that you can enjoy the fun that the rest of us
Chapter One: What Is Fantasy Football?
Fantasy Football is a competition in which
participants select imaginary teams from the
players in the NFL, and score points according to
the actual weekly performance of their players.
A fantasy football league normally consists of 8-12
individuals who are called “owners” and who draft
their own teams. (Some leagues may have more or
less teams participating and a team can have “coowners”…
friends who can share the responsibilities of one team.) The
league is usually set up by one ambitious person who is called “the
commissioner” and he or she will organize pretty much everything to get
started such as:
· Inviting everyone to participate
· finding an online fantasy football site to keep track of your league
· Setting a draft date
· Collecting league fees (If there are any. Many leagues play just for
Before the NFL season starts, owners name their fantasy team, then get
together (either in person or online) to take turns drafting their team
consisting of NFL players. A draft order is determined beforehand. During
the draft, each fantasy owner selects one NFL player at a time until the
rosters are complete. Typically each team will draft between 15-18 players.
The number of players on your roster is determined by each league before
A Comforting Note For You…
Since most drafts are done online now, so there should be no fear of “not
knowing the NFL players”. They will all be listed for you in the draft room, on
the website that your league chose. It’s cool how it works. When it’s your
turn to draft a player, you will simply click on the players name then he will
go to your roster and will automatically become unavailable to any other
In most cases, the draft is serpentine. In fantasy, a serpentine draft goes
like this…It starts with the person selecting #1, then goes down the line of
draft owners picking, until the last pick in Round One. (If your league has 10
team owners, Round One will have 10 different NFL players selected.) Round
Two begins in reverse order The #10 team owner, who had the last pick,
drafts a second time right after his first pick, and drafting goes right back up
the line of owners. (If you were #1 owner and drafted first overall, you will
have two picks back-to-back ending Round Two and starting Round Three.)
When an NFL player is drafted by a team owner, that player is no longer
Drafted players will remain on someone’s roster as long as the owner wants
them to be. Just like being a real NFL general manager, fantasy owners are
in charge of all aspects of their team. They can cut players, add players,
bench players, or even make trades with other owners in the league. This is
all easily managed online.
A long list of un-drafted available players will always be listed on your
chosen website. If you have a player that is injured and perhaps out for the
season for instance, you can drop this player usually by clicking this (-)
symbol near your roster player’s name, then clicking the add (+) symbol
near the un-drafted available player’s name that you want, then clicking the
“save” button. This will become very clear as you get started. As I have
mentioned before, this is all easier than it sounds.
A Fantasy Suggestion: Fantasy football is best played among friends and
remember, everyone was a beginner at fantasy football at some point.
However, if you’re are concerned about being too inexperienced among
people that you know who are experienced…you might want try a year by
yourself and join a public league. Anyone can sign up to join a random public
league on Yahoo for instance, and you could learn the nuances of the game.
Most are played for fun and there is no money involved.
Or, you might try starting your own league with friends who are also
inexperienced. You could all learn together. Scroll down to Bonus Chapter
Seven for tips on starting a league. It’s easier than you think.
Chapter Two: How You Score
Your rosters will consist of 15-18 players at various
positions (depending on your league rules). Each
week you’ll set your starters, which will consist of a
quarterback, two running backs, two-three
receivers, a tight end, a kicker, and a team
defense. (This is very easy to do on your league
website. Simply click “Starter” or “Bench” after the
player’s name in your roster.)
Only the “Starters” will count towards your score that week…the rest of the
roster is comprised of bench spots that don’t score any points.
An example of your fantasy team “Starters” in Week One could look like
QB: Drew Brees – Saints
RB: LeVeon Bell – Steelers
RB: Alfred Morris – Washington
WR: T Y Hilton – Colts
WR: Roddy White – Falcons
TE: Rob Gronkowski – Patriots
K: Matt Prater – Lions
DEF: Chicago – Bears
Bench: QB Carson Palmer – Cardinals
Bench: WR Steve Smith – Panthers, WR Davante Adams – Packers
Bench: TE Brent Celek – Eagles
Bench: K Patrick Murray – Buccaneers,
DEF – New England Patriots
(These bench players are still on your roster and you may choose from to
start another week. Week Two you may choose to “Start” QB Palmer over
QB Brees…or WR Adams over WR Roddy White…depending on match ups or
To score points, the players from your team need to score on the NFL field.
Some leagues reward points for touchdowns only. So, if your QB throws for
240 yards and two touchdowns, the example team listed gets 12 points (two
touchdowns at six points each). And some leagues reward players for yards
An example would be a point for every 20 yards gained, receiving or
rushing. If a running back runs for 100 yards, gains 50 as a receiver and
scores a touchdown, he scores 13 points that week.
As for kickers and team defenses, they generate points the same way as
position players. A kicker’s stats are normally the same as what he does in
an NFL game – he gets a point for an extra point and three points for a field
goal. There are some leagues that will give bonus points to kickers for the
length of the kick (more points for the longer kicks).
Team defenses can get points for sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries,
points allowed, and touchdowns scored. There are any number of ways a
league can setup scoring for a team defense. Most team defenses also get
rewarded for special teams play. If a kick-off is returned for a touchdown for
example, your defense is awarded six points.
In the early days of fantasy football, league commissioners had the
unenviable task of keeping track of the league, tallying scores and keeping
track of the standings by hand. But since the internet took off, there are
services (like CBS Sportsline or Yahoo) that will keep track of all your
stats, standings, transactions, etc. This makes the task of running and
playing in a league much easier. The internet is the main reason fantasy
football is so popular today.
Chapter Three: Ways to Compete
Teams can compete in fantasy leagues in different ways, but here are the
two main ways.
Head to Head: Just like the NFL (again, in most leagues), two
teams are matched up against each other every
week in fantasy leagues. This is called “head-tohead”,
or sometimes referred to as “HD2HD”,
In the “Head-to-Head” competition, each week
during the NFL season your team will compete
against a different team in your league. The goal is
to have the best record (most wins) at or near the end of the season. The
four teams with the best head-to-head records (usually by Week 15 of the
regular NFL season) will battle in a playoff scenario. The final week will pit
the top two against each other, so that a head-to-head champion is
Overall Points: The second way to compete is an overall points competition. Each week
every team in your league will accumulate points depending on how your
fantasy players did on the field. The four teams with the highest
accumulated points throughout the season (usually by Week 15 of the
regular NFL season) will battle in a playoff scenario. This usually happens in
the final two weeks of the regular season. The final week will pit the top two
against each other, so that an overall point champion is determined.
(Some leagues compete in both ways described above. At the end of the
season, two champions are crowned…an overall points champion and a
head-to-head champion. Sometimes a team can brag as to having won both
in a season.)
Chapter Four: Keys to a Successful Draft – Do Your Research
Research key players NFL teams. You already know
more than you think. This seems like a daunting
task, but it’s actually not. Simply study a little at a
time, rather than a two hour crash course right
before the draft. Give yourself 20 minutes, for
example, to familiarize yourself with 32 QBs in the
NFL. Next session, familiarize yourself with starting
running backs. Fantasy Football magazines are a
great place to start. They will list for instance how
all the running backs did in 2014. (My favorite magazine is, “Fantasy
The internet has an endless amount of information for you to research from,
via search engines, and sports websites. Before choosing your fantasy team,
you need to research available players so you can pre-rank them according
to your personal preference, but you don’t necessarily have to!
Your fantasy football magazines will have early “cheat sheets”, which will
rank all the NFL players and defenses, and most good fantasy football
websites (like Utter-Fantasy.com) will have players rankings available to you
Prior to your pick in any round, have players in mind to select. Be ready in
the event that the player you really wanted has just been taken. It can be
frustrating when one team owner takes a long time to make each of his/her
player selections during the draft . This usually happens when the player
that they wanted has just been taken by another team, and they aren’t
prepared to make another decision.
If you don’t have options ready when it’s your turn, you will be:
1. Lost as to who you do want next.
2. Rushed into selecting someone that you really don’t want.
When my turn is 3 picks away during the draft, I spend the time since my
last selection choosing 3 players that I desperately want on my fantasy team. If two of them were chosen before it’s my turn to pick, my decision is
easy, because I have that 3rd player ready to draft.
Draft Quality Players at Every Position
During the draft, keep a record of how many players you’ve selected in each
position. If you use your top 5 draft picks on the best 5 RBs available, you
will likely have the best stable of RBs in the your league. However, by
ignoring the other positions, your team will be beat by teams that have
overall strength week after week.
Remember, you can only score two RBs each week, so those other 3-4
superstar RBs that you’re smitten with, aren’t helping your team sitting the
bench. You need quality WRs to score each week, as well as a strong TE and
QB. Pay attention to your team, and draft intelligently at every position.
Don’t Draft a Kicker or Defense Until the Last Few Rounds
There have been instances where I haven’t always followed my own advice
on this because:
1. I might not have been prepared in to draft in a particular round and
therefore end up swinging for a kicker or defense out of desperation.
2. I select a kicker of defense too early, because I was enamored with
their successful performance the year before.
Particularly concerning kickers, very seldom do they follow up a great stat
year, with another one. Pick your kickers last. Pick your defense(s) next to
last. (Although if you choose to select the Seattle Defense in a mid-round, I
wouldn’t blame you. They have been the top defense for two years in a
Chapter Five: Managing Your Team
Drafting the best team in your league doesn’t ensure you’ll win. In order to
be successful in Fantasy Football, you have to actively manage your team
throughout the entire season. Here are some of the keys to managing your
Start ‘Em or Sit ‘Em
Most leagues require you to select the players from
your roster each week that you wish to score. For
example, if you drafted 4 running backs (RBs), you
may be required to select only two of them to
score in any given week. Your decision of which
two to score will be based on many different
factors, such as of health of your players, the
teams your players will be facing, or even the
weather. Utter-Fantasy.com offers Start ‘Em & Sit ‘Em advice. You can sign
up to get these alerts and updates using the form in the right hand column
of any page on the website.
You’re not stuck with the players you chose on draft day. As a matter of fact,
by the end of the season, your roster will likely look very different from the
one you drafted. Making the right player moves can greatly improve even a
poorly drafted team. The two main ways you can make player moves are
through the waiver wire, and via trades.
As a fantasy owner, you’re in total control. You can drop players you think
aren’t good enough and replace them. The waiver wire is a list of players
that that nobody in your league already has on their roster. Therefore, these
payers are available to be added to your team, once you drop a player.
If you have a player on your roster who gets hurt, benched, suspended…or
just isn’t performing up to expectations, you can drop him in exchange for a
player who is a free agent (not owned by any team in your league). Every
week, new players become available or in demand due to many reasons and
advice on picking up these players can be found on fantasy websites that
have, “Waiver Wire Updates”. (It’s a popular feature on Utter-Fantasy.com)
You can even make a trade offer to another owner. Sometimes there will be
a situation where you’re very heavy in one position and end up with high
scoring players sitting you on your bench. If this is the case, you’re likely
going to be weak at another position. Look around the other rosters in your
league and see if there’s a team in an opposite position (weak where you’re
strong, and strong where you’re weak). If a trade looks mutually beneficial,
extend an offer to the team owner.
Note: The other owners in your league aren’t fools. Offering to trade your
3rd tier WR for someone’s 1st tier RB isn’t going to get you anywhere. If the
trade doesn’t seem mutually beneficial to you, it won’t to them, either…so
don’t insult their intelligence.
Winning Your League
Only the strong survive, and at the end of the fantasy season, the top teams
square off in a playoff tournament to decide the league champion. The last
team standing may win a trophy, a cash prize, or just bragging rights. Some
leagues have the playoffs begin week 13 of the NFL season and some have
them start week 15. Every league has their own rules on this.
Chapter Six: Etiquette and Rules of Personal Conduct
While fantasy football can be an extremely
competitive endeavor, it is important to remember
that enjoyment of the game is predicated on a
certain level of sportsmanship displayed by the
participants. Common courtesy and common sense
are good things to keep in mind this fantasy
season. Here are a few DO’s & DON’Ts:
The Draft – Be on time for the draft. Know when it is your turn, and do not
take excessive amount of time when it is your turn to select. Everyone has a
round or two of indecision, just make sure you are not the guy (or gal) who
does it almost every time. Come prepared.
Participate in Fantasy Activities in a Timely Manner – That means,
respond to phone calls, or emails etc by other team owners without long
delays, and especially communications by the commissioner. Accept or
Reject a trade offer as soon as possible. Online League sites often send out
invitations to team owners and need replies…SO REPLY! Don’t make the
commissioner’s job harder than it already is.
Trash Talking – It is part of fantasy football, so get used to it. However,
you can have fun without being offensive (and BTW, I already know how fat
my mother is).
No Collusion – Collusion can occur when one team makes moves to benefit
another team, without trying to improve its own position. One-sided trades
are an obvious example of this. Another example is when a player drop is made so another team can pick up that player. Your commissioner can and
should void trades and moves where this is obvious.
Do Not Impede Other Owners- Certain transactions made solely to
impede other owners is not allowed. Tanking games for the sole purpose of
denying another player’s chance to make the playoffs is against the rules. In
particular, cycling through players in free agency to put them on waivers and
make them unavailable to other teams in your league is strictly prohibited
and should be grounds for expulsion from your league.
No Roster Dumping either (i.e. dumping players into the player pool due to
disinterest or for any other reason).
Keep Your Team Active – In order to maintain the integrity of the league,
team owners should not remain inactive for extended periods of time. If you
are giving up on the season, reassign ownership of your team to someone
that will try.
Pay Before You Play – If your league plays for cash prizes, everyone
should get their league dues in before the season starts. Commissioners
dread the manhunt, tracking down a team owner that has not handed in
their league due.
Vote – It’s worth mentioning again. Do not let a few team owners run your
league. If someone thinks a rule or point system needs changing, demand a
vote. If majority agree, change it.
A Few Extras –
· Take it easy on the New Team Owners. (We’ve all been one)
· Football Sunday is your fantasy day, so spoil the spouse on Saturday.
· Don’t be the Moocher at the draft – If you eat & drink with friends for
fantasy fun, buy some of the eats, and buy some of the drinks.
Good luck, and welcome to the obsession!
Bonus Chapter Seven: Starting Your Own League
We have new players ask us about how to start their own leagues, so we
thought we would cover the subject as a bonus chapter, for those who are
There are countless internet sites that you can play
on, and keep track of your fantasy leagues. Many
popular sites don’t charge a fee. It is
free to park your leagues there. The most
recommended ones are NFL, ESPN and Yahoo.
When you decide to play fantasy football, joining
one of these sites is easier than you might think.
Let’s say you want to have Yahoo host your league.
(You’ll be asked to sign into your Yahoo! Account if you haven’t already.)
· Go to Yahoo.com.
· Select the Sports tab from the list of Yahoo services.
· Next click on the “Fantasy” tab in the Sports Section.
· Scroll down to “Fantasy Football” and click this link.
· There you will find two choices…”Join a League” or “Create a League”.
To Join a League – Simply click this link – you will see open leagues that
To Create a league – Click this link and a window will appear. It will ask
you for your League name – Type of league you want (Points vs HD2HD) –
How & When you want to draft – Click “Finish” and voila!– You can even
customize your league settings right there.
As a league, decide on rules for trades, player moves each week and for
submitting weekly line ups. You’ll also need to decide how long your season
will last and if your league will have playoffs. These are decisions every team
member should vote when starting a new league.
If you’re invited to join a friend’s league, you’ve probably received an e-mail
with a link to the sign-up page. Just click on the link, accept your spot, pick
a team name and logo. This type of league works exactly like a public league
when the season begins, but the league’s commissioner can customize the setup. Yahoo has a certain set of standard defaults for roster requirements,
scoring, free agency, and so on.
So, there you have it…setting up your league with a Free Fantasy Football
Hosting Site is as easy as taking a ride on the Reading Railroad!
To learn more about your new obsession and get more advanced
fantasy tips and advice, be sure to visit us at