Fantasy football is one of the fastest growing participation leagues in professional sports. The National Football League has supported interest and participation in the leagues, as well as the major sports websites such as ESPN.com and major television networks such as CBS, NBC, and ABC.
Over the years, a number of variations on the basic fantasy football game have evolved. Originally, players would select teams from the rosters of the NFL, very similar to the NFL draft. The total score for a player’s game would be based on the performance of their draft selections. There was a heavy emphasis on quarterbacks, running backs, and wide receivers as their statistical numbers were easy to track, and the number of statistics kept by the sports networks and league were much smaller than today. This explosion of statistics has been largely responsible for the newer variations.
The Standard League is still the most popular. Each team is allowed to draft players at selected positions, but may only select a limited number of players at any one position. For example, a player is usually limited to having 2 quarterbacks on their roster. From a player’s roster, they select a starting lineup for each week. The performance of that player for the week earns a certain number of points based on the league rules. For example, a quarterback will earn points based on the total number of passing yards and rushing yards they have accumulated during the week.
Deciding who to draft can be critical because of the number of injuries that occur during the season. An injury to a key player can make a dominating roster just average, and will require trading or acquiring a player who perhaps before the draft was not considered to be a winner.
The typical roster for a standard league team will allow 2 quarterbacks, 3 running backs, 4 wide receivers, a team defense, and a kicker, totaling 11 starting positions. The total number of points accumulated for all the starting positions will determine whether the player wins or loses for the week. During the course of the season, players on the roster can be dropped and free agents added. Depending on league rules, certain players may be determined as being untradeable.
Depending on league rules, teams are limited to how many times they can add, drop, or trade a player during the course of the season. There is usually a designated week that marks the end of any and all trading throughout the league called a transaction deadline. Between drafting the roster and making adjustments during the season, the transaction deadline is critical because a team’s performance in the playoffs is often determined by who they chose not to add to their roster.
In the standard league, there are two different ways in which is a winner is determined. A head-to-head league determines its champion by awarding a win for each week where the player’s total points is greater than their opponent’s. At the end of the league’s regular season, the teams that meet for the playoffs are the ones who have collected the most wins. A total points league does not base the playoffs on wins and losses for each week, but ranks the teams that have the highest point totals for the entire season.
The Auction Draft League puts limits on the players a team can draft by using a virtual money system. Each team is given an amount of money, predetermined by the league rules, that a player can use to complete their team roster. This allows the best players in the league to be drafted by more than one team – if they are willing to spend the money. The danger is that spending too much on one player can result in a weak team overall. This is the case in the actual NFL, and adds realism to the game.
A Keeper League gets a bit more complicated, as a player draft their team during the NFL preseason. The players are allowed to keep players selected in the preseason draft and move them to their regular season roster. The number of players a team is allowed to keep is set by the league rules. This is extended to allowing teams to keep certain players from one fantasy league year to the next, again, with the number of years determined by league rules. This is clearly a league for people who are committed to playing fantasy football for many years.
Similar to a Keeper League is the Dynasty League. This is a more basic version of the Keeper League but requires an even longer commitment to playing. In this type of league, the experience is even more realistic than the Auction type league because players stay with the team from one fantasy season to the next unless they are traded or let go, much like in the actual NFL. Also like the NFL, teams can add players in a draft, but only rookies.
Since the league rules and scoring in the most popular fantasy football leagues are aimed at accumulating offensive points, the performance of defensive players is often ignored. The IDP League was created to shift the focus to the individual defensive player and score the points awarded to the defense based on the total individual performance of all the defensive players drafted by the team. For example, in most standard leagues a defense is awarded points based on the number of points allowed, the number of interceptions, and the number of points scored by the defense. If an individual defensive player has a bad day, it will not show up in the score. In an IDP league, the same bad day would likely lower the number of points awarded to the defense.
Finally, there is the Survivor League, which is basically an elimination league where the team in the league that scores the least number of points in a week is eliminated from playing for the rest of the season. This requires the number of teams in a league to be fixed at 16, and there is no playoff system.