Fuck yeah! The NFL season is almost here!
With teams all across America currently in pre-season, the anticipation is bubbling for another season of hard-hitting, trash-talking, ball-spiking NFL action, and of course the phenomenon that is Fantasy Football.
Fantasy Football is huge in the States, and they take their game seriously, so we have prepared a beginners guide for anyone who feels like they want to get involved this season. Lets begin.
1. Find A League
A lot of people get involved with fantasy football because a friend convinced them to join a private league, but if this isn't the case, there are many other options for you. Public leagues run on NFL.com, ESPN, and Yahoo, which allow you to create a team and compete against strangers, but if you are just starting out, then Sky Sports NFL UK Fantasy may be the best option, and they have some pretty sweet prizes if you do well, so that's a plus.
2. Know Your League Rules
While the general idea of fantasy football remains constant on all sites, such as offensive players scoring points as well as a kicker and an entire defence, some sites have differing scoring systems for things like yards gained, field goal distance, penalties for turnovers etc., so be sure to have a good read of the rules on whatever site you choose.
3. Pick A Clever Team Name
This is more important than it sounds. If you're not going to win the league's Superbowl, you should at least be in contention for best team name. Avoid putting your actual name into an existing franchise's team name, the name 'Tebow Sucks' is already taken, and remember that movie references are always a winner, for example, as a Jaguars fan my team name 'Henne Given Sunday' is absolutely brilliant. Way to go me.
4. Do Your Homework
If you want to get the full enjoyment out of fantasy NFL, you're going to have to put in a decent effort. Depending on your knowledge of current NFL players, you may need to read up on expert's picks to get an idea of who you will need.
All the major fantasy sites will offer an expert's opinion on who you need to draft, but you will also need to have an idea of any injuries or suspensions to avoid drafting a dud. During the draft each player is given a projected position ranking, to give you an idea of who is expected to be taken where, but it is important to have your own draft board with players you think are going to do well if you want to have any success.
5. Plan Your Draft
Don't take a kicker anywhere other than the last round, and generally don't take a defence until someone else has and the panic sets in. If you're lucky enough to pick first, don't do anything other than take Adrian Peterson. But other than that, know what position you are in the draft and it should be easy enough to have a rough idea of who will be available in the first two rounds.
If you can get an elite scoring QB like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, or Aaron Rodgers, then you have to take them first, but it soon becomes more valuable to take an elite running back or wide receiver than a mid-level QB. Your first three or four picks have to be nailed on certainties to rack the points up week in, week out. Don't forget to look at each player's bye-week, because you don't want players in the same position who are having a week off at the same time.
6. Actually ATTEND The Draft
This is huge. If you've bothered your arse joining a fantasy league, then you really should be present when the live draft commences. Otherwise the system will auto-draft for you, and it is utterly incapable of doing anything other than completely ruining your chances of success. Most likely your league commish will arrange a time when most are available, so make sure you can be there or online for it, and find the guy who is obsessed with the NFL and fantasy and befriend him for advice.
7. Make A Decent Effort To Watch The NFL Every Week
You've got to keep up to date with how your guys are doing, who's hot and who's not from around the league, and any injuries that pop up, and there will be injuries. NFL Red Zone is without a doubt the best way to follow the NFL for a fantasy player, as you are immediately shown every score from every game in the league so you can find out which rookie is getting more minutes than expected, or which running back does the ground work to get the ball into the red-zone only to see the 350 pound full-back smash the ball over and steal the TD credit.
8. Play The Waiver Wire
This is probably the most important part of fantasy as the season goes on. The waiver wire is NFL fantasy's way of making transfers in and out of your side. When you draft a team before week one, you never know who is going to get injured or possibly lose their place, so you need to keep an eye on the undrafted players that can make an impact.
Every year there are breakout stars in the NFL who are not drafted by fantasy managers, and these guys are sitting in free agency, but it's not a free for all. Waiver requests are a way of submitting a claim for a player, which will wait until the weekly waiver deadline, before awarding that player to the lowest ranked team who attempted to claim him, in the interest of fairness.
You need to have your ear to the ground, find a reliable expert with a weekly column and try to replace those on your team who are not producing with guys who have stepped it up this year.
9. Talk Some Shit
This is the NFL baby! Ain't nobody got time for humility. If you are doing well, let the league know how great you are and how shit they are. If you're doing badly, let the league know their league is bullshit. Watch some Richard Sherman videos on YouTube and off you go.
10. Manage Your Team Every Week
It sounds basic but absentee managers will get nowhere. You have to keep track of who has to sit out due to a bye-week and who is an injury risk. The individual sites will give you injury and form info on your team management section, but you just have to dedicate a few minutes each week to put yourself in the best position to win.
And that's it. Now you're ready to take on the World, grab a bud light*, some chips and dip, and watch some God damn football!
*or a better beer