A Beginners Look at Playing Fantasy Football

If I am being completely honest I never really followed football the way I do now. I loved watching the games and I always rooted for whoever my friends were rooting for. To give myself a little credit I understand the game pretty well and even have some players that I would follow their career. Last year my buddy Chris Sanborn invited me to my first ever draft party. My best man said not to worry I could just come over and watch how it works and hang for a while. Unfortunately for their league, someone couldn’t make it to the draft and they needed to fill a vacancy. The risks for their league are pretty high so I was incredibly nervous, but many of the guys in the league were cool about it since I had never drafted before.

What I want to write about today is a guide to help people like myself who have an interest in football but have not been able to confidently start fantasy football. There are 10 guidelines that I will offer up written from my perspective. In the coming weeks we will be following the NFL season and I am pleased to introduce you to two new gents that will provide more information for our readers who go more in depth with football: John Keane and Dan Kenneson. Both are very close friends and I look forward to adding some serious football dialogue to the Gents of Lancaster!

1. Do not just pick players you know

This was the bane of my existence my first year playing fantasy football. I did not understand the concept that you have to look beyond your favorite players. I chose players based on whether or not I had seen them play and upon popularity with news posts. Please do yourself a favor, if you are drafting in the next few weeks make sure you are making educated choices.

2. Pay attention to bye weeks, they can make or break you

The other danger in picking players you know is that often they come from the same team. Having multiple players from the same team is not always a bad thing but if you fill a roster with players with the same bye week then on their week you will be missing 3-4 players that will ruin your chances of surviving in a league with people who have been playing a long time. While I didn’t come in last in our league, I did come up second to last. I think in the end this is what hurt me the most last season and I am excited to come back to the fences swinging now that I have a little more understanding of how fantasy works.

3. Have a plan going into the draft

Something that has really helped me is to have a game plan going into the draft. You need to know what order you pick and from there you have a pretty good idea of what your first few picks SHOULD be. You need to understand the positions and what the values of each are. Running backs(RB) are super important in the beginning of the draft as they have the potential to bring your team big points but here is the problem; there are only a few superstars on the list to pick from. Getting two major RB stars can be difficult if you have a big league. After RB, you should also aim for some all star wide receivers (WR). Building up your roster with players who can increase your overall score are important and you can believe that the top players will go fast. After you have a handful of RB and WR you can aim for a high performing QB. I don’t want to give away all of my strategy but by starting your basic principles like this you can find a balance in filling out your roster.

4. Have the right tools for the job

I used a piece of paper and a pencil for my first draft and it definitely slowed me down to the point of panic when it was my turn to pick. By having a plan mentioned in step 3, you can use the right tools to make informed picks. I use my iPad and phone together now. My iPad has my draft plan on it and my phone is my quick resource to work out my next pick. I also use a Bluetooth keyboard for faster typing. These resources will help you stay calm and draft the best possible team.

5. Use your resources

Do yourself a favor and go find a fantasy football cheat sheet. This is not a cheat sheet in the traditional method. You aren’t cheating per se but it is a list of the players in their current ranking and projected points for the season. On my iPad I have my draft plan on one side of the screen and the fantasy sheet on the other. As people make their choices you can cross them off the list and see instantly who is still available.

6. Do your homework!

This is huge. We are still in preseason and certain players are either not playing or are questionable. Questionable means that for some reason, the player may be in danger of not playing or has some issue in their life that prohibits them from playing. Going into the draft look at the plan you are aiming for and check the status for those players. If any are questionable, read more about the players and weigh the cost/benefits from keeping them or selecting an alternative.

7. Save your kicker and defense picks for the end

I made the mistake last year of picking a defense in round 4. It was a total waste of a draft pick and I wish I could go back and try again.

8. Stay active in the league after the draft!

After the draft the real games begin. If you notice that a certain player on your team is not holding up, do something about it! You will be able to trade them for free agents or you can trade with someone else in the league. If you are going after free agents you may have to put in a waiver which is basically a bid between you and other players in your fantasy league for that agent. Pay attention to the bye weeks and adjust your team at the start of the week to make the best possible team.

9. Watch the games

If you aren’t watching football you are kind of missing the point. One of the coolest perks of participating in fantasy football is that you start watching games you wouldn’t normally watch. You learn more about the other teams/players and I definitely got way more into the games than I did in the past, just ask my wife! Not only should you watch the games but setup parties with the players in your league to watch games together. One of my favorite seasons is football season because its a great chance to hang out with my friends while enjoying this new activity.

10. Have fun

If you aren’t having fun with it then its not worth your time. I was afraid that I would regret joining a league and now I am involved with 3 different leagues. The more I play the more I learn and the more I get out of every game.

Again if I am being honest, I still have a lot to learn. This is not a guide for someone who has been playing forever, this is really intended for people like me. If you enjoy football and always wanted to try fantasy football, I hope you get something out of this and gain the confidence to get started. I am looking forward to bringing Dan and John on to write more about what’s happening in the league and adding more Gents to the site!

That’s all for now, good luck with the drafts!

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