Fantasy football is a blast, and it’s a great way to make and keep friends. Fantasy football is massively popular — more than six percent of the American adult population is involved in some kind of fantasy sports game, and football is the most popular — and it’s not hard to see why.
But if this is your first year as a fantasy football team owner, then you probably have some questions. You’d like to be competitive in your fantasy league this year, naturally. At the very least, you’d like to not embarrass yourself through a lack of knowledge!
Never fear, because this guide is here to help. Here’s everything that you need to know in order to look like a fantasy expert at your draft.
Bring your paperwork
To draft wisely, you’ll need to have some basic information. The most important thing to have is a list of the top players in the league by value; a list of the top 300 should be more than enough for all but the deepest leagues.
Next, you’ll want a list of rankings by position: RB rankings, WR rankings, QB rankings, and so on. If you’re drafting online, these basic lists may be built into the app or website you’re using. If they’re not, consider printing them out or putting them into a spreadsheet.
On top of these basic lists, you’ll probably want a tier list for important positions. Tier lists let you know where the major drop-offs in fantasy value are. Maybe, for example, there’s little difference between being the third guy to draft a quarterback and being the fourth, but a huge difference between getting that fourth-best option and having to settle for the fifth-best.
It pays to know where these tier drop-offs are so that you know when you’re at risk of missing your chance at an elite player at a given position. So grab some tier lists and print them out, or add lines or highlighter to your positional rankings list to indicate tier drop-offs.
Put off drafting a defense or a kicker
Late-round draft picks aren’t that important, but they can still be more important than a defense or a kicker (this is especially true in keeper leagues). You will probably whiff on most late-round picks, but a great rookie or a comeback player that you get late as a sleeper pick can be a big difference-maker in your season.
By contrast, kickers are relatively interchangeable. Defenses can be valuable on a week-to-week basis, but matchups matter a lot, and many fantasy owners drop and add defenses on a weekly basis. With all of this in mind, avoid wasting decent picks on kickers and defenses. Wait until the very end of your draft.
If you want to be sure not to get teased for “overdrafting” a kicker or defense, just wait until someone else takes the plunge first. You can hardly go wrong by putting it off.
Remember: the others aren’t as infallible as they pretend to be
Fantasy football is a game that rewards specialized knowledge. It is also a great environment for some all-in-good-fun trash talk. Combined, these two things can make newbies feel as if they’re the only ones who are unsure of their picks and their strategy.
Don’t be fooled. There’s a ton of luck in fantasy football, and even the best players can see their teams fall apart. A pick that your league rags on you for may not even be a bad pick in the first place, much less a major mistake. Take trash talk in stride and join in when you feel like it — and just keep making your picks.
Fantasy football is a world of hot takes, passionate opinions, overconfidence, and trash talk. But, unless you’re playing in a league with some NFL front office executives, fantasy football is not a world of secret knowledge and overwhelming expertise. So relax and have fun! You’re going to do just fine.