How to Play Fantasy Football (Without Looking Like an Idiot): 12 Things to Know for 2017


First things first—I’d like to clear up a little something.

Do we, the fantasy players of the universe, deeply enjoy crunching stats solely for the pure love of football? Are we so obsessed with the NFL that we feel the need to internalize average draft position, targets and red zone touches, or commit to memory injury histories and offensive schemes? No. The answer is no.

We do ALL of these things, which make us great fantasy players, under the guise of friendship, competition and trash talk. We play to keep in touch with old friends, make new ones and come together for a weirdly competitive, but ultimately meaningless game. Football is merely a vessel through which this all can flow.

Honestly, we could be playing Fantasy Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and I’d gladly predict Guy Fieri’s favorite onion ring for his upcoming trip to Omaha.

Fantasy Football is just a wonderful diversion—keep that in mind, and your foray into the game will go just fine. Also, here’s a few more tips I’ve gathered over the years.

Attend your draft in person. This is the only way to cement your legacy (and a good excuse to finally see those dudes from high school again)

  1. Trash talk early and often during your draft. In this game, purely based on luck, none of us know what we’re doing…meaning it’s remarkably easy to get in someone’s head and pressure them into accidentally drafting a retired running back in the third round.
  2. Order pizza approximately 15 minutes before the draft starts. The provisions will arrive at your doorstep just as you’re getting into the middle rounds and sleeper picks (I like Kareem Hunt from KC, by the way). Also, you’re gonna want some adult refreshments. I know some NFL-themed barware that might look good in the house of whoever is hosting.
  3. Find a detail-oriented commissioner. If you’re looking to start a new league, a reliable commish will go a long way. It requires about one hour of work per year, but the league will crumble if the duty gets shirked.
  4. In case you’ve been out of the game for a year or two, don’t get fooled by legacy names. Adrian Peterson is not that good anymore. Dez Bryant is solid, but not quite first class. Marshawn Lynch is back from a one-year retirement, so proceed with caution.
  5. You’re only as good as your team name. It’s traditionally a culturally relevant pun, preferably using the name of a player on your squad. For example, you could go with Make Cameron Brate Again if you had the Tampa Bay tight end.
  6. Take kickers and a defense in your last two rounds. Save the spotlight for players with higher upside, like WRs, RBs, or a TE. Don’t be the sucker that takes a kicker in round 5. They’re pretty much all the same.
  7. Stay on top of the waiver wire. It’s pretty simple: If you see a player making waves and you don’t recognize his name, he’s probably undrafted and he might just be your future. Add him to the squad ASAP.
  8. Buy low on QBs. There’s lots of talent out there. No need to jump for Tom Brady in the third round when you could take a small step down in talent and draft a player like Andrew Luck or Phillip Rivers in late rounds.
  9. Fantasy doesn’t equal reality! Blake Bortles in real life? A hapless INT machine who can barely win the starting job. Blake Bortles in Fantasy? Potentially a top 10 QB if Jacksonville routinely falls behind early. Same with Jay Cutler. Don’t ask me why the voodoo works this way, but it does, and it’s something to keep an eye on.
  10. Get a handcuff…or don’t. This one depends on how risk-averse you are. Many players will draft a star RB and then make a push to acquire that star’s backup in subsequent rounds as insurance for a potential injury (this bench player is known as the star’s “handcuff.”) As for me? I like life on the edge.
  11. Familiar faces in new places: Jay Cutler is now in Miami after a brief retirement and long stint with the Chicago Bears. Skittles-munching Marshawn Lynch is with the Oakland Raiders after a year away from the game. QB-turned-fearsome receiver Terrelle Pryor has left behind the dumpster fire Cleveland Browns and is now with the Washington Redskins. Outspoken TE Martellus Bennett joins the Packers.

With these tips in your pocket and a little luck, you’ll be on your way to having your name etched on that league trophy for everlasting glory.