that you’ve found out all the information you can from your favorite Web sites, message boards, forums, etc., you are ready to jump into the water with the Sharks. You are chomping at the bit to get in a league, or several leagues, show that you have done your homework and are ready to compete with the big fish. Before taking the plunge, let me give you a few tips that will at least get you heading for the right pond, lake, ocean or sea. If you listen closely, you might even give the appearance of being armed and dangerous when you take that dive into those murky waters.
The first thing we need to talk about is what I call “Leagueology”, or the ins and outs of the different types of leagues you can join. I’m not going to get too detailed with this, since you are probably well-versed on a lot of these, if you have been doing your homework.
: You draft your players each year, usually shortly before the regular season starts. These are probably the most popular leagues to play in, and are drafting right now or very shortly.
: You draft your players and keep them from year to year while you try to build a football dynasty. These can be drafted anytime, and are becoming more popular all the time.
: You draft your team, and are able to keep some players off your team from year to year. The rest must be drafted all over again the next year. There may also be some stipulation about how many years you can keep a certain player.
In the leagues above the most common practice is to have at least eight teams, with no more than 16 teams. Most have an even number of teams, but occasionally you may have an odd number of teams. Some leagues have what I call a “Pyramid League” setup. This means they may have a total of 60 teams in the league, but they are broken down into smaller leagues initially, like six smaller leagues, with 10 teams in each. Then, the top two teams in each smaller league move on into a final 12-team league in week 13 or something. Those 12 teams will then compete for all the marbles the last four weeks of the season. Survivor Redraft Leagues are becoming popular also – they just eliminate one team at a time, usually the worst team each week, until only one team remains. Now let’s look at how each team competes against one another on a week‑to‑week basis.
One team competes directly against one other team in the league each week. The team with the highest points scored during the week wins the matchup. The teams with the best win/loss records make the playoffs, just like the NFL does. This is probably the most popular style of league competition.
: Teams compete to get the most points each week, with the team having the most points at the end of the season winning the league.
: Each team competes against every other team in the league on a head-to-head basis each week. If there are 12 teams, and you were the highest scoring team for week one, you would have an 11-0 record in week one. If you were the second-lowest scoring team for the week, you would have a record of 1-10 for the week.
The next thing to take note of is what scoring system the league uses. I’m not going to go very much in detail on this except to say that you need to know exactly what the scoring rules are in your particular leagues. They can have way too many variables these days, but the most common things to look for are listed below.
: The first thing you look at is how many points they get for touchdown passes, and if they get negative points for anything. It could make a big difference if they receive six points for passing touchdowns as compared to just three. Also check out how many points they get for passing yards. It can vary from one point for every 20 yards, to one point for every 50 yards. Watch for bonus scoring for passing for over 300 yards in a game.
RB, WR, and TE Scoring
: These are pretty standard in most leagues, with each getting one point for every 10 yards rushing or receiving. The one area you need to watch for is if they get any points for receptions. Points per reception (PPR) leagues are becoming very popular, and are my personal favorites. Also, look for bonus scoring when a player goes over 100 yards rushing or receiving.
Individual Defensive Players
: If you play in a league that uses IDP’s, make sure you know how many points they get for each task they perform on defense. Tackles, sacks, interceptions, touchdowns and fumble recoveries are just some of the scoring options.
Kicker and Team Defense
: Scoring for these two are pretty standard, but don’t overlook them, because I have seen some strange scoring rules thrown in here also. Bonus scoring is also popular for these two positions.
The bottom line is: know your scoring rules from front to back. They could have a big impact on how you draft, rate players, and in general perform in your league. Once you know your scoring, it’s time to see what the roster requirements are, and how many players start each week. This, too, has many variables that can be used. Some leagues have as few as 16 players on each roster, while others may have 50. The starters may exceed 20, or be as few as eight. The thing to look for here is if they use a “Flex” position in the starting lineups. In most leagues, the “Flex” spot is another starting position that gives you the option of starting a RB/WR/TE. Sometimes, and this is important to know, they even use the QB as “Flex” spot. Let’s say you are required to have a starting lineup made up of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 Def and 1 Flex. You could choose to start three RB’s one week, with a RB being your Flex starter.
Now I’m going to run down some final things you need to pay attention to before you join a league. I’m not going to go into much detail, because I’m sure you have read many opinions on all of these factors while surfing the message boards.
Know the draft format
: Most leagues use either regular serpentine style, or auction style draft orders. Serpentine, with a third round reversal is also becoming popular. Also, you need to know if it is a live online draft or a slow online draft. Both are done on the computer. Live online drafts are set up for a certain time that every owner can be there, and you have around two minutes to make your picks. Drafts usually last around three hours, depending on roster limits. One tip here: don’t try a live online draft if all you have is a dial up Internet connection. Slow online drafts give each owner 12 hours or so to make picks. Although most people don’t use the full 12 hours, it is just for those people that may not have a high-speed connection or don’t have access to a computer for long periods. You will hear a lot about pre-drafting in these drafts, and it is a tool that should be used when appropriate. Lastly, there is also the real live draft, when you get together with the buddies in your league at a friend’s house or bar and have the draft with plenty of refreshments and food. These are the best, and I highly recommend them.
The type of waiver wire/free agent system used
: There are two main waiver wire and free agent pickup system used in most leagues. One is blind bidding, were each owner is issued a certain amount of play money and they bid on free agents, with the high bid winning. Once they are out of play money, they cannot pick up any more free agents. The second is a waiver draft system. Teams are usually set up in draft positions based on the worst team to the first team each week. Then they pre-draft who they want each week, with the worst team getting first choice. Some leagues carry over the order each week, and if you use your waiver draft spot one week, you go to the end of the line and everyone else moves up. Both blind bidding and waiver draft order systems are usually followed by a first-come, first-serve system immediately after the waivers are processed. Commonly, waivers are processed in the middle of the week, and then followed up with FCFS until kickoff of the following week’s games. Some best ball leagues don’t even allow you to pick up free agents, but they make up for this by having huge rosters.
Know if trades are allowed
: Pretty simple, some leagues are no trade leagues, and some leagues allow you to trade. In trading leagues there can be some type of rule concerning the veto of bad trades. If it is a good league, with knowledgeable owners, you won’t have any problems in this area. If you have a solid Commish running the league, he may also handle approving or rejecting all trades.
Season Schedules and Playoff system
: Know how the league regular season schedule is set up. Some leagues have divisions and even conferences, while others have neither. You might play each team once in the regular season, or maybe you play the teams in your division twice. Who makes the playoffs? The top teams in each division, or the top teams and some wild card teams. In a 12 team league, I’ve seen leagues let six teams in the playoffs or just three. Also when does the regular season end, and when do the playoffs start? Are playoffs in a bracket type system or something more elaborate? These are all items you will want to know before you join the league.
: Many leagues may have one or more special rules that you need to know going in. Do they have an injured reserve slot for injured players on your roster? They may have a backup player rule in case an injured player in your lineup ends up not playing for the week. It could be anything really, so read your league bylaws very well.
You’re probably saying to yourself, OK, I got it. Now where can I find some leagues to join? Fantasy football is so huge right now it won’t be difficult finding leagues. Fantasy Sharks has some great free shark leagues starting up right now. In most message board areas there is a usually a place for people looking to start or join leagues. Almost all sport sites in general have some sort for fantasy league to join. League fees can range from free to huge money; there is something for everyone. There are even some Web sites that all they do is run fantasy leagues. Google “fantasy football leagues,” and you will find all you need. One final thing about leagues: I would caution you if your spending money to join a league to make sure it is a reputable person or Web site running the league.
You should be ready to jump into the water now. I wouldn’t really call you armed and dangerous, but you do have a better idea about what to look for when you join a league. Remember, it is all about having fun in the long run. Believe me, you will get your tail handed to you many times in some leagues. However, that first league championship is well worth the wait!