Fantasy Football (FF) is a game where fans arrange themselves into a competitive league. Their team wins or loses based on the number of points earned, and the real-life production of the NFL players on their team dictates those points. Most FF leagues employ a head-to-head (H2H) format, and they are generally comprised of 10-12 teams. Beyond that, there is a great deal of diversity in the popular configurations, and these differences demand individual attention to the fantasy football strategy employed.
The redraft league is the standard fantasy football league, and most fantasy football strategy centers on it. Scoring will vary from league to league, but the core is the same: draft a team from scratch, and pit that team against another each week. The draft is normally serpentine in format, meaning that if you select first in a 12-team league, you will select again at pick #24, and then again at pick #25.
Tip: The “golden rule” of redraft fantasy football strategy is RB-RB, meaning select a RB with your first two picks. This is not bad advice, but it has led to an obsession that often causes more valuable QBs and WRs to drop in the second and third round. Don’t be afraid to be that guy or gal who bucks the trend.
In an auction league, each team has a salary cap, perhaps $100, and each player has a minimum salary of $1. In turn, each team nominates a player, and then teams take turns bidding on the player until no team wishes to place another bid. At that point, high bidder wins the player. The auction format adds a great deal of nuance and sophistication to the draft.
Tip: Early in the process, nominate players that you DO NOT want, but would be comfortable purchasing for $1. A winning strategy is to pay 75% or less than the value that you project for a player. However, expect to pay 100% for your first two players, generally RB-RB, but perhaps RB-QB or RB-WR.
In a keeper league, teams protect X number of players prior to the draft, and those players remain with their team for the following season. Keeper leagues generally allow teams to protect 2-4 players. Beyond that point and the league is more like a dynasty than a keeper league. Normally, a keeper league restricts the number of consecutive years that a team can protect a player.
Tip: Don’t be enamored with youth and potential in a keeper league. The best fantasy football strategy for keeper leagues is to evaluate players based on the next three seasons. Do not evaluate them based a longer period even if your league allows you to keep then for longer than three seasons.
A dynasty league is a lot like a keeper league. The differences are that it is generally more complex in terms of player contracts, and teams can protect far more than three players, often their entire starting rosters. A dynasty format changes the dynamics of fantasy football because in the latter half of the season, some teams will be more concerned with positioning for next season than actually winning this season.
Tip: As in a keeper league, evaluate in three-season chunks. In dynasty inaugural drafts, many veterans fall. Take advantage of this, and scoop them up. There will be plenty of opportunity to grab youth off the waiver wire.
IDP (Individual Defensive Player)
In an IDP league, the league assigns additional roster spots for defensive players, and the league uses these rather than a team D/ST (defense/special teams). The DB, DL, and LB players score based on their production just as the offensive players do.
Tip: Unless your league has very unusual scoring configuration, except for a handful of elite players, IDP players are generally not worth the value/pick at which teams draft them. The best fantasy football strategy for an IDP league is to focus on offense, and be willing to play the matchups every week rather than be married to any one IDP on your roster.
In the introduction, we mentioned that most FF leagues employ a H2H format. While this is true, there is another format called Overall Points (OP). OP leagues are similar to Rotisserie-style fantasy baseball. Rather than evaluate each team each week, the league evaluates all teams once at the end of the season.
Tip: Forget about bye weeks, matchups, and tough stretches. These aspects balance out over an entire season. Instead, draft based purely on perceived value.
In a survivor league, the league removes the participant who scores the least amount of points in a week from the competition. This continues until there is only one participant remaining. Survivor leagues often involve selecting teams, but player-based survivor, such as the one at Suicide Fantasy Football, are becoming very popular.
Tip: Play the survivor format like a game of chess: look ahead. The best play this week may be a better play next. Assign players values in three-week chunks, and then select accordingly.