You have finally decided to give fantasy football a try, which means you are ready to start compiling cheat sheets and hunting for sleepers! Before you get started on that it is important to find the right league that fits your tastes and experience.
Your draft strategy can differ greatly depending on your league format. While selecting any number of surefire studs might be a no-brainers in a standard serpentine draft league, chasing after a big-name player in a salary cap league could end up crippling your team. You will find that being able to adjust your draft strategy to the type of league you are in will give you a jump start on your competition. Most importantly, finding the right league for your tastes and experience will help ensure you have an enjoyable season even if you do not finish the year hoisting your league's championship trophy.
Head-to-head leagues are one of the most popular types of leagues and often the easiest to become involved in.
Each week you select a starting lineup from your roster. Rules will often vary from league to league, but one of the most common starting lineups consists of: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 TE, 1 PK and 1 DT. Your team will square off each week against another team in your league, with the team scoring the most points based upon a weighted point system walking away as the victor. While scoring as many points as possible is obviously important, you do not have to be the highest scoring team in the league to be successful in a head-to-head league. The most important thing is to score more points than whoever you are facing on any given week. Generally, your season point total is not a factor unless it is used incase of a tie in records at the end of the fantasy regular season.
One of the reasons that head-to-head leagues are among the most popular type of leagues is due to the fact that they most closely resemble an NFL season. Head-to-head leagues often start a playoff format around Week 14 or 15 with the league championship game occurring during Week 16 or Week 17 of the NFL season. Many leagues bypass Week 17 due to many NFL playoff teams resting key starters in the final week of the season. Another reason for the popularity of head-to-head leagues is that, unlike in some other formats, each week you get a victory, loss or potential tie, which always generates a certain amount of pride and trash talk. What is better than going against your best friend (or worst enemy) and being able to talk a little smack for the next few weeks (or longer in some people's case) after you just thoroughly demolished his team over the weekend?
There are, of course, drawbacks to head-to-head leagues. Lady Luck is always going to be a factor in fantasy football, but it can be an even bigger factor in head-to-head leagues. Each week you are only competing against one other owner, rather than the entire league, so it is possible to have a great week and walk away with a loss. Chances are pretty good there will be a week where you score the second highest points in your league but end up playing the owner who scores the most and end up with a loss as your only reward. We cannot tell you the number of times we've been the second-highest scoring team of the week only to run into the highest scoring team of the week being our opponent! On the flip side, there can be times where you were the second lowest scoring team of the week and luckily drew the lowest scoring team of the week as your opponent.... it really does work both ways!
Rotisserie leagues are not as popular in fantasy football as they are in fantasy baseball, but there are enough out there to find one if interested.
In a rotisserie league, instead of facing one opponent each week as you would in a head-to-head league, you will be facing off against every team in the entire league. Instead of weekly points determining your fate, it is your cumulative total in certain statistical categories that matter. If your 12-team rotisserie league keeps a category for passing touchdowns and your team records the most passing touchdowns, you are rewarded with 12 points. The team with the second most is rewarded with 11 points and so on. At the end of the season, your place in the league standings is determined by your point total based upon your statistical standing in each category your league uses.
One major draw to rotisserie leagues is that you can create a category for virtually any statistic out there from total rushing yards to rushing yards by running backs to quarterback pass attempts. Another draw for rotisserie leagues is that you can avoid being the second highest scoring team for the week and get punished for it. Due to facing a single opponent each week in a head-to-head league it is possible to be the highest scoring team in your league and not even make the playoffs. In a rotisserie league if you are the highest scoring team in all of the categories, you walk away the winner. In fact, you do not even have to "own" all of the categories; you simply need to rank highly in enough of them to have the most points when all of the categories are added together.
The biggest drawback to a rotisserie league is that it is difficult to replace the weekly competitiveness that exists in head-to-head leagues as you are not facing a single opponent but the entire league itself.
Total points leagues
Total points leagues are a cross between the head-to-head style and rotisserie model. They allow you to succeed based off how your squad does on a weekly basis like a head-to-head league but have you going against every team in your league like a rotisserie league on a weekly basis. At the end of the season, the team with the most points from their starting lineups in the course of the year is the winner. It's really that cut and dry.
This breed of league is not nearly as popular as the head-to-head format, either, but it is one we recommend giving a try at some point.
This league style will take Lady Luck out of the equation more than it will in either of the aforementioned leagues. No longer will you have to worry about being the second highest scoring team and losing because you went up against the highest scoring team. It also alleviates the worry about whether or not you've scored well in enough categories. You simply need to maximize your lineup on a week-to-week basis and score the most points through the course of the entire season.
In this format, it provides more flexibility to rebound from a sluggish start. For example, if your team starts slow in a head-to-head league you could be 0-5 early in the year. Even if you're in 10th or 12th place after five weeks in a total points format, you still have plenty of weeks remaining to get hot and overtake the teams ahead of you. This can be done by simply catching fire, which will allow you to forget about your teams early season struggles. In a head-to-head league, rebounding from losing your first five games can be daunting.
Much like all league types, there are also deviations to this format. Some total points league formats will also incorporate head-to-head league play for weekly bragging rights. However, at the end of the season, the head-to-head game play does not factor into the end result in a true total points league. Then again, some leagues will give "bonus points" for the head-to-head play; i.e. an extra 10 points for each head-to-head victory during the year. This, of course, keeps the best of both worlds in terms of total points play and head-to-head competition.
Salary cap leagues
Salary cap leagues are best left alone until you gain a year or two of experience as they combine general fantasy football knowledge with the ability to build a team within an artificial salary cap.
Instead of drafting players, teams compete for players in an auction by placing bids on them. The team with the highest bid wins the player. Spend too much in a bidding war for one player and the rest of your team may end up being nothing but third stringers because you couldn't afford more than bottom-barrel players. On the other hand, if you are too cautious in spending your money you may end up with a team of nothing but third stringers anyway. In a salary cap league, it is important to know not just who you want to pick on your team, but how much you are willing to spend on them. Along the way, you have to balance the money you spend on your needs. If you overpay for one position, it's more than likely going to hurt you at another.
Salary cap leagues give owners more of a feel for what it is like to be a general manager by forcing you to manage your salary as well as your team. Owners that are flexible are best suited for such leagues, as your draft strategy can quickly change depending upon how much or how little the bid for a player is.
As mentioned, if you are new to fantasy football it is probably best to wait a year or two before joining a salary cap league. Having to manage a team and a salary cap can be a difficult task for even a seasoned fantasy football vet.
As the popularity of fantasy football increases, it has helped to create many different league formats. Some leagues allow owners to designate certain players as "keepers," who then remain on their team from season to season. Other leagues (often referred to as "dynasty leagues") allow teams to keep their entire roster and hold a rookie draft to fill-out the remainder of their roster each season. It is not uncommon to find a head-to-head league that incorporates a salary cap, or even a rotisserie league that utilizes a head-to-head category. When it comes to fantasy football there truly is a league for every taste.
Good luck with your season and remember that if you mumble "stupid running back by committee" under your breathe enough at your draft nobody will peg you as a rookie!
Adam Barricklow is based out of Central Ohio and has been a KFFL Contributor since 2003. Adam has been playing Fantasy Football since 1996 and has been addicted since day one. Adam plays in various leagues, running one of them and uses his experience and knowledge to create reports that are able to help the fantasy player look at every perspective.