It’s that time of year again. Your husband is absent for long lonely weekends. His returning mood is unpredictable. He’s obsessed with lugging home a bigger haul and he stews all week if he returns empty handed.
It’s hunting season for sports crazed men.
It’s fantasy football season.
If you’re the wife of a fantasy football playing husband (like me) then you know the obsession of the game. You’ve watched your husband light up as he puts together his team and you’ve comforted him on a Sunday night after his best laid plans have failed. You listen to him worry about which players to start on his roster and you smile when he tells you about a good trade he just secured with one of his buddies. You cheer for him when he tells you that the touchdown won his game and you root for all of his players so he doesn’t end the day in the dumps.
However, maybe even as you cheer him on you have no idea how this fantasy football game really works.
Maybe you do understand the game, but you’ve never played it yourself. Or maybe (like I was) you don’t have a clue how the addicting phenomenon works. I hadn’t played before my husband and I started dating but I joined a work league that year. Needless to say he approved of my desire to wade into the world of fantasy football obsession. (I also received an engagement ring that year, so there may or may not have been a correlation.)
Want to win your husband’s heart all over again? You don’t have to play the game, but I guarantee it will win points to express an interest in his fantasy football team.
I’m not an avid sports fan. I was often irritated at my family’s devotion to football games when I was younger. But the truth? I love playing fantasy football! I have a competitive nature, I enjoy strategic thinking, and playing the game myself helps me to relate to my husband. Instead of growing irritated at all of the hours he’s absorbed in its world, I join him in cheering for players and even battle him in head to head matchups. I don’t know most of the players by name or understand all of the little ins and outs of football regulations and scoring, but it doesn’t keep me from presenting a formidable team or enjoying the core of the game.
If you are a wife who wants to learn to play fantasy football (or if you just want to learn to support your husband as he does) I’ve compiled the following guide to break down the progression and steps of the game.
I’m no fantasy expert (if you want to read a “how to” from a real ESPN expert click here), but I do hold the championship trophy for my league last year!
So ladies here you have it! My woman to woman guide:
Step One: The Draft
If your league is doing an electronic draft you can let it automatically pick your players, but you will feel much more ownership of your team if you participate in the draft. It’s actually very simple and you don’t have to know all of the players or the latest news on them to draft a formidable team (contrary to what your husband might say).
Each year before my league’s scheduled draft date I visit the ESPN website and look at the lists from each of their top analysts. They usually each have lists by position as well as an overall list based on your league’s format of PPR (points per reception) or non-PPR. (If you’re not sure which format your league is login to your online portal and check the setup or just ask your league administrator.)
In addition to checking the ranking lists from ESPN’s analysts, I also make sure to read their articles on which players are expected to be sleepers or busts for the year. With this knowledge I then generate my own list of ranked players in excel, following the general order that the analysts seem to agree on and giving more weight to sleepers and less weight to busts according to the information I gathered. (My personal rule is that I give value to a sleeper or bust if at least two analysts seem to agree on the classification.) You can research sleepers, busts, and opinions on draft order with a simple google search and find many helpful resources, but I primarily use the information provided by ESPN.
If it feels too overwhelming to compile your own draft list, then don’t sweat it! You can just download and print out cheat sheets directly from the ESPN site.
Once you have your list the drafting process is easy. Whether your league does a live (in person) draft or an online draft, you will be assigned a draft order. Starting with the person in draft position #1 you will weave through the order of participants in your league and each person will select a player when it’s their turn. I keep a print out of my list with me during the draft and cross off each player as someone takes them. That way when it comes my turn I simply select my next available player. It’s a general rule of thumb to select a running back or wide receiver in the first couple of rounds, but if you’re following an overall list from analysts it should already take that into account.
Understanding what your league has established regarding starting and bench positions does play into the drafting process as well. Every league will have a set line-up of starting positions (which means these are the players whose points will matter to you each week) and bench players (which means their points won’t count toward your total score). As I’m drafting my team I pay attention to the starting positions established in my league. I try to make sure I have a backup player on my bench for each starting position other than my defense and sometimes kicker, even if it means jumping down my list a bit at times. This is because during the season each player will have a by-week where they don’t play so I will need to fill their starting position with a backup (bench) player. It also provides me with a secondary player for each position in case one of my starting players gets injured or suspended.
Don’t get overwhelmed, it’s really not too hard. Show up with your list and be aware of the positions you need to fill, that’s all there really is to it!
Step Two: Weekly Starting Lineup
Once the draft is complete you have all the players on your team. Now the most important focus is to play them appropriately each week. You don’t want to just put your top ranked players into your starting positions and leave it at that because you might end up playing someone who is injured or suspended and earn zero points from them for the week! Each week before Thursday night (the first NFL game for the week) you want to login to the app or website where your league is hosted and make sure you have the players that you want in your starting lineup.
You can decide which players to put in your starting lineup based on the potential points your app or website assigns them, or you can do a little bit of research to evaluate which players you think will play well for the week. Personally, I set my lineup in about 15 minutes or so by using free fantasypros.com. On the Fantasy Pros website or app they have a list for each position that shows the player’s expected ranking for the matchups that week. I simply make sure to play the players I have with the highest rank in each position. It’s really quick and easy!
Once you have saved your starting lineup for the week, you just enjoy watching the games with your husband and cheer (against him if necessary) for your starting players! Every team has a slightly different setup that determines which actions on the field generate points for your players, but in general every time your player plays well on the field you will gain points against your opponent in your fantasy game.
Step Three: Add/Drops & Trades
Trades are really a simple concept in fantasy football. If you have a player someone else wants they may offer you one of their players for you to give them yours. If someone else has a player you want you can also do the same. If you’re happy with your players you can decline any trades that are offered to you and you don’t have to propose any trades to other league members. However, if you have a position in your lineup that seems to score badly each week you may wish to improve that position by trading a player for one that may help your weak spot. There is no obligation to trade but it can help you to grow and position your team well.
There is always a pool of players who are still not claimed by anyone, and after a determined time (based on your league’s settings) you can add any of those players by dropping existing players on your team. For our league this is each Wednesday morning, so each Wednesday morning I can add available players to my team by dropping players that are on my roster – one for one.
I don’t often add or drop players on my team except to fill the defense and special teams slot. Because I often draft that spot near the end of the draft and the performance of the position depends so much upon the NFL matchups for the week, I will often drop the defense I have and pick up the highest ranked available defense each week.
Step Four: Waivers
If you see an enticing player that’s available before Wednesday morning (or whenever your league’s determined time is), you can try to add them to your team by placing a waiver for them. Waivers for each available player begin as soon as their game starts each week and end on Wednesday morning (or whenever your league’s time is). Every league has different settings for how it’s determined, but generally the waiver ranking for each participant in your league changes based on your position in the overall league standings or how many times you’ve used a waiver. Depending on your waiver ranking, you can add players before the open adding period for them by placing a waiver to put them on your team. If no one else with a higher waiver ranking also places a waiver for that player, they will be added to your team. If someone in your league has a higher waiver ranking and also places a waiver for them, that player will be added to the roster of the higher ranking participant.
For example, let’s say NFL player “Joe” was a backup wide receiver but the starter for the team was injured for the season in the team’s last game. Player “Joe” had a really good week due to the increased playing time and you want to pick him up on Tuesday morning. Your waiver ranking is 3rd. You place a waiver to pick up “Joe” in hopes that you can add him to your team. However, after the waiver period closes on Wednesday morning you see that another league participant has added him to their team. That’s because a player with the 2nd or 1st waiver ranking in your league also placed a waiver for him and their waver takes priority due to their waiver ranking. Unfortunately, “Joe” will not be added to your team.
Waivers also come into play any time a league participant drops a player. Whenever a player is dropped they go through a one or two day waiver period (dependent on your league settings). If no one has claimed the dropped player by waiver before the player’s waiver period is up, that player becomes available to all league participants on a first come first serve basis and a waiver is no longer needed to add them to your team.
I don’t use waivers much but they can be helpful if you have a position that’s really performing poorly in your lineup. Waivers are a good way to get high profile players since educated fantasy league members will try to snatch them up as quickly as they can.
Step Five: Playoffs
So you’ve managed your team all season long, being careful to play your highest ranked players each week and you’ve actually built a winning record in your league. First of all, way to go girl! Fantasy Football doesn’t have to just be for the boys. Second, you need to understand how you go about winning the game.
Each week throughout the NFL Football season you will have a matchup against one of the other participants in your league. Whichever participant scores more points, from all of their active (starting) players combined, wins that week. Each week your win or loss against your fellow league participant is added to your record. Each league is setup differently but your record will determine whether you make it to the playoffs for your league. For some leagues the participants are divided into divisions throughout the season from which the top couple of teams from each advance to playoffs. Some leagues take the first “x” number of teams from the overall ranking of records to advance. Check with your account settings or league administrator to be sure how the playoff spots are determined for you league.
If you do well enough to make it to the playoffs, then you’ve already proven your ability to play the game! However, youhaven’t yet clinched the championship. For most leagues playoffs begin in the 15th week of your fantasy football game and you will only play on those weeks if you have advanced to the playoffs (again check your league setup). Once you advance to the playoffs your former record of wins and losses for the season doesn’t matter. Your record within the playoffs will determine your final standing and once you lose to a team in the playoffs you can no longer come in first. However, don’t dismay! Just play your highest ranked players each week through the playoffs just like you did throughout the season and even if you don’t come in first you might slide into second or third!
Whether you come in last or first, your husband should be thrilled that you’ve supported his competitive obsession.
I think you might be surprised how obsessed you become yourself! You might find yourself already dreaming about the players you want to draft the next year or how you will build your dream team to take down all of the boys. If you play and you don’t really love it, there’s no harm in that either! At least you’ve built a new understanding of your husband’s passion every fall.
If you want to give Fantasy Football a try and your husband won’t let you in on his men only league, you can join a league online at ESPN.com – it’s not too late to join today and it’s 100% free! I’d say you don’t have much to lose in giving Fantasy Football a chance.
Let me know any tips you learn if you decide to take the plunge!
Key Fantasy Football Terms:
Draft – The process of selecting the NFL players who will become your team
Waiver – A request to claim a player that is submitted by a participant in your fantasy league
Waiver Ranking – Your place in the order of priority for claiming players with your waiver request
Sleeper – A player that is potentially expected to perform better than the draft ranking that analysts have given them
Bust – A player that is potentially expected to perform worse than the draft ranking that analysts have given them
Starting Lineup – The players on your team whose points are counting toward your total for a given week of play
Bench – The players on your team whose points are not counting toward your total for a given week of play (your backups)