NFL: the best of all Fantasies

Football season is here. That can only mean one thing: Fantasy Football. From August to December, leagues are created, teams are built, players are picked up from the waiver wire, and trades are made. So what exactly is this popular activity, or pastime, that has captivated so many fans around the world?

For those unfamiliar with Fantasy Football, it is a game where people become the general managers of online National Football League (NFL) teams. They pick their own players through a Fantasy draft (those who are lazy will usually auto-draft) at the beginning of the season and trade, add, and drop as many players as they wish throughout the season. The season culminates  into a Fantasy Football Playoff that occurs during the last few weeks of the NFL schedule. One winner in each league, usually made up of eight to 12 teams, is determined through a single elimination bracket. People can join up to 10 Fantasy Football leagues for free, but most only participate in two or three.

What makes Fantasy Football so enjoyable and inclusive is that all you need to play is a basic understanding of the different positions. Fantasy Football is a great way to compete with friends, and it’s fun when you can give the loser of the league any punishment that you choose (unless you lose). I’ve heard of losers being made to eat or drink a strange (but safe) concoction, stand at a public intersection holding a sign telling everyone how bad they are at Fantasy Football, or—probably the worst punishment—take an extra SAT or ACT. At BB&N last year, one league had the loser  wear a romper to school in the middle of the winter. If these punishments scare you, don’t lose.

Fantasy Football stands out from other Fantasy sports like basketball, baseball, hockey, and soccer because it has a straightforward scoring system. Quarterbacks, skill players, defense and special teams, and kickers are awarded points for yards, touchdowns, forced turnovers, or extra points and field goals. They can also lose points for lost yardage, interceptions, points allowed, or missed extra points and field goals. In other Fantasy sports—and I’ll admit, I played Fantasy Basketball—you can gain points even if one of your players simply passes the ball to a teammate. 

Due to the one-game-a-week schedule  of the NFL, Fantasy Football also gives fans time to make trades, pick up players from the waiver wire, and set their lineups. With the other fantasy sports, games usually occur every other day, allowing almost no time to keep up. I don’t know anyone who plays Fantasy Basketball, Hockey, or Baseball, and it’s clear why. 

Granted, there are some downsides to the game. Fantasy Football can be confusing, causing some people to think that it’s all luck. As much as I want to believe that there is skill and knowledge required, I have to say those “all luck” complaints often seem right. The unpredictability of it all is hard to understand. In Week One of this season, one of my teams scored 190 points (I am not lying), and my other team scored 58 points. How can that be explained without luckiness and unluckiness?

For those who do believe in the strategy at work in the game, you can consult Fantasy Football “experts” who will tell you whom to draft and whom to avoid. These experts provide rankings, projections, and detailed analyses of every player’s performance. Basically, they do all the work for you. All you have to do is not draft a defense/special team player or a kicker in the first five rounds  and not be the person who sends out a bunch of one-sided trades that will obviously be rejected by the other team. 

I’ll finish this column with some tips for this season in Fantasy Football. First off, make sure to always have the backup running back  on your bench just in case the starter isn’t playing. I have James Conner on my team, who is playing well in Le’Veon Bell’s absence, but because I don’t have Bell, Conner is useless once he comes back. Also, the Patriots’ wide receivers should be on your roster. The addition of Josh Gordon should make the offense more dynamic and will open up more options for Tom Brady.

On a side note, I was really hoping Bill Belichick would pick up Dez Bryant instead of Gordon as I have Bryant sitting on my bench. If a player like Josh Gordon can be picked up by a team, especially by a no-nonsense team like the Patriots, Dez Bryant should definitely be on a team soon, right? This unpredictability is annoying me, but this is what makes Fantasy Football fun.

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