Rules - Orientation

Fantasy Football League (FFL) orientation provides first-time users with a means of familiarizing themselves with the game and its features.

- If you have not yet created a FREE ESPN account, click here.
- To purchase a team, please see the Tour or click on the link off the FFL frontpage.
- To learn more about fantasy games in general, read our introduction to fantasy games.
- To learn more about League Manager, where you can customize the settings, lineups and scoring for an entire league, click here.
- For fantasy cheat sheets, player rankings and mock drafts, see our Draft Kit.

For first-time participants, mastering ESPN's FFL may seem like a daunting task. If you've never before played a fantasy game -- or are new to the internet -- trying to figure out what to do with your new team can be a little confusing at first. But like many things, playing FFL is as easy as an untouched scamper into the endzone once you know how it all works. Follow this step-by-step guide to getting your team primed for the start of the 2006 season, and that FFL championship could be yours!

Step 1 - Familiarize yourself with the FFL layout.
Take a look at the FFL frontpage. From the frontpage you can log in to your account, access your team, explore fantasy resources, peruse injury updates and get tips from ESPN's fantasy analysts. You can also access the Rules and FAQ (frequently asked questions) pages. This orientation will occasionally provide links to the rules, where you can read full explanations of some of the trickier parts of the game. While it may be possible to muddle your way through without reading the rules pages, you're bound to miss something. Before firing off an e-mail to the League Office, be sure to give the rules and FAQ a close look. Remember, if you need your account information updated, or you simply forgot your password, you can access Member Services for immediate assistance. Now that you know where to turn should you encounter trouble, you are ready to begin preparing your team for the season.

Step 2 - Setting up your team
Click on your team name (i.e. Smith 99875843) from the left hand column of the FFL frontpage. This link takes you to your preseason team set-up page. From there, you will find links to several vital FFL start-up procedures:

    Team Name - All teams are assigned a default name by the league (i.e. Smith 99875843) when originally purchased. Now is your chance to personalize your team's name. Pick a good one, because this name will be how your team is identified. Type in the desired location and nickname of your team (i.e. Dallas Cowboys), and click on the submit button. ESPN.com asks franchise owners to keep their team names inoffensive and free of racial slurs or other obscenities. The League Office reserves the right to change/remove any teams whose team name is construed as offensive.

    Team Logo - design your own FFL helmet, choosing from the available colors, styles and logos.

    Edit Your Personal Profile - Everyone who plays ESPN Fantasy Games gets a personal profile which allows other owners to learn about them. Clicking on your name next to "Owner" will bring you to your profile page. ESPN.com encourages franchise owners to be creative with their profiles and to keep them free of racial slurs or other obscenities. Misuse of profile pages can be grounds for dismissal from the game.

Step 3 - Joining/Creating a league
Now that your team has a name, it's time to find the owners against whom you'll be competing for FFL glory. You have the option of either joining an existing league or creating your own league with your own specifications. You must be part of a league in order to compete in FFL. If you do not join or create a league by the start of the season, you will be automatically placed in one. There are many things to consider when joining a league, as each has its own set of parameters. Below are the various options associated with ESPN FFL leagues.

  • Access - Leagues are either public or private. Public leagues are open for anyone to join on a first-come, first-serve basis. Joining a private league requires a password, selected by the league's creator.

  • Draft Type - Teams may draft using the multi-list, single-list or live methods. The specifics of each draft method are detailed in the Draft Methods section of the rules.

  • Activity/Uber Level - The activity/uber level is determined by the league creator when the league is first created. It is intended to help owners with similar levels of interest and intensity find each other. Leagues take on the Uber level of the teams who enter them. The five Uber levels of activity range are: Prospect, Rookie, Veteran, All-Star, and MVP. While these are not restrictive -- an owner of any activity level is free to join any league -- please check the Uber Level Guidelines to see which category best fits your interest level.. Playing in a league where owners share the same views on trades, waiver pickups, etc. generally makes the game more enjoyable. Check out the Uber Game for more information.

  • Stat Type - There are two types of scoring offered: performance scoring and traditional scoring. Performance scoring features penalty points for negative statistics (like fumbles or points allowed). See Step 5 for more information on scoring.

  • Season Type - Leagues are either single-season leagues or keeper leagues (which compete over three seasons). Only keeper teams can join keeper leagues.

  • League Size - 8-, 10-, and 12-team leagues are available. The league size will be set by the league creator. Due to different sizes, 8-, 10-, and 12-team leagues all have different weekly schedules.

  • Date - Listed in the League Directory. The creation date indicates the day on which your league was originally created, while the draft date details what day your league's draft will be processed.

For more information on leagues and league parameters, click here.

Joining an existing league is as easy a clicking your mouse. First, click on the league name to view the league settings. If the league sounds right for you, click on the "Join This League" button to place yourself in the league. Remember, you will need the league password if the league you are trying to join is private. Also, some leagues only allow access to particular types of teams (i.e. keeper leagues and winners leagues).

To create a league, click on the 'create a league' link accessible from the league directory page or the 'create new league' link from your team page. You will need to select the league name, league motto, and parameters for your league. You will not be able to change these parameters after creating the league. If you wish to alter league parameters after creation, you would need to create a new league with the desired settings and have league members move to the new league.

Once you have set up your team and joined a league, you are ready to begin preparing your team for the draft. Remember, if you haven't joined a league and are in the independent team pool, you must mark your team as "Ready" for the draft (the button is linked from your team set-up page). Teams can always mark themselves as "Unready" if they want to alter their draft lists.

Step 4 - The Draft
There are three types of drafts in FFL: single-list, multi-list and live drafts. Participants also have the option of enabling "Insta-Draft," which automatically places you in a league at the next available draft date.

Regardless of what type of draft your team participates in, you will benefit from ranking your players before the draft. You can rank players according to your preferences by clicking on the links for either the HTML or Java ranking tools (linked from your team set-up page). Do your homework, as the draft is the single most important part of building a successful team. Only the listed players are available for ranking -- rookies and/or players who deserve player-pool consideration will be added during the season. If you do not rank players, your team will be drafted (except in the case of live drafts) using the default rankings. These rankings are based on a combination of a player's 2005 statistics and their projected 2006 performance.

Review of draft types:

  • Multi-list draft - The multi-list automated draft method is the easiest method to use and is the recommended draft option for first-time FFL owners. Using the multi-list draft, owners rank players in each of the 10 draft categories (see table below) prior to draft day. The order of the draft is randomly chosen and determines the slot from which each team will select.

  • Single-list draft - The single-list draft method is an automated draft that combines all 10 draft categories of the multi-list draft into one comprehensive draft list. By ranking quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, kickers, and defenses in the same draft list, the single-list draft method allows team owners to draft the best available player at any given draft slot, regardless of position.

  • Live draft - The live draft provides a real-time, player-by-player draft process. Owners participate in each round of the draft, taking turns selecting players. The live draft can last up to 3 hours, and can be a very challenging and rewarding way to start the season.

Draft days for the regular-season game begin in July and run intermittently up to the kickoff of the regular season on Thursday, September 9. Team owners have until midnight ET on the day before their draft to alter their player rankings. Drafts are run throughout the day listed, and team owners will be notified via e-mail when the draft is complete. Teams taking part in a live draft have a specific date and time when their draft begins. That information is listed on the preseason league page.

Once your draft has been run, things get even more exciting. Now you've got a team of your own. It has your name, and is populated by the players you ranked and/or picked in the draft. It is time to take the field in FFL!

Step 5 -The Regular Season
Each team drafts 16 players: 8 active and 8 bench players. Each week, you only earn points for players on your active roster. With the exception of Monday night's game, the composition of your active roster can be changed as often as you like, right up until a player's scheduled kickoff time. (Players in Monday night's game must be inserted into a team's active roster by 11:59 p.m. PT Sunday night for their stats to count). For additional information see the teams page in the rules.

The players on a fantasy team's active roster earn points based on the statistics they generate in real NFL games. Those fantasy points are added together to determine your fantasy team's weekly total. The points earned are dependent on whether you are participating in a league using the traditional scoring system or the performance scoring system. Each week your team will be pitted against another team in your league. Each fantasy team plays 13 regular-season games, corresponding with the first 13 weeks of the NFL regular season. During the final four weeks of the NFL regular season, the top four teams in each league will play each other in the playoffs, while the remaining teams compete in the consolation bracket.

Shifting players
In addition to the 16 players on your roster (eight active and eight bench), you also have the opportunity to add and remove players through the use of waivers, free agency, or trades:

  • Waivers - A holding tank for players that are new to a league's player pool. A player is placed on waivers for 48 hours after being added to the player pool (rookies, newly-signed players, etc.) or when dropped by a team in your league. This gives every team in the league an equal opportunity to claim the player. After 48 hours a player is either awarded to a team that made a claim or moves to free agency, where he can be added on a first-come, first-serve basis. If multiple teams claim the same player, he is awarded to the team with the best waiver priority. When a team makes a successful claim, they drop to the bottom of the waiver priority list. See thewaivers and free agency section of the rules for more information.

  • Free Agency - An area for all players who are not on a fantasy team in your league and have cleared waivers. These players can be picked up on a first-come, first-served basis without affecting a team's waiver position. See the transactions page in the rules for all the details.

  • Trades - Teams in the same league are free to trade at will. If a trade is discovered that appears to be collusive or one-sided to the point that it cannot benefit one of the parties involved, league members may protest the trade and send it on to the League Office for review (as long as trade review is enabled - see 'turning off trade review' in the trade overview section of the rules).

Good luck. We'll see you on the gridiron!