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Fantasy Football 101: Settings

Mike Evans, who was the league's most targeted receiver last year, is getting help this season in the form of DeSean Jackson. Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

If you are a League Manager (LM), you can change settings by going to your league or team page, clicking on "League," then "Settings." Here you will find general settings, which you can change by clicking "Edit." For full details on creating Custom and League Manager leagues, click here.

NOTE: Hover your mouse over "?" squares for details on each option.

For a detailed examination of how you might want to approach each setting, click the appropriate link below:

Basic Settings
Rosters
Scoring
Teams and Division
Transactions and Keepers
Schedule
Draft

Basic Settings

League Name: Have fun with it! The only limits are no vulgar language or HTML, and a limit of 32 characters.

Number of Teams: Ideally, you want an even number of teams in your league, because you compete head-to-head each week. However, if you choose to use an odd number, your schedule will include bye weeks (and teams will miss out on the fun during those byes).

If you go with eight teams or fewer, your rosters will be stacked with plenty of star power, though you can counter that by enlarging the size of each team's roster, like using two starting quarterbacks. This can be a fun way to get the ball rolling if you are a newbie.

Ten teams is the traditional size of most leagues. The player pool is deep enough that each team has stars, but owners will still have the challenge of picking up free agents and players who are getting hot.

For a greater challenge, try using 12 or 14 teams. With that many squads, the player pool is thinned out enough that owners will need to have knowledge of lesser-known players in order to succeed.

Make League Viewable to Public: If you want to be able to let people who aren't in your league (friends, family, etc.) see your league pages, make it "Public" and share your league link with them.

Rosters

Standard rosters include one Quarterback (QB), two Running Backs (RB), two Wide Receivers (WR), one Tight End (TE), one Flex (RB/WR or TE), one Defense/Special Teams (D/ST), one Kicker (K) and seven Bench Spots (BE -- players on your roster who are not in your active lineup for a given week).

However, the options are nearly limitless.

In an age when there are so many quality quarterbacks, starting two quarterbacks in leagues with 10 or fewer teams gives you an extra challenge, because you'll have to dig all the way through the top 20-plus quarterbacks each week. Using a pair of starting QBs is a little problematic in leagues of 12 or more, because there is a max of 32 starting NFL quarterbacks each week -- and even fewer during bye weeks.

Because the production of kickers is so random from week to week, many leagues have eschewed having kickers on the rosters.

You can also go the other direction and add more players. Consider tacking on a couple of extra flex spots or use two tight ends or four wide receivers or even an Offensive Player Utility (OP, which includes any offensive position, including quarterback).

Your league doesn't have to limit itself to offensive players, either. You can use Individual Defensive Players (IDP) by selecting defensive positions, like Cornerback (CB), Edge Rusher (EDR), Defensive Tackle (DT) or Defensive Player Utility (DP -- any defensive player position). This allows you to use players on both sides of the ball and really test -- and even increase -- your all-around football knowledge.

There are also some out-of-the-box options like Head Coach (HC, which gives you points when the NFL team you pick wins a game or reaches certain scoring thresholds) and Punter (P).

You can also include Injured Reserve (IR) spots, so you can stash an injured player until he is ready to play again, without sacrificing one of your active bench spots.

Scoring

Scoring Type: Head-to-Head Points. This means each week each team in your league plays one opponent. The players on each team
roster earn points for their production on the field. The team with more points in its weekly head-to-head battle earns a win; the team scoring fewer points gets a loss.

Load Scoring Settings

  • PPR Fractional: This is our default setting and is extra fun because it results in high-scoring games. PPR stands for "Point Per Reception," which means that your skill players will earn one point for each pass they catch. Fractional scoring means that your players will get some scoring for any yardage gained; they will not have to reach a threshold. So if your league settings give one point for every 10 receiving yards and one point for a reception, a wide receiver who catches three passes for 29 yards will earn 5.9 points.

  • PPR Standard: Just like PPR Fractional, your skill players will get one point for each reception made. However, they will have to reach your set threshold to earn yardage points. For example, if your league settings give one point for every 25 passing yards, your quarterback will earn four points if he throws for 124 yards.

  • Standard: This is the classic fantasy football format. Your skill players will get no extra points for receptions made, and they will have to reach your set threshold to earn yardage points. So if your league settings give one point for every 10 receiving yards and no bonus for a reception, a wide receiver who catches three passes for 29 yards will earn two points.

  • Fractional: In this format, your skill players will get no extra points for receptions made, but they won't have to reach a set threshold to earn yardage points. So if your league settings give one point for every 10 receiving yards and no bonus for a reception, a wide receiver who catches three passes for 29 yards will earn 2.9 points.

Scoring settings

If you're new to fantasy football, we recommend just sticking with the default PPR fractional scoring setup. You'll see big scores and have lots of ways to field competitive players.

If you want to get more adventurous with your scoring settings, you can tighten them up by making higher yardage thresholds (say, one point per 15 rushing yards, instead of 10) or giving 0.5 points per reception (instead of 1.0). Or you can go the other direction, and look to boost your scoring ability even more by granting bonuses for 100-yard rushing/receiving performances or 300-yard passing games.

You can also include quarterback sacks as a negative, increase or decrease the impact of turnovers, safeties and kickoff and punt return yardage and scores.

If you choose individual defensive players, you can choose how much you want to weigh each interception, sack, stuff, tackle, etc.

The same goes for head coach positions, choosing the weight of team scoring, win, loss and margin of win/loss.

If you have punters on your rosters, you can choose the weight of yardage, blocks, touchbacks, etc.

Teams and Divisions

To invite owners to your league, go the League page and click Members. There, you'll be able to add their names and email them an invitation.

Many leagues use two divisions with the winner of each division granted the top two seeds in the playoffs, and the two or four next-best records earning the other playoff berths.

If your league consists of 12 or more teams, you may want to consider going to three divisions with the three division winners earning the top seeds in the playoffs, and the one or three teams with the next-best records earning the other playoff berths.

You can also create leagues that don't use separate divisions. To do so, click the Division dropdown, choose the same division for each team, click the red minus sign next to the division you wish to delete, then click "Submit Team and Division Settings." The benefit of not using divisions is that the top overall records will earn playoff spots and seeds. Often in leagues that use divisions, a potential wild-card team misses the playoffs because a team with a worse record won the other division.

Transactions and Keepers

Player Rules

  • Observe ESPN's Undroppable Players List: This is basically a safety net to ensure that owners in your league won't drop a star player who could affect the outcome of your league via collusion or tanking. Any player on our undroppable list can't be released to waivers. Note that we take players off the list if they are injured or no longer warrant being on the list because of poor performance. If you genuinely trust all of your fellow owners to not mess with the integrity of the league, say, "No" to this setting. Generally speaking, though, it's wise to just be safe and let ESPN declare players who should not be droppable.

  • Player Universe: Nearly all fantasy football leagues use all NFL players. However, you do have the option to stick with just AFC or NFC players only.

Acquisition and Waiver Rules

  • Lineup Changes: You can choose to lock lineups when the first game of the week starts, typically Thursday evening. This is a good setting if your owners don't have a lot of time to spend obsessing about their teams throughout the week, because roster moves can be made only Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday (prior to kickoff). The downside is that since you have to set your official lineups by Thursday evening most weeks, you can't wait for injury information you may get Saturday or Sunday morning to make lineup and waiver moves. Most leagues use the setting that allows you to change your lineup right up to the start of each individual player's kickoff that week. This allows you to find out if a player is active/inactive due to injury, react to the score of your game against your opponent (e.g., using a safer play if you are in the lead or a riskier upside option if you're behind), etc. It also helps avoid situations where a player gets hurt in warm-ups or gets benched unexpectedly.

  • Player Acquisition System: If you choose Waivers, then any player who is dropped from a team will be placed on waivers for a day or two, during which time each team has the option to put in a waiver claim for him. The team with the highest waiver priority that made a claim will get that player and move to the bottom of the waiver order. This is a simple system, which is good for beginners and is the standard format. Free Agent Auction options allow teams to bid on unowned players, using their Free Agent Auction Budget (FAAB, a dollar amount set by the commissioner). The highest blind bid gets the player. This offers an extra level of strategy, as you have to decide how much of your money to spend for each bid and how much to save for later in the season.

  • Season Acquisition Limit: Most leagues allow unlimited waiver moves (such as adding a free agent), because owners want to be actively trying to improve their rosters all season long. However, you do have the option of limiting such moves, which could be handy if your owners have limited time to commit to the league.

Trade Rules

  • Trade Deadline: Most leagues allow unlimited trades so owners can improve their rosters throughout the season. However, including a Trade Deadline is generally a good idea, because you don't want owners who have no chance of making the playoffs in the waning weeks of your regular season making trades with owners who are deep in a playoff chase. You can see how that could mess with the integrity of the league. On the other hand, many keeper leagues don't include a deadline, because a team that is out of the race for this season could still make trades to improve their teams for the next season -- even if that gives a significant boost to an opponent this season -- without affecting the league's overall integrity.

  • Trade Review: If you know and trust everyone in your league, you can skip trade reviews altogether. That way, when you make a trade minutes before a game starts, you can immediately insert those new players into your lineups. Otherwise, it is wise to give your fellow owners a day or two to vote on whether to veto a trade. It's important to note that a trade should not be vetoed simply because you feel it may be lopsided. Quite often such trades turn out to be just fine or the owners had good reason to make the deal, even if it seems one-sided. Vetoes should be reserved for when collusion or blatant tanking is involved and will affect the integrity of the league.

Keeper Rules

  • Keeper leagues arguably are the most fun to play, because like real general managers, you construct your roster over the course of many seasons. If your team stinks this season, you can build for next year. If you think you may have a winner this season, you can trade away young talent for high-end stars to put you over the top now. For more details on League Manager keeper leagues, click here.

Schedule

Since so many NFL teams rest star players in Week 17, many leagues do not use Week 17 as their lone fantasy championship game, because your top players may well not even be active or play a full game. Here is a look at some standard scheduling options:

Four-team playoffs in Weeks 15-16: In this case, four teams make the playoffs, with the semifinals in Week 15 and finals in Week 16. This puts a real premium on regular-season wins, because only the top teams get a spot in the playoffs.

Four-team playoffs in Weeks 14-17: In this case, the semifinals run Weeks 14-15 and the finals Weeks 16-17. This format assuages some of the risk of using Week 17 by making each round cover two full weeks. It also removes some of the randomness you may find in a one-week playoff game.

Six-team playoffs in Weeks 14-16: In this format, the top two teams earn a bye in Week 14, while the next four teams battle in a pair of wild-card matchups. In Week 15, the two Week 14 winners face the top two seeds, who were on a Week 14 bye, in the semifinals. Those winners then face off in the Week 16 championship game. This format rewards the teams that had the best regular season, but it also allows in two extra teams and gives squads that get hot late in the season to make a run to the title -- just like we often see in the NFL.

Draft

Offline: There really is no doubt that the most fun you can have is to get your friends, family or co-workers together in a room and do a live draft. You can't beat the laughs, trash talk and the feeling of being a general manager making selections at the NFL draft. If you go that route, then choose Offline draft, enter the rosters following the draft and play your season out on ESPN.

Snake: A live online draft is the simplest format and is ideal for leagues that have owners spread out over many cities, states or countries. "Snake" means that a 10-team draft order goes from 1-10 in odd-numbered rounds, then 10-1 in even-numbered ones. That means whoever picks first in the draft will make his/her next pick at No. 20, then No. 21, etc. The owner who picks last in the first round (10th) will also get the No. 11 pick, but will have to wait until picks 30 and 31 for their next selections. This is done so that each draft position has its advantages and disadvantages. The snake format ensures that you can construct a winning roster from any draft spot.

Autopick: If your league owners don't want to commit to preparing for taking part in a live online draft, simply select autopick, and we'll draft every team for you. This is a good way to enjoy playing fantasy football if you aren't that up on NFL rosters or don't want to spend much time on it. You can still get viable rosters, pull for your players each week and compete against your friends, family and coworkers.

Auction: In this format, instead of drafting in a specific order, you will have a set budget and get to bid on each player in an auction format. This really tests your skills on an extra level, because not only do you need to know player values but you also have to consider your budget during the auction draft. Make sure that all of your owners are committed to being online from the beginning to the end of the auction, because our system will automatically bid for any owner not online. While this helps fill the void, it also wreaks havoc on the prices of players and makes it difficult for active bidders to find values.

Draft Settings: It's extremely important to make sure all of your owners are able to attend the draft in person or online, so that you can avoid autodrafting. Our system will make autodraft picks for any owners not in attendance for a live online draft, which helps fill the void, but the human element is part of drafting, and absentee owners can have a negative effect on the fairness of the league. In other words: Don't be that guy/gal who forgets your draft is going on.