ESPN Fantasy Football 101: How to play

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

So, you're thinking about trying fantasy football?

You've heard about fantasy football for a long time. Your friends, family and coworkers play it every fall -- and they seem to have a lot of fun doing it. Now you're thinking about giving it a shot. Here is why you should do it.

It's fun!

Even if you know very little about football, you can play and have a great time. While winning a championship might be the ultimate goal, enjoying the camaraderie of your friends, family and coworkers is what really draws everyone back each season.

On top of that, when you start pulling for your players and against the players on your opponent's team each week, you'll find a new way to enjoy watching NFL games. Suddenly, that Thursday Night Football game between two bad teams carries some meaning to you, because you want your players to succeed and your opponent's to fail.

It can be easy or challenging -- your call

When you watch any of our experts on TV or read some of their columns on ESPN.com, it's clear that some people take fantasy football as seriously as NFL general managers do the real game.

The good news is that the experts do all of the heavy lifting to make things easy for newbies like you.

If you want to put on your GM hat and obsessively compete with the best of the best, dig in and enjoy. But you also can draft a team and play with very little effort on your part.

With that in mind, we've put together ESPN Fantasy Football 101 to give you an overview of how to get started, how to prepare for your draft and how to play during the season.

Now it's time for you to sign up and join the fun!

Getting started

How to sign up on the ESPN Fantasy app

Were you invited to an ESPN Fantasy Football league? Do you want to create your own as a League Manager? We have complete instructions for you right here.

How to sign up online

Whether you were invited to join an already-existing league or want to create your own as a League Manager, you'll find everything you need to do so right here.

League settings

If you created your own league, you'll need to make sure all of your league's rules and settings -- including roster size, scoring, regular-season schedules and playoff schedules -- are to your liking. We have all of the details of how to do that right here.

You've signed up, now what?

Check out your league and team pages

It's time to get your bearings by touring your league and team pages, so you know where everything is. We've got you covered with a detailed tour right here.

Know your rules

This might seem incredibly basic, but even veteran fantasy football players forget to double-check their league rules. The result of whiffing on a rule can be horrendous, not only for the success of your team, but even for simply having fun during your fantasy season.

Go to your fantasy football league page, click on League, then Settings. Here, you'll be able to peruse each rule your league has in place for the season. This includes roster construction, scoring rules, schedule, playoff structure and more.

Go over every section with a fine-tooth comb. To make sure you understand the thinking behind each rule, check out our League Settings overview.

Draft prep

A good draft will put you in position to have a successful season, and taking time to prepare beforehand is key. That includes printing out rankings that reflect your format -- e.g., PPR (point per reception), non-PPR -- and considering different draft strategies.

Don't worry, we will have you covered with rankings, cheat sheets and draft strategies, courtesy of our experts, in the ESPN Fantasy Football Draft Kit.

Autodraft prep

If you don't plan to take part in a live draft, that's OK. Our system will automatically draft for you.

Still, you have the option of guiding how our system will draft your team. Go to your Team page and click "Edit Autopick Strategy." Here, you can decide which player positions you'd like to pick in which spots in the draft and how many players at each position you want to draft overall.

Mock Drafts

Mock drafts are simply practice drafts that don't count for anything. It's a terrific way to get used to our draft software, make sure you know how everything works and test out different strategies. Maybe most importantly, mock drafts allow you to make mistakes now -- so you won't make them when they count in your real draft. Practice makes perfect.

For an overview of how everything in the ESPN draft room works, click on this link.

The draft

Draft day is the most exciting day of the season, because it's time to create your team. If you have prepared for your draft by reading up on players and strategy, and by participating in several mock drafts, you're ready. Take a deep breath and relax. You've got this.

To make everything go as smoothly as possible, be sure to follow these handy rules.

The season is starting, let the fun begin!


How many times have you questioned the trades made by your favorite NFL team because you thought you could do a better job than its general manager? Well, this is your chance to prove yourself. Trading in fantasy is not only a great way to improve your roster, but it's also a lot of fun and provides a chance to get to know your fellow managers better during the process of swapping trade proposals.

For details on how to make trades, click here.

Fantasy football etiquette

This section could also be called "Don't be that guy/gal." Whether you are in a hypercompetitive league or just trying to have some casual fun, you want to be a responsible fantasy football manager. Generally speaking, that just means follow the golden rule: Treat others the way you'd want to be treated in your league. With that in mind, be sure to follow these basic fantasy football rules of etiquette.

Fantasy football glossary