Brian’s Brilliant Guide to Fantasy Football

For beginners (aka Caitlin, Kelley, & Lauren)

Getting Setup

I think you are all set with this step… click the link in the email from ESPN and create an account or login (same account as Disney). Make sure you have the ESPN Fantasy Football app on your phone as well. This is how you will play 99% of the time unless you’re stuck in 1995.

Once you get logged in, you can click on your profile settings and name your team. It looks like you have all mastered this already as well. Some people like to do a play on player names (ie Roethlisberger and Fries, or Golden’s Taint). Some people (like Dave) do dirty shit. Some folks just leave it as their name. No wrong answers here! The app will always tell you who the league manager is so name it what you want!

How to Play

So, the whole idea is that you create your own “dream team” and play against other people’s dream team. That means on draft day when you pick your players high school dodgeball style, all NFL players on offense will be available and we will all take turns picking who we want to be on our team. Defense (in this league) is not a thing. So you’ll just need scoring players like a QB, RB, WR, TE, etc. As these players play in their games, their stats will generate points. For instance, if a player scores a touchdown they will get 6 points. If a QB throws a pass to a WR both the QB and the WR will get 2 points.

Now, none of this scoring really matters to you. Just know that you want get the best players so you get the most points. Each week you will play against one other person in the league. The team whose players get the most points will win. The last few weeks of the football season, there will be elimination playoffs leading up to the last person standing who will win overall.

Draft Day

Okay, so this is the single most important part of the whole thing. Who you pick to be on your team will generally be the difference between winning and losing unless your opponent has a player get hurt. You will pick enough players to have a starting lineup and just as many “bench” or backup players. Don’t overlook the importance of the backup players because you are most likely going to have a starting player get hurt during the year and will definitely have several players who don’t play one week of the season (due to their BYE week). We will pick a draft order… this is the order which we will take turns picking our players. Its a snake draft which means each round, the list flips. So the first person to pick in round 1 will be the last person to pick in round 2. Overall because of the snake draft, it usually balances things out. My personal preference is to be in the middle somewhere.

Here’s the good news… It’s foolproof! Does it help to know who all of the players are in the NFL or watch SportsCenter every morning? No, not usually. When you get into the draft the app automatically ranks the players from the best in the league to the worst. When it is your turn you can simply pick the person at the top of the list and be confident that you’ve just taken the best person available.

In fact, if you don’t show up for the draft, the app will automatically choose the top of the list for you! Of course, you could also not just pick the top player. People who know NFL and the players well typically do not do this. Some could say that this is a better approach. Some could also say they are overthinking it. I’ve seen first year players win against a league full of diehard fantasy football players. If you see a player you like that’s a few spots down the list, go ahead and grab them! Fantasy football is about 60% who you draft and 40% luck. Truth is, we never know how well someone is going to do year to year or who will get hurt.

Okay so let’s talk strategy… when it’s our turn we’ll grab someone we like, someone at the top of the list, rinse, and repeat. A couple things to keep in mind while you do that. The top scorers in this type of league are going to be WRs and RBs. So, make sure you fill that out before you go drafting something like a kicker or a defense team. I usually stock up on those including backups before even looking at other positions but this is up to you if you want to fill your whole starting line before backups. Also, there are exceptions for certain players like Patrick Mahomes.. Not a bad idea to pick him up early if you want to because he puts up enough points he could easily compete against a WR.

A couple other things to look for… pay attention to their BYE week. Sometimes it is unavoidable but you generally want to space out the BYE week so you have good players each week and don’t take an L on BYE week because all of your players are out. Also… it’s tempting to draft many players from your favorite team because you know them the best. Just know you might be limiting your own score based upon your team’s score. It’s good practice to not have too many players from one single team.

It’s Gameday Baby!

Okay so you did awesome in the draft thanks to Brian’s Brilliant Guide. What do you need to do each week or is it set it and forget it? You will need to move players around from your starting lineup from your bench depending on BYE weeks, injuries, expected points week to week, etc. The player gets locked in place at the start of their game so try to set your lineup by Thursday night. That is when the first game of the week starts. It’s okay if you miss it as long as you don’t have anyone playing in that Thursday night game.

Otherwise, you should have your starting lineup finalized by Sunday morning! You do not get points for the players on your bench. Tough to lose because you kept a good player on your bench and lost those points that could have given you the win. Now Sundays just got a bit more exciting… as you sit at Cleats next to someone who is likely your opponent, you’ll be glancing over at the other TVs than just your game to see how your starting QB is doing, or that key WR from the Falcons. You begin to cheer on games you never cared about before. Also, who doesn’t like to get heckled by Brian at the bar?

Trades, Waivers, and Free Agency, oh my!

Sometimes, you may get another player in the league who wants to trade some of their players for one or two of yours… these are seldom worth it. If someone is sending you a trade request, its because it is in their best interest. That’s not to say that sometime’s that person is an idiot and you take the trade because you know the player they are giving you will do better later int he season.. Just be cautious of a random trade and evaluate it well! There is even an app you can use to evaluate if its a good trade or not (linked in the FAQs).

Aside from reviewing your starting lineup once or twice a week to make sure you have the best players starting, you’re pretty much good aside from the waiver wire. Here’s what this is…. As the season progresses, there will be injuries, new talent coming in, old talent leaving.. The draft may not have picked up every player who is going to score good points next week. The rookie backup might get a starting position on his team when the star player gets hurt. Now his projections just bumped. Someone in your league may drop a player to make room for someone else and you want to pick him up.

You can browse the list of available players at any point and pick them up to be on your team. The kicker is, you have from Wednesday to Saturday to pick them up. After Saturday they go into a queue where you need to wait until Wednesday before they are released. If another person in the league also wants him, the app will decide who to give the player to since only one of you can have him. (there is a method for how it decides but that isn’t important right now). Also, just know that you can only have so many players on your team so if you pick one up from free agency, you need to choose one to drop.

Did I win? What do I get?!

So, you killed in the draft. You stayed up at 2am to catch the best waiver wire picks and now you’re in the championship game. Opponent forgets to set their starting lineup and you take home the bacon! Congrats… but just know since I taught you everything you know.. We both won. Besides the gratification of rubbing it in your friends’ faces, that’s all you get. A lot of leagues will set a buy-in amount and then give cash prize winners. Most of my leagues are setup like that. I think after this year we can do the same. I wanted to get everyone that is new used to how to play before I ask them to put up $50 lol.

That’s pretty much all you need to know. It makes the NFL season so much more fun being interested in games you wouldn’t otherwise care about and getting heckled by Brian at Cleats when he’s up 20 points in Week 2.


Are there apps that help give advice on who to start each week? is a great resource I often use myself. They have an app specifically to help decide who to start also. Other than that, you can search for fantasy football on Instagram or Twitter and will find tons of accounts that help and post stuff every week.. Following Adam Shefter or Matthew Berry from ESPN can help too. There are draft guides if you don’t believe in ESPN’s ratings. Just google “fantasy football draft tier sheet” but make sure you’re looking at one for this year!

I can’t seem to win. Should I just give up?

Fantasy football is unpredictable. Personally, I’ve spent some seasons where I’ve won the entire first half of the season and lost the second half and vice versa. Don’t give up though. In one week of my league two years ago the top three players all got hurt with season ending injuries. This means the people who were in the lead in my league all fell because they were riding on those players. Here’s some things you can do… watch an episode of SportsCenter or just google “Week X sleeper picks”. This will give you people who are likely to be in free agency that you can grab who might have a good week or good rest of the season. Mix it up. Drop some players, pick up some sleepers, and start again. You can turn it around.

I’m beating you…why do you suck so bad?

It’s a curse. I don’t win my own leagues. idk but good job.

This is stressful! How do I manage the stress?

Join more fantasy leagues, of course! Yeah.. you get sucked into it but it’s a good feeling when you win!

Brought to you by Brian Phillips