Cassy Aite

How To Start a Fantasy Football League

Feb 29

Quitting a fantasy football league is easy. Starting one? Maybe not so much.

But if you’ve grown complacent in your current league, want to try a new league format, or want to play fantasy football with a new group of people, launching a new league is the only step you can take.

If you’re wondering how to start a fantasy football league, you’ve already taken the first strides toward a fun, competitive league. Learn how to start your league, what considerations to take, and how to make the league fun, competitive, and engaging.

How To Start a Fantasy Football League in 11 Easy Steps

Despite the obvious hurdle of organization — especially getting people together — discovering how to start a fantasy football league is surprisingly simple. Go down this list of steps, and you should have everything ready for the season.

1. Gauge Interest

You need willing participants to run a successful league in any fantasy sport, including fantasy football. However, you must go beyond simple participation and analyze how much time and effort each person has. Where there’s league engagement, fun and competition follow.

Note: While you need a minimum of eight teams for a league, a 10- to 12-team league is a far better option to encourage competitive head-to-head matchups each week.

2. Consider Participant Experience

Stacking a fantasy football league with a bunch of beginners who have no idea how to play fantasy football and two or three experienced veterans creates an imbalance that will sink interest early on. The same goes for leagues with a preponderance of any skill level.

Try to balance your league with people who have similar skill levels or an equal amount of first-time players, experts, and intermediate players. If you have several beginners, offer some Fantasy Football 101 counseling. They’ll get the basics, such as

3. Go Public If All Else Fails

All the big fantasy football platforms — Yahoo, CBS Sports, ESPN, and — offer public leagues. You can always start a public league if you can’t find enough participants from your friends and family. It’s a gamble, but you might find engaged players who make the league surprisingly exciting.

4. Choose Your Platform

Laptop on a football field next to football and penalty flag

As mentioned above, Yahoo, CBS, ESPN, and are the most popular fantasy football platforms, but you aren’t necessarily confined to those. Other options include FanTrax, MFL (MyFantasyLeague), or Sleeper.

Most of these leagues are free, but some have paid formats to unlock more league settings and options. If you’re on the fence between free and paid leagues, poll your league mates and set your dues accordingly.

5. Select a League Type

The type of league is the most integral part of how to start a fantasy football league, so carefully contemplate the options. Depending on your league choice, Some of the most popular formats include:

6. Choose a Scoring System and Draft the Rules

Fantasy football fans sitting on a couch

Learning how to start a fantasy football league is one thing, but how you tally up the points can make or break it. Your league’s scoring is pivotal in how players draft, roster construction, and waiver wire/free agent decisions. You can use the default scoring in each fantasy football platform or tweak the league’s fantasy points system to your liking. Most leagues allow you to alter points for:

  • Touchdowns
  • Yardage (passing, rushing, receiving)
  • Defensive stats (interceptions, tackles for loss, sacks)
  • Receptions
  • Kicking stats (PATs, FGs)

Once you choose a scoring system, you also need to consider the league rules pertaining to:

6. Pick a Playoff Format

Just like the real-life NFL, every regular season game builds toward the fantasy playoffs and the hunt for a fantasy Super Bowl trophy. As the commissioner, you can choose how many teams enter the playoffs and whether you want a consolation tournament for the teams that finish at the bottom of the standings.

7. Create a League Name and Logo

Creating a league name for your fantasy season doesn’t need much thought — unless you want it to. You can develop something crafty, a play on words, or something simple. The same goes for your logo.

However, you should always encourage your leaguemates to create team names that reflect their humor, personality, or favorite player. Fantasy football team logos are easy to create even for novice graphic designers and add a fun, intangible element to the league.

8. Select a Fantasy Football Draft Format

Hot dogs, chips, and a football on a football-themed tablecloth

Fantasy football drafts can mimic a true NFL draft, or you can alter the draft to include more strategy or balance. The choice is yours, but any alteration can impact the draft strategy.

You essentially have two options:

  • Standard draft: This draft follows the true-life NFL draft but with a few added elements. Almost all fantasy football drafts now use a snake draft. The initial order of drafts is randomly determined but reverses each round. For example, the person with the first selection in the first round gets the last selection in the second round. Unlike the draft before the NFL season which has seven rounds, a standard fantasy draft has 16 rounds to account for each roster spot/positon player on the team.
  • Auction draft: Also known as a salary cap, an auction draft allots an equal amount of “money” to each league participant. During this draft, participants nominate an NFL player for the auction block — generally those at the top of the ADP rankings. Then, each participant bids on the player until they’re out of “cash.” It’s a more difficult league format for beginners to grasp, but the bets on each player create a stimulating atmosphere.

9. Decide Whether You Want To Play for Fun or Money

Though some leagues are just for fun, a gambling element can make the league just a little more fun. If you choose to have league dues/entry fee, set a date for payment. Once you have the cash, poll your league mates to decide how to split the winnings at the end of the year. Usually, you’ll split the winnings between the top three finishers in the playoffs (assuming you have a third-place game). Or you can choose a winner-take-all format for some serious smack-talking.

10. Hold a Fantasy Football Draft

Fantasy football can be 100% remote, but it’s not the same as seeing your opponents face to face. That’s why you should — or need — to have a fantasy football draft party.

A draft party kicks off the season with a celebration of football, beer, food, and excitement. Plus, the feeling of being on the clock in front of others is almost indescribable.

You went through the rigamarole of learning how to start a fantasy football league. Follow through on your commitment with a draft party.

11. Have Fun!

You’ve done all the legwork. Now it’s time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. Have fun, stay engaged, meet with league mates on Sunday, and talk smack. If you can encourage regular participation, you’re bound to have a fun league.

How To Start a Fantasy Football League That’s Fun and Engaging

Fantasy football cheering while sitting on a couch

Fantasy football leagues are a great way to meet with buddies and enjoy football together, but you can always add a few other elements to make your league even better. For improved engagement, fanfare, and intrigue, throw some ideas into the mix.

  • Create rivalries. You know the two obnoxious shit-talkers in your league? Everyone probably does. Make them put their money where their mouth is by creating in-league rivalries or matchups of the week.
  • Punish the worst players. Fantasy football punishments aren’t new, but creative ones can push players to do their best each week. Creating a deterrent is a strong method to make the league more competitive. Don’t finish last, and you can enjoy watching the last-place opponent humiliate or embarrass themselves. Trust us. It’s worth it.
  • Have an awards season. Post-season awards are a welcome addition to any fantasy football league for great play, head-scratching moves, or genuinely poor play.
  • Publish a newsletter. This may take some extra effort, but a weekly newsletter can update everyone on the top and worst performers with humor.
  • Start a Discord room. Though platforms have chatrooms, they don’t have the same ambiance and vibe as an audio, visual, or written Discord room. Start one of these to encourage bitter rivalries, talk football, and enjoy the league a bit more.

How To Win Your Fantasy Football League

No magic formula will allow you to win your fantasy football league, but if you use the tools afforded to you, your chances will increase drastically. One tool in particular is Wise Guys Edge. With a comprehensive blog, a five-player comparison tool, and weekly player odds using the latest Vegas sportsbook figures, you have everything you need for a successful campaign.

You learned how to start a fantasy football league; now is the time to learn how to win it.