Cassy Aite

What Is a Flex in Fantasy Football? A Strategic Guide

Apr 25
9 minutes

If you’re fresh to the ranks of fantasy football, you may have heard of a flex position. Within the lexicon of fantasy football, understanding this term is key to your success. Even the most knowledgeable NFL fan can end up as a perennial doormat when it comes to their fantasy league — something that can lead to burnout or even leaving their fantasy football league.

So if you’re in the midst of joining a flex league and are wondering “What is a flex in fantasy football?” read on to find out what the term means and how to use it to your advantage. It’s the only sensible option if you want to turn your effort and hard work into a successful playoff run.

What Is a Flex in Fantasy Football?

Wide receiver catching a football

A flex in fantasy football is a type of league that adds an additional roster spot in the starting lineup. Compared to a standard league, a flex league — as the name implies — allows more flexibility in terms of who you can start, as well as different lineups and strategies to employ.

Several types of leagues use the flex player as a way to add another layer of strategy and excitement. You can have a flex position in auction draft leagues, PPR leagues, standard scoring leagues, IDP (individual defensive player) leagues, and DFS (daily fantasy sports) leagues.

Flex leagues have become so popular in the football realm that they’ve even spread to MLB fantasy baseball, NHL fantasy hockey leagues, and NBA fantasy basketball leagues. It’s a testament to the added fun that flex spots bring to a league.

Who Can I Place in the Flex Spot?

Almost all fantasy leagues allow you the option to choose between several different positions in the flex, including a running back, tight end, or wide receiver. But fantasy managers have the final say in who to start at the flex position.

Who you decide to place in the flex position has a lot to do with your weekly matchups. If numerous players have bye weeks or if you can steal a sleeper off the waiver wire, the flex spot can certainly help you maximize your number of touchdowns and total fantasy points.

Is Scoring Different in a Flex League?

Scoring works exactly the same in a flex league as it would in a PPR or standard scoring league — you just have one additional roster spot to accumulate points. So if you play in a PPR league that’s added a flex spot, you’re still getting the same amount of points. The same goes for a standard-scoring league, which awards points for yardage and touchdowns.

Strategies To Maximize Your Flex Return

Receiver catching a ball

Now that you’ve answered the question “What is a flex in fantasy football?” you’re ready to tackle the overarching issue of who to slot into the position. This isn’t always an easy decision, and your options will vary from week to week. Comparing players objectively and analyzing matchups also become paramount to success — and choosing the higher-ranked player isn’t a surefire winner.

Your work starts as soon as you join the league if you want to clutch the digital Lombardi. So get yourself on the right track by studying and applying these flex strategies.

Start With the Draft

Just like the NFL Draft, your flex fantasy football league begins — and aside from the waiver wire — ends with the draft. The key here is to try and build the best lineup possible and not draft for the sake of getting a good flex.

This is where your research comes into play. Study statistics from the prior year, look at ratings and Vegas odds on the touchdowns and yardage a player is supposed to get that season and use it to your advantage. At the very least, you can find a sleeper and avoid the dud that’s just begging to be relegated to the waiver wire.

What Position Should I Choose?

In this skill range, the top-tier receivers and running backs are already off the board, so you need to think in terms of sleepers (look at snap counts increasing over time), a high-scoring offense, and expert projections about what NFL teams are going to finish with the best record. The idea is simple: a playoff-bound team typically has better players, an improved offensive line, and a good-to-great quarterback. All of these factors will translate to more red zone opportunities for your player.

If you can land a stud running back that’s ranked inside the top-25 and you play in a standard-scoring league, a running back is usually the optimal choice. In PPR this changes though as those receptions points make a big difference for the expected points scored for RBs vs WRs.

Conversely, stats favor the wide receiver once you get into the lower end of the rankings. A third- or fourth-string wide receiver is going to score more points in almost all cases. A non-starting running back rarely gets enough touches to make them worth a selection.

Nevertheless, you need to review the flex spot on a case-by-case basis to come to the right conclusion. Take a look at the team that your fantasy player is up against. If they have poor run defense, the running back might be the better option; if they have terrible pass defense, the wide receiver is optimal.

Who Should I Start in a PPR League?

In a PPR league, you should start a wide receiver 99% of the time. Unless you had an A+ draft or heavenly waiver addition, very few running backs that you would slot in the flex position will be a better option, and they may not see the field for more than a few plays.

A wide receiver — even if they’re in the slot or only on the field in four wide receiver sets — can still add value. Look for big-play receivers that have a lot of targets in the red zone.

You can also start a receiving tight end, although these are few and far between as far as flex value.

How Do I Find a Sleeper To Fill the Flex Spot

Because the flex position is most often filled by a player that’s further down the rankings, selecting the right one is a like finding the proverbial needle in the haystack or striking oil. But that doesn’t mean you should blindly slot someone into the flex. You can utilize a few tips to come to the best option — even if it doesn’t always work in your favor:

  • Watch the NFL Draft and free agent markets. Rookies are always a big question mark in the NFL. Even in recent memory, low draft picks have become integral parts of offenses, such as Brock Purdy or even an undrafted free agent like Austin Ekeler. If a team has a hole to fill, they’re going to draft or sign players accordingly. Look for those most likely to make an immediate impact based on the position they play and any current vacancies on their teams. There are only about 3-5 rookie studs per year... but if you hit one, you've struck fantasy gold.
  • Check out touches and targets: The equation is simple — the more times a player is targeted or touches the ball, the more valuable they are in your flex spot. The NFL keeps track of targets and touches, so look at the prior year’s stats for lower-ranked players that still get a fair share of the offense and track weekly trends to see who might pop off.
  • Draft based on the upside: Toward the end of the draft, you’re selecting from players that aren’t a key part of the team’s offense or haven’t shown their value on the field — at least yet. This is a great place to scoop up volatile players with potentially high ceilings. Consider questions such as the likelihood of them becoming a starter, undervaluations due to being a rookie or injured last year, and if a major change in quarterback or offensive coordinator can benefit them (thank you Brian Daboll).

Is a Superflex League the Same Thing as a Flex League?

Generally speaking, quarterbacks, kickers, or defensive players (if you’re in an IDP league) are forbidden from being slotted in the flex spot. But that’s what makes a superflex league interesting for fantasy players looking for more flexibility and a different experience.

If you’ve answered “What is a flex in fantasy football?” but you want to add another element of strategy, consider adding a superflex position. In almost all cases, the best move is to place a quarterback in the superflex spot. As a result, many superflex leagues are sometimes referred to as 2-QB leagues.

So no, superflex leagues aren’t the same thing as flex leagues, but they’re similar. The only difference is the additional starting roster spot that adds a bit more depth to the fantasy game.

Figuring Out the Flex Spot

With the strategies outlined above, you should have a basic idea of who to start in the flex spot on any given Sunday. But just like the athletes on the field, a little edge never hurts.

Wise Guys Edge is just that. We use the information from Las Vegas sportsbooks to develop comprehensive statistics, easy comparisons, and everything else you need to come to the best decision on who to start each week. So whether you need to increase your yardage, receptions, or touchdowns, Wise Guys Edge is the advantage you need to build a successful squad.