How to play Fantasy Football 101: A beginner's guide for the 2023 NFL season

Among all the fantasy sports available to play out there, fantasy football is the undisputed king. No other fantasy sport combines the excitement of the real NFL game with the rush of creating and managing your own personal team the way fantasy football does. You can draft a roster and continuously tinker with it until you create the team that could lead you to a fantasy championship at the end of the football season!

If you’re new to fantasy football in 2023, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Below, you’ll find our how-to guide to the game with everything you need to win and have fun this season!

What is Fantasy Football?

At its most base level, fantasy football is represented by the accumulation of points for players on a given fantasy team based on the REAL-LIFE statistics those players obtain on the NFL field.

If you’re able to score more fantasy points than your opponent, then you win that particular week’s matchup. Win enough weekly matchups throughout the season and you secure a spot in the fantasy playoffs.

Win your fantasy championship game and collect the laurels thereafter!

Not too different from the real NFL game, right?

That said, there are many, many variations to fantasy football, as well as customized changes that can be made in scoring settings. Still, the gist of it all remains the same: You, the fantasy manager, must draft, manage and then adjust your team throughout the season with the ultimate goal of defeating your league-mates — your weekly and season-long competition. This could include adding players from a free-agent pool called the waiver wire (you might have to cut one of your own players first to make room on the roster), making a trade for a player (or two, or three, or four ...) with another team in your league and setting a lineup you think has the best chance of compiling the most fantasy points on a week-to-week basis.

This is where dedication is key — benching or starting the wrong player could be the difference between a week’s win and a loss!

As mentioned, scoring in your fantasy leagues may vary (Yahoo has its default settings, but league commissioners can adjust — more on that below), but at the end of the day, the fantasy points usually match what we see on the real field. That means you can get points from a positive rush, a reception, a completed pass, yard accumulation and a touchdown. You can also get defensive points off turnovers, sacks and even special teams scores.

Of course, it usually isn’t just enough to win bragging rights for many fantasy players. Usually there is a monetary reward at the end of the season, either for the champion alone or for the top two or three teams, depending on league size. This is all part of the default settings in public leagues.

In private leagues, it’s up to the commissioner (the individual in charge of setting up a league and managing it throughout the season) and the league members themselves to agree on end-of-season rewards — and, oftentimes, wild and hilarious end-of-season punishments for the team at the bottom of the standings!

What are the different scoring formats in fantasy football?

As mentioned above, there are plenty of different ways to set up a league’s scoring, but the most common is half-PPR ("PPR" stands for "point per reception") scoring, which is also Yahoo’s default setting. This means that you get half a point for every reception made. Of course, you also get points for passing yards and TDs thrown (for QBs, who also can provide rushing statistics), for positive rushes and touchdowns caught (for position players: RBs, WRs, TEs — there are also players with multi-position eligibility).

You can also set your league to full-point PPR. Both half and full-PPR are more common than “standard” scoring, which gives zero points for receptions.

Beyond scoring settings, you can also play with your league size — both in terms of league members and the amount of players you can have on a given roster — as well as league format.

These include, but aren’t limited to: IDP (which stands for Individual Defensive Player, a format where, along with your offensive player lineup, you can also draft a defensive player(s) who accumulate points on the defensive side of the statistics), 2QB leagues (where you start two quarterbacks instead of the traditional one), SuperFlex (a format where you can start a quarterback in your “Flex” position; the Flex slot serves as an extra roster spot that can be used on another position player), Best Ball (a format where you don’t need to manage the team or set lineups after the draft; your week-to-week team is automatically selected for you based on the highest-scoring players), Dynasty (a format in which the players you draft are carried over from season-to-season), Keeper (like Dynasty, except here you can choose to keep a limited amount of players from season-to-season) and more.

How do you draft a team in fantasy football?

Many seasoned players will agree: The draft is the most fun and exciting part of the entire fantasy season. This is where you build a team, after all.

The default positions for Yahoo Fantasy Football teams are: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 2 WRs, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K and 1 Team Defense. A FLEX can usually be filled by your choice of a RB, WR, or TE. This is the most common format. Your goal in the draft is to fill these positions with the players you like most, as well as build a bench of players whom you can start at a moment’s notice.

[2023 Fantasy Draft Rankings: QBs | RBs | WRs | TEs | DEF | K]

So, you've got all the rules down. Now, it's time to draft. How does it work?

A snake draft (don't worry, no actual reptiles are involved) is by far the most common format in season-long fantasy leagues. Snake drafts are called as such due to the ouroboros nature of drafting — so, if you get the first pick in your league’s draft, then the next time you get to pick will be 20th in Round 2 (if it’s a 10-team league) or 24th (if it’s a 12-team league). The snake format continues until the draft is complete.

Of course, just as there are many fantasy football formats, you can adjust the way you draft, too. One of the more common non-standard drafts is a Salary Cap Draft. A Salary Cap Draft uses an auction-like format instead of a snake one; there are no picks. Instead, NFL players are presented and league members then get to make offers for that player’s services using an allotted amount of salary (or, cap space) for the proceedings. Whoever offers the most salary gets to “draft” that player.

At the end of your draft, complete rosters will typically have anywhere between 15 and 20 players. Of course, the fun and action doesn’t end there — it actually starts in Week 1 of the NFL season.

So, what are you waiting for — go play fantasy football for the 2023 NFL season!

There’s a lot to love when it comes to fantasy football. Sports, technology and competition all come together to create a great game that lasts pretty much the entire NFL regular season. And it’s not all about winning either. Some of the strongest bonds and lifelong friendships have been created in fantasy leagues. You don’t have to be the biggest football fan or the greatest fantasy player — everyone has a chance to enjoy the journey.

All you need to have is a little dedication to your team — and a ton of fun in the process! So join us for the 2023 football season by creating or joining a fantasy league today!