Introduction: Managing a Fantasy Football Team

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Fantasy football is an online, American football game that allows friends, coworkers, or even random strangers to compete against one another as general managers of their own made-up football team.  These teams consist of real NFL players and scoring is determined by how these players perform from week to week.   It has gained immense popularity here in the United States.

These instructions are meant for beginning fantasy football players, regardless of their current NFL knowledge .  It describes all of the steps one should take to perform well in such a league and provides the explanations behind the steps.  This instructable will cover a standard fantasy league on the website "www.cbssports.com/fantasy",   one of the most popular  fantasy football sites.   If you are looking to become the best fantasy football manager around, these instructions are for you.  If you follow all these steps exactly, you will have no trouble annihilating your opponents in the upcoming fantasy season.  

Step 1: Selecting a Team Name

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A successful fantasy season begins with the creation of a clever team name.   Creativity is key in this step.  This name will define your team for nearly four months, so pick one that will leave an impression on opponents.   While there are always exceptions, most team names do at least one of the following:

-Use alliteration
-Involve humor
-Revolve around the name of the user
-Revolve around a favorite team or player
-Portray a dual meaning

The example "Kramers Krushers" shown in Figure 1  uses the first and the third elements given above.  Additionally, there are several resources on the web devoted solely to naming fantasy teams.  Figure 2 shows a name generator tool available on "www.teamnames.net." This may be useful if creativity does not come easily to you.  If you keep all those points in mind, your team name will be the most creative in your league!

Step 2: Creating a Logo

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Nearly as important as the name is the team logo.  Make the logo follow logically with your team name.  Many internet sites such as CBS Sports will allow you to either select from a list of pre-made logos or give you the option to create your own.  To change your logo using this site, make the selections shown in Figures 1 and 2.

Choose either a pre-made logo or upload your own. Figure 3 demonstrates the latter approach.  It is apparent that custom logos are often more attractive than pre-made ones, but either will suffice if you are stretched for time.  If you are creative in this step, your team logo will be the envy of your fellow managers.

Step 3: Researching

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While it is impossible to determine which players will have productive seasons with 100% accuracy, there are many indicators that predict it reasonably well. Before picking players for your team, do the following things:

 -  Identify which NFL teams are projected to excel on offense.  Players on these teams generally score many fantasy points.  Offensive projections for a specific year can be found on any sports website.
 -  Find out which teams' offensive lines are expected to do well.  The strength of an offense is determined by the strength of its offensive line. This is especially true for the runningbacks.  As shown in Figure 1, there is a positive correlation between a runningback's production and his offensive line rating.
 -  Determine the teams with the best defense/special teams.  Good defenses spend less time on the field, which gives the offense more time to score. Figure 2 shows the 2012 Top Ten Defense/Special Teams.
 -  Research the rookies coming out of college.  A handful of these players exceed expectations every season, and they are usually bargain picks because they are selected well after the high-profile players.  For example, Randall Cobb of the Green Bay Packers was often selected after the 10th round of many drafts in 2011.  His production that year far exceeded the small investment owners had to pay for him.  These type of picks will make your team quite successful.

Step 4: Preparing for the Draft

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A "draft" is the player selection process used in fantasy football.  Before this occurs, you should obtain your drafting materials. These  can include a wide variety of information, but at minimum bring:

- The positional player rankings
- The overall player rankings
- An up-to-date injury report

These materials can be found easily on the CBS sports web page.  Figure 1 shows the steps to find both sets of rankings, and Figure 2 shows how to find the injury report.  All three are crucial for draft day success.   

Step 5: Drafting

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Most drafts use the snake style of picking. In this fhis format, the first person to pick in one round is the last to pick in the next round.  This is illustrated in Figure 1.  Drafts usually last 16 rounds which means 16 fantasy players per team.  The number of each type of player varies, but the most common format is:

2 - Quarterbacks
4 - Runningbacks
4 - Wide Receivers
2 - Tight Ends
2 - Kickers
2 - Defenses

In the beginning rounds, fill the starter positions that score the most points first.   These are the quarterbacks, runningbacks, and wide receivers as seen in Figure 2.  Tight ends, kickers, and defenses are less important and can be drafted later.  As the draft progresses, cross off which players have been selected on both your overall and positional rankings. This helps you determine who is the best pick available and the best left at each position.

Step 6: Keeping Track of Injuries

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I.R.? P.U.P.?  Doubtful, Questionable, Probable? These are the terms used to describe the status of an injured player.  Each fantasy football website gives their own predictions on the status of injured players, but you should utilize every media resource available to get the most accurate information.  Below are descriptions of the injury statuses and their meanings.  

I.R. - The player is on the injury report.  He will not play that week, so place him on the bench.
P.U.P. - The player is physically unable to perform.  He will not play that week, so place him on the bench.
Doubtful - There is a high likelihood that this player will not play.  Place him on the bench unless you hear news on t.v. to the contrary.
Questionable - Players with this status have roughly a 50% chance of playing.  Fortunately, this status is often updated to probable or doubtful prior to game time which makes the decision start or bench a player much easier.
Probable - The player will play barring some unfortunate event.  Start this player if he is one of your normal starters. 

Figure 1 gives the percent likelihood that an inured player will play if he has one of the three main injury statuses.  If you keep these injury descriptions in mind, you will avoid making mistakes when setting your roster each week.

Step 7: Evaluating Matchups

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Prior to each week of NFL games, look at the team each of your fantasy players are playing (steps shown in Figure 1).  Fantasy websites often give statistics on how the opposing NFL team has done against each position.  For example, in the first picture, Peyton Manning has a favorable matchup since his opponent is ranked 31 out of 32 teams against the pass.  Steven Jackson, on the other hand, is facing the sixth best defense against the run, so his matchup is less favorable. In this situation, I would consider benching Jackson for one of my bench players since Jackson has been averaging relatively few fantasy points each week.  

Figure 2 gives the 2012 average fantasy points allowed by each defense broken down by position. The red cells indicate good statistics while the green cells indicate bad.  Seek out this type of information when evaluating your own matchups.
 

Step 8: Setting Your Roster

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Set your roster between Tuesday morning and Thursday night (steps in Figure 1).  Since each week's NFL games start on Thursday night and end on Monday night, this is the only period that falls between weeks.  When setting your lineup, take note of the following things:

Bye Weeks - Every NFL team has one bye week during the season.  This means each of your fantasy players will definitely not play during one week of your fantasy season.  Swap a player on a bye week with one of your reserves who is playing.
Injuries - Refer to step 6 to determine if the player should start or sit.
Matchups - Refer to step 7 when deciding who to start in this case.
Weather - High winds and heavy rain are bad for quarterbacks relying on the pass, but runningbacks benefit from these conditions.
 
If you keep these points in mind, you will avoid making mistakes in your roster, and thus, increase your fantasy point output.

Step 9: Adding Free Agents

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As the season progresses, you will probably notice that some of your players are scoring very little, not scoring at all, or may be injured. When this happens, consider adding a "free agent."  A free agent is a player who was not selected in the initial draft and is not owned by anyone in your league.   If there is a free agent performing much better than someone on your team each week, consider switching players.  To accomplish this, perform the steps shown in Figure 1.  In step 4, type the name of the free agent you wish to add, and type the name of the player you wish to drop in step 5.  Be sure to submit your transaction when it is completed.

*Remember, players can only be added and dropped BEFORE their NFL game each week, so be aware of when they play if you are thinking about adding a free agent. 

Step 10: Trading Players

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A trade is a transaction between fantasy owners that swaps players from one team to another.  It is much less common than adding free agents.  Trades occur most often when one fantasy team has too many good players at one position.  In this situation, instead of benching the extra players and wasting their production, trade them to another team who struggles at that position.  Trades usually benefit both sides.  In return for your player, request a good player at a different position where you are lacking point production.  Figure 1 shows the steps to initiate a trade.  In steps 4 and 5, enter the names of the players you wish to trade for and away. Be sure to select "Offer Trade," or the trade proposal will not get sent.  

This concludes all of the managerial steps you need to take to guide your team to victory. If you follow them exactly, you should have no trouble winning your fantasy league. I wish you the best of luck on the upcoming season, and leave comments if you would like anything explained further!

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