For those making their first dive into fantasy football, the terminology can be a bit confusing. With the goal of building a knowledge library that we can expand on as we keep playing, recognizing and understanding commonly used fantasy football terms are essential to your success. Here, we have compiled a list to act as a reference for those needing a quick refresher after a long offseason and those trying out the game for the first time.
What do the different fantasy football terms and abbreviations mean?
While not an exhaustive list of fantasy football terms, these are the most prevalent abbreviations across all fantasy platforms.
aDOT stands for average depth of target. This term refers to how far down the field from the line of scrimmage a player is when they receive a target.
ADP, or average draft position, refers to the average place in a draft where a specific player has been drafted across the entire fantasy platform.
This stands for a fantasy football rosters bench or the players on a given team outside of the starting lineup.
FAAB, or free-agent acquisition, budget is a set amount of “money” that a manager has to spend throughout the season to acquire players off waivers. Rather than being a first-come, first-serve, managers place blind bids for a player they wish to add. The managers who bid the highest gains the right to that player. However, once the budget is spent, managers can only place $0 bids for the rest of the season.
In some fantasy leagues, you can play defensive players. These are referred to as IDP or Individual Defensive Players.
Much like the NFL, the IR stands for injured reserve. These are players who are out for multiple weeks but do not count against your roster count.
PPR stands for point per reception. This is a style of scoring where each reception an offensive player records counts for a fantasy point. The amount it can score is based on your league settings.
RZ,or red zone, as generally referred to, is the area of the field from the 20-yard line to the end zone.
Fantasy football positions
As with the NFL, fantasy football follows the same positional naming in most cases.
D/ST: Team Defense/Special Teams. Traditionally, this stands for an entire NFL team’s defense and their special teams.
DEF: Another abbreviation for D/ST.
RB: Running Back
TE: Tight End
WR: Wide Receiver
For those of you in an Individual Defensive Player (IDP) league, you may find the following abbreviations more prevalent.
DB: Defensive Back
DE: Defensive End
DL: Defensive Lineman
DT: Defensive Tackle
FS: Free Safety
MLB: Middle Linebacker
OLB: Outside Linebacker
SS: Strong Safety
What are some of the most popular fantasy football formats?
Every year, there are more and more formats to play fantasy football popping up to fit anyone’s preferred way to play. Here are some of the common terms used to describe fantasy football formats.
Every team plays each other from week to week. For example, in a 12-team league, the highest-scoring team would be 11-0; the second-highest would be 10-1, etc.
An autopick draft occurs online, but your league provider drafts each team for the league.
In auction draft leagues, managers inherit a predetermined amount of money to bid on players to fill their rosters. Each manager may bid on any player he/she likes to fill their roster. The highest bidder for a specific player will be rewarded that respective player.
Best ball leagues are where there are zero weekly head-to-head matchups between fantasy owners’ teams. Additionally, there are no weekly starting lineups. Instead, players with the highest scores at their respective positions are rostered in as starters, and points are tallied weekly. The fantasy team with the most points at the end of the season wins.
Devy leagues are formats that allow fantasy managers to add players while they are still in college who they anticipate will transition to the NFL in the future. Once drafted, a devy player remains rostered by that team until they enter the league.
Daily leagues are a one-week contest where owners select lineups for only one week. DraftKings and FanDuel are popular formats to play daily lineups. The leagues typically follow a salary cap format where each player is valued according to past performances and projected stats.
Dynasty fantasy football leagues require a commitment over multiple seasons. After the initial draft in the league’s inaugural season, players remain on the same roster from one season to the next unless they are traded or released. Each year after the first season, a draft takes place consisting of rookies only. This type of fantasy league provides the most realistic experience in owning and managing an NFL franchise.
An Empire league is a dynasty-style fantasy football league in which each year, half the entire pot goes to the year’s winners. The other half is set aside in a rolling Emperor pot. The Emperor pot does not pay out until there is a back-to-back winner. The back-to-back champion wins the Emperor pot, and the league disbands.
Guillotine leagues are one of the newest fantasy football formats. This type of league is NOT a traditional head-to-head setup. Instead, it is the total points scored weekly. Each week, the lowest-scoring team is eliminated from the league. That team’s roster is dropped into the free-agent pool to the waiver wire. At the end of the season, the last team remaining is the champion.
Head-to-head leagues are the most common league format. A fantasy manager matches up against a different team each week. The team receiving the most points that specific week is awarded the win while the other side receives a loss.
A keeper is a term used for leagues where you can retain a player from year to year based on the bylaws of your league. Prior to the draft, you would declare the keeper(s) and then enter the draft with these players already on your roster from the previous season.
A linear draft is where each draft pick selection follows the same order in each round, similar to how the NFL Draft is orchestrated.
An offline draft is conducted in person with fellow league-mates and then added to the fantasy site of your choosing after the draft completes.
An online fantasy draft is conducted on the fantasy site itself, where fellow league-mates can participate wherever they are in the world rather than be in a singular location.
The most common fantasy football league that spans one season, and no players carry over from one year to the next.
Rookie drafts are an integral part of dynasty fantasy football leagues. After the initial “startup” draft, rookie players are then added each season via a separate draft consisting of only incoming rookies.
Each member of the league takes turns drafting players from first to last. However, the order is then reversed in the following round. For example, the team with the first pick will select first in the odd rounds, but they will select last in the even rounds. A snake draft is also referred to as a serpentine draft.
Third-round reversal (3RR)
This drafting style is starting to gain popularity to balance out the value of each draft slot. Statistically, the first slot in a snake draft has the most value. A third-round reversal counters this by inverting the order in the third round.
As an example, the first two rounds go in traditional snake order, from 1st through 12th and then 12th back to 1st. Rather than the 1st pick choosing again, the person in the 12th spot would pick to lead off the third round. From then on, it carries on as a traditional snake draft.
Two quarterback leagues require teams to start two quarterbacks every week. Superflex is similar because it allows the option to start a second QB, but it is not a requirement.
Common fantasy football scoring formats
While it is becoming hard to keep up with all of the new and innovative ways to play fantasy football, these terms are the most common scoring formats you are likely to come across.
Half-point PPR leagues award 0.5 points per reception and otherwise follow a standard scoring format.
PPR stands for a point per reception. This is a style of scoring where each reception an offensive player has counts for a fantasy point. The amount it can score is based on your league settings.
In standard scoring fantasy leagues, receptions do not count for additional points.
This is a fantasy term for a scoring format where tight ends receive additional points per reception to add value to the position given their traditional lack of volume. The points awards can vary based on league settings.
Rather than a flat rate in which all players accumulate points, a reception scores differently for each position to balance out volume across the positions. An example would be RBs receiving .75 per reception, WRs at 1 point, and TEs at 1.25 points.
General fantasy football terms
While not in individual categories, these are a collection of fantasy football terms that every manager needs to be familiar with.
A player who is referred to as a “boom-or-bust” has a wide variance of weekly scoring outcomes. While they could have exceptional weeks, there is also the likelihood of them severely underperforming.
A fantasy breakout is a term used in fantasy to describe a relatively well-known player but could be on the verge of elevating their value. Where sleepers can be lesser-known players, breakouts can be established players ready to go from a top-36 player to a top-24 player.
A bust is someone who is likely to underperform based on when they are selected during the fantasy draft.
When referring to a range of outcomes for a player, their “ceiling” is the upper end of the spectrum. It is the opposite of a player’s floor.
The commissioner is the person who runs the league. Their job is to set up the scoring, create any bylaws if needed, and maintain any issues the could pop up during the season. In addition, they are to act as fairly as possible, without bias, and ensure no collusion occurs.
Much like the name suggests, this term refers to a player’s ability to produce reliable results on a consistent basis.
A drop consists of “waiving” a player off your roster to the free-agent pool while adding or claiming a player to add to the owner’s roster.
A flex is a roster spot where you can start players from differing positional designations. Usually, this spot on your starting roster can start either a running back, a receiver, or a tight end.
The floor represents the lowest possible outcome that a fantasy owner could reasonably expect for a player. The floor is the opposite of the ceiling.
When a player is labeled as a “game-time decision,” a particular player is not guaranteed to play, and that his status will be evaluated closer to kickoff. This typically applies to players who are injured but were not ruled out earlier in the week.
The term handcuff refers to a player’s backup. Traditionally, this is used with running backs when you want to secure the next player in line for touches. As an example, Dalvin Cook is the leading running back on the Minnesota Vikings. His handcuff would be Alexander Mattison, as he would be the player to take over should Cook miss any time.
NFL teams are required to provide injury reports daily. These reports list player injuries and statuses for the upcoming games.
Mock drafts are a vital piece in fantasy football. These are drafts you can join with others or against the CPU and draft teams while working on different strategies without being stuck with said team.
A reach occurs when fantasy owners select a player well above their ADP or do not provide a great value compared to his fantasy production.
Fantasy sleepers are players who are generally being undervalued and typically can be found in the later rounds of drafts. They possess the potential to vastly outproduce their draft capital.
Stack/Stacking is a fantasy football term where the goal of a manager is to pair multiple players from the same team on their roster. The most common stack is a quarterback with at least one of his receivers. If the quarterback goes off, it’s likely his receivers will as well and vice versa.
This term is used when you choose to rotate players from week to week. Most commonly, it occurs with kickers or defenses. Rather than playing a single person/unit all season, you change them weekly to take advantage of advantageous matchups.
A taxi squad in fantasy football enables fantasy owners to hold on to the talent from rookie drafts on a roster. Typically, a player must have two or fewer years of NFL experience to be eligible. The taxi squad is essentially your fantasy version of an NFL practice squad.
Value-based drafting (VBD) is a strategy that assigns a value to every player by comparing that player’s fantasy points to the fantasy points of a baseline player at the same position.
The waiver wire is the pool of NFL players currently not on any of the league’s rosters. These players can be acquired each week to add talent, stream a position, or replace an injured player.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.