Knowledge is power and allows us to make informed decisions. Whether you are just getting started in fantasy football or a seasoned vet, recognizing and understanding each fantasy football term is essential to your success.
The fantasy football terms below can be used as a great quick reference and include definitions of some of the most common fantasy football terminology and are organized by categories to make it simpler to absorb.
What is Fantasy Football?
Fantasy football is a statistics-based game in which players compete against one other by drafting and managing players from NFL teams. Participants select their team before the start of the season and compete with the fantasy teams built by others. Individual game winners are determined by statistics accumulated by NFL players based on their real-life performance adapted into your league’s scoring system.
“It’s never too early to draft a fantasy league”
— Sleeper (@SleeperHQ) April 11, 2020
Fantasy Football League Types
Fantasy leagues typically consist of eight, ten, 12, 14, or 16 fantasy teams, each drafted and managed by a different participant. Each league generally begins with teams selecting all their players in a serpentine (snake) or an auction-style draft.
Every team plays each other from week to week. In a 12-team league, the highest-scoring team would be 11-0, the second-highest would be 10-1, etc.
In auction draft leagues, owners inherit a predetermined amount of money to bid on players to fill their rosters. Each owner 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.
Old school leagues that only count touchdowns, field goals, and extra points in their scoring system.
Best Ball leagues are where there are zero weekly head-to-head matchups between fantasy owners’ teams. 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.
Bonus scoring leagues have a customized scoring system that rewards players for obtaining specific statistical benchmarks. For example, receiving extra points for a running back hitting 100 yards rushing in a game.
Any configuration that does not use one of the standard scoring systems. Leagues that implement custom scoring might integrate bonus scoring, adjusted quarterback scoring, TD-only leagues, or many other derivations. For example, passing touchdowns are often changed in leagues to six points from the standard four.
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 his past performance and projected stats.
Devy leagues are formats that allow fantasy owners to add football players while they are still in college who they anticipate will transition to the NFL in the future. Once drafted, a devy player remains owned by that team until they enter the NFL.
Dynasty leagues are where the serious fantasy football players go to play. They 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 football 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 and is not paid 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.
Half-PPR/ Full-Point PPR
Half-point PPR leagues award 0.5 points per reception and otherwise follow a standard scoring format. Full-point PPR leagues, on the other hand, award one full point per reception.
Head-to-Head leagues are the most common league format. A team/owner matches up against a different team/owner each week. The team receiving the most points that specific week is awarded the win while the other side is given a loss.
Individual Defensive Player (IDP)
Individual Defensive Player (IDP) leagues utilize defensive players on an individual basis rather than a defensive unit. The players tracked and drafted are defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. Stats include tackles, sacks, interceptions, fumbles, and touchdowns.
Keeper is a league that is a sort of combination between standard draft and dynasty league. Each preseason, most of the players are drafted. However, owners are allowed to keep a predetermined number of players on their roster from the previous season.
Performance scoring leagues involve all alternatives to touchdown-only based scoring systems. This type of league includes rewarding achievements for yardage and catches. The vast majority of fantasy football leagues utilize some kind of performance scoring.
A private league is where the Commissioner can control who is allowed to play by using a password. The alternative to this is a public league, which is a league that you join, and anyone can get into and participate. Private is the preferred method.
The most common fantasy football league which spans one season and no players carry over from one year to the next.
Standard leagues are the dinosaur of fantasy leagues. There are two types of standard leagues: head-to-head and total points. These leagues typically do not award points per reception. The league scoring system assigns one point per ten rushing/receiving yards and six points per rushing/receiving/return touchdown. Passing scoring systems vary, typically one point per 20 or 25 passing yards, four or six points per passing touchdown.
Total points league does NOT track wins and losses; instead, teams accumulate points on an ongoing basis with standings determined by the team’s total points. The teams that build the highest total points at the end of the regular season advance to the playoffs.
This type of format is going retro. The only stat that matters are touchdowns.
Two quarterback leagues require teams to start two quarterbacks on a weekly basis. Superflex is similar in nature in that it allows the option to start a second QB, but it is not a requirement. Both formats are growing in popularity from year to year.