An introduction to the world of fantasy football

Matt Bolton

We are eight weeks into the NFL season, but more importantly, we are eight weeks into the fantasy football season. Let me start this column by saying I have played fantasy football for eight years. It makes NFL Sundays a weekly holiday, as every game becomes important as you scour the box scores online and flip channels trying to see how your league’s team is doing.      

For those of you who don’t know what fantasy football is, you’ve come to the right place.  Having played fantasy sports for eight years, I’ve experienced anguish, joy, bewilderment, sadness, happiness and many other emotions, resulting from fantasy football. Call me crazy, but I wouldn’t trade any of those moments in. Hopefully, this column will equip you with knowledge on the game I love. 

As with anything the base of a foundation is important and in fantasy football that is the league. There are many types of leagues, ranging from eight-team leagues all the way up to 16-team leagues. However, I prefer to play in a league with 10 teams. 

While there is an abundance of leagues you can join with random people, everybody needs to be in a league with friends. The league I am in with my friends is called “National Fantasy Football Association.”  

The anatomy of a good league is simple. You need the commissioner (my friend Bob), the voice of reason and someone who can organize well. You need the trash talker (that’s me), someone who adds excitement to the league and will never admit he drafted a poor team, even when he did…three years in a row. You need perennial contenders (my friends Bagz and Ant), so you can assure the league will be competitive. You need the wild cards (my friends Chris and Neville) who you never what to expect, which always makes for an exciting draft day and an interesting season. Then you need solid guys who know what they’re doing to round out a solid group of 10 league members (my friends Joe, Bert, Vin and Nick).

Fantasy football, like most things in life includes rules. The standard rules are that a roster consists of sixteen players with nine starters. 

Once your roster is assembled, you may wonder how you score points. For now I’ll be listing scoring for standard leagues. A touchdown is worth six points, except passing touchdowns, which are worth four. Running backs, wide receivers and tight ends gain one point per 10 yards. Defensively, you start off with 10 points and can increase that total through sacks, interceptions, and touchdowns. However, you can lose points based on how many yards and points your defense gives up. Kickers gain a point per extra point, three points for a field goal 39 yards or closer, four points for a field goal between 40 and 49 yards and five points for a field goal 50 yards and above.

You may still not be convinced. I respond to that by saying this the NFL season becomes more exciting. Sundays are spent watching multiple games and checking fantasy scoreboards. Mondays consist of nail-biting as the final game for the week is played. Every other day is spent reading/watching/listening to various news on football teams you used to not care about, but now desire every tidbit of information you can find on them because you have their star wide receiver. Bottom line, have you ever wished to take your love of football to a whole new level where you get to own your favorite players? I did, and it took me to fantasy football. 

As we continue with the middle third of the season, here are my Most Valuable Players so far. 

Demarco Murray has been nothing short of spectacular. He started the season with seven games of having at least 100 rushing yards, something he has never been done, and it is why if you were drafting tomorrow he’d be the most likely choice to go off the draft board first. With the issues many of the highly drafted running backs have experienced so far this season, Murray has provided certainty to fantasy football’s most unreliable position and rewarded those who drafted him. Next is Andrew Luck, who wasn’t drafted with the top three quarterbacks (Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees). 

While quarterback is deep in terms of the quality options available, if you have Luck on your squad you have the best player for his position, and you got him for a mid-round price compared to those who reached for the top tier quarterbacks in the early and in some cases first round. The last MVP I have is someone who is having a historic season at the tight end position: Julius Thomas. Jimmy Graham, the first tight end taken in this year’s draft who has been the star at the position for a few seasons, burst onto the fantasy football scene last year. Thomas leads all players with nine receiving touchdowns  and is on pace to break the NFL record, which was set by Randy Moss with his 23 touchdowns in 2007. That would be unbelievable, and even if he falls short, he seems set to continue as the top tight end in fantasy.

These are some of the guys who have been a hindrance to your lineup. Montee Ball leads the list, and unfortunately I am the proud owner of him in my main league. While inexperience was a concern, the added benefit of having who seemd to be the main running back on a Peyton Manning led team to Montee Ball being, on average, a second-round pick. After having an appendectomy in the preseason and injuring his groin in week five of this season Ball just hasn’t been able to stay on the field. When he has been on the field he hasn’t been good finding the end zone just once all year. 

Keenan Allen had a breakout rookie season in 2013 and many fantasy football players thought he would continue his trend upwards. Instead, while the Chargers offense has been one of the best in the league, Allen has been unable to get in on the fun. With no touchdowns and just one game of double digit fantasy points he has made those who drafted him in the fourth round wish they hadn’t. The last person that needs to be included in this section is Zac Stacy, who lies outside the top 40 running backs in fantasy, and it will only get worse. What we thought was the feature back of a run-heavy St. Louis Rams team has now appeared to lose his starting job and it appears owners will have to come to terms with the fact he will not bring back draft-day value or anything close. 

With an eye to the future I have two guys you should be trying to pick up if they’re on the waiver wire. Jerick McKinnon seems to have supplanted Matt Asiata as the Minnesota Vikings running back and with a baffling low ownership of 11.7 percent in ESPN leagues needs to be owned, preferably by you. McKinnon has been regarded as having some of the best measurable by any runner in the NFL and now it appears he will be able to display it.  

Ronnie Hillman is owned in only 11.9 percent of ESPN leagues and with Montee Ball’s struggles, I don’t understand why. He has played well in the two games he has started and if he continues to play well in Ball’s absence he may get rewarded with the starting role. That role in the Broncos high powered offense makes Hillman a must own.