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NFL Fantasy 101: All you need to know about the draft

Thank you for signing up for another edition of Fantasy 101. Today we are going to cover the draft. Which is typically the best part of your fantasy experience. You get together with friends. Some years it can be a destination experience where your whole league travels to places like Las Vegas or New Orleans like the real NFL Draft. You can have it in somebody's backyard. Or even in Zoom meetings. Regardless, this a great chance to connect with your league and have some fun.


This, though, can be the most excruciating part of the draft. Figuring out a time when it works for everyone. It starts with a text chain and typically ends with longtime friends not speaking to each other. Just kidding. Barely. But the basic rule of thumb is to have your draft as close to the start of the regular season as possible. In most normal years, the third weekend of the preseason because that is the final week the starters play. This year is a little different. But we want to schedule the draft as close to the start of the season so you can be as up-to-date as possible. Most position battles will have hopefully been settled (I mean we are all watching this Bears quarterback situation, right?). You'll get a chance to see new players in new places. You want to have as much information as possible, so wait as long as possible.

And hope your friends can mend fences at the draft.


There are many schools of thought here. The NFL Fantasy App (download here) will randomize your draft order for you. This is good because if anybody gets too heated about getting the ninth pick in the draft (which is the worst), you can blame the app.

But if you want to be more creative, that works, too.

Some leagues will determine draft order by Madden tournaments. Go-kart racing. Push-up contest. Punt, Pass and Kick. I have a league with a bunch of my mates in the UK and we did the 100-yard dash. Although I dispute my time because I was delayed by the Zoom broadcast.

If your league has been around for while, you can take a nod from the NFL and base your draft order on the previous year's finish, as the team with the worst record gets the top pick in the draft. There are many different ways to make this happen, don't get too hung up on it.


Your fantasy draft will be very similar to the NFL Draft. But where the NFL Draft has an order that repeats with one team drafting first in every round; most fantasy leagues use a "snake draft" order. What that means is the last team to pick in the first round, gets the first pick in the second round. For instance, if you have a 12-team league and you draft 12th, you get the first pick in Round 2. Then you pick 12th in the third round. First in Round 4. And so on.

There is also a time limit for your picks. Otherwise your draft would last forever. And while the draft is a lot of fun, you have to go home at some point. Most leagues use anywhere from 30 to 90 seconds per pick. Although that UK league I was talking about earlier one time had a 5-minute time limit between picks. Fun if you're in Liverpool drinking Bushmills. Less fun if you were sitting in a coffee shop in Manhattan. If you don't pick a player in time, the NFL Fantasy App will auto-pick the highest-ranking player on the draft board. 


There is no official way to set up a league. But standard leagues include a quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, a tight end, a flex (running back or receiver), a team defense and a kicker. Your job is to draft a starting lineup. And a number of bench spots determined by the commissioner. (Of course, there will likely be more bench spots for this season.)

There is no rule to what position to draft first. But since this is your first time playing, I would suggest drafting two running backs to start your draft. You can use the rankings as a guide or again, let the app auto-pick for you if you're not sure. You don't always want to auto-pick. But you're new. We will allow it.

Here is a basic rule of thumb I always like to go by that might come in handy for you. Draft good players. How can you lose now? If you have some player-specific questions, hit me up on Twitter or IG and I will try to help you as much as possible.

Good luck!

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