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How to Play Weekly Fantasy Football

Updated on December 8, 2012
Where do you turn for fantasy football excitement when your league's trophy is out of reach?
Where do you turn for fantasy football excitement when your league's trophy is out of reach? | Source

Despite the NFL’s recent problems with a bounty scandal, replacement officials, and ongoing concerns about concussions, it is still America’s most popular sport. Part of the reason is that the game translates so well to fantasy football, the game that puts you in the general manager’s seat, allowing you to set a lineup of players each week and score points based on how well your players do in their real-life games.

Fantasy football has become a booming side business for the NFL. Over 30 million people play each year, generating over $1 billion in revenues. Why is fantasy football so popular? Obviously, football die-hards relish the opportunity to put their knowledge of the game to the test, but the game is also a very social game, a fantastic way for you to keep in touch with friends and family. Fantasy football analyst Matthew Berry wrote a column explaining how he started a league where parents co-owned teams with their children, and it helped bring together his new extended family. You can invest as much or as little time into the game as you want, so it's great for football fanatics and casual fans. Plus, it’s a great diversion if your favorite team stinks this year. If it’s clear that your favorite real-life team is doing poorly, at least you can console yourself if your fantasy quarterback or running back is doing well.

Season-Long Fantasy Leagues Can Go South in a Hurry

Most fantasy football leagues start with a draft or auction where you compose a team of mostly offensive players. Each week, you try to set your optimal lineup and face off against an opponent in your league. The problem with this format is that once you draft your team you are stuck with it until December. Your whole season can be derailed by an untimely injury. You might have a certain player highly ranked on your fantasy football draft boards, only to watch him fail to deliver week after week. Your buddy might keep picking your favorite players one spot ahead of you in the draft, making a successful season just out of your grasp. The bottom line is that even the most dedicated fans need luck on their side, and it only takes three hours in August to ruin the next four months of your life.

Rekindle Your Interest in Fantasy Football with a Salary Cap League

As an alternative to season-long fantasy football games, I recommend weekly fantasy football, also known as salary cap fantasy football. You start out with a set amount of money to spend on your entire team, and you can allocate it however you want. The cost of each player fluctuates based on how well he is doing this season and how favorable his matchup is. Are you sad Bob in accounting took Ray Rice one pick before you, or your brother outbid you for Arian Foster? Well, you can have them both on your team every week if you want, or just pick them up when they’re playing the Browns and the Bengals. As long as you stay under your salary cap, you can play with any players you want. You set a new lineup every week, so you never have to worry about a season-ending injury wrecking your fantasy football team again. Best of all, even if you and your friends missed out on doing a draft together at the beginning of the year, you can start playing each other any week of the season.

You can play salary cap fantasy football for free in head-to-head leagues, or play against up to 10 different people. If you are more enterprising, you can work your way up from free fantasy football leagues to playing salary cap fantasy football for money. You can even enter tournaments against thousands of people for larger cash payouts. Because fantasy football is considered a game of skill in most states, unlike online poker, it is completely legal to play unless you live in Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, or Vermont.

There are plenty of fantasy football sites that offer free tournaments and cash games, and each one has different benefits. There are variances in style of game, salary cap, number of players per team, cost per player, and scoring. All you have to do is find the style you like, sign up for a free account, and start playing!

To me, the best fantasy football site is It is simple, but has plenty of options. I play in both large tournaments and in head-to-head matchups with my friends. You start with a $60,000 salary cap, and create a team with 1 quarterback, 2 running backs, 3 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 kicker, and 1 defense, a fairly traditional lineup. I like to pair a quarterback and wide receiver to double up my points if they have a good day, and skimp on kickers and defenses to save money for the skill positions. Click the link above to challenge me, Superman03, to a free match!

FanDuel starts you off with $60,000 to fill out a 9-man roster.
FanDuel starts you off with $60,000 to fill out a 9-man roster. | Source


Draft$ has more options for games, and more options for free contests. In some of the free games, you can earn “street creds,” which are redeemable in their online store. In addition to the traditional salary cap fantasy football, you can play pick’em fantasy football games or even hold another fantasy football draft. For the salary cap game, Draft$treet gives you $100,000 to fill out a team of 2 quarterbacks, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 2 flex positions (RB, WR, or TE), and 1 defense. This can be a little trickier than FanDuel, because the quarterbacks eat up a lot of your salary cap room, especially if you choose a high-ranking QB.

Draft$treet gives you $100,000 to set a 10-man roster.
Draft$treet gives you $100,000 to set a 10-man roster. | Source gives you a $1 million budget to roster 2 quarterbacks, 2 running backs, 2 wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 flex player, 1 kicker, and 1 defense. This site has fewer people on it right now, but that could be to your advantage. When there’s fewer players, your chances of cashing in a big tournament are better. In the screencap below, I am entering a free tournament that pays out $100 for first place.

FantasyFeud gives you a $1 million budget to draft 10 players.
FantasyFeud gives you a $1 million budget to draft 10 players. | Source
Some salary cap fantasy football tournaments can win you big money!
Some salary cap fantasy football tournaments can win you big money! | Source

Don’t Stop with Salary Cap Fantasy Football!

Each of these sites provides you a chance to turn your fantasy season around every week. And even better, when the fantasy football season is over, you can turn your attention to salary cap fantasy games in other sports, including NBA, MLB, PGA, NHL, NCAA basketball, and NCAA football. Even if you don’t know much about these other sports, it’s worth practicing in a few free tournaments just to see if you have a knack for it or if you enjoy playing. You can take the fun of free fantasy football games and expand it to daily fantasy sports throughout the year!


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    • mctrey profile image

      mctrey 5 years ago

      Geekdom, sounds like weekly fantasy football could be perfect for you! You can skip a week if you get busy, and you never have to worry about players who are injured or on bye. You can click the links above to check it out for free. I play as Superman03 if you want to challenge me!

    • Geekdom profile image

      Geekdom 5 years ago

      I tried to do fantasy football once but sadly I do not have the ability to focus long enough to keep my team updated. I think by the time I get half way through half my team is on the disabled list and I have not changed them out.