If you've heard people around the office talking about drafting their own football teams and going head-to-head with other teams, and hoping to make it to the championships, they're most likely talking about virtual teams, not real ones. Fantasy football is an online competition played by fans of football throughout the regular football season. Participants can draft their own football team, composed of virtual versions of actual pro football players, and then compete against other teams drafted by other participants. Winners of individual games are determined by the points accumulated by the actual players during their real-life performances in games on the same day.
A fantasy football league is traditionally made up of 8, 10, 12, 14, or 16 virtual teams, each of which is drafted and then operated by a different participant. Each team owner takes turns picking players for the draft until all the predetermined slots in the roster are filled up. Team owners must choose a starting lineup for beginning every game, designate replacement players, and make trades if they want to. At the end of the season, which usually corresponds to the final weeks of the actual NFL's regular season, there is a playoff tournament held to determine who the champion of the league is.
Although the specific number of players on a team in fantasy football varies according to the league, each team usually includes at least three running backs, two quarterbacks, two tights ends, three wide receivers, two defensive units, and one kicker. Every week, each owner creates a starting lineup by considering players' injuries, players on bye weeks, and match-ups. Any changes to the lineup must be made before the beginning of each game those players are involved in. If an owner doesn't make adjustments in the starting lineup, the lineup will stay the same from week to week. The number of players on the lineup is variable, but one of the most commonly used setups is to have one quarterback, two wide receivers, two running backs, one tight end, one defensive unit, and one kicker.
Scoring varies from league to league, but in most games, a touchdown scores six points, just as in real-life football. If the touchdown results from a pass, the quarterback gets six points. Field goals get three points for the kicker, but some leagues award more points for longer field goals. Usually, any kick longer than 40 yards gains four points, and more than 50 yards gets five points. Kickers also are awarded a point for extra points following touchdowns, and any player that scores on a two-point conversion gets two points. Offensive players can also be awarded points based on passing, receiving, and rushing yardage, but they can lose points by fumbling the ball or throwing an interception.
Teams can trade players, as long as they do so before a trading deadline, which is determined in advance. In most leagues, owners can protest lopsided trades that might favor one team, in order to prevent owners from ganging up to build a super team. Any player can be classified as a free agent, to be signed by a team on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, if adding a player puts a team higher than the limit of the roster, then the owner must release a player from his roster. Any player who is released must be put on a waiver for three or four days, and during that time, he may be claimed by another team in the league. If more than one team claims him during the waiver period, the team ranked lowest in the standings when the claim was made is awarded that player.
In the final two or three weeks of the real-life NFL season, a playoff tournament is held for Fantasy Football teams. Scoring is figured exactly like it is during the regular season, with the winner moving forward to the next round, while the loser is eliminated. When the playoff field is eventually narrowed to only two teams, the league championship is held, and the winner is crowned as league champion.
Before the Internet became ingrained into our everyday life, football fans who dreamed of being personally involved in the game were relegated to watching games on television and imagining what it would be like to own a team and manage it. Now, with Fantasy Football, fans can be virtual team owners in direct control of their team.