History of Fantasy Football

Fantasy football dates back to the 1960's with Wilfred Winkenbach, limited partner of the Oakland Raiders, and others in the industry. They started the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League) with its first draft in August of 1963. The league had eight members who drafted a roster of 20 professional athletes. The roster consisted of: 2 quarterbacks, 2 fullbacks, 4 halfbacks, 4 offensive ends, 2 linemen, 2 linebackers, 2 punt/kick returners, and 2 kickers. The roster has changed over the years, but the GOPPPL league still exists more than fifty years later. 

Modern Fantasy Football 

With the expansion of television broadcasting that covers fantasy football and platforms that offer free fantasy football leagues online, fantasy football has become immensely popular over the last decade. In 2006, the NFL entered into a $600 million deal with the telecommunications corporation Sprint that was moderately driven by fantasy sports. The deal allowed fans to draft fantasy football teams on their cellphones with the ability to later monitor their team on the go. Among growing success in the fantasy football market, a television sitcom entitled The League began in 2009. The sitcom is situated around six friends who play in a fantasy football league and will do anything to win. Modern fantasy football has truly reached mainstream status.


Fantasy football leagues have a league commissioner. The commissioner is generally well-experienced in fantasy football. The commissioner establishes the league, sets the rules, invites coaches, and schedules the draft. Commissioners resolve disputes that may arise during the season. Some leagues allow co-commissioners to both aid in conducting the league. Which one of you will be the next commissioner? 

League Sizes

League sizes typically range from eight teams up to sixteen teams. The most common leagues have ten or twelve teams. In smaller sized leagues, it is common for leagues to draft more players and have extended team rosters.

Team Roster

Leagues set a required roster of positions that each team must fulfill for weekly match ups. In many leagues, an invalid roster will eliminate you from competing for the week. Teams must select which players will be starters and who will sit on the bench. Starters are awarded points towards their team's total score for the week. Players on the bench do not earn points towards their team's total score for the week. 

In the example roster below, your team would have ten starters each week and one additional bench slot for players you want to keep, but will not start this week. Players from any position can be kept on the bench slot, but the points the player scores for the week will not be applied to your team's score total. Some leagues use a flex position. The flex position can usually be filled by a running back, wide receiver, tight end, or in some cases even a second quarterback.


Fantasy Draft

Fantasy drafts are normally held between the NFL preseason and the NFL Kickoff game. During this time, fantasy leagues get together, locally or online, to draft players for their teams. Team owners are able to select players for their team in a systematic pattern. Snake drafts are very common, followed by auction drafts. After the fantasy draft, team owners can set their rosters for week one and even make trades with other team owners.

In a snake draft, the team owner with the #1 overall pick selects the player first, then the team owner with the #2 overall pick selects a player, and so on. Once all team owners have drafted their first player, the draft order for the second round goes in reverse. 

Auction drafts allow team owners to bid on players during the fantasy draft. These leagues have a cap limit on the amount owners can spend during the draft (commonly 200-units). In a 200-unit auction draft, some owners may spend half their budget on a quality running back or quarterback, limiting their funds for the rest of their team. In such a draft, all team owners have the opportunity to draft every player in the NFL.

League Scoring

There are numerous variations for scoring fantasy football leagues. Scoring is awarded for passing, rushing, receiving, kicking, punting, and other miscellaneous occurrences during NFL games. Standard scoring is the most common. There are also point-per-reception (PPR) leagues that provide additional points for receptions to wide receivers, tight ends, and when a running back catches the ball. Years before computers were widely available to calculate complicated scoring systems, many leagues used a touchdown-only scoring system. Teams would earn points only when one of their players made a touchdown. This was the scoring system used in the GOPPPL league discussed above and is still in use today. View the league scoring section of The Gauntlet for a better understanding of a modern league scoring system.

League Types:

Head-to-Head (H2H)
This is the most commonly used format for fantasy football. In a head-to-head league, your team competes against one other team each week. One team will receive a win, while the other team receives a loss. Occasionally, teams may end the week in a tie.

Daily (daily fantasy sports)
Daily fantasy sports have become increasingly popular in the past few years. These leagues allow team owners to draft a new team each week. Some daily leagues only use players who play on Sunday, while other daily leagues will allow player selections from Thursday, Sunday, and Monday football games. At the end of the week, your players are gone and you can start over again the following week with a new team of players. 

In 2-QB leagues, teams are required to start two quarterbacks each week. This style of league becomes increasingly difficult as the number of teams in the league increases because there is a limited number of fantasy-relevant quarterbacks who start in NFL games.

Dynasty leagues most closely represent and actual NFL team. Team owners keep all or majority of their team from year to year. During the offseason, team owners have a rookie-draft to select players from the NFL draft to be on their fantasy teams, generally for the player's entire career.

Individual Defensive Players (IDP)
In IDP leagues, teams select defensive players in addition to offensive players. These leagues are less common and involve a well-rounded understanding of both offensive and defensive players.

Keeper leagues allow team owners to "keep" a select number of players for the following season. Some leagues have a limit on the number of years the player can be kept. Other leagues have a draft round penalty for keepers. For example, a player drafted in the seventh round this year may be kept in place of your fifth round draft pick next season due to a two-round draft pick penalty for keepers.


Most fantasy football leagues are divided into multiple divisions. It is common to compete against your division rivals twice during the regular season, while competing against non-division rivals only once during the season. Divisions are used for advancement to the fantasy playoffs.

Season Schedule

The season schedule usually last from week one of the NFL season to week thirteen. During the thirteen week season, your team will compete against other teams in the league. Upon reaching week fourteen of the NFL season, most leagues have a fantasy playoff.

Fantasy Playoffs

Fantasy playoffs are usually during week fourteen and week sixteen of the NFL season. During the playoffs, teams will match up and be eliminated upon losing. Culminating on week sixteen, two teams battle to obtain the championship title. Some leagues have their championship game on week seventeen, but many NFL players don't play that week due to the start of the NFL playoffs in week 18.

Trading Players

Have too many running backs and need an extra wide receiver? Time to hit the trading boards to see if another team will work out a deal. Trading players occurs in most fantasy football leagues. When a trade is processed, other team owners have the opportunity to veto the trade if they feel the trade is unfair (collusion). Some leagues allow team owners to trade draft picks for future fantasy drafts as well. Be sure to get your trades in before playoffs because most leagues have a trade deadline.

Add/Drop Players

Throughout the week, team owners can add or drop players from their roster just like an NFL team. When an athlete gets injured or isn't performing up to par, you can cut the the player from your roster and add a free agent. Players who are dropped from a team's roster are sent to the waiver wire for a day or two.

Waiver Wire

The waiver wire is a priority system used for adding free agents. Players are added to the waiver wire following the fantasy draft, when the player is dropped, and during the week of play. On the Tuesday or Wednesday after Monday night football games, waivers are usually processed. If a team owner is interested in acquiring a player from the waiver wire, they can place a claim to the waiver system. The team owner with the highest waiver priority will add their first choice athlete and drop a player they no longer wish to keep on the roster. The process continues until all waivers are processed. 

You can win too! 

Most importantly, stay involved during the season and you will have a chance to win. Stay informed on injuries and player news around the league. If your team starts off the season poorly, you can always hit the waiver wire to add a few new players to your roster. Also, send out trades to other team owners to improve your team overall. You never know who might be on your roster in a few weeks.