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How To Play Fantasy Football

4 May 2022 • by Rival

How To Play Fantasy Football and Other Rival Games

by Erik C. Anderson

You’ve never played fantasy football like this.

Rival’s new and sleek fantasy football platform gives newbies and seasoned veterans alike all the tools they need to experience the most complete and exciting brand of fantasy football.

This article is going to teach you how to play fantasy football, from common league setup to more innovative new Rival exclusives like Challenges, Fantasybook and Fantasy Bingo.

Let’s break it down.

Fantasy football began in the 1960s. Weekly fantasy football at that point was a tedious process (think pen, paper, manual stat compilation — yikes). Thanks to those early efforts, we all can enjoy the game in much more convenient settings with fantasy management at our fingertips.

Since then, fantasy football has exploded in popularity. An estimated 59.3 million played some form of fantasy sports in 2017, with fantasy football the most popular offering, according to The Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association. The industry itself is worth an estimated $22 billion.

If baseball is America’s pastime, fantasy sports are our shameless addiction — and we spend big money on them.

Now, in the palm of your hand, you can draft an all-star team of talent, manage it every day in a few easy swipes and taps, and begin your ascension to fantasy domination.

What are you waiting for?

Standard Fantasy Football

For our purposes here, the term standard fantasy football will refer to the most popularly played formats and scoring options at most major fantasy providers.

In most standard leagues, teams are given nine starter slots. Most include one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a flex player (RB, WR, TE), a defense/special teams and a kicker. Additionally, you will have bench players, which become important in certain matchups and during bye weeks.

Your starters accumulate fantasy points based on their real-life production during NFL games. In standard scoring, any rushing or receiving touchdown will net your team 6 fantasy points. A passing touchdown thrown by your quarterback will score you 4. Every 10 yards of rushing and receiving your players accrue is typically worth 1 point, while every 25 yards thrown for by a quarterback is worth 1.

Field goals will scale in points based on the distance the kicker converts from. If your team’s defense/special team unit converts a touchdown, that’s 6 points.

Again, all of these scoring settings are subject to the whims of your fantasy commissioner. Check your settings!

Our advice: Start with standard settings and scoring. After you get into your fantasy flow, work with your commissioner (or better yet, become your league’s commissioner) and find the settings that you enjoy the most!

Now that you have a better idea of what a standard fantasy football league is, let’s talk logistics.


You found a group of nine buddies that want to play in a fantasy football league. Great! Now comes the time your fantasy football commissioner has some work to do.
Will your league be standard scoring? PPR? IDP?
How many players will start every week?
Are you playing for a shiny trophy, a belt a la WWE or some other lucrative prize?

And most importantly: What will the penalty be for the player that comes in last, and just how embarrassing will that tramp stamp be? (Kidding, mostly.)


The first and most important date before any fantasy football season is your draft date. Nobody wants to show up 20 minutes late, miss their top picks and play the what-if game for the rest of the season. Know your draft date. Be on time.

Better yet, show up early and start refining that smack talk. It’s a long season, folks.

The next important piece is knowing the type of draft you’re participating in. Most standard leagues will use a snake draft. This means that if you hold the No. 1 overall pick and the rights to select this year’s next fantasy stud, your next pick will be the final pick of the second round. The draft order reverses, or snakes, back and forth like this each round until every roster spot is filled for each league member.

Before the draft starts, the order is randomized, giving each member a fair shot of landing that sweet, sweet No. 1 overall pick. But if you don’t end up with the top pick, don’t be dismayed: Plenty of fantasy football championships have been won regardless of your draft position.

The clock starts to tick, and it’s almost your turn. Now’s the time to build your title contender!

When it is your turn to select a player, you’ll likely have at least a minute to scroll through the player database and find the perfect player for your squad. Do you take the best overall available player? Do you reach for a player with higher potential? Do you grab a running back since everybody is scooping them up too? The choice is yours.

A typical fantasy draft can last a few hours, so plan accordingly. It’s easy to have a high energy level with the first several rounds of a draft, but fantasy seasons can be won with finding valuable mid- and late-round picks. Stay vigilant!

Setting Your Lineup

You’ve completed your draft, and you’re feeling pretty good. Now comes the fun. 

At least once a week, and ideally closer to kickoff time, you will need to check your starting lineup. Did a player not practice leading up to the game and is doubtful for Sunday? Do you have a player being activated off of IR and starting on Sunday? Are any of your players on bye weeks? 

Playing in a fantasy football league will require you to check your lineup once per week at the bare minimum — unless you fancy yourself as more of a Taco from “The League.” In that case, you do you, pal.

Waiver Wire

A big part of how to play fantasy football, and play it well, is monitoring the waiver wire for hot free agents (no, not like Rihanna).

Players get hurt every week in the NFL. The violence and otherworldly strength and athleticism are what draw us to football. Unfortunately, it’s also a big reason some of our favorite players end up on the IR.

For fantasy managers, this means second- and third-string players can become starters in the blink of an eye. Any player with the opportunity to be a major part of a team’s production is a player you want to consider for your team.
Perusing the waiver wire will become a part of your weekly routine if you’re trying to gain every possible edge in your league.


By no means a requirement, but perhaps one of the most fun elements of fantasy sports: the trading block! Didn’t quite hit on the player you wanted in the draft? Trade for him! Thinking you can fleece your friends? Go tradin’! 

And that, by and large, is your quick guide on how to play fantasy football. 

Try One of Rival’s Fresh Takes on Fantasy

Looking for more short-term bang for your buck? Try one of Rival’s quick and easy fantasy games. 

Challenges gives you a one-on-one fantasy sports matchup, offering a simple alternative to league play. Make the right choice and start winning immediately. 

Or jump into Rival’s Fantasybook. Fantasybook gives players the chance to predict over-unders on players’ projected outputs. Have a good feeling Patrick Mahomes is going to generate 23 points or more? Hit up your Fantasybookie and rake it in! 

And finally, the Rival community can look to hit the jackpot by playing Fantasy Bingo. Put together your dream lineup and enter for a chance to win weekly prizes in Fantasy Bingo. 

Fantasy sports are a ton of fun and a great reason to bring new friends together or rekindle old relationships. Get started today on Rival

Erik C. Anderson is a fantasy football and basketball guru and freelance writer living in Montana. He’s previously written for The New York Times, USA Today, ESPN and many more. Business inquiries can be sent to [email protected].


Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association — Industry Demographics

Business Wire — Global Fantasy Sports Market Report