Daily Fantasy Football 101 – How To Play
Why is daily fantasy football the fastest-growing gaming area for NFL fans and lovers? It’s because it’s a game that offers its participants a chance to match their wits and player knowledge on a daily and weekly basis while at the same time, keeping close tabs on their favorite game. When playing fantasy football, each week’s lineup of games is an ongoing action fest where a single big play often spells victory or defeat. And in fantasy sports, that big play can come from anywhere, all weekend long.
Daily (or 1-day) fantasy football leagues are a variation of traditional fantasy football and other fantasy sports that have exploded in popularity in recent years, and due to the nature of the games themselves, are fully legal for wagering in a vast majority of US states.
Traditional fantasy football leagues, the precursor to DFF, feature rosters that are more or less locked in for a full season, excepting substitution, waiver or injury. They’ve been growing in popularity since the early ‘90s, when fantasy football first enjoyed mainstream recognition and growth. By the early 2000’s,
it was clear that millions of people were participating in their own leagues, most often for real money.
Legal Obstacles Removed
But the question remained: Was it legal? The answer turned out to be yes. Fantasy sports of all types
have achieved recognition and legal protection as a game of skill, unlike other forms of gambling. While
there are similarities to more traditional forms of sportsbetting (which is widely illegal), there are
significant differences as well:
1) Fantasy football teams are built from roster of players from many NFL teams, and are not
dependent on the whims of a given team. Therefore, there’s no betting on an NFL team, as in
2) Fantasy football teams and leagues employ scoring systems entirely different from that used in
actual football games. While touchdowns, for example, usually count for fantasy football points,
overall fantasy-football success is not connected to the score of any given football game;
3) Fantasy football is based solely on statistical performance, and it’s relative valuations of players
are unlike those used in the real-life NFL, even if the game is derived from the performances of
That led to the legal framework built into the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which
created the specific legal protections that allowed for the advent of daily fantasy football.
The UIGEA was created by the US Congress as a tool to stop traditional sports betting and other forms
of gambling on unregulated, offshore sites, by crimping the flow of money through online, electronic
payment channels to and from US-based players. However, the UIGEA in being implemented contained
a specific exemption for fantasy sports that allowed those traditional leagues to operate.
But wait: If season-long fantasy sports leagues were legal, why couldn’t the same thing be done on
a week-to-week or day-to basis? And wouldn’t such weekly or daily leagues add even more fun and
action to the games, by continually allowing fantasy players to create new leagues and lineups?
Of course it would. Daily fantasy sports sites began arriving as early as 2007, and the largest such sites
now have hundreds of thousands of players. Most of the sites are incorporated right here in the United
States, and both the sites and the players themselves are fully protected by US laws. Only a few US
states bar fantasy-sports participation.
Even the deposit and withdrawal framework has been streamlined to make participation in online daily
fantasy football and other sports a breeze. (Some credit-card companies have been slow to implement
special codes that create exceptions for fantasy sports, as opposed to more traditional forms of what
some consider “gambling,” but most major credit cards and online services such as PayPal and Dwolla
are now widely accepted.
Understanding the Game
Daily fantasy football is as much a game of matchups as it selecting skillful and numbers-producing
players, but above all, understanding the scoring rules is a must for beginning players.
For instance, at DraftKings, one of the largest of all fantasy-football sites, contest participants have a
virtual $50,000 balance to spend on a nine-player roster, which is built from real-life NFL players and
positions as follows:
• Running Back #1
• Running Back #2
• Wide Receiver #1
• Wide Receiver #2
• Tight End
• “Flex” player – one more from wide receiver / tight end / running back
• Defense / special teams (a cumulative stat for players from a given team in certain categories)
As one can see, there’s a heavy emphasis on the offensive skill positions, because that’s where the
game’s major statistics are generated, and that’s where the greatest player name recognition and
Other sites and other leagues may use a different combination of positions, but the above is a fairly
standard distribution. Now, for each week’s games, a player earns points based on how his lineup
performs in certain statistical categories. Continuing with the DraftKings example, here’s how points are
awarded for the offensive positions (QB, RB, WR, TE):
• Passing TD = +4PTs
• 25 Passing Yards = +1PT (+0.04PT/ per yard is awarded)
• 300+ Yard Passing Game = +3PTs
• Interception = -1PT
• 10 Rushing Yards = +1PT (+0.1PT per yard is awarded)
• Rushing TD = +6PTs
• 100+ Yard Rushing Game = +3PTs
• 10 Receiving Yards = +1PT (+0.1PT per yard is awarded)
• Reception = +1PT
• Receiving TD = +6PTs
• 100+ Yard Receiving Game = +3PTs
• Punt/Kickoff Return for TD = +6PTs
• Fumble Lost = -1PT
• 2 Point Conversion (Pass, Run, or Catch) = +2PTs
(Source: DraftKings NFL scoring rules)
Not all of the scoring rules apply to all positions; for instance, interceptions are only a minus for
quarterbacks. The defense/special teams group uses another set of scoring rules.
That’s really all there is to the game. However your players perform across the contest’s scoring
categories determines the winner(s), whether it’s a head-to-head matchup or a large tournament-style
event with big payouts to the very best lineup selectors.