Fantasy Sports Types
There are different types of fantasy sports, but the main two are daily fantasy and seasonal fantasy. Daily fantasy sports begin and end much quicker than standard/seasonal fantasy. For sports like basketball, it all begins and ends in one day, whereas for football, it can go Thursday through Monday night due to how the NFL sets up its week-to-week schedule.
Daily Fantasy Sports
In daily fantasy sports, you draft your team within the specified time slot of the website/app you are using and then track the stats throughout the day. Each player you draft will earn you points, and whoever's team finishes with the highest point total wins.
Most of the time, with daily fantasy, the draft is typically determined by a salary cap. Meaning you can't just pick all the number one guys for each position.
Standard Fantasy Sports
For seasonal/standard, things operate a little differently. For starters, one draft is typically done as a standard draft against a league of other players. So, hypothetically, if you made a fantasy football league with nine other friends, so there are ten people in the league, the league commissioner would set up a date and time for the draft to take place. Then, the draft would commence at that set date and time, and each person would alternate drafting a player of their choice until each team had filled out their roster.
That drafted roster would be the team that each player has to keep for the remainder of the season. In most leagues, you could trade with other league members or drop players and pick up someone new in a free agency pool, but the teams are set for the season for the most part.
Each day/week, in correspondence with the different sports schedules, your team will play against another team, and at the end of each season, the team with the best record wins. Or, if your league has a playoff, the winner of the playoffs is the overall winner.
Fantasy football is far and away the most popular fantasy sport to play, with 4 of 5 fantasy players playing fantasy football. The seasonal style of fantasy sports is most prevalent with football. It has the fewest games and an easy-to-follow scheduling format. You just have to make sure your lineup is set before the game on Thursday night or before the games start on Sunday if you don't have anyone playing in the Thursday night game.
A standard fantasy football seasonal roster contains nine starters and seven bench players. A quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker, a defensive unit, and a flex position which can be either an additional running back or wide receiver.
When drafting your team for seasonal or daily, there are several things you need to consider if you want to have success. The first of which is how do I want to approach the draft? There are multiple different ways to do so. The most common is to draft the best player available at a position of need. Have an open running back spot in the fourth round? Draft the highest-rated running back you can.
While this strategy is popular, that doesn't make it good as there are a number of things that will affect a player's performance. For example, let's say you are looking to draft a running back with one of your top 3 picks. This means you are looking for one of the top guys who will be a focal point for your team. First of all, what kind of running back is he? Is he a three-down back? A powerful bruiser? Can he operate as a receiver out of the backfield? Next, what kind of offense does he play in? Does his team focus more on passing or running the ball? How good is his offensive line? What kind of defenses will he be facing within his division?
The same can be said when looking to draft a wide receiver. Is there another receiver or tight end on the team that is the primary pass-catcher? How many red-zone targets does this receiver get? How many targets a game does he get? Is he a jump ball receiver? A route runner? A deep ball receiver? How good is his quarterback? How good is the offensive line? What kind of offensive scheme does this team run?
These questions can be answered by doing a lot of research. There are tons of fantasy research sites you can use like 4for4, pro football focus, fantasy pros, and for basic statistics, you can use NFL.com and Pro football reference.
The Talent Pool
Another thing to consider is the pool of talent to choose from. In today's game, there is a ton of depth at quarterback for fantasy, which means you don't need to jump the gun to draft a quarterback. While you may want to draft a Patrick Mahomes or an Aaron Rodgers, you don't need to spend a super early pick on these guys because later on in the draft, you can still get a Matthew Stafford or a Kyler Murray level quarterback. This means you can focus on adding depth at other positions first.
The main position to target early is running back. There are fewer top-level guys at the running back position in today's game that will operate as one of if not the focal point of the offense. Look to get a top-tier three-down back in the early rounds, and depending on your draft position, look to even draft two running backs with your first two picks. You will also want to draft a running back that is also known for catching passes out of the backfield. This is especially important if you play in a PPR (Points per reception) league.
Or another possible draft strategy is to draft a top-tier wide receiver and draft his quarterback later on so as to establish a feed loop. For example, if you draft Davante Adams and Aaron Rodgers every time Adams catches a pass from Rodgers, you get points for both players. This is even more effective if the red zone as both receive points for touchdowns.
Fantasy baseball is the second most popular fantasy sport. Like football, it can be played in a daily format or in a seasonal league format. As with other fantasy sports, you draft your team and are scored based on the performance of your chosen players.
There are five different ways that fantasy baseball games are scored. Roto/rotisserie, Head-to-Head Points, Head-to-Head Each Category, Head-to-Head Most Categories, and Season Points.
Roro/rotisserie compares the total seasonal points in each category for each team. Meaning in a ten-team league, the team that hit the most home runs gets 10 points. Second place gets nine, and so on and so forth. Once all categories are counted up, and the points are given out, the highest-scoring team wins.
Head to Head
Head to Head is the most common form of fantasy baseball scoring. Teams are pit against each other in weekly head-to-head matchups. The team with the most points by the end of the week wins. The season is typically divided into 25 weeks of head-to-head matchups. For ESPN, one of the most popular fantasy baseball websites, the categories are:
- Batting: Total Bases (TB): 1, Runs Batted In (RBI): 1, Runs scored (R): 1, Stolen Bases (SB): 1, Walks (BB): 1, Strikeouts (K): minus-1
- Pitching: Innings Pitched (IP): 3, Wins (W): 5, Losses (L): minus-5, Saves (SV): 5, Earned Runs (ER): minus-2, Hits allowed (H): minus-1, Strikeouts (K): 1, Walks issued (BB): minus-1.
Head to Head Points
Head to Head is a mixture of the previous two. Teams amass wins by having a greater number in each of a select group of statistical categories. For example, the team that hits more home runs would win that category and score a point, the team with the lower ERA would score a point, etc. This would be done for each weekly matchup.
Head to Head Most
Head to Head Most categories simply grant the victory to the player whose team won the most categories. Meaning if a player won six of the ten categories, they win the matchup. This is done in a weekly format.
Season points is simply whichever team accumulated the most points over the course of the season wins it all.
When drafting for fantasy baseball don’t take super risky picks with your top five to six draft picks. Avoid injury prone players. It is a long season, don’t be afraid to play it safe. Look to draft at least two high-end starting pitchers in the first few rounds and two middle to high-level relievers later on.
Fantasy basketball also has both a seasonal and a daily way to play, however for basketball, daily is the more common and popular option. When looking to play fantasy basketball, there is one thing to consider above all others when you are preparing for a draft, and that is USAGE RATE.
Usage rate is defined as "what percentage of team plays a player was involved in while he was on the floor, provided that the play ends in one of the three true results: field-goal attempt, free-throw attempt, or turnover."
Unlike football, basketball has a much larger leaning on the individual rather than the team. So early in the draft cycle or when you are selecting players for daily fantasy, look to draft the top-end talent, but as the draft goes on, if you are playing seasonal or where the cap stops you from making a super team, look to draft players with higher usage rates. The higher the usage rate, the higher chance they get you points.
Another thing to consider, especially when playing daily, is player matchups, experience, and play style, which all feed into each other. Let's say you are stuck between drafting CJ McCollum and Bradley Beal. Both are guards with high usage rates, and both are going to be playing a team known for defense. Which do you choose? There are several components that will go into your choice.
The first is who will be the primary defender that will be guarding them? While the team they are playing might have a high defensive rating overall, that doesn't mean they have an elite defender at every position. The guy guarding Beal or McCollum might not be the best 1v1 defender, and this is a mismatch that could be exploited, leading to Beal or McCollum having a big game. So what you will want to do is look into the expected matchups.
Now let's say both are going to be guarded by a higher-end defender for the matchup. How well does Beal adjust to better defenders vs. McCollum? This is something that can typically be attributed to experience in the league and just by considering their +/- rating against other high-level defenders. This also takes into account their playstyles. Does one rely too much on three-point shooting? Can one not shoot very well? All of these things can be researched as well.
Both the NBA website as well as ESPN carry many good stats, but you can also look at Pro basketball reference, FivetimesFive, FantasyPros, and fantasy Alarm for stats and other player updates.
Legality of Fantasy Sports Betting
Daily Fantasy sports as a form of gambling is legal across the United States and Canada on a federal level. However, it is up to the states themselves to regulate. Some states like Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, and Washington have disallowed daily fantasy sports betting.
Some states like Texas and Missouri allow certain daily fantasy betting sites but not others. For example, Texas allows DraftKings and Yahoo daily sports betting but doesn't allow FanDuel. In contrast, Missouri allows DraftKings and Fanduel but not Yahoo.
Before starting with daily fantasy sports betting, look up your state's fantasy sports betting laws and regulations.
Best Sportsbooks and Payouts
The two titans of the daily fantasy scene are FanDuel and DraftKings. FanDuel has around 14 million users, and DraftKings averages around 1-2 million. Both websites are constantly doing promotions and are an excellent place to start as they are easy to use.