Fantasy Football 101: A Guide To The Basics Of An American Pastime

fantasy football redraft vs draft leagues

In this three-part series, I’ll be covering the three main factors to consider when starting or choosing a Fantasy League (League type, Draft type, League settings). First, let’s take a look at the various types of fantasy football league types.

Part I: league types

Whether you’re new to fantasy football of you’ve been playing for twenty years, league formatting and draft type are the core foundation for a league.

The type of league you’re in determines how you value your players, the kinds of players you want in the draft, and how you plan out your roster construction. A draft type will force you to make adjustments to that draft construction plan.

If everyone in your league is having a good time and no one is complaining, that’s fine. Ignorance is bliss in fantasy, as long as you’re enjoying your league. However, there are few leagues where everything is blissful. If everything is good and everyone’s quiet, odds are, it’s probably a non-competitive league. If not, it’s most likely a very young league or a “White Dwarf” league (a dying star league).

For most leagues, there tends to be an evolution of sorts. In the early stages of a competitive league, you’ll have excitement, followed by a few people chiming-in with complaints about league format. After a few seasons of format tinkers, the league then gets a little adventurous and typically one or more individuals will bring up the question, “Should we start having keepers?

It’s innocent in its intent, but usually, it’s the person coming off a season with elite talent on their team. What happens next will almost certainly be a lopsided vote in favor of keeping it a Re-Draft league, because nobody is going to want to completely reset a League type. Draft strategies would have to change. People would have to re-evaluate how they go about ranking players. It’s a mess of a suggestion and you’ll end up with a rocky transition. It’s the kind of stuff that kills leagues.

The example I gave is one I’ve experienced multiple times. The remedy is simple. You have to start a new league and decide on this stuff before the league begins. Making a transition with draft types is fine, but attempting to transition a League type almost never works without splitting apart the league. With that being said, let’s go over the two primary league types.

Redraft vs Dynasty

Let’s break down the two main league types and the differences between them.

Redraft league formats

Re-Draft Leagues are the industry standard, so to speak. It’s the standard format for people who play fantasy football and the best format for casual players and leagues. From what I’ve seen over 22 years of playing fantasy football, re-draft leagues are the most popular because every season is a new slate.

As far as advantages go, there aren’t any underlying advantages players have in this format. Because each season is a new slate, it’s not really important to monitor fantasy news in the offseason. You can get up to speed on offseason moves, rookies, new offensive coaches, and offensive schemes in the days leading up to your draft.

For a high percentage of people who play fantasy, they enjoy it as a casual, seasonal hobby. It’s like picking an NCAA Tournament bracket or doing squares for the Super Bowl. For many, they enjoy the format and return to it each year without much interest of doing anything else. There’s nothing wrong with a re-draft league, but for those select few who want more involvement and have a long-running league of passionate league members, there are other options to explore.

Dynasty league formats

If you’re a follower of fantasy football in social media platforms, you’ve probably heard of dynasty leagues. If you’re new, don’t be intimidated. It’s not that complicated.

I’m not going into “keepers” here, because Keeper leagues have taken a nosedive in favor of Dynasty formats over the past few years, but the idea is the same. In old keeper formats, a team would typically be permitted to keep two players at the end of each season by forfeiting their top two picks in the draft.

Dynasty is a completely traditional approach more similar to running an actual franchise than most fancy in re-draft leagues. In Dynasty format, you’ll draft an entire team, just as you would in a standard league. The difference is, you’re planning for the future. Elite, young players will shift towards the front of draft boards, while older players move back. It’s quite simple to understand the shift, but re-shuffling the players can be hazy.

There’s plenty of rankings out there to help you in a dynasty format, but the advantage you can have in a dynasty format is in both the long-term foresight and the trading aspect. The great thing about dynasty league is there are multiple strategies you can employ.

For example, if the first four or five picks are receivers and backs, take Pat Mahomes. From there, take a few more young, emerging players and plan for a year two or year three title run. If the draft is leaning towards more of the younger players, shift your focus towards a win-now strategy. You must be able to recognize how the draft is evolving and make your pivot quickly.

The thing about dynasty leagues is that everyone thinks they should compete for the title in year one. The reality is, some teams will realize late in the draft they either don’t have enough solid veterans, or they don’t have enough youth. Some teams will have win-now teams and others will be hopelessly fighting for the last playoff spot, but a select few teams will be set up for long term success. The great part about it is, if you think your team isn’t strong enough to compete for the title in year one, trade-off some aging assets for future draft picks.

In the next part of the series, I’ll be going over “Draft Types” in Part II of “Fantasy Football 101.”