What are the rules of fantasy football?

What are the Rules of Fantasy Football

Fantasy football is an online game where people draft, assemble, and manage a team of real life NFL players. With these chosen rosters, people compete against each other in leagues that assign point values to real life NFL player performance. Because of fantasy football's open-ended setup, these designated point values can be different from league to league.

Technically, each league creates its own set of rules to play by, meaning they can assign point values to whatever real life outcomes they desire. However, there is still a general set of rules that most independent leagues abide by in order to retain a certain level of unity within the community. Most of these rules revolve around the topics of league size, draft protocol, scoring calculations, and roster makeup/management - See below for more details.

League Size

This fantasy football rule is fairly simple. Before a league can hold a draft, the group of potential players must first decide how many players they want to have in their league. In general, most fantasy leagues fall between 8-14 teams per league, each of which will draft and roster their own set of players. Because there are a finite amount of NFL players that score high amounts of fantasy points, the more teams there are in a league, the more skilled the team managers must be in evaluating performance and managing their roster. Nevertheless, choosing a league size that fits the goals of the players in the league is the first rule that goes into creating a fantasy football league.

Draft Protocol

Another essential rule in fantasy football is the draft type. Fantasy football revolves around individual managers choosing players they think will perform well during the season. As such, some players are more likely to score points than others. Because of this, there are a few main draft types that the majority of fantasy football leagues use to ensure that everyone gets a somewhat equal opportunity to pick.

One of these draft types would be the snake draft. The snake draft is the most common type of draft setup because it is generally considered the most even way of selecting players. Snake drafts rotate the direction of the picks from back to front in a serpentine fashion in an effort to level the playing field for all teams. An example of a snake draft setup would be as follows: The team with the first pick in the first round would get the last pick in the second round, then back again with the first pick in the third round and so on and so forth. Conversely, the team with the last pick in the first round would get the first pick in the second round and the last pick in the third round (and so on).

Another type of fantasy football draft is called an auction draft. An auction draft allots a predisposed amount of fictional money to each team manager, allowing them to bid on players as they are put up for auction. Auction drafts are less popular than snake drafts because they are often extremely long and complicated; however, they do award every manager an opportunity to get any player they want if they chose to spend the money.


In addition to the draft setup itself, another important rule in fantasy football is the roster makeup that each team must abide by during the season. In fantasy football, team managers draft which NFL player they deem will score, but they must fulfill certain positional requirements on an active lineup in order to diversify the scoring. As a result, each fantasy football team will have a specific layout of players in their active lineup as well as a few on their bench.

Players in a team's active lineup can accumulate points for the owner of their team, while bench players will not add toward this total. In terms of positional requirements, most fantasy football leagues mandate that each active lineup has 1 Quarterback (QB), 2 Running Backs (RB), 2 Wide Receivers (WR), 1 Tight End (TE), 1 Flex (Choice of RB, WR, or TE), 1 Team Defense/Special Teams (D/ST), & 1 Kicker (K).

In addition, most leagues also allow teams to roster 6-8 bench spots with the exact number depending on the league. In any case, once an NFL player has started their real life gain, the player is locked into the team manager's roster spot as either a bench player or active lineup player. As stated before, league commissioners are allowed to create their league with whatever collection of players they see fit. This means that some leagues allow 4 receivers, 2 tight ends, and even 2 quarterbacks per team. As a general rule, the system described above is a good starting place in looking at the makeup of a fantasy football team.


Scoring regulations in fantasy football can become somewhat different from league to league, but new players can follow the following format below in order to gain a fairly accurate estimate:


  • 1 point per 25 passing yards
  • 4 points per passing touchdown
  • 6 points per rushing touchdown
  • 2 points per successful 2 pt conversion
  • -2 point per interception or fumble

Running Backs/Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

  • 1 point per 10 rushing/receiving yards
  • 6 points per rushing/receiving touchdown
  • 2 points per successful 2 pt conversion
  • 1 point per reception
  • -2 points per fumble

Team Defenses

  • 10 points for holding opposing team to 0-6 points
  • 7 points for holding opposing team to 7-13 points
  • 5 points for holding opposing team to 14-20 points
  • 2 points for holding opposing team to 21-27 points
  • 0 points for holding opposing team to 28 or more points
  • 6 points for any kick/punt returned for a touchdown.


  • 1 point for made extra point
  • 3 points for made field goal less than 40 yards
  • 4 points for made field goal between 40-49 yards
  • 5 points for made field goal more than 50 yards
  • -1 point for missed field goal/extra point


Can team managers make trades for players on other teams?

Yes, in virtually all fantasy leagues, teams can make trades for players on other teams if both sides agree on the trade before the predetermined trade deadline. In fantasy football, the trade deadline usually occurs around week 10 of the NFL season, meaning that no trades are allowed after this time period.

Can managers switch out players for other players after the draft?

Once the draft has concluded, fantasy managers may add and drop players as they see fit. Because the NFL has plenty of emerging stars, it is very common to see fantasy managers pick up players after they have a very productive week. The only limiting factor would be that the manager must drop a player at the same time they pick a different player up in order to not exceed the roster capacity.

How are the fantasy football playoffs formulated?

In standard 12 team leagues, 6 teams will make the fantasy playoffs. In this format, the 2 teams with the most wins will get a bye while the others will compete against each other in a bracket play format. After the bye week and first playoff matchups for the 3-6 seeds, the remaining four teams will compete in two separate matches to determine the winner.