I’ve had a love of American Football since my teens. Staying up late to watch games, volume down low so I didn’t wake up my folks, and using dial up internet to purchase merchandise online; I was hooked. Fantasy football as a Brit is a night owl’s game for sure. My journey into the fantasy world has been more recent though, and has really connected me to a sport I was already passionate about. It was a rough start though.
Initially, when I got into fantasy football I made all the beginners mistakes. I’m sure we all have: I drafted a quarterback in round one, followed the ADP guide on the site I was drafting on and filled my starting team with a D/ST and kicker before filling my bench with depth at running back and wide receiver as is now the norm. To draw a comparison. Imagine you were asked - without any knowledge of the English Premier League - to do a fantasy soccer draft. You roll up your sleeves, ready to get involved. Where will you start? When do you draft a goalkeeper? Who would you take number one overall? Do you know whether defenders score more points than strikers? All valid questions, impossible to know without at least some basic knowledge of the sport and the Premier League in particular. To me, the whole football drafting process itself was new, and fantasy soccer in England is very, very different. All players are available to every team in the league and squads are built around a budget which must be stuck to. Only one free agent may be added per week. No trading takes place and the core of most squads stays exactly the same. Stats are hardly counted upon in the selection of players and the only thing considered is goals scored and assists of goals. It’s only in the last two or three years that drafting in soccer fantasy has become the same as the NFL fantasy in the way that each team drafts players exclusively to their rosters. Most soccer fantasy sites have caught on to the fact that the American way of fantasy is not only more in depth, but there is much more skill to it as well. I have knocked soccer on the head for the last few years in favour of the pig skin.
For us Brits, some NFL games start at 6pm but the majority of games are in the dead of night when every other sane person has gone to bed. Only the most ardent of fans are awake at this time and even then, fantasy lineups have most likely been locked. Staying up to watch these midnight clashes is a thing of dreams for most of us. The 9-5 workers may have a chance if they don’t value sleep, but those who start any earlier have no chance unless filled with energy drinks or sugar. Even, then sleep usually wins out. Thankfully, the development of mobile apps in the last few years means even the most novice of us can set up fantasy teams and find player info and stats at any time of the day.
The hardest part is keeping on top of breaking news. This is where technology is my enemy. All mobile devices now ping and flash with breaking NFL news within seconds of it happening, and if this happens during the night or in a late game then I can’t react as fast as those across the pond. Waiver pickups are a battle if they are a first come first serve, as people awake and plugged in will grab players first. This is easily rectified by using a FAAB system or by having waivers cleared at a specific time.
Stats, stats, stats. Getting to grasp with stats needed for Fantasy is a huge and scary prospect for a Brit, whose only need stat wise is to know goals scored and goals conceded. Knowing these two stats is all you need to pick a team in fantasy soccer. Easy stuff compared to the hundreds of stats involved in the NFL game. Not only do you need to know stats, but player positions as well. A striker is a striker in soccer, so naturally a running back is a running back I originally thought. Seems logical no? Receiving backs, scat backs, first and second down backs. Backs who are patient, backs who are bangers and backs who play all three downs, catch and return punts. I quickly discovered that these backs are the ones you need, very quickly indeed.
One of the hardest things I found was gathering information and learning about the game from a beginner's point of view. All of the information is out there,from hundreds of podcasts all putting a different spin on things and each with a unique point of view to the millions of social media accounts and websites that also offer stats and info. Trying to decipher this info was tricky for someone who didn't grow up knowing the game at all. It felt as if I was trying to learn a new language or code a computer program blind. The more I listened and watched, the more I took on board but didn't know what it all meant. It took me a whole season to understand the basics of the fantasy game. There was no guides for people just starting out in the world of fantasy football and I had to make it job as I went along. I found by joining as many leagues as I could and asking as many questions as possible made it all start to click. The community is a brilliant place and everyone I have come across has been helpful and friendly.
In essence, although the time difference should, in theory, make it easier for British fantasy football fans, it takes dedication and a will to learn to survive and hopefully thrive. Every year, as more and more people sign up to NFL fantasy leagues, I’m inspired to keep learning and keep helping others to get as much enjoyment out of it as I do.