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How To Play Fantasy Football In 2023: Leagues For All Types of Players

Seahawks fantasy insider Scott Engel provides a look at the different types of fantasy football you can play this season.

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Scott Engel is in his 12th year as the official Fantasy Football writer and analyst for Seahawks.com. He is an inaugural member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association's Hall of Fame. Scott is a four-time FSWA award winner and a 12-time nominee. You can find more of his fantasy football analysis at The Game Dayand on RotoBaller.com.

The Seahawks have been participating in off-season workouts as we start to look ahead to training camp in late July. While some fantasy football players regard the beginning of training camp as the unofficial start of fantasy football season, savvy competitors are preparing well before then.

With an eye on a 2023 fantasy football championship, we start readying you now for the upcoming season. In the weeks ahead, we will provide comprehensive player outlooks and rankings, strategy articles, and more.

The planning for late July, August, and early September seasonal drafts begins with deciding how and where to play in 2023. You may be locked into a returning league for the 2023 season or searching for a new one to join. Multiple options are presented here, for all levels of fantasy experience in the most popular various formats.

NFL Fantasy Football League Guide: Find Your League, From Standard To IDP

For Beginners

There are several ways to join a fantasy football league, including organizing or getting involved in a league with friends, co-workers, or family members. Or you can join an online league at any time on a major platform such as fantasy.nfl.com.

Those who are playing for the first time should get familiar with their new league's roster and scoring setup and participate in online mock drafts to get comfortable with the actual drafting process. Prepare to draft both a starting lineup and bench players. The draft is the foundational event of the fantasy football season, as you will assemble the core of your team on draft day.

In the weeks ahead, we will advise on how to draft effectively in terms of player values and strategic approaches. For now, you should find a group of new league mates or sites you are comfortable playing on and stay updated on the latest NFL player news. Get familiar with how to draft a team.

Standard fantasy football leagues often require you to draft a starting lineup of one quarterback, two running backs, two to three wide receivers, a tight end, and a "flex" player on offense. The flex player can be an RB, WR, or TE as an extra starter. You will also draft a kicker and team defensive unit.

Weekly points will be awarded to players in your starting lineup based on their on-field performances. When exploring new leagues, you will sometimes find scoring variances for passing touchdowns (four or six points). The majority of leagues now award one point for a reception, and some will feature yardage bonuses and other unique scoring setups, so be sure to carefully examine the full league setup.

Superflex Leagues

In the past, leagues where two starting QBs were required were favored by many experienced players. Those sort of leagues have expanded in popularity through "superflex" packaging. In a superflex league, you are allowed to start a second flex player, and that option can be any offensive skill player including a QB. Because the QB consistently scores more points than others, superflex leagues are essentially formats where most teams start two QBs every week.

When drafting in standard leagues, there is less of an emphasis on drafting a QB early, because you only have to start one. In superflex formats, the QBs are drafted just as early as the top RBs and WRs, so the approach to drafting is significantly altered.

Best Ball Leagues

At this time of the year, Best Ball leagues are very popular among very experienced fantasy football players. This is a "set it and forget it" format where league members only draft a team and make no in-season roster moves. You draft once, and then there is nothing more to be done.

Every week during the NFL season, instead of setting an actual weekly lineup, points are awarded to the highest-scoring players at each position at projected lineup positions. So in every week, your team is awarded points for the highest-scoring QB, two RBs and three WRs, etc. on the roster. The team with the most total points at the end of the season is the league champion, as there are no head-to-head matchups.

Two reasons to jump into the best ball pool are the ability to participate in unlimited drafts without extra management and to practice for your other league drafts. You can draft numerous best ball teams without having to be concerned about in-season overload. Best ball drafts are a great way to prepare for your other league drafts. Instead of simply mock drafting, best ball results actually count and provide a good picture of how players will be valued, with some variance on drafting approaches for more upside.

Keeper Leagues

Standard fantasy football leagues require the participants to draft a completely new roster every season. In keeper leagues, players have the opportunity to retain a limited number of guys from the previous season. The amount of keeper players will vary by league, very often from one to three.

This format allows you to build a roster nucleus for the longer and shorter term. You should aim to draft key core players that will help you win now and in upcoming seasons. Some keeper leagues allow players to keep anyone from the previous season, while others require you to surrender draft choices in order to retain players.

Those who form a keeper league should start off with a completely new draft. You cannot effectively turn a previous standard league into a keeper league from one year to the next, as the drafting approach for a keeper league is more focused on longer-term values and results.

Dynasty Leagues

At its best, the fantasy football experience can replicate being a general manager and head coach in a unique interactive fan package. Dynasty leagues are the closest attempt you can make to becoming a fantasy-style version of John Schneider and Pete Carroll.

No other fantasy football format delivers a comprehensive roster management challenge like dynasty leagues. While keeper leagues allow participants to only retain a few players from season to season, dynasty leaguers carry over the majority of their full roster from year to year.

In the dynasty format, you will draft for now and the extended future. A high emphasis is placed on younger players, although it's recommended to maintain a focus on winning in the present, too. Startup dynasty leagues are forming and drafting now, so you don't have to wait to join one. Many online fantasy football platforms are hosting startup dynasty leagues that are drafting daily at this time of year.

After every season in an established dynasty league, league members will participate in an annual rookie/free agent draft, setting up the initial rosters for the upcoming season. Jaxon Smith-Njigba was a top 3 overall pick in rookie drafts this year, according to Average Draft Position reports on fantasypros.com.

Individual Defender Leagues (IDP)

If you ever wanted the opportunity to draft Bobby Wagner for your fantasy football team, here's your chance. Throughout his career, Wagner has been a top pick in Individual Defender Leagues. IDP leagues add defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs to the starting lineup mix, whereas traditional fantasy football league lineups include only a team defensive unit. Two or more players are often required starters at each position.

In IDP leagues, defensive players are awarded points for tackles, sacks, interceptions, fumble recoveries, TDs, and safeties. Linebackers are the preferred earlier draft options in most IDP leagues, but varied scoring and roster requirements can alter the approach in any league.

More Ways to Play

Quite often, these aforementioned formats will be combined. You can join a superflex best ball league or even an IDP dynasty league, for the most intense fantasy football experience possible. Some leagues may award more points for tight end scoring or eliminate kickers and defenses. Some leagues feature two head-to-head matchups per week. As fantasy football league options are explored for 2023, other various and unique formats will be revealed to you.

For more fantasy sports analysis from Scott Engel, visit The Game Day during the fantasy football offseason.

With the offseason program ending after the ninth OTA, the Seahawks get one step closer to kicking off the season with training camp.

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