4 steps to start a fantasy football league

This article will take you through step by step how to create a fantasy football league. If you have never played fantasy football before A) under what rock have you been hiding? and B) you are in for one of the most thrilling, competitive, and non-athletic sports ever created… you’re welcome. Fantasy Football is a game of skill with a liberal sprinkling of luck that can have even the most level-headed individuals screaming at the top of their lungs at a TV screen. The players on your team have no clue who you are, but you… you will know very well who they are and every stat they have had since the beginning of the season if not their entire career. I’m not saying that you need to memorize all of the players stats or that it will require an extreme amount of effort to participate, I’m just giving you full disclosure that it is an extremely addictive sport that most (even the strong) succumb to.  

The interesting thing about fantasy football is although it is extremely addicting, greatness in the sport can be achieved with even minimal effort. Many have witnessed the all so common “beginner’s luck” champion who stumbles through the season or doesn’t make any transactions and still manages to win the entire league. Although it can be frustrating for those who put in way too much effort, this is the beauty of fantasy football. Anyone can play and all are welcome (as long as you put in enough effort to at least set your lineup).

To re-iterate fantasy football is one of the most enjoyable activities to get involved with your friends, random league members via ESPN, Yahoo etc., or by yourself via Daily Fantasy (FanDuel/DraftKings). You can choose to put as much effort as you want into it from 10 minutes a week to adjust your lineup prior to kickoff to hours of research, pickups, and trade analyzation. Luckily, you have found the perfect site and article to help get you started on your fantasy adventure. The list below will help guide you through the process of starting your fantasy league and how to manage your team. 

Steps to start your league:

  1. Find your league mates 
  2. Decide on the web site for hosting
  3. Implement league format and settings
  4. Draft (Best day of the year)

1. Finding your new league mates

Although it sounds simple, finding your new league mates is an integral step that your future fantasy experience hinges on. These 8-12 people will soon be your rivals that you square up to each and every week. You need members who are joining to have a good time, but are also competitive and active. 

You MUST participate

One of the death sentences for fantasy football leagues are members who do not participate at the level of everyone else. First and foremost, these new members NEED to at least be dedicated enough to sacrifice 10 minutes a week to setting their lineup. This legitimately only involves logging in to the host site and taking injured or BYE week players (players not playing that week) out of their lineups and replacing them with players on their bench. There are even bright red indicators next to the players who need to be moved on the site, couldn’t be easier. This is key, there is no “try” when it comes to this step, they must agree to doing this step every week. There is nothing that will cause more uproar and dissatisfaction in your league than one of the tops teams fighting for a playoff spot matching up against a team with a lineup where half of his team is not even playing. This is a free week for their opponent and anyone else trying to compete with them just got a raw deal due to this one member who can’t take the 10 minutes to set their lineup #unacceptable. Trust me nobody is going to have ANY sympathy for your buddy from work who had to take little Sally-Sue to her softball game and didn’t have time to set his lineup. We are talking about the same amount of time it takes to make a ham sandwich… no cheese. Listen Sally-Sue you’re going to have to hold on Daddy’s gotta press two buttons on his fantasy football app. No excuses just do it.

Friends and Co-workers are best, but randos will do

The type of league mate you invite depends greatly on your ability to convince friends, co-workers, and even friends of friends to join your fantasy football league. 

Typical leagues go from 8-12 teams meaning you will need to find 8-12 owners minimum including yourself. I highly recommend to shoot for 10-12 as it thins out the team roster so that not every team is loaded with Pro-Bowlers. Having more teams allows for a slightly more challenging experience and an increased need to use the waiver wire. If you can find 10-12 close friends or co-workers that would be ideal because obviously the closer you are to you fellow league members the more trash talk and competitive ribbing can ensue. If you really want to get into fantasy football and can’t find enough friends/co-workers you can always search on social media sites or message boards for another league mate. The last resort is to join a fantasy football league on Yahoo, ESPN, or any other site that hosts fantasy football. You will be able to pick the type of league you would like to join and you will be randomly assigned other league members looking for the same type of league. For a whole type of different fantasy experience where you do not retain your roster each week and compete against hundreds to thousands of other players you can join a daily fantasy site like Fanduel/DraftKings. Check out our article on How to play daily fantasy? For more information on how to get started. Or use the FanDuel link above to get cash back on your first deposit! 

2. Choosing a website for hosting

Once you have carefully selected who you would like to enjoy the fantasy football season with it is now time to pick a website for hosting your fantasy league. There are a number of sites where you can set up your league and to be honest most of them are extremely similar. For the purpose of clarity, I am listing the two sites below that I feel are the most user friendly and customizable enough to support nearly any league. I could provide you an endless list of sites some of which would only be best suited for extreme leagues, but I want to keep this process as clear cut as possible. To be honest, you can’t go wrong with either of these choices and it is really up to the preference of the user.

  1. ESPN– This is an extremely popular choice for many fantasy football leagues. The web-site interface is very easy to use and more importantly the app provides a user-friendly experience that is enjoyable from draft day to the very last Sunday of the season. One aspect I like about ESPN is the draft application. If you will be drafting online and not in person I recommend ESPN. If you want to try it out go to ESPN Fantasy Football Mock Draftand try a mock draft to check out the application.
  • Yahoo– A second choice that many fantasy football commissioners make is Yahoo as the site for their league. Yahoo again is extremely user friendly and the app is very close to ESPN’s user friendly appeal. I tend to lean toward ESPN ever so slightly for the draft application and even day to day management within the app. Of course, you can check out the draft application at Yahoo Fantasy Football Mock Draft. Testing out the mock draft application prior to selecting your host site will also give you a view into how the app will function during the season. This is a great idea for new fantasy managers.

3. Setting league format

You have now identified your league members and picked the site that you would like to use to host your league, now it is time to start setting up your league. If you chose from either site above this is extremely easy to do and best of all FREE. For the purpose of this article I will walk through the setup of your new league (GET EXCITED) on ESPN. 

  1. Visit the ESPN league creation site at this LINK
  2. Fill out the initial screen including you new league name, how many members the league will have, and whether it will be a points-per-reception (PPR) league or not.
    1. Quick side-bar: PPR is a term used to explain a scoring function of your league. PPR means that when your team is being scored on Sunday against your best friends obviously inferior team every time your player catches the football on offense they will receive some fraction of a point. Once the league is set up you can determine what amount of points should be assigned for receptions, but for now you just need to decide whether or not you want a PPR league. 
      1. Personal opinion – PPR leagues are the only choice and Non-PPR leagues are for your grandfather, sorry not sorry gramps.
  3. Once you have made these selections your league will be created and you will need to invite your league members. ESPN allows you to do this by either sending a link to all of you league members or putting their email in individually and sending them and email to join. Either method is extremely easy.
  4. You will then be asked to change your team name… you can do this later.
  5. You have now created your league and the only thing to do is make sure everyone joins and set the draft date. Feel free to enter league settings and adjust the scoring as discussed above in the PPR side-bar above, but honestly feel free to ride or die with the ESPN default scoring. 

4. Time for the draft!

If you are brand new to fantasy football it is now time for what you will soon consider to be the best day of the year. It depends on how your league decides to hold it, but draft day is near national holiday status for all fantasy football leagues. The following highlights a few choices you have when setting up your draft.

Online v. Draft Board

ESPN and Yahoo both have online applications that allow your league to draft completely online. This is very useful when everyone can’t get together and draft and it does relieve the commissioner of some minimal amount of leg work. The online applications will manage the time each team has to pick an immediately following the draft will update each team with their selections. This is a perfectly adequate method of drafting and many leagues will continue to hold their drafts completely online.

If you haven’t tried it I highly suggest using a draft board in your upcoming fantasy football draft. The draft board is something that can easily be bought pre-draft by the league on amazon for a small amount of money, especially when split between 10-12 league members. It is usually a large poster sized sheet that has a slot for each draft pick as well as stickers for each player. When it is your turn to draft you can take the sticker for the player you want and slam your pick on the draft board. The best part about the draft board is the show and feel of physically picking your player and putting him on your team. The draft board also is a physical representation of that years draft and can be kept by the winner of that year like a trophy. 

The board can be used by both league members in person at the draft or virtual. If virtual make sure that your league is using a video meeting service to hold the draft so that everyone can see the draft board and take part in the fun. If you are virtual just scream out your pick and have another league member or the commissioner put it on the board. Once the draft is over it will take a small amount of time for the commissioner to put the players picked onto each team in the ESPN/Yahoo applications (Drag and Drop, easy). This is a really fun way of improving the leagues draft experience and for such a small amount of additional funds and time. 

In Person v. Virtual

With the constant advance of technology in the world it is getting easier and easier to connect with family and friends virtually. This holds true for your fantasy league mates as well. You are able to have your draft in person at someone’s house or venue (bar/restaurant) or have the draft completely virtual. I will always lean towards having the draft at either someone’s house or at a venue in person. The draft is a great excuse to get friends together, crack some beers, and scream at each other when someone steals your draft pick. If you can’t all get together I highly suggest the next best option which is a video conference where everyone can see each other and the draft board (if applicable). It’s really not necessary to see everyone especially since you can just hold the draft on ESPN/Yahoo, but it’s so much better to see your league mates reactions to each and every pick.

Trophies of success are a MUST

I will cover this elsewhere in articles, but now that the league is set up I would HIGHLY recommend securing a trophy for your league like the one below. Trophies are a one-time expense that make winning the league tangible and makes all other losers envious. Most trophies will have upwards of 15 spots to put the winners names and years they won on which equates to 15+ years of fantasy. Split the cost among the 10-12 members of your league and it is really a small amount of money for a trophy that hopefully will sit on your mantle for a year when you win!


You have now successfully set up your league and held your first fantasy football draft. It really only gets better from here, so buckle up and get ready for the WILD ride that is the fantasy football season. There will be a lot of tears, hopefully minimal blood and sweat, but you get the gist. I hate sounding this stereotypical, but just have fun (that was painful). Make sure to check out all other articles including staying tuned for our weekly rankings which will help you not only play, but WIN your first fantasy season and get your name on the trophy.

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