Free Fantasy Football

Free fantasy football is everywhere on the Internet. If you want to play fantasy football without paying a dime, that's entirely possible. You can even research your draft and in-season transactions solely with free fantasy sports information you get online, from mock drafts, training camp news and preseason box scores to the latest news items once the season has started. I suggest you take up a collection at your local draft and buy a league management tool like "My Fantasy League", but if you don't have a local league or want to spend seventy-five bucks on a league site, you can get free online league access for zero admission.

Searching for fantasy football updates is simply a matter of time. Many serious players buy a yearly subscription to a draft analysis or fantasy insider news, but that's trading money for time. You can find the same information, or something close to it, if you look long enough. Posting on fantasy football message boards and reading the KFFL fantasy news clips lets you get just about every bit of information you need to win your local league, if you use that information wisely.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Let's start with a couple of big name places you can play fantasy football for free, and still have tools and resources to help you play. After that, we'll get into some of the best free resources for fantasy football players online, helping you with every step of preparation along the way to your league draft, and eventually to the league title game.

Yahoo! Free Fantasy Football

Yahoo is synonymous with free fantasy football online. Yahoo offers free leagues in a variety of options, including private custom leagues where you control the league size and scoring system. You'll get access to web news like transaction trends and who's hot in free agency, while receiving other league tools, like a draft kit and dues tracking system. Yahoo's "Spin Doctors" features give you analysis and insight into position battles and player news, while there are also video spotlights of players.

The Yahoo Fantasy Football Message Boards are full of fantasy owners seeking and offering opinions, including a "Commissioner Corner" for commissioners coping with league dissent or other troubles, "Draft and Trade Talk" for planning a draft strategy or going through the excruciating process of analyzing and approving league trades, the "Who to Start" forum for those unfortunate owners (most of us) who has 1 or 2 fifty-fifty calls on our starting lineup every week, and a "General FF Forum" who want to talk about anything else related to fantasy football. Between these forum topics, there are over 600,000 threads on the message board, so you can get an idea of how many people frequent these discussions.

Yahoo Fantasy Football is a good place to get started in fantasy sports, if you don't have a group ready to play in your hometown. You can join a free league and dip your foot in the pool. Eventually, you're going to want to hook up with a local league and establish rivalries, because the Yahoo free leagues aren't the most competitive or challenging leagues, and it's not nearly as satisfying to beat some anonymous group of people online, as it is to defeat your friends and family at fantasy sports.

You can set up free leagues at Yahoo, but there are one or two fantasy league management sites that excel as that aspect of fantasy football, and those websites charge a small fee for a group of 12 people (around $70), so it's worth it to buy a league, in my opinion. Still, Yahoo has its uses, just like the next option on our list.

ESPN Free Fantasy Football

ESPN offers free fantasy football leagues, too, which allow you to create a league, join a league or reactivate an old league - all for free. I had a friend who joined 40 ESPN free leagues two years ago, which is a little insane, even by my standards. Eventually, ESPN capped the limit going into the 2009 season at 15 leagues per user, which should be more than enough for fantasy football fanatics. There's a law of diminishing returns, when joining that many leagues, where setting lineups, making free agent transactions and trade offers become overwhelming, instead of entertaining, but I'll let you decide how much fantasy football you want. The point being, you can play a lot of free fantasy football online at ESPN, if that's your inclination.

You'll notice that ESPN has many of the same features that Yahoo! has, including resources to help you prepare for a draft and columns by online fantasy sports writers. There are staff rankings, mock drafts and chat sessions which discuss the upcoming season - or last week's games. You can even practice for the upcoming league events with a mock draft and mock auction tool. The "mock auction" program is great, since you don't see those too often on the Internet for free. These mock drafts and auctions are broken down by region, but you can join any you like.

Let's give a word of warning about ESPN fantasy football, though: their predictions and prognostications are among the worst in fantasy football. To an experienced fantasy footballer, the ESPN fantasy magazine is a joke. Actually, it's worse than a joke, if somebody actually listens to their advice.

Take a look at this review of the "ESPN 2010 Fantasy Football Magazine" for what I'm talking about. This is pretty much the same as I found last year with the 2009 magazine. Once you get past the NFL experts and Sportscenter anchors trying to pretend they're interested in fantasy football, some of ESPN's online writers are perfectly good fantasy geeks. But take with a grain of salt any opinions you get from the most generic product in sports.

Even at that, if you're looking to play free fantasy football online, ESPN is a legitimate option. Their sites navigate well and do everything you need. I'd suggest you get your fantasy analysis elsewhere.

KFFL Hot Off the Wire

The "KFFL Hot Off the Wire" webpage collects news & notes from around the NFL and puts them all in one place. KFFL's HOTW news feed is distilled fantasy football news, so you seldom need another source. A few of the best league management sites partner with KFFL, so many of the fantasy leagues get this feed directly to their league homepages. Pay attention to these news items and you'll never have to worry about trading for an injured guy again.

That's not to say I don't do my due diligence and double-check on other sources, when I make a trade, but I'm just that type. KFFL is the best at getting all the relevant NFL news - and some of the irrelevant NFL news - and putting it together in one format. I've been playing fantasy football online since 1997 and the KFFL (started 1996) has been there for me since Day 1. KFFL is free and it's reliable.

Free Fantasy Football Cheatsheets & Projections

If you want to compare our ff cheatsheets and projections against another respected source for free, take a look at "FF Toolbox", which offers cheat sheets and rankings for every position in fantasy football. FF Toolbox offers downloadable rankings, along with team pages for all 32 NFL teams.

Updated throughout the summer, the lists include the top players at every conceivable position you might need to draft. At the bottom of the page, you can customize the stats to your league's scoring system, so you are getting rankings for a completely different type of league. Below are the various position lists you can find.

  • 50 Quarterbacks
  • 126 Running Backs
  • 160 Wide Receivers
  • 50 Tight Ends
  • 34 Kickers
  • 99 Defensive Linemen
  • 100 Linebackers
  • 100 Defensive Backs
  • All 32 Team Defenses
  • Overall Top 200

You'll be able to research guys that never make it into the fantasy magazines. While this list of players far exceeds the number of NFL players that are going to be drafted into your league this summer, that's a good thing. If anything, you want to over-prepare, instead of under-prepare. This way, you can be the one in your league who makes the snotty "He's the 5th receiver in Cincinnati" comment, when someone drafts Quan Cosby in the 20th round.

Also included on the site are 2010 auction value, Average Draft Position or "ADP" information, free agent signings, latest NFL injury reports, and a segment on comeback candidates for the coming year. There's even a Week 1 preview, if you want to get an early sneak peak at how the Fantasy Football Toolbox sees the big opening weekend developing.

Free 2010 Player Research

Another set of tools for fantasy owners to use are the FF Toolbox's handy pages on "Overused Running Backs", "Running Backs Age 29+" and "3rd Year Wide Receivers". There's a rhythm to pro football, when ages and time served kicks in. Knowing the aging runners and maturing wideouts is a good way to stack the odds in your favor, by tailoring your draft strategy to play to the long-standing NFL trends.

Free Online Mock Drafts

Go to "Fantasy Football Calculator" to participate in free online mock drafts. The Fantasy Calculator Drafts start just after the NFL Draft in April, and really get going from June forward and throughout the summer. This gives you a glimpse of the draft trends and where certain players are being drafted by average fantasy football fans. Of course, if you're new to the NFL and fantasy football, you might be wondering what a "mock draft" is.

What Is a Mock Draft?

A mock draft is a fake fantasy football draft used as preparation and entertainment by fantasy football owners prior to their own real or live drafts. The fantasy football mock draft is borrowed from the run-up to professional sports mock drafts, notably the NFL mock drafts, which are published by online sports news sites, newspapers and draft experts like Mel Kiper. In a mock draft, a person or people slot players where they believe they are going to be draft, or where they think they should be drafted.

The value of an FantasyFootballCalculator mock draft is that you get a feel for how NFL players are valued by the fantasy football community at large. Let's look at an example to illustrate.

Mock Draft Example

Imagine you're about to draft in a 12-team league with standard "performance" scoring rules. You can go online to FF Calculator and join a 12-team mock draft with similar scoring rules. While the scoring system might not perfectly fit yours, the options are varied enough that you can get mighty close. You can even choose the same draft position that you'll be drafting at in a few days or weeks, if you know that fact.

This way, you not only get to see which players are there for you in the 1st round, but also in subsequent rounds, so you can start to see which positions and players appear to be dropping in drafts, and how far they're dropping. There's never any predicting what's going to happen in a local league, but you can get a pretty good idea of where most players are going to be drafted, especially in the early rounds of the draft.

Mock drafts aren't perfect. A lot of people enter a draft, then drop out once they see what they want to see. This means that multiple teams are going to go on auto-pick mode, meaning a computer is drafting off an ADP list. This means draft positions can be self-reinforcing, since the computer is drafting from a list that it helps to build, by drafting from the list. But there are enough mock drafts with real people that you get a pretty good idea of where players are being drafted, especially later in the summer, and you get some idea of how draft values change during the training camp and preseason game phase of the summer.

If that sounds like a lot of trouble, or you don't want to have to remember to draft every 12 hours or so, just take a look at features like "Mock Draft Viewing" and "Average Draft Position" links to do your research.

Free Online Fantasy Football Message Boards

There are also fantasy football communities you can join on the Internet. Naturally, fantasy football owners are going to gather online to talk shop. A fantasy community discusses the latest news, posts notes from their local team or training camp, asks each other injury questions, give weather updates from the stadium, debates the value or players, rants about the success or failure of their teams, and generally give one another comfort and advice.

Below are some of the best message boards on "The Huddle", which is one of the foremost fantasy football communities on the Internet. Of the links offered below, the top one is probably the most useful in-season. All for may have value to your, so I list them all: General Fantasy Football, an Advice Forum, IDP Threads and a message board devoted to locating leagues to play in, or owners to fill out a league membership.

  • NFL Fantasy Football
  • Fantasy Football Advice
  • Individual Defensive Players
  • Find a League / Find an Owner

Joining the Huddle Message Board is free, while having access to their news services and fantasy football columns requires a yearly fee. You can post or lurk on the forums, searching for the player information you need, or asking questions to the community.

Like Internet forums in other hobbies or pastimes, you'll find the Huddle forums has a few self-important people who believe that post count or time spent in the community implies special mastery or knowledge. Ignore that, because consulting a fantasy football forum is a good thing for you. It's been proven that collective knowledge is superior to (or closer to the truth than) one isolated opinion. Use the Huddle to test your own theories, or ask questions in the questions forums, where the experts are usually more helpful.

And if you go on the Huddle and see someone use the word "moran" where they should use "moron", it's an inside joke. If you call them on it, you'll end up being called a "noob" or "newbie". That should tell you all you need to know about whether the site is going to suit you, but I recommend the community, because it's been helpful to me over the years.

Fantasy Football for Free

That should get you started playing free fantasy football online, with places to play and a new of good resources to help you prepare for the season, then succeed once the season is underway. Just keep in mind that "free fantasy football league" means that everyone else got into the league for free, too, so you'll find some of them aren't that committed to the league or their teams. You'll find that a handful of the teams that start out losing a few games are going to abandon their teams, which is a beating for everybody else involved. Get your fantasy football information for free, but avoid the free fantasy football leagues, if you can.

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