What is Fantasy Football?

The first known fantasy football game was created in 1962.
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  • Written By: Phil Shepley
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 April 2014
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In the game of fantasy football, participants use the statistics of real football players and teams to compete against one another in a season of their own. There are many different ways that the game can be played, and a great variety of rules that govern how different leagues conduct their competition.

The first known fantasy football game was created by a man named Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach in 1962. He and several others created an eight-team league in which players drafted real football players from the AFL for their fantasy team. The “owners” from the eight teams would choose a limited number of football players from their rosters to compete head-to-head each week. Points were awarded to each player for corresponding scores in real AFL games, and winners were awarded money that came from a pool of all of the players.

This is still one of the basic ways that the game of fantasy football is played today, and there are a great multitude of variations. One major difference today is the use of the Internet, which has been responsible for the massive popularity of the sport and has caused it to grow into a multimillion-dollar industry. Players today no longer need to keep track of all of the complex details involved in playing fantasy football since there are many services, both free and paid, that can be do it for them. Most fantasy leagues use the NFL for their season, but there are also many fantasy arena football leagues.


A fantasy football league can consist of any number of teams that either play head-to-head each week or score cumulative points throughout the season. The season usually begins before the football season with a draft where all the teams of a particular league can choose their players under various guidelines. Typically, the football players who are drafted first are expected to do particularly well with their teams. Throughout the season, leagues usually offer the ability to trade fantasy football players between different teams. There are also free agents – the players who never were picked up in the draft or were dropped by their owner during the season – who can be obtained as the game is played.

Once the season begins, teams are expected to start different combinations of running backs, wide receivers, quarterbacks, team defenses and other players each week. Teams with the best records or most cumulative points will usually move on to playoff rounds and sometimes to a championship game where the winner can be awarded money, prizes or simply bragging rights.


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