The standard yearly fantasy football league consists of 10 or 12 teams and follows a common format. Each team has a weekly roster consisting of 12–16 spots and a starting lineup featuring a quarterback, one or two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, a flex (a running back or wide receiver), a kicker, and a team defense/special teams. A draft is held prior to the first week of the NFL regular season. The standard draft format is called a “snake draft,” in which round one proceeds with each of the teams in a league choosing one player in turn. Player selection in round two will then start with the team that picked last in the first round and end with the team that picked first in the first round. That alternates each round until all teams have drafted sufficient players to fill their respective rosters. After the draft, teams may make any number of adjustments to their rosters via trades with other teams in the league or via the waiver wire (claiming players not already on the roster of any team in one’s league).
The actual games start with week 1 of the NFL season and are usually scored as follows for the offensive players: six points for rushing and receiving touchdowns, four points for passing touchdowns, one point for every 25 yards passing, one point for every 10 yards rushing or receiving, two points for any two-point conversion, three points for a field goal, and one point for an extra point. The points accrued by team defenses/special teams typically vary widely from league to league.
Fantasy gridiron football emerged in 1962 when Bill Winkenbach, then part owner of the Oakland football team, gathered with some friends in a New York City hotel, and together they created the first fantasy football league, which was dubbed the GOPPPL (Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League). The original concept was simple. The league members would “draft” actual (NFL) and American Football League (a rival professional football organization that merged with the NFL in 1970) players to their fantasy franchises, and, on the basis of the actual performance of those players in games, the members would accrue points and compete against each other.
In a standard season for a basic fantasy football league, beginning in week 1, each fantasy team is assigned a regular-season schedule consisting of one weekly head-to-head game. The team whose players produce more fantasy points over the course of the week’s games will get the win. The teams with the best records at the end of the regular season typically qualify for the play-offs, which often begin in week 14. In one of the simplest play-off schemes used, the teams with the top two records receive first-round byes, while the next four teams are paired off for the right to advance from the final four in week 15. Two teams advance in week 16 to the fantasy championship, the winner of which is crowned league champion. (Fantasy leagues usually do not play games in week 17, the final week of the NFL regular season, because NFL teams that have clinched a play-off spot are more apt to rest their star players, depriving certain fantasy teams of their best assets.)
As the game grew, many variations emerged in terms of scoring systems (most notably, leagues that add one point per reception made), league rules (such as auction leagues, wherein participants bid on players instead of using the snake draft, and keeper leagues, which allow participants to keep certain players on their roster from year to year), and season length. There are also fantasy football leagues that are based on college football and the Canadian Football League.