Fantasy football has a list of terms the average citizen isn’t going to know. Like any sub-culture, the fantasy sports fraternity has its own arcane slang. Even the casual NFL fan isn’t likely to know much of this terminology.
This dictionary has been constructed through the decades, so it’s hard to attribute most of it to anyone. Because I’ve already posted a daily fantasy sports glossary, I’ll try to avoid too many references to that form of the hobby. I’ll make a few mentions which the casual fantasy football fan would (or should) know about.
Auction League – Instead of drafting players, owners are given a salary cap and auction the players among themselves. This has the advantage of allowing each owner equal opportunity to grab players. Auctions typically go around the room clockwise, allowing each owner to put up a player for auction. Bidding tend to be in $1 increments, but can involve many monetary systems.
Basic Scoring – A touchdown only league, with field goals, extra points, and touchdowns as the only scoring.
Bench Players – Players who are never in the starting lineup, but on the roster. Often fodder in trade offers.
Bust – A drafted player who does not live up to expectations, either due to injury or mediocrity.
Bye Week – The week an NFL team is inactive. The NFL regular season lasts 17 weeks, but has 16 games per team. Can be the bane of a fantasy owner’s existence, due to injuries or many byes at once. Especially troublesome when a league has a small bench. Some owners draft to avoid bunching byes, while others draft the best player available and worry about these problems later.
CBS Sportsline – An online fantasy football site manager owned by CBS Sports. It is in many ways the default service for many local leagues. Some owners swear by Sportsline and others despise it.
Cheat Sheet – A list of NFL players ranked according to where they should be drafted. Can be categorized by position, or added together in a cheat sheet with 200 or 250 players. These can be found online, usually as free printable cheatsheets. Also found in fantasy magazines. Used by some owners to draft their team. Other owners sneer at such resources.
Commissioner – A league owner who set up the drafts, recruits players to play, collects league fees, makes in-season annoucements, and reviews trades. Many a good commissioner has found himself dealing with malcontents and cheaters. Many a bad commissioner have ruined seasons and whole leagues with their outrageous decisions.
DEF/ST – Stands for Defense-Special Teams. Many leagues combine the Team Defense with the Team Special Teams, rolling up all the touchdowns both units collect. See “Team Defense” for other stats which might be added into the scoring system.
Dynasty League – A keeper league where you keep the bulk of your players. This allows for a dynasties to be built, with many championships.
Empire League – This has the same rules as a dynasty league, but with one major stipulation. Each year, team owners pay an entry fee. This is not paid out at the end of the year. Instead, it builds until an owner wins 2 championships in a row. At this point, the back-to-back champion wins the prize money (winner take all) and the Empire League ends. All players go back in a redraft pool, and the pot starts over again, as if it’s a brand new league.
Fantasy Playoffs – Usually weeks 14, 15, and 16 of the NFL regular season. The regular season takes place over the first 13 weeks. Leagues usually do not have games in Week 17. Many playoff teams are resting players, so Week 17 title games skew the results significantly.
Flex – A flex position is a starting lineup position which can be played by either a RB or WR, or by a RB/WR/TE position. Also known as a wildcard position. You’ll find an offensive flex and a defensive flex position in different leagues.
Football Widow – A wife, fiance, girlfriend, or significant other who is forgotten on Sunday afternoons in the fall. During Sundays during the football season, she might as well be a widow.
GOPPPL – The Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League. This was the first fantasy football league, founded by a group of Bay Area beat writers and a couple of Oakland Raiders executives in the fall of 1963. The league still exists, and it’s a touchdown-only league.
Greg Geddes – Considered by many to be the greatest fantasy football owner who ever lived.
Handcuff – When you draft the backup to a star player on your team. This is usually done with a running back, because they are so important and attrition is so high. The term comes from the fact you want to assure production from a team’s RB position, so you handcuff Jamaal Charles to Knile Davis, for example. Can refer to QB, WR, or TE.
Huddle, The – A new site, tout service, and player forum with one of the largest online communities of fantasy owners. It is a paid service.
IDP – Individual Defensive Player. IDPs treat the defensive players the same way they would quarterbacks, running backs, and receivers. Players are given fantasy points for tackles, sacks, interceptions, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries, and touchdowns. Often, teams must field one or more defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs. Adds extra crunch to a scoring system.
Keeper – A player who remains on one team year-after-year. This is opposed to the redraft format.
Keeper League – A fantasy league in which the owner can designate one or more players as their “keeper”.
KFFL – A news service for all the sports, but one which aggregates news stories from many online sports media outlets from across the Internet.
LB – Linebacker.
League – A collection of owners who come together each year to compete against each other. Each league has its own membership, commissioner, rules, scoring system, and playoff setup.
League Draft – The day each year when a league gathers to draft players onto teams. This is generally considered the best day of the fantasy football season, like Christmas morning for grown men.
League Trophy – Whatever object is used as an award to the owner which wins the league championship. I’ve seen traditional trophies, signed helmets, toilet bowls, jerseys, straightjackets, and handy plaques. The more ridiculous, the better.
Mike – Middle linebacker. As opposed to Sam (strongside) or Will (weakside), Mike stands for middle.
MLB – Middle linebacker. In baseball, this stands for Major League Baseball.
Mock Draft – Like ESPN’s Mel Kiper, a fantasy owner sometimes tries to predict other owners’ draft picks. This can be helpful in getting a sketch of how the draft will go, though no one can predict the draft order in such a rational fashion.
My Fantasy League – MFL is another online fantasy football management site. Like CBS Sportsline, MyFantasyLeague is liked by many owners and greatly disliked by others. Some find it confusing because of the many options available, while others prefer having the many options. About half as expensive as Sportsline.
NFL – The National Football League. Founded in 1920, the NFL is the premier American football association. In fact, it is the top US sports league…period. Or as Jerry Glanville once told a referee, “Not Very Long” (for my coaching career, if you keep making those calls).
OLB – Outside linebacker. Is used for both 3-4 and 4-3 defensive alignments.
Passer – Quarterback.
Pickup – A player added to your roster though free agency, usually via the waiver wire.
PPR – Points-Per-Reception. Many leagues in the 21st century using the point-per-reception in the scoring system, to weight scoring towards wide receivers and tight ends. Without the PPR stat, running backs and quarterbacks take on added weight. Also, the PPR changes the way running backs are ranked, because RBs like LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, and Matt Forte collect a lot of receptions out of the backfield.
QB – Quarterack.
RB – Running back.
Redraft League – Every single year, every player returns to the free agent pool. This is the most common form of fantasy football league.
Roster – The list of players “owned” by a fantasy team owner. Each league has its own stipulated roster size.
Rotoworld – An online news service which is often used by fantasy football owners to read player news, mainly because it ranks so darned high in the search rankings.
Salary Cap – A method used to keep one owner from stacking their league with too many good players. The salary cap is supposed to add another layer of difficulty to play.
Sam – Strongside linebacker. As opposed to Mike (middle) and Will (weakside), used as a nickname, because strongside starts with an “S”.
Serpentine Draft – A serpentine draft snakes back and forth round-per-round, alternating picks between even and odd rounds. If you are in a 12-team league and have the 1st pick in the 1st round, then you would have the 12th pick in the second round. Some serpentine drafts keep the same draft positions throughout the draft, while others redraw every other round.
Sleeper Pick – A player who outperforms where he was drafted. For some purists, a sleeper is only a player whom few owners know about. In the age of the Internet, that is rare in leagues of any quality.
Starting Lineup – The players which comprise the scoring component of a fantasy roster each week. The decision to start/bench players is a Sunday ritual every fall, with players sweating over lineup decisions by going over injury updates and other player news. Other owners seem to walk through the process in a daze.
Team Defense – Scoring for the entire 11-man defensive unit, instead of individual defensive players. Usually based on points allowed, yards allowed, sacks, interceptions, and fumble recoveries. Also, defensive touchdowns usually are bonus points.
The League – A TV show about the FX Network, which first aired in 2009.
“Touchdown Only” – A type of league in which the only scoring is based on touchdowns. This was the convention scoring system in leagues in the 1980s and early 1990s, before online fantasy leagues became mainstream. This alleviated the need to sift through box scores in the local newspaper, which is how weekly scores were tallied in those days. Not every touchdown-only league had a strict rule for TDs. For instance, field goal kickers often would receive 3 points for a field goal and 1 point for an extra point. Also, Team Defenses often would get points for sacks, interceptions, and fumble recoveries.
Tough Season – Fantasy football spoof on the satirical news website, The Onion. Tough Season depicts a stupid man’s quest to win his fantasy football league. He seems to be a cross between a General Manager and a Head Coach, often giving speeches to his players in a locker room setting. Andrew Luck, Matt Forte, and Alfred Morris co-star as themselves.
Undroppable – A player who is added to a “Can’t Cut” list. This is done to ensure the integrity of a league. In the early days, a team wanting to stack a friend’s team, but unable to get a trade approved by the commissioner, would drop the player in a way in which the friend would be most likely to add the player. This might happen if the friend is at the top of the waiver wire list, or if it’s a first-come, first-served free agency process. The Can’t Cut List changes throughout the year in many cases, due to injuries and other player news.
Value Drafting – Taking the best player available. Not being tied to the old-fashioned two running back strategy in the first 2 rounds, or any similar traditional strategies in the later rounds.
Waiver Wire – Free agency. The list of players who are not on a fantasy team in any given league.
Waiver Wire Fodder – A derisive term used for players who have one or two good weeks, are picked up in free agency, and then go back to mediocrity. Usually used by owners after one or more of these players have been offered, usually along with a more legitimate player, in a trade offer for a star player. The owner receiving the trade offer says, “I’m being offered waiver wire fodder.”
Wilfred “Bill the Gill” Winkenbach – Founded the first fantasy football league, way back in 1963.
Will – WLB. As opposed to Mike (middle) and Sam (strongside), used for the weakside linebacker.
WLB – Weakside linebacker.
WR – Wide receiver.
Yahoo! Fantasy Football – Yahoo has a large online fantasy sports community of about 5.6 million members. The search engine also hosts many local leagues.
Yahoo Free League – While the paid leagues are given high reviews, the Yahoo! free leagues are infamous for people joining, then only participating if the team they drafted is serious. If a person goes to a forum and brags about the team they drafted, people might ask, “What, in a Yahoo free league?”
Yahoo Sports Daily Fantasy – A daily fantasy sports site launched by Yahoo in July 2015, meant to compete with FanDuel and DraftKings.
Zero Strategy – A trendy new way of drafting which avoids the traditional RB-RB strategy. Inspired by Moneyball, zero strategy calls on owners to zig while everyone else is zagging. Instead of drafting the 9th-best running back at the lower part of the 1st round, owners instead focus on drafting the best player available from other key positions. The idea is that running backs are devalued in the NFL these days. Thus, it’s better to have studs at the other positions, then draft talented backups at the running back position.
That’s it for the fantasy football glossary. As I remember more FF terms, I’ll post them here. Hopefully, this helps people learn the basics of fantasy football.