Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football, Part 1: Origins

Our beginner's series begins with a look at the origins of fantasy football

So you want to learn about fantasy football. You’ve come to the perfect place. But first, a little history.


What do golf and football have to do with each other? Other than Tony Romo and Pro-Am tournaments, fantasy football can actually trace its roots back to fantasy golf, the original fantasy contest back in the 1950s.

Wilfred “Bill” Winkenbach, part-owner of the Oakland Raiders back in the 1960s, actually invented fantasy golf. The original rules involved drafting golfers per tournament and compile their scores per fantasy team. The lowest score would win, naturally. It almost sounds like fantasy golf was the OG DFS contest, too.

Drinking cocktails with a couple of sportswriters in 1962, Winkenbach took his golf concept and created the first fantasy football league. It was an eight-team league called the Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League. Too bad character limits won’t allow that fantastic league name on modern platforms.

Winkenbach’s invention allowed fantasy team owners to draft professional football players from any team to their own fantasy squads. A scoring system was put in place to accumulate fantasy points based on real game performances. So, for example, the original scoring system awarded 25 points for a made field goal. That, as you will come to see, is an absurd number of fantasy points today. It may not have been perfect, but Winkenbach’s creation would one day be the catalyst for the NFL’s explosive popularity.

Of course, it would take decades before fantasy football would hit the mainstream. It took dedication to compile fantasy statistics out of newspaper box scores. Only the most hardcore fans would play fantasy football. Then the Internet happened.

Perhaps the pinnacle of human invention, the Internet changed everything. That includes fantasy football. The mid-’90s saw the rise of the original fantasy sites. They compiled fantasy statistics for players, lowering the barrier to entry.

Reasons to Play

Love of the game. Friendship. Fun. Bragging rights. Money. Peer pressure. These are just some of the reasons why fantasy football is for you.

Once upon a time, I moved to California, sight unseen. Starting from scratch with no friends or family, I was invited to participate in a local fantasy league. In spite of the modernization of fantasy leagues already, this league did a live auction draft. By then I knew a couple of the guys in the 12-team league, but those relative acquaintances were all that I knew heading into the league. I left that league with several good friends, and a version of that league still plays together over a decade later despite the fact many of us have moved away. Looking back, it's too bad we didn't name it Greater Oakland Professional Pigskin Prognosticators League Redux.

Fantasy football makes the most mundane matchup a potential thriller. Perhaps your running back needs to have a big game or you need your opposing quarterback to have a quiet day.

What Does this Series Cover?

We will go from the most basic concepts like points systems and lineup settings all the way through making your playoff push. This series is designed to turn a complete fantasy football neophyte into a stud in a matter of hours. There will be tips on research, building and maintaining a team, setting lineups, and more. We will also highlight great Footballguys tools to help you along the way.

Reasons to Subscribe

Footballguys has a small army of fantasy football experts churning out tons of content throughout the year. We have dozens of tools that are constantly being updated. We have helped countless fantasy football owners win their leagues. But don’t take our word for it -- just take a look at some of our testimonials!

Next: League Types

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