Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football, Part 4: Starting Lineups

Our beginner's series continues with a look into starting lineups for fantasy leagues

Now that we have the fundamentals of scoring down, let’s take a look at starting lineups. These are the players that will accumulate points for you each week. The lineup has a set number and requirement for positions. Each week, fantasy owners can decide to move players in and out of their starting lineups until those players are locked. That usually happens when those players' games start, though some league rules may lock starting lineups starting with the first game of the week.

One of the biggest challenges in fantasy football is making solid lineup decisions. Usually, you want to play your stars, but there are a lot of factors that go into lineup decisions. Before we get there, though, let's start with the basics. What are the different kinds of starting lineups, and how do these different lineup types affect strategy?



This starting lineup features one quarterback, two running backs, two receivers, one tight end, one defense/special teams, and one kicker. Most leagues nowadays feature one more starter, whether it be a receiver or a flex position. We will cover that below.

Now for some context. For the purposes of this article, we will assume a 12-team fantasy league with standard scoring. Different scoring systems will change the calculus we discuss here, but the core game theory remains in place.

Now is a good time for a crash course in positional scarcity. This concept should inform roster construction. Positional scarcity is the idea that fantasy value at each position has a varying degree of scarcity, or lack thereof, depending on starting lineup requirements and league size. For example, in a 12-team fantasy league with a vanilla starting lineup, there are only ever 12 quarterbacks starting any given week. That is 12 out of 32 NFL starters who will ostensibly be under center 100 percent of snaps, barring injury. Broadly speaking, you can reasonably expect to get good scoring out of your quarterback if you get one of the top 12 in the league, which means you can wait longer to draft one without negatively impacting your roster.

Conversely, there are 24 running backs starting on fantasy rosters in any given week. Considering there are only a handful of elite backs and maybe another double fistful of solid starters, fantasy scoring can get pretty scarce once you get past the first 15-20 running backs in a draft.

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