Fantasy sports have been accessible since pre-digital times.

In many parts of the world, national newspapers would publish fantasy leagues for various sports, and the phenomenon has existed in some form since the late 1980s.

It’s true to say, however, that the rise of online fantasy sports has revolutionized the practice.

For NFL and football in particular, it’s never been more popular, and that popularity continues to rise.

The Stats Tell a Story

In 2003, just as the fantasy sports providers were starting to take advantage of the internet, the figures showed that some 15.2 million people were playing fantasy games in the US and Canada. By 2015, that number had risen to 56.8 million.

Those stats represent a 270% increase in just 15 years, and there are clear reasons for this significant jump. Firstly, the word is spreading that fantasy football is great fun. It’s fascinating for players to put themselves in the shoes of an NFL coach, pick the teams and match themselves against others.

It’s also much easier to access a wide range of fantasy sports opportunities now than it was two years ago. Far more outlets are listing NFL fantasy options online, and a quick search will return a whole host of providers.

It’s a perfect storm but how, exactly, does fantasy football work?

The Mechanics of Fantasy Football

If you’ve never been involved with fantasy football, you’ll need to know how the process works. The traditional system requires players to assemble a team using all the franchises from around the NFL.

You can select any registered player from any of the 32 NFL franchise teams to form your roster. They will be split into sections – quarterbacks, offense, defense, kickers, special teams and so on.

The only limit is the budget. There is a cap on how much each fantasy player can spend as they assemble their roster. Each player has a purchase figure attached to them, and it’s not possible to go above the total budget. This makes complete sense, otherwise every fantasy coach would simply pick the most expensive team.

In every NFL game week, points are awarded to those fantasy players based on their performances in real life. Those points are allocated via touchdowns, passes, kicks, tackles and more.

The league organizers run an outright table, and prizes are awarded to the best fantasy players each week. At the end of the season, the big cash wins are paid out.

Head to Head

The meteoric rise of fantasy football has seen the introduction of new ways to play the game.

The traditional option of picking a team over a season remains, but it’s now possible to make things more complex.

Every week in the NFL season, there will be some head-to-head options. Which quarterback will throw the most passing yards?

Which member of the defense will make the most tackles?

As the interest around fantasy sports continues to grow, the options simply increase.

Tips for Success

Those who are new to fantasy football should start out by playing either free games, or those that require little monetary outlay.

It takes time to get used to the nuance of fantasy sports, and this is a good starting point.

For those playing the long game and picking a team over a season, those budget caps mean that you have to think carefully about selection.

It may only be possible to make one big purchase before spending more frugally in other areas.

Key Man

The most important man in a football game is the quarterback.

He is pivotal to the team’s success, throwing touchdown passes and setting up plays with crucial passing yards.

The same applies to fantasy football so, if you’re going to spend big on one player, it should be the quarterback.

Your remaining players should also be competitive, but coaches will need to spend more wisely as they work through the rest of the team.

Essential Research

Fantasy players will need to research into the strengths and weaknesses of potential picks.

There are so many NFL stats around that this is relatively easy to do.

How did your players perform last season, and are they likely to carry that form into the new campaign?

Don’t forget the NFL draft picks.

While these will be relatively unknown quantities, there are many websites that provide a host of college football stats.

Keep up to Date

Don’t be tempted to set and forget.

So many fantasy football players pick their team and leave it in place for the entire season.

As the NFL campaign goes on, it will be possible to swap out players from your starting lineup, while making additional trades.

A common mistake for newbies is to keep a player in while they are injured.

The combination of fun, and greater access to options has led to a meteoric rise in fantasy football.

In the years that follow, the interest is only set to increase.