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ESPN Fantasy Football, 6 Tips to Win

By Jared Smola | Updated on Wed, 15 May 2024 . 4:44 PM EDT

Check out these simple tricks to give you an edge in your ESPN fantasy football leagues:

ESPN Fantasy Football

What is ESPN fantasy football?

According to a recent survey, ESPN is the single-most popular fantasy football host.

In fact, the ESPN fantasy app had 55% more users on their platform than the Yahoo fantasy app as of 2021.

The appeal of ESPN fantasy football comes from its flexibility and resources:

  • Users can host redraft, keeper, and salary cap leagues on ESPN
  • Simple, user-friendly mobile app UX, interface
  • Option for offline drafting so you can host a live draft with friends
  • Timely notifications regarding player health, lineup issues, etc.

A quick overview of ESPN fantasy football

Commissioners setting up new leagues on ESPN have the freedom to do all sorts of things. Your league can play with superflex positions, head coaches, or even punters!

But if you’re looking for the basic, standard rules of ESPN, here they are:

  • 10 teams
  • Full-PPR scoring
  • 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 flex, 1 DST, 1 K, 7 bench spots (16 players total)

ESPN has also integrated IBM’s Watson technologies to help inform users when making tough lineup decisions, waiver claims, trades, and more.

This is a highly customizable, well-constructed platform with plenty of free tools at your disposal. So there are plenty of reasons to use ESPN as your fantasy football league platform.

Can you do a dynasty fantasy football league on ESPN?

Short answer: No.

ESPN's platform does not support true dynasty league setups.

Sure, you can host your dynasty league there anyway. But it won't afford you the same year-to-year carryover of rosters and rookie-draft picks. So your commissioner will need to put in a lot more work, and it'll probably be a lot more tedious for every manager in your league.

So you should not use ESPN to host your dynasty fantasy football league.

The real question is:

If you get all your fantasy info from ESPN as well, how much of an advantage do you get by using the same resources as your leaguemates?

Our experience and research shows some ways to game the system… and win your ESPN league(s):

1. Exploit ESPN’s average draft position (ADP) values

ESPN sorts players in one of two ways inside the draft queue:

The most common way is by aggregated data of where each player is selected in other drafts on their platform (hence ADP).

In other words, the players are listed in the draft cue based on where all the other users draft (read: value) those players. So the “rankings” everyone sees are simply the average player ranking of the “herd.”

And following the herd is not a winning draft strategy.

2. Don’t trust ESPN’s fantasy football player rankings

The other way ESPN sorts players for its draft queue is by using their own player projections. Let’s face it – almost everyone who plays on ESPN is going to be influenced by these rankings/projections.

You shouldn’t be one of them! 

It doesn’t make sense to base your draft decisions only on what the team of ESPN fantasy writers believe will happen.

Think about it like this:

ESPN fantasy football player rankings will influence millions of users …

If you’re one of them, you’ll (again) simply be following the herd. That means you’ll be trying to “out-luck” your competition to a championship.

Why rely on luck when you can use award-winning rankings? That’s what you can look forward to when you become a DS Insider.

Let the Draft Sharks be your “luck” and help guide you with rankings, ADP tools, and so much more.

TIP

Check out our current fantasy football rankings to see where we differ from ESPN

3. Create your own customizable fantasy football cheat sheet

Why stop at looking at ADP and rankings?

You can put all of that knowledge together by putting together fully customizable fantasy football cheat sheet tailored to your specific league’s settings.

If the free cheat sheets ESPN has to offer are going to be read by the same people in your league, is it really even “cheating” at all?

Become a DS Insider, and you’ll also have access to our Draft War Room on top of your cheat sheet.

This feature includes our Mock Draft Trainer, which brings your cheat sheet to life in simulated mock scenarios that enable you to practice any number of potential draft strategies to help you find the most optimal team build for you.

Being prepared is one of the most important cornerstones of success. Let our tools help guide you to an ESPN fantasy football title.

Mock Draft For ESPN Leagues 

  

4. Draft rookie wide receivers (WRs)

Since 2019, there’s been an influx of immediate fantasy impact from rookie WRs. 18 rookie wideouts have finished top-40 in PPR scoring over the last four seasons, according to FantasyData.

Moreover, 5 of those 18 rookies finished as a WR2 or better (within the top-24 in PPR).

For as much as fantasy managers focus on rookie RBs, our research shows you’re likelier to hit on a first-year wideout than you are a running back.

Let’s look at the two top scoring rookies from 2022:

Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. This pair finished as WR 21 and WR25, respectively, in PPR scoring.

Wilson was drafted as the WR47 in ESPN ADP last season. Olave, on the other hand, was a smidge higher at WR43.

If you’d drafted based on ESPN’s ADP, you may not have identified the value these players presented. The vast majority of these players were taken within the first two rounds of the NFL Draft and really took off by midseason.

Get ahead of the curve and check out our dynasty fantasy football value profiles. They just might even help you in your redraft leagues.  

5. Stash players on injured reserve (IR)

Though ESPN’s standard features don’t include IR slots, it’s not uncommon to add these to league rosters. 

If your league activates this setting and plays with the default rules for IR slots on ESPN, there are some work-arounds that can help you maximize your roster’s talent.

Say your league upgrades to include two IR slots:

  • Unless it’s expressly noted otherwise in your leagues rules, team owners may keep players ruled “OUT” for that week on IR.
  • This means if you have two unhealthy “OUT” players, you can move them and free up two roster spots.

Be sure to leave one bench spot open if you’re unsure of the availability of a player listed ‘QUESTIONABLE’ in a given week to avoid your roster being locked.

If that’s not a concern, however, this loophole gives you the opportunity to roster up to 18 players in a given week instead of 16.  

6. Live-sync your draft to ESPN’s fantasy football platform

Static cheat sheets might have won your ESPN fantasy league 10 years ago.  Our research shows that to win your ESPN league today, you need a tool that evaluates value at each moment of your ESPN draft.

That value should be based on things like changing team needs, positional scarcity, weighing breakout potential later in drafts – plus more. (We call these our 17 draft value indicators).

Our Draft War Room can help.

It’s a dynamic cheat sheet that live-syncs with ESPN fantasy football leagues in real time.

Plus uses 17 value indicators to show you the best player at every moment of your draft. 

The Draft War Room For ESPN Leagues

Jared Smola Author Image
Jared Smola, Lead Analyst
Jared has been with Draft Sharks since 2007. He’s now Lead Analyst, heading up the preseason and weekly projections that fuel your Draft War Room and My Team tools. He currently ranks 1st among 133 analysts in draft rankings accuracy.
Other rankings are stale  before the 2nd round.

Draft using the best dynamic tool in the industry. Our fantasy player valuations (3D Values) change during your draft in response to...

  1. Exact league settings - direct sync
  2. Opponent and Team Needs
  3. Positional scarcity & available players
  4. Ceiling, injury risk, ADP, and more!

You need a dynamic cheat sheet that easily live-syncs with your draft board and adapts throughout your draft using 17 crucial indicators.

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