2014 Fantasy Football: Changes You Need to Know for This Season

Andrew GardaFeatured ColumnistJuly 17, 2014

2014 Fantasy Football: Changes You Need to Know for This Season

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    Brian Ach/Associated Press

    With training camps about to start up, you know it's time to start firing up your fantasy football leagues as well.

    There are a few things to keep in mind as you do that, though.

    There are new bells and whistles on some management websites, a big merger in the daily fantasy space, some new (and old) trends in fantasy rankings, and some different options for where you set up your league.

    The fantasy sports landscape is always shifting. Let's take a look at some of the changes going on in the space this year.

Yahoo’s Got New Additions

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    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Along with a new look, Yahoo's fantasy football has a few new gimmicks.

    If you’re playing a Yahoo league this year, you’d better get familiar with the changes.

    Yahoo has added a few statistical categories to its database, one of which might impact scoring. It'll tell you carries and targets (which is pretty much just catching up to a lot of other places that do it already) and you can set your league to score for first downs.

    It has also revamped its app and changed its archaic predraft ranking tool.

    Yahoo is still free, so anything added is a bonus, but make sure you know how your rules are set up—especially with the new scoring for things like first downs.

    It may seem like a small thing, but it could be a rule that totally changes how your league scores a position.

Running Backs Are Still King in Fantasy, but Graham Is a Top-10 Player

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    Stacy Revere/Getty Images

    If you look at fantasy rankings around the Internet, such as those posted by Matt Berry at ESPN.com, you’ll note that the running back is still king.

    But look more closely and you’ll notice Jimmy Graham at No. 8 overall. And if you look around the Internet at other rankings, you’ll get similar results.

    What does this mean? Well, it’s a reminder that it can be just as hard to quantify and label the tight end for fantasy purposes as it is for actual football.

    It’s a recognition that Graham puts up numbers on the level of a top wide receiver such as Calvin Johnson or Demaryius Thomas, and that tight ends have become fantasy studs.

    No longer are they the extra position you throw into the league lineup to shake things up. Now they’re important pieces.

    While there is still a wide range of ability between the top-tier players (guys like Graham, Vernon Davis, Rob Gronkowski when healthy) and the next group, the gap is closing. And with players like Julius Thomas emerging, and talented rookies like Eric Ebron or Jace Amaro coming out of college, the gap will only get smaller.

    Don’t wait on the tight ends in your fantasy drafts. It’s worth an early pick, especially for the best guys.

DraftKings Merges with DraftStreet

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    Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Daily fantasy football has been gaining more and more interest over time, and as it has, you’ve seen more and more options to play pop up.

    Two of the biggest names in daily fantasy—DraftKings and DraftStreet—have paired up and combined forces.

    If you’re one of the many daily players on Draftstreet.com, you’ll be migrating over to DraftKings. They’ve offered several bonuses for players coming over, and DraftKings has been good to its customers in the past, so you shouldn’t have much to worry about.

    It sounds as if the company is expanding into other fantasy sports too, which gives players more of an opportunity to win some games and make some money.

    I’ve talked to several people about their experiences with the migration, and while they haven’t all had perfect transitions, they’ve been happy overall.

    With so many fantasy contests, daily leagues and new websites popping up, you always have to be careful about whom you trust with your money. This merger is good for the fantasy industry as it allows players to relax and play their games without wondering if they will see a payout when they win.

    Far too many players have had bad experiences over the past years with shady companies. It’s worth noting when two trustworthy companies join forces because that just makes them more stable.

There Are More Viable Fantasy Running Backs Than Ever Before

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Dovetailing off the “get a tight end early” theme of an earlier slide, you can absolutely wait on a back this year if you’re drafting at the end of the first round.

    When you look at what could be available at the turn in the first round, in terms of running backs, it won’t likely knock your socks off. Especially when you consider that a lot of rankings have guys like Alfred Morris, Andre Ellington, C.J. Spiller and Frank Gore around No. 30—that translates to the turn of the third and fourth round.

    You even have a shot at good depth as players like Shonn Greene, Carlos Hyde, Chris Johnson, Stevan Ridley and Trent Richardson are ranked even later.

    All of the backs named will get solid carries, while very few early backs will get all the carries. For every Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy or Jamaal Charles, there is a Doug Martin or Zac Stacy who might lose some carries.

    On the flip side, though, that gives you some value in players like rookie Tre Mason or second-year player Bobby Rainey as they get a chance to produce.

    As I wrote earlier, running back is still king—that just means something different these days.

Some New, Different Options for League Hosting

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    MyFantasyLeague is a fully customizable management site.
    MyFantasyLeague is a fully customizable management site.Screenshot of MFL via Andrew Garda

    Nobody has been able to challenge ESPN, Yahoo, NFL or CBS in terms of popularity when it comes to hosting fantasy leagues.

    A lot of that has to do with name recognition, although in some cases price (free!) helps.

    But you have some other options which are worth looking into.

    MyFantasyLeague.com has a fully customizable look and format. You can give your league a personality with different color schemes, logos and scoring, and the site usually has some decent deals for buying the service.

    I've always liked MFL, though I've seen leagues which from a "look" point of view were too busy for my tastes. I've never had issues with the service, though, which is always a plus.

    RTSports.com has fewer bells and whistles but is a very solid choice for hosting your league. It has branched off into baseball for full-on fantasy play as well, so if you happen to play both, it's good to have all your leagues in one place. RTSports does daily games as well, adding basketball and hockey into the mix.

    The more interesting idea I've seen is via a site called Fanium.com, which is a mobile app-based league-hosting service.

    Basically you do everything on your phone. That makes it less customizable but easier to handle managing your team on the road.

    I haven't used this service yet but have heard some good things about it.

    So if you're tired of the big corporate places, you have some other options to use for your league this season.