Fantasy Football Academy: 102
If you’re starting a new fantasy football league, there are a ton of important questions to consider. Of course, selecting the right members for your league can make or break the league’s camaraderie and will heavily impact the ensuing atmosphere. One of the most important factors in providing a fun fantasy football experience for your league-mates is selecting the right platform for what you want out of your league. With fantasy football growing to massive popularity all over the world, there are several platforms that provide slightly different pros and cons in their technology. Which is the best one to use? That depends on a lot of factors, but I’m going to give you a breakdown here of some of the things that should influence your decision.
The Big Four platforms are those that fantasy football players are typically the most familiar with. I have played in leagues hosted on all three of Yahoo, ESPN, and NFL.com, and I am intimately familiar with the pros and cons of each. It’s important to note that these are the most-used platforms, a factor that presents some pros and cons in and of itself. The high usage rate for all of these platforms leads to its developers generally being on top of updates and providing great user interfaces, but it can also mean slow load times and statistical inaccuracies throughout the week. Let’s get into some of the differences between the Big Four.
Yahoo Fantasy Football
User Interface: 8/10, Statistical Acumen: 6/10, App: 8/10, Reliability: 7/10, Customizability: 6/10; Final Grade = 35/50
ESPN Fantasy Football
As the official fantasy football platform for the worldwide leader in sports, ESPN has a ton of pressure to deliver on all of its online platforms. Frankly, the fantasy football platform could be better. I played my two major leagues on ESPN last season and I was constantly frustrated by the lack of accuracy in the stat tracking and the way the app would crash frequently on Sundays. Sure, everyone and their mother is using the app to check their team’s scores, but in 2020 we should be able to have powerful enough technology to keep crashes from happening. ESPN does have a lot going for it in terms of its FFL toolkit, weekly report cards, and in-depth draft coverage as well as having the incredible Matthew Berry, Field Yates, and Stephania Bell in-house. ESPN does have a ton of advertisements on its website and app, though, which can often be a turnoff for players. That isn’t the biggest issue, but it’s just another knock on ESPN’s interface. I wish ESPN’s software was better as I am subscribed to ESPN+ and the company could do so much with its resources to put a stranglehold on the fantasy football industry, but the platform left a lot to be desired last season.
User Interface: 7/10, Statistical Acumen: 8/10, App: 7/10, Reliability: 7/10, Customizability: 7/10; Final Grade = 36/50
NFL Fantasy Football
In many ways, the NFL’s fantasy football platform is the perfect marriage between Yahoo and ESPN. The NFL website has the clean, easy-to-use interface of Yahoo and combines it with a star-studded cast of analysts and reporters. The NFL site has some awesome content, particularly for beginners, and it streamlines the waiver wire, trade, and lineup setting processes in an easy-to-use way. I have always loved the NFL website, but the app has often left a lot to be desired. In the past, the app was the worst out of the Big Three platforms and would often crash at the worst moments – there’s no worse feeling than your starting lineup being unable to be saved at kickoff time, and this happened to me on a number of occasions. However, in the past couple of years, the NFL has worked extensively on overhauling its app interface and I was pleasantly surprised by the improvements last season. NFL.com also has the added benefit of displaying your fantasy stats through DirecTV’s Sunday Ticket, which is an awesome feature if you’re a subscriber. That used to be my favorite aspect of NFL.com’s fantasy football and the recent improvements to the app interface have me very intrigued in returning to the platform.
User Interface: 8/10, Statistical Acumen: 8/10, App: 8/10, Reliability: 7/10, Customizability: 6/10; Final Grade = 38/50
CBS Fantasy Football
The first thing that’s worth noting about CBS is that they have one of the best collections of fantasy football writing talent, other than Lineups.com, of course. In all seriousness, though, the trio of Jamey Eisenberg, Dave Richard, and Heath Cummings has helped turn CBS into one of the best resources throughout the fantasy football season. In particular, I love the website’s weekly trade value chart and waiver wire breakdown articles. CBS also partners with SportsLine, which is a great resource for sports analytic information, especially in regards to fantasy football. CBS’s platform is pretty serviceable for traditional fantasy leagues, but I’ve never actually hosted a league on the platform and instead treat the website as more of an auxiliary resource throughout the season. If you’re looking to start a more involved league, CBS is not a great option as they charge $150 a year for hosting 30-team leagues. CBS has some awesome resources for fantasy players, but I’d lean towards one of the other three if you’re looking at this group.
User Interface: 6/10, Statistical Acumen: 7/10, App: 6/10, Reliability: 7/10, Customizability: 6/10; Final Grade = 32/50
As fantasy football has continued to grow, independent websites without major industry backing have cropped up and found a ton of success. The entrepreneurial aspect of fantasy football is exciting as it provides players with ultra-customizable leagues and competitive platforms in every aspect as these companies have to find ways to steal users from the Big Four. Let’s discuss some of these third-party platforms and whether or not they may actually be better than their more-used counterparts.
One of my favorite fantasy football resources for the past few seasons has been the SleeperApp, perhaps the fastest fantasy news source in the industry. Their notification system keeps you on top of everything happening in the fantasy football world, and I also love their mock draft system. However, they have also developed an excellent platform for leagues with an awesome user interface. Sleeper also has its own seamless chat system inside the app which allows league-mates to stay connected at all times. It also has a weekly report similar to the one Yahoo publishes which shows players the best and worst lineups, studs, and duds around the league – this adds another layer of competition. Sleeper’s platform works great on both a desktop and mobile device and the fact that it’s lesser-used means far less lag-related headaches on gameday.
User Interface: 8/10, Statistical Acumen: 7/10, App: 8/10, Reliability: 8/10, Customizability: 8/10; Final Grade = 39/50
No platform has seen a greater increase in popularity over the past few years than MyFantasyLeague (MFL). If you’re looking for a highly customizable, highly involved league with unique features, then look no further. If you’re looking for the most seamless dynasty/keeper experience, look no further. MFL does carry a price tag for these ultra-customizable features – somewhere between $70-$90 for your league – but this can be wrapped into the buy-in for a highly committed league. MFL has won several fantasy football industry awards and is one of the best options for advanced players looking to up their game. It’s worth noting that NFL’s user interface is somewhat lacking – this won’t feel like the most seamless experience – although they do have a solid app and it may be worth sacrificing a bit in the way of the user interface for the elevated customizability.
User Interface: 5/10, Statistical Acumen: 9/10, App: 6/10, Reliability: 8/10, Customizability: 10/10; Final Grade = 38/50
I saved the best for last here. My favorite fantasy platform for all sports is Fantrax for a number of reasons. The platform makes it incredibly easy to run both season-long and dynasty/keeper leagues. It also offers almost the same level of customizability as MFL while also offering a seamless, user-friendly interface. It also offers elements that the Big Four platforms don’t such as different methods for setting your lineup, multi-team trades, and an easy-to-use Fantrax Treasurer format for the league commissioner to collect buy-ins. Fantrax also has some of the best customer support in the industry with staff members following up on requests for player changes, scoring updates, etc. very quickly. I also love that Fantrax includes college players – this allows you to play in NCAA fantasy leagues or, my personal favorite, Campus To Canton leagues in which you control players from the time they play in the NCAA until the time they wrap up their NFL career. My one complaint with Fantrax is that the mobile app can often be overwhelming and difficult to use, but it’s generally pretty up-to-date on scoring and rarely has any issues with glitches in the software. It’s surprising to me that Fantrax hasn’t gained more traction in the United States with its awesome interface and elite customizability.
User Interface: 9/10, Statistical Acumen: 8/10, App: 7/10, Reliability: 9/10, Customizability: 9/10; Final Grade = 42/50