The mobile app experience is changing our culture, communication, politics, business, and relationships. A cultural analysis of apps in society is a topic for another time. What I really want to discuss is something a little more serious – yes that is fantasy football. Being a “player” since the late 90s, I’ve experienced and witnessed the growth of fantasy football from submitting lineup changes over mail to now being able feel like a “general manger” of your entire franchise through an iPhone. According to an AdWeek article, Fantasy football has grown into a sport with some 27 million players. Media companies like Yahoo Sports, ESPN, NFL Network and CBS Sports are making roughly $5 billion per year. As an avid NFL information consumer and strategist, I’ve found that downloading particular apps on my iPhone have enhanced how I engage and enjoy the NFL and fantasy football as well as bring a competitive edge. I’m going give you my take on the essential apps for any fantasy football player.
1. Yahoo Fantasy Football and ESPN Fantasy Football
I’ve been in the same Yahoo Sports league “Roxbury Rivals” since 1999 with my father, brother, neighbors and other close friends. The league is VERY competitive. There are still memories of 2004 when my guy, former Kansas City Chiefs Larry Johnson, rushing for 122 yards and two scores late in the 4th quarter. My opponent (which happened to be my brother and best friend) had his guy, former Seattle Seahawks Shaun Alexander, stopped on the 1 yard-line late in the 4th quarter. I won by 0.5 points. Sometimes is all about the inches.
Both Yahoo and ESPN are not only two of the largest fantasy football conglomerates, but in a similar way, their mobile apps do an excellent job providing all the critical information such as weekly matchups, team scores, the “free agent players” available, and recent transactions (add and drop data). In other words, the apps track the “inches” by displaying my matchup scoreboard even to the decimal places. Additionally the apps come in handy by easily allowing claiming players off the waiver wire. Think of it as a fish swimming in a pond and the person with the fastest speed and best aimed spear gets to eat. Strategically when I see a star running back or wide receiver being carted off the field, I try to pick up his backup IMMEDIATELY. In some cases that transaction can mean the difference in my season. In 2012 for example, my father picked up New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz changed the whole trajectory of my Dad’s racking up 1,536 receiving yards and nine touchdowns that season.
2. Rotoworld Fantasy News
Rotoworld Fantasy News aggregates hundreds of brief player updates a day on injuries, what coaches are saying about players, analysis on the players’ stats after the game, and other detailed tidbits of information that NFL junkies eat up like an all-you-can-eat bacon buffet in the morning. The app allows the ability to “follow” your particular players on their specific updates.
I’ve found that the capability to see last-minute information right before the kickoffs of games can be the difference between a win and a loss. Football is a brutal sport on the body. It’s no surprise that there are injuries all the time and often the dreaded “game-time decision” when pregame warm-ups determine if the player will play or not. Nothing is worse than receiving a big fat zero from a player who did not play due to injury. After glancing at Rotoworld Fantasy News, I’ve made numerous lineup changes through my iPhone at 12:30 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon (30 minutes before the 1 p.m. kickoffs start and the rosters are “locked”). I’ll admit that sometimes it’s distracted me from fully listening to the tail end of Sunday morning sermon when I’m wondering if my guy, like Atlanta Falcons Julio Jones, will be able to play at the 1 p.m. kickoff. Rotoworld Fantasy News often comes in the clutch.
3. The Weather Channel
Huh? What does this have to do with fantasy football? Sometimes it means everything. When it comes to real football late in December, it’s not always warm and comfortable. During that critical last month of the year, when most fantasy football playoffs take place, the weather can bring intense rain, snow, ice and wind. That is why you need The Weather Channel App.
Sloppy weather for the NFL usually means low scoring, less passing, and overall unpredictability. Take for example the game in 2008 where the New England Patriots defeated the Arizona Cardinals 47-7, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner, who threw for over 4,500 yards and 26 touchdowns that season, threw of a miniscule 30 yards passing, no touchdowns and an interception. Clearly the team from the dry heat of Arizona did not handle the blistery snow and wind from Boston area well. As for me, I placed Warner in my fantasy football championship game lineup and hence I lost an extremely close battle. First world problems I know, but from that day forward I decided to check the weather before critical games in December. The Weather Channel app is seventh-most-downloaded iPhone app as of May, 2013 and critical for almost anyone who likes to enjoy the outside. As you know, the future can be difficult to predict sometimes (especially the weather or who in your fantasy football will strike a gold mine of stats). However The Weather Channel app can at least help a tad.
Other notable fantasy football apps to considering downloading:
Fantasy football should continue to be at the heart of the Yahoo Sports, ESPN, NFL Network, CBS Sports and alike marketing, advertising and business development strategy for fan engagement because fans, have a hard time during down fantasy football. At the same time, fantasy football will keep growing with new technologies. Here are a few ideas I see how fantasy football apps might look like in the future.
1. There will be fantasy football apps for Google Glass that display stats or live game action literally closer than ever.
2. NFL stadiums will use augmented reality technologies to link live action with your player’s statistics just by scanning your iPhone on the field of play.
3. The experience of watching the NFL from the comfort of your home will become more and more enjoyable than going to the game in person. The NFL League Office will have to find solutions. Perhaps lowering ticket prices or making the stadium experience more integrated emerging technologies could help.
As the NFL preseason and fantasy football drafts start mobilizing in August, make sure that you download these three mobile apps to give you an added edge over your opponent. More importantly it will make your experience of playing fantasy football even more enjoyable. Having the right tools does make a difference.
Tim O’Keefe is a social media and marketing smartypants. He is also an NFL connoisseur and sports junkie.