Exploring the Future of Fantasy Football From Draft to Championship
As digital creators, we dream of the future of technology experiences. As digital creators with a bent toward fantasy sports, we dream of what can be done to remake fantasy football.
As we prepared for the 4th installment of our company league, the VFL, we explored tools to research, draft, and manage our teams. And instead of merely dreaming up ideas, a few of our league veterans got together to outline challenges, opportunities, and concepts for improving the complete experience of fantasy football.
Our ideal draft takes full advantage of the variety of devices available to league members. Projectors and HDTVs create a more compelling and celebratory view of every pick, while laptops and mobile devices offer team managers the real-time data they need.
New Age War Room
Every player comes to the draft with unique strategies and methods — paper print outs, pivoting spreadsheets, links on links on links. We multitask on phones, tablets and laptops, and some commissioners project an additional screen to benefit league members. The introduction of a dedicated “spectator” view could unlock the potential of having discrete actions and interfaces for your devices. Research on your laptop while viewing the draft on your TV, then eventually make a selection from your phone — allowing users to set up the right combination for their needs.
The Waiting Game
While making picks is the primary purpose of the draft, the largest portion of time within the draft experience is not the 1- 2 minute selection window, but instead the ~15-20 minutes as a spectator between picks. We’ve all been there, after attempting to follow along, your friend struggles to find a player only to be scolded by league members “he went last round - pay attention!”
Allowing for an option or view to shift the focus here could provide users with a better handle on the full landscape of the draft, including which players have been taken. It could even be a valuable content play for fantasy sports providers, allowing them to broadcast the drafts of “celebrity leagues” virtually.
The Pick Is In
While we appreciate an emphasis on efficiency when it comes to virtual drafting (256 players takes a while!), the current experience is more utilitarian and lackluster than we’d like — at least for the first few rounds. With a “Pick, move on, Pick, move on” feel, we tend to verbally announce our picks prior to selection to elicit reaction and to take our moment in the spotlight after a long round’s wait.
Without that declaration, the software quickly moves to the next team on the clock and you’re attempting to track the pick in various feeds throughout the UI. An interface that takes a moment to celebrate each pick would be a great solution, and one that would make you and your friends feel pretty important.
We envision a more persistent, free-form, integrated communication stream that encourages banter alongside real-time league news.
A More Relevant Interface
In an age of infinite streams and real-time communication, traditional fantasy football forums feel downright archaic. Dated alert mechanisms — largely lacking focus or priority — mean that league communications as a whole are fairly neglected.
Instead of archaic message boards, we envision a steady stream of communication — a persistent flow of smack talk and news with an incredibly low barrier to entry. Chat tools like Slack have revolutionized how teams communicate — what if similar conventions of communication were leveraged for league communications? Would we be more likely to join in with a quip here and an emoji there?
Keeping It In Context
The power of online communication lies in its inherent ability to contextualize and organize information. ‘#’s and ‘@’s neatly place thoughts and conversations in their proper context, even from within a larger feed. More recently, automated notifications are evolving into delightful AI chat or text bots. Companies are building apps solely with text and are offering smarter, more nuanced alerts. Imagine if NFL players could be mentioned, or matchups hashtagged — perhaps information could bubble up to inspire and inform the league conversation.
A Picture, Not 1,000 Words
Long gone are the days of spreadsheets and calling in lineup changes — fantasy football is now ingrained in the digital alongside cat videos and memes about Compton. Why not make images, memes and videos a more organic part of league communications? Tapping into, or even showcasing, this medium could make for a more lively stream of communication or content from leagues and emulate the buzz and feel of draft day and beyond.
The team management of our fantasies offers personalized notifications and recommendations, smart trend recognition, and near-limitless access to the stats and information we need.
The Opportunity For Personalization
Injury updates, bye weeks, and player news help you determine which players ultimately earn a spot in your lineup. Many fantasy sports platforms also publish news, so there is no shortage of ‘urgent’ content — even for a third string running back. As the adage goes “when everything's high priority, nothing is high priority.”
What if you could see the few players you should target to remove from your starting lineup or roster? What if key decisions between Thursday night and Sunday players could be surfaced earlier? Personalizing the team management experience to highlight the most essential information would allow users to identify needs faster and make quicker decisions.
We live in an economic landscape where consumers relentlessly pursue to compare price and value before making a purchasing decision. Why should picking up a player off the waiver wire be any different? The ability to quickly compare players both on and off your roster would be a welcome addition to the team management experience. How do your current wide receivers stack up against free agents, or even against wide receivers on other teams?
What Have You Done For Me Lately?
Fantasy experts spout no shortage of obscure factoids (Geno Smith at home versus AFC East Opponents) and we all eat it up because WE LOVE IT. After all we’re a bunch of nerds cheering on and tracking, well...statistics.
What if player trends were more readily available? Are players over and under-performing based their projected points? Highlighting trends would empower users to take risks and deviate from “expert projections”, or at least provide another fun piece of data to look at.
The perfect postseason experience builds anticipation and a sense of fanfare. Data-driven predictions highlight key matchups, while a final summary highlights triumphs and documents the season for years to come.
Knowing Where You Stand
Predictive data is a part of our daily lives: The bus will be here in 4 minutes, there is a 75% chance of rain next Tuesday. With Madden simulations, bracketologists, and FiveThirtyEight data scientists, the sporting world is no different. The big question — What are their chances?
Shouldn’t we do the same in fantasy football? Your chances to make the playoffs, or the teams that need to win or lose — the friends you should heckle or encourage — could be a simple calculation surfaced and showcased in the final weeks of a season.
A Reason To Come Back
If you aren’t fortunate enough to make the playoffs, let’s face it, you check out. You effectively wasted a third of the year researching players, setting your lineup and always coming up short. There’s little incentive to come back to the league page after the playoffs begin. What if there was something to bring you back?
Imagine a “Season Report Card” where your greatest achievements and lowest lows are documented for posterity. Comparisons of predicted player performance against pre-season projections could tell the tale of team underperformers, or you could look back on your closest victory with a fond memory. Past seasons are often forgotten, so the season summary report would also serve as a time capsule into the future.
Open The History Books
Existing fantasy football platforms divide data very intentionally from year to year. As the game has become more prevalent, so has the tradition of league membership — some leagues have decades of history. Given this fact, why restrict the data to merely one season?
Unlocking performance data of league managers could provide historical facts, figures and simulations as you look forward to the playoffs. Looking at an opponent's performance could be the psychological edge you need to win, or at least a fun thing to throw in your friend’s face.
While designing the optimal fantasy football platform required us to consider relevant interfaces, integrated access to data and meaningful social interactions, the joy of fantasy is that it’s…fantasy. It’s about creating a portal into a competitive adventure or an imaginary experience that not only supplements reality, but in many ways, becomes its equal.
At Viget, these are the kinds of experiences we’re continually thinking about creating and improving. Whether that’s through technology or strategy or just imagination, we simply want to make the world a more enjoyable place to live.