DraftKings, NFL.com Change Fantasy Features

For the most part, every fantasy sports site is the same. Note I said, “for the most part” – obviously each has its own quirks, positives, and negatives, but on the whole, when you register to play at one, you know what to expect. Thus, it’s interesting when a site makes a change or introduces a new feature. Let’s take a look at a couple points of interest from around the fantasy world, one good and one bad.


DraftKings Daily Fantasy NBA

Basketball fans around the world are charged up today, as it is opening night for the NBA season. There are just three games on tap, but they are good ones: the defending champ Cleveland Cavaliers host the always popular and usually bad New York Knicks, the inappropriately named Utah Jazz visit the sensationally named Portland Trailblazers, and annual class of the league San Antonio Spurs visit the record-setting Golden State Warriors.

With the start of the NBA season comes the start of the NBA fantasy season. Within the last couple weeks, DraftKings told its customers that it has removed the “late swap” option from NBA contests. For those unfamiliar, late swap is a feature that allows fantasy players to sub in a different athlete into their contest lineup as long as the athletes have yet to start their real-life game. Anyone whose game has already begun is locked into place. The benefit to being able to do this is it gives fantasy players a chance to keep an eye on injury info and make a last-second change, if necessary.

This works very well in NFL games, as there are distinct timeframes for Sunday games: 1:00 ET, 4:00 ET, and the 8:30 Sunday night game. All games within the two afternoon timeframes start within about five minutes of each other. Thus, if I want to play, say, Tevin Coleman in the Falcons game this weekend but am not sure if he’s going to play, I pencil into my lineup while still keeping an eye out for news about his game time status, all while the 1:00 games are in action. His spot in my lineup won’t lock until his game begins, so if I find out he’s not playing, I can swap him out for the Broncos’ C.J. Anderson (provided the salary cap math works).

It is tougher to do this in the NBA. First, exact NBA lineups aren’t always known in advance and the starters can change enough to make a difference (more players than just the starters get plenty of minutes, but typically starters get the most playing time). Perhaps more importantly, though, is the fact that the starting times of games are more spread out. For example, this coming Friday, there are games that start at 7:00 pm ET, 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 9:00 pm, and 9:30 pm. It can be very difficult for all but the most dedicated DFS players to keep proper track of injury and lineup news in order to perform any necessary late swaps.

Jonathan Aguiar, Head of VIP Services for DraftKings, addressed critics of the move on Twitter, saying, “This decision is meant to make DFS NBA more palatable to those with jobs, families, and busy lives. Committing 3 hours after lock is hard.”

He added, “DFS should not be about following beat writers. Late swap remains for every other sport because injury/lineup reporting is manageable.”

Cliffs notes: DFS should be fun, not a chore.


NFL.com Season-Long Fantasy

That was the “good.” Now for the “bad.” While DraftKings and FanDuel get most of the attention in the fantasy world nowadays, people sometimes forget that the NFL has its own, free season-long fantasy football product on NFL.com. It is fine, it works, it is what you would expect from season-long fantasy football.

But NFL.com has added a feature that is just truly awful, that makes the league look so, so hypocritical when it says it is against sports betting (because, after all, fantasy sports is a form of sports betting). Players in custom leagues can activate the new “Roster Options” feature in order to give themselves more flexibility in setting their lineups.

Now, “Roster Options” is a very vague title and my description was purposely full of spin. Here’s what it really is: the option to have a bench player substituted for a player in the active lineup if that bench player scores more points. This is not late swap. This is after-the-fact swap. Those who use the Roster Options feature can set their lineup however they would like and then just sit back know that the system will just create the optimal lineup from all of their players, bench or active.

And players have to PAY for this. It’s 99 cents to put the option on one player or $3.99 to optimize the entire lineup.

This is just terrible. There are four things a season-long fantasy player has to do to manage their team: draft players, set a weekly lineup, make waiver wire transactions, and conduct trades. The first two are the most important. Roster Options removes the most crucial in-season strategic task – setting a weekly lineup – from consideration. It’s asinine. It takes out the biggest skill aspect of the four-month grind.

On top of that, it makes the season-long fantasy games pay-to-win for any league commissioner that turns on the Roster Options feature. One would assume that if a commish does turn it on that all of the league owners agreed to it, but that doesn’t make it any less stupid. And of course, the money is going straight to the NFL. How nice.


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