Yes. Fantasy football season is upon us. Amid a sea of apps and sites promising to get you a little closer to perfection, I turned to some of 2012′s most accurate fantasy experts to get their take on which online tools you actually need to be using when you’re quietly researching your lineup at work.
As fantasy sports have moved into the digital age, there aren’t many people scanning newspapers with a pencil in hand anymore. But you know what? A lot of these guys still rock it old school to an extent. FF Toolbox writer Shawn Larabee watches tons of game footage in addition to doing online research. Jody Smith, a senior writer at Gridiron Experts, suggests opening a magazine every now and again. They’re not the type to buy into hype.
So when the fantasy football app scene can seem like an arms race for sexier offerings, better predictions, and more comprehensive news aggregation, here are six tried-and-true tools that will help you do it right this season. Because when you hear the same advice enough, it usually means something.
It seems almost too obvious, but when it comes to following breaking news and knowing who’s injured before the rest of your league, Twitter is your best friend. According to David Dodds, the co-owner of Footballguys.com, all NFL news now breaks on Twitter, and that happens much faster than conventional news sites. Plus, as Smith pointed out, it’s not just a news source: it’s an accessible, friendly community of fantasy talent. (Smith himself promptly responded to my interview request via Twitter.)
“The only app I use for fantasy football is Twitter (or Tweetdeck),” said Justin Sablich, a senior web editor in the sports department of the New York Times and the co-author of its 5th Down Fantasy column. “I have one Twitter list of my favorite NFL beat writers and one list of my favorite fantasy football writers and that’s all anyone really needs in my opinion.”
Right up there with Twitter is Rotoworld, which has become the gold standard for fantasy news and general updates. (“I’ll be honest, I’m reading Rotoworld,” said Dodds, whose website also does news.)
“That website rarely misses a beat when it comes to breaking news. And they almost always link to their original source, be it a newspaper article or a Tweet,” Sablich said.
Fantasy Pros’s Draft Wizard uses an algorithm powered by expert cheat sheets and ADP sources to simulate a live draft and shows users what how experts would handle each pick. Live mock drafts are slow and subject to human error: as Draft Wizard puts it, sometimes “some bozo takes a kicker in the first round just to be funny.” A simulator lets you run as many drafts as you want, fast. Sablich is also a fan of Fantasy Pros’s player rankings, which take into account 88 different fantasy experts.
Among the longtime players I spoke with, there is some debate over the extent to which you should make decisions based on algorithms. While Dodds feels that number crunching is the way of the future — Football Guys has developed its own Rate My Team application — Micah James of FFMagicMan said that raw numbers aren’t all there is to making decisions.
“It’s more helpful for everyone to take another close look and say, ‘If this is what I’m being told, how does that correlate to what my eyes are telling me, and how does that mesh with the latest news?’ I think taken with a grain of salt they can be very helpful.”
Still, numberFire got solid feedback, and James said he likes their website. In addition to their predictions, the Who Do I Draft? tool, which is updated daily, is a simple way to judge players side by side.
Oh yes. In perhaps the best possible use of this service, Google+ Hangouts integrated with NFL fantasy football last August to spur on vid-chat trash talk, among other things. But according to Smith, Hangouts are also a great way to connect with the brilliant minds of the fantasy football world and get their insights.
Fantasy Football Calculator
Sablich cited Fantasy Football Calculator as one of his favorite researchresources. The site has a number of different calculators, including a scenario calculator (to predict the likelihood that a player will fall to you at a particular spot in the draft), live mock drafts, a draft simulator to mock alone, draft hosting, and weekly custom projections for each player on your team.
Just remember, don’t become a slave to what these algorithms and so-called experts tell you to do.
If you haven’t picked at your league yet or this piece gave you an unquenchable thirst to read more about fantasy, Billy Gallagher breaks down the seven best places to play fantasy football here.