Your 2012 Fantasy Football Host Site Bible
By: The Football Girl | Posted: June 28, 2012
Choosing a fantasy hosting site is pretty much akin to searching for a soul mate. Perhaps you stick it out with the first site you experienced because you are either certain nothing can top it, or scared of discovering the opposite. Maybe you bounce from site to site because no site can satisfy you for too long. Same for those non-committal types who feel the need to play in 22 leagues. (Mind if I call you a fantasy STD?)
If you’re in what I imagine is the majority, you may have a hosting site that pretty much does the trick -- it’s reliable, visually acceptable, and knows when to make you feel special (i.e., putting your name atop the standings when you have the most wins). However, maybe your site is too doting and doesn’t put the toilet seat down and you just wonder if there may be a better match. (I am in this camp -- strictly from a fantasy perspective, of course.)
Luckily there are a plethora of new options, and as evidenced by a barrage of recent emails, they really want to get to know all of us. But I wanted to get to know them first, so I created a faux fantasy league (tautology alert, or as some may now be thinking, nerd alert) in the five most prominent free fantasy host sites. Before I share the results, here are few things to know:
1) Host sites are graded in the following categories: Aesthetics; Ease of Commissioner Setup; Customization; Ease of Owner Use; Fantasy Expert In-Your-Faceness; and Extras.
2) There is an overall grade, as well as grades for each category except for Fantasy Expert In-You-Faceness, since the desire for expert invention is so varied. Be warned, my grading is likely harsher than most.
3) There is a greater emphasis on Commissioner Setup than Ease of Owner Use since the season has yet to start and we can’t see draft rooms, “real time” scoring aptitude and a million other subtleties that will become apparent starting September 5th. (Be sure to check out my in-season update for these.)
4) When examining customization, I am working within the scoring parameters of the standard league I commission. It includes 4 points for a QB TD, a variety of scoring bonuses, and a FAAB (free agent acquisition budget). Default settings also carry a lot of weight since many new commissioners go that route.
5) I did not include RT Sports, My Fantasy League and CBS Sports because they all require payment. I do not believe that in 2012 anyone should be paying for a fantasy host site. Across the board, the advances in customization amongst the free sites have grown astronomically, and that $89 or $150 or .50 fee is much better served by going into league payouts.
In alphabetical order, the five sites being judged are ESPN.com, FleaFlicker, FoxSports.com, NFL.com and Yahoo!. If you play with any site not mentioned and would like to offer up a reasonable critique, please do so in the comments section.
Aesthetics: The Tokyo of fantasy outfits. Its busy and varied and really hard to find the fantasy football home page prior to bookmarking. The font is also small. C
Ease of Commissioner Setup: Roster composition is confusing because, as expected, there are a lot of bells and whistles. What’s the difference between a “QB” and a “Team QB?” How does a “utility offensive player” differ from any flex combining all positions? The most frustrating part was I got a note saying that my settings were locked before I actually finished customizing the rules. When I went to test that out, lo and behold, I couldn’t change any settings. There was a note in the Fantasy Help section saying settings were editable all season; however, I couldn’t figure out how. Maybe I’ll try again after a weekend in the country to escape all the hustle and bustle of this site. D
Seriously, I've got to meet a team quarterback, not just a regular quarterback.
Customization: The options are solid, if not in excess. One annoying element is the default scoring for defensive yards allowed (less than 100 – 5; 100-199 – 3; 200-299 – 2; 350-399 - -1; 400-499 –3; 450-499 –5; 500-549 –6; 550 –7) is very obscure. This is something I have not seen elsewhere. B
Ease of Use for Owners: Pretty user friendly once you find your league home. There’s a message board and a chat room - shouldn’t those two items be merged? B
Fantasy Expert In-Your-Faceness: Extremely high. However, ESPN folks are top notch, and the site delivers an array of relevant content.
Extras: Matthew Berry tutorial videos, which are very useful for beginners. ESPN also provides a fantasy help number for you to call. An actual phone number! A
Best for: Matthew Berry worshippers and those who appreciate one-stop shopping (i.e., malls and Costco).
Overall grade: B-
Ease of Commissioner Setup: Pretty easy with a nice flexibility of drafting options. However, draft setup doesn’t pop up as its own step as it does on some other sites. Don’t like lack of clarity between when waivers are processed and free agency begins, an issue with most sites, actually. B-
Simple setup for the most part.
Customization: High. Weird default bonus of 5 points for a rushing/receiving TD over 80 yards, and 2 points for one between 40-79. Drop-downs for virtually all categories allow for extremely creative league. A-
Ease of Use for Owners: Very easy. It’s very stripped down, and quite simple in its design and functionality. A
Fantasy Expert In-Your-Faceness: Zero, as Fleaflicker only does hosting.
Bonus Features: None of note C
Best for: Fantasy expert haters, fantasy purists.Overall grade: B+
Ease of Commissioner Setup: Very difficult as I kept getting an error message upon entering login credentials, with no explanation as to why. You have to go seeking out the draft tab and again, and available draft times are limited. Also, the site needs updating as some of the explainers don’t match the topic. D-
Uh, not sure what published leagues have to do with FAAB.
Customization: Pretty decent. However, beware of the 6 points for passing touchdown default setting. And in pure FOX fashion, the customization I was presented with was “Allow Profanity on message boards?” The default setting was “yes.” C
Ease of Use by Owners: Not good. There is no separate tab for scoring setting. Instead, it is simply grouped with transactions as “rules” and falls at the bottom of a drop-down. F
Fantasy Expert In-Your-Faceness: There is content, but it is poorly promoted. Hard to feel a connection to a fantasy writer when you have to take five steps to find out his name.
Extra Features: Polls D
Best for: Guys who wear wife beaters and fans of Tony Siragusa lovers.
Overall Grade: D-
Aesthetics: Very basic. Grays and blues. You’re clearly supposed to be attracted to the fact that it’s “official game of the NFL,” not the design. C-
Ease of Commissioner Setup: Two immediate knocks – 1) There is a minimum of 10 teams per league. 2) They ask for your birthday. Also, there are not only blackout times for drafting (only available from 11AM-1AM – way to Heisman part of your international contingent) but overall dates already unavailable. At least I think so based on this confusing option. D
Presenting the new Goodellion Calendar
Customization: Pretty high. They have all the usual options without going overboard. Defense option doesn’t allow you to set points allowed in any way other than increments of 6 or 7 (1-6, 7-13. Etc.). That is the default setting for most fantasy hosts; however, some leagues I know prefer the values for “points allowed” as increments of 10 (0, 1-10, 11-20, etc.) B
Ease of Use for Owners: It seems pretty simple. Projections for the week and season are highlighted. A-
Fantasy Expert In-Your-Faceness: Minimal. Michael Fabiano is at bottom right. Would like more variety in fantasy coverage.
Extras: There is a fantasy depth chart, which is intriguing since actual fantasy depth charts often change by the week. For fun, creative trash talkers there’s a trophy room, which unlike ESPN’s default trophy titles, let’s you customize. B
Best for: Roger Goodell lovers, those who own a lot of jerseys and those who lost sleep anticipating who was ranked 80-71 in the NFL’s Top 100 Players of 2012.
Overall grade: C
Aesthetics: With very basic fonts and colors, Yahoo! would benefit from a little bronzer. But easy to use and good for beginners. B
Ease of Commissioner Setup: Finding the signup tab is a bit difficult as it’s either part of the fold (at least on Safari) or in very small font over the lead slider. Once discovered, it was easy to set up the league and draft date. However, Yahoo! also has a limitation on when you can hold your draft. (9:00 – 11:45 PM). An added annoyance is that it doesn’t tell me if my draft time is ET, PT or Samoa time. C
Customization: As far as roster setup, every combination of player makeup is included. And all the bonuses are super-customizable, as in you fill-in-the-blank customizable. A
As customizable as it gets.
Ease of Use for Owners: Had to upload my photo several times before it stuck and Yahoo never told what I did wrong. Yahoo! has their helpful “League Notes,” aka a to-do list, very visible on the league home page league. B
Fantasy Expert In-Your-Faceness: Experts are way too hidden, particularly since the Yahoo! guys produce such interesting, useful content. At the very least they should be peeking out of the fold.
Bonus: Transaction trends – rising and falling value of players. Twitter Intelligence – what fantasy experts are saying about your players – looks promising. A
Best for: Beginners, obsessive organizers, those with Yahoo.com email accounts.
Overall grade: B+
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