Anyone who has been around DraftDay since its beginning last fall has now had a sufficient opportunity to play daily fantasy sports in all four major pro sports leagues. It raises an interesting debate: which pro sports league is most conducive to great daily fantasy sports action?
I think one league can be safely eliminated from this debate at the onset: the NHL. Any reasonable hockey fan can probably acknowledge that at the present time there just isn’t enough volume or interest in daily fantasy hockey for it to be realistically considered as the best daily fantasy sport. There’s no denying that volume, that is to say a bunch of participants putting a bunch of dollars and lineups in play, is a major factor for creating a great daily fantasy sports experience.
Other important factors that come to mind include: sweatability, frequency of contests, and manager lineup diversity. So with the NHL watching from the sidelines for now, let’s debate which of the remaining three pro sports leagues, NBA, NFL, and MLB, offer the best daily fantasy sports action.
It’s hard to access which pro sports league entices the most volume from participants at this time since DraftDay’s player base is growing rapidly. In other words, there will probably be a lot more people playing in the NFL contests this fall than there were last fall. Making a side-by-side comparison of how popular each league has been so far yields a pretty close race.
The NFL undoubtedly attracts the highest volume of action to its contests. But when you consider that NFL contests run only one day a week, it gives the other leagues plenty of time to make up ground. Put another way, $25,000 changing hands on a single weekend of NFL action may make the $5,000 changing hands on a nightly basis in NBA and MLB pale in comparison. But with the latter two leagues offering contests every night and not just one day a week, there is more total volume in baseball and basketball.
This metric seems too close to declare an obvious winner for now.
A major part of what makes daily fantasy sports great is the way it can enhance your viewing experience. It’s entertainment. You want contests that result in nail-biting drama in front of your TV.
For now, baseball should probably be eliminated from this debate. I envision daily fantasy baseball becoming so popular that one day MLB.tv offers a feature where you can input your lineup into a software program that toggles the station to show you when one of your players is at-bat (think NFL Redzone Channel only for your baseball team). When that day comes, baseball will be a seriously sick sport to sweat for daily fantasy purposes. But for now it’s kind of lame.
That leaves football and basketball and here’s why I think basketball is better: there’s constant action. In the NFL, you have long pauses in between plays and fantasy players who can only score points when their team’s offense is on the field. What makes the NBA so exciting for daily fantasy sports purposes is that your players can generate fantasy production at any moment (provided they are on the court). There is a higher level of constant, fluid action in basketball. It and hockey are great sports to watch for this reason. However, there is no “touchdown” factor in the NBA. The fantasy production is a long, steady grind throughout the game, not a windfall of points that come on one play.
Again, I don’t think you can declare with strong certainty which league offers the best fantasy sports sweat.
Frequency of Contests
In this metric, the NFL is immediately eliminated from consideration for only being able to offer 17 iterations of its contests annually (plus playoffs). That leaves the MLB and NBA which are able to offer contests nightly during their regular seasons which each last pretty close to the same amount of time, about 26 weeks.
One might break this tie by pointing out that on some nights in the NBA regular season, there are only two or three games scheduled whereas there are always at least six or seven MLB games on any given night. But the NBA offers a major advantage in that their playoffs are highly conducive to daily fantasy sports action which is something the MLB cannot claim.
Another metric that seems too close to declare an obvious winner.
Manager Lineup Diversity
Daily fantasy sports are more fun the more variation that exists in participants’ lineups. There is nothing fun about hovering over a guy’s name and seeing that 70% of the participants in the contest started him. You want your sweats to be raw. You want to know that if a guy on your lineup goes off Josh Hamilton style, it will be great for you and bad for everyone else.
For two reasons, there is one pro sport that stands above the rest in this category right now: Major League Baseball.
First, there are simply more players to choose from. This makes it somewhat inevitable that manager lineups will be really diverse and they have been so far this season. It’s great hovering over player names and having a hard time finding a guy who was started by more than 20% of participants.
You have to also credit DraftDay for this. They are doing a great job with keeping MLB player salaries up-to-date in a way that doesn’t leave everyone starting the same breakout stud night-in and night-out (*coughJeremyLincough*).
Is there a clear-cut choice for the best pro sports league for daily fantasy sports action? I think it’s hard to say there is. The debate rages on because the action has been pretty awesome in all three major leagues considered. MLB might offer the best raw daily fantasy drafting experience, but then the games can be lame to sweat. The NFL is obviously very exciting but feels like a flash in the pan compared to the NBA and MLB seasons.
For my money, this debate is just too close to call right now. But when the MLB unveils that customizable fantasy sweating channel, they’ll be pretty tough to beat.