Fantasy football head-to-head: Yahoo! vs ESPN

September 4, 2014

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Football season is once again upon us, and Fantasy fanatics across America are dreaming of December domination over friends, family and colleagues. Yes, there’s tons of talk about Manning vs Brees, McCoy vs Charles, and Megatron vs Demaryius, but at FVM HQ, we’ve been debating a different sort of match-up: Yahoo! vs ESPN. The technology, the mobile integration, the analytics, the user experience, and a few things in between. In this article, FVM’s two biggest Fantasy obsessives defend their preferred platforms.

coach-seanName: Sean “Kanye” Chase
Site: Yahoo!
FF team: The Buffalo Dippers
Team: Eagles
Favorite football quote: “#5 will always love you!” – Donavon McNabb

coach-nickName: Nick “New Guy” Stile
Site: ESPN
FF team: The Beatnick Poets
Team: Jets
Favorite football quote: “I’ve got news for you. We’re gonna win the game. I guarantee it.”
– Joe Namath, Prior to Super Bowl III 


Mobile Integration

Sean: In my educated (yet, humble) opinion, Yahoo! Is LIGHT-YEARS ahead in mobile integration. Any device, anywhere, any time. No matter if I’m cruising in my Volvo or relaxing at home with my cockapoo, Cory, I have 24/7 access to make sure my team is ready to take down the competition. Yahoo! Fantasy Football integrates all your teams into one seamless application where you can check standings, adjust lineups, manage free agents, and view upcoming schedules. I’ve used the ESPN app in previous seasons, and although it gets the job done, it’s really no match. As Richard Sherman said: “Crabtree got nothing on me!”

Nick: To say that the mobile experience of Yahoo! is “light-years ahead” of ESPN’s is almost as absurd as saying the Jets have serviceable cornerbacks this season. In terms of phone apps, both are quick and easy. It’s just a different interface. OK, neither compare to having a computer screen in front of you, but when you’re in a pinch, they come through.



Sean: When it comes to sports management – whether fantasy or the real thing – there’s nothing more powerful than stats. All of a sudden, everyone’s Moneyball’s Billy Beane (or the Jonah Hill guy) and it’s all about maximum value, not flashy names. Yahoo! has upped its game and provided users with innovative analytics such as previous season statistics vs. up-to-the-minute projections for the 2014 season. The ability to see how you compare to the competition while drafting is impressive, and detailed post-draft report cards letting you know where you stand is a nice touch (especially when you get an A, like my Buffalo Dippers!).

Nick: OK, I can’t argue. This is one category that Yahoo! comes in unmatched. The draft grades and analysis of your matchup each week is fun and innovative. That being said, it’s all speculation, and maybe ESPN knows that at the end of the day, draft grades amount to nothing. As a wise colleague of mine once said: “You can’t win a league on draft day, but you can definitely lose it.” But, yes, as much as speculation is silly, you need something to kill time during those dark pre-season days.


Draft Application/
User Experience

Sean: Omaha! Omaha! There’s nothing more important than knowing your playbook. Over the years, Yahoo! has stayed loyal to its layout with a few minor tweaks on their draft application. This year’s model provides improved chat functionality and larger visuals to help navigate through positions and select your perfect pick. The main league and individual team pages are intuitive and extremely easy to navigate. You can manage your weekly roster, sift through free agents, and set your lineup based on expert projections without stress, right up to kick off. It feels like Peyton’s at the line of scrimmage directing you on each and every move; and boy does it feel good!

Nick: This year I’ve drafted six teams from my iPad, iPhone, and laptop on both Yahoo! and ESPN (I admit I went a bit overboard this year, but with my Yankees struggling, I was getting desperate). While Yahoo! may be more appeasing to the eye, they’re both straightforward (even more straightforward than the Colt’s route to the playoffs this year). And the point my co-author makes on familiarity is moot. Yahoo! spent last year completely revamping its whole fantasy platform, which was met with people saying: “The Yahoo App finally doesn’t stink.”


Communication Tools

Sean: I’ve always run my leagues on Yahoo! based on the fact that it’s easy to communicate with the league. Having a forum where you can reach your league with a mass e-mail or chat individually is critical to the league’s success. Yahoo! provides a town hall forum on the main league page where you can post commissioner notes, manage league finances, ask opinions on league settings, and alert about pending trades. As anyone who’s ever been a commissioner knows, communication is the real work. And on Yahoo!, it’s simple.

Nick: Have you even been on ESPN? Literally EVERYTHING listed above is accessible on ESPN. There is a place for smack talk, league polls, commissioner postings, chats, and more. Commissioners have access to every player’s e-mail and can start a chain if need be.


Closing statements

Nick: ESPN isn’t the world leader in sports for no reason. Now, I can’t speak for the TV programming, as that has fallen off a cliff in recent years, but the website is another story. With links to pages like Bill Simmons’ and Nate Silver’s, it hosts more intelligent insight than most of the common sports sites. It also has everything you need to be a successful owner. On the Fantasy homepage you can link to the top 300 players, bold predictions, mock drafts, sleepers, and more. It’s easy to use and focuses on the business of football. After all, Herm said it best: “You play to win the game!”

Sean: “LeBron James had eggs for breakfast,” “Tom Brady’s favorite hair product is mousse.” “Kobe Bryant just scuffed his Kobes.” These are the top daily headlines on ESPN SportsCenter. Yawn! Yes, they were the first to do it, and will always be recognized as the leader in sports, but the time has come when the tech company has taken the lead – at least in terms of user experience. Yahoo! may still trail Google in search, but in the Fantasy Football power rankings, they are officially #1.