How To Use Data To Be A Fantasy Football Champion


Almost 10 years ago some of us decided to have a family fantasy football league. Many owners were first-timers, although most of us were dedicated NFL consumers.  So my obsession with being the champion began. I did win a championship three years in, but that was mostly luck. (I drafted both Randy Moss his first year with the Patriots and Adrian Peterson in his rookie season.)  Unfortunately, since then I have been at best a mediocre player and at worst, I was the recipient of the league’s infamous Toilet Bowl trophy.  In 2014, after starting 1-3, it got to the point that my wife offered to take over my team.

It was fairly obvious to me that the people who were winning had a good amount of football knowledge.  They generally watched a few games a week, did good research and were able to use that information to make informed decisions about their lineup.  So I asked myself “aside from watching a lot more football, how can I capitalize on my unique skillset to win?”  (Not that I dislike football – I love it – but I have many other commitments and watching it more just wasn’t realistic.)  It was then that I had my epiphany.


So I spent the week using a tool called Kimono to create some API’s to other expert sites and I specifically looked for experts that ranked players weekly. By Friday I was able to collect and aggregate the expert rankings from 200+ individuals who did have the time and desire to do as much, if not more, research than the other players in my league. My assumption was that the aggregated wisdom of that crowd would provide me with the information that I needed to start the right players every week. I wrote a simple program to intake and process all of the data and output the list of players that I should be starting for that week.

I won the first week, made some revisions, added some more experts and ended up 9-1 for the rest of the season!  Now, that could have been pure luck so I decided to put my system to the test for our 2015 draft. I used a very similar set of API’s to obtain a large number of draft rankings and used my program and API’s from the previous year to decide who I should start.  I began the season 7-0, with no free agent pick-ups, and there were several weeks where I considered overriding the expert consensus. In each and every case I was proven wrong, although I never actually went with my guy and so wasn’t harmed. There was even a week when the expert consensus called for one of my back-up receivers to play and he scored two touchdowns! (The experts didn’t recommend him again after that and justifiably so.)

Due to some high impact injuries I ended up 10-4 but I did end the season with the championship. Overall, since the inception of system, I have a record of 19-5 with a 2nd place in 2014 and a championship in 2015.

So when you think about data, don’t just think about how it can improve your business, think about the power it holds to make you a champion!

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