A Better Daily Fantasy Sports Experience
Someone once told me to do what I love. In fact, everyone tells me that, all the time.
It’s with this advice in mind that I left my position as the Director of Technology for Wolfram Solutions and accepted a position as Chief Information Officer at StarsDraft.com — a new and exciting daily fantasy sports offering.
StarsDraft.com offers a fantasy sports experience with unparalleled attention to all elements that matter most for fantasy sports lovers everywhere. Behind the scenes are sports and user analytics to optimize every aspect of the gaming experience; athlete salaries, research statistics, in-game athlete and user real-time stats — even the user experience itself will be continually improved based on data-backed insights as we grow. We are launching this season with an impressive set of data-driven tools and dashboards and the list of planned additional improvements is never-ending. In my opinion, the most impressive thing about StarsDraft.com right now is the team we’ve put together; how our founders managed to scrounge up such a motley crew of amazingly talented fantasy sports fanatics, I’ll never know. Every day of my life is now a cross between Silicon Valley and The League.
In this first post of the 2014 NFL season, I want to highlight some of the features we’ve been working on for launch, explain the foundations of our roster and salary decisions, and provide a link to the live beta for you to check out.
Anyone who has played daily fantasy sports for any extended period of time will tell you that the industry has come a long way. At the beginning, features like quick contest enter, better contest overviews, lineup-centric dashboards, and real-time stats updates were a mere twinkle in the DFS’ers eyes. The DFS community consistently called for these features, and many more, for years. Today, many of these requests still remain unmet. At StarsDraft.com, we have been tirelessly researching, discussing, developing, destroying, and redeveloping the site to ensure the experience not only meets these needs in the most transparent fashion, but also addresses the unmet needs of new users who never get a chance to voice their concerns and are driven away from the industry by a terrible first experience without ever giving it a second chance. No feature set can please everyone, but I want to quickly rundown the details of the site, highlight the features we plan to launch with and list those features we will be rolling out shortly after launch.
- Our roster setup is unique to the industry. Designed to increase the flexibility during roster creation and allow a wider range of team-creation strategies, our standard NFL rosters will consist of the following positions: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, FLEX (RB/WR/TE), FLEX (RB/WR/TE) and DEF. Having two flex positions really allows for the creation of an amazing diversity of rosters. And, of course, we’ve given the kicker the boot (terrible pun, heavily intended… I’ve been jaded on kickers from the tender age of 13 by Adam Sandler’s timeless anthem).
- Our salaries will be set by yours truly and I expect them to be the sharpest around. By sharp, I don’t mean The salaries are as predictive as possible of expected performance. Identifying value is challenging resulting in a huge diversity of lineups and minimal overlap in player ownership. We also set the absolute level of the salaries at a level where users are forced to make important choices between studs, mid-tier guys and scrubs. The salaries will have the widest range I’ve seen, with a $2,000 minimum value at all positions. We’ve also adopted a $50,000 salary cap.
- All scoring is standard except for the following adjustments: 0.5 points-per-reception, 4 points-per-passing-touchdown and 4 points for a defensive safety. Defenses are awarded +12 points at the start of the game and are penalized 0.5 points for every point scored by the opposing team. See the FAQ section of the site for more details.
- The lobby, contest enter, lineup creation and in-contest experiences all have a sleek, modern design and feel. There isn’t a single popup, and every aspect of the interaction has been pored over ad nauseam to make sure the user experience is top notch.
- A huge part of DFS is the added entertainment value it brings to the live contests. During testing, our real-time data feeds from STATS LLC have been updating athlete stats before our users see the plays on ‘live’ TV coverage. These updates are integrated into projections, and visualizations designed to help you better understand where you stand with respect to your competition, which athletes you should be pulling for and who you need to fade.
- Users can track their action with three distinct dashboards: Contests, Athletes, and Lineups. In the contest overview, you can easily see all of your contests to understand where you rank, how many points you’ve scored and your projected payouts — all on a single page. The contest overview dynamically updates in context with real-time STATS feeds with alerts as to when you score points, improve your rank or earn your way into the money — there’s no need to reload the page to know where you stand.
- Follow along on an athlete-by-athlete view in the Athletes dashboard. Every athlete you own across your rosters can be viewed in a single page along with their real-time stats, the player feed for their in-game activity, information about their contests and lineups, and detailed information about your dollar-exposure to that athlete.
- One-click quick enter from the lobby, advanced athlete statistics and comparisons, and lineup exposure calculations are just a few of the features we will have live at launch.
- Contests for the upcoming NBA, MLB, NHL, PGA and NCAA basketball seasons, are in the works this year, with college football to come next year. We plan to regularly incorporate new sports as they become popular in the DFS community.
- One of the features I’m most excited about is what we’ve dubbed theVICTRON. This is a slider system that allows the user to set the importance of various statistics in their roster-construction considerations and generates lineups with players that excel in those statistical categories. You can give more or less weight to different fantasy-relevant statistical categories, incorporate match-up strength, and consider more recent or historical data to create your lineup. With this tool, a user can create a lineup of ‘hot right now’ momentum plays, a team of ‘touchdown-dependent boom and bust’ type players, or emphasize the entire body of work by looking at longer historical stats. Obviously, the VICTRON can’t substitute for hours of research and staying abreast of the latest news — but it provides a handy starting point for those trying to familiarize themselves with the game or longtime DFS’ers looking for lineup inspiration.
- One-click quick enter from the lobby. No popups. No import needed.
- Lineup edit. Accessed through the Lineups dashboard, Lineup edit allows users to easily manage their lineups and produce a diversified set of lineups to ensure they have the right amount of action on their favorite athletes each week.
- Anonymous H2H contests. Tired of having your H2H contests picked off by grinders? Our anonymous H2H contests match users randomly to ensure a fair fight.
- Innovative rake structure. Our executive staff has years of experience in real money gaming and understands the longer-term impact that rake has on player ecology. We break the mold when it comes to rake — with anonymous H2H contests offering rake as low as 6 percent!
- 100 percent first deposit bonus up to $1,000.
- Global swap from the lineup edit. We are taking our time on this one and have a global swap experience designed that is powerful, intuitive and unique to the industry.
- Aggregate in-play data (current contests, upcoming contests, $ in play, currently winning). All of these things are on the radar — we are making sure to integrate them with the same careful consideration we’ve given to the other features.
- Alternative game types. If you think traditional DFS is entertaining, just wait. We’ve dreamed up contest types that aren’t offered anywhere in the industry and have the potential to change the game forever.
- Loyalty system. Details coming soon.
We are looking forward to all of the feedback, comments and suggestions!