Thursday night marks the opening of the NFL season and fantasy nuts are gearing up with Red Bull, nachos, paid NFL television subscriptions and, you guessed it, technology. While I am not in a fantasy league (I have been a couple times in the past), I do understand the passion for sports, if not necessarily the rooting for the success of one player over another, which feels a lot like cheering for a field goal instead of a touchdown so that you win the office bracket pool, but I digress.
If you are a fantasy nerd, you'll no doubt be all over the Web searching for depth charts, injury reports and Arian Foster Tweets about his hamstring and how much he hates you. Fortunately for you, the world of mobile technology has gotten in on the act with apps for your smartphone to help you track stats and manage your fantasy sports teams from anywhere including dinner with the in-laws, church and staff meetings. While I realize the value of a good draft application, of which there are several, I left them off the list simply because NFL fantasy drafts have come and gone and you need to prepare for week one.
9. NFL.com Fantasy Football Free Multiple Platforms The NFL launched their first fantasy football app in August to go along with their branded fantasy sports league. Unfortunately, this app isn't actually an app; it's just a set of links to the NFL mobile Web site inside an app. After forcing you through a registration process that requires e-mail confirmation, nothing unique or interesting is provided. This is not worth a download, but it seemed worth mentioning since it is an official NFL joint and, if for no other reason, to point out how bad it is.
8. ESPN Fantasy Football 2011 Free iPhone, Android Like so many things ESPN does these days, this is a solid app, but not spectacular. The 2.0 version has quite a few bugs and it's just a generally lackluster interface. Still, if you have an ESPN fantasy team, this is one very easy way to manage it on the fly.
7. RotoWire Fantasy News Center Free Multiple Platforms RotoWire has distinguished itself as a nearly inexhaustible resource for fantasy sports geeks and its Fantasy News Center, ideally, is a source for minute-by-minute news relating to fantasy sports. I say "ideally" because what sounds good in theory is only average in practice. This is, by all accounts, a news feed app that streams in the latest news from RotoWire, making it quick and easy to scan stories.
However, there are issues. Only the most recent stories show up in the feed, meaning if you missed anything earlier in the day or week, it can't be found here. Likewise for individual stories that are too wordy for the space. There is nothing but an ellipse at the end of the story with no "read more" link. Quick and easy is great unless content is sacrificed in the process, which is too often what happens with this app.
6. ESPN ScoreCenter Free Multiple Platforms The four-letter word in sports got that nickname for good reason. As revolutionary as ESPN was, it has become a symbol of what is wrong with sports in general, namely, too much hype and not enough substance. In many ways, the ScoreCenter app lives up to that reputation. While it does have quality content, the interface is awkward and cumbersome, making liberal use of pop-up windows, which are both annoying and impractical. Still, their play-by-play features and up-to-the-minute scores and stats make it an invaluable tool on the go.
5. Yahoo! Fantasy Sports Free iPhone, Android If you are a Yahoo! Fantasy Sports subscriber, this is a must-have app that allows you to manage your fantasy team on the go. As per usual with sports coverage, Yahoo! is the cream of the crop and is rated extremely highly by fantasy players. Unfortunately, it is limited to only Yahoo! fantasy subscribers, but there are a LOT of them.
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4. Pro Football Weekly Fantasy Football Insider Free iPhone, Android Pro Football Weekly has, for many years, been a fantastic source of insider news on the NFL and that continues with this fantasy app. It is, in essence, nothing more than a news aggregator, similar to the Rotowire app, but its interface is so good and the content is so well put together, it is worth a top-five mention. Developers could learn from the simplicity of the design that allows you to quickly scroll and swipe through dozens of news stories and rankings. The information and interface are nothing short of excellent.
3. Fantasy Football Monster '11 $2.99 iPhone, Android This is for the true fantasy pro who has multiple teams across several networks. For that person, this app is probably invaluable. It allows users to manage ESPN, Yahoo! or NFL.com fantasy teams from one interface. I'm not exactly sure why anyone would manage multiple fantasy teams, but whatever floats your boat. The interface appears to be fairly straightforward and worked well overall. There have been a few complaints of bugs here and there, but many of them traced back to one of the three fantasy sports networks. If you do need to manage multiple teams across various platforms, this is your app.
2. Yahoo! Sportacular Free ($1.99 for ad-free version) Multiple Platforms Few will argue that Yahoo! has become the best source for sports news pretty much anywhere online or off, so it makes sense that they should have arguably the best sports mobile application on the market. With a four-plus star ranking in the Apple Store, it is clear this is the app of choice for sports fans. With all the personalized team options, push notifications and real-time stats, never mind the slick interface, it is easy to understand why fantasy players love it too. It is my sports app of choice and has been for a while now.
1. NFL Fantasy Cheatsheet 2011 $2.99 iPhone One of two smartphone apps on the market with a three-dollar price tag, you might think this better be really good for the cost. It is. With over 500 ratings at four-plus stars, users have spoken and the truth is, this is a very good app for many reasons. Most importantly, it is very detailed and filled with information for the fantasy junkie. From position-by-position depth charts, custom rankings, instantaneous injury reports and projections based on both historical and recent trends, this is a powerful way to manage your team and worth the three bucks.