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Personal Finance Reports

A Look Into the Money Behind Fantasy Football

This week, millions of players will log online or meet up at their friends’ houses to draft the fantasy football team they hope will win them the big money. 

Millions others will soon log on to daily fantasy football websites, like DraftKings and FanDuel, to try their luck at weekly competitions that pay out prizes to the top performers.

If you read any sports websites from August to December, you are guaranteed to see multiple articles covering the ins and outs of fantasy football.

What players are set to break out this year? What big name player is going to fall short of expectations? Who is that late round sleeper that could help you win your league?

The possibilities are endless and there is more fantasy football content published each day than any one person could possibly read.

In short, fantasy football players choose real professional football players to be on their virtual teams. Then, based on how well the real players perform, fantasy players receive points.

Though it has been around for some time now, the fantasy football industry is still booming​, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to slow down anytime soon.

Fantasy sports is now worth $7.22 billion with nearly 60 million players in the United States and Canada, according to the FSTA. Considering the participants can play an entire season while sitting on their couches, that is a significant amount of cash being thrown around.

Many of us here at LendEDU are big fantasy football fans. This is why we were interested in learning more about the money behind the game that so many people around the world play every year.

We surveyed 500 fantasy football players through an online survey. We asked a variety of questions related to the money behind both season-long and daily fantasy leagues. The full results and our interesting findings can be found below.

On this page:

What Type of Fantasy Football is the Most Popular?

There are two main types of fantasy football: traditional, season-long leagues and daily fantasy.

In the traditional fantasy format, players join a season-long league in which they draft a team and play against different league members each week. Towards the end of the season, the top teams compete in a playoff to decide who takes home the winning prize(s).

In the daily fantasy format, players draft a new team each week and compete against a pool of up to hundreds of thousands of other players. Only the top players win and receive a payout. 

​The first question we asked respondents was, “What kind of fantasy football do you play?” The results are shown in the graph below:

As you can see, 39.40 percent of respondents only played traditional, season-long leagues, 23.80 percent only played daily contests, and 36.80 percent played both.

We thought it was interesting that over 60 percent of ​fantasy players surveyed take part in daily contests even though traditional leagues have been around for much longer.

While there are records of people playing the traditional format since 1988, the first major daily fantasy site, FanDuel, was started in 2009​ and its major competitor, DraftKings, was founded in 2012. 

Since then, more and more players have jumped to the daily fantasy ship – possibly due to the lack of a season-long commitment, the ability to choose new players each week, and the chance at immediate gratification (as players do not have to wait for the end of the NFL season to collect their payouts).

How Much Are Fantasy Football Players Spending?

The next questions we asked respondents were: “How much are you expecting to spend on season-long fantasy football leagues this season?” and “How much are you expecting to spend on daily fantasy entries this season?”

The results, which can be seen in the graph below, only include respondents who played that specific type of fantasy football.

As the results show, players who participate in traditional leagues ($286.84) and those who play in daily leagues ($272.52) spend very similar amounts. 

Players in traditional, season-long leagues typically pay league fees upfront for however many teams they have. These fees are typically higher than a daily entry which can be as low as $1. The reason the numbers are so close, however, is because daily players enter multiple contests throughout the season.

What Kind of ROI Do Players Earn and Expect to Earn?

​We thought it would be interesting to gauge how well our survey respondents were doing in terms of return-on-investment in their fantasy leagues. We asked the following questions to both traditional and daily players:

1) Do you expect a positive return-on-investment on your fantasy football leagues this season?

2) Have you ever had a positive return-on-investment with ANY fantasy football team (traditional) or entry​ (daily)?

​The results are as follows:

First off, we were surprised at how confident the respondents were in their chances to win money by playing. In both types of formats, only a fraction of players (~10 percent – depending on the league or competition) will end up winning money and there is certainly a luck factor involved given the unpredictable nature of the NFL with injuries, breakout performers, etc.

Despite having the odds stacked against them, the vast majority of respondents expected to win money this upcoming season.

Maybe these players are so confident because many of them have already had a taste of victory before, as shown by the results to the second question. Over 84 percent of respondents had previously earned a positive ROI on at least one fantasy football league or contest.

Why Do People Play in the First Place?

Most of us here at LendEDU play fantasy football for fun and for office bragging rights. To see if other players were like us, we asked respondents, “Why do you play fantasy football?”

As you can see, most players are like us and play for the fun and entertainment. This was not surprising as fantasy football provides entertainment for almost a third of the year and can make every game on Sunday much moreexhilarating and meaningful. 

Before seeing the results, however, we did expect that more daily fantasy players would play for the money as opposed to the entertainment. Daily games are played mostly with random people and lack the intimacy and 1 v. 1 competition that traditional leagues come with. We thought that more daily players would be interested in winning the big prize, but apparently this is not the case. 

How Much Time Do Players Spend on Fantasy Each Week & How Much Is At Work?

As previously mentioned, there is a seemingly endless amount of content out there surrounding fantasy football. You can research the top players of the week and who to avoid, dive deep into advanced analytics to see predict who will perform better than expected, and scour your league for potential trades that will benefit you.

With there being no limits on the time players can spend on fantasy, we wanted to find out how much players were actually spending. To do so, we asked respondents, “How much time do you spend each week working on your fantasy football team(s)?”

We found that players spend just under 8 hours a week on fantasy football, on average. This is a little more than an hour a day, so its not too unreasonable, especially when there is some money on the line. These results got us thinking about when these players are doing this research, though, hence the next question:

“How much time do you spend each week at work or at the office working on your fantasy football team(s)?”

As the following chart shows, on average players spend around 4.31 hours on their fantasy football teams while at work.

Apparently our respondents are spending, on average, a little under an hour a day working on their fantasy teams while at work. ​Though this may not seem like much, when using the median wage for U.S. workers of $44,148 and assuming players spend around 13 weeks researching and playing, this adds up to around $1,186 in lost productivity at work per fantasy football player.

This is a substantial amount, especially when considering the tens of millions of fantasy football players throughout the nation who work full-time jobs.

​To the demise of employers everywhere, all that is required for fantasy football is a computer or smart phone. This makes it very easy to sneak in some extra research or make some lineup changes while on the clock. 

As more and more people start to play fantasy football, employers may start cracking down on people playing fantasy football during work hours or block the sites altogether. 


​This poll was commissioned by LendEDU and conducted online by Pollfish. In total, 500 fantasy football players were surveyed. This poll was conducted on August 29, 2017. Respondents were filtered to ensure that all are playing in a paid fantasy football league or in daily fantasy football this upcoming season.

See more of LendEDU’s Research