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A Fantasy Sports Lab? FanDuel Innovates With New Contest Types

At FanDuel recently, the one constant has been constant change.

Multiple facets of the long-time daily fantasy sports operator have been in a state of flux for the better part of a year, although that doesn’t necessarily carry a negative connotation.

Changes at the top for FanDuel

A potentially seismic event that never came to fruition kick-started what was to come at FanDuel. The short-circuiting of the would-be merger between FanDuel and DraftKings in July sent each company in different directions. For starters, the former would see co-founders Nigel Eccles and Tom Griffiths depart for new ventures over the next six months.

Matt King ascended to the position of CEO, while Chief Financial Officer Andy Giancamilli added the title of chief operating officer in the wake of Eccles’ departure. Unsurprisingly, changes at the top have been accompanied by changes for the product as well.

‘LABS’ initiative ushers in new era

For instance, the new management team has helped spearhead FanDuel’s nascent LABS initiative. LABS is the proverbial well from which new game offerings come, featuring unique roster construction, scoring rules and special player pricing.

New contest types have progressively surfaced over the past few months across the multiple sports that FanDuel features. All traditional salary-cap contests with full rosters remain available for each sport as well.

New game selections that have made recent debuts in FanDuel’s contest lobby include:

NFL at FanDuel

  • NFL Super. A contest type that does away with both the kicker and defense positions. The FLEX roster spot can be a running back, wide receiver or tight end. The Super FLEX slot opens up that same roster spot to quarterbacks in addition to the aforementioned trio of positions. Contestants fill out their lineup with one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers and a tight end.
  • NFL Mini. Contest rosters are reduced to five positions: One quarterback, two running backs and two receivers.
  • NFL Single Game. Based on a single game, you just pick five players from either team. This contest type is available for the Super Bowl. DraftKings has a similar product called NFL Showdown.

There’s even a free-to-play bingo game for the Super Bowl.

NBA at FanDuel

  • NBA Starting Five. Rosters mimic a real-world NBA starting lineup (two guards, two forwards, one center).
  • NBA Positionless. One less roster spot than a conventional contest roster. All eight slots are “utility” positions, allowing contestants to roster as many players of the same position as they wish.

NHL at FanDuel

  • Pond Hockey. Five-player rosters with a center, two wings, a defenseman and a utility spot.
  • Captain. Five-player rosters consisting of a center, two wings, a defenseman, and a “captain” who gets double points.

EPL at FanDuel

  • 5 A-Side. Five-player rosters with a forward, two midfielders, a defender and a utility spot.

New offerings target old issues in DFS

FanDuel’s LABS page emphasizes that the available game styles will see intermittent changes, with new contests expected to be introduced “regularly.” The one common thread among nearly every new offering thus far appears to be simplicity.With reduced rosters, contestants are asked to make significantly fewer lineup decisions.

Given a long-standing criticism of the DFS industry – namely, that an inordinate amount of time and research is required to consistently profit – the new contest types undeniably appear tailored to woo and retain the casual player, first and foremost.

Meanwhile, the NFL Super category addresses what has been a fairly consistent gripe of casuals and pros alike – the undesirable and often lineup-imploding variance inherent in the kicker and defense positions. The replacement of those spots with skill position players whose fantasy projections tend to be much more reliable eliminates a long-standing consumer complaint at FanDuel.

Reduce lineup size, but retain strategy

Despite the streamlined rosters, the strategic element that DFS enthusiasts argue makes the endeavor a game of skill remains present.

For example, in daily fantasy football, NFL Super contests present participants with the dilemma of whether it ultimately pays off to roster two quarterbacks, or whether the Super FLEX spot is best utilized to load up on an extra receiver or running back.

Likewise, daily fantasy basketball players will face the decision of whether they should roll out a lineup that’s overweight on big men on any given night. Or perhaps a guard-heavy roster is what that particular slate seems to dictate.

No matter what, with an increasingly diverse array of game options available, FanDuel is trying to innovate in ways it hadn’t before.

Juan Carlos Blanco :Juan Carlos Blanco has served as a freelance writer for a wide variety of online publications and websites, with an intensive focus on fantasy sports. An avid fantasy player himself, he’s provided analysis and comprehensive coverage of the MLB, NBA, NFL and CFL, while also reporting on news and developments in the daily fantasy sports, sports betting and online gambling industries.