By Matt Pepin
Colleague Zuri Berry recently pointed out how lousy the NFL '12 app is, and I couldn't agree more. By the second week of the season, I'd abandoned it as my second screen on Sundays, which left the door wide open for something else.
Enter ESPN's Fantasy Football app, a far more entertaining and convenient experience than simply logging on to ESPN.com to follow your fantasy football team.
Just about every feature of the dotcom version just feels better in the app. The scoreboard page has pop-up box scores that overlay on the scoreboard, rather than forcing you to click through to a new page. So you see the other matchups and scores in the background while comparing your lineup to your weekly opponent's.
The navigation is easier, with a drop-down menu to quickly take you to the league page, your team page, available players pages, the scoreboard, and the team pages. Managing your roster is easier with a bigger display, screen-touch buttons, and an overview option to get you to weekly stat pages, season stat pages, and many more metrics for your team. A button at the top right corner gives you a feed of the latest NFL news from ESPN.
The best feature is Fantasycast (pictured), which makes the app an excellent choice as your second screen on Sundays. Fantasycast displays the entire lineup of real NFL games along with the players in action in each game for both players in a fantasy matchup. It also shows a side-by-side tale of the tape for the two fantasy teams going head-to-head in their fantasy game.
So at one glance, you get a pretty good overview about how things are going for your fantasy team, with the details you seek - when are my players in action, who are they facing, and who does my opponent have going in any given game? - readily at hand.
Fantasycast is available on the dotcom version of ESPN's fantasy platform, but the app's smooth display on an iPad gets a laptop off your lap, and the iPhone version is great for those Sundays when real life intrudes on your football watching.
Additionally, the updates are close to real-time, unlike the NFL's own app, which I've seen have lag times of more than five minutes.
Like most apps, it does take a bit of getting used to. For example, you can't really dive into the features of the app until you click your team or league on the home page. But once you're there, it's far more satisfying than the shockingly bad NFL app.