Living Out a Fantasy: Ben Schragger ’19 and the Rise of Fantasy Football Live

Living Out a Fantasy: Ben Schragger ’19 and the Rise of Fantasy Football Live

What do MLB All-Star Scooter Gennett, NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, and Sport Management major Ben Schragger ’19 all have in common? Every Sunday morning, they’re likely to be found reading the Twitter feed or the website of Fantasy Football Live as they try to perfect their team’s lineup before early games kick off. In fact, about 32,000 fans follow Fantasy Football Live, but one small detail sets Schragger apart from the rest; he’s the company’s founder and CEO.

Schragger started FFL in May 2013 in order to share the knowledge he acquired from participating in highly competitive Fantasy Football leagues with his high school friends in Hopewell, NJ. According to Schragger, his league had the most trades out of any league on in 2013, and he and his friends became notorious within their high school for their intense dedication to the game.

“I was spending 20+ hours a week on fantasy football research, scouting, and fantasy trade negotiations and realized I could share this information with others,” Schragger said.

Schragger made a Twitter account (@ffootballLIVE), and it reached 1,000 followers in Fall 2013. At this point, Schragger asked three friends from his fantasy league to join him in running the account; Jeff Lorenz, Eric Olaya, and Sean Greener.

Ben Schragger '19 and FFL

“I picked people who I thought would be best to contribute to FFL,” Schragger said. “Jeff Lorenz is a strong writer and a great football mind, so he took a lead right away by being my right-hand man with the Twitter account. The others, Eric and Sean, were recruited specifically due to their data analysis skills combined with fantasy knowledge.”

Lorenz manages FFL’s Instagram page, writes articles, handles graphic design for the website, and answers the questions that are submitted in Spanish. Olaya and Greener make up the Data Analytics team, publishing three articles per week on the website and doing extensive statistical research to inform every post FFL makes. Fellow Sport Management major Simone Bergrsrud ’19 was contracted to create an updated FFL website this summer, and she occasionally helps with graphic design as well.

As CEO, Schragger is in charge of managing the website, editing written content and maintaining up-to-date player rankings.

Schragger also writes all of the tweets and replies to many of the questions sent through Twitter. He is also in charge of assigning time slots for other team members to hop on the account and shoulder some of the massive load of questions that FFL receives.

“Since we get so many questions during the season – 1,000-1,500 a week – and we promise to answer every single one, all four of us contribute,” Schragger said. “As you can imagine, Sunday mornings are the busiest time for questions as everyone is tinkering with their lineups, so we often have two to three people logged into the account at once on Sundays to ensure everyone’s questions are answered.”

Schragger and Lorenz also co-host the “FFLive Podcast”, which debuted on July 2nd and airs every Wednesday in the off-season on Soundcloud and iTunes. Additionally, Schragger regularly appears on KNBR San Francisco, the #2 sports radio station in the country, to answer fan questions and chat about fantasy. To top it all off, he is the resident fantasy expert for Cincinnati’s “96 Rock” radio station, making weekly appearances to give even more free advice.

It’s clear that the FFL team takes their stuff seriously, so it should come as no surprise that they’ve experienced quite a bit of success since the company’s birth in 2013. In addition to having 32,000 Twitter followers, FFL’s website averages 3,000 views per week with visitors from 30 different countries, the podcast has 500 weekly listeners, and the Instagram page boasts 6,000 followers. Not only have the website and podcast accrued sizeable followings in what is only their first year, but even the massive Twitter following is a relatively new phenomenon.

“The Twitter had 6,000 followers in November 2017, so growth has been crazy in the past year,” Schragger said.

FFL has received the attention of several professional athletes and celebrities, including Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood, Cincinnati Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, actor Chad Lowe, and rapper Hoodie Allen.

“It’s awesome interacting with these guys, as it shows how universal fantasy football really is,” Schragger said. “Even high-profile athletes are stressing over lineup decisions!"

Schragger credits several of his Sport Management courses with teaching him important skills for managing FFL.

“Leading with Service (SMGT 266) with Professor Crossey taught me how to properly interact with customers,” said Schragger. “Because of this class, I know that I have to treat each follower as a person and not just a screen name. I now make sure that I give custom advice rather than one-word answers. Sport Public Relations (SMGT 466) with Dr. Haptonstall has also been integral to the success of the FFL website. All of our major announcements have been made through press releases, which I learned how to write efficiently in his class.”

Schragger said the ultimate goal for FFL is to become the first place that fantasy players go to for free advice, research, analysis, and updates.

“Unlike other fantasy football companies, our group is based on the principal that we provide ‘live’ advice: analyzing breaking news right away, responding in a timely manner to everyone’s questions, and constantly updating the information on our website,” Schragger said.

Schragger is unsure whether running FFL will be a full-time job after college, but he recognizes that it is providing him with experiences that will ready him for jobs in the future. According to Schragger, the FFL team would like to continue providing free advice to the general population, though the company might introduce exclusive content and pursue partnerships with companies sharing similar target markets further down the road.

But for now, Schragger says, helping others win their fantasy leagues is enough to make all the hours of work worth it.

“What I love about FFL is when people tweet at us to let us know that they won by 4 points due to the player we recommended,” Schragger said. “Or even better, when people tweet at us after the season, thanking us for being by their side all season. It feels like I’m playing in thousands of fantasy leagues throughout the year. I’m invested in all of our followers’ teams, so when they win their leagues I get a boost of satisfaction and confidence that I’m doing something right. “

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Elliot Stahr, a sophomore from Irvine, California, is double-majoring in Psychology and Philosophy.