skip to main content

How Much Do People Spend on Fantasy Football?

Written by
Alex Huntsberger
Alex Huntsberger is a personal finance writer who covered online lending, credit scores, and employment for OppU. His work has been cited by, Business Insider, and The Motley Fool.
Read time: 7 min
Updated on July 31, 2023
young man running
Plus: How many work hours a week do people spend on their fantasy teams—and what percentage of players pay fellow league members to help them cheat?!

With nearly 75 million people playing fantasy football all across the US, sometimes it’s hard to tell what folks like more: Watching actual football games or trying to crush their friends in fantasy.

But playing fantasy football isn’t just about the sweetness of victory for most people, there's also the chance to win some sweet cash. So as fantasy football leagues across the country hold draft parties and gear up for their season, we wanted to know just how much money people are spending—and winning—by playing fantasy. That’s why we conducted a survey of over 600 fantasy football players nationwide to get the skinny on how much they are paying to play.

Our results found that people are mostly spending responsibly when it comes to fantasy football, with a median league buy-in of $50. Of course, responsible spending also means less exciting prizes, as players reported a median first place prize of only $350. Sure that’s nothing to sniff at, but it might just indicate that money is not the primary motivating factor behind playing. $350 won’t last you long while bragging rights last a full calendar year.

Of course, for most fantasy football players, playing in a league means losing money. And for the vast majority of business owners, having employees that play fantasy football means losing money to unproductive work hours. To wit: A whopping 96.6% of fantasy football players surveyed said they spent time at their job working on their fantasy team, with a reported average of 6.9 work hours spent on their team per week. That’s almost a full workday lost!

Check our survey results in the infographic below, then keep scrolling for some additional breakdowns, including a fun little behind-the-scenes story that led to our most surprising answer ...


(click image to expand)

How much do league members pay to play?

In most leagues, players have to offer a buy-in in order to participate. The winner of the league then collects most of that pot at season’s end. Oftentimes, the second place finisher is also awarded a portion of the pot, while the third place winner is rewarded with having their buy-in returned to them. The size of the pot is determined by the size of the buy-in and the size of the league itself.

When it comes to the average dollar amounts for buy-ins and payouts, plus the average number of members in each league, our survey results broke down as follows :

  • Median number of people in a league: 12
  • Median buy-in: $50
  • Median first place: $350
  • Median second place: $150
  • Median third place: $50

If you and your friends want to play fantasy football but you don't have a ton of spare cash, no worries! Restructuring your league fees is one of the ways you can play fantasy football without breaking the bank.

Fantasy football drafts can be spendy affairs.

While some fantasy football leagues simply hold an online draft, many others consider the draft to be an excuse to get together and party. Some go really all-out with it, but even the more modest drafts can be quite the affair. As such, league members will usually all pitch in money to fund the draft party as well as spend some additional dollars on their own food, drink, and transportation.

According to our survey results, the average amount that each fantasy football player spent on their league’s draft party was $131. Adding in a $50 buy-in, the average cost of participating in a league is already at over $180—and the season hasn’t even started! Still, most of the costs with a league come up front, and the months of enjoyment that league members can get for their participation make it a pretty efficient spend.

Players should rethink their draft strategy.

There are currently so many fantasy football heads out there cranking out quality content that it can be totally overwhelming to try and settle on a strategy. Still, there is one thing that pretty much every expert agrees on: Don’t draft a quarterback first.

The reasoning is simple. There are a lot of quarterbacks in the NFL putting up great stats, and there is only one starting quarterback slot on each fantasy team. Meanwhile, there are far fewer running backs with huge fantasy numbers and, besides, there are two running back and wide receiver slots on each team. Aiming for top running backs and receivers will put you at a far greater advantage than targeting a great QB.

And yet, here were the results when we asked players which position they drafted first:

  • 56% pick a Quarterback first
  • 25% pick a Running Back first
  • 10% pick a Wide Receiver first
  • 3% pick Defense/Special Teams first
  • 4% pick a Kicker first
  • 2% pick a Tight End first

Yikes. If you are serious about winning your fantasy league’s pot—or at least getting your buy-in back by finishing third—then you seriously need to avoid drafting a quarterback in the first round. On this blog, we talk a lot about how people need a strategy if they want to take control of their finances, and the same goes for playing fantasy football … but a strategy that involves picking QB first is probably not a strategy worth following.

Oh, and if you are part of the seven percent of players who drafted a defense/special teams or a kicker first, just go ahead and set your money on fire. Thanks.

Punishments for finishing last weren’t too sadistic.

The punishment for finishing last in your fantasy football league is a pretty good measure of what kinds of friends/coworkers you’ve managed to surround yourself with. Healthy competition is nice, but overly cruel or unusual punishments for last-place may be a sign that you should get some new friends or start applying for new jobs.

Luckily, most of the punishments from our survey respondents were pretty normal stuff. Common punishments included:

  • Buying drinks or a meal for everyone else
  • Hosting and paying for a Super Bowl party
  • Displaying a loser trophy of some kind
  • Wearing a rival team’s jersey

Some respondents, however, reported forcing the loser to get a tattoo of the winner’s choosing. Wow. If this is the punishment chosen for the loser of your league, then we wish you luck. Seriously.

A lot of workers spend A LOT of work hours on their fantasy teams.

Having an office fantasy football league can be a great way to build camaraderie amongst coworkers. Unfortunately, it can also be a fantastic way to lose a lot of man-hours to your employees working on their teams instead of, well, their actual work.

96.6% of fantasy football players who responded to our survey reported that they spend time at their job working on their fantasy football team. They also reported how much time they spend working on their team: An average of 6.9 hours per week.

Given that the average workday is eight hours long, that means that the average player is spending almost an entire working day per week on fantasy football. On the other hand, coworkers are also potentially getting extremely upset at each other over bad trades, close losses, and general tomfoolery … so really it’s a win-win?

And what if one of those players turns out to be a big ol’ rotten cheater? What will happen to office morale then? You might think this isn’t a problem in your league, but judging by our survey results, the odds are definitely not in your favor.

More players pay money to cheat than we expected.

Please enjoy this peek behind the OppLoans curtain:

When we decided to run this survey, a few OppLoans employees had an impromptu meeting about what questions we should include. During this conversation, we got on the topic of how much money people spend on their fantasy football team in total. One employee, who shall remain nameless, mentioned that a common expenditure in her experience was paying other league members in order to trade for their good players.

The rest of us were aghast. This was clearly cheating. Staring back at us with a cold, dead stare, she replied that there was absolutely nothing wrong with this practice, that she assumed everyone did it, and that she felt no remorse. We decided to include a question about paying other league members for trades in this survey in order to get to the bottom of the issue once and for all.

Well, judging by our survey results, at least some of horrified coworkers were actually lying liars wearing pants that most definitely on fire. An incredibly worrying 25% of fantasy football players surveyed reported paying other league members in order to grease a trade for a superior player. That’s one of out every four participants!

In case you were wondering, our nameless coworker was very pleased with these results. The office fantasy football pool this season should be very interesting.

California Residents, view the California Disclosures and Privacy Policy for info on what we collect about you.