The NFL season kicks off later Thursday, as the Denver Broncos host the visiting Baltimore Ravens. And for millions of fans, it also means the official kickoff of the fantasy football season.
Last year more than 33 million Americans played in some sort of fantasy sport league, and more than 25 million of those played fantasy football. Fox Business writes that it's a billion-dollar-plus industry: Companies like Disney's (DIS) ESPN and Yahoo (YHOO) host leagues, and various sites offer paid advice for dedicated players who want to dominate their leagues. And there can be big money at stake for the people who play in betting leagues -- if everyone in your league kicks in $100 at the beginning of the season, you could win upwards of $1,000 for winning the championship.
With so much money at stake, we suppose it was inevitable that the insurance industry would get involved. And so it has, in the form of FantasyPlayerProtect.com.
"FantasyPlayerProtect is an insurance policy that allows you to recover your fantasy team ownership costs if key players are injured," the site explains. "This coverage helps to ease the devastation of injuries to your fantasy team so you can continue with your season without the frustration of losing a top player or players."
So let's say that you've got $100 riding on your team, and you also paid for subscriptions to websites and magazines offering advice. But come draft day, you decided to roll the dice and draft a player deemed to be an injury risk -- say, Robert Griffin III (who's recovering from ACL surgery) or tight end Rob Gronkowski (who's undergone multiple surgeries this offseason). To minimize your liability, you can take out a policy on the player that has you concerned, and if one of them missed substantial time, you'll get some of your money back. You can insure up to five players per team, with total coverage up to $1,000. The policy is backed by a real insurance company -- one with an A.M.-Best "A" rating.
(FantasyPlayerProtect isn't the only outfit offering insurance against fantasy catastrophes -- there's also FantasySportsInsurance.com.)
Only the top-100 rated players can be insured against injury, and you only get a payout if they miss nine games -- that is, more than half the season. And injury is the only thing that's covered here: If Gronkowski plays most of the year but is ineffective due to nagging injuries, that doesn't warrant a payout. Finally, keep in mind that individual players go through an underwriting process, so you'll probably pay a bit more to take out a policy on an oft-injured player like Michael Vick.
Professional sports teams regularly take out insurance policies when they give multimillion-dollar contracts to their biggest stars, and while you're hopefully not betting millions on your fantasy team, you still have money riding on their surgically repaired knees. So why not do the same thing on a smaller scale?
Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.