Hosting the Perfect Fantasy Football Draft Party
Ah, the draft party. It's the time of year where you get together with your friends and have a few drinks while assembling the greatest fantasy football team known to mankind. But let's be real, the draft party can get pretty boring pretty quickly if you're not running a tight ship.
How to Host a Fantasy Football Draft Party:
Get some dialogue going early!
First and foremost, this is your number one task. Finding a convenient time for all league members to get together in one room is like trying to herd a pack of wild cats. Work/Family/Summer vacations are a commissioner’s worst nightmare. Get an email chain going early, throw out some dates, and hash this out long before preseason begins.
A quick note: Commish, this responsibility lands on your shoulders. Don't expect anyone else to want to help organize. It ain't fair, but such is life. Deal with it.
If you're going to make this thing work, communication is everything. All your league members need to be on the same page. Nine individual one-off text messages aren't going to get the job done. Neither is email, and no one hates group text messages more than myself.
My suggestion? GroupMe. GroupMe is a group messaging app that works for all phones; IOS, Android, that Nokia back in the day that everyone had because of Snake, all of them.
Please don't quote me on that last one. Download the GroupMe app, mess around with it for a while to get comfortable, create a group for your league and have them download. You're able to send them a download and join link straight right within the app. I'm sure you can also use WhatsApp for this, but I'm not very familiar with it and have had 0 complaints with GroupMe. Once everybody is on board, the fun begins.
Doodle.com is another great app if you want to skip all the banter and just get down and dirty on a date!
Choosing the Draft Date
For the first few years following the implementation of our live draft, the majority of my friends, including myself, were still in college. Since you're reading this wonderful post, I'm assuming you're a very intelligent person, and likely went to college. If you remember, students are, for the most part, due back on campus mid-late August, which is far before the NFL season kick-offs.
With my friends and I scattered around the country in pursuit of a $60,000 piece of paper, we had no choice but to hold our draft weeks before the season began, which is far from ideal. Also, given the nature of the NFL season, all fantasy drafts should happen during the summer, aka prime time vacationing period. Another wrench thrown into the works. What I'm getting at is, every league will need to work around every single league members' schedule.
There is, however, one specific date that has yet to fail me: Labor Day Monday, late afternoon into the early evening (our draft usually kicks off between 3 and 6PM).
For you young folk, out all weekend burning down the Jersey Shore, this date and time gives you time to slug your way home, enjoy a quick nap, get some draft-prep in and be out the door ready to go.
For you not-so-young folk, this works too. I'm living proof. The older, mature-ish people's Labor Day BBQs tend to happen between Friday and Sunday. A recent Bloomberg poll pegged 97% of employees receiving Labor Day Monday off, meaning there's virtually no excuse not to leave that date open on your calendar.
A few disclaimers I'd like to throw in:
Disclaimer 1: If you're unable to draft on Labor Monday for whatever reason, look to draft as close as possible to the start of the regular season. That way you'll avoid any preseason injuries that might take place after your draft has already happened.
Disclaimer 2: It's not completely necessary for every single league member to attend the live draft. I'd cap that number at one, but nonetheless, the flexibility can help while planning. In one case, we had a league member of ours on vacation and it was the only date the other nine of us could get together. So, the 10th member brought his laptop and we video chatted on Skype with him the entire time, never missing a beat. Two year ago, we had a member of our league backpacking the summer away in Europe. So, we allowed him to choose anyone he wanted, outside of our league, to sit in and select his team on draft day. If you someone is going to do that, they need to make sure it's someone they trust having a firm understanding of fantasy football.
Disclaimer 3: If you want your draft to start at 6:30, you tell everyone it starts at 6:15, sharp. There will ALWAYS be THAT guy. First come, first choice of seat should be incentive enough to show up early.
Find a Good War Room!
Over the years, more and more popular chain restaurants are offering a service to host your fantasy football draft. Get this idea out of your head yesterday. Trust me when I tell you things can get heated at these live drafts, and no one wants to be the guy, or girl, dropping f-bombs in front of a family of six at Applebee’s. Nothing beats a home-made live draft, secluded from everyone and everything, apart from your league mates and a few couches to rest your ass on for the next four hours.
But who will host? Is it the commissioner? Is it randomly selected out of a hat? The answer is that this is a true collaborative decision. Someone must be willing to play host. Don't force this on anyone, it's inhumane. A few things to keep in mind when selecting a host:
- The draft room has to be large enough to comfortably sit your entire league. There's nothing worse than getting stuck on the floor for hours while your buddy happily enjoys a cushiony love sofa.
- The location needs to have good and easily accessible Wi-Fi.
- For the most part, the less kids and less wives (singular if you're boring) there are in the equation, the better the ROI.
Materials Needed for the Draft
Most importantly, you need a physical draft board. Lucky for you, FANTASYJOCKS is your one-stop-shop for all your league needs. Go on and click over to our store where you can choose between three fantasy football draft kits, all of which include the 80lb Gloss Paper draft board, color coded player stickers for all players and positions and a bunch of other sweet extras. Consider upgrading your fantasy football trophy while your at it.
Well, maybe I should have prefaced this paragraph with "most importantly". FOOD. Imagine going to a tailgate, or a wedding or anything for that matter without a grandé selection of food. The same notion applies for your fantasy draft. This is another topic that should be collaborative. The commissioner and the host should link up first. If the host is cooking, or has someone that will cook in their house, great. Usually, that's not how it works. Plus, draft day is purely for laziness and processed foods. If you think your league is mature enough to handle splitting up food/drink/paper items evenly, by all means. If not, one of you (host or commissioner) should go ahead and order from a local restaurant. For the most part they should be open on Labor Day Monday, but it's worth calling ahead to confirm and even schedule the order to be delivered at the perfect time. If it comes to ordering food, let your league mates know in advance (through GroupMe) ask if there's any specific preferences, requests or dietary restrictions. Other than that, order away and have everyone bring cash to the draft or pay you back via Venmo.
Lastly, I ain't your mother, but of course, drink responsibly. Uber is your friend in this situation. I'm not going to preach to you how to booze, but BYOB has always worked best. Again, if the host is willing to provide, even better.
On Draft Day
The big day is finally here. By this point, 98% of the work should be taken care of. What could go wrong?
Commissioner - I'd send a message in the morning, reminding everyone of the exact draft time.
Is it the commissioner's job to print out cheat sheets for the league? Hell no.
This is completely subjective, but once everyone arrives I give a quick pre-draft pump up speech, make everyone aware of any rule changes for the upcoming season, tell everyone that we've implemented random drug tests and that if you don't fail the drug test, you're out of the league. Play time is over and we listen to the national anthem.
The big hand strikes six while the little hand simultaneously settles directly between the six and seven. It's 6:30 and T.J. Who's Ya Mama is officially on the clock. Something you may not have thought about pre-draft is a time limit on picks. It's automatic online, but not so much face-to-face. We'll usually have someone take out their iPhone and reset each pick to 2:00. My personal favorite comes from natural order. No official clock. When you're taking too long, your league mates will let you know. And not in a nice way. What starts out as a joyous experience, quickly turns into, what I imagine the New York Jets front office, board room looks like when they're drafting a quarterback. This is completely up to you, though.
Looking for some additional ideas to spice up the day? Here are some of our favorites:
- Trophy Presentation - Who says you have to wait until the end of the season to award the trophy? Start the season off with a bang by presenting the league trophy at the draft party. It's a great way to get everyone excited about the season and add a little bit of friendly competition to the mix.
- Draft Board Bingo - Why not add a little competition to your draft party with Draft Board Bingo? Create bingo cards with various categories such as "Quarterback drafted in round 1" or "Player with a last name starting with 'M'". The first person to get five in a row wins a prize, such as a free waiver claim or the right to make their last pick in the draft first.
- Costume Contest - Want to get everyone in the spirit of the draft? Have a costume contest! Encourage everyone to dress up as their favorite celebrity and award prizes for the best costumes. Just make sure that no one shows up in a Tom Brady jersey - that's just too scary.
- "Fantasy" Food and Drinks - Make sure that you have plenty of food and drinks to keep everyone fueled up during the draft. But don't settle for just any old pizza and beer. Get creative with your food and drinks by naming them after your favorite fantasy football players. How about "The Brady Bunch" buffalo wings or "Saquon's Special Sauce" barbecue sauce?
- Draft Room Decorations - Make sure that your draft room is decked out in full football fanfare. Hang up team banners, put up a scoreboard, and add football-themed decorations such as helmets and footballs. You could even go all out and set up a mini football field for people to play on during breaks in the draft.
- Draft Day Trivia - Test everyone's football knowledge with some draft day trivia. Create a list of questions ranging from easy ("Who won the Super Bowl last year?") to difficult ("What is the record for the most interceptions thrown in a single game?"). The person with the most correct answers at the end of the draft wins a prize.
- Fantasy Football Betting - Want to add a little more excitement to the draft? Set up a betting pool where everyone can place bets on various outcomes, such as who will draft the first quarterback or which team will win the league. Just make sure that everyone plays responsibly and doesn't end up losing their entire season's budget before it even starts.
- "Drafted" Party Favors - Make sure that everyone leaves the draft party with a little something to remember the day by. Create "drafted" party favors, such as personalized draft hats or team-branded koozies. It's a great way to show off your team spirit and make the draft party feel like a real event.
- Dress Up as Your Favorite Players - Nothing says "I'm serious about fantasy football" like dressing up as your favorite player. Go all out with jerseys, pads, and even face paint. This is a great way to show your team spirit and add a little bit of excitement to the draft.
To Wrap It Up
Remember, first thing's first: the group communication platform is key. The rest of the pieces fall in place once that's taken care of. The earlier you decide on your league's draft date, the more time your league members have to organize their life around it, meaning less chance of a last-second scheduling mishap.
Well, your first live draft is in the books. Go home, get some rest. Tomorrow you can kick yourself for drafting that "Sleeper" Kicker in the 5th Round!
- R2 - D2