Hosting the Perfect Fantasy Football Draft Party (Ultimate Guide for 2021)
This upcoming September will mark the E-town Get Down's (my fantasy football league) eighth consecutive year executing a live draft. Talking trash via a 2"x 2" window in the bottom-right corner of your Yahoo browser tab can only be so much fun. So, if your fantasy league has yet to jump on the live draft bandwagon, I can promise you've already missed out on what might possibly be the best night of summer, if not the entire season.
It always is for us, and I'm willing to bet your friends are 3-4x cooler than mine.
If you think that your league is finally ready to make that jump, I've drawn up a flawless, step-by-step guide to help you see the entire process.
A live draft party really is fantasy football tradition every league should implement, especially after the dumpster fire last year was. Think we can all agree 2021 couldn't have gotten here soon enough!
A quick note before we begin: 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.
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
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, which happens to be September 7th this year, two days prior to the NFL season kick-off (September 9th)
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 (Sep. 9th). 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. That is, unless the wife is fond of cooking and would happily provide for the boys!!!
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 frand 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, excelente.
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?
Commish, 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.
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 Patrick Mahomes over Lamar Jackson.
If you liked what you read from Nick make sure you head on over to his YouTube channel, where you can follow his fantasy league throughout the 2021 and get head-scratching fantasy football advice all off-season through championship Sunday. Also, if you have any other questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below!
- Nick Ercolano