11 Tips for Hosting a Live Fantasy Football Draft
The big day isn’t that far away now.
Draft Day is the best day of the fantasy football season. A live draft makes the day all that much better, and if you’ve never taken part in one, it should be on your fantasy bucket list. It’s a whole different experience versus sitting in front of your computer or phone.
But if you’re hosting a live draft, it can come with some extra stresses. Maybe you came in last this past season, and as a result, you have to host. Or, maybe you’ve been hosting for years now. I’ve been attending live drafts since the late 1990s, and hosting my own league’s draft since 2003.
Just like my Drafting Under the Influence article, I feel like I have a lot to offer to help make hosting your draft go smooth this year.
Why Host a Live Draft?
Getting together with other fantasy owners to draft in person is just much more fun than sitting behind your computer or being on your phone. In my league, it means I get to see friends I made in college as far back as the middle 1990s. I even met some friends of friends, who have come and gone through my league over the years.
Times have changed, my friends and I all have wives and kids and sports and school functions, and that makes it harder to get together like we did back in the day when it was almost every weekend. But for Draft Day, everyone makes the effort to get out for a night to socialize, draft some guys and form a league. In a day and age when everyone is glued to their phones or tablets, keeping up social skills isn’t a bad thing. And besides, it’s much better to make fun of someone’s picks to their face rather than over a screen.
When Should You Hold Your Draft?
I like to have my draft the Friday before Labor Day. I’ve held my draft this day for as long as I can remember so it’s pretty much etched in everyone’s minds, which ideally should help for planning year to year. Labor Day Weekend isn’t always an ideal time as there is a lot going on this time of year, but I’m fortunate this day works and it’s become a staple. This is something you should shoot for if you’re hosting the draft every year. I’ve got to the point now where if you can’t make, shame on you, you knew about it for a year.
I also prefer to have my drafts in the evening. I used to start my drafts in the afternoon, which led to more drinking and more partying both before and after. The house was left a mess and cleanup the next day was rough. Moving it to the evening has made things easier for everyone, a little less partying and things have stayed calmer the older we get.
But the most important thing is to pick a day and time that works best for the most members of your league, because things go smoothest when everyone is there.
Times Have Changed
Unfortunately in this day and age, those hosting drafts have one more thing to worry about during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
At your draft this year, it’s important to keep you and your leaguemates as safe as possible. Try to sit people far enough apart so you maybe don’t have to wear a mask the entire time. If someone wants to wear a mask at your draft, it shouldn’t become the center of attention. As far as food goes, maybe stay away from dips this year. Prepackaged snacks can work just fine. Have your guests maybe bring their own drinks, maybe even their own food. Keep wipes in the bathroom so you can keep the area clean and sanitized. Maybe having a Zoom draft is just the better option for this season.
Get People There On Time
There always seems to be one person who complains about everything, but especially the draft taking too long. I usually don’t have a problem with the length of a draft. I mean, we all expect this to take time, so it can be annoying when someone is really pushing things along because they expected 16 rounds of drafting to be done in 30 minutes.
Just to be polite, try to at least pick a draft start time and stick to it. I always invite people to come over early, hang out, have a beer or two or three, with it known that we’re going to start the draft at 7 p.m., for example. Now, if everyone is there live and the beers are flowing and everyone is having a good time catching up, it doesn’t matter if you start late. But if you have one or two guys who are mobile or offline, and they are ready to go at 7 while the rest of the league is drinking it up, that’s not very courteous. Always try to start on time.
Pick A Spacious Area
This was always one of my tips before the coronavirus pandemic, but this year it's perhaps more important than ever. My hope for this year’s draft is to host it in my new basement - refinished with a bar and bathroom. My traditional place has been my sunroom, which is pretty nice in early September with all the windows open. It’s not the biggest space but I’m able to put a table in with access to electric outlets and it fits 10 fairly comfortably, however, this year it probably wouldn't be the ideal location. It may be a good idea to try and isolate your crew away from family. My 8-year-old twins already know most of the bad words thanks to the school bus, but they still don’t need to hear daddy and his friends saying them.
If you’re hosting a draft, it’s important everyone has enough room to be comfortable. A lot of my friends bring laptops and will need access to electric so I’m always prepared with extension cords for those who need to plug in and may not be close to an outlet. If you have one, set up a decent-sized table which can hold about 5 or 6. That actually saves some space in the room. I also claim my spot before anyone shows up—a nice perk when hosting.
Maybe this year, holding your draft outdoors if weather permits is the perfect solution to keep everyone safe.
Don’t Do Everything Yourself
If only half the league shows up to your draft, this can make things difficult. As the person hosting the draft, and the league commissioner, I have plenty of things to do during the draft. Obviously, the most important thing is keeping track of the teams, and that’s something that needs specific attention the entire time.
Having to collect picks from those who are mobile can only complicate things, whether you’re texting or chatting or emailing or talking on the phone. So, it’s a good idea to spread around responsibilities. In one league, we assign a Draft Buddy to each person who isn’t in attendance. The Draft Buddy, who is in attendance, is responsible for getting the picks from an owner who is not there, and then announcing the pick to the rest of us. Just assign these before the draft starts so everyone is on the same page.
Be A Generous Host
I used to be way more into hosting my draft day. That was before kids. I used to grill out for anyone interested in showing up a little early and pretty much turn it into a pregame party. I had some yard games like quoits and horseshoes and it was always a blast. These days, no one can really devote the time, but I still make sure to have plenty of snacks on hand. This is another reason for a later start time—after dinner, you don’t have to provide full meals for everyone. I always supply beer, water and soda as well, which usually keeps everyone happy. Just be prepared—fantasy owners are slobs, so you’re going to have some cleaning to do the next day.
As I said above, perhaps this year you alter things a bit, have people bring their own food and drinks.
Add Some Excitement
This is something I really don’t do anymore. It’s mostly because of time restraints and even a lack of having everyone at the draft, but I always thought a draft board was a great way to make the whole draft experience way better. This is also a great way for everyone to see who is picked and when, and to avoid repeat picks – although, at a live draft are repeat picks EVER avoided?
I always like the idea of announcing your first pick at a podium and having to give a little speech about the reason for the selection as well as expectations for said player. This is always a good time after a few beers.
Before the draft is also a good time to present any awards from last season if that’s something you do.
Play Some Music
This is where things can get out of hand at my drafts. I’ve been to live drafts in the past where everyone sits in silence and all you can hear is the sound of typing on the keyboard until someone announces a pick. Too quiet.
I’ve also hosted drafts where you can’t hear when picks are announced because a friend of mine has the music way too loud due to beer consumption. This is pretty much every year.
Obviously, there is a fine line. I could just remove my speaker but in the end, I’d rather have some kind of music versus silence. Unfortunately, with wireless music, others have learned they can control my speakers but in an ideal world, play some good music but keep it at a level where you can still hear it, and also hear yourself think as well as the announced picks.
Draft At A Nice Pace
One thing about live drafts I like a lot versus on a website is the picks aren’t timed. Now if I’m sitting alone at my computer doing an online draft, I don’t mind the timed picks because it’s hard to sit there for hours and I like when things keep moving. But at a live draft, I don’t mind if people take a little extra time to make their pick. I’m never in a hurry and just enjoy the concept Draft Day.
But, you can control the pace. Now, I’m the first to laugh at someone when the whole room knows whose turn it is but that person has no idea. The immature giggles that eventually emerge usually give that person the hint it’s their turn to pick. However, I know that can get old after a while and at my drunken drafts, it seems like it can go on all night. We all have places to be, so if the draft is at your house, take charge. Let people know when it’s their turn to pick, even tell them when they’re on deck. It keeps things moving. One thing I’ve learned is not everyone cares to take the time to figure out the draft order.
Take A Break
Another thing that I don’t do at my drafts, but can be a good idea, is to take a break. A lot drafts will go about halfway, then pause to eat or have a beer or use the bathroom—or all three. Taking a break isn’t a bad idea if you’re drafting all day. It can get old going 16 rounds all in one stretch especially if people take their time. I usually don’t break because some guys are always in a hurry to get things done, but if no one needs to be anywhere, take a pause and let everyone refresh and stretch and even refocus.
As I’ve said all along, Draft Day with live drafts with friends or family or both are one of the best days of the year. Enjoy it