15 Tips on How to Draft Under the Influence
It’s pretty safe to say the most exciting and anticipated time of the fantasy football season is draft day.
I’ve been playing fantasy football since the 1990s—a time of no smartphones, no apps, and limited fantasy football websites and information. Each of those years, I’ve participated in or hosted a live, in-person draft. In all my years of meeting people who play fantasy football, it blows my mind the number who never took part in a live draft that wasn’t on a computer screen.
For me live, in-person drafts make draft day 10-times more fun. In the league I’ve been running for well over 20 years now, draft night is considered more like time away from the family where we yell out some names, form some fantasy teams and create a league in the process. It may be the one time of year I actually see some of my longtime friends.
At my drafts, I always provide snacks, and on occasion, I have even cooked out for everyone. The draft usually takes place in my screened-in patio, which can be quite pleasant on an early September evening in Pennsylvania.
If you know anything about me and my friends, you can conclude there is a 100% chance there will be alcohol at my draft. Just about everything is more fun with a couple of beers, and fantasy football drafting is no different.
Adding alcohol to any style of fantasy football draft can be a dangerous element, but with lots of experience drinking at drafts, I like to think I’m pretty good at it and have learned a few things along the way.
Drafting under the influence actually goes beyond championships. In the league I run, I not only have to draft my own team I also have to keep track of who paid me league fees, keep track of who everyone else is drafting, as well as play host. That can be hectic sober. Luckily, my experience, as well as the use of 4for4 tools, has certainly made my life easier—and by easier, I mean it allows me to drink and relax more at drafts.
This year in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, let us all hope there is an NFL season, and of course a fantasy football season, but perhaps most importantly, let's hope we can all get together as one for fantasy drafts later this summer.
1. Get to Your Draft Early
This is something even non-drinking drafters should do. I like to get to a draft as early as possible. If someone says to show up any time after 7 p.m., I get there at 7:01 p.m. I like scouting out a good spot, feeling comfortable, making sure my laptop has an outlet to plug in to and then doing some last-minute preparation before the rest of the people roll in. This is also a good chance to have a beer, get the butterflies out, and relax. I still get a little anxious on draft day, so getting set up early helps.
Sidenote: If at all possible, sit next to someone who you know will be less drunk than you, but still helpful, all while knowing they won’t get annoyed with you at the same time.
2. Be Prepared
If you’re using any kind of draft software, set it up ahead of time before you get to your draft. A friend of mine once showed up to my draft prepared to draft in a 10-team league—the only problem was we had 12 guys that year. What was probably a quick fix to adjust the number of teams from 10 to 12 turned into him giving up and turning his attention to beer the rest of the night. Paying attention to league rules or emails leading up to draft day when not under the influence is smart. You can maybe have any papers printed ahead of time, too. At my house, we’re out of ink in the printer more days than we have ink. But other than that, have a plan in place be it Zero RB, Robust RB—anything. If it’s in your head or already written down, there’s a better chance of success. Drunk and blind is no way to draft.
3. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
We've all heard the above saying throughout our life from any coach or teacher. Don't just practice, practice perfectly, or try until you get it right. This may be the most important tip I share in this column.
If you want to be successful at anything, sometimes you really need to submerge yourself into the project. In the weeks leading up to your draft, try to simulate your real-life drafting situation as much as possible. What I’m trying to say is, yes, this means getting extremely drunk and mock drafting. The more you do this, the more natural it will feel by the time your draft rolls around.
It would probably be a good idea to warn your significant other and boss that August and early September could get a little interesting with any day-to-day responsibilities you usually have during that time. Maybe even show them this column as proof you aren't just making things up and there's a legit reason for your actions. Unfortunately for them, it’s just not going to be a very productive month around the house or in the office.
4. Don't Be the Annoying Drunk Guy/Gal
It’s obviously fun to drink and get a little crazy at drafts. But it's very important you're not the drunkest person at the draft. You know, the guy or gal who predictably gets so drunk he can’t stand or even talk in a language anyone else can understand. This is especially true if you’re at someone else’s home. The last thing a host of a draft wants to do is clean up vomit or anything else you can imagine. Leaving a draft one time I witnessed a fellow league mate throw up in the host’s bushes by his mailbox. Not a smell I would want when the sun beats down the next summer morning. This tip will take care of itself if you practice perfectly.
5. Craft Beers Aren't Helping
Personally, I try to stay away from hard alcohol on draft day. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just very dangerous for me, especially when my friends start mixing the drinks for me. That’s never a good thing. I prefer to stick with beer, but this day and age craft beer spells trouble, too.
I love craft beer. My wife loves craft beer, too, so I have no one in my life to discourage me. Along the way, I’ve acquired a real craving for hazy, juicy IPAs, somewhere in the 7%-11% alcohol range. (You can follow me on Untapped at @spagel19). These go down smoothly from start to finish.
So, something to think about for your draft day is some lighter beers. I’m not one of those beer snobs who look down on those who drink “regular beer.” A lot of my friends bring their own beer so there isn't much I can do about that, but if you're going to provide any kind of beer, maybe keep it on the lighter side.
6. Use the 4for4 Tools
This is probably my most obvious tip. You subscribed to this site, so let our award-winning tools and rankings do the work for you. I always thought we could make more money here at 4for4 by renting out our scouts to draft for those who wanted to pay for that service. That probably isn’t realistic, but that’s why I’ve been a big fan of our draft software over the years, such as Draft Hero—it can just about make the picks for you. Now, you still have to keep track, but hopefully, if you follow tip one, you’re still coherent enough to click names as they’re picked and let the software do the work for you when it’s your turn.
If using a laptop on draft day isn’t your thing, we do offer our Top-200 and Custom Rankings tools, which have printer-friendly options so you don’t have a ton of paperwork to drag along. Visiting our site every day and taking in every bit of information also helps. I’m a little biased toward our news section (because it’s part of my job here). Reading the news every day will make you absorb the information, and you’ll be shocked by what you remember.
7. Use the Little Drafter's Room—A Lot
An Irish friend of mine once told me if you’re going to drink all day, pee a lot to keep you sober. After looking into this, it turns out urinating a lot while drinking doesn’t make you one bit more sober and it’s just a myth. But, your bathroom time can be a good time to reflect, take a breath and gather your thoughts during your draft. You can make a plan for your next couple of picks and figure out a direction you want to go based on what you already did in the draft to this point. Just make sure you get back before it's your turn to pick.
8. Eat and Drink Water
Speaking of myths, drinking water and eating isn’t going to sober you up either, which is sobering in itself to hear after all these years. But obviously, it’s still a good idea to do both. Drinking water will at least keep you hydrated and help you out the morning after the draft when you’re taking a look back at your team. A lot of my friends will drink two beers, then drink water, and so on throughout the night. Now eating, according to Internet research, will at least help to slow down the absorption rate, which is something you should be interested in doing for a long draft day. But in the end, you’re still going to have the alcohol in your bloodstream. And, coffee is only going to make you feel more awake, it isn’t going to make any more sober.
9. Don't Get So Emotional, Baby
A few drinks into your draft you’re likely to experience a lot of different emotions:
Every year a friend of mine gets to the point where he’ll stare at his notes for what seems like forever before saying, “Ah, [bleep] it, I’ll take…”. It’s one thing to have this attitude in the waning rounds of a long draft, but in the early-to-middle rounds—that’s not good. If you find yourself beginning to not care at that point, it’s time to refocus. Maybe you can think back to all your practices? Every pick counts.
At some point when things get cloudy in your mind and picks start to take longer, owners will resort to taking a player from their favorite team. I always tried to avoid this no matter how much I drink. I will admit, I was known for drafting Donovan McNabb in pretty much the same spot, every year, in the same keeper league (during his good years). And, honestly, it worked. I actually didn't even love McNabb, but he was a solid QB to take a few rounds into a draft. And Brian Westbrook was a long-time protected player in my keeper league. Obviously, I'm an Eagles fan. Taking your favorite NFL team’s players is certainly okay, but only at the right spot in the draft.
On the flip side, don’t avoid players you hate. In my league, most of my friends are also Eagles fans, so as the draft goes on, good players can sometimes slip due to the drunken anger and hate that starts to form. Hated players and teams usually include the Steelers, Patriots, Cowboys, and Giants. I’ve scooped up guys from these teams late in my draft over the years, accepted the boos and things thrown at me, and moved on to have those picks usually work out well. This can be a trend you can use to your advantage. In fact, drafting players you hate usually works out because they’re good, and you hate them for that reason.
After a few beers, a lot of us think we get smarter. At that point, blocking starts to come into play. There’s a right and a wrong way to do this. In my two annual live drafts, we have a few Steelers fans who the rest of us like to give a lot of crap. Usually, at a point in the draft where owners' level of caring starts to drop, they think they’re annoying the Steeler fans by drafting Pittsburgh players. It’s one thing to do this early on in the draft, but taking a team’s WR5 just because you’re drunk and think someone else is going to grab him because he’s from their favorite team, well, that’s not a good way to run your draft.
10. Don't Take Long to Pick; Know When You're Up
The good and bad of a live draft is there’s usually no time limit. I’m rarely ever in a hurry during an in-person, live draft. They are too much fun. I’m so used to no time limit, in fact, that I’m kind of uncomfortable having one when I draft in leagues on a website.
No time limit can be good if a guy gets drafted right before you pick and you need to gather your thoughts and find another option. The bad part is there are owners who take full advantage of this, and after 20-some years, I know who these guys are in my leagues. I usually use this opportunity to hit the bathroom, but all too often they are still on the clock by the time I’m done, staring into their magazine. That’s the beauty of our draft software, it’s up-to-date and all your options are right in front of you. Either way, don’t take long to pick. Have a few options in mind before your pick that you’ll be perfectly happy with. It’s just common sense.
Knowing when you’re up is the first lesson in Drafting 101. At drunken, live drafts it takes a few rounds to get used to who you follow in snake drafts. Then after a few rounds, it runs pretty smooth only to come crashing down in the extremely-drunk, later rounds. Again, Draft Hero will prevent you from forgetting when you’re up to pick as long as you’re keeping track. Learn to know who is sandwiched around you during the draft.
11. Clean Up
When I wake up the day after a draft at my house, I fully expect to have some cleaning and recycling duties to take care of. But one thing that’s annoying is finding draft notes and printed sheets (from other fantasy sources no less) scattered around my yard like a tornado went through. Do your host a favor and be sure to at least clean up your area when the draft is over. That may include throwing away your draft notes, picking up any cans or bottles or other garbage, and picking up any food you may have dropped while shoveling snacks in your mouth.
12. Work the Wire
Waking up the next day and trying to remember who you picked can be a fun exercise. I always check out my roster the day and enjoy having the memories all come flowing back, especially when I'm pleasantly surprised by the selections.
But, if you’re horrified by who you picked, shame on you for not following my advice to this point. Get on the wire and get to work as soon as possible. This is something you should do anyway throughout the season, but there’s a chance in your soberness you’ll be able to switch a few of those mistakes out right away and not feel like your season is over before it began.
If not, always be active during the season. I play in a league where we can keep six players for the following season, and three of my players – David Johnson, Alvin Kamara, Patrick Mahomes – were all guys I plucked off the wire.
13. Have Fun and Use Liquid Courage to Your Advantage
Sometimes it’s just necessary to drink in order to tolerate others in the league and make everything more enjoyable. One draft on a Labor Day night this became necessary. I know I’m usually not in a hurry at a live, in-person draft, but a late Monday night when I have to be at work the next day is probably the exception. It was one of the worst draft experiences I’ve had, and thankfully beer helped me get through it.
But, drinking can be used to your advantage. Use your drunken confidence in your favor, especially later in the draft when it’s time for a flier or two. There’s nothing wrong with taking a chance on a late-round player you may not pick if you weren’t under the influence. There’s a certain point of the draft when you have to depend on luck anyway. We have plenty of tools here at the site that can help you get a better feel for late-round sleepers.
You can also use your drunkenness to rattle others in your league. A bold, snide comment here and there may cause a sober person to think twice about their pick. Getting under their skin and causing poor picks leaves more players for you.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself and your time with friends and leaguemates. For some of my friends, this is the one and only time of the year I get to hang out with them. My draft is one of the rare times during the year where everyone makes an effort to get together and hang out, and I’m very thankful for that and hope to keep this tradition going as long as it remains cool to be a fantasy football owner.
I've reached the point in my life where some of my friends' kids are now in my league. I'm hoping someday my twin boys will also take part. I'm excited by this prospect because I feel it will keep this longtime tradition going well into the future. While I always enjoy winning my league and rubbing it in everyone's faces, a big point of all of this is a sense of family, friends and togetherness, which we celebrate with a beer.
14. Be Safe
Obviously, you would be very smart to take the above tips as your drafting gospel this year. But in all seriousness, having a safe way to and from your draft is the most important and most serious thing when it comes to drinking on your draft day. I don't want to turn this into a lecture, but there are so many alternative options than driving drunk, so be sure to use one and even plan ahead to use one. And like I said above, drinking water or coffee and eating isn’t a magic cure to sober up before you drive home.
15. All This Applies Even If You Zoom
So during this whole pandemic, I'm sure most of you reading this article took part in a happy hour Zoom meeting or something similar. Maybe even you still do. I did a few of these over the past months, a lot of which included adult games of trivia, poem writing contests and anything that helped us get through pretty much March until July. I can't speak for everyone else, but our Zooms surprisingly got a little crazy. I didn't know I could drink so much sitting next to my wife while looking at a computer screen.
It can be a little awkward to be on camera and the whole thing reminded me a little of being at a college party where you need that drink in your hand as a security blanket. The first couple of beers during Zoom parties help you to stay loose and come up with things to say, but next thing you know you're sucking down beers and drinks and stumbling on the way to the bathroom.
Your Zoom fantasy draft could end up the same way if you're not careful. The good news about this column is a lot of the tips apply even if your draft can't meet in person this year and you have to do it through modern technology. Following my guidelines even if alone with 9-to-11 of your leaguemates on your computer screen should keep you on top of your game. But like I said, let's all hope and pray for an NFL season and being able to safely get together with our friends and leaguemates for in-person fantasy drafting later this summer.
Enjoy the upcoming draft season everyone!