13 Tips on How to Draft Under the Influence
Fantasy football draft season is upon us. Perhaps only next to your league's championship game, the draft is the most important, exciting, and fun day on your league schedule.
I’ve been playing fantasy football since the 1990s, a time of no smart phones, no apps, and limited fantasy football websites and information. Every year since, I’ve participated in or hosted a live 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 drafts are the highlight of a fantasy season, like how the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of NASCAR as the first event on the racing schedule. In the league I run, still made up mostly of friends from college, draft night is considered more of a night out away from the family where we yell out some player names that happen to form some fantasy teams in the process. I always provide snacks, and on occasion 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 night in Pennsylvania.
If you know anything about me, you can conclude there is a 100 percent chance there will be alchohol at my draft.
Adding alcohol to a fantasy football draft—live or online—can be a dangerous element, but with 20+ years of experience drinking at fantasy drafts, I like to think I’m pretty decent at it and have learned some things along the way.
Just about everything is more fun with a couple of beers and fantasy football drafting is the same way.
A few years ago someone at the site asked for ideas for a Draft Day Don’ts column here at 4for4, another suggested drinking too much as a don’t—I suggested not drinking enough!
A few weeks later I was asked to come up with some tips for Drafting Under the Influence.
When I said above I believe I’m pretty decent at drafting intoxicated, it actually goes beyond titles and money won in my various leagues. 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, and 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 more at my draft.
Over the years of my drafting and drinking, I feel like I learned a few things along the way, which I decided to share to hopefully help those of us who may tend to overdo it at drafts.
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 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 admit, I still get a little anxious on draft day. If it's an online draft, you can still sign in early in case there happens to be any hiccups with your computer or connection to the site you are drafting on.
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.
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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 named Bubba once came to my draft thinking he was fully prepared. Now, Bubba never prepared for any draft in the history of drafting. Bubba is a typical Bubba, a big, bald dude with a long beard who doesn’t strike you as a typical fantasy owner. When the draft started in my 12-team league, all we heard Bubba say was, “Wait, there are 12 teams?”. What was probably a quick fix to adjust the number of teams from 10 to 12, turned into Bubba pretty much giving up and turning his attention to beer the rest of the night. I don’t know how Bubba finished that year, but I’m pretty sure he didn’t win. Be prepared for your draft before you start drinking. Have a plan in mind, 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 Practic Makes Perfect
We've all heard the above saying throughout our lifetime from any coach we've had. 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.
In the weeks leading up to your draft you need to simulate your real-life drafting situation as much as possible, so when the big day comes it feels just like your practices. I'm sure you know where I'm going here, but I'm going to say it anyway: Yes, this means getting extremely drunk and mock drafting. If you host your draft, I would even sit in the same spot you plan to on draft day to assure the realness of the practice. If you go to a friend's house, just be sure to let him know you plan to come over, drink a lot and run through a mock draft or two in the same seat you plan to be in at their draft. This way, the host's family will be able to adjust to your presence there.
It would probably be a good idea to warn your signifcant other and boss that August and early September could get a little interesting with any day-to-day responsibilities you usually have. Maybe even show them this column as proof you aren't just making things up and there's a legit reason for your actions.
4. Don't Be the Annoying Drunk Guy
It’s obviously fun to drink and get a little crazy at drafts. But it's very important you're not the drunkest guy at the draft. You know, the guy 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. 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 day. The drunkest guy at the draft tends to take the longest to pick as well. It's important to keep the draft moving at a nice pace. Obviously, if you follow the tip above, this will never be an issue.
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, 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.
I love craft beer. My wife loves craft beer, too, so I have no one in my life to discourage me from drinking it. Along the way, I’ve acquired a real craving for hazy, juicy IPAs, somewhere in the seven-to-11-percent alcohol range. (You can follow me on Untapped at @spagel19). After a few sips, they start to go down quicker than they are supposed to.
So, something to think about for your draft day is some lighter beers. (This is easier said than done and it’s advice I don’t plan to follow anyway, so I can’t really expect you to.) A lot of my friends bring their own beer so there isn't much I can do about it, but if you're going to provide any kind of beer, 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 Analyzer—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 that you’ll be shocked when you remember it. I know I do, and every little tidbit helps on draft day.
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. This is good advice. It also helps to mix in some water and food. If you’re worried about peer pressure and getting made fun of for drinking water during your draft, use your time in the bathroom to drink some out of the sink. Your bathroom time is also a good time to reflect, take a breath and gather your thoughts—assuming you can remember who you drafted. 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. Don't Get So Emotional, Baby
A few drinks into your draft you’re likely to experience a lot of different emotions:
My friend Bubba from above sometimes 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. Obviousl,y 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 a reason.
After a few beers, a lot of us think we get smarter. At that point, player-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 other owners by drafting players from their favorite team—just to be a jerk. 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.
9. 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 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 like 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 Analyzer will prevent you from forgetting when you’re up to pick.
10. Clean Up
When I wake up the day after a draft at my house, I fully expect to have some cleaning up to do as well as a lot of recycling duties. 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 it. So 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.
11. Work the Wire
Waking up the next day and not remembering who you picked, well, I think it can sometimes be fun. I always check out my roster the day after and have 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.
12. 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 made this became necessary. A select few just weren’t in a hurry to pick despite the fact it was Monday night and everyone needed to work the next day coming off a long, holiday weekend. It was one of the worst draft experiences I’ve had. Beer helped me get through it, though.
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 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. Sometimes after a pick I just like to laugh, or just mumble something to myself like ‘terrible’ or ‘he was good 10 years ago,’ or ‘oh, I don’t like that pick,’ anything to get others off their game. Even bring up your past success.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself and your time with friends and league mates. For some of my friends, this is the one and only time in the year I get to hang out with them as kids and family life take more priority. The older I get, it seems the less I’m able to consistently see my friends. 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 my already long-time tradition going into the future. While I always enjoy winning my league and rubbing it in everyone's faces, a big point of my fantasy league is still a sense of family and friends and togetherness, which we celebrate with a beer.
13. 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.