11 Tips on How to Draft Under the Influence
I’ve been playing fantasy football dating back to the 1990s, a time of no smart phones, no apps, and limited fantasy football websites and information. The one thing that’s been consistent in my fantasy career is taking part in live drafts. Every year since I started back in the 90s, 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.
Live drafts can be the highlight of a fantasy season, kind of like how the Daytona 500 is the Super Bowl of NASCAR as the first event on the schedule. In the league I run 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 players’ names and happen to form some fantasy teams in the process. I always provide snacks, and on occasion have even cooked on the grill for everyone. The draft usually takes place in my screened-in patio which can be quite pleasant on an early September night in Pennsylvania.
And if you haven’t guessed by now, yes, there are some alcoholic beverages as part of draft night.
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.
Just about everything is more fun with a couple of beers.
For example, I can’t tell you the last time I golfed without the aid of beer. It just goes together. Whether you're sitting by a camp fire on a fall night, or holidays, or exercising, or on a Monday afternoon, beer (or your favorite drink) just goes with everything.
Fantasy football drafting is the same way.
When kicking around ideas for a Draft Day Don’ts column here at 4for4, someone 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 team, I also have to keep track of who paid me league fees and also keep track of who everyone else is drafting so I can enter teams accurately into our host site. I admit, things can get hectic, but the use of 4for4 tools has certainly made life easier -- and by "easier", I mean "allows me to drink more at my draft".
Over the years of all 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.
Get to your draft early
This is something even non-drinking drafters can use. 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 still get a little anxious on draft day, kind of like teeing off on hole one with the eyes of the next group on me. If it's an online draft, you can still sign in early in case there happen to be any hiccups with your computer or connection.
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.
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 beard who doesn’t strike you as a fantasy owner. Anyway, the draft started in my 12-team league and all we heard Bubba say was, “Wait, there are 12 teams?” What was probably a quick fix to adjust the number of teams, 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 you’ll stick to your plan. Drunk and blind is no way to draft.
Don’t be the annoying drunk guy
It’s obviously fun to drink and get a little crazy at drafts. But don’t be 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, be it outside or inside. 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 day.
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. I realize that’s not breaking news for anyone, but I’ve acquired a real craving for IPA’s, some of which are in the 7-11-percent alcohol range. Mix in some fruity flavors like tangerine, apricot and grapefruit, and they start to go down quicker than they are supposed to on a summer night. It’s a far cry from the days of Molson Light. 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 don’t expect you to…)
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, which most recently is 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. Going on our site every day and taking in every bit of information you can also helps. I’m a little biased toward our news section (because it’s part of my job here). Reading the news every day, you’ll absorb information you’ll be shocked you remember. I know I do, and every little tidbit helps on draft day.
This reminds me of a story when a league mate, who I don’t even think was drinking, drafted an injured TE early in the draft. Normally this goes by with a snicker and after a few picks he’ll be informed of how much of an idiot he is. But, since it was early, a few stepped up and told him he was injured and he picked someone else. Later on in the draft, he tried to pick the very same TE. Having a little knowledge of the news can go a long way.
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. 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. Have 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.
I 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.
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 it worked. He was a solid QB to take a few rounds in. And Brian Westbrook was a longtime protected player in my keeper league, but he was a stud. Taking your favorite team’s players is OK at the right spot in the draft, but I’m not taking Josh Huff over Odell Beckham just because he’s an Eagle.
On the flip side, don’t avoid players you hate. In my league, most of my friends are Eagles fans so as the draft goes on, good players can sometimes slip due to the drunken anger and hate that starts to form. Players from these teams include the Steelers, Patriots, Cowboys and Giants. I’ve scooped up guys like Tom Brady and Tony Romo late in my draft over the years and it’s worked out well. This can be a trend you can use to your advantage. If 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, c-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 like to give a lot of crap for being frontrunners. 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 team.
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. No time limit can be good if a guy goes 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 years, I know who these guys are in my leagues. I usually use this time 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. But I will say the guys who usually forget are, again, predictable. Every so often a bunch of us will start to look at one another, realize who is up, realize they have no idea they are up, and then we wait for this person to start bitching the draft is taking forever. It’s like clockwork.
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. So do your host a favor and be sure to at least clean up your area when the draft is over.
Work the wire
Waking up the next day and not remembering who you picked, it can sometimes be fun to check out your roster and it all comes flowing back to you, especially if you’re pleasantly surprised by your selections. If you’re horrified, get on the wire and get to work. 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 if you didn’t follow my rules above.
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. A select few just weren’t in a hurry to pick despite the fact 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.
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-rounder 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.
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.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself and your time with friends and league mates. 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.