The Draft Part I: Old School

"The Draft" is a 5 part series on this years Fantasy Football Draft by acclaimed Fantasy Journalist and author, A. Joseph

I sit here at my laptop on Sunday night watching a taped pre-season NFL Game, and the greatest night on the fantasy calendar is now over. All the planning and preparation, all the studying and thought, is now nothing more than a vivid memory. Like a kid on Christmas night, after the presents have long since been opened, I find myself filled with a deep melancholy. I can believe that its really, really over.

The good news, however, is that the NFL season has yet to begin. There is an entire season of fantasy football to be played. But I believe that if you ask any fantasy owner, they'll tell you that its really all about the draft. At the risk of tooting my own horn as commissioner, I think that this years draft was an unconditional success.

It began with the first round of e-mails a few weeks ago, a small teaser to the owners in my league to whet their collective appetites. I sent a custom invite with the first e-mail, designed to get em' excited. I probably spent a little too much time in photoshop working on it, but I was happy with the outcome.

Fantasy Draft Invite
And though the e-mails and invite were a quality touch, the true anticipation began last Thursday evening with an age old tradition.

My wife lay on the couch, battling sleep as best she could, whereas I was glued to my laptop toiling away tirelessly as I finished up the final touches of my pre-draft regiment. I realized that I had yet to address perhaps the most crucial component of of the pre-draft ritual... the draft order. I rushed to my feet and got all the essential tools. A pen, a notebook, and a hat.

draft pick squaresAnd with that, I began the draft order. It is a process both simple and effective. It is time tested and proven. And in a world with internet drafts, complex software, and wireless networks, it is also a welcome respite. I wrote the names of each team on a piece of paper, ripped the paper into tiny squares, and then threw them into the hat. As always, I did my absolute best to ensure the legitimacy of the picks. I was careful to size each pick equally, to make folds inward so names were not visible, and I called a local Accounting Firm to audit the selections. Ok that last part was bullshit, but you get the idea.

picks out of my hatI woke my wife out of her slumber so that she could ensure the accuracy. I subscribe to the "frozen envelope" theory as to how Patrick Ewing ended up as a Knick, so I figured having my wife make the picks would ensure accuracy. After all, she could give a shit who gets what pick. As pissed off as she was for being awoke, presumably from a dream involving Brad Pitt and a Beverly Hills shopping spree, she dutifully picked each name out of the hat one by one. The order was written on a sheet of paper and, viola', we were ready for the draft.

It wasn't 10 minutes later when I pissed her off for the second time that night. I dialed the number of my friend, who won the first pick, and I handed her the phone. Per my instructions, she pretended to be the secretary from the office of the Commissioner. She placed him on hold and passed me the phone calling me a "big dork" under her breath. I grabbed the phone and told my friend, "You sir, are officially on the clock." After yelling like a girl for about 30 seconds he asked me who I thought he should draft, at which point I called him a big dork under my breath. I was pretty sure that he was joking about the advice, but I was certain that he was not joking about the excitement. And the excitement was contagious. I found myself doing the math to figure out exactly how many hours, minutes and seconds were left before I would be making my own pick.

It's funny how a couple of tiny strips of paper, a grungy Red Sox hat, and a sleepy and angry wife could get the ball rolling so quickly. In the two days that followed, I found that I could think of nothing else. It was like Christmas Eve for a child. The air was thick with anticipation. Instead of thinking "I wonder what that big present is in the corner," I was thinking "I wonder who I'm going to get with the 5th pick."

The draft had unofficially, officially begun.

Stay tuned for "The Draft Part II: New School".


Get out the draft.

What's the Boy Scout's motto? Be prepared. And that holds true for your fantasy football team as well. I know that this post probably should go without saying, but I just want to hit the point home.

Every fantasy owner has their favorite magazine that they pick up every year. Some follow take their suggestions too literally, some don't follow them enough. But everyone reads the papers, listens to sport talk radio, and takes their markers and highlighters and picks their favorite players.

But all that studying might not help you when you're under the gun and the clock for your draft pick is bearing down on you. This is why is suggest that you try ESPN's Fantasy Football Mock Draft. It's a neat little tool that they've developed to help you prepare for your true draft. In previous years, if you wanted to try an online draft to prepare for your real draft, it meant that you would have to start a team in a league with 11 other dorks from around the country. With the new mock draft, ESPN has given owners an opportunity to bone up for the draft without having to field a new team.

It's interesting what you can learn if you do enough of these drafts. About where is Randy Moss going to go? How quickly are the top tier quarterbacks disappearing? All these little questions can be answered before your actual draft. Trying this out a time or two can help you get ready for how your own draft will play out.

I've done my fair share this year, and will probably do one the night before my draft. Its given me a real opportunity to review my own style. What I've found is quite interesting to me, and it surprised me. I've found that, duh, running backs go quick. If you don't pay attention, before you know it your choosing between Leon Washington and Kevin Barlow. Some of my mock drafts, I have picked up three backs with my first three picks. In other drafts, I tend to lean too much on potential,while passing on good consistency.

Having the opportunity to evaluate these drafts are a real help to my draft day strategy. I can come to grips with what prices I'm willing to pay, and I've identified what players I am truly after.

So, if you have the opportunity, take a look at a mock draft. You might be surprised with what you learn.


Fantasy Rule #19

Its funny because it's true. Unfortunately, I won't be having "ballet" parking. But I won't be having absentee owners drafting either.


THE LIST: 5 things to make your draft better.

My draft is coming up on Saturday. Now, I don't have kids yet, but I when I imagine the anticipation that I'll feel when my wife is about to give birth, I just picture draft day. I love it. I truly do. It's quite possibly my favorite day of the year that's not Thanksgiving. I've been running this same league, in various forms, for about 8 years. I enjoy being the commissioner, and I think that the owners in my league like the draft I put on. I've put together a small list of things that you, as a commissioner, should aim to do for your fantasy draft. Its just a little list which you can take or leave.

5. GET SOME DRAFT SOFTWARE - I know, I know. Leagues cost enough as is, and you're fine with your big bulky draft board. But why not think about moving into the 21st century? Chances are, you have a 50' Plasma HDTV, why not get some real use out of the thing, and make it the showcase of your draft. This year I'm using fantasy draft software from the folks over at www.fandraft.com. That's not a shameless plug, it's just the best that I've seen. I like that it adds a real "ESPN" feel to the draft. It's got a ticker and supports music. This will be the first year that I'm running it, and I'll let you know how it goes.

4. ADD SOME MUSIC - Last year, I spent tireless hours scouring ITunes trying to find the best music for my draft. A little bit gay? Perhaps. But it would have been awesome, had my draftmaster not forgotten the cord to hook my iPod into the laptop. When you're sitting around, opening the first beers, and eating the wings and pizza, why not have some NFL Films soundtracks playing in the background. It gets the mood set, and gets everyone pumped and ready to draft. Who doesn't get psyched with a little "Ramblin' Man from Gramblin", it makes me think of The Burger King returning a pick against the Bills every time.

8. GO SOMEWHERE DIFFERENT - Every year its the same thing. 12 guys cramped into someones living room, while his wife vacuum's under the feet of 4 fat guys stuffed onto a loveseat. Last year I asked owners to chip in an extra $20 a head, and we rented out the conference room of a posh hotel. I had each conference seated at their own tables, and it gave it a real "war room" feel. I'm not saying do this every year, but change it up now and then.

3. GO THE EXTRA MILE - One thing I do every year as the commissioner, is to make sure that I've printed out a complete draft-day packet for every owner. This ensures that you don't have to have your latest Rotowire magazine or Pro Football Weekly to have a good draft. I fill the packet with cheat sheets, roster requirements, notes about owners, etc. My goal is that every owner there has a real feel that I put a lot of effort into making the draft as exceptional as possible. Last year, I printed out one of a kind t-shirts for each owner, with the league logo and team name. This year I'm going with pint glasses with each team logo.

2. DRESS UP - Each year, I make sure to have each owner wear a shirt and tie to the draft. I myself usually wear a suit. As I've said, its one of my favorite days of the year, so why not get dressed for the occasion? I'll bet that half of my league hates it, but I think that the other half actually likes it. I always take a league picture to look back at. I was at one of my owners houses the other night, and he broke out the picture, and said that it had been hanging on his fridge' for the past year. In addition to everything else, most wives are more understanding about the draft if their husband is wearing a shirt and tie while leaving the house. There's an air of respectability to it.

1. HANG OUT A BIT - This is a tough one, because most people are ready to finish the last beer and make it home to their wives or girlfriends before it gets too late. But some of my favorite time is the immediate aftermath of the draft. Some people get buyers remorse. Some people keep drinking. But everyone judges. I recall last year, my brother and his brother in law going back and forth about who had the better team. My brothers pronounced his team, predctibly stacked with Dallas Cowboys, as the greatest team ever assembled, while his brother in law tauted the greatness of his own team. I laughed my ass off as these two dogmatic a-holes went back and forth for an hour. It might have been my favorite part of the draft.

First Post from the Commish...

Alright, I've finally done it. I own a blog. In my job, I come across probably 20-30 blogs a day. I've said time and again that bloggers annoy me with their "modest" views of the world from their own opinion, to their inevitably pithy titles. But I've been thinking about this for some time, and I think that I might actually have something to say when it comes to fantasy football. I hope that you agree. And if you don't, you can go F*** yourself!