The Draft Part II: New School

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

You can't get much more old school draft than picking your draft order from a bunch of pieces of paper in a hat, thats for damned sure. And I've found that I, much like the owners in my league, like it that way. There's a certain comfort to it, like a pair of sweatpants on a cool Sunday morning in the Fall. I've done my best to keep my leagues continuity as flowing as possible. But this year I decided to ratchet the draft up a notch. I went 21st century for the first time, and I updated my draft board. In my post "5 Things To Make Your Draft Better", number 5 was to get some draft software... this year I decided to take my own advice. I can't speak for all commissioners out there, but I know that I like to really put some thought into my draft board. I like to really pump up the draft day experience as best I can for the owners... and I think that it starts with the draft board.

Through the years, my draft board has seen a number of changes and updates. But last year, I made an awful and unforgivable mistake. I held the draft in a posh hotel conference room, and decided to forgo the typical draft board. I ditched the board in lieu of 4 smaller draft boards at the table of each conference. I put a couple of colored sharpee markers at each table, and asked the owners to fill the boards in as the draft progressed. I even went so far as to color code the picks based on position. To say that this was a disaster would be an understatement. As the draft went on, owners seemed to be perturbed (ok, they were pissed off) that they had to take the time to fill out the picks. After the draft had finished, I looked at the boards. Most tables just decided to quit at about round 8 or 9. And on the boards that were complete, the effects of too many beers seemed to become evident in the rapidly increasing childlike nature of the handwriting. People seemed to lose track of needed picks, and couldn't properly forecast the needs of the owners picking around them.
It was this abysmal failure that lead me to make the choice to move to an electronic draft board... and this decision seemed to be universally accepted among the owners in my league. If not at first, then certainly after the draft had commenced.

I'm not going to bore you with all the details and information about the draft software itself. I'll save that for a later post. But what I will do is tell you how the software fared during the draft. I can sum it up in one word... success. One of the owners in my league said that it was "the best draft I've ever been to" and that it "spoiled" her for her other drafts. Now, I'd like to think that the 5 star wings and pizza, bottomless beer selections and exquisite company had something to do with it, but I knew that it was the draft board that sold it for her. I expected that having a electronic draft board would be cool, and it was, but I what I did not expect was how effective it helped make the owners. Sure there are other cardboard draft boards out there that color code picks, so you can plainly see that the guy with the pick right before you already has two running backs, so it's a sure bet that he's gonna' snatch your top rated wideout before you get the chance. But the electronic board took it a step further.

Switching from the over all 'selection board' to the remaining available players (sorted by position OR overall rank) was a snap. It was as simple as asking the draftmaster to switch the view. This helped alleviate the need for the douche next to you asking to borrow your magazine because he forgot to bring his own. We've all been there before. You're two picks away, and you're flipping through your magazine to remind you of who you tagged as a solid sleeper when the guy next to you says "Hey... let me see that." You just know in the pit of your stomach that hes gonna see the note next to Vincent Jackson that you wrote three weeks ago that says "Great sleeper, take him in round 10 if he's still there." This was replaced with that same guy, bugging the draft master to change view on the board over and over again.

Another thing that was noticeably missing was the smattering of the same comment, "Hey, how much time to I have left?" throughout the night. Instead, there was a giant clock in the bottom left hand corner of the screen, announcing to EVERYONE how much time they had left. I called this "Asshole Insurance" because every owner knew clear as day who was taking their sweet time making picks. Along with the draft clock was a "ESPN" style ticker, just like the one you'd see on a Saturday in April during the NFL draft. It was a neat little trick that didn't really help anything out, so much as it just lent to the atmosphere of the draft.

Yet another neat feature was the music that played through the draft. The draft software I purchased had a nifty feature that allowed you to put in your own music, which could be played before or during the draft. You could put whatever you wanted in to the library. For some, this might mean "Alice in Chains" all night. But for me, it meant selections from "Autumn Thunder: The NFL Films Soundtrack." I can't tell you how cool it was to have real NFL music going throughout the night. Sure, the 5 songs that I uploaded tended to get a little repetitive after 3 plus hours, but no one seemed to mind.

As each pick went by, each owner had their team name and logo displayed on the top of the screen. This was cool in that you didn't have to ask who had the next pick. You simply had to look up. As the commissioner, I took great pride in asking the owners to tell me what they wanted in their logos, and then designing them myself. If nothing else, the first appearance of the logos drew a solid laugh from the owners. My team is "The Commissioners" and I had a great time superimposing my head onto Paul Tagilbue's body. Check it out.

At the end of the day, did the electronic draft board change the world or reinvent the wheel? Probably not. But I would say that it was a change that was well received for this years draft. I don't think that it lead anyone to draft a team that they normally wouldn't have, or make a champion out of a chump. But it certainly made the one day on the fantasy calendar, which is already the sweetest day of the year, just that much sweeter.

Stay tuned for "The Draft Part III: Buyers Remorse"

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