Ugly Fantasy Draft Scenarios

Fantasy Football is pretty great, isn’t it? It’s more popular than ever before according to industry statistics. It probably won’t shock you to hear that all of us at Gridiron Experts love it. We write about it. We podcast about it. We talk to each other about fantasy football in our free time. Several of us got lower back tattoos of our favorite players this summer. I’m joking, of course….only Jody Smith got a fantasy tramp stamp (it was for Brandin Cooks). There are so many great things about fantasy football (you get to manage a team!), and draft day may be at the top of the list. A good live fantasy draft is one of my favorite ways to spend a few hours with friends, right up there with flying kites, watching “Murder, She Wrote” marathons, and robbing banks. Unfortunately, there are a few things that can really put a damper on a fantasy football draft. Let’s review what can go wrong at your draft.

The Draft is Not Organized

It’s a real bummer to show up for a live draft only to find out there’s no draft board, no refreshments (or perhaps worse: bad ones), faulty technology, missing coaches, etc. If your draft is a disorganized mess, it is almost certainly because your league commissioner is unprepared. Don’t get me wrong: not all of this falls on the commissioner. The fact is, being a good fantasy football commissioner is no easy task because organizing other adults is often like herding cats. But a commissioner who does his homework frequently follows up with the league’s coaches, and prepares the draft venue in advance is miles ahead of the game.

Solution (for commissioners)I have learned a lot from 17 years of trial-and-error as a fantasy commissioner, and I pick up something new every year. A few pieces of advice for your live draft: it’s never too early to start planning the draft – set the date and time as far in advance as possible; provide extra pens and clipboards for coaches who forget their own; have extra power strips, cell phone chargers, and extension cords handy; provide more food and drinks that you think you will need; etc. The bottom line: be as prepared and organized as possible. It will make your life easier, and the experience more enjoyable for your coaches. 

Solution (for league members)You cannot control the actions of others, but you can do your research before agreeing to join a league. How well do you know the commissioner? If you know him, and he appears to have his life together and is generally reliable, that’s a good start. If he’s a friend-of-a-friend, you know nothing about if might behoove you to ask a few questions first. And if the commish reminds you of Rafi or Taco from The League, and you still agree to join, well…don’t be surprised if you have to use a toilet-kitchen at the draft.

Someone Has Too Much to Drink

There’s nothing wrong with cracking open a cold one (or two) at your fantasy football draft.* Hell, for many people, drinking and drafting a fantasy football team are inextricably linked. But having an overly intoxicated, belligerent fantasy football coach at your draft can fall anywhere in the range between “not ideal” and “draft-ruining.” Two years ago, I was at a fantasy draft where one coach was three sheets to the wind by the start of the draft. His highlights included angrily yelling at people, taking his trash talk way too far (e.g. invoking other people’s wives), and generally acting like a douche. This one, obnoxious guy put a major damper on an otherwise excellent draft.

Solution: The best way to eschew this situation is to avoid inviting people into your league that you don’t know without adequately screening them first, and of those you do know, don’t include anyone who has a reputation for over-indulging or becoming an angry drunk.

*Please drink responsibly, yada yada.



There is a Fight Over a Trade

Few things are worse than listening to a group of adults bicker about whether a fantasy trade is “fair” or if the league should allow it. It’s a painful, irrational, and exhausting experience. And it has the capability of bringing your draft to a screeching halt. Let me hit you with some knowledge:

ben stiller let me hit you with some knowledge GIF

Fantasy trades don’t have to be fair. In fact, if you don’t come away from a trade thinking you got the better end of the deal, I feel sorry for you. And you know what’s so cool about that? Sometimes you will win a trade that didn’t initially look great for you, and sometimes you’ll lose a trade that seemed like an obvious win for you when you pulled the trigger. Sometimes weeks or months will pass before anyone can truly determine how a trade worked out for the parties involved. Like the NFL Draft, it’s nearly impossible to evaluate right away with definitive accuracy. Therefore, the idea of allowing all of the league’s coaches to vote on whether to veto a trade is ludicrous to me.

Solution: Avoiding trade arguments on draft day is easy: (1) only league commissioners should have the power to veto fantasy trades, and only when a trade is clearly collusive, and (2) if you’re a coach in the league, and a draft-day trade is made or proposed which does not involve you, it’s probably a good idea to stay out of it. This does not include trash talk. Please, by all means, mercilessly ridicule whichever coach appears to have been taken for a ride after the trade is complete.

One of the Coaches Doesn’t Show Up

Coaches who agree to join a fantasy league — or worse, are already members of the league — and no-show for the draft without warning are the absolute worst.* It is a highly inconsiderate, selfish maneuver that demonstrates an appalling indifference for the time and efforts of the other coaches in the league. The worst case scenario is that the AbSentee fantaSy coach (let’s call him “ASS,” for short) forces the commissioner to scramble for someone to fill the unexpected league vacancy while the draft is supposed to be starting, and in the best cases, the commissioner has to find another coach in attendance to juggle drafting his own team as well as ASS’s team. Drafting a quality fantasy football team for yourself is difficult enough without other distractions. It is at least twice as demanding for an unsuspecting coach to also draft a team for ASS at the last minute, with no preparation, knowledge of ASS’s roster, draft list or guidance provided by ASS, etc.

The one reliable thing about ASSes is that they almost always use one of a group of equally lame, predictable, but time-honored excuses for not showing up to the draft. Here are a few:

  • ASS suddenly remembered that he promised his spouse/significant other they would complete some menial task that day, which happens to interfere with the draft.
  • ASS suddenly remembered that he has plans. Think family reunion, great Aunt Mildred’s birthday, anniversary, work event, etc.
  • ASS’s car broke down. You wouldn’t believe his luck.
  • ASS is sick. Poor guy.
  • ASS’s child/significant other/pet is sick.
  • ASS has a violent, explosive, and life-altering case of diarrhea. Neither his body nor his toilet will ever be the same.**

Solution: Unfortunately, there really is no perfect solution. The occasional ASS is hard to avoid. The odds are against a commissioner being able to put 10-14 people together who are all equally passionate about fantasy football. One of the reasons I have come to prefer keeper leagues over the years is that the coaches tend to be more invested. As a commissioner, the best you can do is put together a group of people you feel good about and trust to be wherever they tell you they’ll be on draft day.

*Let it be known and hereby declared that fantasy coaches who draft over the phone are the second-worst. 

**No one has ever used this excuse on me, I just wish it upon every person who has ever been the ASS of a fantasy football draft.

If any or even all of these scenarios befall your fantasy draft, try to remember why we’re all here: to have fun. Even the worst live drafts I’ve attended have had their redeeming qualities, and usually, even the most hapless fantasy commissioners really do mean well. But if a bad fantasy draft truly does ruin our fair game for you, and nothing in this column gives you a glimmer of hope, the good news is that there’s probably a “Murder, She Wrote” marathon on somewhere.

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