Start Your Own Fantasy Football League
Posted By: Josh Thompson
Football season is upon us once again, which means it’s time to set up your annual fantasy football league. Creating your league and drafting online may be convenient, but inviting a group of friends to participate in a live, offline fantasy draft is an exciting and social way to kick off football season. If you’ve never been involved in a live fantasy draft the following guidelines will help ensure that your first offline draft is a success!
When setting up your fantasy football league, the first major decision you’ll make is who to invite. It’s important that the league has an even number of teams for scheduling purposes. Most successful leagues have anywhere from 8 to 14 teams, but I find that 12 team leagues provide the best balance in regards to player and position availability. When inviting people to participate in your league, make sure they understand the schedule and commitment involved with playing fantasy football. There’s nothing worse than playing in a league where half the owners have stopped paying attention midway through the season!
Choose a Time and Location
Once your league is filled with reliable owners it’s time to schedule your draft. Labor Day weekend is a popular time for fantasy football drafts, with the preseason schedule wrapping up and the regular season right around the corner. The regular season kicks off on Thursday, September 4th, so work with the other owners in your league to find a date before then that works well for everyone. For your draft’s location you’ll want a large space where everyone can hang out comfortably. Having access to a Wi-Fi connection is ideal so that people can easily access player rankings on their laptop or tablet. Most offline drafts are hosted at someone’s home, but certain restaurants and bars will allow you to reserve space for fantasy drafts if you give them enough advance notice.
Your league’s format and rules need to be set well in advance of the draft so that everyone has a chance to properly prepare. This includes scoring systems, draft format, trade policies, entry fees, prizes, and the web site you’ll be using to track the league’s process. Creating a document that includes all important league information and emailing it to your league members in advance of the draft will make sure everyone is on the same page. It’s probably a good idea to have printed copies of the document to distribute on draft night as well.
Plan For Your Draft Party
Hosting a live fantasy draft is essentially the same as hosting a party – you want to make sure your league mates are engaged and having a good time. A live draft can take several hours to complete, so refreshments are a must. Pizza and wings are popular choices for draft parties, but if you’re feeling ambitious you could always turn the event into a barbecue and grill out burgers and steaks. If you want to encourage some friendly trash-talk, a cooler full of beer is sure to liven things up when it’s time to start picking players!
Setup Your Equipment
Without question, the most important piece of equipment for any live draft is the draft board. You can make your own draft board using poster board or foam board, or you can purchase a pre-constructed draft board online. You’ll also need labels printed with eligible player names, so that the draft board can be updated as each pick is made. In addition to the printed player labels, you’ll need to have some blank labels on hand too – just in case your league mates want to draft sleepers that aren’t included on your ranking lists. Lastly, you’ll want to have a stopwatch or kitchen timer on hand. A time limit needs to be set for each pick or your draft will take all night. Two or three minutes per pick should give everyone time to make a decision, while keeping your draft moving at a fairly brisk pace.
Prior to the draft, you will definitely want to do some research on player values. I like to use existing ranking lists for each position as a starting point, and then move players that I like up on the list and ones I want to avoid down. You should come up with a basic strategy on which positions you’d like to focus on early, but be prepared to deviate from your plan depending on how the draft unfolds – don’t let a great player slip past you because he doesn’t fit into your pre-draft strategy! Some other tips to consider are:
- Running backs are important! I always try to grab three in the first five rounds.
- If you miss out on the top running backs in the first round, grabbing an elite quarterback is a solid fallback plan.
- Wait until the last few rounds to select a defense and a kicker. Taking them early is a waste of a pick!
- Most leagues are won because of great late round picks. Spend some time researching sleepers that you can grab late.
- Pay attention to bye weeks! Having multiple key players miss the same week is a tough pill to swallow.
If you need help with your research OnlineLabels.com does offer some handy fantasy football resources, including alphabetical and ranked lists for each position and PDF templates for draft board labels. We can even supply blank labels in a variety of different colors to make printing your own draft board labels a breeze. To download printable PDFs and player lists please visit our Fantasy Football 2014 Draft Board Labels page.