There are quite a few days that are anticipated with great excitement on a yearly basis for Americans. You can say MLB Opening Day, the opening Thursday of the NCAA Basketball Tournament, The Kentucky Derby, Super Bowl Sunday, College Football on New Years Day, Football on Thanksgiving Day, Masters Sunday, or the NBA on Christmas Day, but none of them compare to Fantasy Football Draft Day. This excitement to finally have the championship squad, spend time with friends and talk trash is a tradition of its own.
The concept of fantasy sports has been a major catalyst for professional sports and professional athletes over the past 20 plus years. Players who might not get the attention of the highlight shows are now known commodities because of their on field production. This production and excitement of competition has produced the phenomenon of fantasy football. Fantasy sports and more specifically, fantasy football have become a year round topic for all sports outlets. As I walked the aisles at the local grocery store, I saw no less than 9 different fantasy football draft guide magazines. When you add in all the online rankings and analysis, it’s everywhere and that’s because people are viewing and love the spectacle.
Fantasy Football Draft Day is a treasured event all on its own. Leagues all over select a date and time for the annual gathering, in most cases, the only time the full league actually sees each other at one time. All the GMs arrive with notes and materials, each hope that they hold the key to a title and year long bragging rights. Food and beverages are plentiful and as the draft commences, there is always that one person who is late to pick because they are making another plate or grabbing another beer.
The draft order is always a nervous moment and can be picked in various ways. Some leagues let the website pick the order at random, some pull the names from a hat, and some based off the order of finish from the previous year. Then there are leagues that create the draft order based off of random things like each GM being assigned a runner in a marathon and the order of finish is the draft order. In the end, the draft strategy hinges on where you’re set to select from. Everyone has their preference and everyone hopes their player is there when they are on the clock.
A few other items that make the day intriguing are the starting positions, bench sports and league scoring rules. Outside of the standard rosters, some leagues start 2 quarterbacks, some start individual defensive players and others start only 2 WRs as opposed to the standard 3. These unique attributes require each GM to dive into their war rooms and map out how they want to construct their teams. The scoring formats tend to influence draft picks as well, especially if your league offers points for completions, carries, receptions and what those points actually are. Do you draft a QB in a point per reception (PPR) league early because they get a ton of yards and TD passes or take the RB/WR/TE who might get yards and half a point for every catch? Unlike the NFL draft, where fans just boo and bash their team via social media over a “bad” pick, in Fantasy Football, your friends literally laugh in your face. Imagine 31 other GMs literally laughing at the Packers in a room when they drafted Jordan Love, because I can.
A few things to remember on draft day. First, remember when your pick is up and be prepared. Most drafts are between 16-20 rounds and if you have a 12 team league, that’s 240 picks. Don’t be the one that causes the draft to drag on, you want it to be fun. Secondly, don’t be the one to draft an injured or retired player. Lastly, make sure you’re on time for the draft, don’t want to let the league pick the “best available” player for you.
Fantasy Football has become an American tradition and it has fueled friendships and interest in the league like a typhoon. Leagues have group text chats that continue 365 with league champions randomly sending a picture of the trophy to the league just to spite them. There was literally a television show focused solely on fantasy football and had a tremendous following. Anywhere you turn, there is a show, segment, podcast or article devoted to rankings, predictions, mock drafts and waiver wire gems. It still amazes me when I think back on the days when I would manually compile the points for each player by reviewing the box scores in the Monday newspaper.
When it comes to your fantasy football league, as with the NFL, it is highly encouraged to boo the league commissioner at every chance. They are usually the charismatic person who tries to be the adult in the league and tends to miss the playoffs. In addition to the typical commissioner, there is always that one person who spends months preparing for the draft, to the point that they review stats over the previous 5 seasons as a trend analysis. These guys usually miss the playoffs ( see my 2021 fantasy baseball team). Another typical GM is the person who doesn’t know any of the players and they just pick names, this person is usually the league champion. In the end, fantasy football is the platform for competitive friendship, just don’t be the one who never checks their team after draft day and gives everyone a free victory.
Draft Day is a fun and exciting day to kick back, eat some food, drink a few beverages and build a championship squad. Yes, you can continue to mold your roster week to week and even adjust your starters, but the gather to select your squad is the official beginning of football season. Embrace the fun and focus on beating your rivals this season and do your best not finishing dead last. If your league has a friendly penalty for being dead last, I hope you’re a good sport and if not, it’s simple, don’t finish dead last.