The draft party is your fantasy football league’s most important event of the year. It’s when all the league managers meet to select their team’s players before the fantasy season starts. This might be the only time the whole league gets together in person during the season so it’s a good excuse for a party with lots of food, drink, trash talk and fun.
The draft party is usually organized and run by the league’s commissioner. That’s probably you. This task can seem a bit overwhelming for new commissioners so I’ll cover some common questions and offer tips on how you can plan and host an awesome fantasy football draft party.
How Do I Plan A Successful Draft Party?
Plan early. Pick a good draft date and location. Then send out invites to make sure your league knows about it. If you’re having your party at a bar, get a reservation in early. Advance planning really pays off in getting the location you want and making sure everyone in your league can attend. To identify a date, ask everyone in your league what dates they’re not available and assume all other dates are fair game.
Get a neutral party to be the official timekeeper and record picks. It takes the workload off of the commissioner, keeps the draft moving and helps keep everything fair. This could be a responsible friend, relative or significant other of you or someone in the league.
Serve good food and beer. You can provide it or tell everyone to bring an item to share. I’ve seen commissioners include the cost of food for the party as part of the league’s entry fee. That works well for catering or pizza deliveries. Explain to everyone how the bill will be handled (i.e. group tab or separate checks) if the party’s at a bar or restaurant.
Play football related videos. Have a football bloopers or greatest plays DVD on the TV with the volume muted. Or schedule the draft during an NFL preseason game and have that on, but the game might get distracting for some.
Schedule breaks during the draft. The draft will probably take 2-4 hours depending on your league’s size and time allowed for each pick so plan one or more bathroom breaks. Let everyone know there will be a 10 minute break after round 7 for example.
Hold a draft party even if drafting online. Host your party somewhere with good Wi-Fi and have everyone bring their devices. This allows you to do all the fun in person stuff without having to manage timekeeping and the draft board. Let your fantasy site handle those. Plus if someone can’t attend in person, they can still participate in the draft online. This also works well if your league does an auction draft which is tougher to manage manually.
Chill. Remember that a good draft party can be as simple or fancy as you want. If you start getting stressed about the planning, take a deep breath and focus on the basics. Once those are under control, then start adding in extra stuff if you want. Or delegate a few tasks to someone else in your league.
Where To Host My Draft Party?
Choose a place where your league can have fun and make some noise for a few hours. The library or opera are bad choices…your favorite sports bar is a good choice. You’ll be there a while so make sure there’s enough space for everyone in your league plus any guests and that all coaches will be able to clearly see the draft board if you’re using one.
Home – The easiest choice is to have the party at your house or another league member’s house. It’s free, you can schedule the party any time you want and everyone can stay the night if they drink too much.
Favorite Bar or Restaurant – Most bars and restaurants allow you to reserve space for a private party. Some places offer fantasy draft party packages and discounts. Call around or look online to find options. I found good offers at Hooters (includes coupons and a free draft kit) and Dave & Busters (free draft kit and more).
Draft Getaway – Make your fantasy draft part of a road trip or friends weekend. This could be anything from an overnight camping trip to a long weekend in Vegas. A destination draft party is a good option if your league is spread around the country and you want to do an in person draft.
Local Veterans Post or Fraternal Hall – Your local VFW or American Legion post; or fraternal organization (Elks, Moose, etc) hall is a great draft location if someone in your league is a member there. The drinks are cheaper than a commercial bar, they usually have a nice meeting room and you can get use of their kitchen. Plus you’re supporting a local community organization.
What Gear Do I Need For A Draft Party?
Here are a few things that you’ll want to have for your party. Some of them can be saved and reused for future drafts.
Fantasy Football Draft Board Kit – A good draft board gives your fantasy draft an official feel. Most importantly, a board makes it easy for everyone to know what players have already been picked. Look for one with labels for all of the current season’s players and rookies plus some blank labels. You can make your own draft board using spreadsheet software or a big white board.
Timer – Each team manager has a set time limit (usually 90 seconds or 2 minutes) to make their pick. A digital timer will help your timekeeper officially track the time and provide a 30 second warning. It’s easiest if the timekeeper is not a league member so that all the players and the commissioner can focus on the draft.
Football Themed Party Supplies – Add a fun atmosphere to your draft party with football themed cups, plates or other accessories. Make clean up easy for yourself with paper products that can be easily thrown away or recycled. You can re-use any left over supplies for tailgating or a game day party. Or save them for next year’s draft party.
Football Videos – Keep everyone entertained with some football videos featuring great plays or momentous games. You can have these playing on your TV before or during the draft. During the draft, keep the volume muted so it doesn’t interrupt the player picks.
What Are Other Fun Draft Party Ideas?
Make your draft party an event that’s more than picking players for a team. Add in things to help everyone get psyched up for the season and excited to be part of the league. Build traditions. Get started with these ideas…
Post last year’s final standings. This is a good way to reignite the rivalry from last season and get the league fired up for the draft. Print out the standings, display them prominently then talk about some of last season’s highlights.
Display the league trophy. If your league has a championship trophy then the draft party is a good time to show it off and remind everyone what they’re playing for.
Invite the defending champion to say a few words. Give the current champ a final shot to bask in their glory from last season with a little trash talk.
Make predictions. Before the draft starts, ask each coach to make a prediction about the season. Write them down and save to review at the end of the season or at next year’s draft.
Each league has its own personality. Experiment with different ideas to make the party unique to your league after the basics of location, date and draft management are sorted out.
Hopefully this helped you kick start your draft party preparations. Share your best fantasy football draft party planning tips and stories in the comments below. Have a question about planning your first draft party? Ask that in the comments, too.