Biggest day of the fantasy season: Making your draft memorable

Your fantasy draft is the biggest day of the season. Make sure you do it in style. (AP Photo/Michael Ainsworth)

Fantasy sports are in our DNA at Yahoo, and we know it’s your passion, too. We’re always looking for ways to make our award-winning experience even better and in this case we’re getting help from one of you, our amazing legion of fantasy players, to make leagues even better.

Commissioner’s Corner is a multi-part series meant to provide tips to keep your league engaged all season long and tap even more into the fun that comes with playing fantasy. The author, Justin C. Cliburn, has been the dedicated commissioner of his Yahoo Fantasy Football league the OIL since 2006. While it’s a unique league, each and every one of your leagues is special and brings friends, families and co-workers closer together.

Part 7: Making your draft memorable

I’ve never been a NASCAR guy, so I was surprised when I learned the Daytona 500, the sport’s most-important event, is the first race of the season. As excited as NASCAR fans spoke about Daytona, I’d always assumed it was their Super Bowl and thought it was pretty lame that it wasn’t. But years of fantasy sports has turned me into a believer.

Draft Day is fantasy’s Daytona 500: it jump-starts the competition and sets the tone for the rest of the season. It’s the first social event of the fantasy season and builds the rosters for the next chapter in your league’s story. So do it right by planning a great Draft Day experience.

[Fantasy Football player rankings: How could drafts play out?]

Nothing beats a live draft party. The camaraderie and trash talk just can’t be replicated in a remote, online-only draft, although I realize that’s not always possible. If you’re like the OIL and have some managers living far away, it will be difficult to have a true live draft, but you can have the best of both worlds.

The simplest solution is to have a central draft location where as many members can gather as possible but do the actual draft online via Yahoo. All you need is Wi-Fi. However, if there are other little things you can do to enhance the experience.

For example, Peter Billeter of the First Down Punt League went the extra mile and provided Draft Day nameplates for his league.

Peter Billeter is an example of a commissioner going the extra mile by providing Draft Day nameplates for his league. (Photo courtesy of Peter Billeter )

However you do it, plan ahead, know your audience, and cater it to your league members. For the OIL, that means ensuring there is lots of beer and smoked meats available. We rent a cabin for Labor Day weekend and use the draft as a reunion of sorts. But we’ve also booked restaurants or drafted at people’s homes in the past.

The 2014 OIL League draft party at a local restaurant.

I’ve seen leagues rent out hotel conference rooms, bars, professional sports stadiums, golf courses, casinos, back yards, basements, and more. We went all out for our 10-year league anniversary at Cowboys Stadium.

But it really doesn’t matter where you draft, so long as you and your league mates get to see each other at least that one time a year. It’s when you re-connect, talk trash, draft your next great hope, and remind yourself why you put so much time and effort into a fake sports league.

[Fantasy Football player rankings: How could drafts play out?]

Helpful hint: Once you have your league’s draft order set, you can practice for the real thing with Yahoo’s mock draft tool. Another useful reference is the position-by-position expert rankings to help you research. You can also edit your pre-draft rankings to reflect where you think players should be taken, so you’ll be ready when you’re on the clock or in case you have to auto-pick at any point.

Up Next: In Part 8 of the series, we’ll discuss in-season engagement.

More tips for improving your fantasy league:

Starting with the basics
Why bylaws matter
Building franchises
Recognizing the champ
Tapping into rivalries
Fun ways to set draft order

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