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League Setups: Running a Fantasy Draft or Auction

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by David Gonos, Special Contributor

Published, 6/3/14 

The fantasy football commissioner’s job is obviously very important to the league during the season, when questions about rules arise and semi-lopsided trades need scrutinizing. But just as important to a happy fantasy football league is when the commissioner handles the fantasy draft or auction with aplomb.
 
Six Draft Killers a Commish Can Control
 
- Unlimited time limits for draft picks.

- Having people at the draft who aren’t in the league to “enjoy” the draft with you. This is a great way to end up with a couple of guys leaving before the end of the draft because their wives want to go look at wallpaper at Home Depot, maybe get some flooring …
 
- One or two owners who don’t cross off names, which makes them continually pick players already taken.

- “The Mid-Draft Rule Change” that screws over half the teams that didn’t draft for a PPR format.

- The one owner who comes unprepared, without a laptop, magazine, or a cheat sheet.

- Bad Wi-Fi.
 
We can all agree, these things suuuck when it comes to enjoying the best day of the year (you know, after your anniversary, and the birth of your child).
 
So in order to help commissioners run smooth drafts and auctions, I’ve come up with a few ideas to help you run them with fewer issues – and fewer owners leaving unhappy. (That is, unless they draft the running back who tore his ACL at practice while you guys were drafting.)
 
Running a Smooth Fantasy Football Draft
Here are some ideas to help make everyone’s favorite day go smoothly.
 
Time Limits for Picks
You have to put time limits on picks, even if it’s two minutes. You have to keep them moving. With that said, there are plenty of times when you can see that there was a disruption or a rule question or something else that took up an owner’s drafting time. That’s when you make an exception and pause the draft until they make a pick. The time limit is really there as just a structure to keep the draft under four hours.
 
Owners Must Block Out Drafting Time
With that said about the time limits, you should also make sure owners understand they have to block out three or four hours for the draft and for rule-change discussions, if you haven’t done that already.
 
Tell them not to bring kids, not to bring wives or girlfriends. Or maybe you can get your wife or another owner’s wife to arrange something for the spouses to do together, like go see a movie, go out to eat, go bowling. Anything – just keep them out of the draft room. You might not care, but the other 11 owners are rolling their eyes.
 
Speaking of rule changes, try to send out the proposed rule changes ahead of time, so owners can be thinking about it. Then, once everyone’s together, have them vote on it, with majority ruling. Allow those with opposing viewpoints a chance to state their case to the league before voting.
 
Use a Draft Board
Some league services, like CBSSports.com, send you a draft kit when you purchase a league. It’s complete with a draft sheet you can tape up to the wall, and stickers with pretty much every player who might get drafted in a 12-team standard draft. You’ll also get some blank stickers for when you need to write in the player no one heard of before.
 
Ideally, the commissioner isn’t in charge of the draft board. That’s either a duty assigned to another owner, or you ask each team owner to go up and put his sticker up for each pick. This makes it a little like the real NFL Draft, as they announce their picks at the podium. The commissioner needs to concentrate on keeping the draft moving, making sure teams are legal, and dealing with those who might be drafting remotely.
 
Online Drafts
If you’re running your draft on a league service, you need to focus on the chat room the entire draft. If an owner has any problems, that’s where he’s going to tell you.
Before the draft starts, you should remind all of the owners in the chat room:
·       Rule Changes
·       Scoring System
·       Lineup Requirements
·       Number of Rounds
·       Time Limits on Picks
 
Ask for breaks every now and then, make sure everyone’s able to stay connected online. If they get bumped off and an auto-pick happens, pause the draft and ask if they meant to do that. Most likely, they didn’t, and they were bumped off, but you didn’t know.
 
Eventually, if you can’t get hold of them by phone, you’ll have to make the decision to move on without them. Talk to the other owners to see if there’s a solution that would make everyone happy. If the draft just started, then maybe you should consider waiting 30 minutes or so. If the draft is in the later rounds, then you can just pick the top available (non-injured) player at the positions he needs.
 
You have to keep an eye on that chat room, though. If an owner has a problem, like the software picked a player he didn’t intend on choosing, then you need to suspend the draft. Revert picks, and then restart it, allowing him to take who he wants.
 
Near the end of the draft, make sure everyone has a legal lineup, and let them know when the final rounds are coming up. This way, they won’t get caught taking a sixth WR rather than a kicker with their last pick. Yes, it’s like babysitting sometimes.
 
The Uninformed/Unprepared Fantasy Owner
Once in a while, we get stuck with an owner who completely forgot about the draft because he was too busy having a life and being irresponsible. You, the responsible commissioner, will have to deal with him, and how other owners want to punch him/her in the face.
 
I like to always bring a fantasy football magazine to the draft – just in case this guy shows up. Give him a magazine, or copy a cheat sheet for him, and let him be. Some owners might be upset with that, helping him get an edge when he should be penalized. Unfortunately, an owner like this will screw a draft up if he’s not drafting responsibly. Then everyone will be upset at the teams that get to play him twice, etc. If the other owners don’t like the magazine idea, then print copies of the outdated cheat sheet he’ll use, and give a copy to everyone, so they have a good idea of who he will draft and when.
 
Running a Smooth Fantasy Football Auction
The most important thing you can do for your Fantasy Football auction is to have a good, committed auctioneer who will run it. If you can get an auctioneer with some experience, that’s a huge plus, but it’s doubtful you’ll find one. If you live in a major city, you might be able to offer up your auctioneer services for a league in exchange for their sending one of their owners to auctioneer your draft.
 
The auctioneer sets the pace of the entire draft, and he breaks all ties on the bids. He has to be able to treat each bid with the same attention as the others. He can’t rush through some and take long with others, as it will drive owners crazy because his delays on some could cost them a player or auction money.
 
As for the auction itself, do your best to sit everyone in a circle or in a horseshoe, so they can hear/see each other as bids are made. Owners not bidding on a player can also be used to help break tiebreakers.
 
Make sure there are breaks a couple times in the middle of the draft, since no one can walk away after they pick a player, like in a regular draft. They have to be focused and paying attention at all times.
 
Even if you do an auction instead of a draft, you can still use the draft boards that come with league services. Place the stickers on the draft sheet just like you would a draft, and write their dollar values next to them.
 
If you don’t have a draft board, and you aren’t using a fantasy auctioneer service online, then you can use Google Docs to keep track of the players and teams. Other owners are able to go in and see the spreadsheet as it’s being filled out, and you can even set up the dollar values and a section to show how much money each team has left to spend.
 
With some careful planning, you can run your fantasy draft or fantasy auction without issues. But, even if you do have some problems, you can always find comfort in knowing that next year’s draft/auction will go even smoother.
 

 

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