There’s nothing that can prepare you for the live draft. It’s fine to do a thousand mock drafts and have an agile “cheat sheet” available on multiple devices plus a paper backup. The human factor makes it almost impossible to predict.
I bet there’s a German word for the feeling of looking forward to something and dreading it as well. That’s how I head into my local keeper draft. This year’s gathering was our 15th year meeting in person and 16th overall. I’d say 2/3 of the league has been at every draft and we’ve had a little Defense Against the Dark Arts teaching position shuffling of that 12th owner slot. For a lot of us, this is our one time all year to get in touch. It’s tough trying to keep up with the picks when the guy next to you’s asking about your job. I have a job? Oh yeah.
Every league is its own entity. There are unique rules, and perhaps one or a few owners push through rules that make the league unusual. Our league is odd in that we have strict roster rules, x amount of players per position, including the horrifying requirement of having two rostered kickers and team defenses. Because of these rules (3 QB, 4 RB, 4 WR, 2 TE, 2 K, 2 D), there are certain positions that are picked clean on waivers and others that will be plentiful all year.
The atmosphere: It was an unusual setting this year in that our hosts had gotten married the day before. They’ve been together 17 years and our country finally acknowledged marriage equality. In a sobering moment, one of the hosts mentioned that they got married as quickly as possible because our Georgia state legislature might attempt to reverse things. Just imagine that, your state attempting to invalidate your marriage.
There were still flowers and wedding decorations in the house. I arrived early with my dad, two-time champ OBL and President of the dark socks with running shoes club. We helped set up.
What’s required at a live draft? Let’s start with the basics. Tons of ice, water, sports drinks, soda, beer, and just about any other type of liquor imaginable. Magazines and paper everywhere. Doughnuts, chips, dips, chains, whips, maybe a veggie plate that gets barely picked over, and a well timed infusion of pizza about two hours into the festivities. I brought a laptop into our 2010 draft and was weird. Now almost everyone’s holding an iPad. We still have the giant paper board with the stickers, although the stickers are different colors this year which was initially confusing.
We had a short ceremony “up top” to say hi and give me my trophy. The last time I had the trophy, I was a newlywed. This year, I’m celebrating my 12th anniversary. Sadly the reunion was short-lived a we have a Stanley Cup-esque trophy with each champion’s name engraved and that hasn’t happened in two years. Our commish is taking care of that so maybe I get it back for the NFL season opener.
We have three keepers, one per position. Most people keep a QB. I shocked the people who noticed or cared by keeping Travis Kelce along with Dez and ADP.
The draft itself:
I went back and forth between wanting to go WR-RB with my first two picks or going RB-RB, seeing how far the position slipped with my 24-pick wait for the end of the third round. The Draft Dominator mocks insisted that I would get either TY Hilton or A.J. Green, the top WRs on the board by far. They were gone by pick three. Frank Gore slipped to 8 and I didn’t hesitate. At 12 I went for the “keeper” angle and took Todd Gurley. If my ageist tendencies are correct on Gore, he’ll do fine for me until he slips in a puddle of prune juice and by then Gurley will take over.
At the 3/4 turn, I thought about going with a QB. Our league loves QBs, and people jump all over backups fairly early. I’m not exactly heeding the Sigmund Bloom plea of drafting WRs with good QBs when I took Allen Robinson and DeSean Jackson.
I wondered if I’d get a decent QB at the 5/6 turn. Between my fourth and fifth pick, three QBs went off the board. I got Eli. You don’t get the same rock in your stomach feeling that accompanies drafting Jay Cutler, but there isn’t a party. He could start every week for me save his bye, and that’s not bad for QB15. Isaiah Crowell was pick 6.01 and my RB4. In my app mocks, he never fell that far.
At 7/8 I earned some derision for taking Sam Bradford, and I said screw it, bye week issues, by taking Nelson Agholor. I got Agholor at 8.01 in a three-team keeper, and who knows, he might be the WR1 in Philly this year.
My last two picks that mattered were Marcus Mariota and Austin Seferian-Jenkins at the 9-10 turn. People were really “whatever” about their QB3 so I took one of the last guys remaining who could start. EJ Manuel and Matt Cassel were drafted if you’re thinking there’s anything on the waiver wire. I finished up with two defenses and kickers, and the best part was that people still pulled that “stare at my papers for two minutes, walk up to the board, pause, go back to my papers” move that usually ends by the time people are on their third beer.
Speaking of beers, there’s no reason to drink “lite” and skimp on flavor, although there was a lot of the Corona variety at our draft. I had two beers for the draft, Evil Twin’s Sour Bikini and Westbrook’s Gose. They were 3 and 4% booze, respectively, totally delicious and I didn’t have to go home from the draft in the trunk of my dad’s car.
After that it was family time and everyone’s kids age at least two years every time we show up. That’s what it seems.
I did get to autograph a copy of the first fantasy football magazine in which I appeared, which was a nice touch to the whole weekend.