There’s a line in the movie Rushmore in which Jason Schwartzman asks Bill Murray if he’s been in the shit. Bill kind of looks at him knowingly and says “Yeah, I’ve been in the shit.”
That’s what draft day is like.
Live draft day is like nothing else in the fantasy world. If you do it online, even with a chat room, there’s nothing to beat that human interaction. This is the one event a year that is scheduled a year in advance. This year it was August 23.
It’s our 14th year doing a live draft in Atlanta, and this year had an additional layer added to it as we did our once-in-every-four-years redraft. That meant I had to say good-bye to 2013 keepers Trent Richardson (already long cut), Jimmy Graham and Dez Bryant. I’ll be happy to tell you that I got one of them back.
So how does one prepare to draft with a group that isn’t experts? I recall in 2010, bringing my laptop in with the Football Guys Draft Dominator and I was considered weird. While a few people entered the draft arena armed with a laptop or tablet, there were still a bunch of papers and pens present. I had a google spreadsheet with lists by position, and I didn’t have too many technical malfunctions.
My strategy? I’ve been a go-with-the-flow guy in all of my drafts to date, never going in with a set plan of positions to take by round. I felt like the value was going to be RB in the first half of the first round (the first five picks anyway) and the second half would be for wideouts. We chose our draft order by grabbing a shot glass, doing what nature intended with the shot glass, and looking under for a number. The number one got to pick his slot, and so on. I had pick number 10 and not surprisingly, got draft slot number 10.
I’ve been drafting at the corner in just about all of my drafts and mocks to date, so I was prepared. Picks 8 and 9 were QBs, not too surprising considering this is the one chance to draft some of these guys for four years. I had three options: Dez Bryant, Jimmy Graham, or the guy I took with my second-round pick. I went with Dez. Jimmy G went to my dad with the following pick.
I valued the WR position more than the TE at that spot. Dez is likely to be a keeper for the next three years. My second pick was a shocker to me. There’s talk that this guy is old and won’t contribute in a couple of years, but I had to get Adrian Peterson in the second round. Is last year’s late-season injury causing people to sour on Purple Jesus? In any case, I took that pick and ran. I had a gap after my fourth pick so it was important to get some strength at WR and RB. I got Alshon Jeffery in the third, thank you early QB drafters again, and reached a bit for Shane Vereen in the fourth. After that, I took a two-round break.
Let’s get back to the league and our colorful group of characters. The first year we drafted in person, 2001, we almost had to put off the draft because the Commish’s wife gave birth to his daughter. She just turned 13. We drafted in a friend’s basement, papers strewn on his pool table as we stood around and didn’t know what to do. My first two draft picks? Ahman Green and Curtis Martin. We have Chuck, who wears a t-shirt commemorating his third championship, most in league history. Don gets extra nervous on draft day and we once caught him reading his magazine upside-down. Randy, the most recent champ, had a constant companion of a bottle of tequila. My dad’s in the league, with two titles to his name since joining.
We’re on our third draft home, and it’s an all-day affair. We met at 10 a.m. and the party continued well into the afternoon. As I mentioned before, there was booze and it was plentiful, like the endless stacks of paper that people kept scribbling on furiously.
QBs and TEs kept flying off the board as my 5th pick came up in the 7th round. Thinking myself in a championship window, I made a couple of trades last year so I had to make strong picks. In the 7th I got Jordan Reed, who was the 9th TE taken. Mike Wallace was the WR3 for me. I thought I might be able to wait longer for my QB, but with backups starting to go off the board I went with Tony Romo in the 8th round. You gotta go with the flow.
The rest of the way, I went with upside. I took Bernard Pierce and Jeremy Hill as my RBs 3 and 4 and got Justin Hunter as my WR4. Remember your league’s rules. We have to roster exactly 3 QBs, 4 RBs, 4 WRs, 2 TEs, 2 Ks and 2 D/STs. Once those WRs and RBs are done, the rest is cake. I got Johnny #moneyfingaz Manziel and Geno Smith as my QBs and Travis Kelce as my TE2. My kicker and D, as we saved the final two picks for post-draft, were Dan Bailey and the Steelers.
I tried to be sneaky and drank my Belgian beer, Corsendonk Dubbel to start, as my penalty-shot beverage. My beverage consumption was high on the afternoon, and I ended up doing an ice bucket challenge, even though I’m pretty sure it was not recorded for posterity. If you pour a bucket of ice water on your head and miss, it’s a sign that you might want to retire.
When you’re at your local draft, you’re going to have to adjust for a few things. Know that those “expert” lists are going to be tossed to the ground after the first few rounds. People are going to take favorites and you will see values that make your eyes cross. Being together for years means you get stronger rivalries, so don’t forget to talk some smack. If it takes a little fantasy football to keep those bonds of friendship going year after year, then enjoy it for all its worth.