Grab a few beers and some pizza—it’s time for your fantasy football draft! But wait, how exactly does drafting work? I’ll go over some of the basics.

Draft order

The draft order is usually determined one of two ways: The first is that the order is set randomly, one hour before the draft. Whichever website you use for your league allows the commissioner to select that as an option. The teams will then draft in that order. The second way that draft order is determined is by the final standings from the year before. Say you have a 12-team league. Whichever team won the championship would have the 12th pick.

In this type of draft order, the team with the worst record doesn’t always pick first. Sometimes the league will have a consolation bracket for the teams that don’t make the fantasy playoffs, and the winner of that bracket will get the 1st overall draft pick.

Most drafts are set in a snake-style, where the team that picks last in the first round will pick first in the second round, and the team that picked first overall gets the last pick of round 2, and so on. Some drafts are auction drafts.

Auction drafts

In an auction draft, instead of a player simply being selected when it’s an owner’s turn to draft, that owner will nominate a player from the pool to be auctioned off. Once a player is nominated, all teams interested will bid on this player, and the team that bids the most, acquires that player. There is a lot of strategy involved in this because each team only has a certain amount of money to spend, so this is where having some extra knowledge of the players pays off. You want to get the best players you can for the lowest prices.

Trades

Some leagues allow the owners to trade picks during or before the draft, or the teams can wheel-and-deal any keepers that they have. The more keepers on each team, the more interesting the trades can become.

Preparing for the Draft

In fantasy football, and especially the draft, PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING.

At the very minimum, you’ll want to research various expert rankings and print out a list of the top players available. I recommend going much further than this. Examine rosters and potential breakout candidates. Think about which rookies will have an instant impact, or those who are poised to produce relatively soon. Which players are overrated?

If you know your league-mates well, think about their favorite players are and which players will be picked earlier than they should. Do your best not to draft with emotion. If one of your favorite players is available, let someone else pick him if there is a better player available on the board for you.

I like to make a list or spreadsheet for players in the following categories:

  • Targets- players that I really want on my team
  • Rookies- first year players that I think will make an impact
  • Sleepers- players that I am higher on than most experts or league-mates
  • Do not draft- players that I want to avoid (injury-prone, off-the-field antics, overrated)

I will normally categorize these by position.

One thing that has helped me a lot in recent years is having a draft app on my phone. These are excellent because they let you rank players, move some to the bottom of the list (for the “do not draft” players), and you can keep a log of who has already been drafted. Some of the best apps let you customize the league settings and they give their expert projections.

The first year I used a draft app, I won my league, only losing one game all year.