This article will present 6 fantasy football draft order ideas to help you determine draft order from year to year. How to pick a draft order is a highly-debated topic as many owners covet the highest positions and most owners base their strategy on draft position.
For fantasy football enthusiasts, draft boards are a blank canvas on which we compose the story of our championship season. Many times it tells a very different tale at season’s end, other times we ride smart draft day decisions all the way into the record books.
There are an endless number of ways that your league can determine fantasy draft order. We will cover six of the most popular ideas for determining draft order: 2 for new leagues and 4 for existing leagues.
Using a randomized draft order for new leagues
For new leagues, the most sensible approach to determining draft order is through randomization. The idea behind randomizing draft picks is that in new leagues no team deserves to be first or last more than any other team.
In order words, you have no existing league data on which to base your draft order. Since everyone is starting on even ground, the fairest approach is to give everyone an equal shot at every draft slot by making draft order random.
If random draft order makes the most sense for your league, you’ll then have to decide how and when to perform the randomization. To generate a random draft order you can do something as simple as drawing names from a hat.
Or, you could opt to use an online draft order generator to perform the randomization for you before your live fantasy football draft.
Drawing names from a hat
In theory, picking names from a hat (drawing straws, picking slips of paper, spinning a bottle, etc) works just fine for the purposes of randomization. But if your league owners are anything like mine, they’ll want to be present when this happens.
And as anyone who has ever run a fantasy league knows, it’s hard enough to get 10-12 owners together for a live draft, much less for a drawing to determine draft position. When you factor this in, you soon realize that if you’re planning on drawing names, and if you want everyone to be in attendance, you’re going to be stuck with waiting until the actual draft.
Owners typically want to know draft position early
However, this poses another problem. Many owners like to know their draft position weeks in advance of the actual draft so that they can factor this into their draft strategy. These owners will not be happy with a draft-day, draft order lottery.
If you’re facing similar problems, a fantasy draft order generator may be the solution to your woes. Not only do they perform your draft randomization for free, but some have advanced features that make the process both fair and fun.
Go high tech with a random draft order generators
If performing randomization the old-fashioned way makes you unpopular, you can opt to use a draft order generator to create the random order for you.
This type of fantasy football commissioner tool allows you to specify a list of owners as input (usually by providing each owner’s email address). The tool then creates a random draft order, sometimes emailing the draft order outcome to each of the specified owners.
Draft order tools add transparency
With some online draft order tools, the entire process can be transparent if you find one that distributes the results. With these tools, all owners will receive an email at the same time from the tool so they can be sure the process is sealed. Best of all, no one has to leave the comfort of their home!
There are several good draft order generators available for free. DraftPickLottery.com has a standard randomization feature but also let’s you customize each owner’s odds using their finish from the previous season. using how let’s you customize your randomization. The Fantasy Sharks have a free randomization tool that will email each of your owners with the results of the randomization.
If you’ve ever looked for programs or apps to help you make picks during a live draft, you should check out my latest review. I evaluated several fantasy draft software packages and compared their functionality so you don’t have to. Check it out if you’d like to have your own fantasy GM to bounce ideas off of this year.
Use factors from the previous season to determine draft order in existing leagues
For leagues that have been in existence for a year or more, it’s common to use some factor from the previous season to determine draft order for the upcoming season.
There are many things from the previous season you can consider when picking a draft order. For instance, the most commonly-used factor is final team rankings. There are several schools of thought when it comes to using team rankings to determine draft order. A few of those are discussed next.
The best teams from last year get the best draft positions
It seems logical that good performance should be rewarded with good draft position. On the surface this makes sense as you’re providing additional motivation for all teams to finish near the top. However, sometimes the reality can be quite different.
An unintended consequence of this approach is that the both the bad and mediocre teams could lose their motivation mid-season. Once these teams realize they have nothing to play for once being eliminated from the playoffs, they’re likely to not put their best foot forward or tank their team entirely.
Seeing as how most 12-team leagues only have a 4-team playoff, you can see how many teams may start to lose interest toward the end of a season. This isn’t an ideal situation if you want your league to remain competitive throughout the entire fantasy season.
The worst teams from last year get the best draft positions
Another school of thought argues that the worst teams from the previous fantasy season should be awarded the best draft positions. If you think about it, this is similar to how the NFL draft works, the logic being that the worst teams are allowed to pick first so that they can improve the most sustain league parity.
This logic is especially applicable to fantasy football dynasty or keeper leagues where you retain players from year to year. This is because the best fantasy teams will probably retain better players, meaning the worst teams should get better draft positions to offset this advantage.
However, in redraft leagues (i.e. leagues where everyone re-drafts an entire team each year) there is really no advantage to offset, so awarding teams for poor performances doesn’t makes no sense. Even worse, it could encourage the lower-tier teams to tank their season in search of a higher draft pick the following year.
If you’re going to use this method to pick your draft order, just be sure you offer some other incentives to keep poorly-performing owners engaged late in the season. For example, consider offering weekly fantasy football prizes to keep everyone putting their best foot forward.
Base draft order on results of a loser playoff bracket – “The Chumpionship”
A hybrid of the previous two approaches which I use in my own leagues is to award the top draft positions to the bottom-tier team, but to make these teams compete for seeding. The goal of this approach is to ensure that all owners in your league stay engaged throughout the entire fantasy season by giving every team incentive to win each and every week, even during the playoffs.
In our sample fantasy football constitution, we document a system (branded as The Chumpionship)whereby the bottom 8 teams of a 12 team league complete in a tournament to determine the top 8 draft positions the following year. This method for determining draft order encourages participation from teams who are not vying for the Championship.
Even those that lose the first one or two rounds of the loser bracket still have something to play for in subsequent weeks- draft position! Here is how we seed draft positions based on results of the loser playoff bracket.
Draft order positions based on loser bracket results
- 1st Place Loser Bracket: 1st Draft Position
- 2nd Place Loser Bracket: 2nd Draft Position
- 3rd Place Loser Bracket: 3rd Draft Position
- 4th Place Loser Bracket: 4th Draft Position
- 5th Place Loser Bracket: 5th Draft Position
- 6th Place Loser Bracket: 6th Draft Position
- 7th Place Loser Bracket: 7th Draft Position
- 8th Place Loser Bracket: 8th Draft Position
Draft order positions based on championship bracket results
- 1st Place Finish (Champion): 9th Draft Position
- 2nd Place Finish: 10th Draft Position
- 3rd Place Finish: 11th Draft Position
- 4th Place Finish: 12 Draft Position
As you can see, the outcome of the Loser’s bracket determines the top 8 draft positions for the following year. In looking at the Championship bracket, you can see that the Champion gets the highest remaining draft position while the last-placed team in the Championship bracket picks last.
Some commissioners prefer to reverse this order, where the Champion would pick last instead of 9th. It doesn’t really matter, as long as every game counts. Feel free to do whatever makes the most sense for you and your league.
Again, this draft order idea aims to encourage the worst teams to continue maintaining their team and starting optimal lineups throughout the entire fantasy season and into the playoffs. This approach avoids that scenario, and it has been very successful in my leagues.
Establish a fantasy draft lottery system
If you are an owner in a league with a significant amount of player participation, you could opt to implement a fantasy draft lottery. A draft lottery (similar to draft lotteries in the NBA) uses factors from the previous season to determine the probability that each team will be awarded the available draft positions.
The idea of the draft lottery is pretty simple: You earn lottery entries by performing well and making strides to improve the league as a whole. Some examples of how you might earn fantasy draft lottery entries include:
- Weekly high score
- The best original league article
- Breaking a league record
- 3 or more consecutive wins
- Suggest a new league rule that gets passed
In much the same way that you award draft lottery entries for actions which further the league, you could just as easily take away draft lottery entries for actions detrimental to the league.
- Setting an illegal roster
- Losing 3 or more consecutive games
- Not responding to a trade offer
Draft lotteries work well because they promote league participation while adding an element of suspense to the draft order determination process. As long as a team has earned one entry, they’ve got a shot at the top draft slot.
The one drawback of a fantasy draft lottery is it takes a bit of time to coordinate. I would suggest letting the fantasy commissioner appoint a league owner to manage the draft lottery if you choose this route.
These are just a few ways that your league could choose to pick fantasy draft order. Some leagues like to keep it simple while others have elaborate rules for assigning draft position. The important thing is to choose a system which promotes league participation and that your owners enjoy.
Do you have any unique or unusual ways to determine draft order in your leagues?