Tips for improving your fantasy league: Fun ways to set your draft order

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Fantasy sports are in our DNA at Yahoo, and we know it’s your passion, too. We’re always looking for ways to make our award-winning experience even better and in this case we’re getting help from one of you, our amazing legion of fantasy players, to make leagues even better.

Commissioner’s Corner is a multi-part series meant to provide tips to keep your league engaged all season long and tap even more into the fun that comes with playing fantasy. The author, Justin C. Cliburn, has been the dedicated commissioner of his Yahoo Fantasy Football league the OIL since 2006. While it’s a unique league, each and every one of your leagues is special and brings friends, families and co-workers closer together.

Part 6: Setting your draft order

In Bowling Alone, political scientist Robert Putnam argued that America’s reduction in social interaction was detrimental to society. And the same is true for your fantasy league. Unlike America, however, your league has an offseason. As commissioner, you should realize this and plan your league calendar around keeping your members engaged throughout the year. That starts immediately after a champion is crowned with determining the following season’s draft order.

Much of what makes fantasy leagues enjoyable are the social bonds you form and nurture over the course of a season. So the letdown at the end of the season is just as much about losing that social interaction as it is missing the competition. Planning an event to determine the following season’s draft order is a great way to keep that camaraderie and interaction going into the offseason.

[Fantasy Football player rankings: How could drafts play out?]

I recommend setting the draft order as early as possible, giving your managers as much time as possible to mock draft in their real draft positions. The ways to determine draft order are endless and reasonable people can disagree as to which is best. But the one thing any rational manager will agree with is that the worst way to determine draft order is randomly. Come on; you’re more creative than that (though Yahoo is there for you if you decide to go that route).

Some leagues take the NFL approach and determine draft order in the inverse order of the previous season’s final standings. Others reward success by giving the champion first overall pick and so on in the order of finish.

I’ve seen commissioners sign everyone up for Yahoo Tourney Pick’em and award the No. 1 draft pick to the manager with the best bracket. Others draft NASCAR drivers prior to a race and get together to root on their respective drivers in a bid to win the first pick. There are video game tournaments and athletic events and live draft lotteries. Food-eating contests and Wonderlic tests. Whatever you choose, make it fun and a way to get together during the offseason.

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My league, The OIL, uses a hybrid system that can be applied on the back end of any of the above events. The previous season’s champion (or the draft order event winner) gets first choice of draft position. Note choice doesn’t necessarily mean that person will take the No. 1 overall pick. They might prefer a different spot. The second-place team then gets second choice and so on until the last-place team is left with the final unchosen draft position. Our purpose for this is to A) reward success; B) give each manager choices; and C) discourage tanking at the end of the season. It makes the consolation playoff bracket count for something, and I value that.

Helpful hint: Another great way to keep your league engaged when the season ends is to create or join a Rollover League and keep the competition going from one sport to the next. When one season starts winding down, you can get ready for the next one with all the same great people in your current league.

Up Next: In Part 7 of the series, we’ll dive into the best day of the fantasy season, the draft.

More tips for improving your fantasy league:

Starting with the basics
Why bylaws matter
Building franchises
Recognizing the champ
Tapping into rivalries

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