Setting up a fantasy draft lottery
Posted Feb. 10 at 05:17 PM
A letter from reader Dave Bouchard:
I have been running a Fantasy Football League for 17 years now and come this fall I would like to make a change. We have 12 teams and it’s a keeper league where we freeze four players each year. In the past 17 years we always drafted players from the worst team first to the champions last. We cannot trade our first-round picks, so the change I want to make would be easy in the sense that every one has their own picks.
I want to go to a lottery system for the 7th-12th place teams for the No. 1 pick and for the first round only. The rest of the rounds would be the same as before depending on trades and draft picks.
I intend to use ping pong balls for the lottery, writing the team names on the balls and I would like to pick who will draft in the sixth place first and the last team picked would have the No. 1 pick.
My question is, I am not sure how many ping pong balls to use for each team that would make it fair? I want to give some chance that the 7th and 8th place teams have some chance in getting the No. 1 pick because there is no reason to make a lottery if only the 11th- or 12th-place team can win it? Would you have any suggestions?
From a presentation angle, I think you ditch the ping pong balls and go with logos in envelopes. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s (before we moved to an auction format) I always tried to mirror the NBA’s draft lottery. Each franchise’s name and logo is professionally printed and placed in a 9 x 12 manila envelope. You pull out the envelopes, and the draft order is revealed card by card.
You remember David Stern handling the NBA draft lotteries in the mid-80s? That’s what you would be shooting for.
For presentation purposes, nothing you do with ping pong balls is going to look as good. You’re not going to have the drama of the logos being revealed one by one.
Putting on a slick-looking show on draft night, of course, isn’t necessarily your No. 1 priority. You may want to increase the odds that one of the bottom few teams captures that No. 1 pick. In that case, the ping pong balls start to make more sense. If you go that route, you’ll probably want to go with the same model the NBA used in the early ‘90s. Your 12th-place team would get six balls, the 11th-place team would get five, and so on, down the seventh-place team getting only one ball in the hopper.
The ping pong ball lottery won’t be as pretty. For starters, do you have access to a good machine? If you go with one of those $15-$20 bingo jobs you might get at Toys R Us, you’re really talking about an undersized, cheesey-looking rig. And you get the issue of a lot of dead balls being pulled out. Once the 12th-place team’s number is called, for example, it would still have five balls floating in there, and many of those potentially could be selected before you finally draw out the teams with only one and two balls.
The NFL once used a weighted lottery for its supplemental draft. The Seahawks, recall, controversially won the right to select Brian Bosworth in 1987, even though they had finished with a 10-6 record the previous year. (They thought they were lucky at the time; in hindsight, it didn’t turn out that well for them).
The NBA used that style of ping-pong ball system in the early ‘90s. They went to a more complex version in 1994, after the Orlando Magic won the first pick in back-to-back drafts. After that debacle, the league – err, “association” – re-worked their lottery system to increase the odds of the worst teams finishing with the top pick.
A publishing company once set out a fantasy football novel – a work of fiction about guys competing in a league. In their league, they used goldfish and a piranha to determine draft order. Each owner was assigned a goldfish, and the draft order was determined by how long they survived – last survivor gets the No. 1 pick. But can you find six distinctive goldfish? And do you have access to a hungry piranha?
You can also, of course, simply go to an auction, giving every team an equal chance at every player. If a team is poor, in theory, it would be able to release more players and give itself more cap room. But that would require a radical overall of your entire league structure.
So which option is the best for you?
It’s my opinion that’s there’s often not a lot of difference between the 7th-place team and the 12th-place team. That last-place finisher, for example, might have Peyton Manning and Jamaal Charles. Maybe he’ll be in good shape regardless of where he picks. So I see no need to automatically hand him the No. 1 overall pick. I don’t think he even needs a weighted lottery in his favor.
My opinion is that you’ll be fine with the ‘80s version of the NBA lottery, with each of the six non-playoff teams having an equal chance of capturing that No. 1 pick. (And as you look back, how many years is it a big advantage to select first anyway?)
If you want to go the social-program route and try to help out those lesser teams, then I would recommend the 6-5-4-3-2-1 weighting. If you want to give those seventh- and eight-place teams a better chance, those bingo machines come with plenty of balls, so you would have the option to move it up to 9-8-7-6-5-4 or whatever (where there’s very little difference between finishing 11th and 12th.
Good luck which whatever route you go.
Posted by ERIC SCOLNICK | Feb. 10 at 10:19 PM
The issue with giving the worst team an advantage is you are encouraging a team that is out of the playoffs at the end of the season to lose. Promote teams to be the spoiler not to give insentive to suck even worse. My feeling is have all teams that do not make the playoffs randomly draw for their spot and then followed by the playoff teams in order of how they finished (winner picking last).
Posted by Richard Spinella | Feb. 11 at 01:07 AM
The fairest drafting type is an auction draft. The Snake draft is not fair at all especially for sleepers because you never know how other people view players. For instance 2 years ago I had Adian Foster as a sleeper. Now at this point remember he was an unknown. It was the second round and I really wanted to pick him but figured he probably will be there later so I selected D'Angelo Williams (and I really didn't like D'aAngelo Williams and like him even less after that year) and sure enough someone selected Foster in the second round. So if just one other person views a player highly you can get screwed. However, I was in a Auction League that same year. and when Foster was put up for auction I bid on him and won..What I love about the Auction is every Team Owner has a chance for every player..If you love AP you can get him even if your not 1st 2nd or 3rd in the draft. In a Snake league later drafting teams have no shot at the top 2-3 players and that to me just doesn't seem fair. I know the first round does not determine how good your team is but those are usually the surest picks barring injury and as far as sleepers go any sleeper that you like you can bid on in later rounds..That to me is KEY. In an auction you get who YOU really believe is going to have good years..your not stuck with players you don't really want. Every player on your team you bid on you want unless your stupid and bid on people just to drive prices up and then get stuck with him. In review AUCTION YES! snake draft No!
Posted by ADAM HOLTZ | Feb. 11 at 10:01 AM
My keeper league has a draft order based on last season's playoff finishes - but with a twist. Champion picks last, runner up second-last, but then teams that lose in the playoffs (and teams that miss the playoffs) all end up in a bracket playing off for higher draft slots. So every team in our league plays for all 16 weeks - even the ones who aren't playing for the championship, who instead play for the top draft choice. It's worked out quite well for 6 years now.
Posted by IAN ALLAN | Feb. 11 at 01:55 PM
The Holtz Proposal is a good one. That's one, I think, that deserves serious consideration. (That's assuming you don't want to go the auction route, which would be my first choice).
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