Draft Logistics Advice
First, it's always the most convenient to just hold your draft/auction with the service that hosts your league such as ESPN, Yahoo! Sports, FoxSports, Fleaflicker/AOL, Sports Illustrated, CBSSports.com, etc. [Don't want to leave out any of our partners here]. Most of these commissioner services, such as MyFantasyLeague which powers RotoWire's Fantasy Football Commissioner, have their own draft rooms. I believe ESPN and CBSSports are the only sites that have auction capability [correct me if I'm wrong].
The upside here is clear: You draft in the same environment where you run your league and the commish doesn't have to go through the pain of re-entering rosters.
But sometimes that doesn't work out for your league. Maybe there are too many technically illiterate folks in your league. Maybe you'd rather do the draft in person or over the phone to get live smack talk. Or maybe you have a league with some quirky rules that don't fit the major providers.
If your league's draft doesn't work with the major providers, MockDraftCentral is a great outlet. You may not be able to directly export the results to your commissioner service of choice, but the upside is that they run your draft/auction very fast (auto picks and a que really speed things up) and allow for a lot of flexibility. The downsides are the technically challenged guy in your league will need to learn a new site online and the commish will have to enter picks manually into a league manager/commissioner service.
If you want to do a draft via conference call, then try Fantasy Free Conferencing or freeconferencecall.com. There's no charge for the conference call itself, everyone has to pay their own long distance, however. If you're doing a week night or weekend draft, that's usually not a problem for those with cell phones since most plans have free minutes at night and on weekends.
Another way to conference call is through skype. It works great with two caveats: 1) you need everyone in your league to download the software (tough for the tech challenged) and 2) you really need everyone to have headsets or the feedback from external speakers is a killer. But when everyone is set up, the conference call works great and includes a chat room and it's totally free.
And then there's the old standby of online chatrooms. AOL and Yahoo instant message services are the most used. Both are quick and efficient, but there are often delays in posts, which becomes a problem if you are doing an auction. And sometimes someone in your league can't figure out how to download the software or their online connection blocks or doesn't work well with the service.
And lastly if you go any of these routes to run your draft, using Google Docs is a huge help. You can invite everyone in your league to check out a spreadsheet at the same time that can be updated online in real time. Everyone can check out who's been taken while you're on the call, using MockDraftCentral or in a chatroom. It's a must for a league if you have keepers and crazy in-draft trades (it really helped out for our 18-team mixed league, 40-man roster staff baseball league). There's also a chat room within the spreadsheet as well. I bet it's possible to do a full draft via Google Docs.
If you do your draft in person, one piece of software I used this season was Fan Draft. You set up a laptop to a projector or a big screen tv and do a traditional paper draft board in digital form. All the bells and whistles add a lot of fun. We had old/disparaging photos for each team and you can add music to signify each team being on the clock. When the clock times out on a team's pick, you get some annoying alarms to get that team to hurry up and pick a player. You can also output your draft results via a text file when you are done, which makes it easy to upload to your league manager of choice (although still some manual labor). It also exports league data to MyFantasyLeague (and to the RotoWire.com Baseball Commissioner if you use it for MLB).
Hope that helps. [I originally posted this in a blog on 8/6/2008, but I've added some new info and sites for 2009]
Do you have any tips to help the readers here in order to make the most thankless job on the planet (being commissioner) better?