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A 12 STEP PROGRAM: Live Auction Draft Made Easy

I’ve been in your shoes. What the heck am I doing? Why not just max and relax, and coast through the snake draft? Why put myself through this? The answer is because it’s so well worth it. For our league, it was amazing how much excitement was added to the draft. I read about it but didn’t believe it. Well, I a believer, and I’m not a Beatle! No Ringo here! If the owners are co-located, doing a live auction draft is a must!

Why is a live auction draft better than a snake draft?

I don’t plan on rehashing every word of every article written on auction drafts, but I will mention the highlights.

In a snake draft, you wait your turn, and, therefore, not every player is available to you. For example, if you have the No. 10 pick in the first round, you will never draft Arian Foster, LeSean McCoy, Aaron Rodgers and probably
Calvin Johnson
. Never. That’s all that needs to be said for snake drafts.

If you’re in an auction draft, you can spend as much as you want for any player you want. Any player! If you want Foster or McCoy or Rodgers, all you have to do is be the highest bidder. You just have to pay for him. You want. You spend. Simple. No other strings attached. You can plan in advance how much you want to spend for what players you want, go out and get them and really build the team you want. Free enterprise system at its best! It’s the American way! Along with football and hot dogs! Oh, and apple pie. Can’t forget the pie! (Caveat: I’m not saying you can get all the players you want, but if you’re looking for a couple of top-tier No. 1 players, Foster and Johnson, you have the opportunity to put them both on your team.)

Is it more effort to do an auction draft? Is the effort worth it? Can I minimize the effort to do a live auction draft? Yes to first question. Yes to the second question and definitely yes to the third question.

Below is a “12-Step Program: a Live Auction Draft Made Easy.”

Steps to Making a Live Auction Draft Easy

The first year in setting up a live auction draft will take the most effort. After the first year, then repeat the following years. The amount of time needed is in brackets after each step.

  1. Six weeks prior to the draft: Select an auction draft spending amount that most fantasy football websites, and magazines, use for valuing positions. Normally its $100 or $200. We use $200. It makes it easier for owners who are not that diligent in their research. They can just buy a magazine or download it from a website. And the higher amount makes it more fun because you have more to spend and the bids can get crazy. Use 10 minutes to email the owners the auction amount, if that. None for future years.
  1. Five weeks prior to the draft: Get a date or two where all owners commit to attending the live auction draft. This is a requirement for the live auction draft to work and state it so in the email. You want each owner to know that all the other owners are depending on them for this to work. Use 30 minutes to email owners and read responses. About the same for future years.

I found it easier to schedule the auction draft on a weekday after work, such as a Thursday at 6 p.m. I picked a place where the majority of owners work or are close by, practically no travel time, and convince the few others to make it. The 6 p.m. time gives the owners who are traveling a little more time to get there. And it’s during the week where weekend time with the family is not an issue.

  1. Four weeks prior to the draft: Now that you have one or two dates to work with, visit a few sports bars, assuming someone’s house is not convenient to have it. Assess if the sports bar have a private or semi-private space, and will support your draft. Talk to the manager and make sure you’re in agreement regarding the space he will reserve for you. This is important because you don’t want to disturb their regular customers, and you don’t want their customers to get in your way. You will be pretty loud and obnoxious when you make your bids for players. We’re talking about football, not tea time! A private room or a corner area will be beneficial for all. Use 1-2 hours depending on how many sports bars you want to visit. I visited two sports bars and both were close to work. Use 30 minutes for following year because I was happy with the sports bar for the first draft and kept on using them.
  1. Three weeks prior to the draft: Email the owners the place date and time for your live auction draft. Reconfirm commitments that all are required to be present and will be present. Use 5 minutes. Same for following years.
  1. Three weeks prior to the draft: Order a draft board with pre-printed labels of players’ names. Having a draft board will make your life so much easier. Because all the information is on it, it becomes your diary. Yes, it that personal. Tears of happiness! Get me a tissue! And since the draft board is seen by all owners, they all take responsibility to ensure the information is accurate. Use one hour to research and order a reasonably priced draft board, and to enter the pre-auction information I mentioned below. Use 20 minutes the following year if you like the draft board and are reordering from the same place.

Enter each team’s name, in the order they will auction players, in each column at the top. You can select names from a bag or use last season’s standings in reverse.

Enter the player positions on the left hand side, one position per row. Start with the starting positions first, RB1, RB2 QB1, etc. List the bench positions after the starting positions. The reason is that you want to ensure that every team leaves the auction with a starting lineup, and listing the starting positions at the top makes it easier to keep track of. As they purchase a player, regardless if they’re a starter or backup, put this player’s name in a starting position. You want to ensure they have a starting team when the auction is over. It doesn’t matter the makeup of their bench. 

At the bottom of each column for each team, and after the last row used for bench slots, enter in the max starting bid. With a $200 budget, it’s $187 if your team has 14 total positions, both starters and bench. If you bid $187 for your first player, this will leave you with $13, or $1 to fill each of the remaining positions. You must have a full team by then end of the auction, and you have to have at least $1 to buy a player to fill each of your team’s positions. The remaining funds at the end of the auction don’t carry in to the season. The funds are only for the auction.

Example of Auction Draft Board:

The draft board will have all information I mentioned above, team names, team positions and max bid for first player, prior to the auction. The auction of Drew Brees for $40 to Team 4 is the information and budget calculation performed during the auction. The budget calculation is explained below. It made be a little basic but I don’t want to assume anything.














$187 max bid; $13 to fill remaining positions








-$40 =$147




How to keep track of each teams budget during the auction:

Player               Max Bid            Reserve             Remaining        Actual Cost

                                                Funds                Positions

First player       $187                 $13                   13                     $40

                        Budget Step 1   $187     (max bid)

-$40     (actual cost)


=$147   (funds to use on next player)

Budget Step 2   $147     (funds left)

+$1       (reserve funds)


=$148   (max bid for second player)

Your reserves will dwindle by a $1 after each position a team fills. The $1 will be added to the max bid amount that a team can bid on the next player.

Second player $148                 $12                   12                     $30

                        Budget Step 1 & 2 (condensed)

                                                $118 – $30 = $88 +1 = $89 (max bid for third player)

During the live auction draft, the equation above is what you would use at the bottom of each team’s column to keep track of funds available. You don’t want teams spending $220 when they should only spend $200. This keeps track for all owners to see. If you like numbers, you’ll be fine with this. If you don’t, get another owner to take care of this.

Third player     $89                   $11                   11                     ?          

  1. Two weeks prior to the draft: Get a tall plastic stand, a tall coffee mug, etc. to display the players name being auction. You already have the player’s name on a label from ordering the draft board. When auctioning a player, select the label with his name and stick it to the stand or mug for all owners to see. You don’t want any confusion regarding who is being auctioned. Use five minutes if you already have the item, or you have to go to Starbucks. Everyone goes to Starbucks. So pick it up when you order you mocha carmel frap latte chai tea decaf and scone. You know who you are!
  1. Two weeks prior to the draft: Send reminder email to all owners. Yes, this may border on harassment, but an email a week until draft time is needed. Don’t want it slipping anyone’s mind. Remember, everyone’s presence is required. You want to stress this each and every time. Use five minutes, if that. If that for following years.
  1. One week prior to the draft: Repeat Step 6 above. Yes, it’s worth it. Use five minutes, if that. And by now, I’m going with the “if that” time requirement! 
  1. Week of the draft: Visit the sports bar again and touch base with the manager. Confirm the date and time, and area being reserved for you. One year, the place was still being renovated after the manager thought it would be completed by the time of our draft. It wasn’t completed, and I didn’t like the new area the manager selected. I asked about another area in the sports bar and he agreed. Bottom line, do a follow up the week of the draft because you never know. Use 20 minutes depending on distance. Same for following years.
  1. Week of the draft: Have a bag that contains the draft board and labels, the stand or mug to display the player’s name, pen(s) to keep track of the funds spent, tape to hang the draft board on a wall and printed auction price cheat sheets of the players’ value. 

Now, the printed auction price cheat sheet is optional. I do it to semi-manage ridiculous bids and not to have one owners get totally screwed, even if they deserve it. You don’t have to print your price cheat sheet, or even a recent price cheat sheet. Just something that sort of keeps them in the ballpark and reasonable. Our league is not money-oriented and is a fun league, so it’s not a big deal and the active owners will still be way more prepared. As I mentioned, this last one is optional. Use 20 minutes. Same for following years.

  1. Live Auction Draft Time: 

PREPARATION: Get to the sports bar a half an hour earlier. Setup your draft board on the wall, mirror, etc. using tape you brought. Arrange one table next to the draft board to support the labels with the players’ names, pens to keep track of the funds and stand or mug that will display the label of the player being auctioned. Arrange the rest of the tables so all 12 owners can see the board. Hand out the printed price cheat sheet, if available.

The owners start to arrive, order drinks and food. Reminisce about last season and start the smack talk about the upcoming season until all owners arrive. 

LIVE AUCTION: This is the event of your league. Make the most fun out of it. Have all owners participate by stepping up to be the auctioneer when they nominate a player. This is lot of fun because each owner is different on how they announce the player, cajole bids, add in some smack talk and count down.

The owner listed in the first column will select the player’s name he want to auction and stick it to the stand. He will announce his bid, “
Arian Foster
of the Houston Texans for $20.” At this point, all owners start bidding. We have a couple of our owners, while they are auctioning the player, who start promoting Foster credentials – 2,000 total years, 14 touchdowns, 50 receptions (if a points per reception league) – to get the owners to spend more money. He does this because he doesn’t want Foster and wants the other owners to spend more money so they have less to spend on a player the auctioneer does want. It’s funny because you know he’s doing it and why he’s doing it. It’s so obvious which help makes it amusing. The owner with the highest bid for Foster is not happy, and tells him to stop his BS and count down already. It’s very entertaining! Another owner’s countdown is “$45 going once. Me, $46.” Some owners will auction a player they want no matter what, and you learn that as you go through a live auction. Someone else may bid $47. So, he’ll countdown again, “$47 going once. Me, $48.” Don’t know why he says “$47 going once,” and not just bid “$48”. It’s his thing and he can’t help it which makes it funny. Basically I learned not to take his countdown meaningful until he says, “$48 going twice.”

Once the auction for a player is over, the auctioneer places the label on the draft board for the owner who won the player. You, or another owner, will calculate the funds available for the owner who won the player, so he and everyone else know how much he can spend on the next player. You then call up the next owner, listed at the top of the columns, to auction the next player. You repeat this paragraph until every owner has a full team.

At the end, some owners will hang around, start evaluating everyone’s team and begin smack talking. “Yea, he looks like the team to beat.” Or, “what was he thinking? No running backs and weak wide receivers.” 

Use four hours for you beginning with setup and ending with the last player selected. Use three hours for the owners. To keep things moving, and shorten the time, make sure the next owner is ready to select a player to auction right after that last player was won. The time gaps between each player being auctioned are what will lengthen the overall time of the auction.

  1. POST LIVE AUCTION: In your league’s website, you enter the player’s names for each team. Use 30 minutes. Same for following years.

Now, you’re done. Your fantasy football season has started.

Total time needed is approximately five hours for the first year and three hours for following years. I am not counting Step 11, which is the actual live auction draft. This is not a lot of time for me and the return is well worth it. It went so well, that the following year we had about 6-8 non-owners show up to hang, have a good time and see what it was all about! 

Hopefully this
“A 12-Step Program: Live Auction Draft Made Easy!”
will get to take the plunge and make a difference in your league.

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