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Fantasy Football – Snake or Auction Draft

We all know that there are several different scoring systems that are commonly used in fantasy football, but you may not know that there is more than one way to draft for your league. Here is a quick rundown of both the snake and auction draft and how they work so that you can decide what type of draft is best for your league. 



In the snake format owners select their team in a serpentine manner round after round. Draft position is usually determined well before the draft but may not be determined until just prior to drafting time. This format is the most popular and is a good starting point for beginners. 

An auction draft is exactly what the name suggests it would be. Players are still called in a serpentine manner, but that is where the similarities end. Once a player is called and is placed on the “auction block,” any owner can bid to have them on their team. Each team has a set amount of money, or a salary cap, to spend on their team. Once the draft is complete, trades and free agency are conducted just as they are in snake format.  Auction amounts are not considered in trades and free agents have no dollar value. 

The auction draft is more strategic and stands to do a little natural thinning of the fantasy herd. In a snake draft an ill prepared owner may show up and fall in to a competitive team and occasionally even win the league. An auction draft requires more planning and strategy in placing auction values on the players. Owners who do their homework and are most prepared stand to be rewarded with the strongest teams. 

The snake draft leads to long lulls for the owners picking near the front or back of the pack, and they can get disinterested or lose track of who has already been selected. This is the guy we all know and love who calls out five names that have already been selected every time his pick rolls around from the fifth round on. 

Another advantage of the auction draft is that no owner is handcuffed by his draft position early. There is always that spot where the clear cut order falls apart and an owner has to reach for a running back or go with a top tier receiver or quarterback. In an auction, the only opportunity to overpay for a player or position is completely your choice. For example, this year you may be picking fifth in your traditional snake draft and decide that there is not a real value pick at that slot. Regardless of what you think about the players who are there when your spot comes up, you are forced to make a selection for your roster. In an auction draft you have the flexibility to bring up a guy you have rated lower and go after him for the money you have determined him to be worth or you can call the name of one of the guys perceived to go in that spot and watch your opponents spend their money on him. Every pick allows you the option of effectively “trading down” to a spot of value.

Going once, going twice … GONE!

Is your league ready to take the plunge and move to an auction draft? Here is a look at some basic strategy to prepare you for an auction draft. 

I am a big believer in establishing tiers of players and drawing lines for the talent dropoffs. This allows you to group players together and decide when you need to address a certain position and when you can let things slide a round further. In an auction draft, one draft day blunder you will want to avoid is to get caught chasing the last guy in a particular tier. This is especially true at the top of each positional tier where there will generally be a consensus among owners.

Most owners will agree that this year the top three running backs are Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson and Arian Foster. While there is much debate as to how they are slated 1-3, most people can agree that is the top tier. Historically, the last of those three guys put on the auction block will go for a premium, and likely be overpaid for because owners will want to be sure to secure a guy in the top tier. Sometimes you can’t help it and your opponents will overpay for the last and next-to-last guy in a tier, but if you can, don’t jump off the cliff reaching for a player because you backed yourself into a corner by waiting. Keep your head and know when to bow out of the bidding and spend your money elsewhere. 

The easy thing to do in an auction draft is to spend your money. The way to win in an auction league is to spend your opponent’s money! Make sure you have your list of big name players that you are sour on and put them up for auction when your time rolls around. Bring your buddy’s favorite player up and watch him overspend, which allows you to slide into some solid value picks to fill out your roster later. You will even want to occasionally get in on the bidding and drive the price up, but know when to get out. Nobody admires the guy who pays five grand for the black velvet picture of the dogs playing poker!

The only way you should have any money left at the end of your draft is if you were fortunate enough to clean up with a hand full of $1 buys to end your draft. And even then, you shouldn’t have much left. Once the draft is complete, trades and free agents are just as they are in a snake draft format. Dollar values are no longer of consequence, so there is no reason to save your money. Spend it all! Having said that, don’t be afraid to make some thrifty buys. Save your sleepers for the later rounds of the auction. You may be able to secure many of them for just one dollar. You can’t count on landing every sleeper on your board for the minimum, so stash away a little money to make a strong run at the prospects that you feel strongest about. If you play your cards right and can save a little more money than your opponents through the early rounds, then late in the draft you will have positioned yourself to pick and choose the guys that your opponents have limited funds to pursue and still get a great bargain.

If you are looking to change things up in your league or take your league to a new level, I recommend that you consider giving an auction draft a try. Your draft will be a blast and your fellow owners will thank you later.

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