What Is a Snake Draft? Rules, How It Works, Strategies, and More

    What are the basic rules of a snake draft as well as some strategies fantasy managers can implement in dynasty startups?

    What Is a Snake Draft? Rules, How It Works, Strategies, and More

    In my previous article covering dynasty startup draft strategies, I focused primarily on the different objectives you can have in a startup. Punt Year 1. Win-now mode. Or a hybrid approach. Today, we’re going to dive into more specific startup strategies for snake drafts, while also covering basic rules for those just getting into fantasy football.

    What Is a Snake Draft?

    I’m sure most of you reading this know what a snake draft is. However, let’s be cognizant of the rapidly growing fantasy football player base. After all, there was a point in time when you and I didn’t know what a snake draft was, either. Without new players coming, eventually, this wouldn’t even be a thing anymore.

    In a snake draft, the typical format for the majority of fantasy football leagues, each team has one pick per round, and the picks go in a specific predetermined order. After a round is over, the following round is in the reverse order of the previous round.

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    For example, if you pick first, it goes in order from one through No. 12 (or however many members are in the league), and then reversing, with the last manager having the bookend picks to lead the second round before it comes back and so on all the way through the draft.

    Dynasty Startup Snake Draft Strategies

    Whether you’re punting the first season, trying to win now, or going for a hybrid approach, how you construct your roster is extremely important. Here are a couple of common draft strategies for dynasty startup snake drafts.

    Hero RB (Also known as Anchor RB or Single RB)

    I’m starting with what has become my favorite strategy, and one I find you can consistently execute under the rules of a snake draft. It’s quite the opposite from how I started, where I prioritized RBs, given the lower number of high-upside players.

    Hero RB, which is known by many different monikers, is probably exactly what you think it is. You take one running back in the first or second round and then ignore the position for several rounds, building the core of your roster.

    The goal of Hero RB is to have your backfield anchored by a stud running back like Jonathan Taylor, Breece Hall, or Bijan Robinson, for example. For your RB2 spot, you will draft a medley of middle-to-later-round guys with varying levels of upside. Some with a touchdown and short-area roles and some with passing volume, which helps the per-touch upside as a target is vastly more efficient on a scoring basis than a carry.

    With Hero RB, the goal is for your lone elite running back to carry your backfield, while your ability to go heavy on wide receivers in the middle rounds gives you an advantage at that position which is crucial as WRs have a longer window in their prime, maximizing the value of your draft capital investment.

    Your plan should be to draft five wide receivers before you take your second running back, especially for 3WR starting roster formats. You can even grab a quarterback, tight end, or both before your second running back as well.

    Zero RB

    Zero RB is basically the same as Hero RB, except without the whole hero part. This is not my go-to strategy, but one I do employ from time to time. I’m not a fan of Zero RB in redraft leagues, but it’s a much more plausible strategy in dynasty startups, especially if you plan on punting Year 1 and going heavy on the other positions.

    Wide receivers stay at the top longer than running backs. By utilizing a Zero RB approach, you can load up your roster with wide receivers, tight ends, and top-tier QBs with mobility, and then focus on adding running backs the following season.

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    If you’re looking to implement a Zero RB strategy in your dynasty startup draft, you need to ensure a significant edge at the other positions. Take five wide receivers, a tight end, and a quarterback before your first running back.

    However, my biggest point of emphasis with Zero RB is not to go into the draft with this as your locked-in strategy. Let the draft determine this. If RBs fly off the boards, pivot to Zero RB, but if the opposite happens and WRs dominate the picks, which is the trend, then sticking with Zero RB is not adding any value as the WRs you are selecting are already being picked through. This rule applies to any strategy. You must remain fluid.

    Robust RB

    The Robust RB strategy, as you’ve likely guessed, is the opposite of Zero RB or Hero RB and involves going heavy on running backs. But it doesn’t mean ignoring wide receivers altogether.

    That would be disastrous in PPR formats. The goal is to build a strong foundation of running backs and then use the vast depth of the wide receiver position to your advantage in the mid-rounds. If you implement a Robust RB strategy, you’ll want to draft at least three running backs in the first five rounds of your draft.

    This is a much more viable strategy if your plan is to compete immediately. Since running backs have shorter shelf lives but come out of the gates hot, going Robust RB could be an advantageous contrarian approach in a startup where most managers are pounding WR and looking to build for the future.

    Zero WR

    One of the least common strategies — but still viable if done correctly — is Zero WR. It’s the rarest to see this in redraft leagues. In dynasty startups, it’s extremely uncommon, and I wouldn’t recommend it.

    As you may have deduced, Zero WR is the same as Zero RB, except the positions are flipped. Using the Zero WR approach, you won’t be drafting any wide receivers in at least the first five rounds. Instead, you will take three running backs, a quarterback, and a tight end, all of whom need to be in the top tier of their position. You may take four or even five running backs before your first wide receiver.

    I would not recommend a Zero WR approach absent very specific circumstances where RB value keeps falling to you, and your fellow managers are extra heavy on wide receivers. Given the modern NFL and fantasy football incentivizing passing, the most successful teams, in general, have at least one or more elite pass catchers. If you do choose to try this, make sure to compliment it with pass-catching RBs like Austin Ekeler.

    Which Strategy Should You Implement in Your Dynasty Startup?

    It’s always important to have a plan in mind. You should never go into any draft unprepared. Mike Tyson said himself that “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” With that said, here’s a quote you will surely find in more than one of my articles regarding planning for any fantasy draft.

    Leonard Snart’s four rules of planning: 1) Make the plan, 2) Execute the plan, 3) Expect the plan to go off the rails, and 4) Throw away the plan.

    How does this help you in fantasy drafts? The point is to always be prepared to adapt. You may enter your dynasty startup draft planning to go Hero RB. After drafting your elite RB1 in the first round, you’re all set to start loading up on wide receivers. It’s all going according to plan, and you are relaxing.

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    Then, something unexpected happens. Everyone else goes heavy on WRs. What do you do because the value you thought was being created is gone? Staying stubborn here likely leads to a team that underperforms, and unless you nail the waiver wire moves and trades, it’s going to be a long season of regret.

    Do not make a suboptimal pick purely to stick to a predetermined strategy. Always be willing to adjust your plan on the fly based on how the draft is playing out. Learn your leaguemates’ tendencies just as you do the draft and know where the sweet spots are.

    If you need to make a pivot, what areas in the draft can you make up some value? Knowing that before you are on the clock will keep you from compounding the mistakes and coming out with a team that can compete and one you will enjoy managing.

    Tommy Garrett is the Senior Fantasy Football Analyst at Pro Football Network. He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA). You can read all of Tommy’s work here and follow him on Twitter: @TommyGarrettPFN.

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