Auction drafts are never going to surpass snake drafts in popularity, but they can definitely continue making a push to be more mainstream. Auctions provide a fantastic alternative and, in my humble opinion, a more exciting way to draft a fantasy team.
Whether you’re an experienced snake drafter looking to dabble in auctions or new to fantasy football entirely, here is a basic primer on how auction drafts work.
Fantasy Football Auction Drafts
For experienced auction drafters, there will be other articles focused on specific strategies. This one is geared more toward beginners. If you’ve got several auctions under your belt, then you probably know everything you’re about to read. If not, you’ve come to the right place!
One common pitfall I’ve noticed in fantasy advice as a whole is it can tend to be focused heavily on those who already have a great understanding of the game. In fact, I know I can be guilty of it at times, as well.
There’s a time and a place for content presuming the reader has a base level of knowledge. But it’s also important to welcome those new to fantasy football so they can reach that base level of knowledge and more.
Every year, more and more people play fantasy football for the first time. And each year, more and more people who have already been playing fantasy football decide to venture into the world of auction drafts for the first time.
For you out there just starting to learn about auctions, here are all the basics you need to know about how an auction draft functions.
What Is an Auction Draft?
In terms of base level of knowledge, I’m going to assume everyone knows what an auction is. Therefore, even without an explanation of how it works in fantasy football, you can probably figure it out.
Much like a snake draft, there is a predetermined order in which managers select a player. The difference is, instead of selecting which player will be on your roster, you are merely selecting which player will be on someone’s roster.
When you’re on the clock, rather than draft a player, you nominate a player to open for bidding (referred to in draft rooms as offers). Once nominated, every manager in the league will have the chance to draft that player.
Managers will make offers on the player, with each successive offer at least $1 greater than the previous one. After each bid, the timer resets to 10 seconds. Eventually, the bidding will stop, the clock will reach zero, and the manager with the highest bid now rosters that player. This process will continue until every team has filled every roster spot.
What Are the Key Things To Know About Auction Drafts?
I would stop short of calling auctions complicated. However, they’re certainly more complex than snake drafts.
This is admittedly an oversimplification, but in snake drafts, all you really need to know is what players are available leading up to your turn to pick and which ones you want to draft. There’s definitely more strategy than that, but at its core, you can successfully navigate a snake draft doing nothing more than that.
In auction drafts, there’s much more going on and more to keep track of. If you just jump into one having no prior knowledge of what is happening or how it works, you may feel overwhelmed.
Let’s go over the most important things you need to know to hit the ground running.
The Nomination Process
This part of an auction will feel the most similar to a snake draft. Each team nominates a player in a set order one at a time. When it’s your turn to nominate, you set the opening price for that player. If you don’t set a value, the default is $1.
Managers can nominate (mostly) any player they want at any time. There are some platforms that won’t let you nominate players at positions you can no longer draft, but that’s specific to the end of auctions. For the most part, you’re free to choose any player to nominate.
In snake drafts, the caliber of player drafted starts with the best and gradually gets worse and worse. In auction drafts, there’s no telling as to when a player might get nominated. It’s entirely up to the managers in the room.
The best players could get put on the board first, or they could last for several rounds of nominations. Those late-round dart throws you draft at the very end — you could see those guys pop up at any time.
Offers or bids are the dollar amount a team is willing to spend to draft a player.
Much like a real auction, the item is placed up for auction (in fantasy football, that would be the player). Once nominated, each team has the same opportunity to make an offer on that player, relative to how much of their budget they have remaining.
Everyone is free to do so until they decide the player is too expensive or they run out of money. Then, the player is awarded to the team that made the highest offer.
This is the most challenging aspect of an auction draft. Managers must properly manage their budget to maximize value and ensure they’re able to get the players they want.
Each team starts with a set dollar amount — the default and most common total is $200. I’ve done dozens of auctions, and every single one of them has used $200. If you think of your $200 budget like your set of draft picks, you can really understand the difference between snakes and auctions.
In snake drafts, every team will have a first-round player, second-round player, third-round player, and so on. Comparing that to dollar amounts, for simplicity’s sake, that would be every team having a $50 player, a $40 player, and a $30 player. But not every team has to allocate their funds the same way. That’s the beauty of the auction.
In an auction, how you choose to distribute your funds is entirely up to you. The only requirement is most leagues require you to draft a full roster. Other than that, managers have complete freedom to spend money as they see fit.
As you win players, your remaining budget will decrease. This inevitably affects your buying power. At some point in your drafts, you’ll find yourself unable to bid on players because you simply don’t have enough funds. That’s okay. If you budget properly, you will already have a team you like.
The trickiest part of an auction is in real life, your goal in any auction is to get what you want for the lowest possible price. When bidding on an item on eBay, for example, that’s the objective.
In an auction draft, your goal is to spend exactly $200. Not a dollar less. So, you not only need to be mindful of overspending but also of underspending, with the latter being far more detrimental than the former.
This is a little bit more advanced. So, if you don’t fully grasp the concept right away, don’t worry. This isn’t an essential concept to navigating auction drafts, but it’s definitely worth being aware of.
Price enforcing is intentionally bidding up a player you don’t necessarily want to try and make another manager spend more to draft that player. Your goal is to further deplete the funds of another manager to better your own chances of getting the players you want at the prices you want.
Typically, this happens early in the bidding process, as everyone knows there will be more bids. It gets dicey when players are in the range of what they typically go for.
It’s undoubtedly advantageous when other managers spend money on players you don’t want or spend more than they should on players you do. However, you don’t want to get caught drafting players you don’t want or need just because you wanted that other team to spend an extra $2.
Price enforcing is an inherently risky move but one that can benefit you later in the draft if done correctly. If you see another manager constantly bidding on players once it gets down to just two or three teams, they may be price enforcing.
What Else Do You Need To Know About Auction Drafts?
I wouldn’t recommend doing other things while drafting anyway. However, in a snake draft, you can get away with not being solely focused on your draft room. If you miss a few picks, but not your own, you may not be aware of what other managers are doing, but you can still draft your team.
In an auction, you always have to be paying attention. You can’t just make your pick and check out until you’re almost on the clock again. If you zone out for a few minutes, you’re going to miss players being drafted that you may have wanted.
After a player is drafted, a new one will be nominated within 10-30 seconds. Since it could be anyone, there’s a chance you want that player. You have to be on your game at all times. You never know when that player you’ve been eyeing up will be on the clock.
Even when a player is nominated that you don’t want, you still need to pay attention. There’s so much information to be gathered with every player.
Who is bidding on him? Who isn’t bidding on him? How much are they spending? What are their bidding patterns? How much did he go for? There’s a lot to know that can help you later in the draft.
Auction drafts do take longer than snake drafts. The time commitment never bothered me. For starters, I enjoy drafting. It’s my favorite part of football season. I say the longer, the better!
However, I understand we all have different lives, and not everyone quite literally does this for a living. So, if you can’t dedicate as much time to fantasy football drafts, I completely get it.
So, it’s worth knowing that most auction drafts will take around 2.5-3 hours. There are ways to speed it up, but you can’t make it faster than snake. That’s just the nature of the beast. Don’t jump into one unless you have the time to dedicate to seeing it through.
With the fantasy football season behind us, why not start preparing for your rookie drafts with our dynasty rookie rankings? Additionally, as you look to improve your team heading into 2024, our dynasty trade calculator can help you find the perfect deal to boost your championship chances.