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    What Is an Auction Draft? Rules, How It Works, and More

    Auction drafts are a lot of fun and a great alternative to classic snake drafts. For those new to the format, here are all the basics you need to know.

    The vast majority of fantasy football drafts will be snake drafts. While snake drafts get the job done, there are other ways for managers to fill their rosters. Auction drafts are not as easy to navigate, but they are a superior way to draft fantasy rosters. 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

    If you already know how an auction draft works, this article is probably not for you. Today’s goal is to get newbies prepared for their first auction.

    There will be plenty of content geared toward the more advanced manager. That type of content presumes certain levels of understanding from the reader. It’s also important to welcome those new to fantasy football so they can reach that base level of knowledge and more.

    Every year, the fantasy football community grows. New managers enter the fold, and previously novices become veterans. Some of those managers may be looking to expand their fantasy horizons and join an auction league for the first time.

    For those of you 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?

    This article is geared toward those who know nothing about auction drafts. However, I’m going to assume everyone reading this knows what an auction is. Even without an explanation of how it works in fantasy football, you can probably figure it out.

    Just like a snake draft, there is a predetermined order in which managers select a player. The difference is, in an auction, the player you select when it’s your turn is not necessarily a player who will be on your roster. Instead, you’re deciding which player will be next to be drafted onto someone’s roster.

    When you’re on the clock, your task is to nominate a player. Your nomination places that player on the board for each manager to bid on (referred to in draft rooms as offers).

    As managers make their offers, the price of the player increases. Each bid must be at least $1 more than the previous one.

    After each bid, the timer resets to 10 seconds. Eventually, the price will reach the point where no one is interested in paying more, and the bidding will stop. The clock will hit zero, and the manager with the highest bid wins the player. This process will continue until every team has filled every roster spot.

    What Are Key Things To Know About Auction Drafts?

    I don’t think it’s fair to call auctions complicated. However, it’s true that they’re more complex than snake drafts.

    This is admittedly an oversimplification, but in snake drafts, all you really need to know is which 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 and will likely struggle to know whether you’re getting a good deal.

    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 is nearly identical to a snake draft. Each team nominates a player based upon a set order. When it’s your turn to nominate, you set the opening price for that player. If a value is not set, 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.

    This is the first major difference between snakes and auctions. In 100% of snake drafts, the caliber of player drafted is linear. We start with the best players, and as the draft progresses, the quality of players selected gradually gets worse.

    Auctions can work this way, too, but they don’t have to and frequently don’t. The ends of auctions will always have $1-2 players similar to the types of players taken in the final few rounds of snake drafts. However, in the early rounds, you could see plenty of guys that typically don’t get taken until the second half of snake drafts be put up for nomination. As a reminder, once a player is nominated, he’s guaranteed to be drafted.

    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, budget permitting, each team has the same opportunity to make an offer on that player.

    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 they’ve all 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, 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, there is no requirement as to how you must allocate your funds. The only mandate from most fantasy platforms is you must draft a full roster. Other than that, managers have complete freedom to spend money as they see fit.

    In snake drafts, each manager has the same available draft capital at all times. In auction drafts, once the first player is selected, the balance of power has forever shifted and will never be equal again.

    As you win players, your remaining budget will decrease. This inevitably affects your buying power.

    At some point in 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’ll already have a team you like.

    The trickiest part of an auction draft is the difference between real life and fantasy football. If you attend an auction in the real world, your goal is always to buy whatever it is you’re bidding on for the lowest price possible. If you’ve ever used eBay, this is built into their system.

    In fantasy football, your goal is to spend exactly $200. It can be very easy to overspend, but in my experience, the far more common and detrimental error is underspending. Never, and I truly mean never, leave an auction draft with more than $0 remaining.

    Price Enforcing

    This is a little bit more advanced and not at all essential to successfully navigating your first year in auctions. If you don’t fully grasp the concept right away, that’s fine.

    Price enforcing is intentionally bidding on a player you don’t necessarily want for the express purpose of driving up the price to make someone else pay more. Your goal is to further deplete the funds of another manager to better your own chances of getting the players you want later in the draft at better prices.

    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 a player, in general. With that said, failing to strip your opponent of an additional $2 of budget is far less damaging than accidentally getting caught holding the bag and drafting a player you didn’t want at a price you didn’t want to pay.

    Price enforcing is an inherently risky move, but if done correctly, can benefit you later in the draft. 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. After you make a pick, you can usually walk away from your computer for a couple of minutes and not miss anything.

    Upon your return, you can see who was drafted by whom, and it’s not as if you’ve missed the opportunity to draft any players.

    In an auction, you always have to pay 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 plenty of information to be gathered with each player.

    Who is bidding? Who isn’t bidding? How much are they spending? Are there any noticeable patterns in how someone bids? How much did the player go for? There’s a lot to know that can help you later in the draft.

    Auction drafts do take longer than snake formats. 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!

    Nevertheless, 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.

    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.

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