One of the most important decisions a fantasy league can make is the one that determines the draft format and there are two popular formats to choose from.
The appeal of a snake draft is rooted in its simplicity. Some fantasy leagues engage in a form of competition to determine the draft order, but you can just as easily leave those duties to the computer to set up. One doesn’t have to do anything to log into the draft room and see the randomized draft order set in place. From there, each team takes its turn drafting players. No one can select until the one before them has finished. But it’s that control only one person wields at a time that creates certain restrictiveness to the snake format.
Snake drafts only allow you to draft those who are available at your turn, quite the disadvantage for those selecting near the bottom of the round. If you have the 10th pick in your fantasy football draft, Christian McCaffrey is out of the question no matter how badly you want him.
“You can try to plan ahead as far as who you might like to target or what positions you want to go after or avoid, but really, you only have limited control over how that works out,” wrote Roto Street Journal blogger TraderTim. “If you really want a certain player and he gets picked one spot before you, then your strategy can get disrupted at no fault of your own.”
Of course, the snake format that reverses the draft order every other round does its best to level the playing field. In a 10-team league, having the last pick in the first round means having the first pick in the second round. So instead of Damian Lillard and maybe Bradley Beal, your top-two picks offer a bit more balance with, say, Ja Morant and Kevin Durant.
Nevertheless, the idea of having anything less than full control of your fate could be considered unacceptable with bragging rights, and potentially money, on the line. When the fantasy season comes to an end, you need to be able to say you did everything in your power to bring home the trophy. A snake draft’s limited control over who you’re allowed to select makes that impossible, but an auction draft offers limitless possibilities.
An auction draft doesn’t have predetermined draft slots. Instead, you’re given a set amount ($200 fake dollars, for instance) to build your team with, allowing you to spend on whichever player is up for bid. Whichever team has the highest bid when the timer runs out gets the player. Don’t worry, a standard auction format includes the element that when the clock is inside 10 seconds, every subsequent bid resets the timer to 10 seconds, eliminating the ability for a team to swoop in and snipe a player with a last-second bid.
With no player out of your range, an auction draft allows you to build the team of your choice, not the one that’s left for you by those with higher draft slots.
A team featuring several first-round-caliber picks is a great way to lock in top-level quantities you can rely on from week to week. A more conservative approach might not have the pizazz of a superteam but offers talent across the board, spreading your money across every roster spot with few holes and potentially protecting yourself against injury.
There are some mental hoops to jump through to develop the type of price range each player should hover around. But a few mock auction drafts are really all it takes to figure out when you’re on the verge of overpaying and when you’re about to walk away with a bargain. From there, the quick-hitting fast-paced action of the auction thrills with constant bidding wars that keep every draftee engaged at all times.
Ultimately, a league’s draft format is a matter of preference. Leagues that enjoy the slower pace of the snake draft should probably continue to reside in their comfort zone. But those itching for a change now know where to look.
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