Weekly Fantasy Football 101: Snake Drafts Versus Auction Drafts
Assuming you’re a fantasy football fan, draft day is one of the most-anticipated days of the year. That’s when you get to square off against the other owners in your league to build a rock-solid roster that’ll bring you a championship. If you play in weekly fantasy football contests, draft day happens each week. It can even happen each day if you play in the daily leagues.
The information we’ve put together below is for the person who is just getting into fantasy football. Maybe you’ve heard how exciting it is, but don’t know where to start. Or maybe you’re already familiar with the fundamentals, and just need to fill in a few gaps. Whatever your level of experience, you’ll find everything you need to participate in weekly fantasy football leagues on this site.
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Below, we’re going to cover the basics of a draft. There are 2 types: the snake draft and the auction draft. Both come with advantages and drawbacks. Both have fans and detractors. Talk to any fantasy football freak long enough, and you’re bound to hear why one format is better than the other. Here, you’ll get a balanced view. You’ll learn how each draft format works along with their respective pros and cons.
Let’s start with the snake draft.
How A Fantasy Football Snake Draft Works
During a snake draft, owners take turns picking up players. The number of rounds in the draft is equal to the number of players on each team. For example, if you’re building a 16-man team, the draft will have 16 rounds.
The draft gets its name from the order in which owners take turns. The order is preassigned and changes with each round. It follows a serpentine pattern that smooths out any advantage or disadvantage of being first or last in the lineup. The owner who picks first during the draft’s 1st round will pick last during the 2nd round. He’ll pick first again during the 3rd round and last during the 4th round.
Meanwhile, the owner who picks last during the 1st round will pick first during the 2nd round. He’ll pick last again during the 3rd round and first during the 4th round.
Owners who are between the first and last positions will likewise alternate draft positions with each round. For example, the owner who picks second in the 1st round will pick 15th in the 2nd round (assuming a 16-man team). He’ll pick second again in the 3rd round, and so forth.
This continues throughout the 16-round draft until all of the rosters have been filled.
Snake Drafts: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
A lot of fantasy sports players, including those who play in one-week fantasy football leagues, prefer a snake draft over an auction draft. There are a number of reasons.
- First, they argue that the alternating lineup – i.e. first, last, first, etc. – makes it more likely that the teams will be evenly-matched. No single owner will dominate the league (in theory. Not so much in practice.).
- Second, advocates of the snake draft point out that the draft requires very little time, at least in comparison to an auction draft.
- Third, putting together a reasonably good team takes less mental effort. There are fewer variables to worry about than there are in an auction. That’s not to say you can arrive on draft day without a plan of attack. But you can focus on players’ stats rather than your budget and bidding psychology.
Of course, it’s not all roses with snake drafts. One of the drawbacks is that you’ll miss out on some of the elite players if you’re caught in the middle of the lineup. If you’re not at the head or tail, you’ll never have a chance to add the most productive players to your roster. They’re bound to get snatched up before your turn comes around.
Another downside is that you’ll have fewer opportunities to leverage your hard-won knowledge about the players. The top weekly fantasy football sites – FanDuel, DraftKings, and DraftDay – will show how players have been drafted in the past. It’s referred to as each player’s average draft position, or ADP. If you’re a novice and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can still create a roster that performs well just by sticking to the ADPs.
Why is that a downside? Well, let’s say you have several years of fantasy football experience under your belt and know a lot about the players. You’ve sunk countless hours into researching them, which has given you an advantage in the past. That advantage is diluted when rival owners are picking players according their average draft positions.
Now that you know the ups and downs of a snake draft, let’s take a look at an auction draft.
How A Weekly Fantasy Football Auction Draft Works
An auction draft advances in rounds just like a snake draft. But there’s a major difference that completely changes the dynamic. Rather than just picking players when it’s your turn, you put players on the auction block. The owners submit bids based on how much they want a given player for their respective teams.
Notice how the order in which owners take turns doesn’t matter. They’re not picking players in a vacuum. At the start of each round, they choose a player to bid on, opening up the bidding to any other owners who want to participate.
Auction Drafts: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly
One of the biggest advantages of this format is that you’ll have a chance to pick up any player you want, regardless of your position in the draft lineup. The only requirement is that you have enough cash to outbid your competitors. Keep in mind that you’re working on a budget; you’re given a set amount of cash on draft day to fill your roster. Every decision you make is in light of that budget.
For example, suppose the starting bid for Peyton Manning is $13. Someone quickly bids $14, which sets off a string of bids that pushes Manning’s price to $20. Although you might have $150 at your disposal, you need to consider how much you’ll have to shell out to draft the rest of your team. The upside is that if you have the cash, you’ll have a choice.
Another big advantage of an auction draft is that everything is uncertain. There’s no way to know how much rival owners will bid up a player’s price. Because there’s no way to know, virtually anything can happen. The best-laid plans can be sabotaged by a surprise bidding war.
At first, that might seem like a disadvantage. But think about it carefully for a moment. You can demolish an owner’s draft strategy if you manage to provoke a volley of bids for his coveted draft pick. With a little finesse, you can even get other owners to blow their budgets early, leaving several starting tight-ends and receivers up for grabs at low prices.
Here’s another reason to love having a salary cap: it makes the draft a lot more interesting. You’re not simply waiting for your turn. You can participate in every single round, even if you want nothing more than to bump up the bids and make your competition spend more money.
So, what are the downsides to an auction draft? The biggest one is that they usually take more time. If you’re in a league where everyone is putting up bids at each round, the draft can take the entire afternoon. Having said that, if you enjoy the draft, this feature is more of a pro than a con.
Which Draft Format Is Used At Weekly Fantasy Football Sites?
Simply put, both.
A lot depends on the leagues in which you play. For example, when you log into your accounts at FanDuel and DraftKings, you’ll see a long list of weekly and daily fantasy football leagues. Although a majority of them will stick to the same set of guidelines, many will follow their own. For example, some will use a snake draft while others use an auction draft.
That’s part of the fun, and it gives you an opportunity to try your hand at both formats. Remember, there’s no “best” way to organize a draft. It’s strictly a matter of preference. You’ll probably find that you like one format more than the other.
Our recommendation? Try them both. If you need a place to start, be sure to check out our FREAK Leagues at Fan Duel and Draft Kings. We keep the entry fees low so anyone can join. If you haven’t already done so, register at both sites and then come show us what you’ve got.