For many red-blooded, sports-loving Americans, Fantasy Football Draft Day is the very best day of the year. Either in live or online draft formats, making those pressure decisions amid the cheers, jeers and taunts of friends and rival owners is an unrivaled several hours of fun. In recent years, the auction draft format has begun to emerge as a commonplace format, replacing the snake draft in ever-increasing numbers. Which is the best format for you, and your league?
In essence, this question boils down to the nature of your league and your experience level as a fantasy player. Auction, like keeper, IDP, PPR, and other settings, presents wrinkles in the conventional league format. To that end, the more experience everyone in a given league has, the more willing or capable they may be to handle such additional complexities.
Snake represents an element of randomness that auction does not, for better or worse. In a twelve man league, each owner will occupy one of those twelve slots, with the #1 pick drafting first in round 1, and “snaking” back to draft 12th in round 2, and so on. Everybody wants the #1 pick, and generally with an aim toward who specifically they would snag in that spot should they be fortunate enough to win that lottery. This format is best recommended for casual leagues, non-money leagues, or leagues with a large percentage of owners new to fantasy and its inner-workings.
Auction, conversely, represents the allure of democracy with the tradeoff of added complexity. If you desperately want Adrian Peterson or Aaron Rodgers to anchor your team, but draft the #11 spot in snake, you likely will miss out on both. In auction, each owner uses his allocated budget to bid on players, thereby affording each owner a chance at any given player. More fair, to be certain. However, the strategy is much tougher. An owner is rewarded for knowing the tendencies and weaknesses of rival owners well. He must be willing to price enforce and up-bid players he doesn’t actually want, to punish other owners while simultaneously risk punishing himself should he accidentally place the winning bid. The owner must account for more variables than snake, because the draft becomes an interactive competition against all owners in the league. Snake, conversely, tasks an owner with simply tracking remaining players and assessing one’s personal needs.
What makes fantasy football so addicting is the illusion of ownership. This team is a squad handpicked by one’s own brain and football knowledge. To that end, auction blows the game wide open, and allows each owner to assess player value and determine which players he truly wants on his team, as opposed to merely selecting the best remaining player on the board. For those who have played at least two years of fantasy, I cannot recommend auction highly enough. Every league in which I have participated that I convinced to try the auction format fought it hard, eventually relented, and loved it so much nobody has ever discussed returning to snake format since. Use snake to understand the game, get your feet wet, or simply enjoy the casual league. However, for those of you out there who have league trophies, weekly email threads complete with trash talk, and your version of Fantasycast open every Sunday, the auction draft makes the best day of the year just that much better.
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Christian S. Kohl is a sports contributor for CBS Local Digital Media.