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Fantasy Football: Auction Draft – Your League Needs To Make The Switch

Hard Truth: If your league still runs a standard snake draft, you are sadly missing out on the exhilarating thrill that is an auction draft. The bidding wars, the high-priced acquisitions, the low-ball sleepers… talk about taking your fantasy game to the next level. This in-depth overview of an auction draft league format will highlight the key benefits and provide some strategy and advice for any first-timers. Advanced Warning: Once you complete your very first auction draft, you’ll want to do it again and again. Won’t be long before you convince all your sports fantasy leagues to make the permanent change.

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So, what is an Auction Draft?

Similar to a draft order, a nomination order is determined and owners take turns making an opening bid on players. All owners are given an imaginary salary cap (often something like $100) to bid on players to construct their ideal fantasy team. Similar to any real-life auction you may have witnessed, the highest bidder is awarded the player and the amount of the bid for that player is deducted from their available salary cap.

All owners continue to nominate and bid on players until rosters are filled in line with the league format. All remaining undrafted players are made available on waivers and given a standard value (often the minimum of $1).

Fantasy with Benefits

Enjoy the Draft

Truly the best part of any fantasy season, aside from Championship weekend if you find yourself lucky enough to make it, is Draft Day. After spending weeks putting together your own personal rankings and identifying which players you’re in love with, it’s finally time to go to work and construct the roster you’ll be stuck with for the next few months.

As the bidding process does take a bit more time per player, the overall draft time will undoubtedly be longer than an old-fashioned snake draft. But, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With a snake draft, owners will spend most of the draft waiting far too long to make their next pick. And what are we doing during this time? Surely not watching the draft and seeing the other owners pick away at all the players you secretly wanted. We’re on our phones, eating, enjoying our favorite Draft Day beverages, watching whatever awful series we’re binge-watching right now. We’re spending most of the draft not actually in the draft.

With an auction draft, you are constantly involved in the excitement. Making bids, driving up the price, sneaking in a few cheap studs. So, we’ve essentially taken the best part of draft day, extrapolated the excitement, and made it last longer…. you’re welcome!

Although you’re spending more time in your draft and putting together your championship roster, you are constantly engaged. Not only are you placing bids on the players you want, but you’re also monitoring who the other owners are bidding on, and at what amount they’re being won.

Let’s be honest; there’s nothing worse than having a late-round draft spot and having 20-30min between picks. Since you have an opportunity to place a bid on any player you want, you are constantly engaged and involved.

Draft Day is really the last time you and your league mates will actually like each other until the end of fantasy season. This is where you leave the compliments and civility at the door, and the weekly trash-talking and brutal defeats will begin its five-month ride. Why not enjoy spending a longer draft actually enjoying the company of your friends, before the hate sets in.


We’ve all heard it before, Championships aren’t won at the draft. Just because you had a great draft and were able to pick up a few studs on the cheap, doesn’t mean your work is done. Once you have created your optimal team, it’s now time to manage it. You will certainly be hitting the waivers at some point during the season to try and find suitable replacements for your recently injured quarterback, or finally cutting ties with that backup running back you had high hopes for a breakout season.

In a standard league, waiver moves are made not only to rebuild or strengthen your team but also to hinder another team. Admit it, we have all made a waiver claim on a player we did not need/want, and have no intentions of starting. All this just so your opponent doesn’t get the opportunity to snag them. That’s all well and good, but why not make things interesting and competitive.

With an auction draft league, undrafted waiver players will either be assessed a standard value amount, and drafted players who have been dropped to the waiver pool will retain their drafted price. This will limit the number of teams picking up a player just to keep on their bench. I mean, for a 10% cap hit, are you really willing to pick up a backup or second-string player just to ride the pine. In some cases, a player may just be too expensive to fit on your team, despite their value to another player. As this logic is true in the NFL, so let it be true for your league.

Strategy Matters Even More

Okay, so you have the first pick. That don’t impress me much! But let’s be real, why should the Fantasy God’s random generator determine who gets the No.1 overall pick and that season’s top-ranked player. Reviewing past trends, it’s no surprise to see owners who have the first overall pick, have a historically higher percentage of fantasy championship wins compared to all other draft positions. With an auction draft, this edge goes right out the window and the playing field is even.

Players nominated in an auction draft do not need to follow any sort of ranking order; owners nominate any player they want upon their turn. This, therefore, does not require your team to be forced into selecting a specific position at any given time. We’ve all experienced the joy of going back-to-back running back with your first two selections, only to feel obligated to go receiver on your next selection out of necessity. You just don’t know when the next decent receiver may fall your way so you force yourself to let the draft order dictate your strategy and your selections.

With an auction draft, you have the opportunity to select who you want, when you want, and ideally for how much you want. If you want to spend most of your cap on a few high-priced running backs, go ahead! Drop 70% of your available cap on Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, do it and never look back! With an auction draft, you dictate your strategy and construct your team, your way.

Having the opportunity to grab any player you want also increases your chances of securing your deep sleepers. There is nothing worse than convincing yourself to wait just one more round on a player you really want, only to have the owner selecting right before you scoop him up. This is especially painful when it’s an auto-draft pick, or they didn’t know who they were picking. With an auction draft, this is a thing of the past. No need to stress over which round-value each player holds for you. Instead, pre-determine how much value each player holds for you, and what amount of your cap you’re willing to spend to get him.  Rounds no longer matter, but your available cap space does.

Auction Draft Tips

If you’re now sold on making the switch for the upcoming season, or you’re a relatively seasoned auction user looking for an edge this year, then look no further. Here are a few tips to help you nail your auction draft and ensure a successful fantasy season.

  • Don’t nominate your target players early: I understand how this can seem to go against what you would expect to do during a draft; pick the players you want. With an auction draft, you must remember that everyone has an opportunity to select any player. When you’re early in the draft, your opponents are flushed with cap and have yet to begin establishing their roster. They have money to spend and haven’t invested in too many players or positions yet. Ideally, you want to save your deep sleepers and players you value the most for when the other owners have already begun spending and are less likely to drive up the price. Allow a few rounds to go by before bringing up a name you highly value and are willing to spend on.
  • Use your relationships to your advantage: The same strategy applies here but in reverse now; nominate your opponent’s highly ranked players early. You’re inevitably going to be spending the offseason talking about the upcoming year and your player love/hate list. Keep a mental note on some of these and nominate those players early; especially those players who are already highly ranked. In line with our last tip, the strategy here is that the other league owners will see a player they like, have a ton of cap left to spend, and are likely to drive the price up and overpay. If you aren’t sure who your opponents are in love with this fantasy season, using their personal favorite team’s players never hurts; we all know the Dallas Cowboys fans will overpay for a Dak or Ezekiel Elliott. Let the bidding war begin!
  • Just because you can be involved in every player, doesn’t mean you need to be. As much as you may want to drive up the price on a player, don’t get caught in the bidding dance for a player you have very little interest in. Highly ranked players will likely be won with a price higher than their consensus rank. There will always be owners willing to overpay for a top 10 receiver. Just remember, it isn’t your job to make sure they overpay. You’d hate to throw in a high bid on a player in the hopes of driving up the price so another owner overpays, and your bid ends up being the winner. Now you’re stuck with a player you didn’t want, all because you wanted someone else to pay a few extra bucks. Focus on your own team and let the other owners duke it out for the players you have no love for.
  • Budget yourself, but be flexible. There’s no real rule as to what percentage of your budget you should spend at each position. It can vary depending on your league format and your personal preference for players and positions. If you’re in a PPR league, or your format calls for 2 starting quarterbacks, your cap allowance for each position will be significantly different. However here is a general range breakdown I use for my starters in a standard fantasy league: 10-15% on 1QB, 40-50% on 2 RB, 25-35% on 2WR +TE.

As much as you want to budget yourself for each position, this is simply to be used as a guide. Allow the draft itself to dictate your spending. If you got lucky and were able to snag a few top receivers below your budget price, don’t stress so much about overpaying for a quarterback you’ve had your eye on. Or if there’s a running back you just need to have on your team this season, don’t feel guilty about overpaying. At the end of your draft, you won’t have regretted having overpaid on Dalvin Cook, but you may kick yourself if you didn’t continue bidding on him simply because you had reached your allotted max. 

One of the biggest hesitations for fantasy leagues to make the switch to an auction-style draft is simply that it seems more complex. Although it can be intimidating, luck plays just as much of a factor as with a standard league. A prepared fantasy manager will always have an advantage over other league owners, and an auction league is no different. There is a reason why 90% of fantasy leagues that make the switch, never go back to a standard league. It’s time for you and your league mates to make the commitment and put in the effort this coming season. Time to register your league and let the bidding begin. Going once, going twice….SOLD!

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