Fantasy sports have exploded in popularity over the last decade and a half. They involve drafting a set of real-life players in a sport and adding them to a fictional team the manager creates. The most popular way of distributing these players is through the use of a snaking draft where managers follow a pre-determined order and select players (just like teams do in real life). Once everyone has selected, the next round begins and the player who chose last will select first. This form of draft, while still highly enjoyable, is archaic compared to an auction style of draft. In an auction, managers arrive with a set amount of money and bid against each other for a player’s rights. Here are 10 reasons to move a fantasy draft into an auction-based style of draft.
10. Everyone Begins On An Even Playing Field
In an auction, everyone has the same amount of money and the same right to every player. Consequently, in a snake draft, every manager is placed in a separate draft slot. During some seasons, it may be better to draft near the top if the high-end talent has a significant dropoff. During this scenario, drafting at the bottom would be disadvantageous as potentially making two picks in a row could prove less beneficial than having the one early pick. On the other hand, some seasons there is no consensus number one pick and therefore being saddled with the first pick can be frustrating. After an auction, there can be no complaints about draft position because everyone entered on an even playing field. Fantasy sports represent a game meant for fun but it is a highly competitive. Fantasy would not be fun if some managers held an advantage over others prior to the year even beginning.
9. Less Luck
With an auction, winning a league is more of an accomplishment as the level of luck is greatly reduced. Managers are in charge of their full decisions, not relying on pre-determined draft slots or on default pre-ranks. An auction requires far greater knowledge of fantasy values as managers are vying against one another for talent while trying to maintain value. It is far less likely that an uninformed manager will stumble into the victory in a league that used an auction draft over a league that used a snake draft. Auction values are affected by numerous factors such as the number of teams competing and the weight of each scoring category. The values even change in real-time as a position run during the draft affecting scarcity will change values. This requires managers to constantly be on their toes and is the emphasis for determining that auction leagues have less random variation affecting the winner.
An auction draft allows managers to learn economic skills such as money management that transcend fantasy sports. No manager goes into an auction prepared to waste their money early with little leftover when the true values emerge. However, not every manager is able to contain themselves when the big names names are announced early at the auction. Learning how to save is frankly a life lesson and one that can be aided through the use of auction drafts. Pre-ranking player values and then bidding a maximum of 80% of that value during the early portion of the auction is an excellent way to test mental fortitude. A further economic lesson presented during auction drafts is the upside-down bellcurve. What that means is people overpay early (when managers have plenty of cash to begin with), overpay late (when some people have too much money leftover), and underpay in the middle of the auction when managers are still trying to save. This is where managers can swoop in for the steals.
7. Rewards Active Managers
During an auction, managers must constantly be at the top of their game. Having every relevant player valued in a dollar amount is essential as pre-ranks are more important than ever. Those who didn’t study do not have rankings to fall back onto. Conversely, during a snake draft, there are auto rankings. While having individually-created rankings for your league is far superior, these auto-ranks do get the job done as a last-ditch alternative. Unprepared managers can enter a snake draft and do reasonably well drafting based on these pre-populated rankings. In an auction, there are pre-populated dollar values but these will prove inconsequential as the values are constantly shifting. An active manager who is well-prepared has a massive advantage over someone not taking the game seriously in an auction draft. A fantasy season is a long, often grueling game. It is satisfying knowing that preparation is rewarded in this format and can give an edge to the manager.
In an auction, when managers are bidding against each other, it is possible to note potential future trades. A manager bidding on a certain player generally likes them (unless they are simply attempting to drive the price up). This is useful to know throughout the season. As an example, Manager A and Manager B engage in a bidding war during a fantasy baseball auction for the services of Billy Hamilton. The other 10 managers did not come close to matching the winning bid Manager A eventually settled with. Billy Hamilton provides elite speed with little else, so if Manager A lands several other stolen base threats and no longer has use for Hamilton, he may place him on the trading block. Manager A still values Hamilton quite highly; he simply has more pressing needs for his resources. Offering Hamilton to the other 10 managers would not net him the value he desires. However, with an auction, the knowledge is there to show Manager B should be relatively interested in acquiring Hamilton’s services.
A fantasy baseball snake draft is about to commence and the draft order has been randomly determined. Managers log in and 11 disappointed faces see that they do not have the opportunity to draft the consensus number one ranked player, Mike Trout. Trout is as safe a commodity as possible, with the upside to shatter multiple records. Any manager would be thrilled to own him. Yet in a snake draft, his ownership is generally determined randomly 45 minutes prior to the commencement of the draft to whoever receives the first overall selection. In an auction, this problem is non-existent. Anyone who wants Trout can pay for Trout. This feeling of equality adds a supreme level of fairness to the league. A player’s ownership should be determined by how much a manager is willing to spend to acquire their services, not by which draft slot they were assigned.
4. Fun Factor
Fairness, strategy, and economics are all areas that an auction draft provides. These can present elements of fun for various people and make the league more enjoyable, yet it is the dollar values in an auction that improve the element of fun compared to that of a standard snake draft. A manager saying he “stole” a hugely underappreciated sleeper for just a dollar sounds much more impressive than saying he drafted said sleeper in round 17. On the other spectrum, a manager saying he “wasted” $55 on a gigantic bust has much more of an impact than saying he was drafted in the second round. Adding dollar values allows for easy comparisons and evaluations. This creates a level of enjoyment that is unable to be reproduced in a snake draft. The fun factor is greater in an auction than in a snake, both during the draft and after its completion.
3. Always Active
A 12-team snake draft includes a pause of 23 selections between rounds for those drafting on each end. With average pick times ranging anywhere from 30 seconds to one minute, managers could be looking at a 20 minute break between picks if they are drafting in the first slot or in the 12th slot. This break becomes longer with more managers in the draft. A manager drafting 12th must first wait 12 selections, then make two consecutive picks, then wait another 23 selections where another two consecutive picks are made. This wait could prove quite boring, an unfortunate effect of a snake draft. A fantasy draft should be one of the highlights of the season. It should be a ton of fun. Yet, the problem inherent in snake drafts is the tiresome wait. In an auction, the draft is always active. Managers must constantly be in the room or potentially miss bidding on a desired player.
Similar to the point of equality, flexibility entails not being tied down to a specific draft slot. Unlike equality, which we defined as everyone received a fair shake at a specific player, flexibility is meant for the later portions of a snake draft. With a snake, the auto-ranks define a significant portion of a player’s average draft position. If a manager has the 24th and 25th selections in the draft, this can create problems. For example, the manager wants player X who is pre-ranked 55th overall. The manager feels the player is greatly undervalued and would feel comfortable drafting him at 24th. However, with the way the pre-rankings play out, that is viewed as a reach and the manager is sacrificing perceived value if he wants him. However, if he doesn’t take him with one of those picks, the wait is long enough that there is a chance the player will be gone, which is a risk the manager may not be willing to take. This dilemma is no longer an issue in an auction as a manger does not need to reach for the players he wants. The draft flows naturally and when that name is announced, then he can bid.
1. Different Strategies
A fun aspect of an auction draft is the ability to use a different strategy. For example, a manger can draft the number 1, 2 and 3 ranked players, thus using their entire budget, and then fill out the remainder of the roster with free agent-caliber players. This can be a fun exercise to view the importance of depth in a league. Depending on the size of the league, this strategy is generally not advisable. Foregoing depth entirely is difficult to overcome. However, creating this super-team is undeniably fun and gives managers an aspect of control unable to be replicated in a snake draft. For upcoming baseball drafts, this can include drafting Mike Trout, Paul Goldschmidt and Bryce Harper all on the same team. This exciting prospect can only be done in an auction. Many other strategies can be toyed around with in an auction and these add yet another layer of intrigue and discovery to an auction.