Fantasy football draft setup advice: Our rankings expert breaks down snake vs. auction formats

It's that wonderful time of the year again. Fantasy football draft season. The draft is typically one of the most exciting parts of any Fantasy league, but it can present puzzling questions even for veteran players and commissioners. What kind of draft is best? Should we shake up our league after years of doing snake drafts? I conscripted the esteemed CBS Sports Senior Fantasy Football Writer Dave Richard to help break down all that is draft format. Should your league stick with the snake draft? Go auction draft? Hybrid (are you wondering what hybrid is, stay tuned)? Once you have selected the format that makes the most sense, start your league here.

So first thing's first: What exactly is a snake draft?

Dave Richard: Drafters take turns picking players in order. Once everybody has picked, the order reverses [e.g. if you pick last in the first round, you'll pick first in the second round]. And that process continues until the determined amount of rounds of drafting are over.

And an auction draft?

DR: Very different. Everybody takes turns nominating players, and then everybody has the chance to bid on those players. Once a high bid has been reached, that Fantasy owner gets that player on his team.

What are the benefits of the snake draft style?

DR: In that format it is typically more fair for drafters that are experienced vs. those that are not. Everybody has an even way to build their team because of the round-to-round nature of the snake draft. Not to say auctions are unfair, but experienced drafters have more opportunities to take advantage of good and bad values in the draft.

So what are the pros of an auction draft?

DR: You can get anyone you want. If I go into an auction and have my heart set on David Johnson, I can get David Johnson. If I go into a snake draft with the 12th pick, I'm not getting David Johnson without making some kind of crazy trade. In a snake draft, you have your spot and that's it. If my two favorite players are David Johnson and Antonio Brown, I can get my guys in an auction. You can't get them on the same team in snake. You can build more of a dream team.

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What's your style for auction drafts?

DR: I like to put my players in tiers based on expected stats that I think they'll get. If I think three receivers will get 1,500 yards and 10 touchdowns, I'll group them together. For example, to me the three best receivers are Antonio Brown, Julio Jones and Odell Beckham Jr.

By doing this I place similar values on different players. In auction, once two of those three guys are gone, I'll know the last great receiver is still out there. I'll know that his expectations are similar to number one. Let's just say that Brown was won at auction for $32 and OBJ for $31; Jones will be in a similar tier. I'm smart enough not to overpay.

How can auctions be exploited by more experienced players?

DR: Some players get consistently overvalued. Take Julian Edelman. People like Edelman because he's a steady player on the Patriots. For these reasons, people may take him for more than he's actually worth. I wouldn't pay very much for Julian Edelman in auction, and Edelman would be one of those guys that would get overvalued.

How would you describe the hybrid draft style?

DR: I don't know if there's a specific way to do a hybrid draft. I'll tell you what I've heard of before is that a league will get together and they'll put the top 100 players on a rank list based on average draft position. Could be from CBS Sports, could be from anywhere. They'll put 100 names in a hat and pull those names. Once they're off the board, people use their money to bid on draft slots. It's a little complicated, and you'll need a day to get it done, but it gives you the best of both worlds.

And what style do you prefer?

DR: I love auction. I think that they are triple the fun of a snake draft because the trash talking starts that much sooner, and the bidding up of players against your pals is that much more fun to do. The opportunity to build a team is great.

And I'll tell you the way you can figure out a good auction: When your auction's done and you're looking over your team, and you see that you'd take two of them in the second, or two in the third, or you get really lucky and see you'd take two of them in the first -- if you see that on your team, you've already put together a better team via auction than you would have via draft. That's the sign of a good team.

You can't build a team like that in a snake draft. Auctions are more fun and you have a lot more freedom over the way you build.


With CBS Sports Fantasy Football Commissioner, you have all the tools to run a serious fantasy league; custom draft formats, in-depth player policies and unique scoring options. Take your league to another level today by following this link.

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