What’s the difference between these fantasy football drafts?

Fantasy football has evolved a lot over the past two decades. While snake drafts remain the most popular format for fantasy football drafts, auction drafts have increased in prevalence over the past few years. This article will focus on auction vs. snake drafts and the key differences between the two competing draft formats.

I imagine 99% of fantasy football managers start their careers in snake redraft leagues. Over the past decade or so, alternative formats of fantasy football have become increasingly popular, but I don’t think anything will ever usurp the classic snake redraft league.

Snake drafts are fun, simple to conduct, and easy for new fantasy managers to learn. Auction drafts are a completely different animal. Here are some of the main differences between the two draft formats.

Auction drafts allow you to roster any player you want

One of the most appealing aspects of auction drafts is the ability to draft every player. Of course, you can’t literally roster every player you want. What I mean by that is you are not limited by your draft position.

In snake drafts, you select one player in each round. After you take a guy, you wait your turn to do it again. Auction drafts give you the opportunity to draft every player. You are not beholden to your draft position.

Even if you’re the type of manager that throws ADP out the window and is willing to take your guys whenever you feel like it, there are still going to be players you have no shot at drafting because of your draft position. If you’re picking up the back end, those top guys are completely unavailable to you. Even if you wanted them, you couldn’t get them.

And this isn’t limited to just the first round. If you pick towards the front, the late-third / early-fourth round players that you love so much – yeah you can’t roster them. Auction drafts give you the potential to draft every player in the pool.

Auction drafts allow you to construct your roster as you see fit

This is my favorite aspect of auction drafts. We all know about the various different draft strategies: Best player available, value-based drafting, Zero RB, Hero RB, Robust RB, Zero WR, late-round QB… the list goes on and on.

Snake drafts allow you some freedom to build your team the way you want, but what you do is heavily influenced by what players are available. Auction allows you to more easily implement the strategy of your choice. You don’t have to worry about there being a run on running backs that throws a wrench into your RB-based strategy. If you want to go heavy on running backs, bid on them when they’re nominated.

Teams drafted in auctions will vary more than teams drafted in snake

Fantasy football managers will obviously not all draft the same. With that said, every snake draft roster is constructed the exact same way. Each team has one player from each round. In auctions, teams will look very different.

One manager may build a team based on mimicking a snake draft roster. Another manager may go with a “stars and scrubs” approach, which involves spending a large portion of your budget on high-end players and filling out your roster with $ 1-2 players.

A third manager may construct a balanced roster with a bunch of players that typically go in the third or fourth round of snake drafts. We’ve all experienced the frustration of wanting multiple players with similar ADPs and having to choose between them. Auction drafts allow you to get them all if you want.

When an auction draft is over, the disparity in roster quality is often much more pronounced than following a snake draft. Managers can’t lean on ADP and just take the highest-ranked guy. Everyone has to decide as the bidding is going on whether they want the player and how high they’re willing to go to acquire him.

Auction drafts take longer than snake drafts

I’ve admittedly been highlighting only the positives of auction drafts and ignoring the negatives. Nothing is perfect and that includes auction drafts. One of the main reasons auction drafts are unlikely to ever surpass snake drafts in popularity is the duration.

If we’re basing a snake draft on a 60-second timer per pick, auction drafts take roughly twice as long. While a 2-3 hour commitment for four months of enjoyment seems small by comparison, if you’re the type of manager doing many leagues, it can admittedly be difficult to find the time to schedule multiple auction drafts.

It’s almost impossible to do mock auction drafts

When it comes to preparing for your draft, there’s no question it’s easier to get ready for a snake draft. If you do enough mocks, you’ll be prepared for just about anything the draft room throws your way. There are dozens of platforms you can use for mock drafts, and since they go rather quickly, most people take it seriously at least for the first half.

Have you ever tried to do a mock auction? It’s absolutely brutal. At best, you can maybe get a few rounds of nominations in. Even that isn’t particularly helpful. What I need to know for my auction drafts is how much I can expect a player to go for and how taking certain players early impacts my ability to maneuver late in the draft. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to gain that experience outside of doing a real auction draft.

Closing thoughts on auction vs. snake drafts

It’s fair to say snake drafts are more universally appealing. A fantasy manager of any experience level can do them. Auction drafts are geared towards the more experienced fantasy football manager.

If you’re new to the game, I would suggest joining leagues that use a snake draft for a couple of seasons before jumping into auction. For those of you who have been playing fantasy football for a long time, if you haven’t tried an auction, now is as good of a time as any!

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @ jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here.

Leave a Comment