The Fantasy Draft: Draft Varieties
There are generally two different kinds of draft – serpentine drafting and auction drafting. Auction drafting is more flexible, fairer, and generally superior, but it takes much longer. Also, most online draft applications use a serpentine style of drafting, so this is the format you will use most of the time. There are some variations on these themes, but very few leagues use them.
Serpentine drafting works like this: the managers are given some random order for choosing players. The last manager to choose his first player becomes the first manager to choose his second player, then the second-to-last manager chooses his second player, then each manager takes a second player in the reverse order that they took them in the first round, until finally the first manager to choose a player in the first round takes his second player. That manager then takes his third player, and this order of selection continues until each manager has selected their entire team. An example may be in order. We have a four team league, with each team made up of three fantasy players. Our managers are named Abel, Barbara, Consuela and Daniel. In setting up the draft, Abel is randomly chosen to pick first, then Barbara, then Consuela, then Daniel. After each manager has picked their first player in that order, then Daniel takes his second player, Consuela takes her second player, Barbara takes her second player, then Abel takes his second player. In the third round of the draft, Abel is first to take his third player, then Barbara, then Consuela, then Daniel. It is easy to see why this is called a “serpentine” draft, in that a chart of the selections made will snake back and forth across the page in a serpentine fashion.
Serpentine drafts are fine, but there are definitely disadvantages. First, managers can be disadvantaged by their draft position. Managers picking first or last find that their selections are grouped together; they pick two players at a time, and wait a longer period of time between selections. This means that these managers can only rarely take advantage of players who are passed over, because they make selections so infrequently. In addition, the manager who picks last in a given round has no opportunity to acquire one of the top few players in a league. While serpentine drafts have the disadvantage of these built-in inequities, they also are not very flexible. If a manager would prefer to have two picks in the first round, and is willing to give up some middle-round depth in order to make this happen, there is no way to achieve this without working out a trade of some kind with another manager. Each manager is forced to choose a team which is roughly evenly graded – one first round pick, one second round pick, one third round pick, etc. Auction drafts do not have these issues associated with them.
Auction drafts are superior to serpentine drafts in every way but one – auction drafts take much more time to complete. In an auction draft, each manager is given an imaginary budget of some amount of money – say $250. A manager will call out a player that they would be willing to “buy” for $1. A live, open auction is then carried out, with managers calling out increasingly large bids for that player, until no manager is willing to make a higher bid, at which point the manager with the last and highest bid claims that player (and has the bid amount deducted from his budget). The next manager in line then calls out another player, and the process continues until all managers have filled up their teams. The advantage to this format is that all managers find themselves in the same position – no team has an advantage over another because of draft position. Another advantage is that the auction draft allows for more flexible team-building. If a manager wants to spend all of its money on the four best players, filling up the rest of their team with players only costing $1, then they are free to do so. In a serpentine draft, a manager won’t get a serious opportunity to draft many of the players, but in an auction draft every manager has the opportunity to get every player. The problem is that it takes from twice to three times as long to complete an auction draft. If you’ve got the time, and your fellow leaguemates do too, it can be worth it to do an auction draft – either in person, or over a simple chat or IM channel. It is also possible to find software that will help facilitate an auction draft if you prefer. The most difficult thing to find is ten or twelve people who have the same four and a half hour span free who are willing to spend it doing a fantasy draft.
Next Section - The Fantasy Draft: Strategy and Tactics in Serpentine Drafts