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How to Setup Your Auction Draft

Creating The Right Rules for Your Auction Draft & League

There are multiple ways to setup your fantasy football league and your auction draft. Here are a few suggestions I think will make your auction draft run smoothly, create a more interesting league, and keep a level playing field. Below are some Draft Rules which will set your auction league up for success.

Auction Draft Rule #1: Determine your league auction budget or salary cap. Each auction draft must have an imaginary amount of money that is given to each manager to spend at the auction. I highly recommend accepting only $1 minimum bids; taking bids under a $1 is not necessary and becomes much more difficult to track. I think a $200 budget is pretty good for a 14-16 team roster. This allows kickers and defenses to be purchased at the end for a smaller percentage than if you used a $100 budget. At the end of the day, this is not a huge issue, as you can adjust as necessary. Having a $1,000 budget gets back to being difficult to track, as bids get smaller by percentage. The amount of money is typically the same for every manager in the league, but it does not necessarily have to be that way. You could reward the prior year’s winners with a few extra dollars, or if you want to get competitive balance, your league could give extra money to the worst teams in the league.

Auction Draft Rule #2: Determine your auction draft nomination order. This should be fairly simple. You can do a random draw for order, or go in inverse order from last year’s standings, or however you want to come up with an order to do your nominations. I would always recommend going in the same order round by round, as there is no benefit to reversing the order in an auction, since everyone can bid on every nomination. This allows everyone to prepare the same amount of time for every nomination. Another tip to help keep your auction moving is to have players sit in their draft nomination order. This way you are always moving around the room the same way, and everyone knows whose turn it is to nominate. This is one of the best ways to save time in your auction draft.

Auction Draft Rule #3: Determine how you will take nominations. Usually, nominations are given one at a time, based on your league’s order. Online software allows for a certain number of seconds for an manager to nominate a player, and once they do, bidding commences. However, you could also do nominations for a full round. This makes things interesting, as all managers can see who the nominees will be for the next 8, 10, 12, 14, or however many players you have in your league, will be. This can alter some strategies as managers wait to bid on a player they want more than another. This can also allow for more top tier players to be nominated earlier in the auction.

Auction Draft Rule #4: Determine which players can be nominated. Many leagues have no rules on who can be nominated when. Some think it is a waste of time to nominate kickers and defenses early, but you may be able to slip these positions in cheaply at the beginning of the auction as easily as you can at the end. Most managers with any experience at all, will not bid anything extra for these positions, even at the beginning of the auction. While a worthwhile strategy may be to deplete other manager’s resources, doing it by nominating kickers and defenses at the beginning of the auction may not be the best way to do so.

Auction Draft Rule #5: Determine who starts the bidding on a nominated player. Whomever nominates a player, must start the bidding on that player. If no one else bids, they must purchase the player they nominated at the price they indicated. This keeps nominations relatively honest. Once a manager's team is full, they can no longer nominate or bid on players. Some leagues have roster limits, such as only 3 QB's, or 5 RB's, so if a manager can no longer have an additional player on their roster, they can not nominate a player at that positions.

Auction Draft Rule #6: Determine how much money must be started on a nominated player. The normal minimum for any player should be $1. Some people advocate that a few of the better, first or second round type, players should have higher minimum starting bids. In actual auctions, we would call these reserves, or minimum starting bids. You could create two or three tiers of players for your auction. As a league, you can decide on a list of player rankings to use, and then create a minimum bid on say the starting number of players for your league. So, if you have a 12 team league, that means you would typically have 12 starting QB’s. If most managers can agree on a starting list, you can then create a minimum bid for these players. If the range of values on a cheat sheet with a $200 budget is $10 to $30, then your league could make the minimum bid $5 or $10. To make things a little more interesting and appease the chiselers in your group, you could create minimum bids for only 10 of the 12. For Running Backs, I would advocate for three tiers, the top 12, the next 12, and then the rest. If the top RB’s range from $25 to $60, then you could make the minimum $20. If the next group is $8 to $20, then you could make the minimum on this group $5. The point of this is to help the pace of the auction. While auctions are great, they can get away from you time wise if you let the cheap skates run your auction. I love draft night, and I don't mind having the fun last a few hours, but I don’t need it to last eight hours.

Another similar option is to have tiered rounds with different minimum bids. In round 1, you can set the minimum bid at $10 or $20. This means if an manager wants to nominate a lower lever player or kicker, they would have to pay at least that much for the player, which would eliminate trying to bleed people dry in the early rounds. In round 2, you could move the minimum to $5 or $10, again with the intention of getting more of the better players on to teams earlier in the auction. The more rounds you go down, the more the minimum bid can also be decreased, until you get down to $1.

Auction Draft Rule #7: Determine how much money must be increased on a nominated player. This is an optional rule if you are dealing with consistently slow bidders. Again, for tracking purposes, the minimum increase for any player should be at least $1. If you are doing player tiers, you do not necessarily have to do this, as you will already be saving time. If you are not, here are a couple of rules of thumb, based off of the English style of auctions. Under $20, the minimum bid increase is $1. From $20 to $50, the minimum increase must be $2. Over $50, the minimum increase must be $5. You can argue that if a player is worth $53 or $54, he is worth $55, but maybe not if you think they are worth $51 or $52. This rewards bidders who bid quickly, which moves the auction along. If you want a player for $50, then bid it fast, especially if you don’t think they are worth $55.

Other Auction Options to Consider:

Hybrid Auctions: Another potential option to consider is a hybrid auction/snake draft. As auctions create a more fair opportunity to get the top players in the draft, it makes sense to do an auction draft. On the flip side, the longer a snake draft goes, the more different fantasy managers will view players and positions. Doing an auction draft the first few rounds allows everyone the opportunity to buy the top players, but you can save a little time by switching to a snake draft for the later rounds. This is usually done with a smaller budget, like $20-25's a round. This does eliminate the true auction draft aficionado, as a lot of the benefits of an auction draft take place in the later rounds, where smart managers can purchase players at a much lower cost, compared to players sold at the beginning of the draft. 

Blind Draft Auctions: Another potential option that changes almost everything about an auction draft, is to do a blind draw on players. In this type of draft all players are put into a hat and drawn out one at a time. This changes the draft as there is the potential for several top players to not be drawn until the end of the auction. This forces managers to decide on whether they want to bid on players that are like the ones they want early in the auction, versus saving money to bid on players at the end of the auction. This eliminates nominations, which takes a lot of the control away from managers, as nominating the right players at the right time can help you win your auction draft. As an auctioneer, I do not prefer this type of auction, as in the auction business you want to sell the best items when people have the most money. If you do not, you end up with good things selling for less than they are worth. 

Auction Waivers: Do Auction Waivers During the Season. If you are going to use the auction method, you might as well go all in. I think having a $100 budget for the season to add and drop players is a great way to handle these transactions. Again, it is much more fair than just allowing the team with the worst record to be able to pick up this week’s hot name. This allows everyone the opportunity to pay for a player they want, or need, as the hot commodity’s in the season are often due to an injury. Another idea you could use to make things more interesting, is to allow the managers that did not spend their entire budget at the auction, to have the excess for waivers. This creates another layer of intrigue to your auction and waiver process. I also like the idea of giving the playoff teams in your league bonus waiver money for the playoff weeks. Depending on your league setup, this may not be an issue. However, many leagues play for weekly prizes, try to win a loser's bracket, or avoid last place punishments. Giving playoff managers bonus money allows the entire league to still utilize waivers and try to win, but gives the managers that did the best during the fantasy regular season a reward by having the best opportunity to pick up players that may win them the league championship.