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Tip Drill: Revisiting the Auction vs. Draft Debate

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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This snake never snake drafts (USAT)

I accept the facts of life when it comes to the auction versus draft filibuster. I recognize drafts are more common and probably will be until the end of time. I know some rotoheads are reluctant to try something new. "That's the way we've always done it" is a crummy rationale for any status quo, but in some pools, you're not overcoming it. Some stubborn old timers are never changing.

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Nonetheless, I'm still here, ready to do some auction preaching. It's been my experience that most sharp fantasy players who try the auction format quickly realize it's more interesting, more fair, and more fun. If you dig fantasy sports, this is the format you really have to try.

Let's break down some of this debate.

-- Auctions are more fair (and more fair is more fun): In your piddly snake draft world, forget about Trout or Miggy if you draw the No. 13 pick. No Kershaw in your world. No Goldschmidt. What's fun about knowing you're locked out of the best players in the game simply because the lottery didn't fall your way?

In the auction, anyone can have Mike Trout, or Miguel Cabrera, or heck, both. Whatever the market will bear. This is a beautiful thing, something to celebrate, something to gravitate towards.

Studies have proven draft slots are not created equal in fantasy sports - some positions produce more champions than others (and if you stubbornly disagree with this, please allow me to pick my own draft slot in every old school league you drag me into). You throw that garbage out the window when you accept an auction. Get out the gavel and let the free market decide things.

-- Auctions are more dynamic: You can start or stop bidding at any time. Play the plus-one game with prices, or jump-bid a player to a lofty number right away. Is your bidding opponent really interested in Jacoby Ellsbury at that major price, or is he trying to stick you with the bill? What happens when a handcuff or positional caddy is nominated before the expected starter? Mind games, bluffing, internal calculus, it's all part of the glorious auction experience.

Don't you want to live in a world with maximum options?

In the old and static draft, only owners in your pick neighborhood have a great influence on what you do. That's not so in an auction, where anyone can turn into a defender at any time. Be enemies with everyone, dammit.

In the old and static draft, you make a pick and then sit on your hands for a while. If you draw the wheel spot, you might go 20-plus picks without doing anything. What's fun about that? Isn't it more enjoyable to be constantly engaged at the table?

-- Auctions are considerably more strategic: I can't see how anyone could ever deny this. You're thinking about players and prices, making decisions on a dime, calibrating and recalibrating as the day moves along. And in the process, you're faced with far more choices with roster construction. Do you want to go with a stars-and-scrubs motif, a few overloards and then a bunch of lottery tickets? Or are you more a spread-the-risk player; no stars, just talent? Should you nominate players you want, or players you don't want? When's the best time to try to sneak a sleeper through?

The first round of many drafts will be predictable, almost pre-slotted. No auction turns into a predictable exercise. My head is spinning after every auction I complete, and that's a good thing.

In the draft world, often you'll target a few players in a tier and take the one that lasts to your pick. Wow, that's thrilling and exciting. You're basically taking the last donut at the company breakfast. In an auction, you have more control over the pace, the flow, the roster construction. You also have more say in messing up an opponent - any opponent you wish. Why play checkers when the chess set is ready to go?

To be fair, there are a few advantages for the draft crowd. Let's acknowledge them on the way out:

-- Drafts take less time than auctions. I guess that's a good thing, though I've never been thrown by the time of any auction. Yahoo's sweet Auction Room keeps things humming along, and the live pace of the yearly Tout Wars auction is blistering. This shouldn't stand as a deal breaker for auctions.

-- Drafts handle an absentee owner better than auctions do. Sorry, but I gotta be honest - no fantasy website has come up with a shrewd Artificial Intelligence formula for auto-auctioning. The same general problem comes into play for an auto-drafter, but it's not as much of a league-wide mess. And if someone fills their queue before they leave early, they'll more or less get what they want in a draft. It's a lot messier if someone has to auto-auction. (The way around this: only invite reliable peeps to your auction league.)

-- Drafts present easier choices. Maybe this is a good thing if you want your league to be a casual one, or if you're trying to appeal to new fantasy players. Some people don't want to land 15 planes at ones. Some people prefer to live in a binary world. Some people never throw away their television rabbit ears and VHS tapes. Some people play Pong for fun. Some Mayors of Simpleton prefer Limit Poker over the No Limit variety.

I can't tell you how to arrange your room and how to throw your party. But I'm confident that if 1000 players tried a Yahoo auction for the first time this year, the vast majority would walk away thinking "man, that was awesome."

Add your supplemental angles in the comments. Bud Fox on Line 1.

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