Everything to Know About the Fantasy Football Draft

From checking fantasy football rankings to planning how you’ll get everyone together, the fantasy football draft is an exciting time for aficionados of the game. If you’re new to fantasy football, the draft is an extremely important part of the entire season. 

You might be a little nervous if it’s not something you are familiar with, so the following is a guide to everything you need to know about the draft in fantasy football and how you can prepare. 

How Fantasy Football Works

Fantasy football is something that seemingly everyone talks about when the season is happening. When you play fantasy football, you get to be the owner, general manager, and coach of a football team. You come together with friends or co-workers to compete, and you draft your team based on real NFL players. 

During the football season, you score points, and then if you have the most at the end of the NFL week, you’re the winner. 

It sounds simple, but fantasy football can get a lot more in-depth and strategic. 

Typically, your team will compete in a league that’s made up of 10 or 12 teams in total. You go head-to-head against a different team every week. If you have a player who’s not performing, you can release him. You can trade with other teams in your league, and if there’s a player no one has on their team, you can add them to your roster from the waiver wire. 

Fantasy leagues have a post-season also. The playoffs in fantasy are usually weeks 14-16. Some play for money, but others do it just for fun. 

League Types

Most often, if you hear people talking about fantasy, they probably have a redraft league. This is the most common type, and it means that each year, you draft a new team. 

Another type of league is a keeper. With a keeper league, owners play together every season. Every owner in a keeper league will maintain a certain number of players from their roster the year before. 

A dynasty league is when owners stay in for years, but rather than only carrying over a few players from the previous season, you keep your entire team. 

If you’re in a dynasty league, then your younger players tend to be the most valuable because they have more years of playing ahead of them. 

League Formats

Head-to-head league formats are the most commonly used, like a redraft league. In a head-to-head format, there are two owners playing each other every week. If you have the highest score, you win for the week. Then, when the regular fantasy season ends, the teams that have the best records go onto the playoffs. 

A best ball league is one where the team score is optimized, rather than lineup decisions being made. The highest scorers in each position are automatically plugged in, and there aren’t usually any trades or waivers. 

If you like the draft, but you can’t manage multiple teams throughout the season, you might consider the best ball league format. 

The rotisserie or roto format is when leagues create a set of statistical categories for teams to use as their system of scoring. 

Another league format is called points only. Rather than playing a different team every week, the overall point total is what matters. Whoever has the most points at the end of the season is then crowned the champion, but this format is rarely used. 

Types of Fantasy Football Drafts

There are a lot of draft types that you can use in fantasy football. 

Mock Draft

As you might guess from the name, a mock draft isn’t real. It’s like a time to practice and get a feel for where players are going. Many people who play fantasy will do mock drafts as a way to strategize before their real draft. 


In an automated draft, also known as an auto-pick draft, you can’t control your picks. The process is automated, and the best player available is given based on a database. 


The linear draft approach is most similar to how it actually works in the NFL. There’s an order followed in each round. There’s a set order you follow in every round of the draft. If you pick first in the first round, in a linear draft, then you pick first in every other round. 

While it may be the format of the real NFL draft, it’s not common to see this draft style in fantasy. 

Snake Draft

The snake draft, also known as the serpentine, is the most common style of draft in fantasy. 

In a snake draft, you randomize the order that each time is going to draft in. Every player takes their turn choosing a player who’s then removed from the available pool until all 12 teams have selected a player each. This ends the first round. 

Then the second round begins. 

In round 2, with a snake draft, each person is then picking in the reverse order of what they used in round 1. The player picking last in round 1, for example, will then choose first in round 2. The player who picked first in round 1 picks last in round 2. 

Then, for the third round, the snake starts again. 

The draft keeps alternating after each round until every round is over. 

If you want to put it in even simpler terms, a snake draft means that the order reverses back and forth between who picks first and then last for every round. 

When you’re following a snake draft format, the draft spot matters quite a bit. 

The draft approach is preferred because every team gets a fair chance, and there’s additional strategy in this approach that players of fantasy tend to like. 

As you prepare for a snake draft, you want to start by having rankings. They don’t have to be your own rankings—you can find them from somewhere else. You should also use a mock draft to practice filling different spots so you can get a better understanding of how a draft could go.  

You shouldn’t, however, lock yourself into any particular draft strategy beforehand. 

Auction Draft

In an auction draft, which is a newer option compared to a snake draft, it can get a bit more complicated. The draft, of course, as the name indicates, works like an auction. 

In this model, every manager will start with a pool of hypothetical money. The amount is usually $200, and this is used to bid on players. The draft order doesn’t reverse every round, and you aren’t just choosing a player. 

If you’re the manager with the top draft pick, you nominate a player. Then, after you nominate someone, any manager can bid on them during a period of time, which is usually a minute. Whoever is the manager bidding the most money on that player within the minute gets to pick them. 

The manager with the second pick nominates another player, and then you keep going until all the rosters are filled. 

With an auction draft, you want to know how much each player is truly worth because you want to fill your roster and not go over budget. Auction draft guides usually include an average value for players. The idea is similar to daily fantasy if you’ve ever done that. 

The only difference between the auction draft in season-long fantasy and daily fantasy is that you’re competing with other managers as part of your bidding, and that can then lead them to drive up the prices of players. 

What Else to Know About the Draft

Deciding when to have a draft is a big decision for leagues. You want to find a time that works for everyone, and you want to try and make your draft as close to the start of the regular season as you can. 

When you schedule it close to the start of the regular season, you can be up-to-date. 

You’ll have the opportunity to get access to as much information as possible. 

Your goal during your draft is to load your team with the players who are going to benefit from the way your league scores points. If you have a standard league, for example, then your quarterback and running backs are going to be more important than a tight end or wide receiver. 

If you’re in a PPR league, on the other hand, then the wide receivers and tight ends are more important. If you’re in a league that gives points for return yards, you want a wide receiver who can also return kickoffs or punts. 

You ultimately want to aim each round to make sure you’re choosing the players best suited to exploit your point-scoring system. 

Being prepared is going to come in handy as you get ready for your draft, whether it’s your first-ever or you’re pretty experienced with fantasy football. Use up-to-date rankings and keep an eye on sleepers, injury news, and more. The more information you access leading up to a draft, the better prepared you’ll be to dominate in your league. 

Photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

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