Auction drafts provide a fun and strategic alternative to traditional fantasy football snake drafts. Dive into the auction draft format and create your path to victory.

Auction drafts have been growing in popularity in recent years as a more engaging alternative to snake drafts. This guide dives into the fantasy football auction draft format, helping you create a winning strategy along the way.

What Is an Auction Draft in Fantasy Football?

An auction draft operates similarly to a real life auction (shocking). But instead of bidding with real money on items like cars, antiques or baseball cards, you bid with fictitious money on players for your fantasy football team. When you have the highest bid on a player, he joins your fantasy squad.

Auctions take the place of a snake draft, so when the auction is finished, every fantasy manager will have a complete roster of players. However, instead of a preset order for when each team will draft a player, auction drafts have a preset order for who plays the role of auctioneer — which we’ll explain further in the section below.

How Does an Auction Draft Work?

In a snake draft, there is only one action being taken per draft position. When it’s your turn in the order, you simply draft the player you want on your team. In an auction draft, there are two phases for each draft position: nomination and bidding. 

Player Nomination Process

Following the draft order, fantasy managers take turns nominating players — think of this as playing the role of auctioneer. When it’s your turn, you nominate any player who is not currently on anyone’s fantasy team by placing an initial bid on that player, and then the bidding phase commences. Every fantasy manager is eligible to bid on any nominated player as long as they have enough money to afford the bid. 

Typically, 30 seconds is the default time allotted for each player nomination. However, platforms like Sleeper let you customize this number, going as high as eight or 24 hours to allow for slow drafts.

While the best players always go earliest in a snake draft, that’s not necessarily true with an auction draft. Christian McCaffrey could get nominated 1st, 23rd or 57th.

Player Bidding Process

Bids are made in increments of at least $1 once a player has been nominated. Because every fantasy manager is able to bid on any player, you’re not confined to your draft slot like in a snake draft.

Just as with the nomination phase, a 30-second timer is the standard default for the bidding phase. However, when the timer dips below 10 seconds, all new bids reset it to 10 seconds. In other words, you’ll only have 10 seconds to decide if you want to outbid the current highest bidder. You can always customize the bidding timer lengths on Sleeper.

When the timer expires, the manager with the highest bid wins the auction and adds that player to their fantasy team.

Player Budget

Every fantasy manager starts with a fixed budget, usually $100 to $200, to spend on players. If you bid $30 on CeeDee Lamb (and win), then you’ll have $170 to fill out the remainder of your roster.

We detail strategies for managing your auction budget later on.

Should You Choose an Auction Draft? Pros and Cons

Like any fantasy format, there are pros and cons to the auction draft format.


Auction drafts allow an equal opportunity for every manager to draft each player.

In a snake draft, if you have the ninth pick, there’s practically zero chance a fantasy superstar like Christian McCaffrey will fall to you. In a fantasy football auction draft, McCaffrey will go to the highest bidder, which could be anyone in the league.

Auction drafts also allow for a more engaging and interactive experience. In a snake draft, you might need to wait 10 to 15 minutes between your draft picks. During an auction, any manager can be involved in the bidding on every nominated player, so there’s constant action the entire time.


Auction drafts can be time-consuming. Popular players might stay in the bidding phase for several minutes each, and the entire auction draft can last two to four hours as a result. There’s also no time for breaks between picks like in a snake draft, so a two-hour auction draft can feel longer than a two-hour snake draft.

Auction drafts require more complex strategies to achieve success, which may be a pro or a con depending on your interest. Fortunately for you, we’ve detailed a few tips in the next section to make sure your first auction draft is a positive experience.

See also: What Order to Draft in Fantasy Football

Tips for Winning an Auction Draft 

Devise a Methodical Nomination Strategy

The order in which you nominate players can be an art form in itself. Early on, nominate players you aren’t interested in drafting yourself, encouraging another manager to burn a large chunk of their budget. Save your favorite sleepers for later in the draft when other managers have less money to spend.

You can also play into people’s fandom. If a Cincinnati Bengals fan has a large remaining budget, nominate Ja’Marr Chase or Joe Burrow to get them to start spending their money.

Master the Bidding Process

In most cases, it’s wise to increase bids by small increments — usually $1 at a time. For example, if you misread the room and aggressively place a $32 bid when a player’s current price is at $5, you might end up paying $32 for a player who would have gone for only $14.

Be aware of each player’s average bid value, the typical amount they’re going for in other auction drafts (with the same scoring system as your league). If Christian McCaffrey usually goes for $55 in a $200 auction league — and the bidding reaches $95 — let the other fantasy manager have him. Don’t get too fixated and overreach on any single player. Instead, try to stay close to (or under) average player values.

Bid on Good Players

Many new auction drafters will be too cautious of overspending their budget, and they’ll end the auction draft with $45 remaining and a slew of mediocre players filling out their starting roster.

To avoid this common mistake, try to win three to five players who would go in the first four rounds of a snake draft. A rule of thumb is to allocate between 60% and 75% of your budget on those three to five key players. There’s no prize for having money leftover when the auction ends, and a starting WR room with Courtland Sutton and Tyler Lockett is rough, even if you got them both for well under average value.

Don’t Get Caught at the End of a Tier

Desperation is never the answer in an auction draft. If you need a starting quarterback and think there are three viable options remaining, don’t wait until only one is left before you bid. You’ll feel pressure to win that player, and other managers will know it. The shrewd ones will bid the price up on that last QB, knowing you have no choice but to pay it.

Auction Draft FAQ

How long do auction drafts typically last?

Auction drafts generally take two to four hours to complete, assuming 30-second timers for the nomination and bidding phases.

How should you budget for an auction draft?

Plan to spend at least 60% but no more than 75% of your budget on three to five star players to ensure your roster has a solid nucleus of strong performers. Think of a star player as one who would get drafted in the first four rounds of a typical snake draft. Save the rest of your budget on sleepers and young players. Try to avoid spending more than $5 on any player you expect to spend the first few weeks of the season on your fantasy bench.

Which fantasy league types allow for an auction draft?

Today, most major fantasy platforms offer auction drafts. Sleeper supports redraft, keeper and dynasty league auction drafts.

What’s the biggest difference between an auction vs. a snake draft?

In a snake draft, fantasy managers make their picks based on a preset order. An auction draft will have a similar preset order, too, but instead of drafting fantasy managers nominate a player when it’s their turn. Then, every fantasy manager in the league is able to place bids on the nominated player.

Get Started With an Auction Draft Today on Sleeper

Now that you understand the auction draft format, along with a few key strategies for success, it’s time to make the leap.

Sleeper is a perfect place to host an auction draft, thanks to quick and easy customization. Within a few minutes, you can set everything from custom budgets for each manager to different nomination and bidding timers, ranging from 10 seconds to 24 hours. 

It’s free to set up an auction draft for your redraft, keeper or dynasty league on Sleeper. What are you waiting for? Sign up on the website or download the Sleeper app.