Fantasy Football Basics, Part 4 – Drafting Your Team

In “Fantasy Football Basics, Part 3 – The PPR Variation,” you learned how your fantasy football team accumulates points if players are rewarded for pass receptions. In this article, you will learn about drafting – the process of getting NFL players on your team roster.

Ask any fantasy football team owner what is the best day of the fantasy football season and I guarantee the answer will be “Draft Day!” This is the day when every team owner’s dream of drafting the perfect team could come true. In order to draft that perfect team, the serious fantasy football owner spends the off-season preparing for the next season’s draft. (The not-so-serious owner plays fantasy baseball.)

The yearly NFL draft (held during the off-season) is just as important to fantasy football team owners as the Academy Awards are to movie aficionados. Fantasy team owners evaluate each NFL team’s picks for any potential fantasy impact. They also keep up with off-season coaching changes, player trades, free agency moves, contract negotiations and hold-outs, as well as the rehab of players recovering from injury and/or surgery. Unfortunately these days, they also have to keep an eye on the legal status of certain NFL players who have a knack of finding themselves on the wrong side of the law. All of these situations can affect player availability and/or level of performance during the upcoming football season and that has a direct impact on drafting your team.

When is the Best Time for Drafting Your Team?

Draft Day is whenever you want it to be. If you are using one of the fantasy football internet sites, e.g. Yahoo!,, ESPN, or CBS Sports, etc., their drafts usually begin in late July and are held through early September. When you sign up to participate in a public or private online league, you can choose from available leagues with specified draft times.

If you participate in a private, offline league, your draft will be held at whatever time and location upon which you and the other team owners in the league decide. (A private, offline draft is the most fun because you actually get together with your fellow team owners to draft your players. No online draft can replace the palpable energy in a room of team owners anxious to outwit each other in both their picks and trash-talk.)

The preferred date for drafting a team, however, is after the third NFL pre-season game and before the first game of the NFL regular season. The third preseason game is usually when NFL coaches play their intended season starters for at least a half or possibly three quarters of the game. This gives fantasy football team owners an idea of who the starters will be in week 1 of the season. NFL coaches tend to rest their intended starters during the fourth pre-season game to avoid an injury that would jeopardize a player’s availability for the first game of the season.

Types of Fantasy Football Drafts

There are two basic draft types:

  • Standard or Serpentine Draft
  • Auction Draft

Standard or Serpentine Draft – This is the type most commonly used. It is structured so that every team picks a player in order until all roster spots are filled. The team owner who picks first in the odd numbered rounds will pick last in the even numbered rounds. Similarly, the team owner who picks last in the odd-numbered rounds will pick first in the even-numbered rounds. The table below represents a standard draft for an eight-team league for the first five rounds. You will note that “Team H” has both the 8th and 9th pick of the draft and “Team A” has the 16th and 17th picks. The progression of picks graphically looks like a snake slithering its way through the draft board, hence the name “Serpentine.”

Sample of a Serpentine Draft

RoundTeam ATeam BTeam CTeam DTeam ETeam FTeam GTeam H
1Pick 1Pick 2Pick 3Pick 4Pick 5Pick 6Pick 7Pick 8
2Pick 16Pick 15Pick 14Pick 13Pick 12Pick 11Pick 10Pick 9
3Pick 17Pick 18Pick 19Pick 20Pick 21Pick 22Pick 23Pick 24
4Pick 32Pick 31Pick 30Pick 29Pick 28Pick 27Pick 26Pick 25
5Pick 33Pick 34Pick 35Pick 36Pick 37Pick 38Pick 39Pick 40

Auction Draft – This is a less common drafting method, but is a lot more fun. It is becoming more popular among experienced fantasy football team owners looking for more control of their team’s roster. Instead of each team taking turns picking a player, each team owner starts the draft with an imaginary $200 to use in bidding for players for their team. The advantage of an auction draft over a standard draft is that every owner has the opportunity to have any player on their team. The only question is – how much are you willing to pay to get that player? So if you wanted both Antonio Brown (PIT-WR) and Adrian Peterson (MIN-RB) on your fantasy team in 2015, the only way to do that would have been to participate in an auction draft because in a standard-drafting format, both players would have been taken in the first round by two different teams .

There is a lot of strategy that goes into fantasy football drafting. Fantasy Football Impact has an entire category entitled Drafting Strategies filled with articles dedicated to this extremely important topic. These articles are an absolute must-read for the serious fantasy football team owner.

Another variation in fantasy football that would affect your draft is the ability to keep a player on your roster from one season to the next. Check out the last article in this series – “Fantasy Football Basics, Part 5 – Dynasty and Keeper Leagues.”

Related Articles at Fantasy Football Impact:

Return to the Fantasy Football 101 overview page

Fantasy Football Basics, Part 4 - Drafting Your Team

Disclaimer: Fantasy football is a game of speculation; therefore, Fantasy Football Impact disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, regarding player performance or results associated with its opinions or advice.