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A Modest Proposal to Change Slow Auction Drafts

Many of you reading this take part in auction leagues; they present a level of fairness that many owners seek out as opposed to a random draft order generator. Owners have a lot more control over who they inevitably get on their team without hoping and praying that a player falls to them.

There are three basic forms of the auction draft – the in-person live draft, the online live draft and the slow auction draft. The first two kinds of auctions are usually done over the course of a few hours and have timers ranging from ten seconds to a couple of minutes per player, while the third allows a player to be on the board for several hours and as long as a day per winning bid.

There are benefits to both ways of auctioning. The live versions get the process done quickly, but require everyone to be focused and present at the same time. The slow draft variation spreads the ever over several days or weeks and allows those involved to be engaged at their leisure. Despite the different formats for different levels of league engagement and the thousands of leagues run using these variations, one of these formats is broken – it’s the slow draft.

As I sat through the past couple of days targeting my chosen players and placing bids upon them in a start-up slow auction draft, I began to realize just how broken this format is. This particular league has a 24 hour timer on every player/ In other words, in order to win a player an owner must be the top bidder for 24 straight hours. The timer is a bit excessive in my view, but it does allow everyone a fair shot at a player as long as they log in every day. The timer is designed to promote fairness, but what is actually happening is far, far different.

Many of the owners in this league seem to be your typical owner. They’re not looking to make waves are fairly friendly and are just trying to put together the best team they can. However, unfortunately, not everyone in the league fits this mold. At least two owners have decided to make this process horrifying for everyone involved. Rather than putting in timely bids on players they want on their team, they’ve anointed themselves the arbitrators of fair value or are simply trying to wear everyone into the ground before the league even takes off. Despite their motives both of these owners do the same thing – they wait until an action is nearly over to bid high enough to reset the clock on a player.

Players like this exist in every league that does a slow draft. The first, “the arbitrator,” feels the price for the player in question is too low and that the player is worth more than he is going to be won for. In order to achieve this price, the arbitrator will bid in the minimum increments allowed by the league until the proxy bid is overcome and the timer for that player is reset with the arbitrator as the high bid. This individual has no intention of winning the player, they set no proxy bid to keep that player, and they only want the price driven higher. The arbitrator knows someone will outbid them because only one bid is required to take that player of their hands – something that’s extremely likely if the player is desirable. The arbitrator will continue to do this as long as they feel the player is undervalued and actually views themselves as an asset to the league. I’d say they got at least part of the word “asset” correct.

The second individual, “the troll,” doesn’t have a rhyme, reason or strategy for their last-minute bidding. The troll simply wants to make others irritated by preventing their competition from obtaining any kind of satisfaction. The troll follows the same tactic as the arbitrator – they wait until the waning moments of a player auction and bid the player up. They are less particular than the arbitrator in the fact that they don’t care if they reset the clock on a player. If they do, it’s simply icing on the proverbial cake. The troll is simply looking to make their league mates miserable by any means at their disposal. If they’re a special kind of troll, they’ll even drag about it through the league chat, message board or email list.

It’s because of these two kinds of owners I’m calling it quits on slow auction drafts.

I don’t need the headache, the pettiness or waste of time these two types of owners bring to those around them, and I’m sure many of you out there don’t either! Maybe I sound bitter, but I sincerely doubt I’m alone in this sentiment. A simple, anecdotal poll of those who have taken part in slow auction drafts has revealed to me that these individuals exist in every single slow auction draft that occurs between individuals who don’t know each other too well. If you’re part of a slow auction draft, you likely don’t know your league mates all that well. That’s not always the case, but more often than not it’s a safe bet. If you like the format, but hate the drama associated with it, I may have a solution.

I’ve thought about how to fix the slow auction draft format for a long time and have actually developed a solution I feel preserves the format, but limits or marginalizes the arbitrators and trolls out there. This solution does not require drastic changes to the format and it’s my hope that some fantasy hosting sites out there will this concept up for next year. If one hosting site in particular can incorporate this for next year I may return to the format.

Enough teasing, let’s get to the solution!

If this solution were to be incorporated in the league I spoke of earlier, then everything would remain the same. The 24 hour clock, the ability to bit up until the last minute, everything. However, escalators start to come into play around hour six. Instead of being able to increase the bid by one dollar, you are now only able to increase the bid by two dollars. At hour twelve, the escalator increases to three dollars, at eighteen hours, it’s four dollars to increase the bid and in the last hour, the minimum bid to increase the bid is five dollars. These amounts are arbitrary, of course, and based solely upon the economics of your league, but the concept should be clear and transferable. As you can see, this solution eliminates troll bids, punishes the arbitrator, promotes activity in the bidding process and will keep any slow auction moving along much faster than it otherwise would.

From my experience. the slow auction bid is in dire need of a shake up. The arbitrators and trolls are killing this format slowly but surely with no relief on the horizon. Unless we can get some of these fantasy football hosting sites to provide leagues with tools which serve to limit theses deviants, I can’t see this format really taking off. In my opinion, that’s very sad because the auction format, when done correctly with an absence of drama producing people, can be very fun and can really level the playing field.

I’d like to encourage those reading this to try to roll out systems which employ this concept or lobby your dynasty league hosting site to embrace this concept. I’d also love to hear any other ideas those reading this article have for improving this format, or any format for that matter.

Finally, remember, don’t be an arbitrator or a troll! It’s a cheap thing to do to those with which you’ll be interacting for the rest of the time you are a part of the league. People can have long memories and what you do today might come back to bite you down the road.

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Jesse
9 years ago

I think that is a pretty good solution. I disagree that the arbitrator is a negative, though. He doesn’t need to be waiting until the last minute to min-raise the bid, but it is sometimes true that players go for too little money in auctions… if the arbitrator is wrong in his assessment of a player’s value, then the bid will not be raised and he will win that player, reducing his ability to extend other players up for bids. Allowing other owners to get good or very good players for under value just makes their teams better… and allows them to bid up the players you may want. The arbitrator is using good strategy (though, again, he should not be waiting until the last minute to bid).

But I think your suggestion is a great one, with or without an arbitrator in the league. You want a player, bid to win or bid near his perceived value, don’t drag it out with min-raises.

William Latin
Reply to  Jesse
9 years ago

I agree that waiting till the last minute is bush! However, I also believe that driving up prices when you know someone will pay them is a legit strategy. (ex: teams name is GREEN BAY Envy… bidding up GB players when he keeps pumping up their bids…) It reduces other teams ability to have depth and helps your chances of rounding out your roster with value later in the draft. I would not be opposed to the escalator clause you suggest.

gbslyr
9 years ago

I agree with the criticisms you raise regarding the slow auction. One other solution may be to do a blind one-time bidding process and use the clock just to define the amount of time the owner has to submit their bid. Each owner sets their top reserve/price on the player and the player is awarded to the bidder with the highest reserve. The price paid would be 1 unit higher than the second highest bid. All owners’ reserve prices are made public post auction. I know some sites already use the blind bidding process for in season waiver acquistions so implementing the format probably would not be very difficult.

Madster
9 years ago

Another option could be to limit the number of players you can bid on at any one time. That means that if you are spending your bids just to piss somebody else of, then you might not be able to bid on the player you actually want.

One problem I see with the escalators is people in different timezones. In the leagues I play in there are people from all over the US and Europe, which means that when somebody wakes up in the morning the bid might already have escalated one or two times.

But other than that it sounds like a good solution.

reddaddy32
9 years ago

I think if you are doing a slow auction, you have to do blind bidding, otherwise you will always run into all the problems and annoyances described above. I like a format where you have 24 hours to submit a bid on a player, but every team nominates a player in the given round. Then you end up with the draft taking as many days as you have rounds, and you dont run into the problem of one guy taking forever to clear. The other added benefit is a bit more complexity, as you have to make wagers on more than 1 guy at a time.

sixshooter
Reply to  reddaddy32
9 years ago

Totally agree. No way I would bother with a slow auction draft if it was not a blind bidding draft. I participate in a 12 team auction league and it consists of a live draft immediately after a 16 team re-draft……OUCH!!!! Even though some have already had too many cocktails it still is a blast and also is relatively smoooooth!

One of my favorite evenings, if not THE favorite evening, of the year as both of these leagues are extremely competitive with a few teams also in a dynasty league I am in which allows for extreme smack talking and enjoyable conversations with some cocktails and finger food!

Not a big fan of the article though……

VoiceofUnreason
9 years ago

Sorry but sounds like as a bad an idea as your grammar.

So now you’ll have guys bidding at 1 in the morning on weekdays so people get home from work and have to outbid by them by 4 dollars to get a player? Even worse games.

Also, if a troll is sure he’ll be outbid, how did he wait until the timer was almost over? Why didn’t anyone make a bid if they’re sure to outbid an even higher bid?

If you want a player, set your proxy for the maximum you’ll pay. If you’re outbid then who cares?

Sorry but just flawed from start to finish.

theffaddict
9 years ago

I think that doing a proxy auction (Ebay is a proxy) can prevent people from doing this. Put a 24 hour clock on each player and in 24 hours, the player is over. Like you said, if you get on once every 24 hours, then you will be just fine. This also prevent people overpaying for players as most will do in the broken format. Those are my thoughts.

dave hoover
9 years ago

I always love when someone makes fun of another person’s grammar and in the first sentence of his post he uses bad grammar….like as a bad? just saying

JPH
9 years ago

While I agree the slow auction is flawed, and all trolls suck, I don’t believe bidding up is a bad thing. To me that is auction strategy. Auctions allow you to start competing against other teams before the season starts. Why let someone get a good player and still have more cap? People bid auctions up in almost every format. While it sucks to do it at the last minute of a 24 hour clock, that is almost always bound to happen. I don’t like the idea of bidding $’s going up since the primary reason for the 24 hour clock is work and schedules.

The last slow-auction I did had 5 players up for bidding at once. This can get confusing at times, but you at least make more progress.

sixshooter
Reply to  JPH
9 years ago

I agree with this as well but if you are going to go with an open bidding draft then you better limit it so all can schedule around it and have a fair opportunity because the 24 hour rule does not necessarily allow for that with some. I would recommend having a slotted time-frame which everyone agrees on and go from there.

Maybe it’s ok for some, but a 3 round dynasty rookie draft can go for weeks with the 24 hour rule to make a pick so I just cannot imagine an auction draft at this speed even if you bid on 5 players at once.

Go with a slotted time-frame and give a couple minutes for each team to place a bid on a player. Have each team throw a player up for bid at the same time if you have to. No reason, you can’t operate an online draft more similar to a conventional live draft.

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