Serpentine Draft

Fantasy Football "Serpentine Drafts" Definition

The serpentine draft is the more popular of the two main fantasy football draft methods. When it is time to start your fantasy football draft, how in the world are you going to determine who picks in what order?

The word "serpentine" in serpentine draft refers to the "shape" the draft would take it you charted it on paper. Here's how it works --

The first round of draft is determined by one of many random number assignment methods -- picking numbers out of a hat, having random numbers assigned to your league through a software program, smoke signals, whatever method you like. Say there are ten players who randomly draw ten numbers and draft in that order for the first round . . . when it comes time for the second round of drafting, you flip the order around so that #1 in round one becomes #10 in round two, while #2 in round one becomes #9 in round two, etc. This means that the player who selects last in the first round gets first shot at this second pick. If you chart this pattern, it will turn back and forth like a cartoon snake, hence "serpentine".

Not every league uses serpentine drafts and many individual fantasy football junkies wish their league didn't use a serpentine draft. It has plenty of downsides. For starters, if you pick last you end up with long periods in between draft picks, and players that are too closely grouped together in terms of draft position. If you pick first, you'll have to wait forever between picks and your draft choices will be too far apart in draft order. Both first and last pickers end up with strange teams in dire need of trades to become even keeled.

Another problem with the serpentine draft, according to many players, is the lack of flexibility. Other draft styles, such as "auctions" where teams bid "money" on players and auction, allow for more draft flexibility. For instance, if you really want two second round picks you're pretty much out of luck in a serpentine draft, whereas with an auction draft you could spend a little extra of your fake money to land that sought after backup QB.

Nevertheless, many of you will find yourselves in serpentine drafts, and whining won't do you any good. The best way to handle a serpentine draft is to keep an eye on your cheat sheet and take stock of what the managers before your pick will likely go after. Serpentine drafts cause you to constantly change your draft strategy, but to do so you have to know the relative values of different players per position. Another heads up on serpentine drafts -- don't draft a sleeper pick early. The tendency in FF drafts right now seems to be to use a serpentine draft as a kind of "sleeper collecting". Don't fall into the trap.

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