One of the most requested custom draft features of 2020 has been the ability to set and adjust a minimum bid. One of the most controversial aspects of auction drafts is whether or not to have a max bid, and how to handle multiple teams vying for the same player when their max bids are equal. So let's have a fireside chat about these auction draft mechanics and what makes them so challenging.
Minimum bids are pretty straightforward and self-explanatory, to be honest. There only exists a question of how to implement a minimum bid so that it feels natural.
Dibs, or No Dibs?
The question of feeling natural evolves from the start-of-auction behavior: should the team who nominated the player be automatically given dibs on placing the opening (minimum) bid? Or should the auction start at $0 and let anyone kickoff the bidding action?
Traditionally, $1 Dibs
Traditional auction drafts on ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, and all the other fantasy league sites take the approach that the opening bid belongs to the nominator. I can't tell you how many late-round RBs I've accidentally acquired in an auction draft because I nominated them hoping to empty my leaguemates' wallets, only to watch them take a stretch break as the timer ticks to zero and I win a player I didn't truly want for the $1 minimum.
Discussion on Dibs Theory
At Drafty, I'm still not sure if either implementation is better than the other.
Update As of 8/21/2020, the nominating team's budget is not deducted when nominating a player, and the opening bid is automatically placed for them. This is how most sites operate, and now Drafty does too.
Isn't it funny how we commonly abbreviate the word maximum when referring to "max bid" but almost never shorten the word minimum to say "min bid"? There's your shower thought for the day.
Calculating Max Bid
Max Bid when not enforcing full rosters
Max bids are more difficult to calculate than most people expect. Suppose that you have $78 in your budget and 13 roster spots left to fill. If your league doesn't require a full roster and allows teams to spend their entire budget on a single player, it's not hard at all. This would mean a team's max bid is always equal to their remaining budget. Easy.
(budget) = (max bid)
78 = $78
Max Bid when enforcing full rosters
Now suppose that full rosters are enforced (which is the Drafty default mechanic). Things get more complicated.
Go ahead and figure the equation for yourself before I give it to you... suppose your budget remaining is $78 and you have 13 roster spots left to draft. What's your max bid, assuming a $1 minimum bid and a requirement that you fill your roster?
Here's the correct answer...
(budget) - (roster - 1) = (max bid)
78 - (13 - 1) = $66
Did you get it right? If you bid $66 on the next auction, you'll have 12 roster spots and $12 left in your team budget. This is the math that gives people pause, particularly after they lose an auction because they hit their max bid ceiling unexpectedly.
If that concept bends your mind a little, get ready for a full-blown headache. What do you do when two teams have the same max bid, and they both want the current player really badly?
Max Bid Tiebreakers
In a traditional auction draft, the format provided by the mainstream fantasy league providers, there has been no creative problem-solving around the concept of a tie.
No creative solutions from the big fantasy sites
Suppose that two or three teams all have identical max bids, and they are each willing to go all-in for a player now on the auction block. On ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, MFL, Sleeper, and Fleaflicker it's all the same - the team who gets to the bid button fastest will be able to place their max bid and win the auction. That's not very strategic, but since there has never been another mechanism offered as an alternative, drafters have never demanded innovation. That's where Drafty comes in.
Drafty default is +1 bidding and no manual bids
On Drafty, we use a +1 bidding system and have intentionally excluded the ability for teams to place manual bids (but if you insist, you can request a manual bid button with a custom draft room). The main rationale for this decision was to prevent overbidding - if you manually bid $40 but no one else was willing to go above $25, you've just spent $15 more than you needed to, in a traditional auction draft - but in practice it also allows greater bid strategy for those highly coveted players.
Bid strategy favors savvy team owners
As the bidding war nears max bid, savvy team owners can carefully time their bids to ensure they are in position to make the final +1 bid that hits the maximum. Other teams in the bidding war will not be able to +1 unless they have a higher max bid, and the savvy team owner will win the auction.
This seems like a more fun/more fair solution to me than what the big boy sites offer, but feel free to debate with me @DraftySport on Twitter.
Summary / TLDR
I hope you found this discussion to be enlightening. Minimum bids are an easy concept to grasp, but the best implementation is up for debate whether the nominator should or should not be required to make the opening bid. Max bids require elementary-level math skills to calculate, and as such there is regular confusion about whether the math has been done properly (that's not an insult to anyone, even 5th-grade math isn't a skill many people use on a daily basis).
Max bid tiebreakers have never been properly problem-solved by the mainstream fantasy draft providers. They lazily operate with a first-come, first-served mechanism. If you hit the max bid button first, you win. Drafty enables greater bid strategy with the +1 bidding mechanism, whereby teams engaged in a bidding war can battle for the bid position that will yield the final +1 bid (the max bid) and win the auction like a true champ.