I feel for you. Drafts are more fun when they’re in-person, or at least where the real humans are making the picks.
That being said, it’s really hard to sustain that for a long period of time. People move. Lives are complex. It happens. (Some year, it could be you that absolutely cannot make your own draft. Just sayin’.)
If it helps, our league that had to bend on the requirement to draft “live”, is better than ever.
Being in a league with people you enjoy staying connected with is much more valuable than dealing with teams that occasionally need to auto draft.
Truth be told, auto-drafting isn’t magic. It’s not a given that a manager who auto drafts gets a better roster than anyone else. It doesn’t do tier based ranking. It’s something leagues can live with.
So what to do? There’s a hard-line approach, and then there’s a “long game” approach.
A hard line approach where you push a league rule change and penalize auto drafters is an option. But consider the long-term impact to the relationships of the managers. And in fairness, unless you already have an incentive or penalty in your league rules, making it effective for 2021 might not be worth the long term negative feelings you probably are going to create.
Playing the long-game, I’d allow the auto drafting and let the manager know they’ll be missed and nudge them (nicely) to try to make it work to join live. And then work with the league to make the live Draft Day experience more fun. This is the way to sustain a league that lasts. Beyond 2021, you can come up with good humored incentives, or disincentives for missing a live draft. Get the league to buy in, and bake them into your league constitution for 2022.
That was a lot of words. Apologies for the ramble. But we had the same issues, and we found the “long term” approach worked best for us. Good luck!