This is the third iteration of my annual auction strategy piece
(The Best Auction Draft Advice
Ever and Son of the
Best Auction Draft Advice Ever, previously). In this, I’ve
taken the advice from those earlier pieces and updated it for 2010.
Let’s get to it.
yet to be in a game where luck was involved. Well-prepared players
make plays. I have yet to be in a game where the most prepared
team didn't win.” - Urban Meyer
“Over-preparation is the
foe of inspiration,” - Napoleon Bonaparte
Reconciling the thoughts of the brilliant nineteenth-century French
tactician with those of the winningest active coach in college
football is key to a successful fantasy football auction draft.
There’s no way around it: To crush your auction draft, you
have to prep heavily. Good preparation enables inspired flexibility.
(On the other hand, over-preparation can lead to in-draft inflexibility.)
Prepping for Your Auction Draft
The first thing you have to do is develop a list of player projections,
much like you’d do for a conventional (snake) draft. You
can either use FFToday’s
(an excellent resource) or make your own. Next, you’ll make
tiers, grouping players with similar projections. (The FFToday
Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy simplifies the following
process exponentially and is worth a look.)
You’re going to have to come up with expected auction prices
for each player; that is, how much you think each player will
go for. If your auction league has been around for awhile, you
can look at your league history. Take the actual prices from last
year’s draft and figure out what percentage of the entire available
money went to each position. If your league devoted 27% of the
pot to wide receivers last year, take 27% of this year’s pot and
allocate all that money to the drafting of wide receivers. If
the total pot is 1,000 auction dollars (10 teams times $100 per),
and there will be 50 wide receivers drafted, take a popular consensus
ranking of the top 50 wide receivers and appropriately allocate
the $270 among them. Take into account the idiosyncrasies of your
leagues, especially homerism or college affiliations. Let the
calculator keys cool for a sec. Now add 10-15% to the CJs, Andre
Johnsons, Rodgerses, Gateses, and the other top-tier guys, and
take that money from your third-tier players to balance the numbers.
This is the over-hyped studs tax. In a new column, pencil in a
dollar amount for each player that represents the max price you
would be willing to pay for that player. That is his value to
you (arrived at by whichever method you use: dead reckoning, Value
Based Drafting, whatever).
There’s a caveat here: When assigning these percentages,
keep an eye on keepers, and change the numbers accordingly. If
your league mates are keeping an atypically high number of RBs
at good keeper prices, bump up the dollar amounts for other positions
(where it goes depends on your league’s scoring system).
If yours is a new auction league, and you don’t have historical
data from which to gather position percentages, you’ll have
to estimate. My recent 14-team, non-PPR league draft went something
- Quarterbacks: 10 percent
- Running backs: 51 percent
- Wide receivers: 31 percent
- Tight ends: 5 percent
- Defense/special teams: 2 percent
- Kickers: 1 percent
Now all you need is a strategy.
A Few Deep Holes or Many Shallow?
There are two schools of drafting philosophy: Studs and Scrubs
(S2) and Value/Depth (V/D). S2 holds that it’s best to devote
the majority of your salary cap (75-85%) to a few superstars at
the money positions—thus digging a “Few Deep Holes.” This might
find you with Aaron
Johnson, and Randy
Moss while the rest of your roster is filled with $1-$2 players.
The V/D approach, as you might guess, drafts the roster with lesser
players but with more even talent to the margins—“Many Shallow
Holes,” in other words. These players would include a number of
low-flyers with high upside. The benefits and downsides to both
approaches are obvious. In my first years in auction leagues,
I favored the V/D approach and consistently finished in the middle
of the pack—now I’d rather walk through the Browns training facility
with an open cut.
A mix of both strategies this year might be the ticket, with
a strong emphasis on S2. Given the greater stability at QB and
WR (the top ten of both tend to be more static from year to year
compared to RBs), I’d grab a top five in both and go running-back-by-committee
(depending on your scoring format). This might find you with Peyton
Austin, and a grab bag of Joseph
Bush, and Correll
Buckhalter. Overall, I strongly advise taking chances with
your strategy and picks (especially toward the last third of your
draft), valuing upside over a higher floor. This is where you
Thomas over Lee
The Wisdom of Drafting Mid-Tier
In your rankings, tier your players according to similar expected
production. This helps prevent you from getting too attached to,
and over-spending on, any one player.
The last player bid upon in the second tier of the glamour positions
(QB and RB) typically goes for far more than fellow second-tier
players as owners panic and realize they need a bell-cow at the
position—and that players at that position are quickly running
out. If possible, try to get the second or third guy in the tier,
just not the last player.
The Beauty of the Backup
If you’re targeting a valuable backup, get him before the
stud he handcuffs comes up for bidding. Bernard Scott’s
price goes up if you’re bidding against Benson’s owner.
Wait for It… Wait for It…
Every fantasy football auction draft has its own pace, but all
are a grind compared to the leisurely meanderings of the snake
draft. In an auction, you’re three dreams down, trying to
synchronize the kicks the entire time. Because there will be junctures
in the draft where, due to fatigue or inebriation or boredom,
your opponents will falter, you have to be sharp the entire time.
This is where you can pick up deals. This is Bonaparte’s
The Early Rounds
Most auction strategy articles have you nominating big name players
on your turn in hopes of reducing your opponents’ budgets early
so you can pick up bargains in the mid-rounds and later. There’s
a better strategy. Throw out a name that you want in one of the
“lesser” positions—a top TE is a good call—while everyone is saving
their cash to bid on an RB1. More often than not, Antonio
Gates will go for less money in the first round of nomination
Clark will in the fourth. This year you might see more of
your league considering a quarterback-by-committee approach, as
NFL rules continue to favor passer success. Throwing out Aaron
Rodgers or Drew
Brees early might net you a deal there. Overall, the early
rounds are where boldness pays the most. If you’re taking shots
at studs, do so here.
The Middle Rounds
Though an entirely different beast than a conventional draft,
the auction works much the same way in that most owners will seek
to fill out the upper end of their rosters first. This is especially
important to remember for those of you transitioning from a snake
draft to an auction draft for the very first time. Drafting from
the top down means you’ll miss value opportunities in the
late middle rounds, and that’s why it is so important to
peg the values on your players and believe in ‘em. If someone
throws out Jermichael Finley and he can be had at a cheap $5,
then by all means take him, even if you don’t have your
The End Game
As in Texas Hold ‘Em, patience in auction drafts pays off
in the end. Unlike snake drafts where everyone participates in
the last round, auction drafts find a few patient owners bidding
for deep sleepers and flyers while everyone else has packed up.
You want Kareem Huggins? This is where you get him. At the end,
make sure you’re one of the last owners bidding.