This is the fourth iteration of my annual auction strategy piece
(the three previous editions, The
Best Auction Draft Advice Ever, Son
of the Best Auction Draft Advice Ever, and The
Best Fantasy Football Auction Strategy). In this, I’ve
taken the advice from those pieces and updated it for 2011.
Prepping for Your Auction Draft
The first thing you have to do is develop a list of player projections,
much like you would do for a conventional (snake) draft. You can
either use FFToday’s
(excellent resource) or make your own. Next, you’ll make
tiers, grouping players with similar projections. (The FFToday
Cheatsheet Compiler and Draft
Buddy simplify the following process.)
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 $1000 auction dollars (10 teams x $100 per),
and there will be 50 wide receivers drafted, take a popular consensus
ranking of the top 50 wide receivers and allocate the $270 amongst
them appropriately. 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, and Gateses, the top-tier guys, and take
that money from your third-tier players to balance the numbers.
This is the over-hyped studs tax. In another 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 whichever method you use, dead reckoning, VBD,
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).
Now all you need is a strategy.
Recruit a Lineup of Stars and Scrubs
These are two schools of drafting philosophy: Studs and Scrubs
and Value/Depth. Stars and Scrubs holds that it’s
best to devote the majority of your salary cap (75-85%) to a few
superstars at the money positions. This might find you with Aaron
Rodgers, Chris Johnson, and Calvin Johnson and the rest of your
roster filled out 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. These players would include a number
of low-flyers with high upside. The benefits and downside to both
approaches are obvious. In my leagues, the Stars and Scrubs strategy
makes the playoffs more often than not.
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 those are running out. If possible, try to
get the second or third guy in the tier, just not the last player.
Back It Up
If you’re targeting a valuable backup, get him before the
stud he handcuffs comes up for bidding. Ben Tate’s price
goes up if you’re bidding against Foster’s owner.
Every fantasy football auction draft has its own pace, but all
are a grind compared to the snake draft. You have to be sharp
the entire time because there will be junctures in the draft where,
due to fatigue, inebriation, or boredom, your opponents will falter.
This is where you can pick up deals.
Incorporate a little Sheen into your auction
Be Unpredictable (Be the Honey Badger)
Throw out players you don’t want. Drop in and out of bidding
on a single player. If bidders are throwing out numbers at one
dollar increments, up the bid by five. Be unpredictable, be aggressive,
be passive, don’t establish a pattern. Be Chuck Sheen.
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
a RB#1. More often than not, Antonio Gates will go for less money
in the first round of nomination than Dallas Clark will in the
fourth. 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, that’s why it is so important to peg
the values on your players and believe in ‘em. If someone
throws out Jermichael Finley early and he can be had at a value
$5, then by all means take him, though you don’t have a
The End Game
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 Bilal Powell? This
is where you get him. Make sure you’re one of the last owners
A Strategy for 2011
In most leagues, 2010 showed an uncharacteristic shift of auction
dollars from the RB position to the WR position, no doubt a reaction
to the NFL’s movement to more RBBCs. I expect a “market
correction” this season, with the money flowing back to
RBs again. I advocate going contrarian here: allocate more of
your budget toward WRs, otherwise you’ll overpay for RBs
while missing value at WR.
Get a Stud QB
Gamble on other positions, but not quarterback. The quarterback
spot has seen the least amount of turnover in the top ten over
the past few years, so if you’re going to overpay, do it
for an Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. I’m not a fan of the
emerging QBBC strategy proposed by some—do you really want
to have to pick between Eli Manning and Jay Cutler every week?
Me either. Plug in a consistent stud and never look back.
Draft a Quality Workhorse RB#1
Following this strategy, you’ll need your RB#1 to be consistent.
You’ll overpay for Arian Foster or Adrian Peterson, so aim
for a second-tier performer like Steven Jackson or a Michael Turner.
The money saved here will go taking chances on two RBs with upside
for your RB#2 slot.
Aim for Upside at RB#2
Here’s the point: You’re drafting two RB#2s, hoping
that one breaks out. Instead of busting big bucks for your RB#2
and considerably less for RB#3, add the money together and split
it between two players. You’ll be spending maybe 20 percent
of your salary cap here. This might net you a Mark Ingram and
a Tim Hightower. If one breaks out, you’ll win more weeks
than if you lose, and if both break out, you have trade bait.
Take a high-quality backup for your last spot.
Snag a Proven WR#1
You’ll need a rock-solid WR#1. WR is one of the most volatile
positions, so consider stability in offensive scheme and quality
QB play here when evaluating players—the WR’s talent
can only take him so far. Hakeem Nicks might be a good choice—he’s
got the talent and cast to put up top-five numbers but won’t
cost as much as an Andre Johnson or a Roddy White, both of whom
will command a premium on name alone.
Go for Emerging Stars at WR#2
Allot a fair amount of your budget for another quality WR, aiming
for upside at WR#2. Tampa Bay Mike Williams or Jeremy Maclin (injury
concerns can make for a bargain) might be a good call here. Both
offer value as either could put up top-12 numbers, but will come
at a WR#15-20 price.
Emphasize Consistency for Your WR#3
You don’t need big numbers from a WR#3, just regular points
at a discount price. Think high-floor, low ceiling. This translates
into a NFL WR#1 from an offense with question marks. In 2010,
Santana Moss fit this description, and churned out enough points
on a regular basis to support a championship team while coming
at a low price. Moss is once again a candidate for this spot,
while other candidates would be Mike Thomas and Steve Johnson.
For your fourth and fifth slots, don’t spend much money
and aim for deep, deep sleepers. Jerome Simpson and Denarius Moore
might fill the bill here.
Grab a Second-Tier TE with Upside
Get Greg Olsen or a similar second-tier TE with upside and backstop
him with $1 sleeper like Ben Watson. You will overspend on an
Antonio Gates or a Witten robbing you of the ability to spend
on a sleeper RB. The position is deeper than it has ever been—save
the money for another position.
Because You Have To: DST and Kickers
Place a minimum bid on a kicker; throw a few bucks at a top-five
defense if possible, otherwise, take a flyer on the 49ers (playing
in the NFC Weak) or the Lions.
To recap: Using this strategy, your starting lineup might look
like Tom Brady, Steven Jackson, Tim Hightower, Hakeem Nicks, Jeremy
Maclin, Santana Moss, Greg Olsen, a damned kicker, and the Niners.
Good luck, and let me know
how your draft turns out.