SOFA Auction League Recap
Auction drafting has quickly become my favorite way to build a fantasy
football team. While the general idea of this format is to allow
every owner an equal opportunity to “buy” the players
they want, it combines the ability to value a player’s potential
contribution with managing a budget, all the while testing a drafter’s
patience in any number of ways.
While four years of experience in auction drafting may not qualify
as the leading expert in the field, I have enjoyed the good fortune
of making the playoffs in the SOFA
Auction League in each of my first three seasons, with championship
game appearances in each of the last two.
With that in mind, I wanted to write an article this season about
how I approached Year 4 and take a look back at the most recent
league draft completed on August 22, a day before the start of
the “dress rehearsal” week of the preseason, so keep
that date in mind as my opinions on several players changed over
the last week while other players such as kickers have been released
or put on IR. Below, you will find the values I used to prioritize
the players and the rationale I used in selecting my team.
Before I start, I do need to note that I battled a number of
technology-related hiccups on draft night. (If you’d like
to know what they were, send me an e-mail or tweet. It got a bit
comical after a while.) Either way, I came out of the draft with
a much different team than I usually do. Keep reading and decide
for yourself how it turned out.
Thanks in large part to all the hours I put into constructing
my PMAs and Big Boards, I entered this draft willing to do whatever
it took to get one of the four clear RB1s on my list while also
grabbing a top-six quarterback since I feel the value at those
positions take a sizable dip this season after Chris Johnson and
Matt Ryan, respectively. As is my usual strategy, I was willing
to accept 1-2 top-end WR2s in order to be strong at each of the
other positions since I believe there are roughly 40 receivers
that are capable of being regular fantasy starters in PPR leagues.
Although it is a complete departure from the conventional auction-draft
strategy, I’ve never been a big fan of setting and sticking
to pre-draft positional budgets. Much like a redraft format, value
is only truly recognized during the course of the draft. If half
the owners are willing to spend nearly half of their budget in
order to lock up top-flight running backs and you are not (but
you entered the draft placing a high priority on the position),
you are forced to reassess your budget in the middle of the draft
or face the possibility of ending up with a deep team with few
superstars. While that is not a bad strategy, superstars win in
fantasy and complementary players can generally be found on the
waiver wire throughout the year.
Instead, I identified about 40 players in various tiers that
I felt were either good bets to match or exceed the numbers I
have forecasted for them and tried to stay within that list as
much as possible. I only departed from that list when players
that I liked – but thought I wouldn’t be able to afford
– were struggling to bring $10-15 less than my valuation.
Below you will find the prices that secured that player’s
services (actual $) and the price I valued them at before the
draft (My $). A dash in the first column reflects the fact that
player was not drafted. The blue highlight represents winning
bids for FF Today. Finally, I will follow each position with a
All values are based on a $200 cap.
Observations: Based on the first two
quarterbacks, my super-secret method for setting values on players
appears flawed, but things started to fall into place more on draft
night after Aaron Rodgers ($43) and Tom Brady (($34) were off the
table. I’m still unclear as to why my fellow owners felt Drew
Brees ($39) was worth $5 more than Brady, who went $9 cheaper than
Rodgers. I’m also not sure Rodgers can improve upon his career
year – although I expect him to maintain roughly the same
pace – but I think Brady will have a great opportunity to
improve upon last season’s totals now that he has a deep threat
he trusts in Brandon Lloyd to complement Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez
and Wes Welker. The bidding war over Eli Manning ($22) was a bit
of a stunner to me, although I was more shocked to see Matt Ryan
($26) bring more than Matthew Stafford ($25). It is something I
would usually attribute to a bidding war as the quality options
were falling off the board, but Ryan was nominated right after Stafford
– the fifth and sixth quarterbacks up for bid.
Observations: The top six running backs were well within reason,
but a number of questionable RB1s or clear RB2s cost much more than
they really should have in this auction. The price tag of Matt Forte
($41) was exorbitant for a player who will leave the field when
his team enters the red zone. The same can be said about Jamaal
Charles ($32), although he has consistently shown the ability to
overcome the lack of short-yardage work with long scoring runs.
The biggest surprises to me, however, were Doug Martin ($31), Trent
Richardson ($28) and Adrian Peterson ($32). Martin has been a personal
favorite of mine for some time and was one of my “strategy”
players I was sure I could land for under $25, but the bidding got
too high too quickly for a player who hadn’t even secured
a starting job yet. Richardson’s bid seemed odd considering
he will likely be a part-time back for anywhere between 2-4 weeks
as he recovers from knee surgery. Peterson was the most surprising,
however, since one would expect a group of fantasy writers to be
more conservative about a player coming off one of the more severe
knee injuries we’ve seen from a running back in a while.
Observations: Although it wasn’t a huge reach, Larry Fitzgerald
($31) was a bit pricey for my tastes considering his quarterback
situation. Much like Wes Welker ($27), I thought Fitzgerald went
for more based on name recognition and not as much because he is
expected to thrive in his current situation. While Reggie Wayne
($17) could easily live up to his cost in this auction, I thought
his price tag was a bit steep considering Austin Collie ($1) went
so cheap and was emerging as Andrew Luck’s favorite receiver.
Certainly, Collie’s concussion history is scary, but he’s
worth $1 even if he is a third receiver in the Colts’ offense
for half a season. Nate Washington ($4) and Kendall Wright ($2)
going for almost half the price combined as Kenny Britt ($10) did
was also struck me as odd since Britt will likely be on a “pitch
count” for the foreseeable future. Two other players who brought
much more than I would have expected were Jerome Simpson ($8), who
will miss the first three games of the season, and Michael Floyd,
who hasn’t exactly lit up the preseason and has the same questionable
quarterbacking Fitzgerald does but will likely start the season
behind Andre Roberts or Early Doucet. One other quick note: I did
not choose to nominate Laurent Robinson, he was nominated for me.
(Remember, technology is our friend.) Among many other players,
I would have preferred Jonathan Dwyer or Alfred Morris, both of
which went undrafted.
Observations: Just like at the running back position, it isn’t
so much that tight end suffers from a dearth of talent so much as
it lacks elite fantasy options. As a result, it probably goes without
saying that Jimmy Graham ($35) is far and away my favorite tight
end this year and somebody I would be willing to pay a great deal
for in order to secure his services. Last season, Rob Gronkowski
($30) averaged just less than two fewer fantasy points than Graham
in this league, which is roughly about the same margin I expect
Graham to hold over Gronkowski this season. After Aaron Hernandez
($17) and Antonio Gates ($18) come off the board, there is roughly
a seven point-per-game difference between Graham and Vernon Davis
($14) in my rankings, which is about the same difference I have
between my WR1 (Calvin Johnson) and WR25 (Torrey Smith). Of the
rest of the TE group, only Fred Davis ($13) drew a significant amount
more than I expected. The Washington Post attributes Davis’
lack of use in the preseason to trying to get Niles Paul involved,
but one has to wonder if Robert Griffin III won’t be tempted
to tuck it and run if favorite target Pierre Garcon is covered.
While a big, athletic tight end is usually a young quarterback’s
best friend, few young quarterbacks have the ability to break off
a 50-yard run at will.
Observation: Nothing out of the ordinary
here. I want a strong-legged kicker in a good offense and don’t
mind paying an extra $1 to get one if necessary.
| Defense / ST
Observations: I’ll make pretty much the same comment I
made regarding kickers: I will pay an extra $1 for a good one
(I nominated the Niners at $2 but was outbid), but I was more
than willing to accept the Texans, who may have the best young
defense in the league along with San Francisco.
When I enter an auction draft, I try to project my “ideal
team” based on my auction values and common sense, all the
while allowing myself the flexibility of scooping up a “value
pick” whenever I see one. Entering this draft, I envisioned
the following team:
RB1: One of the top four: Foster/Rice/McCoy/Johnson
RB2: One of the following: Sproles/Steven Jackson/Fred Jackson/Martin
WR1: Cruz or Julio Jones
WR2: Decker or Maclin
WR3: Young or Washington
TE: Hernandez or Gates
FLEX: Any number of players, although I was probably shooting
for Peyton Hillis.
For the most part, mission accomplished. In retrospect, if I
knew I would land Ben Tate for $5, I would have spent the extra
money on Foster and accepted Ryan as my QB or Hernandez at TE.
My obvious weakness to begin the season is at my RB2 spot, although
I have no problem using Rashad Jennings in that spot until Maurice
Jones-Drew reports (if he does). One of the bigger surprises of
the draft was that MJD’s owner didn’t even bid on
Jennings, an oversight I plan to expose at some point this season.
Given how long this holdout has lasted, I’d be surprised
if Jennings doesn’t have flex value for most of the season.
Although I did want Foster badly at the top of the draft, I reasoned
the funds I would save by accepting Chris Johnson as my RB1 would
allow me to spread the wealth to other positions while also giving
me a player who could realistically challenge the “Big Three”
as fantasy’s top RB. As it turned out, that “savings”
was the money I ended up spending on Jennings, which could end
up being a real bargain if MJD’s holdout continues indefinitely.
For my top two receiver spots, I targeted Decker and Maclin as
players who I thought would go for less than $20 but had WR1 upside
and landed them both. Because this league uses a flex on top of
three starting WRs, it was important to identify two more receivers
capable of delivering WR2 production in a given week. Instead,
I think I was able to grab three: Young, Washington and Collie.
Overall, this year marks the first time in my four years in this
league I did not come away with at least two feature running backs.
The ironic thing is that I’m may not be that far away from
having a stacked deck at the position either. I already discussed
Jennings, but it is not a stretch to say Jacquizz Rodgers outproduces
Michael Turner in PPR this season in a Darren Sproles-lite kind
of role. We already know what Ben Tate can do when given the chance
and I can easily make the case that Evan Royster and Alex Green
will be the lead backs in their offenses. For good measure (and
because I knew the league had two IR spots), I snagged Jahvid
Best as well.
In short, I sacrificed consistency and production from my RB2
spot with my winning bids on Brady and Graham early in the draft.
In exchange, I landed two players better than the ones I initially
targeted that I feel could finish No. 1 at their positions, a
tradeoff I am more than willing to make. Heading into this season,
I will be rolling with my No.2 QB, No. 4 RB, four of my top 32
receivers (including two in my top 12), my No. 1 TE, No. 2 K and
No. 2 defense/special teams unit.
Suggestions, comments, musings about the article
or fantasy football in general? E-mail
me or follow me on Twitter.
Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006, appeared in USA
Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in each of the last
two seasons and served as a weekly fantasy football analyst for
106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). He is also a member
of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.