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The Art of the Auction

Auction Strategy - 2023

By Doug Orth | 8/24/23 |

Auction drafting is 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 acquire players, it combines the ability to value a player’s potential contribution with managing a budget, all while testing a drafter’s patience. Perhaps most importantly, it also tests the conviction a fantasy owner has in certain players more than a snake draft ever will. Opportunity cost is a huge consideration.

Furthermore, it rewards the prepared and punishes the unprepared. In snake drafts, it is obvious to anyone using a reliable and well-organized draft board when a player is slipping. In auctions, owners need to be keenly aware of the available players and balance that against their remaining funds. Owners must decide what players they like the most and to what lengths they are willing to go to secure their services, which is perhaps the best part of auctions - along with the aforementioned fact that every owner has an equal opportunity to land a player.

It has been said that you get whom your league-mates allow you to get in snake drafts, while you get to decide exactly how you want to build your team in auctions. I think that is a great way to look at the difference between the two formats. It is also why I believe auctions should be the standard way of drafting.

This coming season will mark the 15th year I have represented FF Today in The Huddle Expert Auction League. Over the first 14 seasons, I have made the six-team playoff 13 times and advanced to the championship game on eight occasions, winning it all four times - including again last year. Suffice it to say my approach has proven to be effective.

This year’s draft took place on Aug. 17, so keep that date in mind as you review how I valued each player and the prices they went for in this draft.

To help readers as much as possible, I will provide my updated auction values for 12-team PPR leagues this weekend.

General Auction Considerations/Strategies

Below are some of the rules I live by in auctions and some of the reasons I have enjoyed so much success in this format. There are obviously more than 10 auction rules to observe, but this should be a helpful list for most managers.

1. Use auction values customized to your league's settings.

This may seem like an obvious statement, but you might be surprised how many fantasy managers fail to do it. One size does not fit all. For the veteran manager who wants to create his/her own (which I recommend), this objective can be achieved by studying the values of players in your league over the last year or two - especially for those at the top of each position. When you can be confident in the price ceiling for the top players at each position, it makes valuing every other player below them much easier. I also like to get a sense as to how many players at a particular position go for a double-digit bid (i.e. six quarterbacks went for $10 or more, 15 running backs went for $20 or more, etc.). I set my prices for players at what I believe should be their ceiling, so I do not go over my valuation on a player unless there is a specific objective I am trying to accomplish at that particular moment. Perhaps my only exception to the last rule: I may go up to $2 over on one of "my guys."

2. Find an easy way to identify "my guys."

Time is of the essence in most auctions, so fantasy managers should have a quick and easy way to identify a player they are targeting as they scroll up and down their lists. (I underlined the players below that I specifically targeted on Aug. 17.) One of the best features of an auction is that every fantasy manager has the same opportunity to land each player - at least at the beginning of the draft. If you want a certain player enough, odds are you will probably get him.

3. Identify the players you want as the core of your team.

This is slightly different from the preceding paragraph in that we are talking about selecting a group of two or three foundation pieces as opposed to a group of 30-40 players you would like to have on the team.

4. Setting positional budgets is overrated.

While I can see how it might be helpful for the new auction player, I have never set a pre-draft budget by position for any auction. Much like snake drafting, fantasy owners should do whatever they can to avoid backing themselves into a corner or creating more obstacles for themselves. Some snake drafts shake out in a way that it becomes obvious a receiver-heavy approach makes sense, while others play out in a way where running backs should be the focus. A similar thing can happen in auctions. What if your budget for running back is 40 percent and half of the other owners' budgets are 45-50 percent? Chances are your running back-centric focus will need to become receiver-focused, making it one more thing you need to adjust to on the fly. It makes more sense to figure out before the draft how you want to build around Amon-Ra St. Brown or Patrick Mahomes or whomever you deem as an acceptable low-end RB1 if your initial RB-centric plan does not come to fruition.

5. Nominate with a purpose.

Nominating early in an auction draft should be about either securing your foundation pieces or setting the expectation for a tier. In other words, if I nominate Stefon Diggs and believe he is an elite WR1, it should be because I want him or because I want to know if I can trust my valuations for the rest of that tier. After the first few rounds, I tend to nominate "buzzy" players with an eye on trying to get my fellow league-mates to "chase the cheese" with their virtual wallets. Other times, I will target my nominations with an eye on getting a specific manager to open up his/her checkbook on a player in hopes of eliminating him/her from competition for another player at the same position I want more.

6. It's OK to enforce prices, but do not become THE league's price enforcer.

Just like snake drafts, auction drafting is about collecting value. Do not allow the bidding to stop on Josh Allen at $11 (assuming a $200 cap). Seize him at $12 and figure out how to reconfigure your draft plan after that. With that said, your job is to build the best team possible. Your job is not to enforce prices on every player that is going too cheap.

7. Keep 'em guessing and do not be afraid to force the action. At the same time, do not rush into action too quickly.

Many auction players equate the draft room to playing poker. One of the keys to being a good poker player is never giving your opponents a tell. Nominate players you want and ones you do not (do the latter too much too early or else you might get stuck with a few $1 players you do not want). Do the same with your bidding. If you are consistently changing things up with your nominations and your bidding, the other managers in your league will not be able to get a read on you … which becomes important if you play with the same crew year after year.

Do not hesitate to be the man or woman in the draft room who knows what he or she wants. Force the action. If someone puts out a bid and you consistently counter just as soon as the other manager closes his/her mouth, it can make the other manager a bit timid. Another way to force the action is to jump bid (only on players that you know will fetch a fair amount). When a manager puts out a $15 bid and you quickly bump it up to $25, it can be a bit intimidating to some in the draft room.

While forcing the action can be a good thing, do not be too eager to do it right away. Every auction is different, but it is usually a good idea to let other managers set the market. Did Austin Ekeler go for $40 for some reason? OK, it might end up being a soft running back market. Did Justin Jefferson go for $60? OK, it may not be worth your time to invest in the high-end receiver market.

8. Use your free time (i.e. sitting out an auction on a player you have no desire to roster) to monitor the roster needs and (especially) the budgets of the other managers. Also, develop a sense of when to use "the hammer" when you have it.

The first sentence should be self-explanatory. It really comes into play in the middle part of your draft and definitely toward the end of it. The second sentence is one of the best parts of an auction: a player you desire is available and you have the most money (and/or the highest max bid) remaining. For example, Zay Flowers has somehow escaped nomination through 150 picks and no one else in the room can bid more than $7. As long as you trust yourself not to pursue any other eye candy, feel free to watch other owners continue to pass him by - making him an even better value. If that does not sound like fun (it should), then the moment you realize you have "the hammer" is about the time you should drop it on the rest of the room.

9. Track what your league-mates are doing.

This ties in somewhat with No. 7 and No. 8. A next-level move for veteran auction players is to chart who bids almost exclusively on players he/she nominates. Occasionally, a manager is guilty of doing this. Even if only one or two managers do this in your league's auction, it could remove them from competing against you for another player later in the draft.

10. For the love of all that is good, do not leave money on the table in an auction!

There is a reason this piece of advice is in virtually every auction draft piece. There is absolutely no reason not to spend every dollar you have in an auction. One of the most egregious examples I have witnessed was in a high-stakes auction three years ago where an owner left $17 on the table. Using this draft as an example, $17 would allow you to do any of the following: get Justin Herbert, upgrade from J.K. Dobbins to Ekeler or land Deebo Samuel. DO NOT LEAVE MONEY ON THE TABLE!!!!


My primary focus was leaving this draft with at least one anchor running back and three top-20 receivers, ideally one of them being Justin Jefferson, Ja'Marr Chase, Cooper Kupp or Tyreek Hill. If the price got too high on that foursome, then it would be even more critical that I snag two receivers who I believe are - at worst - low-end WR1s. I was also determined not to spend more than $10 at quarterback. If I was able to get a bargain at quarterbacks, then I should be able to build some decent depth at running back behind two good starters and a rock-solid receiving corps. If I really got lucky, Darren Waller would be available for less than $10.

The Draft

As I did last year, I thought it would be a good idea if readers could access the entire auction on a bid-by-bid basis. For those degenerates who love to see an auction strategy unfold, analyzing a draft this way can help provide some insight into when and why certain decisions were made.

Once again, players whose names are underlined were my targets entering this draft, which is a task I would encourage all auction drafters to perform before their auction drafts. The most important thing to do here is to pick players to target from several different tiers and expected cost valuations.

Below you will find the actual prices that secured a player’s services in the aforementioned Huddle Auction (Hud $) and the price I valued them at (My $). A dash in the second column means a player was not nominated. The green highlight in the price columns represents winning bids for FF Today. I will follow each position group with some of my thoughts.

All values are based on a $200 cap and players are organized by “My $”. All of the players that were nominated are included. I removed several players who are unlikely to go in auctions in 12-team leagues with 18-man rosters or for other common-sense reasons.

Required starters: 1 QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, 1 Flex, 1 K and 1 Defense/Special Teams unit.

My $ Hud $ Name Team Age
20 19 Jalen Hurts PHI 25
18 25 Josh Allen BUF 27
16 12 Lamar Jackson BAL 26
15 21 Patrick Mahomes KC 27
14 15 Justin Herbert LAC 25
13 12 Joe Burrow CIN 26
12 9 Justin Fields CHI 24
10 10 Trevor Lawrence JAC 23
9 3 Deshaun Watson CLE 27
9 3 Geno Smith SEA 32
8 4 Anthony Richardson IND 21
6 4 Kirk Cousins MIN 35
4 1 Russell Wilson DEN 34
4 2 Dak Prescott DAL 30
3 3 Aaron Rodgers NYJ 39
3 2 Daniel Jones NYG 26
2 2 Kyler Murray ARI 26
2 1 Derek Carr NO 32
2 3 Tua Tagovailoa MIA 25
2 2 Jared Goff DET 28
1 1 Brock Purdy SF 23
1 1 Jordan Love GB 24

Observations: Josh Allen ($25) was the first quarterback nominated about five minutes into the draft. Patrick Mahomes ($21) and Jalen Hurts ($19) were the only other ones nominated over the next 45-plus minutes. The point here is that it will often take a while before managers address this position.

Regarding Allen's price point, it is irresponsible for managers to spend more than $20 on the position - specifically on one quarterback. Maybe he will end up becoming the league MVP in 2023, but the recent history of this league suggests that even the elite quarterbacks should top out in the high teens. While I was lucky to land Hurts for $6 last year, I am not sure I can wrap my mind around him being twice as valuable as Justin Fields ($9) this season. Ditto for Allen being worth twice as much as Lamar Jackson ($12) or $10 more than Justin Herbert ($15). Every dollar in an auction is valuable, so thinking about your buys in terms of how much better they are than other players at their position should keep you focused.

Strategy: Especially in leagues that award four points per passing touchdown (as this one does), I want my starting quarterback to be a capable run threat. This means I want a floor of at least 300 rushing yards and a few scores on the ground. There are 10 quarterbacks I would be comfortable starting right now and perhaps as many as six more who could easily join them. In short, it is a deep position. Auction league owners would do well to remember that; there's not much of a reason to spend more than $10 at the position, if only because it will almost certainly wind up costing you a potential starter at another position later in the draft.

For example, would you rather have Allen and a $1 player or Fields and Deebo Samuel ($17)? If it helps, think about a likely in-season trade for Allen. How much more than Fields - with an upgraded supporting cast, no less - will it take? Fields and a decent bench player might do it. It is unlikely that a manager would need to include a potential WR2 with WR1 upside or an elite TE1 option.

Pounce on Herbert or Fields if they go incredibly cheap in the single digits or low teens. Short of that, set your sights on the value that is Geno Smith ($3). Fantasy managers have decided that Smith will somehow support at least two - if not three - top 36 receivers but fail to post QB1 numbers. Especially with the depth of the position, chances are your choice will keep you competitive at worst. I did not intend to grab a second quarterback (Russell Wilson), but I could not resist spending $1 for a player I have ranked inside my top 15 signal-callers.

Total spent at QB: $10

 Running Backs
My $ Hud $ Name Team Age
52 48 Christian McCaffrey SF 27
48 42 Austin Ekeler LAC 28
47 46 Nick Chubb CLE 27
45 37 Bijan Robinson ATL 21
41 38 Tony Pollard DAL 26
41 41 Saquon Barkley NYG 26
39 38 Derrick Henry TEN 29
37 28 Jonathan Taylor IND 24
35 28 Joe Mixon CIN 27
35 31 Aaron Jones GB 28
35 35 Rhamondre Stevenson NE 25
33 24 Dameon Pierce HOU 23
33 34 Jahmyr Gibbs DET 21
32 18 Breece Hall NYJ 22
30 28 Najee Harris PIT 25
26 15 David Montgomery DET 26
26 21 J.K. Dobbins BAL 24
25 18 Kenneth Walker III SEA 22
23 17 Miles Sanders CAR 26
22 25 Travis Etienne Jr. JAC 24
21 17 James Cook BUF 23
21 15 Cam Akers LAR 24
20 14 James Conner ARI 28
20 17 Rachaad White TB 24
19 28 Alexander Mattison MIN 25
18 14 Alvin Kamara NO 28
17 24 Josh Jacobs LV 25
15 12 Antonio Gibson WAS 25
14 17 Javonte Williams DEN 23
14 7 Devon Achane MIA 21
13 10 Brian Robinson Jr. WAS 24
13 7 D'Andre Swift PHI 24
12 12 Isiah Pacheco KC 23
11 3 Samaje Perine DEN 27
11 5 Zach Charbonnet SEA 22
9 7 Tank Bigsby JAC 21
9 4 AJ Dillon GB 25
9 13 Khalil Herbert CHI 25
8 5 Rashaad Penny PHI 27
8 6 Dalvin Cook NYJ  28
8 4 Jeff Wilson MIA 27
7 2 Jerome Ford CLE 23
7 3 Tyjae Spears TEN 22
6 2 Damien Harris BUF 26
6 2 Jaylen Warren PIT 24
5 1 Tyler Allgeier ATL 23
5 2 D'Onta Foreman CHI 27
5 1 Elijah Mitchell SF 25
5 5 Devin Singletary HOU 25
4 13 Jerick McKinnon KC 31
4 3 Jamaal Williams NO 28
4 4 Deuce Vaughn DAL 21
4 1 Raheem Mostert MIA 31
4 4 Zamir White LV 23
4 4 Roschon Johnson CHI 22
3 - Sean Tucker TB 21
3 - Kendre Miller NO 21
3 3 Deneric Prince KC 23
3 1 Joshua Kelley LAC 25
3 - Gus Edwards BAL 28
3 7 Kenneth Gainwell PHI 24
3 1 Ty Chandler MIN 25
2 - Cordarrelle Patterson ATL 32
2 - Raheem Blackshear CAR 25
2 - Jordan Mason SF 24
2 - Chuba Hubbard CAR 24
2 - Evan Hull IND 22
2 - Kyren Williams LAR 22
1 1 Zach Evans LAR 22
1 - Keaontay Ingram ARI 23
1 - Chase Edmonds TB 27
1 - Malik Davis DAL 24
1 1 Ke'Shawn Vaughn TB 26
1 4 Ezekiel Elliott NE 28
1 1 Clyde Edwards-Helaire KC 24

Observations: For one of the few times in the decade-plus I have been in this league, no back attracted a $50 bid. Just seven received a bid of more than $35 and only 10 drew a bid in the 30s. (Last year, 11 backs drew bids of at least $35 and 16 attracted bids of at least $30.) Taken one step further, 65 running backs were drafted and only $922 was spent at the position. In 2022, that number was $1,029. The year before, it was $1,126.

The timing of nominations tends to have a dramatic effect on some of the prices that certain players go for in an auction - something that most veteran players know well. With that said, I cannot defend Khalil Herbert ($13) going for one dollar less than Alvin Kamara or James Conner ($14) or two dollars less than David Montgomery ($15). I also cannot defend Josh Jacobs going for $24 and especially Alexander Mattison going for $28. Mattison going for the same price as Joe Mixon and Jonathan Taylor is pure insanity.

Some of the values I liked more than three hours into the draft were Samaje Perine ($3), Tyjae Spears ($3), Zamir White ($4), Jaylen Warren ($2) and Tyler Allgeier ($1). Three of them have legitimate paths to 100-plus carries even if nothing happens to the backs in front of them on the depth chart. All of them could be weekly starters in fantasy if they get a chance to carry the load for a game or more.

Strategy: Even though running backs will continue to boast the most fantasy upside for the foreseeable future, it simply no longer makes sense to drop at least 40 percent of your auction money on the position. Look no further than how running backs are compensated now and how coaches almost haphazardly assign playing time to the position - especially if the top back fumbles - as to why it does not make sense to spend big. There are a handful of backs seemingly locked into heavy workloads. Try to get the best deal you can on at least one of them and lean on other positions to carry your team. Round out your running back group with a few high-upside handcuffs.

Even though I accounted for a dip in running back values this season, there was still a considerable difference between what I expected them to bring and what they ended up going for in this draft. I hoped to land two low-cost volume plays at running back (hopefully three) and avoid the glut of average receivers that seems to be a hallmark of my teams in this league. (For example, I left last year's draft with A.J. Brown, Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Russell Gage, Robert Woods, Isaiah McKenzie and Julio Jones.)

My typical strategy in this league is to land two surefire starters at the position and acquire high-upside handcuffs with standalone value if/when possible. I expected Montgomery to come cheap (maybe not $15 cheap) and was fully prepared to lean on him as my RB2. Much to my surprise, he will begin the season as my flex behind a pair of backs in Rhamondre Stevenson ($35) and Dameon Pierce ($24) who I believe are low-end RB1s.

While it may be true that Ezekiel Elliott's presence removes some of the luster from Stevenson, I think Zeke only takes on some of the role Damien Harris played last year once it became clear that Stevenson was the preferred option in October. The fact Stevenson will have a professional play-caller in Bill O'Brien this year only helps his cause.

Regarding Pierce, I think he will prove to be one of the most mispriced players in fantasy this year. He was one of the best yards-after-contact backs in the league in a bad offense as a rookie. In 2023, he has a better supporting cast - including a legitimate offensive line. Devin Singletary will probably see about 30 percent of the backfield work, but I would be surprised if it is much more than that. Considering my investment in Pierce, I only need him to be a mid-range RB2.

I already know I will be overweight on Montgomery this year. No one expects him to repeat Jamaal Williams' 17 touchdowns from last year, but he seems like one of the more obvious 250-touch backs available in a great offense that gave its backs 509 touches last season. Jahmyr Gibbs is highly unlikely to handle more than 225 - he never handled more than 195 in college.

As far as my bench is concerned, I want "one-away" backs - decent or good standalone options that usually only need one thing to happen to the starter to pay off in a huge way. I was thrilled to land a pair of high-upside handcuffs in Warren and Elijah Mitchell ($1). The beauty of both players is that each one could and should have some standalone value, but they likely possess RB1 upside if Najee Harris and/or Christian McCaffrey miss time. I went a little bit lighter at running back than I usually do in this draft, but one of the reasons I did so is because I have faith in the five I selected.

Total spent at RB: $77

 Wide Receivers
My $ Hud $ Name Team Age
53 50 Justin Jefferson MIN 24
50 50 Ja'Marr Chase CIN 23
50 40 Cooper Kupp LAR 30
49 44 Tyreek Hill MIA 29
43 38 CeeDee Lamb DAL 24
42 36 Davante Adams LV 30
40 40 Stefon Diggs BUF 29
40 35 Garrett Wilson NYJ 23
39 38 Amon-Ra St. Brown DET 23
38 44 A.J. Brown PHI 26
38 31 Jaylen Waddle MIA 24
35 34 Chris Olave NO 23
35 30 Calvin Ridley JAC 28
32 30 DeVonta Smith PHI 24
32 27 Keenan Allen LAC 31
31 24 Tee Higgins CIN 24
31 20 DK Metcalf SEA 25
30 17 Terry McLaurin WAS 27
29 21 Brandon Aiyuk SF 25
29 12 Tyler Lockett SEA 30
28 22 DJ Moore CHI 26
25 17 Deebo Samuel SF 27
24 25 Amari Cooper CLE 29
24 24 Jerry Jeudy DEN 24
23 7 DeAndre Hopkins TEN 31
22 18 Drake London ATL 22
22 9 Mike Williams LAC 28
21 18 Diontae Johnson PIT 27
21 12 Courtland Sutton DEN 27
21 12 Christian Kirk JAC 26
21 9 Elijah Moore CLE 23
21 5 Gabe Davis BUF 24
20 20 Mike Evans TB 30
20 14 Chris Godwin TB 27
19 18 Christian Watson GB 24
19 4 Treylon Burks TEN 23
17 13 Jaxon Smith-Njigba SEA 21
16 12 Michael Pittman Jr. IND 25
15 10 George Pickens PIT 22
14 10 Jordan Addison MIN 21
12 11 Kadarius Toney KC 24
12 10 Brandin Cooks DAL 29
11 17 Jahan Dotson WAS 23
11 11 Marquise Brown ARI 26
11 9 JuJu Smith-Schuster NE 26
9 15 Zay Flowers BAL 22
9 9 Michael Thomas NO 30
9 1 DeVante Parker NE 30
8 7 Jakobi Meyers LV 26
8 6 Skyy Moore KC 22
7 7 Romeo Doubs GB 23
7 4 Nico Collins HOU 24
7 4 Allen Lazard NYJ 27
6 6 Quentin Johnston LAC 21
5 2 Rashod Bateman BAL 23
4 1 Isaiah Hodgins NYG 24
4 3 Michael Gallup DAL 27
4 1 Marvin Mims DEN 21
4 1 Jonathan Mingo CAR 22
3 5 Odell Beckham Jr. BAL 30
3 3 Darnell Mooney CHI 25
3 3 Adam Thielen CAR 33
3 2 Tyler Boyd CIN 28
3 1 Alec Pierce IND 23
3 1 Parris Campbell NYG 26
2 9 Jameson Williams DET 22
2 4 Van Jefferson LAR 27
2 3 D.J. Chark CAR 26
2 2 Curtis Samuel WAS 27
2 - Hunter Renfrow LV 27
1 4 Zay Jones JAC 28
1 4 K.J. Osborn MIN 26
1 3 Darius Slayton NYG 26
1 3 Jalin Hyatt NYG 21
1 1 Marquez Valdes-Scantling KC 28
1 1 Donovan Peoples-Jones CLE 24
1 1 Tank Dell HOU 23
1 1 Rashid Shaheed NO 24
1 1 Rondale Moore ARI 23
1 1 Allen Robinson II PIT 29
1 1 Wan'Dale Robinson NYG 22
1 1 Justyn Ross KC 23
1 - Robert Woods HOU 31
1 - Puka Nacua LAR 23
1 - Mecole Hardman NYJ 25
1 - John Metchie III HOU 23
1 - Rashee Rice KC 23
1 - Josh Downs IND 22
1 - Jayden Reed GB 23
1 - Michael Wilson ARI 23
1 - Marvin Jones Jr. DET 33
1 - Chase Claypool CHI 25
1 - Trey Palmer TB 27
1 - Richie James KC 27

Observations: One of my favorite things to do with this article in recent years is record the positional spending at running back and receiver across the league. In 2021, the number at receiver is $961. In 2022, it increased to $1,050. This year, it was $1,120. More receivers are getting drafted every year (81 in this draft) and more are coming with high price tags.

In each of the previous two drafts, 11 receivers received bids of at least $30. This year, that number was 14. In 2021, 33 receivers drew a bid of at least $10. That number increased to 41 in 2022 and leveled off at 40 in this draft. Last but not least, 14 receivers attracted a bid between $10-19 in 2021. That number shot up to 20 in 2022 and 18 in 2023.

Despite the money being sunk into the receiver position, it is not hard to spot some of the incredible values that can still be had. I may not be the highest on Drake London or Christian Watson this year, but both are solid buys at $18 apiece. Diontae Johnson ($18) is one season removed from a top-10 finish. Terry McLaurin ($17) is about as sure of a bet for 70 catches and 1,000 yards as any receiver. Deebo Samuel ($17) was another incredible value. Tyler Lockett ($12) continues to be a screaming bargain, and it should come as no surprise if the same ends up being said about Courtland Sutton ($12). Jordan Addison ($10), Mike Williams ($9) and Elijah Moore ($9) should also prove to be well worth the investments their managers made.

The draft room must have collectively fallen asleep on DeAndre Hopkins ($7). I comically could not get my mouse to land on the +1 button in time, but I am sure that excuse was not the reason the other 10 managers missed out on him.

Strategy: With so many people advocating for a receiver-heavy foundation nowadays, it is getting harder to build a team around two top-10 wideouts. Nevertheless, my goal heading into this draft was to do that. The names of the players were less important to me than having at least two stud receivers and building around them. My dream pairing was the least expensive top-four wideout and Garrett Wilson. Little did I expect Kupp ($40) and Wilson ($35) to go for $15 cheaper than I valued them.

The way I approached this draft is the way I recommend others to do this year. Get the two best bargains inside the top 10 receivers (as I feel I did). The savings should allow you to land a top-six tight end (preferably Darren Waller or Dallas Goedert if Mark Andrews goes for too much) and build a strong running back room. Securing a top 6-8 option at quarterback should also be a goal if you can accomplish the aforementioned tasks, but doing so should be considered more of a luxury than a necessity given the relative depth at that position.

It sounds ridiculous to build part of a draft plan around a player who is being considered a WR3 this summer, but the lack of respect Lockett is receiving is getting to a point where it may not be a bad idea. In terms of his auction price in this draft, he was priced as a back-end WR3 as the overall WR32. As you can tell from my valuation of him, I got him $17 cheaper than I should have. That is one more thing I want to mention about auctions. Receiving a discount of that degree opens the door to build a more complete roster. Without the discount I received on Lockett, there is no way I could have landed Jaxon Smith-Njigba ($13) and Dameon Pierce. Every substantial discount you receive in an auction should immediately make you think about how he/she can apply that savings to another position of need.

Considering all the hype he has received this offseason, I was shocked that I landed Smith-Njigba at such a reasonable price. I am hoping for occasional WR3 production, but he also serves as a bit of an insurance policy should Lockett surprisingly decline or miss time due to injury. I was pleased to round out my receiving corps with three $1 wideouts at the level of Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins and Marvin Mims. While each player comes with a low enough floor that they could be on the waiver wire by Week 3, all of them have obvious upside. Campbell's fit in a small-ball Giants' offense could lead to him being a PPR dynamo. Hodgins appeared to be Daniel Jones' favorite receiver at the end of last season and is the only true X receiver New York has. Mims was the first draft pick of the Sean Payton era in Denver, and it would come as no surprise if he ends up playing the Tim Patrick role in the Broncos' offense.

Total spent at WR: $103

 Tight Ends
My $ Hud $ Name Team Age
30 37 Travis Kelce KC 33
24 26 Mark Andrews BAL 27
20 7 Darren Waller NYG 30
16 16 T.J. Hockenson MIN 26
15 5 Evan Engram JAC 28
14 12 Dallas Goedert PHI 28
12 7 David Njoku CLE 27
11 10 George Kittle SF 29
10 11 Kyle Pitts ATL 22
8 - Gerald Everett LAC 29
7 3 Juwan Johnson NO 26
7 3 Tyler Higbee LAR 30
6 1 Jake Ferguson DAL 24
6 4 Dalton Kincaid BUF 23
6 5 Dalton Schultz HOU 27
5 4 Pat Freiermuth PIT 24
2 2 Greg Dulcich DEN 23
2 2 Hunter Henry NE 28
2 3 Chigoziem Okonkwo TEN 23
2 - Tyler Conklin NYJ 28
2 1 Cole Kmet CHI 24
2 2 Luke Musgrave GB 22
2 1 Sam LaPorta DET 22
2 - Jelani Woods IND 24
1 1 Irv Smith Jr. CIN 25
1 - Hayden Hurst CAR 29
1 - Cade Otton TB 24
1 - Mike Gesicki NE 27
1 - Dawson Knox BUF 26
1 - Trey McBride ARI 23
1 - Michael Mayer LV 22
1 - Noah Fant SEA 25
1 1 Taysom Hill NO 33
1 - Isaiah Likely BAL 23

Observations: Travis Kelce ($37) may have been worth $11 more than any other tight end last year, but it sure feels as though managers are paying more for last year's results than what his value will be relative to other tight ends this year. Mark Andrews ($26) was going toe-to-toe with him last season through six weeks before injuries - his own as well as Lamar Jackson's - led to a second-half fade. Many may consider Darren Waller an injury risk, but a healthy year from him would likely give Kelce two challengers to the overall TE1 throne. That in and of itself means Kelce should not be going for $37 in an auction.

This draft followed a similar script to ones in recent years in that the top 5-6 options went for around $10 or more and the rest of them fell in the $5 range. Waller had no business going for just $7, but my ability to secure him was capped at $4 by my Dameon Pierce win about five picks earlier. I do not expect missing out on Waller to haunt me, but the inability to pursue further stung. I was stunned to learn after the draft that 23 tight ends were selected and Gerald Everett was not among them. Readers should not expect that to happen in their drafts.

Strategy: I intended to do whatever it took to land Andrews or Waller. My worst-case scenario was settling for Juwan Johnson ($3). Not much went wrong for me in this draft, but the plan was not to settle for Pat Freiermuth ($4) and Luke Musgrave ($2). Yet, I'm OK with it - especially after finding out my current TE11 slipped through the cracks. (I will be placing a sizeable FAAB bid on Everett just to make sure I am in good shape at the position.)

Freiermuth will be a big part of whatever second-year leap Kenny Pickett makes - regardless of how well rookie Darnell Washington plays - and should finish as a top-10 option. Musgrave is an incredibly fluid rookie that the Packers expect to feature right away. The only reason I have him ranked as low as I do is that he struggled to stay healthy for any length of time in college.

My strategy at tight end this year is simple and the same advice I would offer to managers in snake drafts: invest in Kelce, Andrews, Waller and Goedert or wait on the likes of Juwan Johnson, Jake Ferguson and Dalton Kincaid.

Total spent at TE: $6

My $ Hud $ Player Tm
2 2 Justin Tucker BAL
1 1 Harrison Butker KC
1 1 Dustin Hopkins LAC
1 1 Daniel Carlson LV
1 1 Tyler Bass BUF
1 1 Brett Maher DEN
1 1 Younghoe Koo ATL
1 1 Jake Moody SF
1 1 Jake Elliott PHI
1 1 Brandon McManus JAC
1 1 Cameron Dicker LAC
1 1 Evan McPherson CIN

Observations/strategy: Year after year, I look for the same qualities in a kicker. I want someone with a strong leg in a good offense. Additionally, I often target kickers who play on teams with good or great defenses since coaches are more apt to settle for field goals when they are confident in their defense. Short of that, I look for a kicker on a team that I believe will have a good offense but will bog down in the red zone because it lacks a strong running attack. I have yet to rank kickers, but I am sure Tyler Bass ($1) will end up inside my top five. He has a huge and accurate leg, which means something in any league such as this one where long kicks are rewarded more (i.e. a 55-yard field goal is worth 5.5 points). Being able to count on a steady dose of at least three extra points and 1-2 field goals every week is a nice feeling when it comes to the uncertainty that usually exists with fantasy kickers.

Total spent at K: $1

 Defense / ST
My $ Hud $ Team
3 3 Cowboys
3 3 Eagles
2 2 49ers
1 1 Rams
1 1 Saints
1 1 Ravens
1 2 Bills
1 1 Bengals
1 2 Broncos
1 2 Jaguars
1 1 Dolphins
1 1 Patriots
1 1 Jets

Observations/strategy: Conventional wisdom says no one should spend more than one dollar on defense. I believe that is generally good advice, but I would also much rather spend an extra dollar or two in a draft if it means I can lock up a potentially elite one. (Why continually burn FAAB or waste waiver priority at a position just because it is deemed overly volatile?) Fantasy football is about eliminating as many question marks from your lineup as possible each week, not hoping some middling defense gets lucky in what is perceived to be a soft matchup. You might think your yearlong plan of picking up whatever defense is facing the Cardinals that week is brilliant, but I would be willing to bet at least 3-4 other managers are thinking the same thing.

The Cowboys do not have an overly favorable schedule, but my decision to draft them is largely based on how ridiculously talented they are on defense this year. The addition of Stephon Gilmore gives Dallas a lockdown corner and the addition of first-round pick DL Mazi Smith should shore up what was a leaky run defense. The Cowboys already boast one of the deepest group of pass rushers of any team in the league and have a ball-hawk in Trevon Diggs opposite Gilmore. Add in the return threat of KaVontae Turpin and the Dallas D/ST has a chance to be special in 2023.

Total spent at D/ST: $3


The FFToday team

QB: Justin Fields, Russell Wilson

RB: Rhamondre Stevenson, Dameon Pierce, David Montgomery, Jaylen Warren, Elijah Mitchell

WR: Cooper Kupp, Garrett Wilson, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Marvin Mims

TE: Pat Freiermuth, Luke Musgrave

K: Tyler Bass

D/ST: Cowboys

For the first time in as long as I can remember in this league, the strength of this team is at receiver. In Kupp, Wilson and Lockett, I have three receivers I believe will finish inside the top 20 at their position. They should be able to go toe-to-toe with any group of receivers my team faces week after week. The running back group is how I envisioned this year's team unfolding pre-draft. Stevenson, Pierce and Montgomery are all very good bets to see well over 200 touches. Montgomery is a very good bet for at least 10 TDs, while Stevenson should finish with more than 50 catches. Pierce represents a bit of a middle ground of both backs.

I did not expect to land a quarterback with overall QB1 upside, nor did I expect to get one for less than $10. Fields has already proven his ability to produce fantasy points with little at receiver. Now, he has a legitimate receiving corps and an alpha receiver to boot. Freiermuth is not a bad option by any stretch, but tight end has to be considered the weakest part of this team. If I am fortunate enough to add Gerald Everett in a couple of weeks, I feel good about my chances of managing that position until one of the three (Everett, Freiermuth and Musgrave) separates himself from the other two. The age at receiver is a slight concern, but there also has been no hint of Kupp or Lockett falling off. Assuming they hold up and perform at the level we are accustomed to, this is a rock-solid team that I expect to challenge for yet another title.

Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006 and been featured in USA TODAY's Fantasy Football Preview magazine since 2010. He is also a high-stakes player who often appears as a guest analyst on a number of national sports radio shows, such as Sirius XM's "Fantasy Drive." Doug is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

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