Fantasy Football Draft Advice: Auctions

-- By Russ Bliss

What are Auctions?

A very popular alternative to the standard serpentine style draft for many leagues is to go to an Auction. With an Auction, instead of everyone picking a player in a certain spot, each team’s owner (or ownership group) is given a certain amount of fantasy dollars to spend to fill out their team’s roster. Each team in turn throws out the name of a player with a bid attached to it. All owners then get to bid on that player until there is only one bid remaining. The team with the highest bid gets that player, and then a new name is thrown out for bidding. This continues until all teams have fulfilled their roster requirements.

Briefly, to set up an Auction, you should have a person who is not involved in the bidding process keeping track of every player acquired by every team and what was paid for those players. This will allow there to be an instant policing process which prevents a team from accidentally going over the amount of money they are allotted to spend to fill their mandatory roster requirement.

Most leagues set up a minimum bid of $1 on a player, so each team must keep at least $1 allotted for each remaining roster spot. In other words, if you have 7 roster spots left to fill on your team, and only $20 remaining to bid on players, the maximum you can spend on one player is $14 (as this would leave you with $6 remaining and 6 roster spots to fill).

Auctions and the Draft Analyzer

The Draft Analyzer isn’t set up to give you dollar amount values for players, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to help assess the values you should assign. Since the Draft Analyzer easily allows you to sort by position, this shows you the rankings of all players within it. By using these rankings, you can keep track of what each player is going for in your Auction. I recommend copying the Draft Analyzer position rankings into an Excel file, deleting the round values column (which is set up for a serpentine draft), and inserting a blank column to write down what the winning bid was for each player. Simply print up the position rankings you’ve saved in the Excel file and you’ve got instant ranking sheets to take to your Auction. Because of the great variance in the amount of fictional dollars each Auction league sets up for each of their teams to spend we can’t assign specific dollar amounts to players. Auction values will usually start setting themselves fairly early in an Auction, and you’ll be able to see them on your sheets. Because player bids trend dramatically downward towards the end of an Auction, there is no “correct” formula for assigning values to players. But there are some guidelines you can use to do it yourself, if you so choose, and these are covered in...

Auction Strategies

There are a few different strategies when it comes to Auctions. Some players like to spend a bunch of money on a couple of elite/top level talents and then fill out the rest of their team with guys who won’t cost much. Others like to spend a well rounded amount assembling a team that possibly doesn’t have any elite guys, but is more well-balanced. This is one of the great things about Auctions: not only do you have the ability to get ANY player, but the choice is yours how you build your team, and at what positions you are willing to spend the most money.

A simple guideline I follow in Auctions is to be ready to spend up to about 2/3 (rough estimate and it varies from league to league) of my total fantasy dollars on two or three players. This usually nets me at least one elite player, and one or two near elite players (use of the tier sheets in conjunction with the Draft Analyzer rankings will help you determine who these players are). Of course, just as with serpentine style drafts, Running Backs usually cost the most, and the Stud RB Theory of drafting is very prevalent with Auction players as they can set up their own dollar amounts to spend, thus guaranteeing they get their two guys.

Something that usually occurs in Auctions is that there is a huge drop-off in how much it costs to snag a good player towards the end. When there are only a couple of teams left, or all remaining teams can only spend $1 on a player because they spent it elsewhere, you’ll be amazed at the quality of player you can get at certain positions (usually QB and WR) for cheap.

Figure out the average dollar amount you have to spend per player on your roster. For example, if you have 16 roster spots to fill with $200 fictional fantasy bucks, the average cost per player is $12-$13. If you figure that you’re planning to spend the minimum (let’s assume $1) on a kicker, a defense, and four other players, that leave’s you with $194 to grab 10 players. That’s always a good place to start for assigning values.

Don’t Panic Over the Mediocre

One of the most common mistakes made by novice Auction participants is that they’ll see a mediocre player they had targeted to get for only a couple of fantasy bucks getting bid up higher than they wanted to spend. If you really wanted Brian Hartline for $5, and someone has bid him up $10, let him go. It’s likely that you’ll still be able to get a WR of similar fantasy stature (Anquan Boldin, T.Y. Hilton, or Mike Williams, etc.) for that $5 or less.

Start Bidding Wars or Get Value

A wise strategy in the first few rounds is that when it’s your turn to throw out the name of a player and bid on him, toss out a name you wouldn’t mind having for a cheap price, but aren’t willing to overpay for. If you think Alfred Morris isn’t going to be nearly as good in 2013 as he was in 2012, but would take him if he were ridiculously cheap, throw out his name with a very low ball bid and see if anyone bids him up. They either will, and they end up starting a bidding war over a guy a bidding war shouldn’t happen over in your opinion, or they won’t, and you get a decent player for much less than he should go for. Making other owners spend more than they should, or spend money on guys you don’t want only increases the chances of you getting the guys you do want.

If you think you can read people and are willing to gamble, you can also bid up a player you really don’t want just to make someone else pay extra for him. Let’s say you know there’s an owner who covets Cam Newton. The bidding war takes place and you know he’ll spend a little more on him then he should. Take part in the bidding war to make that guy spend the extra dollars (and further deplete the amount of $$$ he has left to bid on other players). Just know you run the risk of this backfiring on you and you could end up spending money on a player you didn’t expect to, so know when to stop and let the other guy have the player.

Auctions are a lot of fun and just like with serpentine style drafts; there is no one correct way to approach them. And rest assured if this is your first year taking part in Auction, you’re likely to make a few mistakes. But you’ll be much better next year as you’ll know exactly how it works.

Russ Bliss — fantasy football expert and radio host of "The Red Zone with Russ Bliss" on KDUS-AM — went head-to-head with the Line-Up Analyzer last year, and still wishes he had worn a helmet. Russ was so impressed with our predictive analysis engine, he joined the team at Read more of Russ' article on our Word to the Winners homepage.

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