Fantasy Basics: Auction Strategy Guide

In this strategy guide, Fantasy Football Expert Rusty Reeves breaks down the best approaches for auction drafts. The old snake draft format should be growing stale for many owners. Auctions can be an excellent change-of-pace due its entirely different strategies and subsequent mental gymnastics.

While most of our content and material is geared toward snake drafts, we don't want to neglect the guys and gals who like to enter the realm of the auction draft. Auctions are, in many ways, more exciting and more fun than your standard fantasy draft. The primary reason for this is that you are not at the mercy of your randomly generated, drawn-out-of-a-hat draft position. In an auction, you can have any player you want as long as you're willing to pay the price.

If you want one of the top three running backs, you can have one. Just be ready to pony up the coin. There's also an element of unpredictability. In a standard snake draft, we can pretty much predict who will be the first 12 players selected with perhaps one or two misses. An auction draft could very well begin with a run on kickers before any running backs or wide receivers are drafted.

So, what is the best way you can prepare for an auction draft? There is no "Auction Drafts for Dummies" book out there to make it easy. There is not one hard and fast, fool-proof strategy for having a successful auction draft. Simply put, no two auction drafts are the same, and there are several different routes you can take in an auction draft. However, these four rules will help you out no matter what direction you decide to go.

Rule 1: Know Your League Rules and Settings

This holds true for any league, in any format. It is even more critical in auctions. There are horror stories of guys coming into an auction draft, oozing with confidence, ready to rock and roll with their printout of Average Auction Values (AAVs). Then they realize 20 minutes into the draft that their 16-team league is using a $500 per-team budget, but their cheat sheet is based on a 12-team league using $200. You don't need Sir Isaac Newton to tell you that math won't add up. So, know how many teams and dollars you're working with.

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Secondly, know if your league does keepers and, if so, how they work. Some auction leagues determine a keeper's price based on how much he went for in the previous season's draft. Some leagues have a set price for keepers according to position ($35 for RBs, $25 for WRs, etc.). Regardless of what your keeper rules are, know them. If a player is projected as a $25-$30 player, but someone in your league is keeping him for $1 because he came out of nowhere last year (think Zac Stacy, Alshon Jeffery or Andre Ellington), that is potentially $70 that are now freed up to be spent elsewhere in the draft. More often than not, this will increase the price of the top players available.

The bottom line is this: Know how many teams are in your league, what your budget is, and how much the keepers are going to cost all teams. Keep in mind how the price of those keepers will affect the value of other players.

Rule 2: Plan Your Draft Budget

In an auction format, this will be the most time-consuming and critical piece for having a successful draft. Write down a budget, capturing each position and what you're willing to spend on that position. If you have a specific player you want, include that player as part of your budget. Go to a site you trust, such as Scout Fantasy, and use our AAVs as a baseline, understanding that these values can and will vary a bit. But it's a starting point for setting your budget.

For example, if you are in a 12-team PPR league with a $200 per-team budget, your roster's financial breakdown may look something like this:
Starters
QB-$12
RB1-$41
RB2-$29
WR1 (A.J. Green)-$40
WR2-$25
WR3-$12
TE (Jason Witten or Jordan Reed)-$9
FLEX-$10
K-$1
DEF-$1
---------
Bench
QB-$5
RB-$4
RB-$2
WR-$3
WR-$3
WR-$2
TE-$1

Knowing your league's format and rules, and taking a well-prepared budget into your draft will set you up for success. Now, all you need to do is execute the plan.

Rule 3: Monitor Prices in Your Draft and Adjust Accordingly

As stated previously, no two auction drafts are ever the same. While having a budget based on the AAVs at your disposal is critical, remember that these are just a baseline. Keeper prices and (more likely) crazy drafters will alter these values. You have to be ready to adjust.

If the top five wide receivers come up early and all go for less than $35 when you're expecting them to all go for more than $38, you can bet your money that the top-tier RBs will go for more than you expect. This is when you need to make an on-the-fly decision: "I just got my A.J. Green for $31. Should I up my budgeted value for my WR2 and get Brandon Marshall instead of Keenan Allen as I expected? Or should I take the money I saved on Green and throw it toward my RB1?" (For the record, these decisions are the ones that make this author love auction drafts so much)

Just be ready. Such a scenario will happen, and being flexible while the guy next to you is trying to figure out what's going on will land you some values. Also, be flexible with your budget to get the player you want if you know you can get by with a few less dollars spent on another position.

One of the worst yet most entertaining aspects of an auction draft is when you get two owners who are hell-bent on getting a specific player at a specific position, like Matt Forte as an RB1. While we have Forte's AAV at $38, he could very well go for $50-$55 if such a bidding war ensues. Once that happens, the value of the next best running back is likely to get inflated as well.

If you've already drafted your RB1 or don't have any interest in the next best guy, it's smart to nominate that player on the heels of a high-dollar bidding war. Many times, you can get drafters to overspend when they use the approach of, "Well, so-and-so just went for $55. Getting this player for $49 is a bargain."

But in actuality, it's not.

Don't get so affixed on your planned budget that you miss out on a bargain or overlook a trend that is taking place in front of your eyes. Having a list of all players and their AAVs, then writing down how much each player actually went for will help you keep tabs on this as your draft progresses.

Rule 4: Don't Overspend on Kickers or Defenses

This one is so basic. But every year, we see owners break this rule. It is beyond comprehension why some fantasy players don't have the discipline to adhere to it. Yes, the Seattle Seahawks' defense was awesome last year. Yes, you'd love to have them this year. However, the highest-scoring fantasy defense last season was the Kansas City Chiefs, who were either undrafted or went for $1 in most auctions. Nobody saw it coming.

The top defenses – Seattle, St. Louis, San Francisco, Carolina – are all going to go for $4-$10 this year. The best ones will average double-digit fantasy points per game throughout the season. In fact, four defenses averaged at least 12 fppg in standard scoring last year. But there were 16 teams that averaged between 8.5 fppg and 11.5 fppg. Settle for a couple of those defenses late in your draft for a combined total of $2 or $3.

It's the same thing with kickers. Someone will spend $4 or $5 on Matt Prater. Don't get sucked into that. There were five kickers who averaged more than 10 fppg last year. There were 15 between 7.8 and 9.8 fppg. Take someone such as Shayne Graham for $1, and be content with him kicking in a dome for the Saints all year.

Simply put, kickers and defenses are just so difficult to predict, and the gap between the elite ones and the merely good ones is rather insignificant. Just plan on spending $1 or $2 to get yours. The extra $5-$8 saved could come in handy when you're going after your bench WRs or RBs.

Summary

Know your league. Make a plan. Be flexible. Don't spend too much on your kicker or defense.

Auctions are largely unpredictable. But if you have a solid strategy in place and can execute it with a degree of flexibility, you will end up with a team that can lead you to fantasy glory.

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