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Saturday, August 30, 2014

10 Tips For Rookie Fantasy Football Auction Drafters

I remember the first auction fantasy draft I competed in. It was about five years ago and it was for fantasy baseball. The Commissioner wanted to do something different and he heard great things from doing auction drafts. I remember bitching and moaning about switching from a snake draft to an auction. I hated it, and I thought I'd do terribly in the format. But then I drafted.

Immediately I loved doing auction drafts. After doing my first auction draft, I imagine I had the same feeling that meth heads get when they first try Crystal Meth. It was euphoric. Since that draft some five years ago, I can't go back to snake drafts. Once you go auction, you never go... back? I need to work on a new catchy phrase, but the point still stands. I love auction drafts. If for some reason you're unlike me and still don't enjoy or are not good at fantasy football auction drafts, follow my 10 Tips for Rookie Fantasy Football Auction Drafters:

1) Get The Players You Want*

The biggest benefit of auction drafts to snake drafts is that if you want multiple "first round" players, you can have them. In my auction draft this year, a friend of mine drafted both LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles. Another owner drafted Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant. 

However, I caution going too far with this approach. Grabbing too many players you like gets you into trouble, and is probably the biggest reason people hate auction drafts. I have an asterisk associated with this point, because it needs to worked together with the other points below. In my 12 team league, one owner is forced to start the season with Joe Flacco as his quarterback because he didn't have enough money to pay for guys like Cutler or Dalton or Rivers. Another owner is forced to use Kelvin Benjamin as his second wide receiver because he went too aggressive too early in the draft. Like I said, getting the players you want is nice, but having a well rounded and awesome team is ever better. 

2) Find Value

Frankly, this is what you're looking to do in any fantasy draft, not just fantasy football, but value is easier to spot when you're working with actual dollar amounts. In 2011, Arian Foster was injured during the pre-season. He was coming off of a 1,616 yard / 16 TD season and was projected to be a Top Two running back before the injury. However, because of a light, nagging injury, his value depreciated. A Top Tier running back usually goes for 65+ dollars in my league, and Foster went for $45. Foster went on to play like a stud that season, and my friend got a 60+ dollar player for cheap.

I've been playing in this same league for about five years now, so I know what the market for players tend to go for. If you play in my league, don't even bother bringing in a cheat sheet to tell you how much players should go for, because prices vary so drastically. But once you start to get a sense of what the price value for players are, spend accordingly and spend wisely.

If Calvin Johnson goes for $60, don't pay more than $59 for any other wide receiver. Megatron is hands down the best receiver in the game, and should be the #1 wide receiver on your personal board. So when you're paying for other wide receivers, price accordingly. For example, Calvin Johnson went for $62 in my draft today, yet a Bears homers paid $66 for Brandon Marshall. That is not finding value.

Another great way to find value is....

3) Do Your Own Rankings

I always do my own rankings. I don't do Top 200 rankings or anything like that, but I always do positional rankings for any fantasy draft I'm in. You can check out my personal rankings here. Then, compare your own rankings to the site's rankings that you're using and find out what players you have higher than the site's. 

4) Go In With A Plan

For me, I find what works best is going in with price points for specific positions as opposed to drafting specific players. For example, last year I said I wanted to pay at most $47 for a Top Tiered QB. I had Drew Brees on top of my personal rankings and that's the player I was targeting to get. However, Peyton Manning got thrown out before Brees, and nobody outbid me after I submitted by $42 bid. Not only did I save myself $5 which I was able to allocate elsewhere, but needlessly to say Peyton Manning and his 55 TDs worked out very well for me. I find that by paying for tiers and not players, you end up with a more balanced team.

I know this strategy seems contradictory to the First Point, but it's not. If you decide that you want to "pay for two first round talents" then adjust your draft accordingly. You know you're going to have to sacrifice elsewhere. This year, an owner in my league paid for both LeSean McCoy and Jamaal Charles, and McCoy was the most expensive player paid for. So what did he do? He sat back and waited for value. Because people spent so much money early, there were Top 20 positional players going for dirt cheap at the end of the draft. He spent $5 for Torrey Smith, $6 for Julian Edelman, and $13 for T.Y. Hilton. He also lucked out at was able to spend a total of $5 on both Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. In 2011, an owner paid for Jamaal Charles and Adrian Peterson in a PPR league. He also was able to spend $2 on Darren Sproles and Rob Gronkowski (which for you non-fantasy historians out there was the year both of those players had their best season of their career). 

If you're going to go in with a plan, whether or not you decide you decide you want to pay for specific players, make sure you...

5) Always Save Enough Money For Your Starters

First of all, depth is overrated. I don't care how good your bench looks, you're not going to be able to start them. Secondly, this is the big issue that people run into. They spend a lot of money early and can't even afford to pay for a starter. If you can't even afford to spend $2 on a starting player, you're going to get screwed. 

6) Be Prepared To Do Math During The Draft

This point goes along with the prior two. Like I said, I like to pay for tiers not players, and when I find value and get players cheaper than I thought I would have to pay, I'm able to allocate that money elsewhere. This year's draft was completely different for me, as I knew I wanted to pay for a top QB. However, as the top QBs went for way too money than they were worth (tying in Point 2), I had to change my strategy on the fly. When doing so, I then calculated out how much I was able to spend at the other positions. I paid for 2 Top Ten wide outs and a RB I was a fan of. After doing that, I reworked how much I was able to spend on the other positions. I knew I still wanted to spend $1 a piece on my bench (see Point 5), $1 on a kicker, $2 on a defense, and $3 on a TE (still trying to find value), and then I calculated how much I was able to spend at my other key positions. Still trying to find value, I was able to pick players I wanted that also helped my team. Plus, being able to do math helped me avoid not being stuck with Joe Flacco as my quarterback and Kelvin Benjamin as one of my starting receivers. 

7) Go Where The Draft Takes You

Another point that's true for all drafts, yet people still forget about it. I wanted to spend money for a top tiered QB, but when Manning, Rodgers, and Brees went for WAY too much than I though they were worth, I changed my philosophy on the fly. Be prepared to do the same.  If you've done you're own rankings, this shouldn't be an issue.

8) Never Pay For The Last Guy In A Tier

This is an observation that I've noticed over the years that the last guy in a tier, particularly at the top, tend to go for way more money than they're worth because owners get desperate. When I did a PPR league a few years ago, guys like Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, Ray Rice, and Jamaal Charles were the first four RBs drafted. The last guy in the tier was LeSean McCoy. He was ranked 5th among those backs and in theory should have been the 5th most expensive player. He ended up being the most expensive player because teams got into a bidding war, desperate to draft a top RB. If you really want to find value yet have top tier talent, pay for the second to last guy in the tier.

9) Don't Price Enforce

Just because you think a player should be worth more money doesn't need you should bid on that player to drive up his value. Only price enforce if you're willing to actually get that player. Or if you know the owner you're price enforcing is going to get that player no matter what. I've seen price enforcing and I've done it myself, but it's a dangerous game you're playing when you do that. If you're a rookie or not good at auction drafting, just don't price enforce period and only worry about your own team. 

10) The First Player Thrown Out Can Be A Steal

If a stud player is the first player thrown out in the auction to draft, you can normally get that player at a discount. Owners don't quote know how much a player should go for and have no frame of reference leaving him available for a huge bargain. It won't be until later in the draft that everyone realizes what a steal that first player was.

However, there are two caveats to this point. The first is that if the first player thrown out is not a stud then he can go for too much money. A few years ago, OF Giancarlo Stanton was the first player thrown out first in my fantasy baseball draft and it turns out there were a handful of outfielders that were better than Stanton that went for less money. The second caveat is if you're in a league where almost everyone knows what they're doing. My current fantasy football league is full of guys that have been playing together for about five or six years now. We all know how much players should and do go for. So when Calvin Johnson was thrown out first, he went for the appropriately priced $62.


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