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Pay Up! Auction Draft Strategies for 2018

There’s nothing more exciting in a fantasy football auction when you have one of your top targets up and you currently have the highest bid. You hear the auctioneer yell, “Going once”, as your palms start to sweat with anticipation. “Going twice,” you think you may have just had a heart attack. “Sold!” You suddenly break into your favorite chair dance and tell the rest of your league mates “haha, I would have paid double for that guy!” This is one of the many joys of the fantasy football auction - knowing that you were able to outsmart your other league mates on draft day by getting the guy you wanted.

However, fantasy football auctions are no walk in the park. There are certain things that every owner needs to do in preparation for an auction whether they're an auction veteran or a rookie. Basics like putting players into tiers, setting up an Excel sheet to track other owners spending, and nominating players early that you do not want on your roster should all be commonplace for the auction fantasy player. This article, however, will break down some of the strategies that can be used during an auction to make sure you come out with the team that YOU actually want.

*Note all values quoted are from RotoBaller's composite PPR values.

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Basic Auction Strategies

Stars and Scrubs

Most auction players, novice and veteran; know this tried and true strategy. This consists of taking a few high dollar value players to be the stars of your roster and then selecting the remainder of your roster with a bunch of players that are as close to $1 in value as possible.

A great example of the stars of a team could be (assuming a 12-team league with a $200 auction budget and PPR scoring): David Johnson $70, Odell Beckham Jr. $58, and Keenan Allen $48. Wow, that’s a great set of players to start your team off with, especially in PPR. The only issue with this strategy is that you severely cripple your bank account for the rest of the auction. It’s very hard to take advantage potential bargains that occur during the bidding process as there is the real chance you run out of money without filling up your starting lineup. Chances are you will not have the chance to roster another player within the top 50 or top 75 in ADP, so you better make sure the “studs” you add to your team pan out or you could be in for a long, long season. The rest of your roster will be made up of lower-priced options. Maybe you take a flier on a player like Nyheim Hines ($1) or hope someone like Kerryon Johnson ($5) is the complete back and answer for the Lions’ running game. You will have to hit on at least one or two of those types of values in order to win your league.

For those fantasy owners that are great bargain hunters, this could be a really great strategy. You need to know when there is extreme value on a player to know when to pounce in the middle portions of the draft. The general auction rule about nominating players you don’t want on your roster is thrown out the window as well. At some point, you will need to nominate a player after you’ve loaded up with studs on your roster. It’s a great opportunity to throw out a late-round flier you really like or even a kicker or a defense. Most owners will not want to bid up those types of players in fear they will blow some of the budget necessary to buy their own stud players.

Balanced Roster

Another strategy that is fairly commonplace amongst auction drafters is building a balanced roster. Here you may pay up for one stud over $50, but the rest of our roster is built out of mid-priced players. In ADP terms think about loading up on players in rounds 4-9 for the bulk of your roster. There will be no clear weaknesses on rosters built this way as you have a top 100 or 115 in ADP player filling out your starting lineup and most bench spots.

A great example of this strategy would be winning someone like an Alvin Kamara ($62) and then balancing the rest of the roster with players that will cost between $5 and $15 each. To fill out the rest of this roster you are looking at running backs like Jay Ajayi ($16) at the high end and Isaiah Crowell ($2) or Jamaal Williams ($5) at the low end. At wide receiver, you would be looking for values at the position with upside like Robby Anderson ($9) and Sammy Watkins ($15).

This is a great strategy for owners who don’t mind waiting and potentially missing out on big names in the first portions of the auction. Even though the “bigger” names might be passing this owner by, this strategy is great for owners that can pick out the upcoming breakouts and “mid-round” values that might be flying under the radar.


Advanced Strategies

Sit and Wait

It’s one of the most hopeless feelings in an auction when there’s a player you want and you are down to your last few dollars. That player is the next up for auction and another owner is still sitting on a wad of cash in their auction budget. Instead of being the nail, you can be the hammer late in the draft. In this method, an owner simply sits out of the bidding for the first 30-36 players in order to be the bully on the block later in the auction. You will have the money and roster space to bid up other owners for players they want and also pick off any remaining talent due to your larger budget remaining. Nomination strategy is key in this overall strategy as you will certainly want to nominate perceived high-dollar value players that you do not want to roster early in the draft. This will remove large amounts of the other owners’ respective budgets and put you in the driver seat later in the draft.

Once the first three rounds or so rounds of bidding have come and gone, now you pounce. At this point, you should be able to throw out players that you do want on your roster when it comes time to nominate as you will have the highest budget left to acquire those players. Not only will you be able to roster the players you want going forward, but you also get to become the bully and price enforcer on the other owners. It’s now your job to make sure that no owner gets a “value” for the remainder of the draft. It’s important to utilize your budget and power over the rest of the auction to build your roster how you see fit.

This strategy is great for owners that do well at identifying players poised to break out that are not household names. This can also be another great strategy for owners that like to take chances on rookie running backs that might not be in the most clear-cut situations to start the season. If you want the entire Patriots’ backfield including Sony Michel ($12) and Rex Burkhead ($3) you can do it, even if each is going for more than our suggested amount.

Positional Dominance

This is a strategy that is a bit more farfetched than any of the previous. Admittedly, this is a take on the stars and scrubs approach, but instead of building a lineup of a top running back and wide receiver, you choose one of those two position groups to be head and shoulders above the rest. Spending a large amount of your budget ($140 out of $200) on a group of running backs, could get you the combination of Ezekiel Elliott ($59), Joe Mixon ($33), Kenyan Drake ($20), Sony Michel ($12), Derrick Henry ($8), and C.J. Anderson ($4). That would be considered a pretty dominant group. You then have a weekly edge over your league mates at a position of need for most of the league.

Obviously, the downside with this strategy is that the remaining parts of your roster can be very weak if you are unable to find strong values at the other positions that you actively choose to neglect. Even though you may have potential weaknesses at some positions, you should dominate your opponents weekly at the running back position in the example above or wide receiver position. This positional dominance strategy also provides you the flexibility to trade off assets at the running back position for your position of need if your value picks at wide receiver, tight end, or quarterback do not work out.

These are just some of the strategies that you can take into an auction to be successful. Try them out in a mock or two or in your next live event. Auctions can be daunting the first couple of times you participate, but truth be told, they are the most fun way to draft your fantasy football team.

For more auction strategy questions, feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @TheRealHalupka


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