In my never-ending quest to save Princess Zelda and keep peace in Hyrule, I have attempted to conquer the demon that is the fantasy football auction draft. And let me tell you, this is one beast that is quite elusive. With the ability to change dynamically with a click of the “bid” button, the auction draft can overwhelm even the most prepared fantasy hero. The only way to have a chance at victory is to equip thyself with as many tools as you can, and if all else fails, reach into your bomb bag, light, throw and run.
First let me say that fantasy auction drafts are awesome. What I like most about them is the fact that you have the opportunity to get any player. In a snake draft, your only options are those players that are not already off the board. In an auction you can get two or possibly more players that would have gone in the first round of a snake. So cut the head off the snake, grab your wallet and get ready to spend some rupees.
So what is the best way to prepare for an auction draft? I’m not sure what the answer to that question is, but I would like to share with you how I approach an auction. My strategy is the result of tireless number crunching, endless research, trial and error, and a love for the Triforce.
The first step is to set an estimated budget. You need to have some idea how much you are willing to spend on each position. Nearly all auctions I have participated in have a budget of $200 and you generally need to fill 9 starting positions (QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, TE, Flex, K, DST) and 7 bench spots.
So how much do I budget? Here is what I start with: QB=$10, RB1=$50, RB2=$30, WR1=$30, WR2=$25, Flex=$30, TE=$10, K=$1, DST=$1, Bench=$13 (7 players)
Please note that these are not hard limits, they are just approximate guidelines to help me navigate my course. And as I bid on and win players, I immediately update the current remaining budget accordingly.
For example, if I am bidding on Matt Forte (a player I really want) and the current bid is at $53, I will not say “well that’s over my $50 RB1 budget so I am out”. Instead I will keep fighting, but within reason. You have to be flexible enough to realize that, at a certain price point, even the guy you really wanted, is no longer worth it. I will talk more about identifying this later. But let’s say I end up winning Forte for $56. The first thing I do is high five myself for getting the RB1 I really wanted, and then I rebalance my budget sheet to compensate for the extra $6 I just relinquished. Early in an auction I will usually recoup the majority of this money from the other roster spot for the same position in the budget. So in this case I would likely take $5 from my RB2 spot and then a $1 from Flex.
After rebalancing my budget now looks like this:
RB1=Matt Forte ($56)
RB2=$25 (-5 from Forte)
Flex=$29 (-1 from Forte)
I am going to let you in on a little secret of mine. If you save up and get the blue ring early, the game will be even easier. That’s true, but not where I was going.
In a 12-team league it’s not worth the extra money you need to spend to get one of the top tier Quarterbacks or Tight Ends. In an 8-team league however, I think I’d go for Gronk provided he can be obtained for approximately fair market value. Aaron Rodgers is currently going for about $40 in ESPN auctions. Based on early projections, Rodgers is looking at 340 points this season. The same projections say Matt Ryan will get 305 points. Guess how much Ryan is going for? Six dollars! And as a matter of fact, I got him for $5 in a mock auction earlier today. Is it worth it to spend about $35 more to get Rodgers and the additional 35 points? That’s $1 per point. I say “heck no” and will touch on more of my PPD (points per dollar) strategy a little later.
So with that said, instead of taking that extra $6 we spent on Forte from RB2 and Flex, I will likely take $3 from QB and $3 from TE.
QB=$7 (-3 from Forte)
RB1=Matt Forte ($56) (Budget was $50, lost $6)
TE=$7 (-3 from Forte)
Let’s say Ryan ends up costing you $8. No big deal. Just as I did with my RB1 budget, you can do with your QB budget. If you go a dollar over, you just rebalance. One of the keys to remaining calm while dollars are being thrown around like insults at a roast is to make sure you always rebalance your budget. And drink some beer.
Typically with both my QB and TE budgets, I will not go over my set (or rebalanced) value. Maybe $1 or 2, but that’s about it. Why not? Well let’s reuse the Rodgers-Ryan points per dollar example. Matt Ryan is going for $6 for 305 points. Climbing down the ladder a bit (maybe), Matthew Stafford is going for $3 for 280 points. So for $5 less you are only sacrificing 25 points! And from Rodgers to Stafford, you are saving $37 while giving up 60 points. I’ll take Stafford and save some money for other studs.
Rebalance if I got Stafford for $3 instead of Ryan for $8:
QB=Matthew Stafford ($3) (Budget was 7, saved $4)
RB1=Matt Forte ($56)
WR1=$34 (+4) (Notice I added the $4 here instead of all back to TE since I’m targeting a cheap TE)
TE=$7 (+1 just putting this back)
So spend $6 extra on Forte and rebalance your QB and TE budgets to $7. If you are interested in and get Ryan, great. But if you realize the value in Stafford or a few other cheap QBs such as Cam Newton ($6), Tony Romo ($5) or Philip Rivers ($2) whom can be gotten at the end of your auction, you will have a few extra dollars to use on some other more valuable players/positions. I also prefer to wait until the latter portion of the auction to go after my QB. At this point all of the big name QBs will be gone as will a lot of the 2nd tier guys (Wilson, Brees). This will also mean that most of your opponents will already have a QB and won’t want to spend their spare dollars bidding you up on one of your cheap QB targets.
Nominations are key! I always nominate the player with the highest estimated price tag that I do not want that is still on the board. In other words, I nominate expensive players I have no intention of winning. I will stay in the bidding for a few dollars in the beginning, but the whole purpose of this maneuver is to deplete your opponents’ bankrolls and to fill their rosters. The less money they have to spend, the less likely they are to bid you up on the players you actually want. And if they already have 2 or 3 RBs, again the less likely they are to bid you up on the RB you targeting.
As the draft goes on and high priced players are gone and rosters are mostly filled up, nominate players that you wouldn’t mind getting for $1. This won’t happen until much later in the auction. This would also be a good time to nominate a kicker and DST and lock up those positions. If someone bids $2, laugh, take a gulp of your beer, let them have the selection and move on. While it can be argued that the top 1 or 2 DST are worth $2, the sad thing is that they will go for more than that. Save your extra dollars. You will thank yourself in the last 20 minutes of the auction.
What if someone nominates a player that you want. Relax, take another gulp of your beer, unsheathe your sword and go get him. Of course keeping your budget in perspective. As long as you can get that player for approximately what you have budgeted for that position, there is no reason he shouldn’t end up on your roster. However, if the bidding gets out of hand, don’t be foolish. Let someone else overpay and save your money for the next player on your list.
That brings me to my next point. Do not be married to a player. Deciding you are going to get a specific player at any cost is the main ingredient for disaster. I really don’t like to go more than $10 over budget. Because if I do, it will have rippling consequences to the rest of my position budgets after rebalancing.
So it’s essential to have backup plans. If I don’t get player A, I would like to get player B. If not B, then C and maybe even D.
I just want mention, in case it wasn’t obvious, that if you win a player for less than you budgeted, you still need to rebalance. So if I won Matt Forte for $47 dollars when I had budgeted $50, I now have $3 extra to allocate to another position. Don’t forget about that!
But for the sake of this adventure, let say we won Forte for $56 and Stafford for $3 (although this wouldn’t likely happen till much later in the auction).
How do I know whom I should draft and whom I want no part of? Seek the advice of the wise. Rely on reliable content. In the sea of endless fantasy material that is the interweb, it is easy to get lost in all of the useless banter by wannabe experts. Hopefully by now you have carefully narrowed down your list of trusted sources., and if you are reading this diatribe, you are on the right track by choosing Razzball.
Math is your friend. The numbers don’t lie. They might be wrong, but they don’t lie. What does this mean?
At some point you need to accept some “expert’s” projections, an average of multiple sources or perhaps some hybrid of your own. For today’s quest I am using the average of several early projection sources, but over the next few weeks I will be generating my own which I will share with you all. Once you have your finalized projections (this is best done using Excel), add a column that will use those projections and calculate each player’s projected fantasy points according to your league’s scoring system.
This post refers to a 1 point PPR league.
It is now time for me to introduce the “Points Per Dollar” stat I mentioned earlier. This is by no means the end all-be all stat, but it is something I have relied upon over the years and I believe it can help us separate the players we want from those we do not at auction time. It’s like using the candle to light up a dark room in a labyrinth. It will help us see what is going on, but it won’t kill the Octoroks swarming about. And yes, I realize that there aren’t any Octoroks in any of the labyrinths. I guess I should have said Wizzrobes.
Add another column which will contain the value of dividing the players projected fantasy points by their estimated average cost. This will give us the number of points that player will give you for each dollar you spend on them if you purchase them at their estimated average value. This is their PPD (Points Per Dollar). As far as obtaining each players’ average auction cost, that can be retrieved from websites that host mock auctions. Generally they also provide a page detailing the results of all of the mock auctions. Once there have been more mocks and the data sample size is more significant, I will provide you with these values. It is important not to use projected or cheatsheet auction values as these are just guesses/guidelines. Using a player’s average auction value across thousands of auctions gives you a legitimate idea of how much that player is actually going to cost.
Let me be clear, this number cannot be used to directly compare any two players. In addition, sorting this column in decreasing order certainly will not provide you with an ordered list of the most valuable players. Try it and you will see for yourself. The reason for this is that there are many players with average values of only a few dollars. Dividing by such a small number, as compared to the $46 price tag of Matt Forte is obviously going to result in a higher number, but we all know that Forte (6.25 PPD) is much more valuable than Joseph Randle (15.83 PPD).
So then how the heck is this going to help me? Allow me to explain. What this gives us is a map, and perhaps compass, that we can use to compare players that are projected to produce approximately the same number of fantasy points.
Here are some examples:
Why in the world would anyone ever take Miller over the Duke of Ellington? Tastes great, bullshit. Less filling, damn straight!
I’m taking the the Oakland side of the Bay Bridge here and saving myself 9 dollars.
Why not save the $7 and take Forte?
I could go on with additional examples, but I think you get the point. I will have an entire post dedicated to identifying key comparisons in the coming weeks. If you sort by projected points you can identify players you can, and should, compare. This will help you spend your valuable auction dollars wisely.
Just to be clear, the average costs are just estimates. Players will likely go for a little more, or even a little less, than these values. Obviously the less a player goes for the better his PPD, but it is impossible to know exactly how much a player will actually be sold for until he is sold. It is still a little early for consuming mock auction results, but soon these values will be the result of thousands of completed auctions. At that point there will be enough data for me to be comfortable trusting them as the current market value of each player.
This will also allow you to pencil in some players that will best fit into your budget and help you know who to target. But remember its fantasy points that you want, not expensive, big name players. You will take big name players providing they are projected to deliver the points and the right price.
Our budget is set for $30 for our RB2. Looking at our trusty Excel sheet the following players jump out:
Jeremy Hill, $34, 221 projected points (6.50 PPD)
Mark Ingram, $28, 199 projected points (7.11 PPD)
Alfred Morris, $27, 187 projected points (7.14 PPD)
Lamar Miller, $24, 208 projected points (8.70 PPD)
Justin Forsett, $24, 230 projected points (9.58 PPD)
From what I see here, it’s got to be Forsett. He costs the least and is projected to score the most points. But let’s say you’re not a Forsett fan and want nothing to do with him. Then the numbers say your pick is Lamar Miller. It’s just not worth the extra $10 for the minimal increase expected from Jeremy Hill.
But now let’s look back at our map (Excel sheet) and see if there are any better options than Miller. Sort by fantasy points (FPTS) and see who’s around Miller at 208 points. Uh oh, I see Andre Ellington at 204 points for only $12. That’s $12 cheaper for the same estimated production. Finding it difficult to take Ellington over Miller? The numbers say pound a beer, take Ellington, save the $12 and rebalance.
Let’s take Ellington for $12 and rebalance for sh!ts and giggles:
QB=Matthew Stafford ($3)
RB1=Matt Forte ($56)
RB2=Andre Ellington ($12) (Budget was $30, saved $18)
WR1=$44 (+10 from taking Ellington)
WR2=$33 (+8 from taking Ellington)
We are now in line to pickup two very good WRs and a $30 flex. Without looking at our map and comparing PPD, here are some WR combinations that $77 can get us.
Antonio Brown ($50) and Emmanuel Sanders ($27)
Demaryius Thomas ($44) and A.J. Green ($36) (a few dollars over which we can take from Flex)
Julio Jones ($39) and Jordy Nelson ($38)
Dez Bryant ($44) and Randall Cobb ($32) (a few dollars under which we can give to Flex)
Here’s how you’d be looking at this point if you took Demaryius and Green and they cost $44 and $36 respectively:
That leaves us with $27 for our flex position. Here are some guys valued at $27 or less:
Mike Evans ($27), Alfred Morris ($26), Emmanuel Sanders ($26), Kelvin Benjamin ($24) and Melvin Gordon ($22). There are a lot of players you can get in this price range. And every dollar less than $27 you spend increases your TE or bench budget where you can start picking off crucial talent.
If you take Emmanuel Sanders for $26 that gives you an extra dollar for your TE. And it also means that just about every time Peyton Manning throws the ball, it’s headed to one of your pass catchers.
With Greg Olsen currently going for $8, let’s grab him. Here’s how our balance sheet currently looks:
You now have $13 to get 7 bench players. This is where the map will come in great. Use it to find value. But don’t nominate any of the players you have identified until near the end of the auction. At this point other owners might have the dollars to bid a few extra on these guys killing their PPD and maybe putting them out of your reach. Continue to nominate players that you don’t want, but would take, for $1 and let the bankrolls come down.
Keep an eye on your opponents’ maximum bids. Once they are below yours, you are free to nominate your sleepers. Attack!
I highly suggest you participate in a few mock auctions to test the waters before jumping in. Just make sure you are in a mock auction that is full, and all members are actually participating. If you are in a 12-man mock auction, but only 10 are actually drafting, you will not be playing on a level playing field. Just drop out and try another.
Here are a few other little bits of usefulness I have picked up along the way.
If you know your buddy in the league is a big fan of the Packers and you have little interest in drafting any Packers, nominate Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Eddie Lacy. Take advantage of their emotions and let them spend their money on players you don’t want.
I almost never nominate a player that I actually want. But I bet the guys in my league don’t realize that. If you can, pay attention to what others are doing. See if you spot anyone else that is never winning the auction for any of the players they nominate.
If you can, save a few dollars for the end of the auction. But not too many. This is where you can swoop in and pick up great value. Just make sure you don’t end up with too much money at the end. You will kick yourself if you end the auction with money to spare and you missed out on someone earlier by less than that amount and ended up settling for a lesser player.
The auction draft slows down for no one. Things can change in a moments notice and if you are not prepared, you will be consumed. And remember, it’s dangerous to go alone. Take this…
Wisdom, Power, and Courage,