Fantasy Football Auction

The fantasy football auction is the primary replacement for the fantasy football draft, for those leagues that find drafting to constrictive and unfair. Most fantasy football league draft players onto their team, much like the NFL teams do. This is most likely the serpentine redrafts that dominate the fantasy landscape, though it also includes rookie drafts in dynasty leagues. But auctioning players off is an alternative that sizable minority of leagues use.

In a fantasy football auction, every player is up for bid. This means every team owner has an equal chance at every single player in the NFL, where a fantasy draft means only the person with the #1 pick has a realistic shot at the most coveted player in football: Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson or, in years past, Ladainian Tomlinson. Only the people lucky enough to draw the top few picks have a shot at the tops guys. To offset this advantage, those same teams have to wait until the end of the 2nd round to add another player. This limits roster building, making it conform to a restrictive, yet understandable, framework.

But what if you want to have both Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson on your team?

That's usually impossible in a fantasy football draft. Sure, you have the option of trading a whole package of draft picks to the person with the #2 pick, but you're probably trading your 2nd, 3rd, and 4th picks - and the other owner still is likely to balk. In some leagues, there is not trading of draft picks, so you're stuck with what you have. In either case, you're dependent on at least one other owner to help you (trade).

Fantasy football auctions are different. You can add Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, outbidding everyone else in the league for those players' services. It's true that those players might cost you 90% of your cap space, but all you have to do is have the will to outbid everyone else. Eventually, those other owners stop bidding.

But before we go too much further, let's backtrack a little bit and explain the concept of a fantasy football auction.

What Is a Fantasy Football Auction?

Most league auctions assign a salary cap or auction money pool for owners. For instance, every owner is given $100 in monopoly money to bid on players. One-hundred dollars is conventional, though I've been in drafts that used $200, $250, and even once, the odd figure of $30,000,000. The point is, everyone starts out with the same amount. In most cases, fantasy football auction bids don't actually cost the owners money, though there are leagues where the entry fee is the amount of money bid - with some kind of upper limit or salary cap.

Bidding on NFL Players

Once the fantasy auction starts, you select an owner at random to start the auction. That owner throws out the name of any current NFL player, then starts the bidding, often at $1. Those interested in that player enter their bids verbally, simply by calling out the dollar amount they are willing to spend on the player, usually in full dollar amounts (so you can't say $1.01). The league commissioner 'conducts' the draft, calling out whose turn it is to name a player, and also calling an end to the bid process. (Going once, going twice, sold to H.R. Humpinstuff for $16.) One warning: if your commish doesn't keep the event moving along, an auction can drag on interminably.

After the first player's bidding is finished, you move on around the room in a clockwise fashion, allowing each and every owner in the league name a player. Then you continue the process, around and around the circle, until everyone has a complete roster. If you normally would have a 20-round draft, then each league member throws out 20 names in all. If you would normally have a 16-round draft, then each league member throws out 16 names in all. You usually set a roster limit per team, though I have seen leagues where you let people keep a roster as large as what they have at the end of the draft, thereby encouraging teams to be frugal and get a lot of $1 players.

Fantasy Football Auction Pros

The positives of fantasy football auctioning is that everyone has an equal chance of getting every player. If you like Jason Witten, you don't have to spend a 3rd round pick on the Cowboys tight end (too high), fearing he might not make it back to you at the end of the 4th. You don't have to spend a 1st round pick on Drew Brees; all you have to spend is one dollar more than the next highest bidder.

This gives you the flexibility to collect exactly the type of roster you want, instead of drafting from what's left over after your rival grabbed that sleeper pick you thought was going to fall to the 15th. You have control.

Fantasy Football Auction Cons

The negatives of a fantasy football auction are few, though it can be a gruelling process for certain fantasy league owners. I've been in one or two fantasy auctions where a majority of the league membership said they never wanted to auction again, but these were groups of old-timers that generally are resistant to change of any sort. If you have a league set in its ways and comfortable with the old-fashioned serpentine draft, you might have a hard time convincing them to auction players.

I love a good fantasy football auction. There is a whole lot of strategy to roster building with auctioned players, than it is shoehorning rosters into a draft format. You have to keep track of your salary cap, keep track of your opponents' relative salary cap situations, then plan and bid accordingly. Auction bidding is about resource allocation, and resource management on the fly. This is a much bigger challenge than asking "When's my next pick?"

Fantasy Football Auction Planning

Of course, planning for a fantasy football auction is entirely different than planning for a draft. Instead of a mock draft, you'll end up trying to dream up mock auctions. Instead of deciding which rounds you would draft a player in, you decide on the maximum money amount you would bid on each and every possible draftee. This means your preparation time is likely to be longer and require a little more thought, though you can also just print off an auction value list and use it as a key.

Auction Value

Below is a list of average auction values at the moment, according to a $200 salary cap structure. Those who compare this list will notice how similar the top of the list looks to the top of draft lists, which is natural enough. Interesting to me is the fact that the top runners quickly start to fall in value, so that once you get out of the first 10-15 players, the auction does diverge from the average draft position.

After I make a list of all the auction players which cost an average of $2 or more, I'm going to try to break down our auction value list by position. I think this helps give us an idea of relative values at these positions, and helps spot the bargains at each position.

Combined Auction Values

  • Chris Johnson - $49
  • Adrian Peterson - $49
  • Maurice Jones-Drew - $47
  • Ray Rice - $42
  • Andre Johnson - $41
  • Larry Fitzgerald - $38
  • Calvin Johnson - $35
  • Frank Gore - $33
  • Steven Jackson - $32
  • Aaron Rodgers - $31
  • Brandon Marshall - $31
  • Reggie Wayne - $30
  • Roddy White - $30
  • Drew Brees - $29
  • Miles Austin - $29
  • Desean Jackson - $28
  • Greg Jennings - $28
  • Michael Turner - $28
  • Jonathan Stewart - $28
  • Rashard Mendenhall - $28
  • Peyton Manning - $28
  • DeAngelo Williams - $26
  • Marques Colston - $26
  • Ryan Mathews - $26
  • Randy Moss - $25
  • Michael Crabtree - $25
  • Chris Wells - $24
  • Knowshon Moreno - $24
  • Vincent Jackson - $24
  • Sidney Rice - $24
  • Shonn Greene - $23
  • Jamaal Charles - $22
  • Philip Rivers - $21
  • Anquan Boldin - $20
  • Steve Smith - $20
  • LeSean McCoy - $20
  • Tom Brady - $20
  • Jahvid Best - $19
  • Dez Bryant - $19
  • Steve Smith (NYG) - $19
  • Tony Romo - $19
  • Hakeem Nicks - $19
  • Felix Jones - $18
  • Ryan Grant - $18
  • Matt Schaub - $16
  • Pierre Thomas - $16
  • C.J. Spiller - $16
  • Cedric Benson - $16
  • Antonio Gates - $15
  • Dallas Clark - $15
  • Dwayne Bowe - $15
  • Vernon Davis - $15
  • Percy Harvin - $14
  • Matt Forte - $14
  • Jermichael Finley - $14
  • Mike Sims-Walker - $13
  • Wes Welker - $13
  • Joseph Addai - $13
  • Chad Ochocinco - $13
  • Jeremy Maclin - $12
  • Jay Cutler - $12
  • Jason Witten - $12
  • Donald Brown - $11
  • Kevin Kolb - $11
  • Ben Tate - $10
  • Ronnie Brown - $10
  • Matt Ryan - $10
  • Santonio Holmes - $10
  • Kenny Britt - $9
  • Reggie Bush - $9
  • Brent Celek - $9
  • Joe Flacco - $9
  • Mike Wallace - $8
  • Pierre Garcon - $8
  • Robert Meachem - $7
  • Donovan McNabb - $7
  • Kellen Winslow - $7
  • Demaryius Thomas - $7
  • Marion Barber - $7
  • Ben Roethlisberger - $7
  • Golden Tate - $7
  • Montario Hardesty - $7
  • Darren Sproles - $7
  • Darren McFadden - $6
  • Daniel Owens - $6
  • Matthew Stafford - $6
  • Eli Manning - $6
  • Brandon Jacobs - $6
  • Ahmad Bradshaw - $6
  • Tony Gonzales - $6
  • Jerome Harrison - $6
  • Hines Ward - $6
  • Eddie Royal - $6
  • Marshawn Lynch - $5
  • Sam Bradford - $5
  • Michael Bush - $5
  • Zach Miller - $5
  • Steve Breaston - $5
  • Devin Aromashodu - $5
  • Chris Cooley - $5
  • Steve Slaton - $5
  • Braylon Edwards - $5
  • Arrelious Benn - $5
  • Donald Driver - $5
  • Fred Jackson - $4
  • Santana Moss - $4
  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh - $4
  • Devin Hester - $4
  • Justin Forsett - $4
  • Tim Hightower - $4
  • Lee Evans - $4
  • Carson Palmer - $4
  • Ricky Williams - $4
  • Thomas Jones - $4
  • Devin Thomas - $4
  • Dexter McCluster - $4
  • Jonathan Dwyer - $4
  • Donnie Avery - $3
  • Laurence Maroney - $3
  • Antonio Bryant - $3
  • Dustin Keller - $3
  • Chad Henne - $3
  • Heath Miller - $3
  • Tashard Choice - $3
  • Ladainian Tomlinson - $3
  • Jacoby Ford - $3
  • John Carlson - $3
  • Johnny Knox - $3
  • Carnell Williams - $3
  • Mike Williams - $3
  • James Jones - $3
  • Malcolm Floyd - $3
  • Mark Sanchez - $3
  • Derrick Mason - $3
  • Jimmy Clausen - $3
  • James Starks - $3
  • Greg Olsen - $3
  • Toby Gerhart - $3
  • Austin Collie - $3
  • Brett Favre - $3
  • Damian Williams - $2
  • Jerricho Cotchery - $2
  • Julian Edelman - $2
  • Vince Young - $2
  • Brandon LaFell - $2
  • Kevin Smith - $2
  • Jared Cook - $2
  • Anthony Gonzales - $2
  • Josh Freeman - $2
  • Matt Leinart - $2
  • Clinton Portis - $2
  • Visanthe Shiancoe - $2
  • Matt Moore - $2
  • Early Doucet - $2
  • Chester Taylor - $2
  • Josh Cribbs - $2
  • Willis McGahee - $2
  • Mohamed Massaquoi - $2
  • Jermaine Gresham - $2
  • Jabar Gafney - $2
  • Chaz Schilens - $2
  • Brandon Pettigrew - $2
  • Jimmy Graham - $2
  • Emmanuel Sanders - $2

Auction Value Quarterbacks 2010

  • Aaron Rodgers - $31
  • Drew Brees - $29
  • Peyton Manning - $28
  • Philip Rivers - $21
  • Tom Brady - $20
  • Tony Romo - $19
  • Matt Schaub - $16
  • Jay Cutler - $12
  • Kevin Kolb - $11
  • Matt Ryan - $10
  • Joe Flacco - $9
  • Donovan McNabb - $7
  • Ben Roethlisberger - $7
  • Matthew Stafford - $6
  • Eli Manning - $6
  • Sam Bradford - $5
  • Carson Palmer - $4
  • Chad Henne - $3
  • Mark Sanchez - $3
  • Jimmy Clausen - $3
  • Vince Young - $2
  • Josh Freeman - $2
  • Matt Leinart - $2
  • Matt Moore - $2
  • Dan LeFevour - $2

Auction Values for Running Backs 2010

  • Chris Johnson - $49
  • Adrian Peterson - $49
  • Maurice Jones-Drew - $47
  • Ray Rice - $42
  • Calvin Johnson - $35
  • Frank Gore - $33
  • Steven Jackson - $32
  • Michael Turner - $28
  • Jonathan Stewart - $28
  • Rashard Mendenhall - $28
  • DeAngelo Williams - $26
  • Ryan Mathews - $26
  • Chris Wells - $24
  • Knowshon Moreno - $24
  • Shonn Greene - $23
  • Jamaal Charles - $22
  • LeSean McCoy - $20
  • Jahvid Best - $19
  • Felix Jones - $18
  • Ryan Grant - $18
  • Pierre Thomas - $16
  • C.J. Spiller - $16
  • Cedric Benson - $16
  • Matt Forte - $14
  • Joseph Addai - $13
  • Donald Brown - $11
  • Ben Tate - $10
  • Ronnie Brown - $10
  • Reggie Bush - $9
  • Marion Barber - $7
  • Montario Hardesty - $7
  • Darren Sproles - $7
  • Darren McFadden - $6
  • Brandon Jacobs - $5
  • Ahmad Bradshaw - $6
  • Jerome Harrison - $6
  • Marshawn Lynch - $5
  • Michael Bush - $5
  • Steve Slaton - $5
  • Fred Jackson - $4
  • Justin Forsett - $4
  • Tim Hightower - $4
  • Ricky Williams - $4
  • Thomas Jones - $4
  • Devin Thomas - $4
  • Jonathan Dwyer - $4
  • Laurence Maroney - $3
  • Tashard Choice - $3
  • Ladainian Tomlinson - $3
  • Carnell Williams - $3
  • James Starks - $3
  • Toby Gerhart - $3
  • Kevin Smith - $2
  • Clinton Portis - $2
  • Chester Taylor - $2
  • Willis McGahee - $2

Auction Value Wide Receivers 2010

  • Andre Johnson - $41
  • Larry Fitzgerald - $38
  • Calvin Johnson - $35
  • Brandon Marshall - $31
  • Reggie Wayne - $30
  • Roddy White - $30
  • Miles Austin - $29
  • Desean Jackson - $28
  • Greg Jennings - $28
  • Marques Colston - $26
  • Randy Moss - $25
  • Michael Crabtree - $25
  • Vincent Jackson - $24
  • Sidney Rice - $24
  • Anquan Boldin - $20
  • Steve Smith (Carolina) - $20
  • Dez Bryant - $19
  • Steve Smith (NYG) - $19
  • Hakeem Nicks - $19
  • Dwayne Bowe - $15
  • Percy Harvin - $14
  • Mike Sims-Walker - $13
  • Wes Welker - $13
  • Chad Ochocinco - $13
  • Jeremy Maclin - $12
  • Santonio Holmes - $10
  • Kenny Britt - $9
  • Mike Wallace - $8
  • Pierre Garcon - $8
  • Robert Meachem - $7
  • Demaryius Thomas - $7
  • Golden Tate - $7
  • Hines Ward - $6
  • Eddie Royal - $6
  • Steve Breaston - $5
  • Devin Aromashodu - $5
  • Braylon Edwards - $5
  • Arrelious Benn - $5
  • Donald Driver - $5
  • Fred Jackson - $4
  • Santana Moss - $4
  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh - $4
  • Devin Hester - $4
  • Lee Evans - $4
  • Devin Thomas - $4
  • Dexter McCluster - $4
  • Donnie Avery - $3
  • Antonio Bryant - $3
  • Jacoby Ford - $3
  • Johnny Knox - $3
  • Mike Williams - $3
  • James Jones - $3
  • Malcolm Floyd - $3
  • Derrick Mason - $3
  • Austin Collie - $3
  • Damian Williams - $2
  • Jerricho Cotchery - $2
  • Julian Edelman - $2
  • Brandon LaFell - $2
  • Anthony Gonzales - $2
  • Early Doucet - $2
  • Josh Cribbs - $2
  • Mohamed Massaquoi - $2
  • Jabar Gafney - $2
  • Chaz Schilens - $2
  • Emmanuel Sanders - $2

Auction Value Tight Ends 2010

  • Antonio Gates - $15
  • Dallas Clark - $15
  • Vernon Davis - $15
  • Jermichael Finley - $14
  • Jason Witten - $12
  • Brent Celek - $9
  • Kellen Winslow - $7
  • Daniel Owens - $6
  • Tony Gonzales - $6
  • Zach Miller - $5
  • Chris Cooley - $5
  • Dustin Keller - $3
  • Heath Miller - $3
  • John Carlson - $3
  • Greg Olsen - $3
  • Jared Cook - $2
  • Visanthe Shiancoe - $2
  • Jermaine Gresham - $2
  • Brandon Pettigrew - $2
  • Jimmy Graham - $2

Fantasy Football Players - Auction Values - $1

Everyone not listed above appears to be going for $1 in auction leagues, meaning you can get them for the league minimum. This is an important part of the auction strategy, because you'll end up picking up people to add to the end of your bench, and a few aren't that bad. This is especially important for those who are considering spending all their money on a couple or three players, because you'll end up having quite a few of these, I imagine.

Here's a list of fantasy football players who are going for a dollar in fantasy auctions, according to My Fantasy League.

  • Alex Smith, QB, San Francisco 49ers
  • Fred Davis, TE, Washington Redskins
  • Arian Foster, RB, Houston Texans
  • Charles Scott, RB, Philadelphia Eagles
  • Roy Williams, WR, Dallas Cowboys
  • Tim Tebow, QB, Denver Broncos
  • Mardy Gilyard, WR, St. Louis Rams
  • Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Oakland Raiders
  • Matt Cassell, QB, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Leon Washington, RB, Seattle Seahawks
  • Chris Chambers, WR, Kansas City Chiefs
  • Jacoby Jones, WR, Houston Texans
  • Jacon Campbell, QB, Oakland Raiders
  • Larry Johnson, RB, Washington Redskins
  • Julius Jones, RB, Seattle Seahawks
  • Laurent Robinson, WR, St. Louis Rams
  • Brandon Tate, WR, New England Patriots
  • Josh Morgan, WR, San Francisco 49ers
  • Jeremy Shockey, TE, New Orleans Saints
  • Nate Burleson, WR, Detroit Lions
  • Derrick Ward, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Lance Moore, WR, New Orleans Saints
  • Terrell Owens, WR, Free Agent
  • Louis Murphy, WR, Oakland Raiders
  • Javon Ringer, RB, Tennessee Titans
  • Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans Saints

So if you spent $96 on Chris Johnson and Adrian Peterson, you would probably end up spending a good amount of the rest of your salary cap to fill out the starting lineup, and these players are the best you could stash on your bench. If you think you could patch together a decent enough bench from these players, it's a strategy you might consider. These teams almost always depend on hitting on one or two sleepers, and having their star players stay healthy all year. (That's natural with any fantasy team, but is accented with these auction strategies.)

Remember that it's still early in the summer, and if players like Arian Foster and Jacoby Jones are the Texans starters deep into training camp, their value will increase beyond the $1 level.

Fantasy Football Auction Strategies

There are several different strategies to employ in a fantasy football auction: spending on a couple of the Top 5 RBs, spending on an elite star at the three major positions (QB, RB, WR), allotting a certain cap percentage to each position, waiting until everyone else has bid on a player to get involved and trying to draw your opponents offside.

In a 10-team or 12-team league, you'll usually end up with a couple of guys who blow half their cap in the first 10 auctions. You'll have a couple of teams that refuse to bid (or win a bid) until you've gone around the room a couple of times, hoping to get good bargains later. You'll find most teams try to target specific players, or end up bidding on the middle-tier guys, hoping to get quality, but save money for later. All these strategies can work, but you need a strategy to round out your roster, and you'll need to draft the right players. That's what fantasy football is all about: talent evaluation. Actually, it's more about "success evaluation", because NFL talent doesn't always translate into fantasy football success.

When you compete in a fantasy football auction, you'll also need luck getting the auction to go somewhat like you hoped, as well as luck in the health department, which is no different than a fantasy draft. This is especially true, if you decide to go after the most expensive players. We'll get into a few fantasy auction strategies to help you win, but let's look at an overview of "resource allocation", which is what a fantasy football auction is going to require.

Depth vs Difference Makers - Fantasy Auction Tips

One strategy people use is to stock up on low-level talent by avoiding the highest-priced auction players. As you can tell, player values drop off steeply at a point, and there are a lot of talented players still on the heap at that point. For instance, you decide you aren't going to invest $49 on Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson, and instead decide to collect a bunch of low-priced veterans. When doing so, you have to ask yourself whether you would trade the one elite player for a deeper bench, or more chances at hitting on a couple of studs. Let's imagine you go with the "depth strategy", instead of the fantasy stud strategy, and you can get players for exactly the amount on the list above.

Here's one selection of players you might get instead of Adrian Peterson or Chris Johnson, cherry-picked from the list of auction players.

  • Donovan McNabb - $7
  • Brett Favre - $3
  • Ricky Williams - $3
  • Michael Bush - $5
  • Tim Hightower - $4
  • Tashard Choice - $3
  • Justin Forsett - $4
  • Donald Driver - $5
  • Robert Meachem - $7
  • T.J. Houshmandzadeh - $4
  • Tony Gonzales - $6

That would give you two veteran quarterbacks as viable starters, along with five running backs who may or may not contribute as NFL starters. Also, you could add the low-priced Donald Driver, who was an elite performer through most of the year last year, as well as Robert Meachem from the high-powered Saints offense and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, an injury risk, but still a likely #1 receiver on a team that should throw a lot. Finally, you add Tony Gonzales who, like Donald Driver, still put up elite numbers in 2009.

Would you trade Chris Johnson for all of that? Could you fit all of that on your roster? Would you have a bunch of option, but no way to tell who to start. obviously, you would still have $151 to spend on the rest of your roster, so you should be able to draft a couple of middle-tier backs and a stud wide receiver, with more money take chances on a handful of sleepers and breakout candidates. The team you put together might be solid, or it could lack that star the makes a difference in winning every week.

Below is a more realistic trade-off, assuming you're trying to get a couple of big performers to go with all that depth.

  • Pierre Thomas - $16
  • Hakeem Nicks - $19
  • Donovan McNabb - $7
  • Tony Gonazles - $6

Or you could kick out Thomas/Nicks and get Jamaal Charles ($22) and Mike Sims-Walker ($13) for the same price. In either case, this would cost you $48 and leave you $1 to spare. Okay, so you might have your starting QB and TE, along with a good #2 runner and #2 wide receiver. Neither is anything I would get excited about, but it's workable, once you start adding to what you have hear. The question is: would you trade these four players for Adrian Peterson in-season?

Obviously, the answer to that question has a lot of variables, including your depth at all the positions being traded, but you get the idea. When you choose to bid on Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson, you may be telling yourself that you'll add McNabb, Gonzales, a #2 RB and a #2 WR. If the players you get are ones you think are going to break out in 2010, it might be worth it to you. Conversely, when you draft Chris Johnson, you're telling yourself that you are willing to give up depth and flexibility for that privilege.

That might not always be the case, because you have to look at the full roster, before you know what you're giving up. In fact, since Gonzales and McNabb are so cheap, you might be telling yourself that you're giving up Dallas Clark and Aaron Rodgers, and the Gonzales/McNabb tandem are the players you add around Chris Johnson. The point being, auction "drafts" are about resource allocation, instead of slotting players in draft slots and anticipating your rivals' draft patterns.

Fantasy Auction Strategies - Burn Their Money

Now that you have some idea of player values, let's talk about how to win a fantasy football auction. When it comes your turn to throw out a name, don't throw out the name of a player you want to bid on. Instead, select a player you don't want on your team, but you think is going to start a massive bidding war.

Let's assume you don't want Peyton Manning, for whatever reason. Maybe you think 2010 is the year he finally gets hurt or drops off a fantasy cliff. Maybe you just hate the guy. Whatever the reason, you don't want Peyton Manning on your team, but you know he's going to go for a big price. So you throw his name out there.

When you throw out a name and you know he's one of the top players, go ahead and throw out a price more than $1, but something you wouldn't think twice of paying for the player (even though you hate him). For instance, say "Peyton Manning" and "$10". Then sit aside and watch that number rise from there.

The reason you do this is to make others burn their salary cap figures. Once you whittle down your rivals' bankroll, the market starts to drop on all the other players. This is a cumulative process, because only one person spends on a player at a time. You'll end up bidding on a few guys others throw out on the auction pile, but you hope to see a lot of guys you don't want on your team named early, so a lot of the league's teams have spent significant money, when you start bidding in earnest.

Keep Track of Everyone's Money - Fantasy Auction Tip

Keep a running total of the salary cap for every team in the league, so you can reference it as the day goes by. Your league commissioner and one or two other league members are likely to keep people honest by keeping track themselves, but this is for personal use. As the draft goes, you want a running tally of what everyone has to spend, so you know when to start bidding on players yourself.

Bring a List of Player Prices

Have on a cheat sheet you make up yourself a maximum price for every player. Think through these evaluations, and don't bid higher than the maximum amount - at least at the start of the draft. Once the draft develops, you might have to adjust, but you want something to look at that was put together under calm and cool deliberation, so you aren't flying by the seat of your pants on draft day. Use your auction value list be the determiner during your auction, at least on 95% of the players, and especially in the first half of the draft.

Play Moneyball

"Moneyball" by Billy Beane of Oakland A's fame discussed how Billy Beane built an Athletics roster into a contender, even though his club's revenues and cash flow was nothing, in comparison to the Yankees and Red Sox. The A's used different stats (on-base percentage, slugging percentage) to evaluate players, instead of the traditional stats (RBIs, stolen bases, etc). Another one of the techniques Beane used was to draft college players, when most teams preferred to draft players right out of high school, because of the statistically higher rate of success of these players.

Years after the book came out, though, Billy Beane admitted that he took college players, since most of the other MLB teams took high school players. Had the shoe been on the other foot, and teams picked clean the college ranks, he likely would have drafted high school players. It was a matter of tapping untapped sources of talent, instead of rigidly following one formula. That's what you want to do in a fantasy football auction: quickly evaluate the talent pools by position, then find hidden value at those positions.

That sounds hard, but it's a matter of having a list of player prices, then seeing which positions are going cheaper than they should, and which positions still have loads of talent.

Mark Off Players by Position

As you go through the auction, mark off or highlight players already bid on. Have these lists by position, so you know how many players are left at the positions you want. Have a line drawn underneath the starters at that position, or between the tiers of players, as you have them ranked.

This means you have a line telling you which players are worthy starters, so you don't end up waiting too long to bid on a player. It also gives you a quick reference for the tiers of players, so you'll know when the players of a certain quality are about to be off the board. This lets you target these players, as their numbers thin out, but before it's too late.

As one tier of players (or all the starters) start to thin out down to the last 2-3 players, start to make bids on these players. You want to secure the services of one of these guys, so you want to get into the bidding process. You don't want it to come down to the last guy, or at least you want to make others bid hard for others, until you have no choice but to outbid everyone yourself. Eventually, you'll have to pull the trigger, so you want to leave yourself an out, before you absolutely have to outbid everyone else.

Don't Skimp on Runners

As always, the running back position is thinnest, so pay special attention to this position, to make sure you get a solid running back corps. You don't want to realise at a point that you've focused on other positions, and suddenly the RB position is thin. Be willing to bid on this position, knowing that others are going to place a premium on the position. In this way, you can get 2 or 3 good runners, and not necessarily have to bid on the top couple of guys.

Spend When Appropriate

Don't be afraid to spend on players, when it's time to build your lineup. You can get lulled to sleep during an auction, or start to lose your focus. Understand that, even if you're one of the guys holding onto his money, you can't take it home with you. You're also not going to win a league with forty $5 players. Eventually, you have to win bids on important players.

Stay Focused - Be Opportunistic

You'll find players that go for a lot less than they should at times, often because the other owners are being lulled into momentary inactivity. Especially after one or two big auctions have just happened, owners are likely to wince and become a little conservative. That's when you should look for your opportunities.

Don't Tip Your Hand - Fantasy Auction Tips

Don't let the others at the draft know what your plan is. Don't only bid on guys you want, or else your opponents will know when you really want somebody, and drive up the price. So aggressively bid on players early in the bidding process, when the bids are low and you're unlikely to get caught on a bid. Never bid more than you're willing to spend on a player, just in case you do get caught and the player ends up yours (and you have to spend).

If you remain active this way, people won't be able to guess when you're really going after a player, because you don't suddenly spring to life on a certain guy.

Don't Get Cute

I've seen guys get drawn into bid-offs just out of some macho need to one-up his rival. He'll end up trying to force his opponent to overspend, and end up overspending himself, when his bluff is called. Don't let this happen. Once again: only bid what you are prepared to spend. Don't assume the next guy is going to overrate a player worse than you.

Know Your Salary Cap

Remember your own salary cap situation throughout the draft. Many teams earmark a certain percentage of their bankroll for each position: running back 40%, wide receivers 25%, quarterback 15%, tight ends 10%, Team Defense 5%, kicker $1 and the rest to spread around. In a $200 league, you would spend $80 on RBs, $50 on WRs, $30 on QB, $20 on TE, $10 on DEF and so on.

You have to be flexible, though. In the situation above, you might find that people are spending $35 on 2nd-tier ball carriers, and suddenly you need to up your spending amounts on runners by at least $20. I wouldn't be afraid to spend half my salary cap on that position, especially if it means having reasonably good depth.

Group Your Players by Tiers

I'll remind you about player tiers once more: group positions by tiers. Let's say you think the following players are in the "top tier" of RBs in 2010.

  • Chris Johnson
  • Adrian Peterson
  • Maurice Jones-Drew
  • Ray Rice
  • Frank Gore
  • Stephen Jackson
  • Michael Turner
  • Rashard Mendenhall

There are good running backs besides these 8, but you decide those runners are a little unproven, or in platoon situations, so you would rather those guys be a 2nd runner on your team. So you group these eight players as your first tier of runners. Draw a line underneath Mendenhall and make sure you grab one of these eight as your #1 runner.

This doesn't mean you'll spend the same on all of them. You might have in your head that the top four on the list are much better than the bottom four, so you'll bid more on them. But for the purposes of setting up your running back situation, you'll settle for any of the other four as a #1, if the bidding gets too high on the Top 4.

Then imagine you have another list of guys you would like to have as a 2nd runner. This list might look like the following.

  • DeAngelo Williams
  • Shonn Greene
  • LeSean McCoy
  • Knowshon Moreno
  • Ryan Mathews
  • Ryan Grant
  • Cedric Benson
  • Matt Forte

Once again, you might think the guys at the top of the list are much better options than the ones lower, so you'll note a higher price beside their names. But if you absolutely have to settle on any runner on the list, you can feel relatively confident going into the season with one of these guys as your #2. So you draw a line under Matt Forte (and cross your fingers), telling yourself that you'll definitely procure the services of one off this list as your #2.

Maybe you get lucky and steal two guys off the first list. Or maybe you get lucky by outbidding everyone to one off the first list, and two off the second list. In either case, budget what you want to spend on runners, set tiers to make sure you set up your positions in a smart way, then use logic in the draft to tweak your strategy, if a new situation arises. But the tiers help you set up worst-case scenarios, while helping you know when it's time to move at a position.

Do this for each position and you should be able to put together a solid team. Once you have a solid team, it's time to try for opportunistic.

Be the Last Man Standing

Finally, when you're building the bottom end of your auction roster, try to be the last player with money. In every auction I've ever seen, there was a whole list of sleepers and lesser known talents that I had on my that were still available. That's because there's one thing you can't account for in an auction: other people will throw out names of players you would never consider drafting. This means that players you want are still going to be there later.

You've seen drafts where there are certain guys run out of names to call, so they end up calling the first name that comes to mind. Unless you're in a league with top quality owners across the board, you'll end up having a few soft names thrown out there for bidding. So you can clean up at the end of an auction - if you have the money.

Auctioning Fantasy Football Players

Fantasy football auctions are my favorite type of "fantasy draft". There's so much more strategy than your average fantasy football serpentine redraft, that fantasy football owners should give auction leagues at least a few tries over the year. I still take part in more drafts than auctions every year, but that doesn't mean that I'm not always up for a fantasy football auction. Give one a try, if you never have.

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