Auctions have been rising in popularity in recent years and many long-lasting leagues make the switch from snake draft to auction each season. You may be involved in your first auction this year. Or, you may have done your first a summer ago and butchered it badly. Don’t worry, the past is the past, and I’ve got you covered this year. For the relatively uninitiated, you need a strategy going into an auction. For the veterans, I have the strategy you need. A quick warning: do not just go into the draft planning to take whoever you can get a bargain on. This often leads to having a ton of money after the top players are all selected. Instead of overpaying for talent, you end up overpaying for mediocrity. A plan ensures you are spending your auction dollars for the players that you want.
AUCTIONS: The auction is the truest test of fantasy skill. In comparison, the draft is a straightforward affair in which much of what you can do is limited by your draft position. An auction draft is at first glance more difficult, but if you know what you are doing it can actually be much easier. That is, it is easier to build a dominating team. The first few times that you are successful at an auction, you will be astonished at the quality of the team you have constructed. The “good” teams at the end of auctions blow away the best teams that ever come out of drafts.
IDENTIFY TARGETS: Long before the auction begins, you need to build a list of targets. What you are looking for is a set of players whose value exceeds that of their current going rate. Now, this can vary based on the platform you are drafting on as each site will have slightly different fantasy rankings.
Players tend to be drafted near their suggested value. Of course anyone can go for much lower or much higher in any one draft. But on average, players will bring in the suggested value. It is human nature, the number is right there in front of them and fantasy owners think they are getting a deal if they snag a player below the value suggested by the individual site that they draft on. Likewise, if a player is bidded up past that value, they start to feel bad about overpaying, regardless of their own pre-draft valuations. So come into the auction with a list of targets that are undervalued by the rankings on the site your league is using.
FINANCIAL PLANNING: You likely have $200 to spend. You want to use that to build the best team you can which essentially means spreading that money across seven positions in standard leagues. Don’t make a significant investment in your bench and there is no reason to spend more than $1 on a kicker or a defense. Use the list of targets you have generated to figure out how much you want to spend on each position. If there is a position with more bargains, like wide receiver this year, you can save and spend more on other positions. I explain how to draft a quarterback here. In my budget, I’m spending $10 on quarterbacks and $70 on three receivers, and going cheap at tight end. That leaves me $90 to splash on two big time running backs. I’ll have $25 left to fill out my bench if everything goes perfectly. Of course, I don’t expect everything to go perfectly, and I can tap into about fifteen dollars of that twenty-five if I need to win a bidding war somewhere along the line. That doesn’t need to be your budget, but you do need to have one.
FLEXIBILITY: While you should have a budget and players in mind to use it on, you also need to remember you will be drafting against humans and not machines bidding up to the suggested value. Anything can happen and you might not be able to get the exact guys that you want. Instead of targeting two running backs specifically, you should have three or four in mind, planning on taking two of those four. You need five receivers that you would feel comfortable with. Just remember that the three you end up taking need to fit into your budget that you set for the position or it can screw your plans for the entire draft. You need to adapt on the fly, so be prepared to furiously redo the math if the pieces don’t fall the way you pictured them. It won’t be easy at first but when you get the hang of it, you will build fantasy teams far better than you ever did in a draft.