Start with a budget cheat sheet
If you’ve never done an auction draft, it can seem overwhelming at first. You are on the clock the entire night, and every single player could be yours. Want Ezekiel Elliott and Saquon Barkley? Go get ’em. Maybe you want 3 stud receivers and scrubs everywhere else? Do it. It’s all up to you. So where do we begin? You first need to know your league budget (standard is $200) and you should have some idea of what your player values are. You can get a good start HERE with the FantasyPros Auction Calculator. Then, simply start adjusting based on your league settings and your personal preferences.
Nominate with a purpose
In auction leagues, players are nominated one by one with each league member taking turns; you nominate one out of every 12 players. Who should you nominate? Start off with big-name players who you aren’t really interested in. Maybe you are down on Dalvin Cook because of his injuries. Nominate him for whatever price you’d still happily pay–let’s say $25—and let everyone else go nuts. Feel free to throw Patrick Mahomes on the block as well since top quarterbacks have massive hype and there is almost always a bidding war. You can also put up a top defense and kicker for $1 to see if people will waste money on them. Just remember–only nominate players you would be okay with on your team, and only choose prices that you yourself would happily pay.
Know your tiers
The next step to a successful auction is to make sure you know your tiers–at least among the top-24 RBs and WRs. I mentioned this in our snake draft article, but knowing your tiers (at least roughly) is all the more important in auctions. Focus on RB and WR as both positions require a great deal of depth, and go as far down as you care to. Here is an example of what my top 20 WRs might look like tiered out.
|Tier 1a||Tier 2||Tier 3||Tier 4|
|DeAndre Hopkins||Juju Smith-Schuster||T.Y. Hilton||Brandin Cooks|
|Julio Jones||Antonio Brown||Stefon Diggs||Robert Woods|
|Davante Adams||Mike Evans||Adam Thielen||Cooper Kupp|
|A.J. Green||Keenan Allen||Julian Edelman|
|Tier 1b||Amari Cooper||Tyler Lockett|
|Odell Beckham Jr.||Kenny Golladay|
Having this in front of me lets me know when a tier is running out, and thus prepares me to attack at the right times. It also lets me know if I should avoid a bidding war. If people are paying like crazy for T.Y. Hilton and the rest of tier 3 is still there, I can wait it out. There are plenty of names, and one of them is bound to be a value compared to the rest.
Trust your values/ Be disciplined
While it’s great to have a plan, you can’t afford to get stuck in a bidding war. Referencing the FantasyPros cheat sheet, DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, and Davante Adams are all valued at $54. Let’s say that in your draft Hopkins goes for $67 and then Julio goes for $63. Are your values wrong? No. The league is overpaying. Let them blow their budgets now, and then take advantage later on. They are going to run out of money fast at this rate. So if you have Adams at $54, don’t freak out and bid $61 to get the last tier 1a WR. Let others blow their budgets and then steal value from them later. There are still plenty of great talents available in this example, and everyone in your tier 1b and tier 2 is still easily a WR1.
Don’t grab the last guy in a tier
Guess what? A lot of guys are going to have the same top-5 receivers—or close to it—as you. You aren’t unique for thinking Davante Adams is elite this year. So when should we attack a tier? The best time to strike is either first, if the values start too low, or in the middle—when there are still a lot of names to be had. I’ve been in numerous drafts where a Michael Thomas (in this case my number five) costs more than a Julio Jones because someone panics. They want a tier one guy, and now there is only one choice left. Even worse, at least 8 guys don’t have a tier one receiver in this example. Picking the last guy in a tier almost always comes with a premium, so avoid that guy as best you can. In an auction keeper league I’m in, Melvin Gordon went for $44 last year and Jordan Howard was the very next player for $39 (Their projected values in 2018 were $44 for Gordon and $28 for Howard). Which guy would you rather have had at his price?
Don’t fall in love
Another terrible mistake I’ve seen is guys falling head over heels for someone on their list. They think a player is ready to breakout, and they allow emotion to cloud their logic. Say you think D.J. Moore ($14) is ready to jump tiers this year. If you can get him for that price or a little more, great. However, let’s say your buddy—a Panthers fan—also is high on him. You bid $14. He bids $17. You bid $19. He bids $23. What’s a few more dollars for such a stud? You bid $25. He bids $26. You get frustrated and yell $30. Your buddy finally backs off, defeated. You just bought D.J. Moore for the price of A.J. Green or Amari Cooper. You may think this is crazy; you would never be spontaneous enough to do this. In a 2017 auction draft full of well-informed sports fans, I watched C.J. Prosise go for $30. Two guys loved his upside and got into a crazy bidding war. Prosise has less than 200 career rushing yards in his 3 year career. Think that’s crazy? After his breakout in the 2013 playoffs, Colin Kaepernick went for more than $40 in the same league. Patrick Mahomes is only expected to cost around $20 this year by comparison. What’s the lesson? Don’t fall in love with a player. Know your budget and be willing to let someone go.
Spend $10 or less on your Quarterback
In an average league, each player will draft one quarterback with just a couple guys taking backups. There will likely be 14-18 NFL starters left on waivers at your disposal. Why waste money on the position then? Ten dollars should be enough to grab you a top-12 quarterback, and that’s all you need for the year. Really, anyone form QB11-15 is going to be plenty good. Those guys this year are Dak Prescott, Baker Mayfield, Russell Wilson, Lamar Jackson, and Carson Wentz. Would you rather have Russell Wilson and Joe Mixon or Patrick Mahomes and Sony Michel? I’d take Wilson and Mixon all day long. Even in my league, which tends to overvalue the QB position, these guys are still going in the $5-$10 range. Make this your cap and pick your favorite guy.
Don’t spend on Defense or Kicker
Defenses and Kickers are extremely volatile in value, and the best of both tend to get bid up past the $1 mark. I usually see the top defense go for around $5 in a given year, and it’s wasted money. The top defense regresses back, on average, to 16th the following year (the 2017 #1 defense was Jacksonville; they were 19th in 2018). Kickers are just as volatile, and every team has one. You can literally just start any old guy and you should be fine. Spend $1 on each position and call it a day.
Be fluid with your strategy
Maybe you come in thinking you want a tier 1 running back and a tier 1 wide receiver. Or perhaps you prefer to go zero-RB instead. It could also be that Travis Kelce is your man. Whatever your plan, know your values and be ready to change as necessary. Kelce is an excellent tight end and clearly my #1 this year. I won’t go past $35 for him though under any circumstances. That’s my own personal limit and I’m comfortable sticking to it. You never know when someone will stake their claim on a guy, and you don’t want to get into ridiculous bidding wars that leave your league mates laughing. Remember the Prosise and Kaepernick examples earlier? I can still tell you who drafted each player because each bid got so out of hand so quickly. Our most important job on draft day is to fill out a good roster, and we can best do this by sticking closely to our values. Davante Adams is a stud, but I’d rather have Keenan Allen for half the price if the opportunity arose. Saquon Barkley is young and mega-talented, but I’d again prefer David Johnson at half the price. No one player is so good that losing them will kill you. Be fluid, and adapt to what your league throws at you. You’ll be fine as long as you don’t panic.
(Photo by Kevin Abele/Icon Sportswire)
Last year in my auction league with one keeper per team, Melvin Gordon was the last RB1 type available and ended up going for $83 (the most spent on any player in the league). I think the lesson is that if you do have a preference among players in the same tier, don’t wait to put them up on the board.
Hey Andrew. Thanks for commenting and taking the time to read my article. I totally agree with your point… Don’t let your favorite guy become the last guy in a tier. If you do, kiss them goodbye.