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Fantasy Football Auction Roundtable

Footballguys staffers get together to give advice on auction drafting.

You've read the primer. Now hear what other experts have to say about auction drafts.

With many league drafts around the corner, some Footballguys got together to answer questions about auction drafting. There are many supremely helpful nuggets in the answers below.

1. What are some tips and tricks for auction drafting?

Chad Parsons: Preparation is paramount for an auction. In a draft setting, owners can essentially assess the landscape when they are on the clock and pick within a smaller subset of players in line with the zone of the draft. For an auction, however, every player nomination is in play for all owners. Even if an owner has only small interest in a player, they have to be engaged as the bidding can stop at any moment where value is on the table.

My go-to advice for auctions is three-fold:

First, creating some general team rosters (not players, but prices) for all roster spots before the auction sets the scene. Make sure the total hits the team limit and be realistic to your natural tendencies. Are you one to get a top quarterback? Is a running back committee more your style? What about paying for a top tight end? Creating 2-3 different templates for your roster construction by salary will help the preparation process.

Second, is to be aggressive with your target players during the auction. Unlike a draft, no one can truly snipe you. Within reason, the core of your roster can match your mind's eye version constructed pre-auction. While a few players on your team may be the result of overt value presented in-auction, the bulk will be from the bucket of 'your guys'. Especially important is to continually tweak your template created pre-auction while you purchase players. Are you over budget by a few dollars? Have you saved on a spot or two? Keeping a tally of your plus/minus paves the way to know when to push a few more dollars for your key players later and when to be more conservative.

Finally, gauge your target list at the end of the auction. If you have more money remaining (by design or otherwise) with a few roster spots to go, be decisive with your few target players. Pay what it takes if there are one or two special upside plays on your board instead of saving. Typically players go for less than expected near the end of the auction.

Jason Wood: Be prepared. Auctioneers are similar to drafters in that they tend to circle around a site's projected values. You can use that to your advantage. For example, is you're auctioning on ESPN chances are Alshon Jeffery is going to go two or three dollars more/less than his average price of $28, whereas Larry Fitzgerald is going to top out at $13-$15 because his average projected price is $13. If you're with inexperienced auction participants, there will be crazy price arbitrage available.

Another is patience. Auctions can be a drag and there's an ebb and flow. You want to jump in early, and that may be fine, but if you get two or three players up front, understand you could be sitting and watching for big chunks of time.

Some people think there's value in who you nominate. I think it's more personal taste than strategic advantage. For example, some argue for putting players up for auction you dislike, to draw funds out of the pool. That's fine, but ultimately all the players of consequence are going to come up at some point.

Justin Howe: The other guys have stressed the importance of preparation, and Chad really nailed a great strategy: pre-construct your team. Sketch an ideal roster - feel free to be wildly optimistic with it - and then plan your route to landing each one. You won't land every desired target, but you'll have a rough roadmap. It helps me to assign a degree of "overpay willingness" to each one. For instance, if I'm dead-set on landing Melvin Gordon and expect him to cost $31, I'll set a range of $31-35 as a threshold for him. Have these plans typed out ahead of time, pulled up right next to your auction for quick reference's sake. There's nothing wrong with getting into a bidding war over your guy, but don't do it blindly, just bidding and bidding into the night. Know beforehand exactly how you're going to land him.

Dan Hindery: One thing that has worked for me in the past is being very aggressive and trying to get an elite player as one of the first players auctioned off. In many leagues, the other drafters will be a little gun shy at the very beginning and want to see a market develop. If you’re confident in your values and targets going in, those first few guys sometimes come at a discount.

On the other end of the spectrum, I usually like to wait on Quarterback until almost everyone already has a starter locked up. In most leagues, people won’t want to pay much for their backup quarterback, so the last few starting caliber guys in the auction end up being cheaper than the guys who go off the board earlier. With quarterback being 12-15 deep this year, waiting will probably get you someone like Ben Roethlisberger, Kirk Cousins or Marcus Mariota for cheap.

2. What are some player values you like this year on the major fantasy websites? What players do you find too expensive?

Chad: The auction format creates more value potential than a draft. For example, in the Footballguys Mock Auction in early August, Davante Adams, Derrick Henry, Danny Woodhead, and Leonard Fournette were all glaring values I scooped up at $20 or less. The key spots to find value are the lowered level quarterbacks and tight ends by ADP. If you have a favorite (I love Eli Manning this year for example), they can save you auction dollars by waiting out the owners as they get their starters.

Jason: David Johnson and Le'Veon Bell are steals. Most sites price them in the low $60s for a $200 budget. Yet, based on my projections for both players, and the projections for the rest of the running back group, fair value is more in the $80-$90 level. I'm not espousing paying $90 for any player, but don't be afraid to go an extra dollar or two on those studs.

I'm one of those guys who goes against the grain of "wait no quarterback" in serpentine drafts, but in auctions it makes sense to bargain hunt. There's no rational justification to pay $25+ for someone like Aaron Rodgers when guys like Philip Rivers and Dak Prescott and Matthew Stafford will be had for $2 or $3 in many auctions. No player is worth 10x the price of another Top 10 starter.

Justin: The big values, as always, are coming in the middle tiers. I'm consistently landing the following guys for under $10:

Quarterbacks, too, are coming cheaply. Much of that is due to injury concerns with the likes of Andrew Luck and Cam Newton, but they're sparkling deals nonetheless. It's another reason not to leap at the Aaron Rodgers/Drew Brees nominations - I keep seeing Newton and Russell Wilson coming for $6-9, typically around 35-40% of Rodgers' cost.

And even in PPR auctions, that huge group of receiving backs, typically found in the middle rounds of drafts, are coming ultra-cheap. Duke Johnson, Darren Sproles, James White, and Shane Vereen are also coming in under $10. In fact, I keep pulling Vereen as a $1 roster-filler toward the ends of auctions, despite his relatively easy outlook for 50-60 catches.

Dan: Looking at ESPN’s average values, Keenan Allen ($21) is a player who stands out. He has WR1 upside and is very safe as long as he doesn’t suffer another fluke injury.

Dalvin Cook ($13) and Joe Mixon ($13) are also steals. By the middle of the season, I expect these two to emerge as strong RB1 options.

In the $7-8 range, Martavis Bryant and Stefon Diggs both stand out as strong options.

3. What strategy do you lean toward: Studs 'n Duds or Balanced?

Chad: In general, I do not advocate the very top players on an auction board. Paying $50-60 on a single player is not how I set up an auction template and it requires plenty of patience after acquiring a single stud. As an example, in the Footballguys auction, by passing on the top tier of receivers and David Johnson types, I got Jordy Nelson at $37 ($10 less than Antonio Brown and $22 less than David Johnson) as my roster anchor and found value in the next tier of running backs (typically Rounds 2-3 in drafts) to provide more depth than a stud and duds approach.

Jason: In other sports, baseball particularly, I go balanced. In football, it's mainly studs and duds. I find that football auction values are artificially capped and often that leaves the top-tier guys underpriced. I also tend to think I'm good enough to find values at the end of drafts ($1 bid guys) where my league mates won't. So I have no issue with paying a few $$ over "fair value" for stars knowing that I'm going to crush the $1 end game.

Justin: Studs 'n duds is the way to go -- and often, not by choice. Auctioners underspend and leave money on the table more often than you might think; don't be shy about paying up. But the best option is a restrained studs 'n duds approach. It's not advisable to leap into a front-of-draft bidding war over the top-level options. With every owner sporting a full $200 budget at the start of the auction, bids for David Johnson and Antonio Brown types often get quickly out of hand; the real values are often found one tier down. It's generally better to walk away with Melvin Gordon at a $30 discount from Johnson, or Mike Evans/Michael Thomas for $15-20 less than Brown.

Just don't be afraid to target your "almost-studs" at or a little above "market value" - think 10% above as a solid guideline. And be confident the "duds" you scoop down the road will probably be better than you think. There will be a high volume of strong mid-round guys available for $3 or less down the line. Once several league-mates blow through most of their budget, they'll find themselves less able to high-ball you for the Tyrell Williams/Rex Burkhead types down the road.

Dan: I think this comes down to knowing your league dynamics. In leagues with sharper owners, I’m more likely to lean towards a Studs and Duds approach. With smart owners, it’s very tough to sneak the higher-upside, mid-tier guys (Dalvin Cook, Ty Montgomery, Martavis Bryant, Keenan Allen, Terrelle Pryor, etc.) through at a decent price.

In leagues with less experienced owners, either method can work. But it is easier to pull off the balanced approach and load up a roster with slightly lower-profile players who still have RB1/WR1 upside (like the guys listed above) in leagues where many owners are overpaying for quarterbacks and big-name veterans.

4. Build your ideal auction team, within reason. Let's assume a $200 budget, PPR scoring with the following roster: 1 QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, 1 TE, 1 Flex (RB/WR/TE), 1 D/ST, 1 PK, 6 bench spots.

Chad:

Jason:

Justin:

Dan:

In this format, I’m going very hard to land one of the top two running backs (at $60-65). I’m then paying $20-25 each to get a at least one of the top rookie RBs. I’m also willing to pay in the neighborhood of $30 for a low-end WR1 like Allen. That leaves me $50-60 to round out my roster. Quarterback and Wide Receiver are so deep, guys like Newton, Parker and Garcon (or similarly ranked players) should be affordable ($10 or less). The final $30 is to round out my bench. James White, Rex Burkhead, Marvin Jones and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are some names I like for the bottom of the roster.

5. What are some pitfalls to avoid while doing an auction?

Chad:

  • Not preparing with a pre-auction plan/budget
  • Not adjusting to market dynamics of owners over/under spending during auction
  • Leaving money on the table at the end of the auction
  • Over spending to the point where many roster spots are $1

Jason: The first is a universal truth for all fantasy drafts -- don't be unprepared. I find it's more common in auctions because people are either less familiar with the format or they think the outcome is more fungible. It's not.

Another major mistake is fixating on specific players. In an auction, more than a serpentine draft, you have to look at positional groups and tiers more than a specific player. You may want David Johnson and are fine with paying $70 when his projected value is $65, but what if someone else is willing to pay $80? You have to be flexible and unemotional about letting players go if they're overvalued.

It's also essential to adjust your values for inflation/deflation. Every pick that comes off the board changes the fair value of the remaining players based on the dollars left in the total auction pool. Years ago this was a MASSIVE advantage for anyone with a modicum of math savvy. Now many software programs do the work for you.

Justin: Don't underspend. Entering the wee hours of your auction, you don't want to be the guy with $90 left to fill your last 4 spots. You'll have carte blanche on the late-late-late options that will afford you small bunches of value, but field a severely bottom-bloated roster that lacks firepower. Don't be timid, and don't merely assume you'll clinch your league by scooping Jamaal Williams and Devin Funchess over your leaguemates.

Dan: The first pitfall I see in auctions is people getting too focused on value and not landing any elite players. Even if you feel like the top guys are all going for too much, I think you still want to get one or two top options. There will still be plenty of value later and you’ll have more money than others. But don’t see all your money for “value” guys.

On the other side, I often see players way too aggressive early and leave too little money to fill out their roster. You shouldn’t spend almost all of your money on your first four players and then have to fill out the rest with $1 and $2 guys.