The setup of your league is a big factor in your auction decisions, and you simply have to consider them before you make your first bid. The size, setup, and scoring of your league matters at least as much - if not more - in your auction. Below are descriptions of several types of leagues and what are the important details to remember for each on Auction Day.
Standard Leagues - This covers both PPR and non-PPR leagues. By standard here we mean that the league is your typical fantasy league where you have 10 or 12 teams that play head-to-head matchups each week and then the best 4-6 teams all make the postseason. A typical league would have one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a tight end, a kicker and a defense in the starting lineup. The bench could range in size but would be usually 6-10 players deep. Normal auction planning rules apply here (be sure to review Section 5 - Strategies for Building an Auction Team).
Expanded Starter Leagues (1-3 flex) - Leagues where you can flex one or more players into your starting lineup change the value of all your players. Why? Because your starting lineup is that much bigger each week (and as a result, your bench is shallower). Your backups (RB3, WR4, TE2 and possibly even your second QB) are going to count for your team score now, so you better have a player that is a few tiers better than a $1 bargain. With more starters, the stud players may decrease in value slightly, but more often than not the difference between having more $1 players in a standard league to this type of league where you have to bid more for backups usually comes from lower bids in Phase 2 (Conservative Cash) across the board. That means more players are going to go for $3-15 than usual, so plan for that in your budgeting before the auction.
Note that the phases of the auction will be covered in Section 8 - Auction Day.
Big Budgets vs. Little Budgets - While most auctions usually go with a $200 budget for teams, that number is far from set in stone. If the number is bigger, it is usually a better idea as the differences in values in Phase 2 will really start to shine. By having more money, you can spread out the middle of the road players and not feel the pain of that extra dollar bid nearly as much. This also makes the difference between $1 and $2 bids at the tail end of the auction far less dramatic and important. On the other hand, small budgets really magnify the difference of a dollar - and that will matter a great deal late in the auction. Teams will be cash poor very fast and values will be low in the middle of the auction - meaning the Conservative Cash phase will last much longer and impact the $1-2 end of the auction. Having an extra dollar is extremely important in smaller budget leagues, so if you plan on dominating the later two-thirds or so of the auction you better keep a close eye on your values and do not bid too much in the early parts of the auction.
Big Rosters vs. Little Rosters - It should go without saying that the bigger the roster (and league) the more players that will be bid on in the auction, but you would be surprised how many auction team owners do not make the necessary adjustments for these big leagues. Values have to drop so that the money can be spread across more players. In little roster leagues, however, the opposite is true - as is the importance in securing studs and top second- and third-tier players. Smaller leagues will have very strong teams and a deep free agent / waiver wire pool, so do not be too conservative in the auction. This is the type of league where it makes perfect sense to enact the Go Big or Go Home strategy.
Best Ball Leagues (All Play, Survivor) - These leagues are becoming more and more popular as many fantasy players play in multiple leagues every NFL season. Best Ball describes a league setup where all of the players on a fantasy roster have the potential to count for a given week - meaning that the best scores are used to create that week's fantasy lineup. For example, a fantasy team with six wide receivers but only a lineup that consists of three wideouts will count the best three WR scores, no matter if they were in a lineup or not. No lineup decisions are made - the scores speak for themselves. In poker this would be called cards speak.
So what differences are there for these kinds of leagues? Well, the "by committee" approach is a sound one. If you have two quarterbacks that are very up and down in their weekly scoring, that can get averaged out over time as only the best score each week counts. Have you ever had a player that was a lineup headache because one week he would erupt and then he would seemingly disappear for weeks at a time? That issue goes away in best ball leagues. To continue the thought, you actually want these type of players on your roster because you want to have big week potential throughout your roster. The other takeaway in these types of leagues is that everyone on your roster matters - from your first purchase to your last. Value auction players (those who are miserly and conserve cash early with the hopes of dominating the last 2-3 hours of an auction) fare very well in these formats.
Keeper Leagues are leagues in which you get to retain players from previous seasons. How you actually get to keep those players are rules that vary in many ways, but essentially you do have the right to keep one or more players from the previous year if you are willing to pay the price. Some leagues add a fixed amount of monetary value to the auction bid from last year (meaning a $20 player's value from last year might cost $25 or $30 this year), while others may only allow you to keep players at a given price for a few years. Some leagues will escalate the price more and more each year you keep a player, which ultimately will force an owner to make a financial decision to let him go back into the player pool.
Once keeper players are determined, the auction for the upcoming year can be held. The tricky part is not just who to keep but also how to re-evaluate and place budget values on the players left in the player pool. Almost always it is the stud players that are kept, so all the money calculations have to be redone for the next auction. You have to take all of the remaining money in the league and spread it out across the remaining roster spots. That usually results in higher values for players, since the studs are now out of the market and the remaining money will be spread out over the rest of the lower tier players.
Dynasty Leagues are leagues in which you get to keep players as long as you want, possibly from the day they enter the NFL to the day they retire. With that ability to monopolize players and talent, an auction league is by far the most equitable way to distribute talent as you first start a dynasty league. Everyone gets their fair shot at the top players, so you cannot say that you never had a chance at Antonio Brown or Rob Gronkowski. As in any auction, whoever bids the most gets to own the player, so everyone has a shot at every player at any given moment of the auction - as long as the funds are available.
Since dynasty and keeper leagues are multi-year leagues, the question comes up as to how to handle new players that enter the NFL after your initial auction. Are you going to adopt a rookie draft, or will that also be an auction? Do you want to bid on draft picks? What about free agency - will there be money for that or is that first come, first served waivers? Figuring out those details early in the life of your league is a big decision but you need to get that done in case it affects the first auction that you have to distribute the current talent pool.
Our next section will discuss a variety of strategies you can utilize when participating in an auction.