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Faceoff: Discussing Auction Strategy

August 28th

Clayton Gray: What is your preferred method in an auction? Do you prefer landing a handful of stud players and then rounding out the roster on the cheap? Or would you rather stock the team with a high number of value players?

Matt Waldman: While both methods have value, I like going "stud and cheap." I see auctions as the great opportunity to select players you believe in by putting your money where your mouth is. Most auction budgets are large enough to land 3-5 strong starters that can make a team dominant if you're right about your choices and they stay healthy. There's also enough value at five dollars or less to land big finds at the end of drafts. I've won expert leagues with the help of Maurice Jones-Drew and Frank Gore as dollar-plays and this year, players with talent and situations like Rashad Jennings, Kevin Smith, Bilal Powell, Randy Moss, and Titus Young could vastly outplay their auction day value.

Will Grant: I don't do a lot of auction, but I like to hang back a bit and let the big spenders drive up the prices of players early. My first two nominations are typically guys in the #12-36 range that I am not really targeting. I'll grab them if the value is right, but having a few extra dollars in your opponent's pockets probably means they will overpay for those type of players. This way, when the middle of the draft comes around, you can control the market and grab the players that give you the most bang for your bucks.

I also like to budget out $2 per player for my last 3-4 people. This way when things start to get down to the bottom of the draft, you can still target the sleepers that you want, but you can overbid anyone who tries to bid the minimum on them.

Finally, I like to try to 'rifle through' my top rated defense and kicker in the early middle of the auction. This comes at a point when people have spent a big chunk of their money, and start to get a bit conservative about what they buy. If you have the top rated defense at $5, you can sometimes put it out there for $3 and people will let it go because they want to save money and know that there are 11 other defenses that they can try to get for the minimum. If it goes through, you land your top rated defense for a few dollars less than you were expecting. Worst case scenario is that someone bids you up and you can either increase to your expected value or if get someone to overpay on a defense and try it again with your #2 defense the next time around.

Andy Hicks: I tend to nominate players that I think will be overvalued, therefore taking a lot of money out of the pool. This is also the time a lot of people will spend like their allotment like drunken sailors and I try to avoid diving in on a player in the first 50 nominations. If of course I see a player going cheaply, then I will act, but on the whole people will tend to home in on guys that they MUST have and spend more than they should early on. As a result of this strategy I rarely have a roster of studs. Obviously you need quality to win, but depth is an underated part of auction drafts. It would also depend on how you determine who a stud is this year? Ray Rice, Calvin Johnson, Aaron Rodgers and Jimmy Graham clearly are. Jordy Nelson, DeMarco Murray, Eli Manning and Jason Witten are not. They are very productive players and if you can get 5 players of their ilk, instead of 2 of the so called studs you will have a better roster. As usual, you should have a value placed on each player and then do the best you can to get the highest quality roster allowing some kind of depth at most positions as well.

Maurile Tremblay: I am more comfortable going "stud and cheap," but you have to be prepared to either. In an auction, you should zig when others zag, and vice versa. If other people are fighting over the studs, the competition for them will inflate their price, and you're better off looking in next tier. If other people are hanging back instead of making a serious play for the studs, you've got the green light to snag a few studs for yourself. That's how you find value in an auction: by choosing the strategy most other owners are opting out of, and therefore targeting the types of players who aren't as strongly sought after.

While I think that you should stick to one strategy or the other within any given position, there's also nothing wrong with using different strategies at different positions. You can grab a couple stud RBs and then round out your roster with $1 or $2 players. But then you can grab three mid-tier WRs with some above average backups at that position.

The only thing you have to keep in mind is that all of your starters at the major positions (QB, RB, WR, TE) should be starting-quality players. That may sound obvious. But one of the mistakes that an inexperienced fantasy owner will make is to load up on great "values" of guys who are fantasy RB3s and WR4s. That's useless, because bench points don't count. If you start 3 WRs, you don't want 5 WR4s and a WR5 even if they were all terrific bargains. You want at least three guys who are, at worst, fantasy WR3s. (Ideally, you'll want a couple WR1s or WR2s, but if you sacrifice strength at WR in order to get super studs at RB, QB, and/or TE, you should at least end up with three passable WR3s.)

So to sum up: (1) Zig when others zag; (2) find good value; and (3) fill your starting lineup with starting-quality players.

Jeff Pasquino: I'll lawyer up here and say "it depends". I play in several best ball auction leagues, where depth matters more than getting studs. Here you want to conserve cash and load up on value players. In standard leagues (where you set rosters each week) you need to define the positions that will make or break your roster, and also figure out which positions have a good amount of depth. Winning strategies for 2012, in my opinion, are to buy one Top 10 running back, three Top 20 wide receivers and a Top 8 tight end. Depending on league setup I might also include a Top 6 quarterback but quite often a QBBC or just waiting at the position is the right call. You do need to budget about 75-80% of your money for your starting lineup and get after players you like. The hardest part is that you cannot fall in love with a player else you'll overspend and blow your entire spend plan. Auctions are always dynamic and never go as planned, so have more than one plan to go forward with in case you don't get a stud RB, QB or TE.

Mark Wimer: I definitely plan my Auction drafts with depth of value players in mind. Injuries and Roger Goodell suspensions are so pervasive in the NFL that I think sinking almost all of your cap into 3-4 "studs" and then filling up with $1 "duds" is more than likely to end up leaving you with a roster of 1-2 actually-playing "studs" and then a lot of bottom feeders on any given week from October forwards.

Here's my usual plan in a nutshell - I set aside 20% of the cap for $2-$3 value players at the end of the draft. Being able to go to $2 or $3 dollars on guys you like as bench players/sleepers lets you capture whoever you want from the "Studs-and-Duds" guys who are depending on a lot of $1 players to fill out their rosters. You can pick and choose - in our May Auction for the e-magazine, I snagged Donald Brown and Delone Carter a total of $4 ($3 for Brown/$1 for Carter) as one example.

Then, I allot the remaining 80% of the cap to "tiers" of players - usually I don't try to target any one guy - leaving the "elite" tiers off my auction budget entirely. In other words, I don't target the top five running backs, the top five wide receivers, or the top three quarterbacks. Instead, I budget my cap towards players I think have a shot at becoming top tier guys in the following year. Let other people waste their cash chasing last year's elite players - the art of fantasy football is finding this year's elite players. Of course, my approach means I don't roster guys who are, admittedly, locks for top-tier results if they stay healthy (Arian Foster; Calvin Johnson). However, and here's the essential point, my approach does not preclude one from finding this year's elite players. Things change from year to year, folks.

In general I draft for depth/value and avoid the "Studs-and-Duds" trap.