Auction Guide

Auction Leagues for Beginners

So you have never been in an Auction League, and you have lots of questions. That's okay - that is why this section exists. Everyone has been there before, so do not feel bad at all. In fact, you should feel good about it as you are joining the club of auction league players, and believe me it will be an enjoyable experience and you will want to do auctions over and over again.

Let's start with the differences between an auction league and a standard draft. With draft leagues, you only get to pick once a round and twice every 20-24 picks (depending on your league size). There's no surprise as to when you are about to get a player and you know that you will have two of your Top 24 players without question.

Auction turns all of that on its head. Everything you thought you knew is now up for grabs. Every player is possibly the next one to join your team - and the only thing that stands in the way is the price you are willing to pay to get him on your squad.

Now it is time to talk about the monopoly money. Every team gets a budget to buy their players. This can be done in one of several ways - fake dollars (like monopoly money), real dollars (as in your league dues) or virtual money that is kept track of during the auction, either on paper, on a draft board or electronically. When you bid for a player and win them, you have to pay for him out of your budget and that amount is deducted from your money, leaving you with a remainder to fill out the rest of your team. That continues until either you have a full team or you are left with just $1 per roster spot you have left to fill - and then your nominations become the players you are adding to your team, so long as no one else bids them up.

So you can see one of the big differences in auction vs. redraft leagues - money is the only thing that dictates who winds up on which team. Whoever wants to bid the most gets that particular player but pays the price - literally. Money management and valuations of market value for all players matters a great deal and can be the difference between having a poor team and a great team.

Now that you get the idea of how money will be used to pick players instead of taking turns and drafting, you need to know what is required to set up an auction. There's no question that a live auction is much more preferable than one conducted online or on a conference call, but all three can be done. Some consider that a drawback to auction leagues, but you can manage that issue most of the time - and it is definitely worth it to have a live auction.

The next thing you have to have is a location. A big room is a good start, as you will need a large area for all the owners to be able to get together, nominate and bid on players. Room for an auction board (much like a draft board, but it is only used to track who owns who, what they paid and how much money they have left) is a big need as well. Sometimes this can be done with a white board or a computer with a projector - what is really required is something for everyone to look at the auction results.

The last requirement is probably the most important one, and that is the need for an auctioneer. While it might seem like an owner (or an owner who is commissioner of the league) might be able to be the auctioneer too, this is usually a very bad idea for two main reasons. The first one is that it is far too much to keep track of for one owner, and to make an owner also keep track of the budgets and team compositions for everyone is asking for trouble and it usually leads to that owner struggling at some point in the auction. That's not fair to him (or her) or the rest of the league. The second reason is that you also need an impartial (or at least less biased) person to decide who got the bid in when and if it was in on time. Some bidders try to sneak in at the last second in a certain player's auction, while some other player auctions will have tons of bids almost at the same time, so someone has to be the judge and referee. If you are fortunate enough to have invested in an electronic tool to assist it will certainly help but you really do need to have one person whose sole job is to be the auctioneer. Buy him food and drink for the night or offer to be the auctioneer for his league (which can also use the tool you bought for the league and split the costs even more).

Another big difference is that you are almost always involved in the auction - there are no breaks (unless the league takes a collective pause - which is another good idea). Any player who is nominated could be yours, so you have to pay attention all the time. Even if you don't like the players currently up for bids, you do have to keep track of all the team budgets and also notice who winds up with that player in case that might influence the next player you nominate.

So how does the actual auction work? Good question. Most leagues draw for nomination order (much like you would draw for draft order). Nomination order can be back and forth (“serpentine”) as in a redraft league or it could be straight order (as in the owner who nominates third in Round 1 nominates third every round). Those are the two typical options, but there is a third, which is usually not preferred because it gets very tricky at the end of the auction. The third option is that the owner who just won a player gets to nominate the next one. That sounds reasonable, but sometimes it is not and it gets messy when you have teams start to fill their rosters. Who gets to nominate then? It is much simpler to pick one of the first two options and then just skip over any teams that have full rosters.

Once a player is nominated, it is open season and all owners can bid on that player to try and win him for their team. Most auctions allow for free market bidding, meaning that there is no order to who can bid when. Some auctions have an antiquated method where you get to take turns in bidding, almost as if you are passing a money hat for collections around the room. That can be a long process and hurts the true dynamics usually associated with an auction, so few auctions are run that way any longer. An auctioneer or the correct tool can allow for the much more entertaining free market to take over.

The one rule that all owners must never break is to overspend. That messes up not only their team but also the rest of the league, and it really hurts the spirit of the auction. Teams must keep track of both how much money they have left and also how many players they need to fill out their team (some auction leagues may allow for incomplete rosters to be purchased as long as you have a legal lineup by Week 1 - but again, that is not typical). Simple math can tell you what a given team's maximum bid is by subtracting the number of players the team still needs from the amount of money that owner remaining for the auction, and then adding one dollar. As an example, if an owner has $30 left but needs 10 players, his maximum bid is $21 because he would then still need nine more $1 players.

Preparing for Auction Day

Education - Experienced fantasy players love to show off how much NFL knowledge they have - but it all has to come from somewhere. Whether it is Footballguys, Twitter feeds, news articles, NFL Network, ESPN or hundreds of other media outlets, you have to get an education on the NFL - and that learning never stops. The league evolves week by week, day by day - and while you can take time off from reading every last news blurb, at some point you have to catch up. Be sure that you are on top of things before getting ready for your auction.

Auction Tools - There are a number of these as well, including the old school paper and pencil, but most auction players have gone towards the laptop and software package approach. Footballguys offers the Draft Dominator to help you monitor the entire league in every way - budgets, rosters, player pool, adjustments to auction values - so that has to be a top consideration for you. Whatever you choose, pick one of them and use it during the auction. Don't worry about being mocked for having a laptop - a league championship quiets all those remarks in a hurry.

Preparation - Now that you have your education and a tool to help you put together your thoughts, you need to do some homework. The extent of the amount of time you spend on this task is up to you, but the more effort you put into it the more rewarding it is likely to be for you, and the more your auction team will reflect your own views of the upcoming year. For example, every NFL player worth owning in fantasy is going to post a set of statistical numbers for the coming season - but no one really knows what those will be. What you need here is to project what you think the numbers will be, as those will be the foundation for determining that player's value and worth in your auction league format.

So how do you go about doing all of this? Fortunately, Footballguys both does this for you and has a pretty darn good track record of getting a lot of these numbers either spot on or pretty close for the coming season. While no one is ever perfect, starting from a projector like David Dodds is a good idea, and then you have the option of adjusting his numbers if you feel like you know more about a given player.

Now that you have projected numbers, you can use a tool like the Draft Dominator to calculate the projected fantasy points for these players and then use the same tool once again to get an idea of an auction value. There are tons of articles on how to determine the valuations of players, most notably Maurile Tremblay's article, but for now I will talk about the general valuation process:

  1. Only the players you project to be purchased in your auction need a value.To say that a simpler way, if you have 12 teams and 20 roster spots, only 240 (12 x 20) purchases will be made. Everyone else should have a value of $0.
  2. The baseline price for every player on that value list (I will say “Top 240” to continue the example) is $1.That means that the marketplace for all the players is $1 or more. To determine how many extra dollars there are in the marketplace, you have to do a little math. Take the number of teams in the league and multiply by the total budget for each team. For a 12-team league where everyone gets $200, that is $2,400. The last step is to subtract $1 for every roster spot (since everyone is worth $1 or more). For 240 roster spots, that leaves $2,160 extra dollars for the entire league to spend on players. When your valuations are done, all player values should add up to $2,400.
  3. So what do we do with these extra dollars? What does that mean? The extra dollars reflects the value increase for a given player over a $1 player. To say that a different way, you are trying to put a dollar value on extra fantasy points for your team.Your goal is to buy as many extra fantasy points as possible so that you have a dominant fantasy roster. Do not worry about the names of these players - points are points.
  4. Find your baseline players for every position.The baseline player concept is a really important one to understand for putting dollar values on the player pool for your auction. These players are the line for common talent players, and it helps to set the expected values for all the players above them when it comes time for your auction. Let's use an example to explain it better. So let's say you think that every team will buy two quarterbacks and six of them will be in the $1 bargain bin. That means QB19 is your top $1 quarterback, and his projected fantasy points are your baseline. You should continue to baseline all positions, determining what spot (TE20? QB19? RB40? WR50?) is your first $1 player.
  5. After you have your baselines figured out, you have to look at the projected fantasy points for all the fantasy players in each position for all the players at or above your baseline.Going back to the example at QB19, you have to look at the projected fantasy points for QB1 to QB19. Subtract the fantasy points projected for QB19 from all the fantasy points for all the QBs above him on the list. Add them all up to get your extra fantasy points total. Repeat this for all the positions (and you can usually ignore defense and kicker).
  6. The last step is division.Take all of your extra fantasy points and add them across all positions. Let's say that is 800 for QB, 1,600 for RB, 1,400 for WR and 520 for TE. The combined total is 4,320 points. Divide that total by the extra dollars ($2,160) and you see that two extra fantasy points are worth $1. That should be your criteria for figuring out player values. If QB1 is supposed to get 50 more points than QB19, he should be worth $25 more, or $26 total.

Get a list of Average Auction Values (AAVs) - MyFantasyLeague.com is usually a good place to start, but there are numerous sites out there to find this data at all points of the year. You can also use the Footballguys Draft Dominator to provide some numbers and AAVs once the first set of projections are available. Just remember that every single auction is different and that those numbers quickly get tossed aside as soon as the overbidding begins.

Master Team Plans - Now that you have the knowledge, it is time to start applying it and building a few possible teams. This is when and where everything starts to come together. Take your entire budget and list all of the positions that you plan on having on your team, including bench players, and start putting values next to each position (for example, RB1 = $50, RB2 = $20, RB3 = $8, etc.). Make sure that you get all the spots covered and that your total is very close to your total budget. Do not be concerned if you are 1-2% off as the numbers are just estimates anyway. Having a few plans to work with or consult during your auction can really help to calm your thoughts during a hectic day.

Please note that the Footballguys Auction Guide provides several Master Team Plan options later in Section 5 - Strategies for Building an Auction Team.

Maintain Flexibility - You might walk into your auction room with a set plan for your budget and bidding for your team, but more often than not the plan is not worth the scrap of paper it was written on after a round or two of nominations and bids. Having multiple options and plans at your disposal affords you with many different directions in which to take your team as the auction unfolds. Did you expect top WRs to be over $40 and they are in the $25-27 range? Are $10-15 RBs overpriced? Are QBs going cheap? You have to maintain flexibility to adjust on the fly.

Run Some Mock Auctions - Take the time to either join a mock auction or to run a few through with the Draft Dominator. Do not keep trying the same strategy however - that's not the point. Mix it up and see what kind of team you will wind up with if you go big at different positions or if you just sit back and wait for values. Look at the various end results and see which teams you like the most. That will go a long way in deciding what your auction day strategy will be.

Knowing Your League

Knowing your league starts by understanding the league settings. Know all of the rules before you start building your auction plan because those rules will help to shape your strategy. Get a copy of your rule book and go over every part of it, from the league size (number of teams), scoring setup and lineup requirements to how the entire season and league operates. Start of course with the auction settings, seeing what the budget for each team will be and how nominations will work. Next, move on to the season long settings and take note of how teams will square off with one another. Do teams play each other head-to-head on a weekly basis, or is it a total points league or Survivor format? Do you have to set a lineup every week or do your best scores on your entire roster count? Is there a waiver wire, or is it just a pool of free agents? Do you get to grab anyone you want or do you have to pay for it (literally or with another pool of fake money like at the auction)? What about trades - are they permitted? Can you trade during the auction? Can you trade auction money?

All these things can have an impact on how you value your players before auction day and they all factor in to the strategies you will use on Auction Day. Study up on the league and get prepared.

After the rule book, the next thing to learn from is the league history. Many owners do not pick up on this information, but if you look hard at previous auctions for your league you can learn quite a bit.

Age of your League - Leagues that have been around for a while have a good amount of history, and that can be both a good and bad thing. Owners tend to stick with what they know, but be careful not to become one of them. Shake up your strategies so that other savvy owners will not get a book on you and know how you will approach the auction.

Another tendency for older leagues is that the owners get better each year. As a result, many owners tend to sit back and wait for the auction to come to them, which means early actors in the auction can steal some value early. Plan accordingly.

Historical Tendencies of your League - If your league has some history to it, you should be able to look back and see what positions are worth more and which are undervalued. If you look at your projections and valuations of the players for this season and you think the top quarterback should be $25 but the league normally pays $40 for the first quarterback, you have to adjust accordingly. By knowing the overvalued positions you will get a much better idea of who to nominate early and flush out extra cash. You also can plan on overspending some at this position because you know that you have to, but you can also adjust your budgets knowing that the rest of the league will have less money for other positions.

Another important tendency to learn about from past years is the amount of trades that normally happen within your league. If your fellow team owners love to wheel and deal, you might just keep buying valuable talent knowing that you can trade away those profitable pieces later on in the season. If the league rarely trades, knowing that information going into your auction will tell you to focus on building your own franchise and to forget about everyone else's team needs.

Lovers, Haters and Homers - If you know the owners have some allegiances to certain teams or players, that will help you during the auction as well. A league full of Eagles fans will go after everyone on that team, from the quarterback to the kicker, and you can bet that all of them will go for much more than they should. This also helps you in your planning, with one drawback - if you happen to want someone from that team you know that you will have to plan on spending far more than you normally should. If you think the player is worth it or if you think you can afford that one splurge and still build a great team, go for it - but be sure to have a plan.

Types of Owners in Your league

There can be one or more of these types of characters in your league. Look for them and know what type of team owner and auction player you can expect from each one:

  • Mr. Unprepared - You know this type of owner by the way he walks into any auction or draft with maybe a fantasy magazine or a printed cheat sheet and that's about it. No homework was done at all and he may not even know who was drafted by each team last May, let alone where all the free agents landed in March. So what to expect from him? Big names will go for big money to him, often early, and he will have no clue on sleepers or guys with big upside due to changes since the Super Bowl. Nominating a big name that he likes will lower his budget and load up his team quickly.
  • The Splurger - This owner loves to be Mr. Moneybags early in the auction. He will employ a Go Big or Go Home strategy and buy three big names for $30-60 early and then take a couple hours off, mostly because he's already stuck to live with the $1-5 guys for the rest of his team. There are always at least two of these guys in every auction.
  • The Miser - This is the opposite owner of The Splurger, and he will be pinching every penny for that first hour or so of the draft. This guy hopes to dominate the back 75-80% of the auction with his cash stash. The way to push this guy into the market is either by peer pressure ("Is Steve ever gonna buy someone???") or by nominating players you know he has to go for at some point. Getting a player or two on his roster is key, so specific peer pressure helps here ("Bob has to buy a running back some day..."), which will key in some other owners to nominate running backs. Hopefully Bob buys one soon and you can nominate at another position.
  • The Budget Bidder - This owner pretends to be a Miser but he really is looking for value picks throughout the auction. He will track bids closely and will look for the best values at both position and player to get every player he wants. He has a plan and will work it. The strategy to deal with him is to keep pushing him much like the Miser, but this is a very solid strategy so he's a tough nut to crack. Keep throwing out big names and studs because he has to buy one at some point, and if he doesn't his team will have great depth but not a good starting lineup.
  • The Watchdog - This owner is the one who will watch all the bids and make sure that no one goes too cheap. He might be bidding more than anyone else but will drop out early. Know that tendency in case you get into a bidding war with him as he will probably not push you all the way to your top number.

You can be any of these guys (well, you won't be Mr. Unprepared - but we know that already because you are reading this now), but the key is to be able to categorize all the owners and act accordingly. You likely will be bidding against all of them throughout the auction, so knowing their motives and style helps a great deal.

Now that you know your league setup, it is time to consider the overall league settings and what kind of league (or leagues) that you will have for this year, and possibly for years to come.

Auction League Types

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 the section - 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 later in the Auction Day section.

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

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

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.

Strategies for Building an Auction Team

Auctions can be won or lost before the first nomination. It is extremely important to not just have an overall roster strategy but also to have more than one, because every auction is different. It is critical to be able to adapt on the fly, so familiarizing yourself with multiple options and teams strategies is important during your homework phase before the auction.

Let's start by talking about different team strategies and then dive into some overall strategy topics.

"Wait and Lurk" Strategy

This is a very common strategy where you decide to sit back and watch the opening moments of the auction unfold. The buyer's market takes over as everyone is flush with cash and spending is usually high and almost out of control. Take good notes of which players and positions are being overspent on and adjust your new values accordingly.

  • When it works best: When you need a deep team and want to dominate the middle and latter stages of the auction. Best ball leagues or large starting lineup leagues are also excellent choices for this strategy.
  • How it can fall apart: If you wait too long you will miss out on the stud player or players that you have to have to field a competitive team. Also, if more than one owner adopts this strategy, you could wind up in a bidding war over the last feature running back, stud QB or WR - which will ruin both your strategy and your budget. Keep careful track of how many studs are left at each position and be sure to jump in before the well runs dry. A good rule of thumb is to not wait until the point where the number of teams that still need a stud is equal to the number of studs left. That is when the competition for the remaining studs will heat up and the bidding will become overinflated.

"Go Big or Go Home" Strategy

This is the opposite of "Wait and Lurk" as you are gunning for 2-3 stud players early in the auction. You know you will be paying a lot of your money for these guys, but possibly you might get a bargain and you will get 2-3 studs that you can build your team around. This strategy will likely cost you at least 20% of your budget per player and possibly more - so be prepared to watch a lot of the middle part of the auction go by without participating in most of it.

  • When it works best: When you are perfectly fine with a minimal bench or backups. Smaller leagues or leagues with smaller rosters that have a deep free agent pool are great choices for this strategy. When you have a deep list of sleepers (or your league does not know of many of the lesser name players who will be productive), also consider this approach. Another type of league that lends itself well to this option is one with wide open free agency.
  • How it can fall apart: Overspending early can hurt, especially if you want a deep team. If you get 2-3 studs it can be valuable, especially if you have value guys you can target later (or if most of your league will be overspending early too). Be careful not to overspend for second- and third-tier players as your wallet will be very light after getting your studs early.

Hybrid Strategy

This is the middle ground of both the "Go Big or Go Home" and the "Wait and Lurk" strategies. Target one stud and go after him and then wait for the auction to play out in your favor.

  • When it works best: There are two really good times to work this approach, and they are often dictated by the nominations of the players. One option - if you have an early nomination - is to nominate a guy you want that you think might be a value or that the league might value him (or his position) incorrectly and get him as one of the first players in the auction. The second option is when the player you really want gets nominated early - again, typically the first player at his position. When this happens, be ready to adopt this strategy and get your stud.
  • How it can fall apart: If your research is poor or if other owners drive up your price, this can backfire. The good news is that by getting one stud you have locked up a top tier player and you also have not overcommitted your team or your budget to more than one player with a big price tag.

Table 1 shows three typical plans for small (16), medium (18 spots) and large (20) rosters.

Pos
16-Go Big
16-Hybrid
16-Lurk
18-Go Big
18-Hybrid
18-Lurk
20-Go Big
20-Hybrid
20-Lurk
QB1
$30
$15
$12
$30
$15
$12
$30
$15
$12
QB2
$1
$8
$7
$1
$8
$7
$1
$8
$7
QB3
           
$1
$1
$1
RB1
$60
$60
$45
$60
$60
$45
$60
$60
$45
RB2
$15
$20
$25
$15
$20
$25
$15
$20
$25
RB3
$2
$10
$15
$2
$10
$12
$2
$9
$11
RB4
$1
$5
$8
$1
$4
$10
$1
$4
$10
RB5
$1
$1
$2
$1
$1
$3
$1
$1
$2
RB6
     
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
WR1
$50
$30
$30
$50
$30
$30
$50
$30
$30
WR2
$15
$20
$18
$15
$20
$18
$15
$20
$18
WR3
$8
$12
$15
$7
$11
$12
$6
$10
$12
WR4
$3
$5
$5
$2
$5
$6
$2
$5
$6
WR5
$1
$2
$3
$1
$2
$3
$1
$2
$3
WR6
     
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
WR7
           
$1
$1
$1
TE1
$10
$7
$8
$10
$7
$8
$9
$7
$8
TE2
$1
$3
$5
$1
$3
$5
$1
$3
$5
PK
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
Def
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
$1
Total
$200
$200
$200
$200
$200
$200
$200
$200
$200

Table 1 - Typical Auction Plans

"Bid Up to 75-80% of Value" Strategy

In this approach you adopt the philosophy that you have properly valued all positions and players for your league. You decide to bid every player up to at least to 75-80% of their value and then let the free market take over.

  • When it works best: When you are confident that the league will step up and bid on players and take them off of your hands.
  • How it can fall apart: Pretty obvious how this can backfire - you could get stuck with 1-2 players you don't want. The key is to not bid up a player that you would not want on your roster for a given price. This goes along with the concept of not loving or hating any particular player. If you really don't want a player, drop his value on your list so you don't mistakenly bid him up.

"Five and Dime" Strategy

This strategy focuses on the final phase of the auction - sometimes known as the bargain basement. The concept is to hold on to $10 (the dime) for your last five roster spots. (Note: the numbers can change a little, but you should be looking at about $8-12 for your last 4-6 players).

  • When it works best: When you are sure that you have sleepers at the end of the draft and that you can find a $1 bargain.
  • How it can fall apart: Messing up your $1 guys. You have to know what players are $1 ONLY and which ones are $1-5 players. That means you cannot be upset when a $1 guy is bid up. The $1-5 players are guys you want to buy at the end of the auction and really want - that's why you have $10-12 at the end of the auction. Nominations are key here as you have to nominate your $1 guy and hope you get him, while you wait for the $1-5 guy to be nominated and drive the price up to $2-3. If you get two $1 guys, now you have $8-10 for three players and can safely go after all of them - so focus on the $1 guys first.

"Early Kicker and Defense" Strategy

This strategy is another simple one - early in the draft you nominate a kicker or defense for $1.

  • When it works best: When everyone is focusing on the big name players, you can sneak through a kicker or defense that you want.
  • How it can fall apart: The only downside is to not get that kicker or defense you might want for $1. If you lose them to another team, at least you know that they overpaid.

"Handcuff Forcing" Strategy

In this approach you nominate a player who is the perceived handcuff to a player that was recently won in the auction.

  • When it works best: When you know that a running back by committee or a true backup is really desired by the owner who just won that player.
  • How it can fall apart: No one bids on your backup nomination. Best strategy is to nominate very cheap or just be happy that you get a guy for $1 if he does have value.

These are just some of the big picture strategies and plans that you need to know before you start bidding in your auction.

Strategies for Operating an Auction Team

Operational Strategies

Besides having multiple budget plan strategies, there are several other concepts that you need to keep in mind throughout the auction regarding your budget and how you bid on players in the market:

Spend Everything You Have

In almost every auction format, the money that you have left in your budget is worthless once your roster is full (some leagues do allow you to roll over or add extra dollars to free agent bidding money to be used during the season). Since a dollar not spent is worthless to you, make sure that you plan to spend every single dollar you have. Waiting too late to spend big bucks can force you to overspend on a player late in the auction, which is very much a waste. Dollar guys are dollar guys for a reason, so let them be only worth $1.

Avoid Bidding Wars

One of the biggest mistakes a fantasy team owner can make during an auction is to get into a bidding war. Well, let me qualify that - the biggest mistake the owner can make is to get into a bidding war and win it. Getting a player for way too much will not only cost you too much value against that player but it will hurt the rest of your team because of the budget implications. Even if you are fortunate enough to lose the bidding war - and believe me, the loser is the winner here - the emotional aspect of a bidding war can cloud your judgment and leave you open to make additional mistakes during the auction. Keep a cool head and do not get into a bidding war no matter how much you love a player. Not falling in love with players and avoiding situations where there can be a run on the last stud at a given position should keep you out of harm's way.

Bidding Late in the Bidding Process

Some owners like to wait until the last moment to throw in a bid. That doesn't always work, but slipping in a late bid when the auction slows down can get you a player when the value is nearly determined. This can work even if this is your first bid on that player. if you have already been in on the bidding for that player, a late bid can show a little bit of reluctance which might wrap up the bidding, saving you a few extra dollars.

Jumping Bids or Bidding High Early

Nearly every bid goes in increments of $1. Early in the auction, players are going to go for big bucks, so if you are confident that a jump up in the bidding would still leave you with a value pickup if you win that bid at that moment then go for it. Sometimes a big jump in the bidding will stop others from bidding on a player, either because they feel the amount is too high or that the big jump shows you will not let that player go. With everyone expecting small bumps in the bidding, a bigger step size could get a very positive result.

Act Fast

The auction can last for hours, so on occasion some players will be in and out of the auction very quickly. Throwing out a number on a player and hoping the auction closes quickly could get you a steal of a value.

Don't be Afraid to Overspend if it Makes Sense

If everyone is overspending early in the auction (which is very typical), sometimes you have to get in the market and spend more than you really budgeted for to get a stud player early. At first this may not seem to make sense, but you cannot let everyone snap up the early talent while you stand on the sidelines. The good news is that if everyone else is overspending by 20-30% of what you think the players should be worth, going over by 10-20% will still leave you with more money than the rest of the league for the later portions of the auction.

Don't Let the Talent Evaporate

You cannot let everyone get the top players while you continue to wait for bargains. This strategy goes along with the last one as you have to spend or overspend if it makes sense. Letting all the stud quarterbacks, running backs and top wideouts evaporate from the talent pool will leave your team at a huge disadvantage. Waiting too long will leave you cash rich and talent poor.

Waiver Wire and Free Agency considerations

Some auctions have a second budget for free agency (such as for free agent acquisition budget, or FAAB). If your league has that sort of rule, keeping a few extra bucks at the end of your auction may seem like a good idea, but you have to avoid that temptation. The difference in having $100 or $105 for a free agent or waiver wire budget is so minimal it usually does not matter at all. The difference between having two $10 players and two $8 players can mean far more - so focus on and emphasize getting the best possible team on Auction Day and ignore the temptation to save a few bucks for a rainy day need that may never come.

There are some waiver wire and free agent league settings that could influence you on Auction Day. If you have an open season on free agents as some point after the auction but before Week 1, and if your league rules allow it, you could shoot for the best players possible and not even have a bench! If you don't need to buy 20 players during the auction, then why should you? Those $1-2 guys can add up - and if they are all waiver wire quality guys then forget about it and go and get the best players possible and spend all of your budget on your starters and top backups. If your league doesn't require you to have a valid starting lineup at the end of the auction, don't buy a kicker or defense either. Get one before your first fantasy game, but do it for free off of the waiver wire.

This may not be a complete and exhaustive list of all the strategies that are out there for auctions, but it is a great start. Knowing these strategies will take you far on auction day.

Nomination Strategies

Nominations are when you throw out a name to be up for bids. This is a key part of the auction process and there are a few strategies involved in how this is done. First you have to understand the three goals of nominations:

  1. Get other owners to spend their money.
  2. Get players you want, preferably at a bargain price.
  3. Gauge the marketplace.

Once you understand these three goals, you have a pretty good sanity check on what you should be doing when it is your turn to nominate a player. If they do not immediately address one or more of these three goals, find another name that fits at least one of these three goals. Timing is another key element as you really cannot do the third item (gauge the market) except at or near the beginning of the auction. You might be able to gauge where the market is trending later in the auction (to see if you are at the $1-2 guys yet or to see what a WR3 might cost, for example) but gauging the marketplace is predominantly an early auction activity.

There are lots of ideas about strategy for nominations. Here are a few:

  • Throw out a top line player you think will be overbid (homers, overvalued, stud you don't like). Do you think that last year's top tight end is going to be much closer to the next 3-4 tight ends? Throw him into the market and see what happens. Odds are that he will be bid up high, especially if this is early in the auction. Now you get several benefits - other owners have less cash and the market is now set for the perceived top player at the position. Now you know that your top guy (or comparable guy) will be about the same price or less when his name comes up.

  • Nominating a player you do not like has a downside, which is you could be stuck with him. This can be tricky but the safest time to do this is early in the auction and with players you know that will be bid up.

  • A common strategy for auctions is to never nominate a player you like early. Shake things up and ignore that idea, especially if you are going for the "Go Big or Go Home" or "Hybrid" strategies. If you do this and if this is out of character for you, even better - the rest of the league will be scratching your head long after you have rostered a valuable stud.

  • Zig when the auction zags. If several recent nominees are all in the same position, go to a different position. This allows you to possibly get a bargain at that position or at least gauge where the marketplace is for that position. This is also a good time to not only change positions but also go after a player you like at that position. If the first five nominees are running backs it might be time to go WR or QB for your top stud and set the market - hopefully for less than you think the player should really cost.

  • Nominate players at a position that you just secured. So what if you now have Aaron Rodgers? Throw out Tom Brady and watch the dollars fly. Remember that part about getting the rest of the owners to spend, right?

  • Monitor what other owners need. If the supply of top running backs is getting low but the demand should be high (several teams that have no running backs yet) - light the match and watch the fire you set blaze away - and take lots of auction dollars with it.

  • Defense and kicker nominations for $1 early. Either you get a Top 5 kicker or defense you like or someone overpays by bidding you up. Win-win.
  • Nominate backups and handcuffs that you know will be wanted soon after the other member of that running back pairing is auctioned off. Did Devonta Freeman just go? Throw out Tevin Coleman. Adrian Peterson should be brought up for bid soon after Mark Ingram. If the owner of one wants both you can bet that he will be willing to overpay, and that's your goal.

  • It is better to nominate the $1 players you want too early than too late. Keep this strategy for players you are only looking for at exactly $1 and not a penny more. For this reason, it is important to know who are your $1 guys and who are your $2-5 guys. The ones in the latter category you are willing to bid back up to $3-4 before you lose them. The goal here is to add your sleepers for as cheap as possible early to give you more budget to work with for the rest of your starters and top backups.

Nominations are a big part of the auction process, and it is something that is a key part of auction day. No auction on any player can begin without a nomination, so if you can figure out a winning strategy for this phase of an auction you will have that much more of a leg up on your completion.

Auction Day

Auction day is finally here! You have your location set up, all your owners have agreed to the date and time, and you even have an auctioneer set to be there and help you to get everything rolling.

Here's a list of things to keep in mind during your auction:

  • Track the money - See who has it and who doesn't. Usually you won't have to police other owners as it is rare for an overbid to happen (and that's why you have an auctioneer) but it does help to know where you sit in comparison to other owners as far as how much money you have left. If you are at or near the top of the remaining budget list, that's usually a good thing - but don't stay there all day. You have to buy players at some point and that's what matters the most.

  • Pay Attention! - Even if the player in the market at the moment does not interest you in the least, you have to pay attention. Pushing up the bid on him may not be the best idea (as you may get stuck with a guy you really don't want at all), but do keep track of who winds up with everyone and who is overspending.

  • Watch out for your side conversations - If you are distracted and not paying attention, you are missing out on what is going on and that is what is most important. Remember, you prepped for this day, so don't let all that work go to waste. Stay focused and keep the side conversations and other distractions to the bare minimum. Don't worry if you are isolating yourself during the auction if that is your style. Whatever works for you.

  • Taking Breaks - You can have them, but be prepared to be on top of the auction from start to finish (or at least your finish). Sometimes some owners will try and sneak a player through when no one is paying attention (and you can pull this trick yourself if you want to slip a guy in when it is your chance to nominate). Get a feel for the dynamics of the room and who is more worried about the food, the beverages or the next bathroom break.

Try to set up logical breaks every hour or so for the auction to "Take 5" and reset. Everyone is having a good time and taking a few minutes now and then helps everyone.

Now that we have some general thoughts, let's talk about the flow of the auction itself.

The Three Phases of Every Auction

Every auction has three distinct phases, and you can remember them as simple as “A, B, C and D” (yes four letters for three phases, work with me here):

  • Phase 1 - All Aboard / Big Bucks - Everyone has all their money and they are itching to buy one, two or even three big names. Some owners may have no plan or budget but they are flush with cash and raring to bid - so watch out! Prices will go up quickly and possibly way over what you are prepared to see. Watch the bidding closely and if you think you need to, do not be afraid to jump in and get a stud or two. Just be careful to work whatever plan you have to complete your team (and be sure to read the different budget plans in the Strategy Section of this Auction Guide). Think of this phase as the first night of a Las Vegas weekend.

  • Phase 2 - Conservative Cash - After 20-40 players are off the board, the shine is off of the spending spree that happens in the first hour or so of an auction. Think of it as the sugar crash after the birthday cake at a kid's party, or the first day after the first night in Las Vegas. Reality starts to set in, as you take stock of what happened so far and what you have left in your wallet. Can you afford some second- or third-tier players, or are you about to be drinking for the next 60-90 minutes until the $1-3 guys start getting bid up? That will really depend on your plan and how crazy you spent in Phase 1. Many experienced auction players will look to stock up and fill the majority of their roster during this portion of the auction. Most of the players that will be added to most teams come out of this portion of the auction, which is usually also the longest portion of the bidding - but the quality of players you get here can range widely based upon how you spent in Phase 1.

  • Phase 3 - Dollar Days - The end of the auction is upon us with the onset of Phase 3. Bargain hunters await this section of the auction, as well as those who went crazy in Phase 1. The owners that have $2 or more on average for their remaining roster spots (for example, $10 for five spots) will be in a dominant position to get many of the players that they want simply because many owners will only have a buck or so to spend and cannot top a $2 bid. This is when you want to grab your sleepers - especially for $1 - plus a kicker or defense if you have not secured one already. Many unprepared owners will experience buyers' remorse from overspending early on - to complete the Las Vegas trip analogy, this is the long trip home after a wild weekend having blown all your money.

Nominations

Nominations are when you throw out a name to be up for bids. This is a key part of the auction process and there are a few strategies involved in how this is done. First you have to understand the three goals of nominations:

  1. Get other owners to spend their money.
  2. Get players you want, preferably at a bargain price.
  3. Gauge the marketplace.

Once you understand these three goals, you have a pretty good sanity check on what you should be doing when it is your turn to nominate a player. If they do not immediately address one or more of these three goals, find another name that fits at least one of these three goals. Timing is another key element as you really cannot do the third item (gauge the market) except at or near the beginning of the auction. You might be able to gauge where the market is trending later in the auction (to see if you are at the $1-2 guys yet or to see what a WR3 might cost, for example), but gauging the marketplace is predominantly an early auction activity.

Strategies for the nomination process are numerous and were covered earlier.

Auction day is one of the most fun times a fantasy owner has throughout the year. Now that you have a better understanding of what to expect and all the strategy thoughts behind it, it is time to build your team and dominate your league. Let the bidding begin!