The King’s Classic Auction Draft took place on August 17th when fantasy football titan Bob Lung gathered 28 industry analysts together (14-team leagues) in Canton, Ohio at the Pro Football Hall of Fame to do battle. It was a shining example of what makes auctions tough and so incredibly fun – you never know what will happen, especially in a room of bright fantasy minds. There are things I predicted that happened like I thought they would. There were things that happened that I couldn’t predict at all. Then there were things that happened that I thought might happen, but they happened on a much larger, or smaller, scale than I was prepared for. All of that is the binary nature of any auction: it is predictable in its unpredictability. Therein lies the fun and frustration of trying to have a perfect auction.
In the more than two decades I’ve done them, I’ve never left an auction room and thought that I had nailed the draft exactly. At some point, I always make a mistake. Sometimes those mistakes happen because I just couldn’t bring myself to bid on that particular player despite the price I was seeing. Other times the mistakes happen because in hindsight my actions earlier in the draft were not optimal. It’s harder to classify the latter as a mistake, although the former certainly is. Either way, whether a mistake or victim of circumstance, it makes your team weaker for having happened.
Before we get into what happened, here is the league setup:
- $200 cap
- 16 roster spots (10 starters)
- 1 Quarterback
- 2 Running Backs
- 2 Wide Receivers
- 1 Tight End
- 2 Flex Starters
- 1 Kicker
- 1 Defense
- 14 Teams
- Full PPR, 4 point passing touchdowns
(Full rosters listed below)
It could be called amusing, or slightly nauseating, that I spent the last six weeks writing an exhaustive guide to doing auctions only to fail to follow my own advice just five short minutes into the draft. But I digress because there is plenty of time to read about my mistakes as we go along. For now, just remember that auctions are hard. I can give you every piece of advice in the book, but the judgment calls in the middle of a bidding war are hard and always will be. Don’t be too hard on yourself. With that out of the way, I’m going to be hard on myself so you can learn from my mistakes.
Let’s have a quick word on my plan heading into the draft so we have the proper context when dissecting those mistakes. I believed, as I laid out in my 2019 auctions strategy piece, that running backs would command big prices and therefore had planned to go wide receiver heavy. I also projected that in a room of industry types that I would be able to get a good quarterback for a very reasonable price. I wasn’t going to spend a lot on quarterback but was open to taking a top-five guy because of everyone else fading the position. Finally, I was planning to get one good running back, then grab two or three more at reasonable prices, and then go very cheap at tight end. I was hoping to leave the draft with 4 top-30 receivers so I could flex two of them.
By the time I finished the draft I felt pretty good about having executed my plan. Of course, it didn’t go flawlessly, but it went well enough that I could classify it as a success. Having said that, I don’t think it helps you as much to hear about all the good things I did. Instead, I’d rather focus on the errors because that is where you learn the most. You can check out my results at the bottom and see for yourself what you think. But for purposes of this article let’s focus on areas where I could’ve done better because that is how you learn from every auction you do.
So the auction began with the nomination of Dalvin Cook as the first player off the board. Despite the fact that when the day was over, running backs would be the most popular and expensive position, in this moment Cook got the treatment that early nominations seem to get. I talked about this as an important inflection point in the seventh part of my auction draft series, and it held true here. Even in a room of seasoned analysts, when owners are settling into a draft there are almost always deals to be had. That can last for one nomination, or it can last for a few players. For this draft, it was only one player, but Cook’s final price was just $34. That discount happened both because he was the first nomination, and it happened because the market had not yet been set for the top running backs.
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