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 rulebook 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 into 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 number 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 of 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 someday..."), 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. Our next section will address multiple types of auction leagues and how those different league types may affect your auction strategies.