Auction is a beloved and invigorating format for a draft, despite (because of) the fact that unlike a snake draft, it is inherently unpredictable. The flow of the auction and willingness of people to spend for players is unknowable, sometimes even by the drafters themselves until the moment of truth. If you had the same group do three snake drafts, the results would be very similar across the drafts. Teams would likely have at least 25 to 50% of their rosters in common across drafts. In three successive auctions, teams might have only one or two players in common across teams. The order of the players thrown out for bidding and the remaining balances of all teams are variables that can cause a players price to double or be cut in half from one auction to another.
So how do we combat this fundamental uncertainty? The answer is to arm yourself with your own set of auction values before your draft. It can be a set of values determined by an expert and then tweaked for your league settings and personal player valuations, but if you have the time to create your own, nothing beats building them from the ground up.
First, let's agree on a format for our hypothetical league:
- 12 teams
- 20 roster spots
- PPR scoring
- 4 pts per Pass Touchdown
- Point per 20 yards passing
- QB/2RB/3WR/TE/RB-WR-TE Flex/DEF/K lineups
Obviously, our final values will expand and contract depending on how your league differs from these settings. Non-PPR would inflate running back and deflate wide receiver/tight end. Fewer teams might increase the value of elite players but decrease the value of RB2/WR2 types. More teams would make the top-end running backs more valuable because of increased scarcity. This is a subject for multiple other articles - how league settings affect player value. We'll save that one for another day.
Second, let's agree on a rough distribution of cap value to correspond to redraft pick rounds. The idea here is to simulate about how much each snake pick would be worth as a percentage of your cap:
- 1st round: 28%
- 2nd round: 18%
- 3rd round: 13%
- 4th round: 10%
- 5th round: 7%
- 6th round: 5%
- 7th round: 3%
- 8th-10th round: 2%
- 11th-20th round: 1%
This is only meant to represent a rough distribution of your assets in a typical snake draft. You could do something like take VBD projections and adjust these numbers based on the total VBD available in each round as a percentage of the whole available during the draft. You could come with all kinds of ways to calculate these numbers. I have chosen a somewhat gradual curve, but you may argue that it should be steeper, or perhaps that the top should be lower and it should be even more gradual. The point here is to have some sort of guide for translating round value in a snake draft to dollar value in an auction.
Third, you'll want to open a spreadsheet and create an entry for each of your top 120 players (or more if you think more than 120 players have at least 10th round value). We'll presume that players outside of the top 120 are going to be worth 1% or less of your cap. This, by the way, is a good argument for having a cap of 200 or 500 instead of 100. More units, equals more granularity. In a 100 cap, all defenses and just about all backups are worth a dollar. Period. In a 500 cap, you might throw four bucks at the Denver defense or your favorite late-round fliers. More units = more flexibility.
Fourth, start with consensus rankings and scale the values (or those listed below), then adjust up or down depending whether you are higher or lower on a player. The values should roughly represent where you would take them in a snake draft based on the earlier values established for each round. You'll want the numbers to add up to about 1080 (of the possible 1200 to spend - 12X100) to leave room for the approximately 120 players that will be rostered that are not on your auction values list. The beautiful thing is that some teams will surely bid two dollars or more on a one-dollar player on your board, which means more of your top 120 will go for less than you projected. The idea here is that you have a scenario for how the auction will go down if players go for the value that you believe they have. My attempt at this is listed at the end of the article.
Now, we get to the fun part, the auction. It should be immediately clear whether the early players are going for too much or too little. If the first five or ten players are all under your projected values, jump in before everyone loosens up and starts spending their money. That extra money is likely to drive the prices of the players in the middle of the auction up as teams see that they have more money than value left on the board. If the first five or ten players are all over your projected values, then sit back. Eventually, teams will stop firing their bullets and you will be situated with the ability to control the auction and get a run of players at prices that sicken your opponents. You might need to splurge on an RB1 and RB2 because they are scarce, but otherwise, keep your wallet closed.
With a realistic set of values that accounts for all of the cash on the board, you will be able to track when the draft shifts from a buyer's market to a seller's market and vice versa. You'll be able to know when to get out of bidding on a player because they have exceeded the value that you project for them (adjusted for the direction that your auction is going). While everyone else is one step behind, you'll be one step ahead.
Auction Top 120 (values are % of cap or dollars in a $100 cap league)
Note: See assumed league settings earlier in article for lineups/scoring