Auction Strategy Fantasy Football
Fantasy Football Auction drafts, also known as salary cap drafts, can be very stressful. Unlike traditional snake drafts, auction drafts are unpredictable. You can’t count on players falling to you based on ADP. You have to consider when to bid, how much to bid and when it’s okay to bid more than you planned. Even the most experienced owner can make fatal mistakes in the moment. The good news is you can use these five simple tips to ensure you have a fail-proof auction every time! It only takes a few minutes of preparation, and it works for any size league, budget, and scoring system.
1. Set Dollar Limits For Each Roster Spot
The key words here are “each roster spot.” Let’s assume your league has a $200 budget and starts 1 quarterback (QB), 2 running backs (RB), 3 wide receivers (WR), 1 tight end (TE), 1 flex (RB/WR/TE), 1 kicker (K), and a defense (D). It also has 6 bench spots for a total of 16 players. Set a budget for each roster spot and stick to it as closely as possible. Start by finding the value for each player based on your league size and scoring. You can use average auction value (AAV) as a good starting point. From there, find the value of the player you would be happy with for any given roster spot. For example, RB1 is one roster spot. For our league settings, Jonathan Taylor has the highest AAV at $63. That’s a bit high for me, so I look down the list for a cheaper player I would be happy to have as my RB1. Najee Harris is a good option, and his value is only $44. So, I’m going to budget my RB1 spot at $44.
I want to fill out my top players first when making my budget, so let’s look next at the WR1 spot. Cooper Kupp has the highest value at $56, but a few spots down, you can see Stefon Diggs at $36, so I’ll set my WR1 budget at $36. Diggs is also a tremendous value at that price since we have him as our #2 wide receiver at GridironRankings. Next, let’s find a QB1. We could have the most expensive player, Josh Allen, at $36, or we could target Aaron Rodgers at $12.
Make sure to only budget $1 each for your kicker and defense. I use 90% of my total budget on starters. You can make your budget to fit your drafting style. Everyone has their own strategies, most of which work if you stick with them. I prefer a more balanced approach, personally. Here’s how I plan my budget, along with an example of a starting player with a matching AAV.
- QB1- $12, Aaron Rodgers
- RB1- $44, Najee Harris
- RB2- $26, Cam Akers
- WR1- $36, Tyreek Hill
- WR2- $20, Terry McLaurin
- WR3- $8, DeVonta Smith
- TE- $16, Kyle Pitts
- Flex- $18, Jerry Jeudy
- K- $1
- D- $1
- Bench1- $3
- Bench2- $3
- Bench3 -$3
- Bench4- $3
- Bench5- $3
- Bench6- $3
I allow myself to spend over on a roster spot early on if I want that player badly enough. If I do go over budget, I take that amount and subtract it from another budgeted roster spot(s). For example, if I spend $5 more on RB1, I’ll lower my budget by $1 for five of my bench spots. Usually, I’ll get at least one of my starters for much less than I budgeted, and I’ll apply those savings to other positions.
Next, we’ll learn how to ensure we get those players I listed above, or even better ones, every time!
2. Adjust For Inflation
This is the tricky part. Get a calculator and have a spreadsheet handy. Excel or Google Docs are both fine. I recommend a Ti-84 scientific calculator. First thing you need to do is take your calculator and throw it out the window because you don’t need it. Next, go outside and retrieve the calculator. Those things are expensive! Now, delete that spreadsheet. Adjusting for inflation is easy! Using my method, which I call the Inflation Index, might get you kicked out at the Blackjack table in Vegas, but it’s not cheating in fantasy football. You only need a pen and paper and your list of players’ auction values from Step 1.
Before the draft begins, we start with an Inflation Index of zero. Anytime a player is drafted for more than his AAV, you add the amount over his value. For example, Jonathan Taylor has an AAV of $63. If he is drafted for $65, you add $2 to the Inflation Index. If he goes for $60, you subtract $3. After each player is drafted, you add or subtract the amount over or under his AAV. Keep this as a running total throughout the draft. The higher the number, the better value you’ll find in the draft.
In the early stages of an auction draft, many owners will bid conservatively. If you can get the player you want for his value or less, don’t be afraid to bid. However, as more studs are drafted, anxious owners will begin overpaying for starters. Invariably, the running total will almost always swell to over $100. In my most recent draft, the Inflation Index went up to $154! Knowing the current inflation is crucial and possibly the most significant advantage you can have during an auction draft. You can rest easy while other owners panic, knowing the math dictates that players left on the board will be going for a tremendous value.
What if the player you’re targeting is drafted for more than you budgeted for his roster spot? No worries! You have your list of player values, which is essentially a list of player rankings. If somebody drafted your player for more than his AAV, you can usually get a player ranked higher at a discount, especially if the Inflation Index is high. I target players with lower auction values precisely for this reason. My target list of players from Step 1 is the minimum player I would accept at his roster spot, but I almost always get a higher-ranked player.
3. Keep Your Budget Fluid
In an auction draft, you won’t be able to follow your budget 100%. You have to keep it fluid throughout the draft. If you overspent on that RB1 and adjusted your bench budget to account for it, that’s an example of being fluid with your budget. Your goal is to stay at or below budget after each pick. It’s okay to go over a few dollars as long as you continue to adjust your budget at other positions. I’ve gone as high as $10 over budget when the Inflation Index is well over $100 because I know the value will be there for my remaining players. When you have to adjust down, use your bench spots first. You’ll be able to get quality bench players for as low as $1 as the draft moves into the ending stages.
4. Trust The Process
At some point in the draft, you’re going to get a feeling of panic as you watch stud after stud fly off the board. You should embrace that feeling knowing you’ll be able to control the draft with your bankroll and the value you’ll get later. If you don’t land the RB1 you were targeting, and the players ranked above him are all gone, don’t worry; you’re going to be okay. You’ll be able to get two high-end RB2 and probably upgrade your flex spot, as well. Or maybe you use the money you would’ve spent on Najee Harris to target Travis Kelce or even Josh Allen. The value will be there and you will end up with a great team if you trust the process, keep patient, and don’t panic!
5. Mock Draft Before the Big Day
You can use these tips without any prep and have a fine draft, but to feel comfortable, you need to practice. It’s better to have draft anxiety in a mock draft than on your draft day. Do a couple of these and you’ll be more than prepared for your league draft.
Early in the draft, nominate players who have an AAV higher than your budget for that roster spot. Most likely, they will be drafted for more than their value and help the Inflation Index rise. This will increase the dollars being over-spent, creating more value for you. Conversely, once the Inflation Index reaches a high point, usually over $100, nominate players you want. You should be able to draft them well below their value. Speaking of value, a great way to target players who are way undervalued is to look at the “VS. ADP” column in our Gridiron Expert players rankings. Players like D’Andre Swift, Aaron Jones, and Allen Lazard are ranked well above their ADP and represent tremendous value in auction drafts.
Now you’re armed with all the information needed to destroy your competition. Practice what you’ve learned with some mock drafts and feel free to reach out to me on Twitter @dougwburrell.
Doug Burrell is a lifelong NFL fan and has been playing fantasy football for over 25 years. He specializes in auction drafts and has been ranked in the top 1% of Yahoo owners since 2014. He enjoys breaking down advanced statistics and complicated game theory into easy, actionable steps that even novice players can use to gain an edge over the competition.
Doug is a veteran, an avid runner, and works as a copywriter. He lives in North Carolina with his wife and three dogs. You can reach him on Twitter @dougwburrell.