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NFL Fantasy Forecast: Inside auction-style drafts

As much as I enjoy traditional fantasy drafts, I must admit a special fondness for auction-style drafts. Auction drafts add a poker-type element to the event, making it even more compelling than its traditional cousin. The added strategy involved in knowing who to draft, when to draft them and how much to pay for them can be daunting for first-time auction participants; to help ease fantasy owners into the process, I present my 2009 Auction Draft Survival Guide.

In auction drafts, the scoring rules and roster requirements are similar to traditional drafts. Additionally, each owner is allotted a fixed budget (usually $200), which will be used to draft players.

There is typically a "draft order", by which owners nominate players for bidding; for example, the first owner in a draft typically says "I nominate Adrian Peterson for $10." All owners are then permitted to bid on the nominated player. Bidding is done in the traditional "Going once, going twice, GONE!" manner with which we are all familiar. The nomination/bidding process continues until every team's roster is filled.

Some points of order to keep in mind:

• Bids are typically as follows: $1 starting minimums, with all incremental bids in whole dollars.• Owners must always have at least $1 per unfilled roster spot. For example, if I have 10 rosters spots remaining to fill on my team and only $12 left in my cash allotment, I cannot spend more than $3 on any one player, because if I spent $4 on player X, that would leave nine roster spots with an $8 cash allotment. I would be unable to fill my roster as the result of the $4 bid -- so the auctioneer would disqualify my $4 bid and award player X to the previous high bidder.• Trading of dollars during a draft is typically forbidden, although player trades are permitted.

With these assumptions in mind, we can work on a general Auction Draft Strategy.

Auction drafts involve a great deal more strategy; while this means extra work, it can also be very rewarding. In a traditional draft, you could never hope to draft Peterson and Maurice Jones-Drew; in an auction draft, it is quite possible.

Much of auction draft strategy involves nuances of human behavior, much like poker. How much will your opponent pay for his favorite player? How far can you drive up the price, causing him to deplete his budget? While I can't write a column that will turn you into a behaviorist of Skinnerian proportions, I can provide you with a auction draft method to guide you.

Using the principles defined by our Best Damn Draft Method 2009 and the following assumptions:

• Assume a $200 budget• Assume that all $200 will be spent, i.e. you don't need to save money for free agents in-season• Assume standard roster requirements (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DT, seven reserves)• Assume WCOFF scoring system

... then we can devise the following guidelines:

1. Total spend: 20 total spots, $200 budget.

2. For K and DEF:

• Each position will be capped at $1 per position;• We need a starter and reserve for each position;• A $4 total spend for both positions.

3. Thus, 16 spots and $196 left.

4. For starters, we will allocate roughly 80 percent of remaining roll:

• 7 starters required ($196 * .80) = $157• 2 RB will be given ~35% of roll ($54); average of $27/RB• 3 WR will be given ~45% of roll ($72); average of $24/WR• 1 TE will be given ~5% of roll ($7); average of $7/TE• 1 QB will be given ~15% of roll ($24); average of $16/QB

5. For reserves we allocate 20 percent of remaining roll:

• 7 reserves required ($196 * .20) = $39• 1 QB will be given ~20% of roll ($8); average of $8.00/QB• 2 RB will be given ~25% of roll ($10); average of $5.00/RB• 2 WR will be given ~35% of roll ($14); average of $7.00/WR• 1 TE will be given ~20% of roll ($7); average of $7.00/TE

Note that I've allocated percentages of my budget per position, according to the relative importance of the position.

As your auction draft starts, there are some important strategic points to keep in mind:

Psychology of Nominations: The order of the players you nominate plays a crucial role. In a recent Experts Auction Draft, I had targeted Steve Slaton and Ronnie Brown as my top runners; naturally, I nominated Peterson for my first pick. The reason I did this was because I knew Peterson is consider the top runner and that he would go for a high price. Sure enough, Peterson went for over $60. I landed Slaton for $26 and Brandon Jacobs for $19, for a total starting RB spend of $45.

You can also set folks up by establishing a "bluff", much like in a poker game. In the same draft, I nominated Peyton Manning on my second turn, and remained in the bidding until $30 or so (he went for over $40). I then also bid on another owner's nomination of Tom Brady to about $40. I'm sure that several owners felt I was really intent on getting a top QB, like Drew Brees. So when my next two nominations came up, I put up Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Schaub and got them for less than $15 each.

Amazingly, the other owners felt I was trying to "run up" to lesser QBs in order to save my money for Brees or perhaps Kurt Warner. But Big Ben and Schaub were my two real QB targets all along. I got Roethlisbeger for $15 and Schaub for $12. I was able to land two starting QBs for what was essentially my budgeted amount ($24) for one starting QB. And each of my opponents felt that I had screwed myself out of Warner and Brees!

Flexibility: Brown was obviously on someone else's "must have" list as well. I noticed the run on Brown and bowed out at $30. I then shifted my attention to Jacobs and was able to nab a good runner at a bargain price.

Discipline: At one point, I was very tempted to bid $45 on Brady, thinking I could get him for a good price; then I reminded myself that to do so would have thrown my entire pre-draft strategy into the trash.

Note: While flexibility and discipline are polar opposites, it is the balance of the two that will determine the success of your draft!

Adaptability: In the example above, I had budgeted $54 for two starting runners; I acquired those two RBs for a total $45. I immediately adjusted my pre-draft guide, allocating the spare $9 to my starting WR allotment. This meant I could afford to spend $81 for three starting WRs, increasing the average per WR from $24 to $27.

Accounting: You need to know both your roster and your budget at all times; furthermore, you need to know your opponents' rosters and budgets at all times. Being aware of your opponents' needs and budget will allow you to nominate players in such a way so as to maximize your own bid values, as well as helping you decide when to "run up" the bidding on a player you have no intention of buying.

Of course, the principles outlined above are merely meant to be guides, not absolute truths. A lot will depend on how well you know the other owners, how well they know you; league rules may force a shift in the way your budget gets allocated.

Auction leagues can be a little more draining and time-consuming, but perhaps more rewarding than traditional drafts. Give one a try and you'll see what I mean!

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