It has probably been a long time since you bowled with bumpers, unless you’ve recently been to a child’s birthday party. You presumably removed the training wheels from your bike years ago. You likely don’t have an instructor with his or her own steering wheel and brake pedal sitting next to you while you drive. So why does your league still use a snake draft? It’s time to upgrade to the auction, the grown-up way to pick a fantasy team.
The auction is clearly the superior of the roster-filling formats available to the fantasy community. First and foremost, every player in the NFL can be had by any owner in the league at the right price. Are you a huge Chiefs fan? You can ensure you get Jamaal Charles in an auction. Is your strategy dependent on getting LeSean McCoy? Well, I’d tell you it’s silly to lock yourself into a specific player, but, in an auction, you can get McCoy at all costs. If you’re slotted to pick at the end of a draft, you aren’t coming anywhere near Charles, McCoy, or any of the other top running backs.
Secondly, auctions favor the prepared, the studied, the savvy owners who have put their time in over the summer. Anyone can show up at a draft and end up with at least a decent team simply by following a cheat sheet they found on the Internet. That’s not going to work in an auction. Fantasy should be about rewarding the best team. Sure, luck is always going to be part of the equation, but the auction format goes a long way toward minimizing that input.
Just like its inferior draft cousin, the auction requires a sound, overarching strategy. While your draft slot goes a long way toward determining your strategy in a traditional snake format, auctions allow you to be a lot more flexible. We’ll be taking a look at the best auction strategies over the next week here on SI.com, and we’ll start where every owner in an auction league should: the budget..
Put simply, an owner cannot expect to have any success in an auction if he or she has failed to make a budget before the first gavel falls. The logic here should be intuitive. Every owner enters a standard draft with some sort of plan, no matter how detailed. One owner might want to focus on receivers early. Someone with the first pick might grab Charles first, cross their fingers for a quarterback and receiver at the turn, and then focus on best available. A third owner may be going the zero-RB route. There are a lot of different ways to skin a cat in a draft, but every owner heads into one with some sort of tool.
Outside of the familiar structure of a draft, those cookie-cutter strategies break down. Without a draft slot to dictate who picks when, many owners become overwhelmed with the new set of challenges. The only way to avoid this is to have a budget that provides you with a road map for navigating the auction but is still loose enough to allow you to deviate when an opportunity presents itself.
The first thing to do is to know your league’s settings and roster requirements -- most auctions use a $200 budget. From there, find a reliable list of average auction values so you have a general sense of the price tag required to secure each player. Of course, every auction is different, and players are in most cases going to cost something other than their average value. However, Charles doesn’t need to go for exactly $57 (his average auction value according to FantasyPros) to make this knowledge useful.
Let’s say one prong of your strategy is to get Charles, McCoy, Matt Forte, Adrian Peterson or Eddie Lacy. Those five backs have average auction values ranging from $41 to $57. That means you can earmark $55 for your RB1 and feel comfortable that you’ll come away with one of these guys. If you get Forte for $55, you’ve just acquired a top back at a price that you know you can afford. If you get Lacy at $45, you’re still happy, and you know you have $10 to spend elsewhere. While other owners in your league are throwing cash around blindly, you’ll be the Warren Buffett of the room, spending wisely, taking risks where you can, and being safe when it is required.
Having a budget allows you to shift resources around as the market in your auction is set. Owners tend to be a little freer with their money early in an auction, and then get forced into uncomfortable positions when they don’t have enough cash to capitalize on the bargains that inevitably present themselves later.
By having a pre-set budget, you can instantly redirect the money you set aside for a certain spot once said spot is filled. Using the example above, you now have $10 that you can use on someone else that you had previously reserved for your top running back. If you sat down at your auction expecting to spend about $15 on your quarterback, the going rate for someone like Colin Kaepernick, you could perhaps choose to price yourself a bit higher by re-allocating that crisp Alexander Hamilton still in your pocket to the quarterback position. That could mean an upgrade to a Matthew Stafford type. It’s a whole lot easier to adjust on the fly with a budget to guide you.
The auction format allows fantasy football owners to build an ideal team in their heads -- with every player in the league at their disposal – ahead of time, and then bring those teams to fruition. The only way to do that, however, is with a sound, calculated budget set prior to the auction. That has to be the underlying strategy from which all other roster-building tactics derive.