Patience, gamesmanship crucial to navigating NFL fantasy auction
Owners should nominate players they don't want early in fantasy auctions
Each fantasy team should try to secure two or three expected stars
Saving money at positions like tight end can help buy better depth at RB
Have you ever gone to an estate sale? Where a speedy-talking auctioneer sells pieces of furniture and antiques one by one to the highest bidders? If you have, you most likely walked out of there with an elephant table, a bent Pete Rose baseball card and a pair of bookends from the 1920s.
You'll also know that fantasy football auctions get your blood flowing and are much more intense than a regular straight draft.
Fantasy football auction strategies are much different from straight drafts -- especially if you are doing a live, in-person auction rather than online. Several services are offering auctions as a way to fill your rosters, and while it can be more convenient to do it online, it's definitely not as fun as in person.
In a straight draft, you're only able to draft the players that are available to you when your pick comes up. But in a fantasy football auction draft, you can purchase the top two players in the league if you want. Granted, you'll have a bunch of $1 players (scrubs) filling the other six or seven spots in your lineup, but still. You have the freedom to bid on whomever you like -- it's like going to a restaurant and ordering the lobster as an appetizer, the steak for the entrée and sushi for dessert.
(I'm so bad at analogies, it's like I'm a giraffe bouncing on a trampoline. (See!?!))
If you are thinking of starting up a second league to go with your straight draft league -- definitely consider making it a fantasy football auction league.
Set what you think is a reasonable price for the top 168 players (14 players, 12 teams) you expect to get drafted, and try to use that as a gauge, or you can use fantasy football auction values found at several web sites, some big and some smaller.
Remember that once the first few players go off the board, you should mentally adjust your values. If the stars are more expensive than you initially expected, then you know there will be more bargains later on in the draft.
Try to separate players at each position into tiers, and then work on getting the cheapest players (not always the lowest-rated) in the highest tiers possible at each position. You'll notice in my fantasy football position rankings, I've already separated all of the players into tiers.
For each dollar you save in one of these tiers, you can pick up a better bargain later in the draft. You'll begin to see a shift in prices after about 40-50 players are off the board (about four of five players on each team). That's what I call the "Fantasy Fulcrum" -- when the player values shift and some of the stars that slipped through begin to go at cheaper rates. Try to save money so you can take advantage when this happens, but make sure you still get at least a couple high-price players for around the money you budgeted early on.
Are you good with Excel? Set up a spreadsheet for your league -- or at least one for your team -- that keeps track of how much you have left in your budget for each position. Some league services will even show you how much your maximum bid is for any player. That's calculated by subtracting $1 from your total available salary dollars for every player open roster spot, then adding $1. In other words, if you had five open roster spots and $10 left, your max bid would be $6 or ($10-$5)+$1.
Getting a seventh Chicken McNugget is almost as exciting as playing in a fantasy football auction draft. Here are some dos and don'ts you should consider before your auction.
DON'T: Just assume the auction values you find online are for the same budget your league allows. For instance, ESPN uses a $200 budget for every team, but CBS Sports uses a $100 budget.
DO: Nominate players you don't want early on in the draft -- especially players who recently have injury news scaring you away completely. Ryan Mathews will be my first nomination. Get him out there early so people can spend money, while you sit back and wait for players you want. Another thought is to nominate a player like Robert Griffin III, who is certainly intriguing, but you know that people will get into a bidding war on for his services, and he'll go for more than you'd pay (which should be $1, since he's a backup fantasy QB.)
DON'T: Jump bid for no reason. Just because a $25 player is crawling upward from a $1 nomination, be patient. Go $1 at a time. Let someone else jump the bid up by $10 or more. Worst case scenario is a little time passes and you eventually get your player at a good price, or you bow out. By jumping the bid up, you risk overbidding on a player you could have gotten cheaper.
DO: Get a couple superstars early. Figure you want at least two, if not three, of the top-25 players in your league. So look at a mock draft, like the#TwitMock Analysis Draft we did last week, and figure you want two or three of the players in the first two rounds. Don't save too much money, or else you will find out the bargains you saved for are TOO cheap. Then guess what happens?
DON'T: Leave money on the table. As the draft is winding down, and you realize you have a chunk of money, and all that's left are some $1 and $2 players, then don't be afraid to bid high on your favorite cheap player, just to make sure you get him (and you won't be mad at your unspent cash). When you have more money than everyone else late in the draft, start bullying and nominating players for $3 and $4 rather than just $1.
DO: Pay attention to whom you bid against. When you win a player, make a note on which owner you beat for which player. This will come in handy in-season when you are looking for draft partners. You know right off the bat that this person valued this player like you did -- more than anyone else in the draft. That means you should be able to get great trade value in return.
DON'T: Spend big on tight ends. Much like quarterbacks, the tight end position is a weird one because there's so much talent, but you only need to start one. So let everyone else spend $10-15 on the big-name players, and just wait to score a Brandon Pettigrew or Tony Gonzalez for $2 or $3. The money you save at this position can be budgeted into your running backs, which could mean the difference between a Fred Jackson and a Steven Jackson.
DO: Nominate stars left in the positions you already own (early in the auction). In other words, if you just won Cam Newton for $20 -- nominate Tom Brady as soon as you can. You don't want other people to get better players for cheaper prices later on just because the money is gone. You know you can't use Brady, so make someone else spend their money while they have it. Also, in a live in-person auction, you can even say, "You can't let Brady go for just $19! He's waaay better than Newton, who I just spent $20 on!" And this helps guilt people into bidding more. Maybe.
DO: Only nominate players you want late in the draft -- and for just $1 (unless you are in fear of leaving money on the table, which should not happen!) Don't try to scare people away from bidding with a big, bold $25 bid on a player, even if you think that's his value. What's the best-case scenario? You get him for $25? Start low, and let the bidding happen naturally. Best-case scenario there is you get him for less than $25.
DON'T: Be afraid to spend a couple extra bucks for a player you are dying to have. Yes, you are costing yourself a couple dollars at the end of the draft, but if you manage your auction well the rest of the way, you should be able to rebound easily. Just be careful not to do this with several players, or else you'll end up having stars and scrubs -- and not on purpose.
DO: Chill out after you get a few superstars. Let everyone catch up to you and hopefully pass you in money spent, while you get ready (and re-calculate) for the bargains.
DON'T: Have the same bidding style each time. Bid quickly on some players and wait a few seconds on bidding on other players. It sounds dumb, but if you have the same cadence at all times, people can tell when you are about to fold and they will bid you into submission.
DO: Remember the power of NINE! If you are going back and forth with bids on a player, and you are approaching $18 or $28 for a player, go right to $19 or $29 with your bid. There's something psychological about going into that next set of 10s, and this will force your opponent to enter into a totally new price range with his next bid. Think about it: Prices in stores are always $19.99 or $29.99 -- never just $20 or $30.
DON'T: If you want to spend little on quarterbacks, make sure you nominate high-end QBs early and often to get the most money spent on them. But later on, only nominate QBs you don't mind winning.
DO: Bid $2 on players you really want late in the draft, since it will be tougher for you to bid $3 (which you would have to do if someone bids your $1 nomination up to $2).
DON'T: Sit near the chatty, obnoxious guy. He will distract you, and you will miss out when someone else nominates your sleeper. By sitting away from him, you force your opponents to sit near him -- so it's a win-win!
DO: Nominate the best kickers early in the draft, trying to bait someone into bidding more than $1 on a kicker. If they bid over you, let them, then nominate a kicker again next time around. Two things can happen here: Someone else will overspend, or they will catch on to what you are doing, and you will get a top-five kicker for $1.
DON'T: Be distracted by chatting in the draft room (or in the live draft chatroom).
DO: Be ready with players to nominate, whether it's in an online queue or at a live auction. Think about whom you'd like off the board a few steps ahead.
DON'T: Use the Plus-$1 button in an online auction. Don't be lazy and just keep clicking Plus-$1 in a bidding war because an opponent may jump the bid up by $10 -- and then boom, you just accidentally bid $11 more than the last bid -- they should call it the Plus-11 button. Just type in your bid each time -- it's not that strenuous.
DO: Bluff once in a while. Talk up players you don't want and keep quiet about players you do like. If you talk up a bad player that is currently being bid on, you'll drive down the salary. Let two opponents battle each other back and forth, burning up salary, on a player you don't want. That will make the players you do want cheaper.
DON'T: Follow big site's auction values. They usually overvalue the lower players by a large sum because they just eyeballed it without much thinking behind it. Seriously. For instance, ESPN's QB values. Do you really see anyone in your league spending $1 on Ryan Fitzpatrick or $2 on Joe Flacco? No. For starters, you're not going to see every team in your league draft a backup QB. So figure there will be 18 QBs drafted, and it stands to reason that the final three or four will be $1 players. (Honestly, I bet you only the top 14 QBs go for more than $1. And it's not just ESPN. CBS Sports' player values are similar. The quarterbacks have dollar values going 22-23 players deep! If you spend $1 on the 23rd-best quarterback in a $100-budget auction league, you will not win. Ever.
DO: Spend a few bucks on a great defense/special teams (DST). You're going to save enough money on other positions, so you might as well spend $3-4 on a top-notch DST.
DON'T: Stress out about your fantasy football auction. You're going to think this is 10 times better than a regular draft.
DO: HAVE FUN!
A fantasy football auction is like a poker game, full of strategy and unsavory people! Keep your cards close to the vest and don't go all in on a rookie!
David Gonos is a fantasy sports veteran of over 20 years and over 100 fantasy football leagues. He has drafted both Curt and Kurt Warner in his lifetime, and he owns a Trent Dilfer Bucs jersey (jealous, much?) He also dispenses fantasy advice on his own site, DavidGonos.com, along with various stories about life's lessons learned through fantasy sports. You can also follow him @davidgonos on Twitter.