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Auction Draft Strategy Guide 2016

By Matt Schauf | Updated on Tue, 23 May 2023 . 1:27 PM EDT

Auction drafting is the ultimate way to start your fantasy football season.

It might not be for everyone, but it’s undeniably the fairest way to draft. You get access to every player on the board, rather than being limited to the guys that make it to your turn in a draft.

Auction drafting also introduces a lot more strategy. Every player you buy affects the rest of your roster -- positively or negatively -- by impacting the amount of money you have left in your bank.

Your MVP Board will still help you in drafting this format, but you’ll need to look at it a little differently.

In the past, we told you to set up your auction board with the approximate total number of players you planned to select at each position. That’ll still give you decent board results, but it might skew your MVP+ ratings a bit vs. simply entering your actual lineup settings.

Either way, you should look at the resulting dollar values in relation to each other rather than the prices you should expect to pay for any specific player.

Antonio Brown, for example, could come out with a price tag that would eat up nearly 40% of your total budget. That’s going to be more than you’ll have to pay in pretty much any actual auction. But that also represents his real value vs. the field.

Whether you’re willing to pay up for him will be up to you. This format presents no single right or wrong approach to drafting.

Now let’s get further into some strategy, beginning with pre-planning your spending ...


Budgeting

How you break down your spending will depend at least some on your specific lineup settings. The more starters you need -- or total roster spots to fill -- the more you obviously need to spread your money around.

Here’s our general outline for a common lineup (QB, 2 RBs, 3 WRs, TE, Flex, K, D/ST):

QB = ~10%
RB = ~35%
WR = ~45%
TE = ~10%
K = $1
D = $1

It’s a rare format that will reward spending more than the minimum at kicker or defense. If relying on a single $1 D/ST makes you queasy, then buy a couple of them. Buying 2 and/or paying up a bit for defenses might make more sense if you’ll need to spend money (whether fake or real) every time you want to claim a free-agent D throughout the season.


QB

Allotting about 10% of your budget basically equates to “waiting on a QB” in traditional drafting. Watch your league mates spend for top-5 types while you wait and pay half or less for a player such as Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer or Eli Manning. If you play this right, you might even get away with spending less than 10% of your budget at QB.

That said, it’s OK to throw a few more dollars in if you see an upper-level fantasy passer about to come off the board at nice value. Spending, say, $16-$17 for Drew Brees or Andrew Luck could mean that you need only spend $1 or $2 for your backup -- or ignore the QB2 spot altogether on draft day.


TE

Ditto at TE, where you might find it even easier to save beyond the 10% starting budget. The top of the board can prove a little trickier here, though.

You’ll probably find Rob Gronkowski going as a relative value if you compare him to other players with Round 1 ADPs. Top WRs and RBs will approach (and perhaps exceed) $50 in a typical $200 start bank, whereas Gronk might settle into the $30-$40 range. (He cost $41 in this particular auction.)

You’ll still need to decide, however, if you’re willing to pay that much for your starting TE, rather than potentially getting away with spending less than $10 for a player such as Antonio Gates, Julius Thomas, Martellus Bennett or Dwayne Allen. And you might not need to draft a 2nd TE behind any of these 4 (just like you probably wouldn’t behind Gronk).

You can probably expect Jordan Reed to cost around 75% of Gronk’s price, which sets up a similar decision.

Again, there’s no right or wrong way to go on these top 2 TEs. You’ll just need to know going in and keep in mind during your draft what paying up for the starter will mean for the rest of your roster.


RB and WR

Allocating about 35% of your budget to RBs would mean $70 total in a $200 bank. That’d be about $14 per player if you draft 5. Spending $90 on WRs averages out to about $15 per player if you select 6 of them, or about $13 per player for 7.

We’re grouping these positions together here, because you can play them off each other throughout your draft. Get a couple of deals at 1 position, and you can get further spending flexibility at the other.

These are the 2 positions where you’ll most need to decide whether you’ll be chasing any studs. Obviously, pursuing a Round 1 type at either RB or WR will mean spending some money. That can certainly fit into your strategy -- even within the budget restrictions above -- but know that you’ll need to limit your spending further on the reserves to fit high-dollar starters.

If you do want to spend up for a 1st-round type, then WR will be the more sensible investment. It’s the safer position in general at that level -- especially in PPR formats. Keep an eye out for deals, of course, and any 1st-round RB or WR going for less than 20% of the total budget will be a pretty good value.

If you can zero in on a few top targets at RB and/or WR, then waiting until later in the draft will often help you to find deals -- simply because everyone’s bank will start to get drained.


Posting/Nominating Players

Your strategy in this area can also help with your budget management. Of course, there are many different approaches here, but these are some basic strategies we like to employ:

Try to secure your kicker/defense for $1. Locking in your starters at these spots early will keep you from having to chase them later when everyone’s filling positions of need. And if you get bid up on early kicker/D nominations, then a league mate is throwing away a few dollars that just might prove valuable late in the draft.

Post high-dollar players that you don’t want. Here’s another way to get others to deplete their banks. Know that you’re not willing to pay DeAndre Hopkins’ likely price? Get him out there early so that someone will spend top dollar.

Nominate mid-to-low range guys that you’d be fine with and try to sneak through. We wouldn’t recommend posting a lower-dollar guy that you’re really hoping to get early, because everyone’s price is likely to rise when everyone in the league has more to spend. Throw DeAngelo Williams out there early, for example, and you might catch people unsure of how to value him before Le’Veon Bell has come off the board.

Another approach in this area is to throw out handcuffs for RBs that have already been drafted. You might force that league mate to pay more than he was hoping for backfield insurance. Or maybe you’ll find a deal if that league mate decides he’d rather save the dollars.

Lower-ADP WRs can fit here as well. Let’s say you’re interested in Willie Snead, though not necessarily dying to land him. Maybe you sneak him off the board for $5 while others still have their eyes -- and their banks -- set on the high-dollar wideouts.

Wait as long as possible to post guys you really want. There’s simply no reason to nominate a player you really like before the later portion of your draft. You can certainly jump in on the bidding for any player that you like when a league mate nominates him. But why not keep your favorites off the board as long as possible and let everyone drain their funds?


Bidding

We touched on this area a bit already, but let’s wrap the strategy guide up with some reminders and general pointers:

Try to decide beforehand where you’re willing to overspend a bit. The surest way to get in trouble during your auction is to just go chasing wildly after a player (or more). That can quickly drain your bank and mess up your pre-draft plans. Label a few players or positions -- RB1 or your top 2 WR spots, for example -- and then try not to stray too far from your plan.

Keep tabs on your spending and your roster throughout the draft. This goes along with the previous point. If you do overspend vs. your pre-draft plan, then know where you’ll be spending less as a result. And if you fill a few positions for cheaper than you had planned, look at where you want to deploy this enhanced spending flexibility.

Also, having access to every player in this draft format will mean that you'll watch some players you like leave the board at attractive prices. Letting league mates have some of the players that you like might be the hardest part of drafting in this format -- but it's part of it.

Matt Schauf Author Image
Matt Schauf, Editor
Matt has earned two Fantasy Pros accuracy awards for IDP rankings and won thousands of dollars as a player across best ball, dynasty, and high-stakes fantasy formats. He has been creating fantasy football content for more than 20 years, with work featured by Sporting News, Rotoworld, Athlon, Sirius XM, and others. He's been with Draft Sharks since 2011.
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