Winning Auction Strategies

July 17, 2001

We get all kinds of questions every year for thegridiron Guru from draft day strategy advice and protections listrecommendations to trade evaluations and commissioner rulings. Our subscibersplay in anywhere from six-team to 16-team draft leagues, some of which arekeeper leagues as well as those participating in play-by-mail leagues, Internetleagues and assorted pick-your-player contests.

Now, rotisserie baseball leagues have spawned theauction-style football leagues where rosters are stocked by bidding on playerswithin a restricted salary cap. The trouble here lies in the fact that, unlikerotisserie baseball, the original fantasy football rulebooks failed to lay downguidelines for such an auction.

As a result, leagues that prefer the auction formathave to make up their own rules that are as diverse as the number of leaguesthemselves. Therefore, it is practically impossible to lay down specificbidding guidelines let alone player values. But we are going to try anyway.

Let's start by setting up a simple generic 10-teamleague requiring two quarterbacks, three running backs, four wide receivers,one tight end and one kicker (no defense). Scoring rules favor no particularposition and each team has $100 to spend at the auction with minimum bids setat $1. That would make the average salary $9.09 per player.

You can also set up an optional reserve phase whereteams take turns stocking their rosters for five-ten extra rounds in thetraditional serpentine fashion. During the season, free agents can be obtainedeither in reverse order of standings or via a free agent budget (FAB). Eachowner starts with a total $50 to bid on free agents during the season. Thewinning bid then becomes their contract and another player (in some leaguesrequired to be active at the time) is then placed on waivers for the upcomingweek.

Optional rules include:

hDoubling, tripling (or whatever) the salary cap and FAB budget.

h Settingup rosters without regard to position requirements although weekly lineupswould require set positions.

h Reservedraft (five to 20 rounds) to stock rosters.

h Allowingcarry-over players at an increase of $5 to their contract. Pre-draft freezelists could be two, three or unlimited players.

The first owner starts the bidding by calling up anyplayer eligible to be drafted at any price he wishes (at least $1). The biddinggoes around the room in order to the left and ends when the last owner passes.The next owner sitting to the left then brings up a player and so on. Once youpass, you are out and cannot bid on that player again. You cannot call up orbid on a player if you have the full compliment on your roster at thatparticular position (i.e. you cannot bid on a kicker if you already have one).

Bidding strategies vary according to the particularleague's auction rules but here are some general guidelines:

h Budgetyour own money ahead of time, that is, figure how much money you can spend ateach needed roster spot and try to stick to it. Write each value down and thenwrite the player next to the corresponding sum as you acquire them. This wayyou will always know at a glance where you stand financially and almostguarantees you spending all of your money thus saving the aggravation of takingunused funds home with you. You can even do this for each team in the league ifyou think you can keep up.

h Incarry-over leagues (those with freeze lists), figure each owner's moneysituation ahead of time to see how your situation compares with everybodyelse's. If you have the most money to spend per player, then you control thebidding.

h Allocatemost of your money for star players in a new draft. Then look for running backsfirst and quarterbacks and wide receivers second (unless quarterbacks are muchmore valuable as per your league's scoring rules). Don't worry about tight endsand kickers. For established leagues with protected players, of course, youmust address your particular needs. Don't worry about $1 bargains at the end ofthe draft there will be plenty of them (unless you play in a league with 14or more teams).

h Try totarget a block of similar players at the same position instead of grabbing themblindly one name after another. For example, sometimes the best quarterback belongsin a group by himself. But the next five or six quarterbacks, even thoughranked in order on your draft sheet, are probably similar. Consider this thenext block of talent at the position and try to get one of those players ifthat happens to be your particular need. If you miss out on the top player(s),then target a player from the next group and so on. This block of talentdrafting strategy also comes in handy for leagues that do not utilize dollarvalues per se. The values help identify the different blocks of talent at aglance and should not be ignored.

h Do nottake published dollar values as gospel. Like the projections themselves, dollarvalues are be used as a guide only. Sometimes you'll have to bid more for aplayer if a certain position is thin on talent or in the case of draft dayinflation. In cost effective situations such as bidding on sleepers,overstocked positions, injury-risk players and to counter draft day deflation,a lower bid would be in order. Generally speaking, bid the star players up totheir perceived worth (superstars will go even higher) and try to get thelesser players cheaper than the listed values. Any player listed for $5 or lessshould be a $1 pickup or reserve choice. The state of fantasy football today isso competitive that it is almost mandatory to get a superstar player or two byoverbidding for their services. If the top QB is listed at $30, it might take$35-$50 is some leagues to get him, especially if your league is known for wildbidding. Leagues with conservative owners are usually more controlled andreasonable with their bids.

h If aposition you need is running thin then jump in and get somebody but don'toverbid for marginal players. Again, there will be plenty to choose from at theend (unless there are more than 12 teams participating).

h Try tokeep the tight end, kicker and/or defensive spot open as long as you can toensure flexibility when bidding. This way you can run the price up on a startight end and also have plenty of money to spend on the important positions.Grab the kickers and defenses for a dollar or two at the end of the draft.

h Try tonominate a player that you do not want or do not need that will go for bigbucks. Run the bidding up as far as you're comfortable with but be careful notto stay in too long and get stuck. For example, if you've got two solid runningbacks locked up early, bring up the rest of the big backs and bid them up toget the other owners to spend their money.

h If draftday inflation kicks in (most owners having a lot of money going in because theyprotected many cheap players from the year before), get your players as earlyas you can to avoid the inevitable bidding wars at the end of the draft. Thesame holds true if a couple of owners are not spending their money early on.

h Ifpre-draft budgets are deflated (little money going in) or if everyone seems tobe spending money foolishly, then be patient and grab the bargains later aslong as you foresee that decent talent will still be available late. However,do not pass up a bargain or a quality talent early if possible. Use yourjudgment. In a brand new draft with novice bidders, you might want to sit backfor the first 30-60 minutes or so while everybody spends their money foolishly.Then casually pick up great bargains in the second half of the draft.

h If youfeel confident about a certain budgetary plan you have developed but notice oneor two others with the same idea then temporarily abandon that plan and seewhat develops. The ability to think quickly and change strategy at the drop ofa hat will help you in the long run.

h Do notdrink and draft.



Bidding Strategy | Bidding Strategy II | Bidding Strategy III | Straight Draft Strategies

Weekly Lineup Strategies | Starting a League | Kellogg's Komments | Positional Strategies