The Ground Rules
Before any strategy or planning can beintelligently discussed, one must cover the rules that this advice applies to.You see your strategy can vary widely based on differing assumptions. For thisarticle, we will assume a league with the following rules:
1) All teams will be comprised of 16 players.
2) Starting lineups will consist of 1 Quarterback,2 Running Backs, 2 Wide Receivers, 1 Tight End, 1 Place Kicker and 1 DefensiveTeam.
3) All player acquisitions, including Free Agentpickups, will be done via an open auction.
4) All teams will have a total Salary Cap of $500.
5) Bids will be in whole dollar amounts.
These rules force two items on us that require somespecial consideration. First, a Tight End is required. This means we willdefinitely want one of the top performers if at all possible. Second, we mustbid on all acquisitions. This means we will want to set aside some of our moneyfor Free Agents later in the season.
Knowing the Enemy
To properly prepare, we must have some inkling ofwhat our opponent is thinking. If you are in a brand new league and donít knowany of the other owners, there are still a couple of assumptions that you canmake. First, most knowledgeable FFLers place great value on running backs.Also, most people tend to get excited and over spend in the early part of adraft. If you also happen to know that a particular owner is from Texas and anavid Cowboy fan, this type of information can be invaluable. But only if helets his heart dictate to his brain. Some will, some wonít...the trick is inidentifying those who will. It never hurts to try to get to know the otherowners before the draft.
Preparing for an auction league is very similar topreparing for a standard draft league, in that you want to have current playerprojections/ratings before you begin your draft. There are many articlesavailable to help you with rating players so I wonít go into that in thispiece, but be sure to do it before you begin the auction. Improper preparationwill lead to disastrous choices during the draft. You should also have a coupleof tools handy on draft day. If at all possible, have an assistant coach withyou to help keep up with all the teams during the auction. You should also havea calculator and lots of scratch paper. A white board is nice if you have oneavailable, but if not a simple notebook with a page for each team will suffice.Organization will be crucial to your success. An example of a team page I useis displayed on the next page. It will help you see who is nearing the ends oftheir funds, who really needs the players being bid upon and who is, in allprobability, just bidding you up. This knowledge is critical during biddingwith a balance of $500.
There are several workable strategies that can beused during an auction draft. But before you decide on which one is best foryou, letís go over our special considerations again. We want to ensurethat we have money to spend for Free Agents. Many of your opponents willoverlook this and fail to save for it. Remember that some of the top players inany year will be overlooked in the draft and picked up as Free Agents. The moreyou can save for those acquisitions, the better off you will be. I recommendyou set aside 20 percent of your total funds for these acquisitions. That willleave you with $400 to spend. There is one strategy where this is notnecessary and we will cover it later. We also want to ensure we get one of thetop three Tight Ends. But since we know that people tend to overspend early indrafts, we will try to avoid TEís until later in the draft. We may not be ableto prevent early bidding on these individuals, but many people wait until lateto get a Tight End. We can help by casually mentioning how important topRunning Backs and Quarterbacks are to the success of a team. This is not a lie,but will tend to disguise your true intentions.
h StrategyOne - Get Ďem & get Ďem all!
This is the one strategy that does not require aset aside for Free Agents...in fact, it practically mandates against it. Inthis strategy, you attempt to get three or four superstars and fill the rest ofyour roster with long shots and sleepers. You should be aware that thesesuperstars will end up costing you 80 percent or more of your money. It is notunusual for a star to go for half of your total cap. You can count on spending$125 at the very minimum for the top stars and $80 for secondary stars.
The biggest star player might cost as much as $300with a $500 cap. If you choose this option, select your stars carefully,because they will likely be all you have. In my opinion, this is the riskieststrategy to take. In fact, in one of my recent auctions a single owner acquiredstar player X ($1135 - $4000 cap), star player Y ($870) and star player Z ($770).He had to trade to get player X and ended up paying the other owner $120 forhis rights, so in these three players he has spent $2895 leaving him with$1105. Since this league also has minimum salaries by position, he is now inthe unenviable position of being able to spend no more than $100 for any oneplayer.
h StrategyTwo - Get One and Build Around Him!
This will be the predominant strategy you willfind. These people will often overbid for one individual that they feelcan dominate their position. Since these Owners only plan on getting onesuperstar, they can afford to go a bit higher than people using Strategy One.However, bidding is a fickle experience and you never know when a player willslip and another will climb.
In an auction two years ago, player A went for$1135, player B for $1002, player D for $1001 and player E for $870. Player Ewent cheap because he was the first Running Back bid on, and several ownersfelt he might not be quite as dominant as in previous seasons. Another slightlylesser back was had for $550, leaving the owner enough to get his onestud to build around. He invested his nest egg player A. Of course thisstud was not cheap, coming in at $1200. But with those two, he has his starsand can now fill in with good players to balance his team.
h StrategyThree - Balance is the Key!
This is my favorite strategy, but requires a greatdeal of touch and finesse to pull off. Your goal here is to build a team thatis balanced, while causing your opponents to overspend on the superstars thatyou really are not after. Using this mode of operandi you will probably not getany of the top 15 to 20 stars, but you should dominate when bidding on playersrated 21 to 50. Preparation is paramount. You must have lists ofthe top 50 players regardless of position, and top 25 of each position.
You also must have a method for tracking what eachteam is doing throughout the draft. This is absolutely critical. It will tellyou if an owner is just bidding you up, or if he truly desires a player. Thefinesse is in knowing how far you can push up the bidding on the top playerswithout getting them dropped on you.
I start with the premise that I want any playerthat I bid on, but only at a certain price. If I get the player within thatprice range, great! If not, I continue bidding. I look closely atthree things to determine when to get out.
First, I feel relatively safe when three or moreowners (other than myself) are continuing to bid. Most bidding will eventuallycome down to only two people.
Next, I start reviewing my team pages to see if theowners are genuinely after the player. For instance, an owner with a decentquarterback is probably not truly interested in acquiring a better one at arelatively high price. At some point it becomes obvious he is just bidding theprice up.
Last, I check the owners cap number to see how highhe can afford to bid. Remember, the early goal is to drive the prices for thesuperstars up to the point where the other owners cannot afford the second tierplayers and the top tier Tight Ends. At this point, you may be beginning todoubt my sanity. I mean how can you possibly win without acquiring one of thetop 20 players? The rec.sport.football.fantasy newsgroup currently has a draftcurrently underway.
The only way to pull it off is to get theother owners to overspend on those top twenty players. Now why exactly do wewant to put aside $100 that could be used to acquire some of these primeperformers? Because some high-scoring players go undrafted in many leagues fromyear to year. If you have just a few dollars more than your opponents, you willend up with your choice of these players.
Since there are so many second tier players,especially at the wide receiver position, it is important that you not getcaught overbidding for these players. Rather, target about twice the number ofplayers you want at each position and look for the bargains. And remember thatfor this strategy to work, you must ensure that the top players go fortop dollar.
So with this in mind, select your strategy, do yourpreparation and dominate your league!