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Links to other sections in this series:
Part 4 tells you how to craft your strategy of nominating players, now you can work on what to do once the player is out there. There isn’t as much nuance in your bidding strategies as there is when picking a player to nominate, but there are still some things you can do to try and maximize your value when bidding.
As a general rule, the best way for a beginner to proceed in any draft is to not get fancy. While you are getting comfortable with the other drafters, their tendencies, and the process of an auction, you should follow the simple rule of bidding one dollar more than the previous bid. Your goal is to take as much guesswork off your plate as you can and trying to craft the perfect bid every time you’re in the middle of a bidding war is sure to lead to mistakes.
New drafters can often get caught up in the flow of a high-priced player and lose valuable dollars. When the name “Christian McCaffrey” is called out for $20 there will invariably be bids that proceed in $5 increments. It’s easy to see the bids climb quickly at that pace – “25..30..35..40..45..50…” – and if you’re in the middle of that at some point the bidding will slow down. What you don’t want is to be the one who yells “$55!” and the room goes silent. Perhaps on McCaffrey, that number will be 60 this year, but the point remains the same. If you jump $5 and everyone stops bidding then you’ve stopped everyone in their tracks for 1 of 2 reasons: You got a deal because you blew everyone away with your bid, or you wasted money. If you’re new it’s hard to tell which is which. Don’t waste your money by guessing.
Assuming, however, that you’re here because you expect to continue to do auctions, or that you’ve already progressed past being a beginner, there are some things you can do when it comes to your bidding strategies.
THERE’S ALWAYS ONE
This is a concept that is hard to learn but will serve you well many, many times over if you learn it now. For lack of a better way to say it, just remember this: There’s always one! There’s always one of WHAT? There’s always one drafter who has money who can compete with your bids. There’s always one other person in the draft who will do something irrational and screw up a carefully laid plan. There’s always one manager who likes that player that you like as much as you do. There’s always one drafter who will keep bidding on a third quarterback when they don’t need it because they don’t want you to have the deal you almost got.
The list goes on, but you will likely learn this lesson the hard way if you don’t take it to heart now. When you sit back and wait on a player, or hoard your money, someone will be right with you to do the same. You can use this to your advantage, however, by playing both sides of that same coin.
First, you can realize when the inevitable showdown will happen between you and another drafter for a player, or for the last big player because you both have money. You do this by remembering the boomerang effect on your tier sheets. The first player in each tier will set the price for that tier of players. As more players are nominated from that tier the prices will drop, and then as the tier dries up it will jump back up considerably because the talent gets scarce. If you are hoarding money for a WR2 and there are 3 of them left on your sheet then you need to act fast. Waiting until the last one is called out won’t help you get a lower price, it will hurt you. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that waiting means a lower price. Someone else is waiting too, so repeat your mantra – “there’s always one” – and go buy a WR2 before you’re backed into a corner.
Second, use the same mantra to try and take someone else out of the draft if possible. If you are in a veteran room it’s likely that someone will try to do this to you so be mindful. Hypothetically let’s say you have the most money left in the room near the end of the draft and you’re the only one without a quarterback. If the best player left is Justin Herbert you’ll likely get him cheaper than you would have because nobody else will want to bid too much since they already have their guy. But if someone else is paying attention to your cap they’ll do their best to make sure you don’t get Herbert cheaply enough that you still control the draft. You should be doing the same. Look at every roster and cap of teams involved in a bidding war. Do your best to take people out of the draft by pushing the bids to the levels they can handle but will leave them without as much money to threaten you going forward. As a result, you’ll be spending time bidding when you don’t necessarily want the player up for bid. This is a risky strategy and the higher the prices go the larger the consequences if you’re wrong with a bid. Keep this in mind for the following idea.
PRICE ENFORCING V. BIDDING TEAMS UP
Although these two ideas are similar in that they involve you bidding when you do not want to win a player, they are vastly different notions.
Price enforcing is the act of bidding because a player is worth vastly more than the point at which the bidding stopped. For example, if the bidding stops on Amari Cooper for $14 you must inject some life into the process and push the price up by getting it into the $20s before you can back off.
Bidding someone up, on the other hand, involves the act of bidding because you believe the drafter or drafters still bidding will pay more money than the current price point. For example, you may think that a certain manager intends to buy a top tight end because they bid near the end on Travis Kelce and Darren Waller. Both times when they missed out on those players they were visibly frustrated by not winning the showdown. Now, only George Kittle remains as an elite option at tight end. So when this drafter is bidding again and is about to get Kittle for $26 you know that they’ll pay a few more dollars. You won’t always be able to extract $4 or $5 more, but even $1 or $2 matters.
Learning the right times to both price enforce AND bid other managers up will have a positive effect on the dollars left in the room when it comes time for you to get your guys. If there are 192 players drafted in a typical 12-team, 16 round auction, you may be able to pull these two maneuvers upwards of 15 times in a draft. If you average $2 of value extracted (it will often be more) each time you make this move then you are pulling a minimum of $30 of money from the room that can’t be used against you. While not monumental by itself, this is but one bullet in your chamber. If you are combining this move with all the other strategies in this series the actual dollars realized for your team will be much higher.
Keep in mind that there is a significant downside to bidding when you don’t want to roster a player. When you are price enforcing it is much less likely to have a devastating impact on your team if you win that player because the price was low to begin with. But if you are boldly bidding up a player, the risk level rises and it can sink your draft if you are wrong. Bidding someone up is an advanced move for someone who has an iron grip on what is happening in their particular auction room. If you are playing with veteran drafters and you have a high-priced quarterback then they will easily sniff out a bid attempt on Patrick Mahomes II. Good auction drafters will let you think you are playing them by quickly bidding after you bid, giving you confidence that you’re bidding them up, and then shutting down unexpectedly. One minute you are sitting there with plenty of money, Lamar Jackson as your quarterback, and you’re bidding up the player who wants Mahomes. The next minute the room suddenly goes quiet and now you have Jackson for $26 and Mahomes for $30. Whoops. There may not be a worse feeling in an auction draft room than when you work hard for three months preparing for your auction only to see your draft come crashing down after a poorly timed attempt to bid another player up. Beginners may not know what you’re doing, but veterans will. Tread carefully with this strategy.
Part 6 of this series will focus on some human psychology and tells in a draft room, but you must be prepared to know both the fantasy angle, the human angle, and the auction strategy angle for price enforcing OR bidding people up to work.
THREE QUICK AND EASY TACTICS
Mechanically, there are a few more quick ideas you can employ to extract a couple more precious dollars from the room. These are somewhat easy things to learn and quickly assimilate into your bidding repertoire.
- Bidding more than $1 – Yes there are moments when you want to bid more than $1 over the previous bid. There is a psychological barrier to crossing over certain levels. When the bidding slows at $27, you can often say $30 and win the contest right there whereas going by $1 increments allows your opponent to get comfortable with paying in the $30s for a player they had pegged in the $20s. Crossing the $20, $30, $40, and $50 barriers is a psychological hurdle people must get over to continue to bid. If they’re on the fence it might be the final thing causing them to stop bidding. Furthermore, if you sense a player seems unsure with their last bid then jumping the bid by $2 or $3 will sometimes work as well.
- Quick Bidding – If you know what your bid limit is in your head when a player is nominated it is a good idea to get into the habit of bidding quickly. Following a bid with a quick $1 jump has two effects on your opponent. One effect is that your quick bid makes it harder for others to determine when you’ll stop. If you go more slowly when you’re nearing your limit they’ll get a quick read on your intentions. The second effect is that it will discourage others from bidding. Your quick bids will show confidence and a willingness to continue to bid. They won’t know when you will suddenly stop and your show of confidence sometimes buys you a few dollars off the price.
- Cap Awareness – This has been referenced in this series multiple times and above in this article. It is one of the most important things you can do. You simply cannot be aware of what to do in an auction if you don’t know every single person’s exact dollar available. You will often see a situation where you and another drafter have just a few dollars left to bid. If the bidding stops at $4 and your opponent has $6 left you don’t bid $5, because then they say $6 and you get the player for $7. You save a dollar by jumping the bid to $6 from $4 simply by knowing your opponent’s cap situation.
Again, none of these ideas by themselves are going to win your league, but they are important in the nuanced jungle of an auction. Collectively your ability to employ one or several of them during the draft will have a cumulative effect as the draft wears on. There are no magic pills in an auction draft room, and when you are playing with people who have done a lot of auctions your edge will be small. But learning all these tactics and then combining them as they become appropriate can push your edge and that is what you need to win your draft.Follow @DrewFBGAuctions