Succeeding in an auction takes a little more preparation than a normal serpentine draft. You need to approximate what the prices will look like, figure out your own strategy for how you want to attack the draft, divide up your cap dollars among the positions according to their importance, and then map out what you think a blueprint for success looks like.
For this blueprint, we will assume the following conditions:
- 12 Team League
- $200 salary cap
- Starting Roster: 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 DEF
- Each roster will have 18 players
- PPR Scoring
- Normal redraft setting where teams set their lineups weekly and can add and drop players from the waiver wire
In an auction, it is not as simple as showing up and trying to buy cheap players. Oftentimes cheaper players are priced that way for a reason, and other times those players can be good values but not provide the punch and upside you want your team to have. To find value and find top players, you’ll have to use your blueprint to keep you on course. Here is how to do that.
Player Auction Values
Auctions have come far enough that you don’t need to reinvent the wheel to develop values for all the players. If you want to come up with your own values, Footballguys staffer Jeff Pasquino breaks down how he goes about generating dollar amounts for players in your auction.
Otherwise, the easiest way to approach your values is to use the average auction value sheet that I have worked up for you. You can also find different sets of auction values on the internet to give you an idea of what the market is doing and help you dial into what your own values should be.
At a minimum, you should come up with tier breaks at every position and make sure the prices reflect the drops in value. For example, after the fifth running back (Ezekiel Elliott) is off the board, I have a tier break before RB6, Aaron Jones. There is a corresponding drop of $4 in value from Elliott to Jones on my AAV sheet. This is just an example, and those tier breaks could differ on your own AAV sheet if you want to make your own values.
Remember that if you aren’t following Pasquino’s method, it isn’t necessary to be exact when apportioning the dollar values up and down the draft sheet. It is more important to get a snapshot of how the community is seeing auction values in the days leading up to your draft by compiling values that accurately reflect the community’s opinions. You can keep a separate column like the one titled “Worth” in my AAV sheet for your own valuation. But, when you get in the auction, understand that the AAV you have is just a guideline. Player prices fluctuate from draft to draft based on when they are nominated, who is bidding, and what money is left in the room. Don’t be too rigid following AAV, or you will have an uneven draft. Instead, follow your pre-draft plan, and if a player you want fits your allotted salary for that slot, you will stay on track.
Allocating Your Cap Dollars
In recent years I have found it profitable to follow a strategy where I do the following:
- Roster one good running back and one nearly elite wide receiver
- A quarterback who is not bargain basement but won’t command a top tier price – usually something in the $7-$12 range
- Several cheap tight ends that give me a chance to find a breakout player but don’t command a large percentage of the salary cap
- Attack the wide receiver value from Keenan Allen (Consensus WR9) down to Deebo Samuel (WR40) and land as many as highly ranked players from this group as cheaply as possible
- Find one decent running back as an RB2, and then don’t devote too much cap space to running backs ranked below Darrell Henderson (RB23)
- Spend almost nothing on Kicker and Team Defense
Finding Value During the Draft
You should compare your knowledge from the AAV sheet with the numbers you have allocated to the positions on your blueprint. This enables you to have a snapshot of what your team will look like should you land the perfect player for every spot. Drafting the perfect player means that you rostered the best possible player you could afford for that position using your blueprint.
A good way to find value is to make sure to remember that you cannot let tiers get too scarce before you attack them. Nominating a player you want, like Allen Robinson, will have a higher probability of finding value if Terry McLaurin, Amari Cooper, and Keenan Allen are still available.
You can also find value by paying attention to players who have not generated a lot of buzz from their camp performance, preseason game performance, or coming back from a big injury in 2020. There are plenty of players who fantasy drafters disrespect for some reason. Finding those players usually nets strong value in an auction. Tyler Lockett is an example of this for 2021 drafts.
Your 2021 Auction Blueprint
Based on these ideas, here is what a possible roster could look like for your 18-man roster in a 12-team league. If you land a player for cheaper than you had allocated, don’t be afraid to overpay at another position using that extra money to improve somewhere else. Value is only important insofar as it helps further your strategy. Don’t get caught up trying to score a deal on every player. If you pay more than a player is worth but land an impact player within the framework of your strategy, it does not matter what the raw dollar value was. Nobody will remember if you overpaid $8 for Justin Jefferson if he goes off for 116 catches, 1,500 yards and 12 touchdowns. You can’t take the money with you, so go get your guys, but keep track of where you are relative to what you wanted to spend. Here is my favorite strategy and the team you can try and land from it. Please continue reading below to find out how to execute it.
- QB1 ($9) – Ryan Tannehill or Jalen Hurts
- RB1 ($41) – Austin Ekeler, Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, or Joe Mixon
- RB2 ($30) – D'Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, or Chris Carson
- WR1 ($33) – DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Brown, Calvin Ridley, or Justin Jefferson
- WR2 ($22) – Allen Robinson, Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, or CeeDee Lamb
- WR3 ($17) – Tee Higgins, D.J. Moore, Chris Godwin, or Tyler Lockett
- TE1 ($6) – Noah Fant or Tyler Higbee
- K ($1) – Rodrigo Blankenship, Tyler Bass, or Matt Prater
- DEF ($2) – Washington Football Team, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Los Angeles Rams, or Pittsburgh Steelers
- QB2 ($3) – Kirk Cousins (or no QB, or all upside QB)
- RB3 ($10) – James Robinson or Raheem Mostert
- RB4 ($5) – A.J. Dillon, Jamaal Williams, or James Conner
- RB5 ($4) – Gus Edwards or Nyheim Hines
- WR4 ($9) – Robby Anderson or Courtland Sutton
- WR5 ($4) – Mike Williams or Antonio Brown
- WR6 ($1) – Darnell Mooney or Jakobi Meyers
- TE2 ($1) – Gerald Everett, Cole Kmet or Zach Ertz
- TE3, RB6, WR7, or DEF2 – ($2) – Rashaad Penny, Chuba Hubbard, or Tevin Coleman
Early in the Auction
Don’t forget there are often deals immediately when the draft starts. Pay attention to the possibility, and don’t be afraid to act to score a deal on an elite player. If you are in the first five nominations of the draft, you should try to push through a low Tier 1 player or a top Tier 2 level player at any position. Nominating a player like Aaron Jones or Austin Ekeler in the first three to five nominations could net a strong value.
If you don’t find a deal immediately out of the gate, you should be biding your time and not doing much initially. You can’t forfeit the chance to get top talent, so pay attention to how fast the elite players are drying up to figure out when to jump in. But generally, you want to watch the room and see how values will go before getting too involved.
Early to Middle Stages
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