Thursday - Mar 4, 2021

Home / Auction / TAKING THE PLUNGE: How to Maneuver an Auction Draft – Part 2

TAKING THE PLUNGE: How to Maneuver an Auction Draft – Part 2


Regardless of what your overall plan or strategy is, auctions never go how you expect. Players will go for unexpected prices due to different opinions on their value and the dynamics of the draft – mucking up your plan – so it’s extremely important to be flexible. If you target certain players, have others in mind you think have similar value (in the same tier). If there aren’t any, shift your plan altogether. Say you planned to go wide receiver heavy, but the pricing on your targeted guys keeps going well over what you’re comfortable with. Don’t let the other owners force your hand; maybe you should focus more on running backs, which you should be able to get at better prices with the wide receivers going high? Or maybe that top-tier tight end is still sitting there and can be had for less than you expected. The beauty of an auction draft is that there are always options.

The cheat sheets found online provide a good consensus value for players. More to the point, I think most owners in most leagues are influenced by them at least somewhat, if not a great deal (though don’t hold your breath waiting for them to admit it), so you can see the value of being armed with that knowledge. I suggest looking at a few auction cheat sheets and downloading one with rankings and pricing similar to most of the others that ranks players by position with max price amounts next to each. As close as you can to draft day, get the latest, print it, and take it to your draft. It should give you a pretty good ballpark for knowing about what others expect to pay.

I very strongly suggest you make your own cheat sheet (this is one way to tell the casual fan from the one who knows what he’s doing).  I would start by downloading a cheat sheet like I described above and importing it into something like Microsoft Excel. Then adjust the prices to what you’re willing to pay for each and sort accordingly.  Take a printout to your draft or if you draft online, you might be able to import it or save it to the league’s site. How closely you stick to those prices is up to you of course, but when the fur is flying and the adrenaline is going, it’ll be an invaluable reference to keep you on track and remind you what you thought of that player when you were thinking calmly and clearly (and not drinking beer).

It’s easy to get carried away in the beginning and overbid for top players simply because you can. After all, you have lots of money and they’re great players, right? Sure, you can do that, but remember: you have to buy an entire team. Consider the pros of winning that player – especially if the cost was inflated – versus the cons of how that cap hit will impact the rest of your draft. You can dig yourself into a money pit quickly and end up watching a lot of good players fly by because you can’t outbid the rest of the owners.

I mentioned the flip side to this in my strategies article, but it’s worth repeating: don’t lay back too much, even if you’re using the Balanced strategy. Remember, your cap money is only for the draft; it’s not like you can take it with you. If you have to overpay a little here or there to get your guy and can afford it, do it. Don’t keep saving up just so you can spend $15 for a kicker or the backup tight end for the Bills.

Auction drafts have a poker element to them, trying to guess what people will do and throwing them off so they don’t know what you’re doing. For example, you can “bluff” by bidding on a player you don’t really want to get others to pay more for him. But be careful, because bidding could stop sooner than you expected and whoops, congrats, he’s yours. Of course if you get him cheaply enough, you could be fine with that. Just make sure it’s a player you can live with, even at their reduced cost.

A common tactic among veteran auction drafters is to nominate a player they don’t want, especially in the earlier part of the draft. Why? Because someone is going to buy that player and that will take away some of their cap money, as well as a roster spot, which means when a guy you want comes around, that could be one less owner with which you have to compete. Don’t trust a player’s injury history? Is he overpriced? Are you loaded at running back and don’t want to spend more than a buck on what’s left? Whatever your reason is for not wanting players, nominate them!

Note: the exception to this is around the end of the draft. At this point, most owners’ balances are really low, so you can start winning players for that opening bid of a buck or two. It’s therefore common for owners to nominate players they want as it gets closer to the end of the draft.

Some owners decide the max they’re willing to pay for players and rarely cross that line; some cross it like a drunk crossing the street at Mardi Gras. Based on my experiences and conversations with owners, I think most people are a mix of the two extremes, but generally lean to the sober side (figuratively speaking). They watch their spending, but aren’t above crossing the line a little if the situation calls for it.  They may even play the riverboat gambler once in awhile and do whatever it takes to win that coveted player. That can be a lot of fun, but can also have consequences, so try to guard against getting too fast and too loose in the heat of the moment.

Finally, I strongly suggest trying a simulated (“mock”) auction draft online; if you search the net you’ll find several sites (Yahoo, ESPN, etc) that have them for free 24/7. They use computer simulated opponents, though other people can join. Real people will probably react a little differently, but this still will help you get a feel for the process. You can also try different strategies and see how they play out.

I’ll close with an old saying about auction drafts that sums it up:

You can have any player you want. Just not every player you want.

I hope you found this information helpful and wish you the best of luck in your auction draft!

About Bill Rudy

Bill has been playing fantasy football off and on for over 20 years. He's had articles posted on several popular sites over the years, including our own. He's recently re-joined Fantasy Sharks as one of our summer guest writers and we hope you enjoy his perspective.