A quick foreword
: Eric Karabell’s “ESPN Insider” blog dated 8/22 about auctions amusingly resembles various sections of Part I of the Auction Nuthouse Draft Guide –
which was originally written
last year. Way to stay ahead of the times over at the Worldwide Leader. If you have access to Insider, look, point and laugh. Some people actually paid for that. Now onto our show…
“They want you to cook the dinner, at least they ought to let you shop for some of the groceries.”
— Bill Parcells
Welcome back to the second installment of the Auction Nuthouse Draft Guide. Previously we looked at the auction draft from an overall perspective, pointing out a few strategies to ensure that your draft gets the most bang for it’s buck. With the first pair of preseason games out of the way, now is a good time to think about how you want to spend your money in terms of position. Fortunately for you the reader, I slimmed this down from last year’s “War and Peace”-like epic.
Disclaimer redux: I don’t provide player values/projections or detailed budgets. Budgeting is fairly simple, anyway, especially if your league uses a $100 cap. If you want to be stud-centric, the majority of your cap is going to be spent on three top players, followed by discount talent. If you prefer depth, you’ll avoid most high-priced players and then start gathering second-tier talent after the first 25-30 guys are gone, maybe never spending more than $25 on a single player. Or you could try a mix of the two: two studs and then midrange talent.
That all brings us to the quote at the top, one of many dandies uttered by
Bill Parcells over his long and distinguished career. Here you do get to buy your own groceries, and you can spend your cash in any way you choose. It’s a matter of determining the position or positions you value most for your team, your preferred players, and their relative value to not only the rest of your league, but to sensible cap management. In the auction arena, knowing when to spend your money – or when not to – is the key to surviving amongst the wanna-be sharks in your league.
In most leagues, the deck is stacked against the QB position because they touch the ball on every play. They lose points for fumbles and interceptions, and only gain a point for every 25 yards passing. So the common line of thinking was not to waste your money on the QB position unless it’s a sure thing. In last year’s guide, I said that you should not spend more than $10 on a quarterback not named
Peyton Manning, because he has been the only sure fantasy QB over the last six years. I even used stats provided by the afore-mentioned Eric Karabell from ESPN to back me up.
The theory proved correct…to an extent. Half of the Top 10 QBs in my league cost $10 or more at the draft. No. 11, the injured
Donovan McNabb, made it 6 out of 11. But if you look at the numbers more closely, you’ll see that Nos. 8-10 (
Philip Rivers, Eli Manning and Brett Favre) really didn’t do anything special. Favre barely outscored McNabb, who was out from basically Nov. 19. That leaves us with 7 QBs – make that 6 with
Michael Vick going to the slammer – that really put up starting fantasy QB numbers. Numbers enough to warrant spending $10 or more.
The point, you ask? Usually the top QBs are never the same from one year to the next (save Peyton Manning), so picking a QB or two out of the Top 8-10 for minimal amounts of money can be a low-cost, high-reward proposition. Look at
Drew Brees last year. But with an increasing trend toward running back by committee in the NFL, a stud QB has become one of the biggest weapons in fantasy football. I myself needed to trade for
Tom Brady just to make the playoffs. So by all means, if you want to spend $10 or more for a
Carson Palmer or a
Marc Bulger, do it. At least they’re proven.
But I’m still going to stick with the less than $10 theory again this year. Examine an Average Auction Values list – I see some mid-tier QBs I like on the cheap, like
Tony Romo or
Eli Manning. Scoff if you’d like, but it beats shelling out a quarter of your cap for Peyton Manning when you could be spending money on the following…
The lifeblood of fantasy football. Spend your money wisely here, people – RB depth is not what it once was thanks to the dreaded RBBC. Everyone basically agrees that there’s
Ladainian Tomlinson and
Steven Jackson at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively. Tomlinson will cost close to or above $50 because he alone can get you deep into the playoffs. Jackson will be in the high $30s to low $40s.
Those two are followed by a group of 5-6 guys, in no particular order:
Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander, Frank Gore, Joseph Addai, Fast Willie Parker and
Brian Westbrook. I’ll throw in
Rudi Johnson to make 9, because of his consistency and the fact that his backups are all injured. The majority of these second-tier backs will still go for around $30 – so pairing them with a quality No. 2 will eat up a junk of your salary cap
(of course, you should be wary of the injury histories of Alexander, Gore and Westbrook)
. So search for the best value and make your move. In addition, decide early whether you want to handcuff their backups. That way you can budget to have enough cap space when your rivals try to bid you up for
Michael Turner or
Also make sure to identify third- and fourth-tier backs who fly under the radar but will likely put up solid numbers. Frank Gore was the paradigm of this model last year – he went for less than $10. I personally trumpeted
Chester Taylor, and he had a great start before slowing down, finishing just outside the Top 10 in my scoring system for $15. In fact, I built my team around two RBs for less than $20 each:
Fred Taylor and Brian Westbrook. Taylor was later dealt in a package for Rudi Johnson (who cost almost twice as much). Remember, many Web sites instruct their readers to go 50% of their cap and up on RBs. The cheaper you can get a starter who will not share the rock, the further ahead you will be.
You know which players will plummet in value: last year’s busts (
Ronnie Brown and
Edgerrin James), injury-prone players (
Cadillac Williams) and RBBC participants (I could name a bunch). Do your research and form your opinion of these guys beforehand, that way when the time comes, you will have already determined whether the player is a value pick. A clear vision of how you want to establish a running game will go a long way.
With WRs, my mantra is usually: if they’ve consistently produced in the past, they will do so again. And it played out last year. In my scoring system, the No. 1 WR was
Marvin Harrison, no surprise there. In fact, the only player in the Top 10 who could be deemed a surprise was
Lee Evans at No. 7. Then you have the real shockers like
Marques Colston at No. 16 and
Mike Furrey at No. 19, who were waiver wire pickups.
This is another area where hype can lead to overspending – names like
Nate Burleson and
Michael Clayton ring a bell from previous seasons. Thankfully, there is a tremendous amount of depth at the position, which makes it easier to balance the purchase of a stud with some good depth picks. I’ll always take
Terry Glenn and his bum knee for $2 rather
Vincent Jackson for $4.
One last thought: More than running backs, a WR’s performance is subject to the performance of his QB. Lee Evans stats improved because J.P. Losman improved.
Chris Chambers went from All-World to All-Dud. Most money wideouts are so because they have a decent QB feeding them the ball.
Tight end is another spot where depth at the position plays to your advantage. There’s nothing wrong in choosing to spend your cash on
Antonio Gates; just be prepared to shell out upwards of $15. But because we continue to look for value, we look a little further down the rankings. Why have Gates for $13 when you could have
Chris Cooley for $3? Gates did outperform Cooley by a decent margin last year, but was the margin worth $10? That’s up to you to decide.
Even in a 12-team league, you should be able to get a good tight end on the cheap. Everybody forgot
Alge Crumpler in my draft last year; he went for $3 and ended up being the No. 2 TE overall. What about a guy like
Randy McMichael for $1, who finished No. 10 and is going to an offense that provides him with the ability to put up a monster season? And don’t forget young guns who had their seasons derailed by injury (
Ben Watson and
Vernon Davis). Average Auction Values give you an idea about the going rates for TEs, which in turn provides you with a solid direction on who will be available as a value pick.
KICKERS AND DSTs
I won’t get into too much detail here. The top kickers and defenses change every year, but there are still are GMs out there who either a) get caught up in picking who or what they feel is the ultimate secret weapon (like the guy who in 2004 spent $6 on
Mike Vanderjagt) or b) the homer who gets bid up for his favorite team’s defense (see my draft and the Ravens D). Simple strategy for kickers:
Neil Rackers, the leading kicker in 2005, was No. 8 last year, replaced by
Robbie Gould – a rookie waiver wire pick-up. Hence, no kicker is really worth more than $1, unless you have money to spare and you like the guy (like me with Vinatieri for $2 last year).
DSTs are a little trickier because they’re not only based on yards allowed, but kick/punt returns, sacks, interceptions, safeties, etc. A good rule of thumb is this – look at a team’s schedule. If you think they’re going to play in a weak division as well as weak nondivisional opponents (see
Bears, Chicago), they are a smart choice. In addition, consider whether they have a history of excellent special teams or a top-shelf returner. A mediocre defense can enter the top 10 if buttressed by strong special teams.
Part Dos is in the books. Next time, we’ll go over the draft itself – and the techniques your friends use to sabotage you. I’m revving up the car for the ride to my annual auction draft extravaganza in luxurious Baltimore, Maryland. I’ll try to get a recap in.
If you have any questions, thoughts or comments, make sure to post them in the Article Discussions forum in the Shark Tank.