The Auction Nuthouse
Aug 31, 2006
“Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin’; we’re gonna do what they say can’t be done…”
Welcome to the special draft edition of the Nuthouse, sponsored by Amtrak. If you like delays, power outages, broken air conditioning and train stations located in some of the Eastern Seaboard’s worst areas, then get onboard Amtrak! Not to mention the unexpected bonus of the passenger sitting next to me on the way home being related to former Utah Jazz draft pick and Stanford star Adam Keefe. I thoroughly enjoyed tales of the millions Mr. Keefe has made and the hot volleyball player he married. WELL I WRITE FOR FANTASY SHARKS, GRANDPA, HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT?!
Pardon me, I guess I kind of lost control there for a second. We’re here to see how my auction draft turned out this year, and hopefully give you an indicator as to what might happen at yours. Most likely you will not have people passing out around you immediately after the draft’s conclusion, but nevertheless let’s move forward. My final draft prep was conducted on the train ride down, featuring some last-minute tinkering of my rankings and gearing myself up mentally for the task at hand. I came armed with the following:
1) Fantasy Sharks cheat sheet. Follow it like scripture.
2) Average Auction Values list. This will help you follow how current bidding compares with overall value from other leagues. Because these are averages, some players’ values might be in cents. Round up for those you like, round down for those you dislike.
3) CBS Sportsline values. You readers are Sharks. Most league participants are not. They use ESPN and Sportsline rankings, hence you should keep track of how high or low they might bid.
4) Strength of schedule list. If it comes down to a quick decision on a player, check his schedule and see if he can realistically match your projections.
Mentally preparing for the actual bidding process is just as important. Auction drafts are fantasy football’s version of poker; however, instead of representing a hand, participants are representing their interest in a player. So the more information you have at your disposal, the better. Here’s what I wrote down as pointers to think about:
Know your strategy/players: Will you be stud-centric or depth-centric? Which players do you really want on your squad (and are prepared to pay for)? Just as important, which players do you NOT want, even at good value?
Know your opponents: Not only what team they root for, but what players they have picked in the past. My league has one guy who drafts Tomlinson every year. Guess what, he did it again this year. But it cost him a pretty penny this time. Just as important is knowing your opponents’ bidding style. Is your opponent a notorious bidder-upper? If so, you better know how high are you willing to go before shutting down and making the bidder-upper’s strategy back fire.
The important numbers before we start: 12-team league, $100 cap, 15 players each team. Note that each franchise must draft an entire team, meaning that they need to select at least one kicker and a defense. This means you can’t hoard backs and receivers as much as you might like. League scoring is standard performance with bonuses for 300-yard passing, 100-yard rushing and 100-yard receiving games, along with 50-yard+ field goals.
So what happened? Well, some people took bidding up to a new level this year, with prices as high as I’ve ever seen them in an auction draft. It’s like people went crazy, but it does provides us with a model for both the pros and cons of the stud- and depth-centric systems. Let me explain. The Big Three went for obscene amounts of money: $42 each for LJ and Alexander, while Tomlinson took the cake at a whopping $45, a record for our league. I told you previously that the same guy gets Tomlinson every year, this year he got pushed further than ever and spent almost half his cap. But it didn’t stop there. People shelled out their money early and often, forsaking balance for three studs. One team spent $80 on three players: Peyton Manning, Ronnie Brown and Rudi Johnson. Yes, they are great players to spend money on, but the sledding gets tough when one of those players is on a bye week and your top wideouts are Keyshawn Johnson and Amani Toomer. Not many went to this extreme, most owners laid back after picking up their stud running back, trying to find as much value as they could at the QB and WR positions. But regardless, the top 10 backs and a few top wideouts all went for more than $20, including $22 for Torry Holt, $21 each for Steve Smith and Chad Johnson, $20 for Larry Fitzgerald.
As these ridiculous sums of money kept ringing out, I sat there and a thought occurred to me: What if I didn’t take anybody for a while unless they were absolutely what I thought would be a value pick? No getting bidded up for Steven Jackson or Lamont Jordan, no spending extra on any of my beloved Giants players. Just populate the team with midrange talent that could explode. And so that’s what I did. I was the last owner to score a winning bid on a player. I swear I didn’t take a player for the first 32 players, around an hour-and-a-half. Some people had $20 left by that point. I decided to take this depth drafting to a new level.
Second-tier running backs became my business. Brian Westbrook, check. Chester Taylor, hello. DeShaun Foster, welcome. Fragile Freddy Taylor, come on down. Four starting RBs, plus Marion Barber, who is one Julius Jones hammy or Parcells tantrum away from being a starter, for less than $50. And they come free with the added pleasure of having a heart attack every time one of these guys gets tackled! I’m thinking of changing my team name to “One Cut Away from Disaster” or simply ““No. 2 RBs”
I continued my value sweep with the WRs and TEs. Marvin Harrison, Chris Chambers, Santana Moss, Reggie Brown, Jason Witten, L.J. Smith. Even Jake Plummer for $4 made sense to me. I got Chambers and Moss for less than the price of Torry Holt. Chambers was the WR who I most coveted the most and for $12, could end up being a relative bargain. Was I maybe a little bit hasty is picking some of these guys up and maybe could’ve saved some money and gotten myself a better backup QB or DST—or even equal WRs? Probably. But there was value abound, and I could outbid everyone at this point for the players I wanted. Witten went for $2, an absolute steal, considering his numbers are comparable to Shockey ($8) and Heap ($7). And if you notice, each WR (even Reggie Brown) is his team’s No. 1 receiving option. You could argue that Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne are Nos. 1 and 1A, but that’s splitting hairs. The point is that sitting out for a while enabled me to spend my money on quality starters, rather than having to spend my money late on prospects, handcuffs or TD specialists like Brandon Jacobs or Mike Sellers.
Now, days after the draft, it’s easy to see the advantages of the depth drafting strategy. Two teams already have running back issues: The two owners who took Domanick Davis (and Vernand Morency) and Curtis Martin, respectively, are looking for immediate help. I can now easily turn Marion Barber into a viable back-up QB (right now it’s a $1 flier on Billy Volek, who might be gone in a couple of days) like Chris Simms or Byron Leftwich. I can also trade Barber for DeAngelo Williams, handcuffing a back for a team that should win 10+ games. Maybe I turn my WR depth into a trade for a better player—one owner is already guaranteeing me that he’ll be trading me McNabb or Culpepper for a WR by Week 5. Injuries always occur, and depth drafters are usually the beneficiaries.
The disadvantage is that while I have quality starters, are any of them going to produce like studs? Or will they just provide 10-12 points each week? The advantage of a stud-centric team is that a squad with a Peyton Manning, Rudi Johnson and Ronnie Brown can win based on those three players’ performances alone. Can Jake Plummer put up Top 10 stats, or should I have spent $12 on Jake Delhomme? A stud RB is usually reliable and will take the 14-week season pounding; second-tier backs are second-tier for a reason. Can Fred Taylor or DeShaun Foster even make it through four weeks? This is what we’re about to find out. Let’s go.
If you have thoughts on my drafting strategy or draft preparations, or want to comment on my team in general, feel free to start a topic in the Article Discussion section of the Fantasy Sharks forum. If requested, I can also type out the entire roster, post it in the Rate My Team section, and you guys can rip me to shreds. I may turn this team interactive, asking you Sharks whether I should make a trade or to choose between two trade proposals. It should be a lot of fun.