We need to make a collective push toward the auction format. It is time —Bill Simmons, ESPN.com
Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Nuthouse. I am your host, Nick Pavlou. Previously a staple of fantasy baseball, auction drafts have soared in popularity among the football set for the past five years. Why? Because the snake draft is for suckers. More than any other format, the auction draft enables participants to be fantasy GMs in the truest sense of the term. You determine the players that you want and their value, rather than being locked into a specific draft spot in a snake draft. Everybody has a shot at Larry Johnson or Ladainian Tomlinson, not just the jerk who drew #1 out of a hat.
Now I can go on forever detailing the differences between auction and snake drafts, but that’s not what either of us is here for. Here’s an important disclaimer: I am not here to provide you with auction values. Please don’t complain; I couldn’t care less. It’s a thankless job as not only do the number of teams and the salary cap vary from league to league, but so do the scoring systems. Not to mention something very important in determining a player value: personal and regional tendencies. For example, a fantasy GM on the East Coast may prefer Tiki Barber to Stephen Jackson, while a GM who predominantly watches NFC West games not only prefers Jackson, but also one of the Arizona WRs to their NFC East contemporaries like Santana Moss and Reggie Brown.
In my league last year, Todd Heap went for $7 compared with Jason Witten, who went for $3. They finished with pretty similar numbers. So why in God’s Holy Name did Heap cost so much? Because the majority of the GMs in my league are from the Baltimore region, hence his value was higher to them than in a draft not held in the Charm City. In this case, familiarity did not help that team, the $4 difference between the two players enabled one team to shore up depth in another position while the other suffered. Believe me, you may be in a league with people you think are your buddies, but these savages will be merciless in bidding you up when the best player on your favorite team is named.
My long-winded point is this: You want projections; you have the BEST here at Fantasy Sharks. And they are FREE. Tony and his staff have been ahead of the curve for years. They had Chad Johnson as a Top 2 WR last year and predicted Clinton Portis subpar 2004 season when everyone was high on him. Take these projections and apply your own preferred values to them, whether they are directly from an individual Web site or through an average auction value formula. By doing this, you just made your draft preparation a whole lot easier.
As I said, I’m not here to tell you who to pick and for what amount. If I was, I’d be a) lying, b) rich or c) getting paid to write full-time with the rest of the geeks at ESPN. What I will do in this first column is offer an overall view of the auction draft, detailing strategies that I’ve used or learn to use through trial and error over the past few years. Hopefully this will steer you toward a clear decision as to what choices to make in your pursuit of auction glory so you don’t end up overpaying for underachievers.
THIS AIN’T EBAY
On eBay, value exists in abundance, from getting an out-of-date CD or book for half-price to taking concert tickets you’ve already purchased and selling them to finance buying better seats. Not so in the auction draft, where finding value is key in an environment of constantly escalating prices. So what is the best approach to take to finding value in the draft? Here are a few paths that you should consider following:
Choose the best players on the best teams (You get what you pay for) : Before you wiseguys hit send on that e-mail, yes, I know it’s going to be nearly impossible under a $100 salary cap to get 13 decent players to fill out a roster after getting Peyton Manning, Shaun Alexander and Steve Smith. Think of this more as a rule of thumb when deciding between certain players. Before the 2005 season, many sites had Willis McGahee and Dominack Davis costing more than Tiki Barber and Rudi Johnson. But these pundits forgot that the first two players teams stunk, while the latter two were on playoff teams. While McGahee and Davis did perform better later in the season, that wasn’t of any help to many of their owners, who by then had been eliminated from their playoff races thanks to their sputtering start. The best players on the best teams also perform consistently throughout the season. Keep in mind what teams you think will make the playoffs. Saving a few bucks by picking a solid player on a playoff contender rather than a high upside talent on a borderline stinker will help your draft in the long run. In that vein..
Avoid the media hype machine (In veterans we trust) : Remember that the fantasy writers for major sites like ESPN or Sportsline are no different from their beat reporter counterparts when it comes to publishing stories. They are simply looking to scoop each other and come up with the next big angle or sleeper in order to attract as many readers as possible. If the ESPN guys look consistently smarter than the rest of us, then more poor saps will ante up for their draft kit. We already spoke about McGahee and Davis last year, but how about the WR position? Names like Nate Burleson, Michael Clayton, Ashley Lelie and Andre Johnson were all the rage last year in preseason predictions Lelie, in particular, went for an absurd amount in my league relative to his worth but in the end they were outperformed by veterans like Joey Galloway, Rod Smith, Hines Ward and Plaxico Burress. Sit back, relax and let the rest of the schmoes in your league bid Reggie Bush up to the $25 mark while you take Ronnie Brown for less. Laugh all the way to the bank like I did two years ago, when Curtis Martin cost me a whole $3 while leading the NFL in rushing.
If you’re going to take a stud-centric approach, make sure they ARE studs (The NBA corollary) : In the NBA, teams are built behind two or three stars, like Shaq/Wade, Duncan/Ginobili and Nash/Marion/Amare. The rest of the team consists of complementary role players who support the stars. Now while some of this supporting cast will have great games or periods of play, it is the studs that have to carry the team day in and day out. Many apply this same strategy to the auction draft, spending the majority of their salary cap on two or three stud players that they think will provide weekly dominance. The one hitch is that their studs have to work out or you are up a certain creek. Case in point: a couple of years ago, I decided to go for a three-headed monster of a stud QB, RB and WR. I spent nearly 75% of my salary cap on Matt Hasslebeck (bought into the hype machine), Clinton Portis and Marvin Harrison. Yeah, that worked out real well. Hasslebeck was a bust before last year’s boom and Portis and Harrison didn get cranked up until the second half of the year when I had traded Portis. Keep that in the back of your head when you exceed the $30 mark on certain players this year.
Depth can be a blessing and a curse (Sometimes things are cheap for a reason) : Many drafters tend to let the majority of studs or higher-priced players go by the wayside, preferring not to start actively pursuing players until after the top 25 to 30 players have been selected. Then they start shopping for solid veterans and players with upside. It a successful and proven strategy, especially when it comes to accumulating second-tier running backs. It enables you to build depth that the majority of the teams in your league will not have which can lead to trading for buy-low studs later in the season. With an injury to your star player always one tackle away, having solid depth in a 12-team league is the first step to a triumphant season. On the other hand, pay heed to the line from Rounders: You can’t win what you don’t put in. This can be applied two ways. First, remember that one Larry Johnson or Peyton Manning can surpass the production of two mid-tier players. And please don be so budget-conscious that you leave unused money on the table at the end of the draft; money not spent may end up being money not earned. And that’s what we are all in this for, to take money from our friends and loved ones and then rub it in their faces for a whole offseason.
That’s it for now. Next time, we go over position-by-position strategies, including my explanation on why bad things should happen to you if you spend more than $10 on any QB not named Peyton Manning. Do you have thoughts, comments or questions? Post in our Article’s Feedback section here at the FantasySharks.com forums.