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Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategies: Part 1

by Matt Okada | @MattOkada | Featured Writer
May 8, 2018

If you’re here because your fantasy football league has finally made the move to an auction draft, congratulations! You have entered a glorious realm, brimming with strategy, mental jousting, and the one guy identifiable by his Saints jersey and beer guzzler who opens the draft by “accidentally” spending his entire warchest on Alvin Kamara. It is the true epitome of redraft fantasy football greatness, and I am here to arm you with the strategic weapons to capitalize on that greatness.

Oh, and if you’re here because you’re considering switching to auction drafts … do it. The end.

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The Nomination Game

Before your leaguemates can begin throwing wads of cash at their favorite players, they will have to nominate those players for bidding (or, better yet, you will). The nomination process is an elegant and dangerous dance, and there are several nomination tactics you can use to your advantage.

Start With a Top-Dollar Player You Don’t Want

Here we have one of the most tried and true methods to deplete the auction wallets of your more susceptible leaguemates. Down on David Johnson coming off injury and mired in a questionable offense? Maybe you think Deshaun Watson’s five-game sample was a fluke? Offer up one these guys with your very first nomination and someone is bound to pounce on them at market price or higher. It’s a quick way to severely cut down someone’s bankroll right out the gate.

This tactic can be massively enhanced if you know your leaguemates and can capitalize on their weaknesses. Have a couple Cheeseheads from Green Bay in your draft? Nominate Aaron Rodgers while they both have a full account and enjoy the savage bidding war that ensues. Learning your leaguemates’ tendencies and weaknesses can be one of the biggest legs up in an auction draft, especially in comparison to a standard snake.

Get Your Guy Before His Tier Dries Up

This one can be tricky in juxtaposition with the first tip, but try to nominate your favorite player(s) well before the tier he’s in empties. (This is crucially tied to a tier-based strategy we’ll discuss in a later article). Basically, people’s willingness to spend big typically follows a sort of upside-down bell curve over the course of a tier.

Someone will often overpay for the first one or two guys out of a tier, as he or she seeks to lock down the perceived top dogs. Then there is a dip in the middle where the thought is, “Eh, the best guys are gone and there’s still plenty of RB2’s left, no need to panic.” And finally, there is a dramatic spike at the end of the tier when everyone realizes there’s only one RB2 left and hear “Going once…” It’s not uncommon to see an owner grudgingly spend more on a Devonta Freeman than a Leonard Fournette merely because he’s their last chance at a player of that caliber.

You want to get your guy in that lull. Find the balance between too early and too late, and slip your target onto the auction block as nonchalant as possible. You may get a steal.

Fill Then Flood

It’s ECON 101, the principle of supply and demand. Simply lock down a position early and then flood the auction block with the top guys at that position. While you sit comfortably on a pillow of roster security, everyone else will be scrambling over the reduced pool of options. No matter what they spend, their stacks of cash will be dwindling while yours remains constant.

This is considerably easier to do with quarterbacks and tight ends, as you typically only need one starter and possibly a cheap backup. It can also be more effective, especially in leagues that overvalue the top QBs (i.e. most casual leagues), as the player pools are smaller. But it can be done with running backs or wide receivers, especially if you put good money into your starting two or three at the position early in the draft.

Bring Out The Big Guns … K and D/STs?

You heard me. If you play in a league with kickers and defenses, auction drafts are the one place you can make an early move on these spots. Simply nominate your favorite kicker or D/ST early in the draft, and open with a market value bid. There are only two possible outcomes: another owner outbids you and faces the vocal derision of the league for spending more than he should have, or they all sit quietly – in fear of that same derision – and allow you to walk away with Stephen Gostkowski and the Jaguars D/ST for a couple bucks total.

Avoid Nominating Your Own Sleepers

In this age of pervasive fantasy football advice, chances are slim that you’re the only person eyeing a particular sleeper. That means someone else will eventually nominate him. So why let them make the first move? Because it’s all about that poker face, that puh-poker face … sorry.

Nominating rookie RB Nyheim Hines at the back end of the draft is essentially tipping your hand – you’ve got your eye on this guy and will pay to get him. (Bonus tip, I think Hines is a 2018 PPR sleeper). That gives owners with some well-saved sleeper capital – which we’ll cover in a later article – an open door to run up the price. And having nominated him in the first place, you’re going to feel attached, making you prone to costly mistakes. If possible, wait with your own stash of late-round cash and pounce on your target when another unsuspecting owner puts him up.

Switch It Up!

One mistake fantasy drafters can make is using the same nomination strategy every single round. The kind-hearted newbie might keep nominating his favorite players, bidding high and weeping outwardly if he loses his guy. The crafty salesman might constantly nominate “value picks,” talk them up incessantly and never actually bid on the player. The problem is obvious: this creates predictability. And predictability is your enemy in auction drafts.

Instead, vary the reasoning behind your nominations from round to round. A lot of the strategies above are centered around harvesting other owners’ money, but throw in a few nominations you absolutely want and go hard. Always keep the other owners guessing at your intentions. If you can throw them off guard with a well-placed nomination surprise, you’ll immediately gain the high ground in the mental battle, and be well on your way to dominating your draft.

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Matt Okada is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @FantasySensei.

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