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The Art of Nominating Players in Auction Drafts (2019 Fantasy Football)

by Raju Byfield | @FantasyContext | Featured Writer
May 27, 2019

It’s wise to nominate high-end backs early, like Joe Mixon, if you can’t afford to roster any more of them

Auction leagues are becoming more and more prevalent. They are arguably the fairest and equitable way to do a startup draft as they eliminate the luck element a randomly generated draft order presents. Auctions while sometimes painstakingly time-consuming, are an exciting way to draft. Every fantasy player should participate in at least one live auction, even if it is just a public league. Auctions, however, become a lot more interesting when you are familiar with one or more of the draft participants.

To veteran auction drafters, ‘feeding the bots’ or nominating/tossing players you don’t want is something most have encountered, if not participated in directly. While many are aware of the strategy, some have failed to utilize it to its fullest potential. With that in mind, we will examine what feeding the bots is along with the best way to implement it in your auction drafts. Conversely, we will also take a look at why some auction drafters prefer to nominate the players they want early as opposed to waging war on the wallets of their rivals.

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What is Feeding the Bots?
Any seasoned auction drafter is aware of the strategy of avoiding players you are interested in when it comes to nominations. Originally devised as a strategy to ‘feed the bots’ when a rival drafter is unable to make the live draft, feeding has now become a tool even with a full draft room. Bot feeding is when you as a nominator, nominate players you will not be bidding on. This is done to dry up the funds of your rival managers before your actual targets get nominated and enter the auction.

As alluded to above, the strategy behind bot feeding is to nominate players you have zero interest in. Ideally, you want to pull from your “do not draft” or overvalued lists. These players must be fantasy relevant players that others will bid on or you may unintentionally end up with them, and, in turn, waste a valuable roster spot.

The impetus is to have your rivals spend their auction dollars early so as to artificially decrease the demand for your target players. The reasoning being is if your rivals have already spent a chunk of or all of their auction budget, they will not be able to drive up the prices via bids on your actual target players.

The feed the bot strategy takes cooperation if it’s to be used to its full potential. A significant portion of the draft room has to be on board with this strategy, otherwise, the other 11+ managers will be nominating some, if not all of your top targets. It is a good idea to identify the managers you are attempting to feed, and where possible, identifying which players, or what positions they may be higher on than others.

Price Enforcers
Feeding also has the added benefit as acting as a price enforcer filter. The worst thing that can happen once you have fed the bots is for a rival manager who was in on the plan, becoming a price enforcer. A price enforcer is a manager who bids on players simply because he fears he is about to be sold for too low of a price. The manager in question may not even have actual interest in the players, but will bid to ensure “price integrity.” Bot feeding often weeds out the price enforcers as there are often good values to be had when a portion of the draft room is nominating players that they have no interest in.

When to Use
As mentioned, feeding the bots requires some draft room collusion or cooperation. It is impossible to effectively utilize this strategy if you only control 8.33 percent or less of the nominations. Bot feeding is a strategy to use at the start of your auction drafts. It will make an already long auction draft take longer, but is an effective team building strategy.

It is also effective to feed when you are trying to dwindle the budget of a specific manager. You can evaluate their team needs and current roster to give you some assistance. If they have already drafted running backs, do they have any high-value handcuffs you can try to entice them to bid on? Are they waiting on a tight end? Perhaps try nominating the next highest ranked player at that position to see if they bite.

One of the main drawbacks of bot feeding is that it requires cooperation through multiple rounds. It is also time intensive, so you need committed managers to cooperate with. Another major thing for managers who wish to engage in this strategy to be aware of is tier depletion. The managers who aren’t colluding may continue to nominate top tier players resulting in a depletion of a certain tier. This is important to note as the final player or two in a tier can go for a larger percentage over their average auction value (AAV) versus other players in that tier who may have been acquired at or below their AAV.

Players You Want
There is also a school of thought that nominating players you want early is the best course of action. The impetus here is to avoid tier depletion and the rising costs usually associated with acquiring one of the last players in a particular tier. This makes sense if you are colluding with a significant portion of your draft room. However, if this is not the case, you can rest assured that the other nominations will include players on your target list. When this occurs, do not be afraid to bid. Feeding the bots does not mean you cannot bid on players you desire.

At some point of your auction draft, even if following the feed the bot strategy, you are going to have to start nominating players you are actually interested in. The likelihood is that at this point of the draft you have already rostered a couple of players due to not being able to control who your entire draft room nominates. If this is the case, there are different strategies you can employ.

If you are late in the draft and most teams only have a maximum of $3-$5 left per player, you can simply bid $6 and land the sleepers you purposely avoided nominating early in the draft. In this way, you can maximize your leftover budget. It is always advisable to leave a portion of your budget available for the late draft bargains. There is nothing worse than seeing one of your top sleepers being sold for $2 when your max bid per player is $1.

Another strategy is to nominate players in tiers you already have a player rostered in so as to have your rivals engage in a bidding war over an asset in a shrinking tier. Cynthia has already acquired the services of Ezekiel Elliott and Dalvin Cook, and decides that she will be nominating every other back in the RB1 tier when it is her turn. She does this to ensure that her rivals are aggressive when they still have a large wallet left. With Saquon Barkley, Alvin Kamara, and Christian McCaffrey already taken, she thinks she can spark a bidding frenzy for Le’Veon Bell, Joe Mixon, and David Johnson. In this case, Cynthia knows she likely cannot afford any more players in this tier, but wishes to see her rivals spend at or above a player’s AAV to land one of the last RB1s.

Another popular route is to nominate big name QBs. This strategy is preferred by drafters who opt to wait on QBs in their snake drafts. These owners are comfortable with missing out on the top tier or two in favor of bargains for players considered to be in the lower end of the QB1 conversation.

Statement Nominations
A statement nomination is when you nominate a player with a high opening bid. This is usually close to their listed AAV on the site provider. The strategy here is to make rival owners think twice about engaging in a bidding war for a player that you have shown you are willing to be aggressive to land. Some managers will even nominate at a price slightly above the providers’ listed AAV to dissuade rivals from bidding. Being aggressive is the name of the game with statement nominations, so don’t be afraid to be just that.

When to Use
As mentioned above, you cannot be the only one in your draft room attempting to ‘feed the bots’ for it to be a successful strategy. In cases like this, there is no right or wrong time to nominate players you are interested in. This is also a strategy used by those who are pressed for time. Yes, live auctions are the only way to go, but this means you have to be prepared for your draft to last up to six times as long as a standard snake draft. You will often see rivals log in, bid like crazy on studs and then log off for hours if not completely.

Nominating players you want, especially rookies and sleepers can result in them being sold for more than they would go for had you waited until your rival managers’ wallets were depleted. However, they can also end up being sold for less than their AAV if rival managers are waiting on the bigger names that they believe to be in higher tiers to be nominated. With that said, there are not many deals to be had when everyone has a full wallet, so bear that in mind if you are choosing to go with this strategy.

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Raju Byfield is a featured writer for FantasyPros. For more from Raju, check out his profile and follow him @FantasyContext.

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