Fantasy Football Auction Budgeting Strategies

by Bobby Sylvester | @bobbyfantasypro | Featured Writer
Jul 17, 2019

You can pay for three elite backs in an auction if you want

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Standard fantasy football snake drafts are incredible experiences, without question. Truly, though, you won’t be able to find a soul who has participated in an auction draft and not enjoyed it more. There is so much additional strategy built into fantasy football when you have complete flexibility to design your roster as you see fit. Stuck with the 7th pick and can’t get your favorite player, Ezekiel Elliot? Never in an auction league. Want three first-round quality running backs? You can make it happen. Or perhaps you just want try out a strategy where you draft eight starters who all belong in the third and fourth round. That is a possibility too. Because there are so many possibilities, it can seem overwhelming to new auction participants, so today I’ll dive into it with you to offer some strategies and help establish guidelines to alternative approaches.

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Translating snake value to auction value

When most conversations are had with buddies or on podcasts about fantasy football, people tend to speak in the language of standard snake re-draft leagues. Because of this, our instinctual knowledge about player value is tied to each pick and specifically, what round they are falling in on average. Auction drafts are an entirely different animal, however, as the difference between the #4 and #6 pick in a redraft league may not seem like much, but in auction leagues, it is astronomical for 2019. Clear-cut tiers are established with major drop-offs between them. Meanwhile, the 5th most expensive player may not cost much more than the 15th, nor would the 20th from the 35th.

The best way to deal with this transition is to simply plug in your specific league settings into our auction calculator. Heck, even in snake drafts, I prefer to do this just to get an idea of where positional runs should start and finish. As you might expect, the top four running backs in a normal half-PPR league all take up 28-32% of a team’s projected budget. Or in a typical league with a $200 budget, about 60 bucks. After them, the RB5 is down at $44 which is a bigger difference than #5 overall and #17. Essentially, if you are in a snake draft and don’t get a top 4 pick, you are at a severe disadvantage which is one of the reasons auction drafts are much better.

These tiers change each year and even with each league rule adjustment. For example, in a two-QB league with standard-scoring, Patrick Mahomes jumps to #1 and only two wideouts are listed in the top 20. Now, that isn’t quite what will happen, but it sure does help to understand what the math recommends as a player’s expected value so that you can bid wisely rather than with the public trends. You can spend hours calculating all this yourself or take 10 seconds to adjust the settings and let the algorithm organize it all for you.

How value changes even during the draft

This isn’t an infomercial, I swear. Rather, even before I worked for FantasyPros, I would implore friends and family to use Draft Wizard during their drafts because it give you such a leg up. In fact, I’ve seen multiple instances where leagues have outlawed its use because they deem it to be cheating. Essentially, you have a team of experts sitting next to you ready to give their recommendation at the drop of a hat. You can select specific experts, upload their rankings and DraftWizard will calculate their recommended auction values as a group.

More important, however, is the fact that this team of experts comes with a data scientist who takes inflation into account. This is a significant factor that most don’t consider as they are participating in an auction draft. Think of it this way: If Saquon, Zeke, McCaffrey, Kamara, Hopkins and Gordon are all worth $320 combined but go for $500 in the first six bids. That means that in a 10-team league, 2.5% of the money has already been spent while 98.4% of the actual value still remains. To put it plainly, you can now expect to get most of the remaining players for cheaper than you had initially planned. Most people will be sitting there with their cheat sheets without a thought in the world about adjusting any player’s auction value. When you sync your live auction draft with Draft Wizard, the algorithm adjusts recommended player values on the spot after every player.

Top-Heavy Team Build

As I mentioned earlier, there are endless possibilities with how you can build your roster, but I figure the best way to cover them all is to outline the extremes so you can know what walls you have to work within. One of those extremes is to build a top-heavy team. This can mean three superstars, four first-round values, or perhaps five second-round picks. Let’s take a look at each with 2019 examples:

Three Superstars

Most leagues select 16 players so you have to assume the remaining 13 players will go for at least $1. That’s fine, plenty of rosters will have multiple $1 players and most bench picks will end up worth $1 like Geronimo Allison, Phillip Rivers, and perhaps even a back like Ronald Jones or Jerick McKinnon. So let’s work backward: You are buying a $1 kicker, $1 D/ST and 6 bench spots all for a buck. Add in the $170 you spent on your three stud backs and you now have $22 for five players which is actually manageable. For instance, your starters might end up looking like this: Jameis Winston, David Njoku, Corey Davis, Marvin Jones and Dante Pettis. I can live with that if I’ve got three of the top four players in all of fantasy football.

Four Stars Example

Five Strong Example

Spread The Wealth Build

You don’t always have to enter your draft knowing exactly what you want to do. In fact, I’d advise against it as it can be a detriment to helping you find value. Instead, enter the draft fluid to slide into the spots where value presents itself. In many leagues, this may not be until 20 or 30 minutes into your draft after everyone has gotten the crazy spending out of the way. Let’s say all of the top 20 players went for 20% more than is reasonable. Good for you on being patient and avoiding the mess. If it keeps happening though, you’ll hav to eventually jump in before you end up with a team of 16 players all worth $10 and leave 20% of your budget on the board. With that said, you are better off waiting and spending $4 more on Marlon Mack than you had planned as opposed to going $18 beyond the recommendation on Ezekiel Elliott.

Once again, there is little sense in ever spending even $2 on a D/ST and the same is, of course, true for your kicker. There is a major advantage to find, however, if you have $12 to spend with 4 bench spots left to fill. Virtually everyone will be trying to bring up a player for $1 before someone else does. When you have money left over, though, you can steal all those top players, and while $1 may not seem like a big difference, it ends up making all the difference in the world late in drafts. If you can only nominate $1 players instead of being able to bid 2 or 3 bucks at the end, it could be the difference between rostering Jalen Richard and Royce Freeman. Let’s again work backward with this in mind.

That team might not feel as sexy but it sure is a safe bet to make the playoffs and at that point, it’s anyone’s game.

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Bobby Sylvester is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Bobby, check out his archive and follow him @BobbyFantasyPro

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