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Auction Draft Tips & Tricks (Fantasy Football)

by Sheldon Curtis | @sheldon__curtis | Featured Writer
Feb 24, 2020

Auction drafts are really gaining traction lately, and I find them to be much more fun than serpentine formats. For local leagues where you can all get in one room together, there’s no better way to kick off your season. It is an entirely different beast, though, so here are some suggestions based on my experience with this awesome format.

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Know Your Rules
This is a given if you are a league veteran, but if you’re starting a league or taking over a team, you need to have this locked down. There are obvious rules, such as the number of players you need to draft, but you also need to be certain of the number of starters needed. Do you have flex positions, and if so, is it a superflex league? This may all sound obvious, but at least once a year, someone will ask how many guys we need to draft. Don’t be that guy.

You also need to know if trading is allowed during drafts. I’m not a fan of this, as there is already a lot of action going on, and it can really slow down the draft to have two guys trying to halt bidding as they work out a trade. Having said that, one of my leagues allows it, and I have made a couple of trades. So if someone has picked up a wide receiver they don’t really need (and you want), you may still have a shot at that guy.

A key rule to know is what happens if someone runs out of points before they fill their roster. I don’t recommend having them play with a reduced roster all year, as that can be a huge disadvantage. I prefer the rule where that owner has to wait until all of the others have drafted and can then choose from the players still available. If there are two or more owners in this situation, you simply conduct a short serpentine draft.

Know Your Opponents
You may know some of your opponents very well, but try to get a line on everyone in your league. That Chiefs fan who just joined might overpay for Damien Williams (with you driving the price up), and that could mean one fewer guy to bid against for your top targets. You may also know that certain guys favor running backs, wide receivers, etc. and you can plan accordingly.

If you are in a keeper league, make notes of rosters that are weak at certain positions. Someone may desperately need to grab two running backs, so you can possibly outbid them for the one stud rusher left in the draft. If they have the most points and have pretty much stated they are drafting a specific player so no one can stop them, you can usually drive the price up really high and wipe out most of their points. That guy can then make snacks for everyone who is still able to bid for the next two hours.

You may also note some tendencies of your opponents after a few drafts. Some will come out swinging, some will wait forever to spend their points, and some are unpredictable. Some guys may have a tight schedule, and you can really drive up the price on them as they need to draft a team and head out by a certain time. This type of information may only help you sporadically, but it can make a huge difference in the long run.

Keep Track
You absolutely need to keep track of who you’ve drafted, what roster positions you’ve filled, and how many points you are spending. After three or four rounds, you may notice that you still need at least three more running backs, and there aren’t many remaining. That probably means you will have to overpay to get back on track, so try to avoid that situation at all costs. Decide what your minimum quantity is for each position and try to reach that early. You can then let the draft come to you and possibly pick up some bargains.

I also keep track of everyone’s points, as I want to know what ammo they have left if the two of us are bidding on someone. If I know he has 28 points left and four roster spots to fill, I can probably increase my bids in one-point increments and let him do the math. If you can save eight to nine points (even a couple of times), it can vastly improve the quality of your successful bids late in the draft.

Research
Besides strategies and tips, you should obviously research the players available (and specifically the rookies). I will download the rankings from FantasyPros to a spreadsheet and adjust as needed, with injuries, depth charts, and my own analysis affecting the rankings somewhat. I will then try to anticipate the point totals certain players (or tiers of players) might run and see how that fits in with my budget.

A significant factor is the class of rookies entering the league. If you never really understood the concept of supply and demand, you will after an auction draft that’s thin on running backs. This is subjective, of course, but if you’re not sure if a position will be prioritized going into the draft, the first couple of rounds should reveal any tendencies. You may have to adjust your rankings (and your budget) on the fly.

You want to envision more than one scenario so that you aren’t caught flat-footed on draft day, but the key idea here is to have more than one plan. If you wanted Jerry Jeudy for 45 points and someone else gets him for 60, you need to quickly set your sights on your next target. Are you willing to spend 70 for CeeDee Lamb if there’s a feeding frenzy, and downgrade at tight end or quarterback? Make sure you understand your priorities going in. If you are in a keeper league, the positional strength of your team should be a huge factor for you.

To drink?
Some of my drafts are pretty serious, and others start that way but turn into gong shows. Alcohol is a factor. I will definitely indulge during a draft, but I tend to wait until I’ve accomplished my main goals for the day. That first beer just tastes better after I’ve snagged my future stud running back, and I have drafted much better since implementing that strategy. If this is your day to party and trash talk, then enjoy it to the fullest.

Managing
Despite the apparent chaos of an auction draft, if you set it up properly, it should go down pretty smoothly. You will, of course, need someone to keep track of everyone’s points (we read them out at the end of every second round to catch any mistakes) and to fill in rosters with drafted players. Some sites will send you wall charts with color-coded stickers, and you can also update most sites on the go (or do it by hand and update after the draft).

Don’t ask or expect the commissioner to do everything. He’s trying to draft a team too, so there should be at least a couple of other owners pitching in. You will need someone with a loud enough voice to do the count down for each player as well, and that should never be an owner involved in the final bidding (“Going once, going twice, mine!”).

Strategy
You will have an entire year to smile or frown every time you think about your draft, so bring your A-game and look for trends. In some drafts, I’ve noticed the first couple of players go for less than I had expected. Whether guys weren’t quite focused yet, or simply had their sights set on someone else is hard to say. What also tends to happen is the price goes up substantially for the next 10-12 players, as everyone is anxious to get in on the action. There can then be a lull for three to four rounds where you can pick up sleepers and solid backups for bargain prices.

It doesn’t always happen that way, and this may be limited to my leagues, but it’s played out that way often enough that I felt it was worth mentioning. Early on, I will identify some guys I’m not sold on (but others probably are) and throw those names out. I call them soakers as they can soak up quite a few draft points from your fellow owners. They could also turn out to be stars, but that’s why research is so important.

If you are comfortable with price enforcement (driving up the price of players you don’t want), then this can be a very effective strategy to weaken your opponents. I only do this when I’m either confident the other owner is determined to win the bid, or it’s a player I’d be okay with on my team. I also wouldn’t do this if I simply can’t spare the points, but you also can’t let a rival punk you by spending 20 points when it should be 40 or more.

Another decision to make going into your draft is whether to blow most of your points on two or three studs or try and draft a more balanced team with six or seven solid players. In a keeper league, I’m all about snagging studs. I don’t care if it’s only one guy, as I may have him on my team for the next 10 years, and I can try to add two or three more next year, etc. In a redraft league, you may want as many solid options as possible for bye weeks and as injury insurance.

As for trash talk, that depends on your ability and willingness to partake and on the vibe in your league. Mind games can also be effective. If you want to mention to another rival that his wife told your wife that her mom was thinking about moving in with them, go ahead. That’s good clean fun, but remember that you may need some of these guys as trade partners during the season.

Points
This is arbitrary, but we’ve found that 200 points work well for a keeper league (drafting 12 players). When we started a league a few years ago, we gave everyone 400 points (as there were 20 players to draft), but my only suggestion is to have enough points to allow for a lot of bidding. With only 100 points, we would average less than nine points per player, and the entire draft would echo with one-point bids. Another rule we instituted was to add five points per finish in the final standings — first place gets five points, second place gets 10 points, etc., so the weaker teams have more points in the draft to help them rebuild. An additional 60 points for the 12th-placed team won’t compare to having the first overall pick, but it does help.

Have Fun!
This draft format never gets old, and it’s at the opposite end of the predictable scale from the serpentine format. It is a market economy where you have the ability to go after every single player you crave, and your team can go from rags to riches after just one draft. All the while, you are putting your acumen, dedication, and nerve up against a room full of rivals. I can’t recommend it enough, and I can’t wait until my next auction draft!

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Sheldon Curtis is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Sheldon, check out his archive and follow him @sheldon_curtis.

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