Auction Drafts: How to Handle Positional Scarcity (Fantasy Football)
In snake drafts, you have a bit more control over how to handle positional scarcity. If you are concerned about a particular position, you can devote more picks to that position and reach for players. In auction drafts, there is no “this is mine” button you can click and just have a player. Everyone has the same shot at every player. When a position is scarce, everyone knows it and that will inherently inflate the value of certain players. So what do you do? The answer depends on how comfortable you are with holes on your roster.
Option 1: Overpay
You can always choose to overpay. I wouldn’t recommend doing so, but there are situations where this is actually beneficial. If you’ve been successful in obtaining players at value and have a handful of players for less than what you expected to pay, you can allot the unexpected excess in funds to paying a little extra for a player at a scarce position. Let’s say you allocated $110 for your top two WRs and top two RBs, but you ended up getting the caliber of guys you wanted for only $100. If you want to spend an extra $10 on a TE or even on that last reliable WR3, you can afford it.
Of course, this relies upon your auction playing out a certain way. If the players at the scarce positions are nominated before you know where you’re at in terms of budgeting, you have to make a decision with less information. There is no skeleton key as to how you should handle this. It comes down to your draft strategy and confidence in your ability to execute.
Option 2: Punt the Position
One of my favorite things about auction is that it is more conducive to post-draft and early-season trading. In snake drafts, everyone is building their team with one player from each round. In auctions, there are numerous ways to construct your roster. With injuries and busts hitting early and team structure varying from stars-and-scrubs to consistent-across-the-board to drafting for depth to heavy on one position over another, you will likely have an opportunity to fix any problems created by positional scarcity.
Let’s say you ignored RB2 because you really didn’t like anyone outside of the top running backs, and you were only able to buy one. Instead of overspending for an uninspiring option, you choose to load up on WRs. By load up, I mean you have your starters locked in as well as one or two starter-worthy options on your bench. It is very easy to envision a scenario where you can flip a WR to plug that hole at RB2. To be clear, I am not advocating that you should ever draft with the specific intent of trading afterwards. I cannot stress enough how wrong that strategy is. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t use the possibility of being able to trade as a fallback plan and an alternative to overpaying for mediocre talent. Auctions are all about adaptation and taking what the room gives you. In a vacuum, drafting to trade is bad, but when pitted against the option of overpaying for middling players, it may be the lesser of two evils.
Option 3: Hybrid
The thing about auctions is positions may start out plentiful but become scarce. When a position is scarce to begin with, you can enter your draft with the mindset of attacking it early and trying to acquire an elite or upper-echelon player at that position, with the discipline to not overpay and shift into punt mode if you can’t get a reasonable price.
When a position becomes scarce during the draft by virtue of there only being a couple players left that are desirable, you are likely better off diverting your money to more rich positions. When a position becomes scarce, everyone knows it, and those that haven’t filled that position are saving their money for when those last couple players are nominated. You can take advantage of this by nominating players at other positions and securing good value knowing that many others are waiting for the scarce position. Sometimes it’s better to accept a hole in your lineup and fill up your bench with useful assets than to overpay. Whether by free agency or trade, odds are you will be able to plug any holes you left as long as your money was well spent on your strengths.
In conclusion, you should use positional scarcity to your advantage. Use the knowledge of how fantasy owners typically handle scarcity to benefit your draft and your team. It comes down to the cliche of zigging while others zag. Sometimes, things really are that simple. You just need to execute, which is much more challenging.