Auction Drafting: Why You Shouldn’t Fear It
By Jason Cabrera
Auction drafting. These two words have the capacity to strike fear into the heart of fantasy players. It’s actually a very understandable sentiment: drafting in a traditional snake format can be nerve wracking enough. All the variables you must weigh when preparing for a draft when taken all at once is, to say the least, daunting: position value, player value, team schedule, other fantasy players’ tendencies… it’s a lot to take in all at once, yet you do it every single year. So, can you do the same with auction?
It’s understandable why snake drafts are considered less scary: they’re more structured. You get one chance per round to choose from the players that have not been drafted yet and once you make that choice that’s it, they’re your player. All that research, all those mock drafts, all that time listening to The Fantasy Football Fanatics Podcast (cause that’s what extremely smart players do… though I may be a bit bias….) comes down to that one moment when you click that mouse and choose that player.
But there’s a flip side to that structure that you may not have thought about: limitations. While you see it as structure, it can also be viewed as downright constricting. You only get a shot at one first round player, if a player you love is taken too early you’re out of luck, you have to wait and wait and wait on the long turn to make your move watching helplessly as great players come off the board. Then there’s another perspective to have on snake drafts: they have training wheels. You’re locked nice and cozy into that structure and a lot of the tough decisions may be taken out of your hands anyway. For example, if you are trying to decide between Jordy Nelson and Mike Evans, and the guy right before you chooses Nelson, well that just made your choice easy. See? Training wheels.
But with auction drafting, that perspective changes dramatically. Where before you were drafting in a single position per round, now you are drafting in every position. Where you only had a shot at one first round pick, now you will be able to put skin in the game with every single player. No more training wheels, now it comes down to how much you truly value a player. This is where your homework comes into play. In a regular draft, you should have your basic board ready with your rankings. Well in an auction draft, that means taking that board a step further and adding a cash value. If you want to sell out on a single player, you have the flexibility to do that and while most would advise against that, some people have won entire leagues with that strategy.
In auction drafts you get to see just how much someone values a player, so preparing for your opponents is of paramount importance. The mind games that come along with this can be challenging and frustrating, but if you are able to hold true to your philosophy by letting players go that rise above your value or pushing the value of a player higher than what others might deem smart, then you will end up drafting well. That doesn’t just mean employing those mind games, it also means preparing yourself to counteract them. You’ve heard us say on the show before “don’t fall in love with a single player”. With auctions, that is triply important. If a player knows you’re willing to push the price up as high as necessary to get that player, you could be seeing half your budget go before you’ve even drafted your first three players! You must be steadfast in your strategy and (you’re probably getting tired of hearing this) trust your board.
You do the research for a snake draft and, again, that is even more crucial with auctions. Knowing gems that will be available at a lower price will give you the flexibility to spend more in other areas. For example, casual players are not going to spend a lot of money on Paul Perkins. It’s understandable, the Giants had a horrible run offense last year and Perkins started the season down the depth chart. But if you have been following the progress of the team and watched tape on him, you would know that Perkins played very well when given the opportunity. He runs like every down is the most important of the game and manages an extra yard or two where Rashard Jennings would usually end up going down earlier. You would also know that the Giants seem to truly believe in him, as evidenced by the fact that, after losing Jennings to free agency, they did not draft a running back in the first three rounds. They have also added a ton of passing weapons including Brandon Marshal and Rookie TE Evan Engram, so teams will have to respect the pass all over the field which could open some nice running lanes for Perkins to exploit. So, while the casual player will stop bidding early to conserve money for who they see as a better prospect, you will be savvy enough to know that you should drop a bit more on him as he has a good chance to return on the investment.
The opportunity to truly employ a strategy is there with auctions. Take “zero RB” for example. You want to spend less on running backs to load up on high-end receivers, it’s as easy as setting your values lower and sticking to the plan, only this time you can pick from every single receiver in the league. You want someone bad enough, you simply outbid everyone else understanding that you are going to be bidding lower on your RBs anyway. And speaking of strategy, you want to try to fleece your rivals by talking up someone you don’t believe in, nominate injured players, bid on players you don’t want… you can do these things and more.
So, does this make auction drafting sound scarier? Well, if you are able to set your values and control yourself when the bidding gets heavy, it really shouldn’t. At the end of the day, Auction just means you can do whatever you want, for a price. Pay that price and you get the guy you want, but every choice comes with consequences. Every dollar spent on a player means a dollar less to spend on others. But do it right, and our investment can bring you a trophy, and maybe a much more fun time on draft night.
Take auction drafting very seriously, for sure, but don’t fear it. This is a wonderful way for smart and savvy fantasy players to draft in their league and can give you a greater appreciation for your fantasy team.