Fantasy Football

2021 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy

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Auction drafts in Fantasy Football are the epitome of chess to checkers compared to its snake-draft counterparts. 2021 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy has so many more elements than simply sticking to your draft slot and “best available player.”

I’ve asked this question a hundred times: “Has anyone ever switched to an auction draft in Fantasy Football and not liked it better?” I still have not heard anyone that prefers snake drafts.

I guess I understand why some leagues keep drafting in the snake format. If you’re doing a live draft then you basically have to have an auctioneer that’s not involved in the league. Some people just don’t like having more strategy and would rather have more luck involved.

With auction draft strategy, every single player is up for grabs to every single team. Unless you are drafting 1.01 then that is simply not the case in snake formats.

So this is my 2021  Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy for this season. First I will go over the over-arching strategy of the auction format, and then I will get into my favorite strategy for this year.

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2021 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy

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It’s a Poker Game

Every aspect of the draft and your auction draft strategy is a poker game. From your nominations to your bids to the trash you talk, everything that happens during the draft can affect how much players are won for and whom they are won by.

Just like with any other part of Fantasy Football nowadays, the key is to zag while everyone else is zigging. So don’t stick to a single auction draft strategy. Mix it up.

For instance, I‘m about to tell you about nominating guys that you don’t want so people spend all of their money on them. A good zag there is to nominate someone you kind of do want. Wait for people to get the bidding going and if the value is there, swoop in at the end.

People might think you are trying to bid it up, but in the end, you get a good value on a guy you want. The key is to keep everyone else in the room guessing as to what you are actually wanting or doing. Then, you can put them in bad positions like a poker game where they have to go “all-in” so to speak.

Nominations

Veteran auction players know this at this point, but for the newbies out there your nominations are more a part of your auction draft strategy than almost anything else. You want people to blow their money on guys you don’t want. You want people to forget about the cheap guys later.

So if you want nothing to do with the top guys, throw them out there early. More importantly, throw out the guys that are more in the second and third tiers early. The top guys will naturally be nominated earlier because of the way the software makes it easier to nominate them.

Case in point: I do not want Clyde Edwards-Helaire in any format this season. I am nominating him with my first bid in every auction that I am partaking in. Then I will watch people overpay for him and deflate their budget.

Another solid move is nominating kickers and defenses if your league still uses them. Without fail, someone will spend $4 or $5 on the “top” kicker or defense even though those positions fluctuate so much year to year.

A newer auction draft strategy I have been using with nominations is getting a list of $1-$5 guys that I am fine with on my team. These are not my must-have sleepers. These are solid, roster builders. I start throwing these guys up on the block once the budgets start dwindling. More often than not, you can steal some solid values for $1 each because people are holding out for their own sleepers.

Bidding

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My longest-running home league switched to auction a few years back. My buddy Corey and I are the kings of trying to bid people up. It is the biggest adrenaline rush you can get with Fantasy Football.

If you know that a fellow manager really wants a guy, go ahead and try to make him spend that extra few bucks on him. That could be the difference between you or him grabbing that late sleeper. It also can frazzle the heck out of the guy. The trick is to not get your hand caught in the cookie jar.

The strategy is not just bidding him up. It is how you bid him up as well. If he is a guy that gets stressed out easily then wait until that last second to pop it up a buck. You can knock him out of his comfort zone.

If he is more of an alpha, then be ready to hit that bid up button immediately after he does. Then it becomes a manhood (or womanhood) match and you can goad them into spending more.

Also, don’t be afraid to nominate your guys for more than $1. If you know that you are willing to spend $2 or $3 and have the budget for it, then nominate him at that. A lot of times you throw the player on the block and people quickly bid him up so that you have to pay more than that anyway.

Save a Little Money for the End

Most people fall into the trap of max bidding a player well before their roster is full. They think they must have that one last receiver that will give them an automatic championship if they spend $15 on him, instead of waiting for a similar player at $8.

The key is having at least $2 per roster spot for the late part of the auction draft. Everyone is hoping to snag their sleepers for just their nominating dollar. Nothing is better than swooping in on them and taking him for $2. This also gives you valuable trade assets for after the draft.

This goes the other way too though. I would definitely argue that the worst thing you can do in an auction draft is to leave a significant amount of money left over in your bankroll. If this doesn’t give you an advantage on the waiver wire or something then it is completely useless. Budget wisely.

Create Your Values

I am a huge proponent of Value-Based Drafting. The TL;DR version of VBD is that you compare players to the baseline (either replacement level or the last projected starter) rather than their total projected points. You inherently do this by waiting until the end of the draft for kickers and defenses.

With the 2021 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy, VBD is a little more complicated but much more effective. The key is to assign your values to each and every player. Since every player is up for grabs to every manager, you need to know the value you put on said player.

In a snake draft, you are usually just comparing a couple of people at a time, figuring the best option for the pick. In an auction, you use your values to bid people up if it’s a guy you might not particularly want, but know that he is worth more than the current cost.



The best way to calculate your values is using Points Above Replacement (PAR). Basically, you calculate the projected difference between each player and the replacement-level starter at his position. I then factor in $2 per bench spot per team and take that out of the overall amount of money to spend. (I prefer not to spend much on my bench, while some people go full-on minimum and others go a little more, so the $2 acts as your inflation buffer).

Then you take the overall amount of starters’ money and divide it into the total PAR to get your values. Obviously, some minor adjustments need to be made to the formula since the RB24 is not worth $0, but you can play with it to fit your league’s budget. Just by this simple formula, I have Christian McCaffrey valued at $69 in a 12-team, $200 budget league.

2021 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy

Alright, so how can we use these macro strategies for the 2021 Fantasy Football season? It is much harder to give you specific targets for Auction drafts than the snake format since every player can be had.

However, I have noticed some trends in my early auctions that are giving me the most valuable and well-rounded teams.

Any values or PAR stats are for 12-team, half-PPR leagues with a QB/2RB/2WR/TE/Flex lineup and a $200 auction budget.

Elite Tight Ends

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This has not changed from last year. In 2020, I had just six players with a higher Points Above Replacement (PAR) value than Travis Kelce. That number is now down to just two guys.

Darren Waller and George Kittle have much higher PAR values than their current draft positions as well. The problem in redraft formats is your draft slot might decide if you can get one of these guys or not. That is not the case in auction formats!

My top priority in my auction drafts is acquiring one of these three tight ends. They have the safest opportunity shares of anyone outside the top few running backs and receivers but will cost you less budget.

Kelce ($40), Kittle ($30), and Waller ($29) all have an average value less than the top eleven running backs and top three wide receivers. While Kittle had some injury troubles last year, Kelce and Waller are about as durable as football players come. Kelce has never missed a game due to injury in his career. Waller has not missed one since he became a starter.

Lastly, I said this last year and I will say it again: go back and look at your recent teams from prior years. If I secured one of the elite tight ends then my team was a contender no matter what else happened. This was true again last season as every team I had Travis Kelce on either won the title or was a Top-2 seed entering the playoffs.

Pay up for one of these tight ends and thank me later.

Don’t Over-Spend On Quarterback

Notice that I carefully said “over-spend” and not “spend a lot.” What I am trying to say is that the upper-level guys are worth spending auction budget on. However, do not fall in love and over-pay for one of them.

The current average auction values of the top two quarterbacks, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes are currently $30 and $29 respectively. That slots them right around 25th overall. Now we do not always want to take them there in snake formats, but that is because of the opportunity cost associated with passing a back, receiver, or tight end there.

In auction draft strategy, you can budget out a higher-level quarterback and give up less. For instance, if you want to go elite quarterback/tight end and load up on RB2’s and WR3’s, it is still a solid strategy.

With all that said, do not go above your safe valuations for the elite quarterbacks. I love getting Dak Prescott at $18. Although I would hate to spend more than $30 on him.

I can promise you that the glitz and glam of the elite quarterbacks this year will cause some serious bidding wars. Stay away

Fade the Most Expensive Running Backs

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Last year I cautioned you to fade the rookie running backs. I told you that Clyde Edwards-Helaire would give you nowhere near his value and that Jonathan Taylor might be good late in the season, but if you spend a sixth of your budget on him then you will not get enough return to make the playoffs.

Well, *pat on my own back* I nailed those. This year, we should fade a different group: the elite running backs.

Almost every analyst that you will hear this preseason is going to hit you over the head repeatedly with. “You MUST draft an elite running back in any format!” In a snake draft this makes sense at the top of the order.

Think of what this means in an auction though. If most of your league is going in with this philosophy, then the average cost of these backs will increase even more so than it has already inflated to.

Christian McCaffrey is going for $73. Derrick Henry is going for $71. Dalvin Cook is going for $65 and Alvin Kamara/Saquon Barkley/Jonathan Taylor are all clearing $60 as well. Is it worth it?

First of all, you can split most of those salaries up between two players and get the same level of PAR. Joe Mixon and DeAndre Hopkins are an average combined value of $74 but provide more PAR than McCaffrey. More importantly, you diversify your draft capital.

As we saw last year, any one of the top backs is prone to losing the whole season. If you spend a third of your budget on a single guy it is much harder to overcome this injury than if you split it up over multiple players.

With 2021 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy, you want to build more depth to avoid this. Fading the elite running backs is the way to do this.

Be Flexible

Lastly, you need to be flexible. Every player (to an extent, everyone over $1 in value) is worth drafting at some point. Just because you go into the draft not wanting Lamar Jackson; if you can get him for $15 you have to bid on him.

Most people in auction drafts are not as prepared. They are simply looking at values they pulled off the internet and have no real strategy. You need to take advantage of them.



So be patient and flexible with what the auction throws at you. Take the best values, build a deep and strong team, and reap the winnings later.


If you enjoyed the 2021 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy, check out more 2021 Fantasy Football content from our great team of writers!

About Michael Tomlin

Michael Tomlin is an ESPY-nominated, former college football player who stays associated with the game through Fantasy Sports. He has been writing his personal blog, Dirkland.blogspot.com, for three years and it focuses on Fantasy Sports, as well as handicapping. He was born and raised in the DFW Metroplex, and he follows all of the Dallas teams, along with Texas Tech athletics and Manchester City F.C.

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