2020 Fantasy Football Draft Kit

Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy: Shuffle Up and Deal!

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Auction drafts in Fantasy Football are the epitome of chess to checkers compared to its snake-draft counterparts. The 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 live 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.

My qualm with them is that there is clear, statistical data that shows that either end of the snake draft, specifically the top couple of picks, win the league more often than the middle of the rounds. I mean Christian McCaffrey was an absolute cheat code last season and single-handedly won leagues. You can bet he will be close to one again by placing some bets at bet-il.com.

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 auction draft strategy for the 2020 Fantasy Football season (God-willing we have an NFL season – WEAR YOUR MASKS AND STAY HOME!!!) 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.

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.


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With 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 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.

2020 Fantasy Football Auction Draft Strategy

Alright, so how can we use the macro strategies for the 2020 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 $200 auction budget.

Elite Tight Ends

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In my early projections, I have only six players with a higher PAR than Travis Kelce. I have only ten guys with a higher amount than Geroge Kittle’s current number. Yet by the average auction values per Fantasy Pros, there are 17 and 26 guys respectively with higher values for auctions, respectively.

People severely under-rate these two elite tight ends. Kelce should be a Round One pick in most snake formats. Kittle should never make it past pick twenty. My problem is if I’m picking in the top five or six slots I might not have a chance at either of them… except in auction formats!

Priority number one for your 2020 auction draft strategy should be acquiring one of these two tight ends. Mike Tagliere over Fantasy Pros just did this amazing article about how many points each player should have scored last season based on opportunity.

The highlight to me was that the elite tight ends are the most consistent: their opportunity is positively correlated to their production. We know that Kittle and Kelce will have the most opportunity so they become the safest players at the most volatile position.

One more thing on the elite tight ends: look at your rosters over the last couple of years. I know that every time I had an elite tight end I was a contender no matter what else happened with the team. When I did not have one, my team could not overcome busts or injuries as well. Trust me on this, snag an elite tight end.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Second Tier Quarterbacks

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The vogue thing to do in Fantasy Football is “wait” on your quarterback. Analysts preach about the depth at the position and propagate to load up at running back and receiver instead. The few that don’t spread this strategy tell you that Lamar Jackson is worth the high price tag. Well, you know I’m not one of the second kind.

I was a QB waiter/streamer for the past few years. However, I think that there has been a changing of the position as a whole. Certain players have gotten older and the replacements have brought a dual threat to the position.

I think that the drop off from the second tier (Pat and Lamar in their own first tier) to the rest of the quarterbacks is pretty drastic. I am targeting Dak Prescott, Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson, and Kyler Murray in all formats in 2020. Their current average auction values range from $12-$19, while I would gladly spend $20+ on each.

The safety of the rushing floor that each guy gives you combined with progression in their overall passing production gives you an edge on the older, pocket passers going just after them.

Fade the Rookie Running Backs

I already showed you that some of the incumbent, starting running backs are better than people are giving them credit. However, Fantasy analysts have become obsessed with being “first in” on a rookie so that they can pat themselves on the back later.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire is going for the same price as LeVeon Bell. Jonathan Taylor is going for more money than Devin Singletary. Ke’Shawn Vaughn is in the same level as Ronald Jones. Not one of those three will start in Week 1.

I’ve heard the theory that each could be, “this year’s Miles Sanders,” meaning the rookie that comes on at the end of the year. I can tell you that if you are spending an eighth of your ENTIRE budget on a guy that might not even start for you until after Week 8 then you are drafting foolishly.

Should you draft with the playoffs/end of season in mind? Sure. But do not make that your main point in selecting a player. You have to get TO the tournament to win it, so don’t focus on just winning it.

Most importantly, the current situation does not lend itself to rookies taking off. With no extra hands-on, in-person practice as well as shortened training camp with minimal (or no) preseason games, the rookies are at a disadvantage. The most likely place that they will lag is pass blocking. If you can’t pass block you can’t be on the field for pass plays and lower your overall target share.

Be Flexible

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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.


Visit the F6P Fantasy Football page for more advice, including all 32 Fantasy Football Team Previews to get you prepared for the 2020 season.

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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