The Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football Auctions

Matt Camp@TheMattCampFantasy Football Lead WriterAugust 12, 2015

The Beginner's Guide to Fantasy Football Auctions

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    With the fantasy football industry growing in leaps and bounds every year, new players are joining the fray at a time with so many ways to play. My favorite opens the season with an auction.

    If you’ve never participated in an auction league and want to understand the ins and outs along with some strategy and advice, I’m here to show you the way.

    In this article, you can learn what makes an auction different from your typical draft, how to prepare for an auction and the simple rules to follow along the way to help you put together the best possible team while having some fun.

    I should warn you: As soon as you participate in an auction, you’ll want to do it again. And before you know it, it’s the only way you’ll want to assemble your initial roster.

    Let’s start this crash course in the world of auctions.

What Is an Auction League?

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    The difference between an auction league and any other league starts and ends on the day you put your initial roster together. This would typically be considered your draft day, although there is no drafting when it comes to an auction.

    Auctions can be run in person with a designated auctioneer or through automated auction clients on any of your favorite league hosting sites, which is significantly easier for all parties involved.

    We’ll explain more about the actual process of the auction, but acquiring players through the nomination and bidding process is the only real difference between an auction league and any other format. Once the auction is complete, nominations do not continue into the season, and the only real difference between auction leagues and any other league comes to a close before the season has even started.

Setting Your Big Board

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    Compiling your rankings for an auction does not differ much from any other format other than the price ranges you can choose to attach to certain tiers of players.

    For example, you may decide that the best RB1 options are worth spending 25-28 percent of your overall budget, whereas players considered to be no better than bench options are worth just a dollar.

    In an auction, you don’t have to worry about missing out on a player since you’ll have a crack at anyone who’s nominated. That differs from a draft, where you’d likely have no chance of getting a great player like Demaryius Thomas if you’re picking at the end of a 14-team league since he’d almost definitely be selected before your spot comes up.

    This allows for some flexibility in how your construct your roster. Instead of spending on an elite running back like Le'Veon Bell, you may choose to spend your money on multiple players in the RB2 tier while loading up on two players in the WR1 tier. You can execute a plan a lot easier in an auction, although you have to be on your toes just in case you lose a bidding war and need to look elsewhere for a player who fits into your original plan.

The Actual Auction

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    Instead of a draft order, a nomination order is determined and remains the same throughout the auction. The order doesn’t mean much since everyone can get involved in the bidding. Strategy may come into play as it pertains to nominations, but all teams can find their way into the bidding. 

    Unlike your typical draft, rosters will be filled at different times. Typically, a team’s auction is over when an entire roster, including bench spots, is filled. Theoretically, you could fill your entire roster long before the final team does based on how quickly you engage in the bidding process.

    Each team receives a certain budget, such as $200, to fill the entire roster. Upon nominating a player, the bidding process will begin and is run like any other auction you may have seen. If implemented through an online client, you can set a clock to reset to 10 seconds every time a new bid is made. Everyone will get a fair warning at the end of the clock to submit another bid before the winning bidder is finalized.

    The nomination and bidding continues until every team has filled every spot on its roster.

    Now, let's look at some do's and don'ts to follow along the way.

Do: Be Patient

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    Because you can get in on the bidding for any player, it can be hard to sit back and stay out of the bidding process, especially at the beginning. You may want to have your voice heard, but that doesn’t mean you have to bid on every player.

    By keeping an eye on both the remaining players and budgets of the rest of the league, you can formulate a plan of action to make sure you get certain players on your roster. 

    For instance, if you consider Tyler Eifert to be on the cusp of a breakout season, it’s better to hold off on nominating him until much later on in the auction. That way you can wait until you have more money than all or almost all of the other owners and give yourself a better chance to win him.

    Too often, auction participants get overanxious and put popular sleeper picks up early, which means everyone has a lot more money to play with and therefore can drive up the price of a player who wasn’t supposed to cost much but could pay big dividends. Instead of getting a player like that at a value, the price tag rises, as do the expectations.

Don't: Bid on Players You Don’t Want

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    Spending your money wisely is important in auctions. You don’t want to get caught artificially driving up the price tag of a player you have no interest in owning by getting into a bidding war and then winning by mistake. Don’t try to outsmart yourself because it can easily blow up in your face.

    In fact, you might be better off nominating players you don’t want and then sit back and let others battle to win those auctions. If you’re not a believer in Adrian Peterson, you can totally ignore the bidding process when he gets nominated. Don’t try to jump into what will likely be a massive bidding war without your help to drive up the price.

Do: Nominate Players You Know Others Like Early

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    If you know multiple people are high on Ladarius Green coming into the season because Antonio Gates will be suspended for the first four games, then he’s worth nominating early because it could cause a bidding war and deplete your opponents’ budgets. 

    In the case of Green, he’s a sleeper-type player who can see his price tag rise early because owners have a bigger budget to work with at the beginning. You can try this tactic with high-end players who should cost a bunch. If you know multiple owners love Eddie Lacy, nominate him early to help deplete their budgets quickly. 

    This strategy plays off the initial example with Eifert, in that you don’t want to nominate him early in an attempt to save money. If someone knows you’re high on his breakout chances this year, they would be wise to nominate him early in an effort to put you in a bidding war for his rights.

Don't: Spend on Defenses or Kickers

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    Much like it’s not worth it to draft a kicker or defense until the final two rounds, it’s not worth paying any more than a dollar or two to lock up the least important positions on your roster. 

    Kickers can be found in any given week, and there’s no real rhyme or reason to determining their opportunities.

    The Seattle Seahawks were the consensus top fantasy defense heading into last season and ended up sixth in total fantasy points, according to FantasyPros. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Eagles had the top-scoring fantasy defense and went undrafted in most leagues, according to Fantasy Football Calculator.

    Be cheap when it comes to defenses and kickers.

Do: Wait as Long as Possible to Get a QB

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    If every team in your league has to start just one QB, the bidding wars should diminish as more QB1s come off the board.

    Players like Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers will garner big money no matter when they’re nominated, but you can easily save on this position and get someone like Matt Ryan simply by waiting.

    First, determine where the cutoff point is for the QB1s. If you believe 12 quarterbacks can be fantasy starters this season, you’ll focus on the last one or two left of that group as the auction moves forward.

    Instead of jumping into the bidding on the fifth quarterback nominated in the QB1 tier, which could be someone like Peyton Manning or Drew Brees, wait until the tier is left with Ryan or Ben Roethlisberger. Even though they are big names, there’s no reason for others to get into a bidding war for them if they already have a QB on their roster.

    The value of your quarterback situation can help you dig a little deeper into your budget to overpay a bit for players you're especially high on this year.

Don't: Fill Your Roster While Leaving Money on the Table

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    Getting the most bang for your buck is definitely important, but you have to be careful not to focus on getting all the best values. Sometimes, that leaves you short on actual talent and with significant money left in your budget even after your roster is full.

    Understand that if you save money at quarterback or other positions, it gives you the cushion to spend a little more on a high-end player you really want. You’re better off spending a little extra for the talent, even if it’s above perceived market value since you already saved money at other positions. For instance, if you really want Jeremy Hill and got your starting signal-caller for a few bucks, don't be shy on spending more money to lock up Hill.

    These auctions are about more than nailing the values. It's easy to get caught up in trying to find the best bargains until you realize that you're short on overall talent yet still have money to spend without any other roster spots to fill.

Final Advice

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    Understand that the auction process is way more involved than a draft. If you’re picking first overall in a draft, the gap between your first two picks can be 10-15 minutes. In an auction, every nomination is important to watch since any player can go up at any time. Bathroom, snack and drink breaks aren’t easy to come by in auctions.

    Remember to monitor your opponents’ remaining budgets throughout the process and to keep an eye on what positions they still have to fill or have already filled. It could put you in a position to win players without the prices going up, as discussed in the slide about waiting to get a quarterback.

    An auction is the best and most fun way to put your roster together. It allows for flexibility in constructing your team while also providing a much more hands-on, intense way to get everyone involved at all times of the process. 

    Hopefully, this article has piqued your interest enough to check out an auction or two this year.