Auction Drafting Made Easy
So you're thinking about finally hopping on the auction bandwagon, but are admittedly a little intimidated. Put you in a wait-and-pick snake draft and you rule the roost; so do you really want to put the training wheels back on again? The answer is a resounding HELL YES. Not only because auction-drafting is a much more fair, fun, flexible, and strategic way of drafting (a vast majority of leagues that switch never look back - more details), but also because it's just not that difficult. Seriously - there's no reason to feel intimidated even if you're a first-timer going up against a bunch of auction veterans. All you really need is a regular old cheat sheet you feel good about and you're all set. Just follow the simple tips below and you'll soon be chomping at the bit to bring your auction-drafted squad onto the field.
I. How to use a regular old cheat sheet (with no dollar values)
Probably the biggest reason people get intimidated by auction-drafting is the prospect of assigning dollar values to each player. Let me be the first to tell you that you don't even have to do this if you don't want to. You can take your regular positional cheat sheet or "Top 200" list to your auction and still dominate. The key thing is to be patient and let your league dictate value.
If you're going to use your positional cheat sheet, I recommend you wait until at least 3-4 players in a position are nominated and sold before buying into that position. Alternatively, if you'd rather use your "Top 200" list, then just wait until about 8-12 players have gone to buy any position. After each player is sold, instead of crossing his name out, simply write down his price next to his name on your cheat sheet. The idea is that you want to give yourself a decent sample of values with which to compare the rest of the player pool.
After you have a good idea of how your league is valuing players, all you need to do is pay attention and look for values. What exactly do I mean by this? Let's say, for example, that in your Top 200 list, the 13th ranked player sold for $50 and the 15th sold for $48 (out of a $200 salary cap). You then see your 11th ranked player going once and going twice for $40. It's a no-brainer, then, to jump in and enter a bid because he's going for much cheaper than lower ranked players. You can keep bidding up to the $48 to $50 range and he'll still be a bargain. It's really that simple. If you stay disciplined and stick to this strategy of only buying players who are going for bargains, you will put together a squad ready to compete for a championship.
A word of caution: it's usually difficult to get big bargains for the top players, especially running backs. While using this strategy, don't forget that you're still putting a fantasy squad together, which means you still need a decent backfield! Unless you're comfortable going with an "air attack" (i.e. top QB and WRs, mediocre RBs), you will probably have to bite the bullet and pay fair market value for your RBs. By simply keeping track of players' prices on your cheat sheet, however, you will make sure that you don't overpay for them too much.
Note: With the rapidly growing popularity of auction-drafts, you can easily find cheat sheets that do have dollar values attached to them. Here's our auction values for a $200 salary cap, 12-team league. Several fantasy football magazines (e.g. ESPN's, FantasyFootball.com's, and Fantasy Football Index) also have auction dollar values available.
II. Save some cash for later
An analogy I like to use to explain the virtues of frugality in an auction is the way chess masters go to great lengths to protect each pawn on the board. Pawns are the difference between winning and losing in the end-game in the same way that, at the end of an auction, a single dollar can be the difference between winning that coveted, high-upside sleeper (think Keary Colbert) and buying a "value pick" you could do without (think Amani Toomer). Auctions tend to follow human nature - people spend more money than they should in the first third to half of an auction when their salary caps are burning holes in their pockets. If you can go against the grain and wait until about halfway to two-thirds through the auction before spending aggressively, you'll be in control of the board, cherry picking values left and right.
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