Auction drafts are awesome and mock auctions can really help you gauge possible strategies with how much you might want to spend on the guys you just have to own. They still aren’t mainstream and most of the mocks you’re going to see will likely be full of 24/7/365 experts. Personally, I took part in this week’s Rotoworld Half-PPR Draft and it was quite an experience. I’ve never felt like the least knowledegable owner in any fantasy draft I’ve ever done, but I wasn’t happy with the guys I drafted at all. All the “sleepers” were gone by pick 80. Basically, 99.99 percent of fantasy owners won't be in a draft like that.
If you’re not familiar with me, I am with Rotoworld for NBA coverage, but I’d say fantasy football is where I spend most of my free time (my girlfriend better not read this). Like many of you guys, you’re not going to go into a draft comprised of 100 percent around-the-clock fantasy football experts, but then again you’re not going to be in an auction with casual fans either. I’ve never seen a true novice join an auction draft. No, that T.J. Whosyourmomma guy is not in your auction. Championship!
Soooo I thought it would be cool/helpful to write up an auction draft I did from Thursday night. It has a few other fantasy writers and a handful of my friends — guys I pretty much talk to about fantasy more than any other topic. In other words, I think it's a good example of how many auction drafts will go.
The format was a 12-team, PPR league with a few yardage bonuses (three points at 100 for rushing/receiving and at 300 passing), -2.5 for interceptions, -0.5 for sacks allowed, and everything else pretty much standard with a $200 budget. Another interesting wrinkle is the third starting RB spot. Personally, I like having a third back spot in leagues because it really rewards those teams with extra depth. It stinks to have to bench a player who should be starting on almost any team, especially a running back.
In case you missed it, J.J. Zachariason had an awesome column about strategy and it’s worth checking out. I agree with everything he said, especially spending money on your starters and not on your bench. Allow me just to go over some things I like to keep in mind for an auction:
The most important thing to know outside of your board/plan is other people’s boards. You down with OPB? Never mind. Anyway, you're not going to know exactly who they like, but it’s nice to know which guys people are crazy about because you can get them to overpay and you can also nominate those guys to get them to use that money sooner. In other words, a smaller remaining budget lowers competition on a given player.
The most obvious example is owners who are fans of a certain team. As it turned out, this draft had a perfect example. My friend Kyle is a big Cardinals fan and I knew he was going to overpay in a big way for Andre Ellington. I nominated ‘Dre and poor Kyle had to spend a whopping $38 on him. Crazy talk. Plus, I also timed it so he already had committed a nice chunk of his money and he wouldn’t be able to spend too much on a guy I really liked later in Michael Floyd.
It’s also really important to keep tabs on other owners’ remaining budget and what their rosters look like. If someone is still with 100 percent of their budget and there are already 12 backs gone, they’re likely going to be spending serious money on the best backs available. If you haven’t painted yourself into a corner with cash, you can push the price up a bit on guys. Of course, don’t go driving the price up on guys you don’t want. The last thing you want is to spend 25 bucks on Johnny Manziel, unless you play in a league with bonuses for being a bro. Hopefully, there are other savvy owners who also know the deal.
Furthermore, I always nominate on what I already have. If I have two backs, I’ll put a back out there, and it would preferably be one which I think will get the biggest price tag and one I won't be able to afford. If you’re going to spend big bucks early — you definitely should — you will kind of have to hang tight for the middle 50 percent of your draft. You are going to have to make some hay on $1 and $2 guys.
I also like to have a list of which guys I have to own. A list of 5-8 guys I really, really need to get and about 10 guys I would love to have usually does the trick. Although, I have to remind you that you don’t want to get caught up in drafting those guys. Don’t forget you like them for a reason and chances are there are at least a couple owners with a similar idea. If some guy tears it up on Week 3 of the preseason and it’s been nothing but good news since January, he’s going to be very popular. You should always be thinking ahead and wondering if that money can be used better elsewhere.
This one is big: Don’t be afraid to draft boring guys. Yes, nobody is going into their draft saying “bro, if I don’t get Fred Jackson or Marques Colston, I’m going to quit this league, dude.” It’s all about supply and demand. Those old, predictable guys won’t have half the league gunning for them. More often than not those guys are integral in your team's success.
OK, let’s look at some teams and start with mine:
Unless it’s a ridiculously deep league, I’m dropping bucks like Scrooge McDuck early in the draft. I basically refuse to not get a top-five running back and I’d also like to grab another RB1 while spending close to half of my budget. That was the case for me with Shady, the most expensive player in the auction, and DeMarco at 103 bucks combined. I have DeMarco has my RB6 in this format and was thrilled to get him cheaper than Montee Ball ($44) and a bit more expensive than Doug Martin ($35). Obviously, I knew I’d be going for a bunch of dollar, dollar bill y’all guys late in the draft and they’d be high-upside backs.
I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am with my starting WRs. If you look at the 0.5 PPR Rotoworld draft mentioned in the intro, Keenan Allen went 24th, Floyd went 28th, Smith went 37th and Randle went 84th. Those draft positions alone translates to about $100, and yet I was able to reel them in at $72.
As alluded to, I will not be spending much on my bench. I have faith in myself to be all over the waiver wire and having a lack of talent should allow me to cut ties with guys and stay a bit ahead of the curve. If you only have $15 to play with for your bench, that’s fine. I also love how I spent a combined $8 on my tight ends and quarters. Love it. I also really wanted to get Jonathan Grimes, so I spent my remaining max bid on him. Oh, and I left the draft before I took the Law Firm. I don't like him.
Alex Welch writes for SB Nation Fantasy and Pro Football Focus, and I really like his team a lot. He got a bit of a bargain on Lacy at 47 — and handcuffed him to James Starks — while really doing a nice job with his receivers. I love the Marques Colston buy, and his ADP is a bargain in drafts because of rookie Brandin Cooks. Alex is also a Falcons fan, and you can tell with Ryan, White, Freeman and Douglas on his team. Although, he didn’t overpay for any of them. White at $21 is pretty solid. He spent almost his entire bankroll on his starters and drafted some high-upside bench guys. I’ve seen Ladarius Green go for a heck of a lot more than $6, so that’s a nice backup to an injury risk in Julius Thomas.
|Robert Griffin III||8|
This team belongs to one of my good friends, Arnie Moulton, and he did a solid job filling up his team early. AD at $60 is a nice buy, but he took his foot off the gas in adding a second stud back. Richardson, Sproles, Rice have a decent upside, but there’s a reason why they’re sliding in value. I’m not a Rice fan at all, by the way. Cobb at $28 is pretty solid, he stole Dwayne Bowe at five bucks and I like Pierre Garcon at 19. Plus, T.Y. Hilton and Terrance Williams offer nice upside without even dropping double-digit dollars (alliteration bonus!). RG3 is a nice upside QB in a new system and Flacco is also solid at the dollar store. I like Jordan Cameron a lot, and getting him at half the price of Julius Thomas makes sense.
If you’re going to drop almost $100 on two players, one of them has to be a running back. While also a fellow Jurassic 5 fan, Gabey Harber writes and covers fantasy for Draft Day, but he doesn’t have the same plan as J.J. and me. I love Demaryius and he’s a top-eight player in my book, but you have to pair him with a back and not a quarterback in this format. Besides that issue, Gabey’s draft is pretty solid. He grabbed some nice high-upside backs, kind of stole Kendall Wright at $15, and successfully drafted nice bench receivers. I would have made sure most of my bench was full of backs because it’s such a glaring issue for him. I do like C.J. Spiller and Sankey at those prices, but not as my RB1 and RB2. Rodgers is going to have to be dynamite, which is obviously possible.
Alex Young does a lot of photography work for Bleacher Report and has his sports photo site Lola Sports Talk. He was one of the last guys to spend money, but getting Gio at $39 is solid as a serviceable RB1 in PPR. Stafford at $24 isn’t a backbreaker like Rodgers, but that’s a lot of money, especially with the league penalizing for interceptions at -2.5 and sacks at -0.5. Alex had one of my favorite buys in this draft with Shane Vereen coming off the board at $14. Personally, I was already out of money, but there were probably about four other owners who should have been in on him for at least $20. Since he saved his money early on, Alex was also able to get some nice bargains on buzzy players like Kelvin Benjamin, Cordarrelle Patterson, Jordan Matthews, Lamar Miller and Zach Ertz. Plus, he didn’t spend too much on Percy and Ben Tate is solid at $15. I really like Pierce at $6 a lot and Gordon is worth it at $4. He has a lot of balance and I like the youth on his roster.
Nick Raducanu is a colleague of mine at Rotoworld NBA and he also has an awesome multi-sport fantasy site at ProjectRoto.com. He is definitely in the same school of thought as me with reckless spending like Pacman Jones in the early rounds. I have no problem spending $119 on Forte and Charles, but I do have a bit of a problem dropping $21 on Joique Bell. I think Bell is worth it at that value alone, but allocating $140 on three backs is really going to cost him at WR. Nick was smart about it and knew what his weakness was, though. He stacked up high-upside receivers and he should be able to scrap together a WR2 out of that group. He also had one of the most ridiculous steals of anyone, grabbing Vernon Davis at a measly three bucks. Coincidentally, J.J. mentioned how Pat Daugherty snuck Davis by the other owners in their draft from last month for the same price, so that’s a bit crazy. Nice job, Nick.
One of my good friends and softball teammate, Mike Carroll, set the tone with Peyton Manning at $47 as the first player off the board. That’s a steep price for this format, but we’ve all seen Peyton win a heck of a lot of fantasy leagues almost by himself. He was still able to grab himself an RB1 in Doug Martin at a respectable $35 while Bush and Ryan Mathews for a combined $37 isn’t too shabby. All three are injury risks, but who cares? I love Alshon Jeffery at $32 and DeSean Jackson at $15 is Mike’s best bargain. You’ll also notice he ran out of money quickly with all those $1 players. I’m definitely cool with that.
I mentioned Kyle falling for Ellington and you can see how much it affected his team. He spent a boatload on Dez and A.J. Green, so obviously he was going to have some major holes on his roster. On top of that, spending another $30 on Gronk puts his team in dire straits for backs. Personally, I would never, ever spend $119 on three players, none of whom are running backs. Cannot play with ‘em. Cannot coach with ‘em. Cannot win with ‘em. Can’t do it (props if you got that Mike Singletary reference). Anyway, Kyle didn’t really even fill his bench with backs, so that’s going to be a problem. He’s going to need A.J. and Dez to be record-breaking types this season while Andre Ellington has to flirt with top-five value.
Dan Schneier writes at Pro Football Focus and he was the last person to throw his money around. All the top backs were already gone by the time he made his first purchase, and he admitted a couple times that he should have been in on guys like Eddie Lacy and DeMarco Murray. Besides missing an RB1, his team is pretty solid. The Luck-Cutler tandem at $19 isn’t bad at all. You can make a case that each of those two have a better shot to turn in a better season than Matt Stafford ($24). Not having an RB1 opened up some nice opportunities for Dan to bring in a stacked WR corps. I really wanted to go after Antonio Brown, but I didn’t feel comfortable spending more than $34 after I dropped my $103 on the Shady-DeMarco combo. Jordy and Vincent Jackson also give him three top-15 guys. Usually people get into a bidding war for Cooks, but he’s a solid buy at $6. Jennings has also picked up some steam as a solid RB2 and I absolutely love Toby Gerhart at $15.
Ryan Horn is another guy I know as an enthusiastic fantasy guy and he really likes himself some Montee Ball. I don’t have a problem with him at $44 and I was in the running until $41 (I’m kind of glad I didn’t get him because DeMarco was up for bid next). He also spent big dough on Julio Jones, but not breaking the $40 plateau isn’t a bad buy at all. I love Andre Johnson at $23 and Cruz at $20 is nice, but this team needs a complement to Ball at back. I don’t really like Chris Johnson, but he’s worth it at $11. The same can be said for Steven Jackson. His QBs are pretty good at $16 with Romo and Kap while Witten at $9 isn’t bad either.
Jeff Bell is another fantasy junkie and he went after Lynch early at $42 as the very first running back to be nominated. That was a pretty good deal as is Alfred Morris at $28, which help him offset dropping $38 on Drew Brees. Le’Veon Bell has almost been in a timeshare in the preseason and the Steelers are going to pass a lot, so $35 seems a little steep. Obviously, it’s not a bad deal, though. A lot of teams were stacked at WR, but Jeff is backwards with probably the worst group of all. Fitz is a good buy at $20 and he grabbed a ton of high-upside guys for single-digit bucks. It’s just not easy to make up spending big bucks on a QB when you’re in a competitive league. You have to pick your battles, and picking your battle in QB isn’t tough since there are always 5-10 QBs on the wire.
Last but not least, my good friend Dustin Shockley did one of my cardinal sins of dropping over $100 on two non-RB guys. I think they’re both worth those prices alone, but he really put himself in a tight spot for backs. Brandon Marshall at $35 is solid, but again, he doesn’t play running back. That’s a lot like Kyle dropping $119 on three guys, but this time it’s $136! Arian and Gore are solid buys at $41 combined, but he has nobody else behind them, and he didn’t really draft high-upside backs on his bench besides Darren McFadden — a bit of a steal at a buck. Amazingly, he has 13 players at one or two bucks. That’s an unfathomable lack of depth. It’s less than one fathom in the fantasy waters, or something. Yep, I'm ending with a lame pun.
Good luck in your drafts!