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Columns - Magazine

The Price of Winning

by Jesse Pantuosco
Updated On: October 4, 2018, 4:04 pm ET

An auction draft, like most of life’s challenges, is an exercise in discipline. Practicality is the name of the game. Think of your fantasy team like a house. Sure, you could take a page out of MTV Cribs and deck the place out in home theaters and indoor pools. But what good is a 70-inch plasma when you only get three channels? Function always trumps flash.

 

With that in mind, here is some advice to get you through your next auction draft.

 

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

 

If you read Rotoworld regularly, this probably doesn’t need to be said because you already spend enough time thinking about fantasy. But the best way to get really good at auction drafts is to mock like crazy.

 

When you’re doing a mock draft, the important part isn’t what you do - it’s what everyone else does. This is your chance to hide in the bushes with a pair of binoculars and spy on your competition. After about a dozen mocks (I’m not saying you need to do that many, but it won’t hurt), you’ll have a pretty good idea of how people are spending their money and where you can find value. People are paying $50 for Arian Foster? No thanks. Golden Tate for two bucks? Yes, please.

 

Really, mocking is about peace of mind. If you’ve never done an auction before, it can be a bit daunting. In snake drafts, your job is to simply pick the best players available at each position. Now you’re filling a roster AND trying to balance a budget. That’s like cooking a five-course meal on roller skates. But it gets a little easier each time. Mocks will help with that.

 

USE IT OR LOSE IT

 

Whether your auction budget is $260, $200 or even $100, remember what it’s there for - for you to spend it. Don’t be the lottery winner who’s too chicken to cash his own ticket. Besides all the fantasy football knowledge you’ve crammed inside that skull of yours, this money is the only resource you have. So use it wisely.

 

Certainly, if you feel a player is being grossly overvalued, don’t bid on him. But you should be prepared to overpay at least a few times, otherwise you’ll have a team of misfits and spare parts. This isn’t Moneyball where the Yankees have more money than God and the A’s are left with Scott Hatteberg and a bucket of balls. Everyone is on equal footing.

 

It’s true you get what you pay for. If your auction ends and you still have money left over, you didn’t do it right.

 

DRAFT FOR NEED

 

Without fail, each year, at least one NFL GM uses this painfully generic defense after the draft, usually in reference to some unpopular pick: “We took the best player available.”

 

It’s not the worst strategy in the world. Generally speaking, good players make teams better, while the same can be said of bad players making teams worse. But fantasy football, at its core, is measured by one defining principle: balance.

 

People always complain about their team’s weaknesses, their abundance of wide receivers, their dearth of running backs and their dismal tight end situation. Sometimes you can’t avoid these problems, but why leave your team with a glaring hole if you don’t have to?

 

With that said, your top priority should always be to land a top-flight running back, even if it means spending an arm and a leg. There’s no greater difference maker in fantasy. Quarterback and wide receiver are as deep as they’ve ever been, and beyond Rob Gronkowski, tight end is up for grabs. Running back is that rare intersection where scarcity meets value. That’s why the good ones are usually the most expensive players in fantasy. But they’re often worth the investment.

 

DON’T GET CUTE

 

One common auction tactic I absolutely despise is bidding on a player you don’t want simply to drive up the price. This is risky business. When you do that, there’s always a chance you could end up with a player you don’t actually want. Miscues of this nature are a little more forgivable in snake formats because there’s no dollar amount attached. But that budget you have is permanent. Trying to outsmart your opponent and getting left with the bill is a good way to blow your whole draft.

 

Every dollar counts, which means you should pay close attention to who you’re nominating. If it’s someone you never wanted and nobody bites, that’s a dollar you wasted. There are bargains to be had late in the draft. Your bench should be full of $1 and $2 players. Near the end of the draft when everyone is strapped for cash, $2 is usually enough to get the job done. But that player you covet will be someone else’s if you spend recklessly early in the draft.

 

The most successful fantasy players know the key to winning is to minimize risk. Don’t go off-script by going sleeper-crazy or investing in someone who isn’t a sure thing. Playing it by the book might be boring but it’s the tried and true path to victory.

 

AVOID RED FLAGS

 

For most people, myself included, there’s nothing worse than making your own decision. The fear of being wrong is a paralyzing force.

 

This happens constantly in fantasy. We’ve all been on the clock, trying to decide between two players, watching in panic as the seconds tick down.

 

In snake drafts, the decision is often made for us. We keep a list of the players we want and one by one, they get taken. In auction drafts, you’re free to nominate anyone you want, which offers a tremendous level of freedom. But freedom leads to overthinking and that’s where things get dicey.

 

With so many players to choose from, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. One way to narrow our scope is by eliminating players with question marks. This includes players facing suspension, coming off injury or even players locked in heated position battles.

 

Because of the risk these players carry, it’s much easier to let someone else take the bait and keep your hands clean. With unexpected injuries and other twists of fate we can’t predict, fantasy is hard enough. Why tempt fate by spending money on a player you already know has the potential to wreck your team? There are plenty of guys without red flags to choose from. Go with one of them.

 

FIND VALUE AT QUARTERBACK

 

It’s no secret the NFL is a passing league. But people misinterpret this by putting too much stock in fantasy quarterbacks. Top QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck can fetch between $40 and $50 in leagues with $200 budgets. That’s almost a quarter of your team’s spending money. That dough would be much better spent on a top-tier running back or a stud wide receiver.

 

Since most leagues require you to start between two and three running backs and the same number of receivers, the talent pool empties quickly. Meanwhile, the majority of leagues only use one quarterback, which means you’ll have plenty of time to grab one late in the draft. That’s usually when fatigue sets in for most bidders. Eli Manning, Cam Newton, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Tony Romo, Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford and Ryan Tannehill can all be had for only a few dollars. Meanwhile, aging signal callers Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, who are only marginally better than the players I just named, are going for four and five times that amount.

 

In real life, quarterbacks are indispensable. In fantasy, they’re a dime a dozen. Andy Dalton was a top-five QB in fantasy a few years ago. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw six touchdowns in a game last season. There’s talent everywhere.

 

Would you rather spend your whole savings on a Maserati and get evicted or buy a reliable Toyota and still be able to pay rent? It’s the same concept. Aaron Rodgers won’t help much when you’re trotting out Chris Ivory and Darren McFadden at running back. Five bucks on a quarterback is plenty.

Jesse Pantuosco
Jesse Pantuosco is a football and baseball writer for Rotoworld. He has won three Fantasy Sports Writers Association Awards. Follow him on Twitter @JessePantuosco.