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Trending Way To Draft: Fantasy Football Auction Strategy

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Do all you can to acquire proven fantasy stars like Calvin Johnson. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Do all you can to acquire proven fantasy stars like Calvin Johnson. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

It was only recently that I stumbled upon a new way to draft for fantasy football, a format that gave me a chance to get a majority of the players I wanted and let me build my roster as close to custom as it gets. This format is an auction style draft. Unlike your standard serpentine drafts, there isn't a redraft order, so no picking numbers out of a hat, throwing darts at the dart board, drawing cards or any other crazy way you decide to randomize your draft. Everyone gets the exact same budget and gets a fair shot to win any player they want. At first, I had doubts that this would be anything but ridiculous, as I was ingrained with the standard drafting format from which I was accustomed to from my early days of fantasy football and as all others was resistant to change. How could this rival the great times I've had drafting waiting on each pick hoping my player isn't taken right before my turn? I was surprised to see how exciting it actually was waiting for your player to see if your high bid holds up for the duration of the clock, essentially building your dream team of a roster with combinations you could never have in a standard draft. As fun as it all was, I did learn quickly that I was a bit out of my element and after several failed attempts at mock drafting, I became increasingly frustrated with the pure mediocrity of my teams until I realized a major flaw in my approach to the auction. In normal serpentine drafts, I coached myself as others do to find relative value at each draft spot to maximize each pick, but in an auction, budgeting and looking for value only leaves you missing out on the better players early and leaves you overpaying in the later rounds to overcompensate for a lackluster roster and many times not using your full budget. So lets look at some common problems that first-time auction drafters face, as well as some solutions to maximize your budget and create a dominant team for this year's fantasy football season.

Know your auction type: There are two main types of auctions, and it is important that you can distinguish the two, so you don't miss deadlines or fail to make bids in time. The first type is your standard auction where a round starts at a certain time, and stops at a certain time each day. What ever the high bid is at the end of the round wins the player. I don't like these types of drafts unless they are done in person because it is extremely hard for online players to compromise a decent end time each day, and it really leaves the bidding up to luck for anyone who can rush home to their computer and make a last second bid on a player. The more popular and efficient way is the proxy or eBay style where there is a set player pool nominated by the league members and all bid on a 24 hour clock that is reset until a bid freezes at it's highest point. Once a bid stays at it's highest point for 24 hours the owner that made the high bid wins the player. This is the most fair way to approach an auction and gives everyone a fair chance to win every player, just don't be the guy that bids on a player with one hour left just to reset the clock to 24 hours, well you can just expect some major backlash for poor auction etiquette. Of course, there is the more standard draft room with a 60 or 90-second timer that resets to 10 seconds for each bid.

Nominating the right players: In most auction drafts each owner will get to nominate one to two players per round of their choice to create a fair system as there is strategy in nominations. Some auctions have it set as a free for all to nominate whoever you want or the commissioner sets all nominations, but I would advise against this as it is extremely unfair and frustrating. When nominating your players be sure to keep track of your roster needs, league-mate's roster needs and the current player pool as to who's available. One of my favorite strategy's is to nominate players that I feel are currently overvalued by most to distract others from players that I want, and now allow myself to possibly get them at a discounted rate.

Budgeting: I believe the most people put too much emphasis on keeping a tight budget and miss on a lot of great players. A budget is important but don't let it be a definite number, be able to flex a little bit to allow yourself some breathing room, there's nothing worse than missing out on a top player just because you didn't want to spend the extra dollar. My only rule I really like to stick with in terms of budgeting is to never spend more than 20 percent of your bankroll on players that are considered first round talent in serpentine drafts. This will be thee to four players that build  the core of your team.

Building a balanced roster: We just talked about spending high dollar amounts to build the core of your team, and by this, I mean to approach it the way you would a regular draft. If you like to build your team around running backs, push your money into three top backs, if you like to build your roster around wide receivers than put your money into the proven Top Five receivers, attempting to get two or three of them. Or, you can follow the approach that I have found to be the most successful: solidifying a top option at each starting position and adding talent around it in the later rounds. Be advised that running back isn't very deep this year, so it is key to monitor the amount of players nominated at each position and what players are left in the player pool.

Running up league-mates: This is a strategy that while not illegal it is somewhat frowned upon, but so what? This is fantasy football, it's a competition, so don't be afraid to run the prices up on players you know your league-mates are overly fond of. You can do this by casually observing the way they talk about a certain player, or if you've done regular drafts with them, you have a general idea of what players they like to take earlier than they should. This does work both ways, and you need to do your best to conceal your top targets at each position. The benefit to running others up is that it allows you more freedom in your bidding and increases the likelihood of winning your players at decent value. One warning though, this running the bid up technique should only be used in the early rounds when you have a big bankroll to back it up, nothing is worse than getting an average player dumped on you for more than they are worth, thereby crippling your bank roll and reducing the chances of building a solid roster in the later auction rounds.

Know when to let go: No matter how much you like a player, at some point, when the numbers get too high, you just need to let go and let the higher bidder have it. In some cases this is hard to judge, but a solid rule is to never spend more than 30 percent of your current budget on a player, and it is key to hit in closer to the 20 perfect range to keep your bankroll at a manageable size. You will know when a player is out of reach, and a good way to confirm this is to look at what other players at that position went for or are what their current rates are.

Know your scoring system: This sounds simple, but a great way to prepare for your auction is to look at the scoring system to asses relative value to certain positions and players. Is it a point per reception league? Do quarterbacks receive four points for passing touchdowns or six? Asking these questions can potentially help you avoid overvaluing a current player in your league. For instance, Cam Newton, a running quarterback, should be valued much higher in four point per passing touchdown leagues than six point per touchdown leagues. It is also extremely important to know your roster requirements and how many players from each position are required for your weekly starting lineup. This could change your value on players such as in leagues that require two quarterbacks, the value of all quarterbacks will be much greater than leagues that only require one starting quarterback.

I hope that this help clear up some of the frustrations with players that are new to auction drafts and provided some basic strategy for those interested. Give auctions a try as I believe they are the best draft formats for fantasy football and are quickly becoming the more popular options for most fantasy leagues. Look for the football.com auction guide with player values and also a breakdown of an expert mock auction draft to see what players are currently going for this season.