Dominating Your Fantasy Football Auction Draft

Brady and Gronkowski are crucial players in this year's auction drafts (AJ Mast/AP Images)

Auction Drafts and 2QB Auctions

Read Time: 10 minutes, TL;DR at the end

How many times has it happened that the newest member of your league wins it all? You know, the guy who has to be explained what a tight end is at the beginning of the draft.  Any fantasy newbie can walk into a draft room with his top 200 sheet from an online resource and make it to the championship, at least in a snake draft. Trust me, I was that guy and I made it to the championship my first year by liking the idea of Tom Brady and Wes Welker being on my team, simply because I recognized their names. And I would have won it all too, if it wasn’t for that other first-time owner who liked Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson for the same reason!

Don’t get me wrong, the snake draft is a fine system and a fantastic way to help casual owners play and enjoy the world of fantasy football. It is quick, simple, and equalizes teams for closer gameplay. But it’s overly restrictive and means that anyone with a top 200 list can be mocking you the entire offseason at the water cooler. And you don’t want that. That’s where the control, adrenaline rushes, and quick decision-making of an auction put this draft style as the superior method for choosing your two quarterback fantasy football team.

Going Once, Going Twice, Sold!

This page is dedicated to general auction strategy. Each year we provide a lot more advice about the strategy for that specific season, write a bunch of thoughts and articles, and send you off. After all, it’s a lot of fun to dream and plan for your team.

In this article, we are taking things one step further and looking at how to dominate in an auction format for two quarterback fantasy football leagues. Whether this is your first auction of any type or you’re a seasoned veteran, this article is helpful resource for how the auction affects two-QB leagues.

A brief summary of how the auction system works: typically every team has $200 with which they are able to buy their players. Teams must start 10 players typically in 2-QB with 5-10 bench spots. Everyone is able to bid until the high bidder wins the proposed player, and before the draft the order is selected for owners to be able to put up on the auction block potential players. Many leagues require that every starting and bench spot must be filled, so at least $1 must be reserved to buy each player.

All of the above rules are true for every type of standard fantasy league, but adding a second quarterback into the starting role alters the dynamics of the auction dramatically.

How 2QB Impacts an Auction Draft

Because of the extra position for quarterbacks, every QB’s dollar value increases significantly. Whereas most years the top 3 running backs would be worth significantly more than the best quarterback, this is no longer true. Now an Aaron Rodgers or Andrew Luck can sell for $60, and pairing him with Peyton Manning could take you all the way to the playoffs even with a relatively mediocre team around them. This same increase would occur if you were in a league that required 3 or even 4 wide receivers: with every extra starting spot the value of great players increases. But with quarterbacks the stakes get taken even higher because they average the highest points of any position.

Another way that the second QB spot affects drafting is that the amount of money available to draft each starter decreases. Let’s say that you’re strategy is to draft great starter talent without much bench depth: having to draft a second quarterback means that you have around $3.50 less for each position! This is where many owners overpay for their team, and you end up seeing players like DeSean Jackson or Joe Flacco selling for half their actual value.

But let’s say that you’re an owner that’s a bit more risk adverse; you like to draft a deep bench and hope one of those players becomes something big. Even for you, adding that one measly quarterback position means that you have $2 less for each roster spot on your team. This is one of the reasons why patience, especially in two-QB leagues, can pay off so well. So many owners do not account for the altered values, and so they run out of money and the draft is ripe for the taking!

Now remember, even your number #3 quarterback will be starting for your team at least twice this season. So do you really want an injury-prone backup such as Robert Griffin III whenever bye weeks come around? There’s such a high chance that he isn’t even able to play, and then your situation becomes dire. The upside could feel like the deciding factor for so many of these low-dollar flyers, but remember that owning three quarterbacks is a minimum in the two-qb format unless you’re willing to start Josh McCown or even possibly a backup quarterback that you’re not sure will see the field this Sunday. Generally, you want to draft 2 solid starters with a reliable backup and only pick up a fourth if you are confident in your other positions.

For Any Draft, Make Sure You…

               Let’s now transition back to general draft strategy. This will be helpful for whatever auction league you are drafting for, and hopefully it will make the process a lot of fun as well as more rewarding.

Set Your Goals

Before going into a draft, start to plan for how much you are going to spend on each position as a whole. For example, this year you might decided that you are going to budget $55 QB – $83 RB – $50 WR – $10 TE – $2 D/K. With this you realize that you can either get Aaron Rodgers and two scrubs or possibly Tony Romo and Matthew Stafford with Joe Flacco as your backup. It’s your choice which scenario you prefer, but by setting these miniature budgets you help yourself determine how the draft is going for you and where you can go big and where you need to keep the budget tight.

A Confident Start

Whether you’ve been prepping since February 8th or you’re walking in looking up values on your phone, play it confident. The auction draft is often won by how you draft. Keep your mannerisms under control, and relax. Even if you make a mistake, no one else knows that you messed up unless you let them know. And no one mistake ruins your team. So enjoy the process, and let the sweating be for your friendly rivals.

Pre-plan for Budget Breakers

A budget breaker is any player that might force you to make early changes to your budget. The prime example for me this year is Rob Gronkowski. With my tentative budget being $55 QB – $83 RB – $50 WR – $10 TE – $2 D/K, I am obviously not presuming that I am going to get Gronk. However, if I see him going too low, of course I would love to have Gronk on my team. This is why I am specifically planning to make sure that I nominate Gronk in the first couple rounds. I want to be able to take him, but I need to be able to move around my budget early on to not hamstring the rest of my team. If I do get Gronk, I will be lowering my other budgets, and should still be able to have a great team.

Who do you consider to be a guy that is worth flexing your budget? Highlight those players and make sure to keep an eye on them as the draft progresses. That way you only commit to spending when you know the opportunity cost is worth it.

Be Patient

Are you desperate to draft Randall Cobb this year? Do you need a running back? Start throwing out other names at that same position when it is your turn to pick. You diminish the amount of money in other owner’s pockets. They may even fill enough roster spots to where they are only able to pay backup money and there are still great starters available at a huge discount.

Remember, the auction is a game of power and money is power. One of my personal favorites is to draft either my defense, kicker, or tight end early. I like to know exactly how much money I have to spend on my big name players, so by throwing out Stephen Gostkowski in the first or second round I either make sure I’m locked in with a decent kicker or someone else outbids me and spends twice what any kicker is worth.

Flexibility is King

This is where prepping can actually become a risk, because it is so easy to get rigid in your strategy and for it to burn you in the end. Personally I recommend doing a lot of mock drafts to help expose these potential holes in your draft strategy.

Other articles will discuss the setting of the market, but let’s sum it up quickly here. In any auction the first few players that sell help determine what the market value is at each position. For some leagues this could be as many as 10 players, but for others 1-2 players go and you have a good feel for what the values are going to be like early. But here’s the catch: the market is able to change dramatically at any time.

So often owners are reluctant to spend $50 or more on a premiere quarterback because of how deep an investment that is. So you see Luck, Wilson, and Rodgers sell in the high forties. But as the elite talent disappears off the board owners begin to realize that they might get stuck with Carson Palmer as their QB1 if they don’t act quickly. All of the sudden, Tony Romo and Matt Ryan sell for $49 and Andrew Luck brings in $47. It is highly unlikely that any of these 3 players are worth as much as the elite 3, but this is the nature of the beast that is the auction.

So here’s what you do in your draft: start looking out 4-5 picks and plan according. Keep track of who everyone else has on their team if possible and how much money they have. This takes a lot of practice and even the best owners will make mistakes. But the most important task for you is to keep a track of is how much money the other teams have and if possible what positions they have filled.

Making Moves Early

The first few nominations of an auction draft are a crucial time where everyone is beginning to feel out how the draft is going to go. I call it setting the bar. Many times this is where 1-2 bargain prices will be available, because people are hesitant to spend money so early. Let me give an example:

My best value last year was Jamaal Charles. Seriously, I put him on the block first to see what the market value would be for premiere running backs. Quickly I realized that most people were still gathering their notes, and so I kept bidding until I had Charles as my RB1. Within the next 5 minutes, I had Charles significantly cheaper than others who picked up Adrian Peterson, LeSean McCoy, and even Alfred Morris. This early lull often happens as the market is being set, and some great deals can be snatched up before people even realize what they’re missing out on. If you’re willing to jump in quickly, it is often worth the commitment.

Whenever auctions started to come around for fantasy football, a lot of people believed that it was best to not buy anyone for the first 30 minutes of the draft. Their advice was “Don’t do it, don’t even make a bid; in fact don’t even show up until 30 minutes into it”.

The problem is that now so many people use some portion of the delay strategy that its value has disappeared. Go for value. If you can get a good player for a few dollars less than you think they are worth and you still have a starting spot available, pick them up. The worst indication of over-waiting is when a team completes their roster with $10 or even $20 extra. Unless your league has incentives to stay far under the salary cap, these dollars are wasted opportunities and at least one missing contributor from your team.

Enjoy Yourself

As always, remember that fantasy football is a game. If you want to root for a player from your favorite NFL team, pick them up even if the price is a bit high. Compile a team that you believe in and that you want to cheer for. Don’t let all of the rankings, articles, or advice ruin what all of these resources are about: having fun with friends during football season.

TL;DR

  • In 2QB leagues, lower your maximum price $2-3 for each player in a standard league
  • Go into a draft with a position-specific budget. My 2QB budget is: $55 QB – $83 RB – $50 WR – $10 TE – $2 D/K
  • Specifically target players to nominate early that could cause you to drastically alter your budget, such as Rob Gronkowski.
  • Be confident and trust your values. Buying players in the first 5 nominations can often have great values, when other owners are hesitant to commit and the flow of the draft is still being established.

Most importantly, have fun! Auctions drafts are a great adrenaline rush.

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