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Fantasy Football Auction Strategies: How To Conquer Your Opponents

Mar 6
12 minutes

“One dollar bid, now two, now two, will you give me two...?” You can probably hear the voice of the auctioneer—the fast-paced, filler-word-laden speech that gives bidders a chance to buy something at rock-bottom prices. Ah, the joys of an auction.

Now take that same idea and spin it into what’s a growing trend in fantasy football: the auction draft. That’s right. You now have the ability to bid on that quarterback, running back, kicker (if your league has one), or even breakout star that can give you the edge come game time.

Whether you’re new to the format or you’re looking for some ways to up the ante, learning the fantasy football auction strategies can help you find sleepers, discover deep value, meticulously drain your opponents’ cheddar in a bidding war, and ultimately, put together the ultimate starting lineup. Let’s get started.

What Is a Fantasy Football Auction?

A judge's gavel

Before getting into fantasy football auction strategies, let’s address just what the auction means, as it may be new to some players.

A fantasy football auction is a type of draft that allows each team owner to bid on players. It’s akin to a real auction, only that the cash itself is virtual. Each player starts with a virtual bankroll—think of it as a salary cap—and then bids on players one by one as they are nominated to the auction block.

The amount that each team owner starts with is generally $200 and bids start at $1. At the end of the draft, any money left over goes poof. Sayonara. So in that sense, there’s no incentive to have money at the end. In a perfect draft, you end with $0, provided you got the players that you want.

FYI: If you play in a FAAB (free agent acquisition budget) league, your remaining draft budget does not carry over to your free agent budget.

The Process

Team owners take turns nominating players in each round of the auction. So whichever of your league mates had the honor of choosing the first draft pick in a traditional draft, they’re now the first to nominate a player. However, there’s a science on who to nominate and how much to spend each round. But we’ll discuss that in a second.

As with any other type of auction, the most coveted items—or in this case, players—go for the highest amounts. Rest assured, PPR monsters like Travis Kelce and Cooper Kupp or top-tier QBs like Josh Allen or Patrick Mahomes are bound to go for a king’s ransom. The bids curtail as the auction churns along—both for a lack of cash from team owners, dwindling talent, and the strategies of each team owner.

How Is a Fantasy Football Auction Different From a Regular Draft?

Although the differences may seem obvious to veteran players, newbies may have trouble discerning the distinctions between a fantasy football auction draft and a regular draft. But it’s really quite simple.

An auction draft includes nominations and allows team owners to bid on players until the winning bidder gets the player. Regardless of whether you play in an IDP, PPR, flex, superflex league, or some variant thereof, you can conduct an auction draft as a viable alternative to a traditional draft.

A traditional fantasy football draft—also known as a snake draft—works much the same as the true NFL draft. The only caveat is that the order of the draft reverses at the end of the round.

So let’s say Team A has the first selection in Round 1. In Round 2, they would get the last selection, and in Round 3, they would go back to the first selection. This continues until you get through 14 to 16 rounds, which vary depending on where you host your league (Yahoo, CBS, ESPN, etc.).

Fantasy Football Auction Strategies

Football player flexing while holding a ball

Now that you have a basic idea of what an auction is and how it functions, you’re ready to focus on the task ahead. The nitty-gritty. The virtual gridiron. It’s time to put all of your NFL knowledge, intuition, instinct, and awareness into planning.

Starting at the end of the offseason and toward the beginning of the preseason, you’re an analyst and a researcher—all leading up to draft day. Here’s what you need to know at various stages prior to and during your auction.

The Planning Phase

Planning alone won't make you a champion, but without planning, you can break a fantasy league season before it even begins. It just might be the most crucial portion of fantasy football auction strategies. This is the most time- and labor-intensive section of your strategy, so be ready to put in some extra hours to make this work.

Step 1—Take a Glance at Projected NFL Team Records

The first step is to look at the projected record of each team—Sports Illustrated, ESPN, or your favorite sportsbook are good sources. The record helps you identify how a player will perform based on the team around him and the matchups during the year. For example, even if you have your eye on a phenom running back, a terrible O-Line, QB, or even defense could spell doom—especially in a division stacked with quality playoff teams.

If that phenom running back is on a losing team they are likely to get less carries when the team is playing from behind. Also beware of teams that may rest their stars towards the end of the season if they decide to tank the rest of season. Theres nothing worse than your star running back being benched for week 15/16 during fantasy football playoffs because the team their on is 2-13 with no chance of making the playoffs.

Take notes on some of the top players and these projections, as a good team can make a great player even better.

Step 2—Look at Projected League Leaders and ADP

Once you’ve looked over the projected NFL standings, delve a little deeper by analyzing certain players. Vegas futures prop bets are the ideal starting point. Pick your must have players and highlight others you are interested in. These odds can give you some insight into who Vegas believes is going to be some of the best players in the upcoming season, such as:

  • Who might win the NFL MVP
  • Projected league leaders in crucial stats such as passing, receiving, and rushing TDs; passing, receiving, and rushing yards, field goals, and even sacks or interceptions if you’re playing in an IDP (individual defensive player) league
  • Potential winners of Offensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and MVP in both the AFC and NFC

Take this information and compare it to player ADP (average draft price/position) according to ESPN and Yahoo. From there you can see discrepancies between ADP and Vegas player props for who is overvalued or undervalued. For example in the 2021/2022 season although Courtland Sutton had a much higher ADP than Jerry Jeudy, it was Jeudy that Vegas sportsbooks correctly predicted would have more yards and touchdowns.

Step 3—Create the “Perfect” Mock Draft and 'Keep Par'

After doing your research, you’re finally ready to put together your ideal team during a makeshift mock draft, including substitutes for all your positions in case your Plan has to pivot to Plan B in your auction draft strategy. Do several mock drafts before so you can be totally prepared for these scenarios.

The integral idea here is to allocate certain dollar ranges or auction values that a player might go for during the draft. This will allow you to get the players you want within reason and without overspending. You should also place player values or rankings on each player that you want and prioritize them accordingly. Set these ranges for each player you want with a list of substitutes and then you'll create different plans.

For example, let’s say you have a $200 budget. Plan A will cost you between $197 and $207 and Plan B is slightly less expensive at $192 to $202. The reason that your budget is over $200 is that you’re highly unlikely to get every player you want to fill your roster spots so have a list of substitutes on the side. The idea is also that you will ultimately end up spending right at $200 if everything goes to plan with a bit of wiggle room.

Here’s a quick example in a 2QB League:

  • $100 on running backs (2 @ $50 average: S. Barkley $36-$43 and J. Taylor $51-$62)
  • $24 on three wide receivers (3 @ $8 average)
  • $50 on two quarterbacks (2 @ $25 average)
  • $6 on a tight end
  • $1 on a defensive player
  • $1 on a kicker
  • $18 on subs (6 @ $3 average)

During the draft, for every dollar that you’re over or under on a bid that you land, either add or subtract that amount from your budget. This will allow you to stay calm and collected during the draft by knowing how much less or more you have to spend on other positions. For example:

  • $96 on running backs (-4 par from the expected $100)
  • $31 on three wide receivers (+7 from the expected $24)

This means I have a net of +3 I need to save on other positions so if I don't get a deal on a player on my Plan A, I know I'll need to make a substitute. Alternatively, if i had a net of -3 I would know I can spend $3 more on other positions.

The Early Rounds

The early rounds of an auction league are where the magic happens. While you still want to stick to your plan and budget, you also have three other main objectives:

  • Nominate must have players that you want early to ensure you have enough money to outbid other league mates but stick to the plan. Just make sure you aren't paying 'Christian McCaffrey money' for a trending but unproven player.
  • Play a little cat-and-mouse. If there’s a nominated player that you don’t want but others are hellbent on getting, bid up the price but do it early when the bidding starts for that player. The worst thing you can do is getting a player you never wanted in the first place. You can also nominate players that you don’t want just to get others to pony up their cash.
  • Put a premium on stud RBs. The difference between top WRs is not big, but exceptional running backs are rare. In the modern day NFL there are only 3 or 4 bell-cow RBs who are worth a premium and a cut above the rest. This is where you put your budget to the test.
  • Don’t wait to nominate the player that’s part of your plan. Waiting until he’s the last top-tier player at a position is asking for a bidding war and could end up costing you dearly or missing out altogether. Other managers will panic when they realize there are only a few QB1's or RB1's left.
  • Don’t spend too much on a single player: You may have hungry eyes for one player, but if you can’t fill out the rest of your roster with talent, you’re going to have a bad time. But at the same time don't be afraid to pay up for studs, this is where planning will help keep you focused.
  • Nominate a mid-tier player. If you already have all your top-tier players but some are still on the board, nominate a mid-tier or late-round player. Because others are still waiting to drop big money for elite talent, you can land some of the best mid-range players.

The Middle Rounds

People celebrating at a fantasy football auction

The middle rounds settle down to some degree, but it’s still a place to get great value. If you pay attention, you can probably get a reasonable idea of what other auction drafters are thinking.

So while they’re drinking a beer and toiling away at their draft note, this is the time to snipe a mid-tier player, hyped up rookie, defense, or top kicker. In general, statistics show that you shouldn’t bid more than $1 for a defense (unless you’re in an IDP league) or a kicker. But if there’s solid value here, it’s a savvy move.

Your fantasy football auction strategy should also gear your middle round toward wide receivers and quarterbacks. There’s a ton of good value talent here but look for wide receivers who play with elite QBs whenever possible.

The Late Rounds

The late rounds are where you can find the most value. When it’s your turn to nominate a player, choose one that you want—not one that you don’t. If you stuck to your budget or have some additional cash left over, you can land the best ball player that falls in line with your plans.

The Final Definitive Edge to Your Fantasy Football Auction Strategy

If you play your cards right, you should end up with some absolute studs on your roster along with a supporting cast that makes the rest of the fantasy sports world jealous. But even then, you’re not guaranteed glory. It’s what you do after the draft that can ultimately define your team as league champs or cellar-dwellers.

Waiver wires and free agent pools aside, the little extra edge can be found at Wise Guys Edge. Using Vegas props and odds, a handy comparison tool, and a blog to help you strategize, we have everything you need to propel you to the league’s Super Bowl.

Next time, your friends and/or adversaries just might want you to become the auctioneer rather than sit with the pool of bidders.