The basics of running a fantasy football auction league

by James Eberspacher on June 5, 2008 @ 03:35:48 PDT


An auction draft can be one of the most thrilling parts of playing fantasy sports, and one every true fantasy geek (that's right, we're all geeks at heart) should experience at some point. There's nothing like your heart starting to thud in your chest and the adrenaline coursing through your veins as you hear yourself bidding $40 on Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson even though you swore before the draft you would never go a nickel over $30 for the Chiefs running back after he burned you badly last year.

Here's the skinny on how to make an auction draft work. While it might seem complicated, it's really a fairly straightforward enterprise.

First, you need a room with enough space for every owner in your league. A big table is ideal; where everyone has room for their various flow charts and cheat sheets, as well as a snack or two with your beverage of choice. Set it up like your typical draft, but an auction is more focused and intense, thus a table format is more suitable.

In today's sophistication of the Internet and computer software, many companies offer services to handle your draft online. Choosing the right company is important, of course, but the company who handles your draft doesn't necessarily have to host the league for the year.

Unlike your typical or straight draft, order isn't of paramount importance. You do need to pick someone to go first, so draw names from somebody's Cowboys hat or the current Tampa Bay homer's helmet. Whoever comes up gets the honor of introducing the first player up for bids, by announcing a player and an opening bid amount, such as "Reggie Bush for $10."

Bidding proceeds in one of two ways. One way is to go in order around the table, with owners either topping the previous bid or dropping out on this particular player until no one wants to go over the previous bid. The highest bidder gets the player and has the bid deducted from their available salary cap. The second method is the prototypical auction method with players announcing bids in a random order. This can get chaotic unless you have an "auctioneer" to control the bidding. The auctioneer can be anyone from someone's wife (or husband - we're an equal opportunity fantasy service), a friend or an owner not interested in bidding on the current player. We suggest hiring John "Mighty Mouth" Moschitta Jr., the fast-talking gentleman from the late 1980s' Micro Machines craze, if he is free for the weekend. After a player is successfully "purchased," the next owner in turn gets to introduce the next player up for auction. This continues until every owner has a full roster of 16 players (or whatever roster size your league uses).

It's important to note that once you have a full roster, you're done with both bidding and introducing players. If you have quite a bit of money left over, you probably didn't spend as wisely as you could have. There is no limit to what you can spend on a player, but you must have at least $1 (or one minimum bidding increment, if you have a different cap structure) for every remaining roster spot. Therefore, with 16-player rosters and a $180 cap, the most you could theoretically spend on any one player is $165 - meaning you'd have one tremendously expensive player and 15 $1 leftovers. This is certainly not a recommended approach to drafting, but it is possible, in theory.

Obviously, you need to allow more time for an auction than you would for a straight draft. It's a bit cumbersome (but still workable) for a chat room if your league is composed of far-flung owners who can't all make it to one place for the draft. Thus, you're far better off if you can cram your whole league into someone's living room. For one thing, it's more fun if you're all in the same place, and besides, you can serve beverages of an alcoholic persuasion - which can lead to some creative bidding late in the auction if folks forget to consume in moderation. We're just kidding, but we've all heard the stories regarding the dangers of "Drinking and Drafting." In fact, maybe there should be something like CADD, "Commissioners Against Drunk Drafting!"

Here is a quick checklist of what you should have to set up your auction league:

  • Enough owners... check
  • A set rulebook and salary cap that is written out... check
  • A valid means of tracking picks and what was spent... check
  • A plethora of patience for novice bidders who may hold up the draft... check
  • A fun and interesting way of drafting... check

That's all there is to auction drafting. See? We told you it was simple. If you have any questions concerning an auction draft, hit up the premium discussion board, and we'll be more than happy to answer any question you have on how to start one.

A note on KFFL's auction values

The auction dollar values that accompany KFFL's preseason rankings are based on a $180 salary cap, with 16-player rosters in a 12-team league. If your league has more (or fewer) owners and a different sized salary cap, you'll need to adjust accordingly. The fewer owners you have, the more the top players are worth and the less the cheaper players are worth. You'd think the opposite would be true for leagues with more owners, but in practice, the top players still end up being worth more, because there are more owners bidding on the same number of top players. The cheaper players stay about the same price, but the superstars will be worth even more.

If your league uses a different salary cap structure, you can translate the values to suit your league by considering them as a percentage of $180. As an example, New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress at $19 is worth just over 10 percent of the total $180 cap for a team's roster. If your league uses a $100 million cap, his value would be around $11 million.

Every auction is unique, of course. Sometimes quarterbacks will be going for far more than they're worth and running backs will be undervalued. Sometimes receivers will all be bargains. You have to be able to adjust your projected dollar values as the market dictates. In general, though, you can expect to spend about 40 percent of your cap dollars on running backs, 20-25 percent each on receivers and quarterbacks, with what's left over going to tight ends, place kickers as well as defensive teams.

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About James Eberspacher

James Eberspacher has been Commissioner of a "high performance" fantasy football league since 1994. He has created an entertaining and challenging league by designing a unique scoring system and a creative sense of writing and style. He has been a KFFL Contributor since 2003.

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