You know the type. You have those acquaintances that were born into privilege, and unless they royally screw something up, they are probably set for life. Then you know those others that have had to work for everything in life, but their hard work has paid off and they are now "sitting pretty." Here we enter the auction versus traditional draft argument.
When you join a league that uses a straight-draft process, owners can find themselves sitting pretty based solely on their draft position. These owners can pick up a fantasy magazine on the drive to the draft, and if they draft early, they can possibly move down their list en route to a solid fantasy season. The auction league requires a certain blue-collar mentality and a poker player's ability to read others' maneuvers. With this in mind, auction leagues require much more legwork and comprehensive thinking prior to the draft.
In auction drafts, don't be afraid to be the guy who brings in binders, laptops or other fantasy paraphernalia to the war room. The more prepared you are, the better. With that said, don't get too bogged down with that same group of tools. You could miss out on the fish that got away.
Now it is time for the overused "Top 10" list along with a multitude of poker analogies. The numbers quoted are based on a $200 cap and a typical fantasy roster (one quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, one tight end, one place kicker, one defensive team and one combo running back/wide receiver).
Know the rules
The first and one of the most important rules going in is to know your league. With the advent of custom scoring on multitudes of Web sites, you could see all sorts of bizarre rules for your league. You would be surprised as to the difference in player rankings when there is just a slight modification in scoring for yardage, touchdown or even receptions. For example, when your league puts a high emphasis on passing yards, the value of players will be reflected accordingly in their cost.
Also make sure you know the lineup requirements. Is there a combination position? How many starting wide receivers? All of these facts play a role in your draft strategy.
Finally, know how much money you have to spend up front before draft day. This will be important as you figure the values of each of your players.
The classic mantra of "Be prepared" is given added meaning in an auction league. The owners that are up-to-date on depth charts, who is undervalued and overvalued, preseason injuries, etc., are in a much better position come draft day. Every minute you can sneak at work to read another article or add to your ever evolving cheat sheet will help you that much more come draft day. Knowing the latest news will pay off.
Two additional concepts to consider are bye weeks and backups. How often do you get at the midseason point and realize that Week 10, both your stud running backs and one of your wide receivers all have the same bye week? When you can plan ahead, do it.
If your league is one that doesn't charge for transactions or charges very little, think twice about picking up backups at positions like place kicker and defense. It is much easier to pick up a replacement kicker off the wire and have a stable of running backs than it is to struggle to find a suitable replacement back.
Roll with the punches
Now that you have completely prepared - you have your perfect cheat sheet all set and ready to go - be ready to throw it all out the window. Leagues are fickle and owners are unpredictable. If this is your first year in a new league, this is all the more true. How much do these guys really know? Will someone take a place kicker for $15? When a run at a particular position goes, figure out whether the sleepers you want will be left or if you need to enter the fray now. Being flexible but prepared will give you the best chance of success on draft day.
Spend money on your backs
There is an old auction rule that states that you should spend half of your budget ($200 in this case) on your top four players. The purpose of this rule is to remind owners that while an off-year and injuries can occur, the players that are identified as elite typically produce. That's not a strategy that KFFL recommends, though. We do suggest that you look to spend roughly one-third of your budget on your top two running backs. They're likely to be the foundation of your team, so you want to ensure reliable pieces at that position, which brings us to our next rule....
Overpay when necessary
It is almost guaranteed that many top-tier running backs will go for more than their "value." With that said, don't be afraid to spend that extra money. As has been mentioned time and time again, a stud running back is a diamond in the rough in most leagues. Having one or two stud running backs on your team is a key to a successful season. Within reason, pay what you must to get them.
Another common mistake is when owners never pay more than their cheat sheet dictates. In the grand scheme of things, spending $22 on a good wide receiver compared to $20 will not impact your team drastically. If you want a player, don't let a couple of dollars stop you. Remember, though, that you want to control the board, so don't make this a habit, and it's recommended to earmark price tags for certain players that you won't exceed.
Forget the small guys
When we talk about small guys, we are referring to the players with the small pads and single-bar facemask ... the almighty place kickers. While there are some kickers that are worth a bit more, they collectively put up similar stats and can be played on a weekly basis based on matchups. Don't spend more then a buck or two on these warriors of the one white shoe.
This also goes for defenses. While some defenses are fantasy juggernauts, they also thrive on a matchup basis, making it difficult to place too much value on them come draft day. One word of caution here is to evaluate your league scoring before discarding defenses as a whole. If your scoring is team defense-happy, you may want to up their importance slightly.
Selfish bargain shopping
Do as much bargain shopping as possible while not allowing others to get steals. Most people come to drafts with very different cheat sheets. Stick with your cheat sheet, and when you see a player at a position of need that is about to go for 50 percent of his value, up the ante. If nothing else, you can force others to pay market value, or it allows you to pick up solid depth at a great bargain.
While others are nabbing second-tier running backs at inflated prices, go ahead and pick up a wide receiver or two at bargain prices. Throwing a different position into the mix during position runs can often lead to bargain prices.
Bluff early and hold your cards
Early in the draft, throw out a stud player or two that you aren't as interested in. If you don't buy into a specific player, throw him out there and let others bid up his value. This allows you to get a feel for the other owners while also letting them eat at their cap room. Be careful not to throw out too high a price and get stuck with a player you have no desire to have on your team.
One way to identify players that may be overvalued coming into the draft is to identify rookie players that are receiving preseason hype. Outside of a couple running backs, rookie fantasy stars are the exception and not the norm. Throw out some of these over-hyped rookies early and watch as the piranhas bid him well over his market value while you sit back with your full cap in hand.
If you have sleeper players that you are targeting, do not introduce him too early. Everyone has money at that point and might get the idea when you throw out a player most haven't heard of early, especially those ill-prepared owners. Save those sleepers until the end, when less heralded players are being introduced and less money is on the table to spend.
Read the poker faces
Everyone will tip their cards at one time or another. Watch for trends in how owners introduce players and who they are drafting. Are they picking players from their favorite teams? Do they seem to be saving money for one player in particular? Who is an aggressive bidder and who seems to be sticking to a sheet to a T? If you can pick up on some of these small nuances, you can better predict how they will play when you begin to bid against them later on.
Paying attention is often difficult with the beverages, the food and, often, the television. With your tools in hand, keep focused during the draft. If the commissioner is not showing a running roster and cap space for each team, try to take notes of some of the key transactions teams have taken part in. If an owner already has a stud running back, it becomes that much more important to prevent him or her from nabbing another one. If you know an owner is beginning to run out of funds, you can bid with that much more confidence that they will not outbid you.
Watch your remaining funds closely. There is nothing worse than realizing you still have no quarterback and have relatively nothing left to spend on the position. Plan how much you are going to spend on a position and pay attention to how you are progressing towards that total.
Paying attention also can pay dividends down the road. Who did you outbid for a player that you may want to trade with later? Who seemed disappointed with his or her draft and may be open to trades soon? Observations like these can be placed in your back pocket and played at the right time to lead you to fantasy success.
Auction leagues provide a very different challenge from the traditional straight draft for fantasy owners. They reward those who have done their homework and planned appropriately. With KFFL's resources and analysis, you have all of the tools before you. Spend the time to use these tools and you should be able to walk out of the draft confident you'll be bringing home another fantasy trophy.
Joel Haugen is a freelance writer who has worked for several radio and television stations in the midwest reporting on local sports. Gathering statistics, player information, and coaching insights, Haugen has written reports and segments for the local ESPN2 sports break in Upper Iowa. He has been a KFFL Contributor since 2003.