“You joined a what?” “That sounds too intense for me.” “How did you even find that?”
These are generally the first things people say when I tell them about my latest dive into fantasy sports. Its a 16 man, 53 man roster auction dynasty league. It sounds crazy even as I type it out. The meat and potatoes of the league is you start 23 people including a Head Coach (who gets points based on victory), a punter, and a full roster of Individual Defensive Players.
If you’ve never done an auction draft before, stop what you’re doing… after you’re done reading this article, and join one. You will wonder why you wasted so much time playing in a snake draft league. The premise is simple. Instead of getting a ‘pick’ you are given a salary. You bid on the player(s) you want, and if you are the highest bidder after “SOLD” you acquire said player. No longer are you worried about not having a shot at an Adrian Peterson. Everyone has an equal shot at all players.
Having done an auctions before, I felt that I was going to have a good handle on the draft. I mean, how different could it be? Its just like drafting an eighteen man roster… only three times the amount of spots to fill…and instead of drafting against eleven people (in a twelve person league), I’m now drafting against fifteen. How difficult could it be?
As it turns out, very.
What follows are some of the lessons learned over the past thirty days. Some of them I already knew and feel like an idiot for learning again, while others were new due to the change of format. Some of these may seem simple and obvious, but trust me, it is very easy to get caught up in the moment in this draft day. Sometimes you just need to remember the simple things to do well in fantasy football.
Lesson 1: Rookies are important
My first attempt at making a trade in this league happened before I even had one person on my roster. While sitting around playing games with one of the other owners of the league (which may or may not have included drinking), I decided that I didn’t want to spend the $40+ it was going to cost me to draft a rookie in the first round. I was going to be smart with my money and trade away my first round pick, in order to stockpile later picks when the players are cheaper. With the 2013 rookie class being primarily defense/offensive line, I thought this was sound logic.
The execution however…
The result was that I traded away my first and second pick for his second and third pick. I thought I was getting a good deal, but once I sobered up a little, I realized I should have asked for more. The league wasn’t too thrilled with this transaction either. The trade was later ‘fixed’ by trading my 2014 8th round pick for his 2014 3rd Round. In case you were wondering, he drafted EJ Manuel (QB, Buf) with my pick in the first, I drafted Dee Millner (CB, NYJ) with his third.
The ‘Rookie Draft’ is where you build your team for the future. These players (depending on your league setup) have their own separate roster spot and only use a small portion of their actual value. If they don’t pan out, cut them at no penalty. This is purely a win-win situation. That is, unless you squander your picks. Don’t do it.
Lesson Learned: If you’re going to trade away a pick, make sure you get good value in return for it! Shop it around if you want, find what is the fair value for it.
Lesson 2: Elite players are expensive!
AJ Green was thrown out fairly early. He was nominated at the same time as Calvin Johnson and Julio Jones. Being a huge AJ Green fan, I thought “I must have him! Let the games begin!” I took a deep breath, typed in a number and exhaled when I saw that I was currently the highest bidder by a healthy margin. After several hours (and numerous page refreshes) I had a thirteen dollar lead and a bed that was calling my name. I decided I had this in the bag and it was time to sleep.
I was very disappointed when I woke up the next morning.
Not only had I been outbid, but I was outbid by the guy who was already winning Calvin Johnson AND Julio Jones. Megatron was going for more than $200, and I had no interest in Jones. Part of me wanted to let this guy have AJ. If he wants to spend 600+ of his 1230 on three players, let him. He’ll be paying for (literally) for the rest of the draft. But I didn’t listen.
Without thinking, I threw out a few more dollars, and Green’s clock was reset for the final time.
That is the story of how I spent way more for my #1 WR than I had planned.
With $1,230.00 on the table, why wouldn’t you just buy the best there is? Because money adds up fast! “Oh, I just spent 200 on Foster, I still have $1000 left!! 200 on Megatron!!” BOOM! You now have Megatron AND Foster!! Take THAT snake drafts. Wait, I still have 800!? Aaron Rodgers for $181!! YES!! Well, you’ve now spent $550 plus and you have fifty more players to go…What did you do?!?
There is a fine line when doing an auction draft, and the line gets even smaller when you are drafting 53 players. In smaller (standard) sized rosters, the boom or bust strategy works because one player accounts for ten percent of the starting roster. Adrian Peterson putting up a big game could very easily account for 25% of your weekly total, so you can justify spending 20-25% of your draft day budget on him.
It is different in a dynasty league.
Adrian Peterson is still putting up the same amount of points, but he is now one of twenty three starters, or five percent! You need to ask yourself, if I spend this much money on this player, where does that leave me for other players and/or positions? Having such giant rosters mean the potential for getting points is spread out over multiple positions. Having an elite RB may still be the best consistency for acquiring points, but the other positions can help balance it out. What if you took that $200 and spread it out among your defensive players or in trying to get two second/third tier players?
Lesson Learned: Don’t get caught up in names when bidding; think bigger picture
Lesson 3: Salary Management
With Gronk being a huge question mark for the first few weeks, the elite tight end pool gets shallow fast. Seeing what all the WRs were going for, I figured Graham wasn’t going for less than a hundred and fifty dollars. So that was my bid. First TE on the board, right off the heels of the top WRs being nominated, he’s going to go fast… which he did compared to other people in the league. Roughly 12 hours after he was nominated, he was on my team.
What did I do? I had $100 budgeted for my entire TE position! I just blew that more than that on one player!!!
Drafting in an auction system is more than simply finding guys you can afford, you also need to plan for the guys that you can’t. A buck fifty for Jimmy was a lot more than I had budgeted. It was time to sit back and re-evaluate my decisions. I opened up excel, figured out how much I had left vs how many positions I had to fill then figured out what the average cost per player was for the remainder of the draft. The number was there just over eleven dollars per player for the rest of the draft, so I rounded it down to an even ten (to allow for some wiggle room) and filled out the sheet accordingly. Now, I could bid. Anytime I went “over 10” on a player, I just subtracted that from the other positions. I just dropped a thirty dollar bid on Player A. I opened the excel sheet, found that I have forty dollars tied up for kickers and punters. There is my first twenty in reallocation. (Ten for Player A then took away a 10 bid from K and a 10 bid for P, and I still have 22 allocated for the people who actually use their foot in this game!)
The difference at this stage of the draft was that I was now re-actively adjusting my roster. I had my own plan entering the draft which was a good start, but I had already spent too much. I had to take a step back and figure out a way to right this ship.
Everyone will have their own way to prep for the draft and their own strategy. Some people break it down by player, others do it by tier. Some just decide to wing it. Whatever you strategy is, don’t be surprised when its all turned upside down and be ready to come up with a new plan quickly.
Lesson Learned: Don’t panic while drafting, even when you screw up. Take a step back and figure out a way to fix it.
Lesson 4: Don’t pay for fantasy point totals
“Dude, I’m practically GIVING you Reggie Bush. He’s the number one back in the league! Why don’t you want him?!” ~Things spoken by every Reggie Bush owner by week 4 in the 2012 season.
Sooner or later there will be guys thrown out for auction and you will ask yourself “Why are people bidding so much on this guy?” They are either A) Someone you’ve never heard of, or B) someone you have heard of, but are wondering why they are going for so much (This year my “Who the hell is that?” guy was Sean Lee). This comes into play mainly when talking about individual defensive players, but it can also come into play on the offensive side of the ball. Doing a quick search you see “oh, this person scored x, and averaged y.” So, you begin bidding accordingly. What you didn’t notice though was how this person scored their points. Did this person have one or two monster games that inflated his total? How many games did they play in? In the case of IDP, how many of their points came from TaINT (Touchdowns after INTerception) or after a fumble recovery? You can’t predict defensive touchdowns, nor can you ‘predict’ monster games. You should be drafting based on the likelihood of scoring your average point totals week after week. I’m not talking breaking down how someone scored all their points, just look at their scores. How much disparity is there in the data shown? Did he have a big week against a bad team? A player that scores 160 points on the season averages 10.0 points a game. I want to know how they go those points. Did he score 10 points for 16 weeks, or did he score 80 points one week, and 5 in the rest?
Lesson Learned: How a player got their points is more important than his end of the year scores.
Lesson 6: Buy JJ Watt
He was the #18 scorer in the league last year. He was the first non-qb on the list. He scored more points than Calvin Johnson. Why was I hesitant to bid on him? I made several phone calls that night asking for advice. “Player A scored 323 points, player B Scored 320. Both put up their point totals by having beastly performances week in and out. No blow-up games to inflate their score. Who do you choose?” And when they inevitable said “Player A” I told them they just selected Watt over CJ. “Oh, you can’t spend that much on a defensive guy”. I stopped bidding. And I’m kicking myself. Don’t get me wrong, I like my team. But if getting Watt meant that I didn’t have the money to get Graham… I don’t know. In hindsight I can’t say I would bid more, or how much I would be willing to spend if I did. I gave it a shot though. I put in $150 and that still wasn’t enough. More power to the guy who knew what he wanted and paid to get it. My trade doors are open when you want to talk.
Lesson Learned: Follow your gut. Ask for advice from friends, family and even strangers, but at the end of the day it is your team. You make the call.