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Auction Preparation and Strategy
by Todd Kleinheinz
July 4, 2003
 

Welcome to Fantasy Football - Auction Style!

Before you get to the point of wondering if you should drop the extra buck on Hines Ward or hold on to it to secure that backup QB you've been eyeing, you need to have a plan. And there is no shortage of ideas, theories, recommendations, and advice givers (including yours truly) when it comes to deciding how you should spend you money, when you should spend it, and how you should allocate it.

First of all, and most importantly, know how your league runs things in terms of rules. What is the salary cap (for reference in this article we will use $100)? What is the minimum bid ($1)? What increments do the bids have to advance by (at least $1)? How many players, and what positions need to be filled by the roster (2 QB, 4 RB, 6 WR, 2 K, 2 Def.)? Once you know this, as well as your point system, you should be ready to assign value.

Assigning Value

Start by assigning the minimum amount to the two defenses, the two kickers, your last RB, and at least your bottom two WRs. The reason behind this is simple. Defenses are so unpredictable in terms of scoring, and shutouts, it is a pure crapshoot as to which teams will rise up from year to year. Kickers fall into a similar category. The point differential between the #1 scoring kicker last year and the #10 kicker was 23 points, or just over 1 point a game. So spending extra money to gain that extra 1 point a week, probably isn't in your best fantasy interest. Your roster should start shaping up like this:

#1 QB
#2 QB
#1 RB
#2 RB
#3 RB
#4 RB $1.00
#1 WR
#2 WR
#3 WR
#4 WR
#5 WR $1.00
#6 WR $1.00
#1 K $1.00
#2 K $1.00
#1 Def. $1.00
#2 Def. $1.00
Total: $7 Cap Remaining: $93

From this point you can take a conservative approach and allocate $31 to your QB, RB and WR positions as a whole. This would give you a nice balanced team, with good depth, some trade value, and some wiggle-room should any of your players go down to injury. However, this approach will also freeze you out of any of the top tier players at each position.

In years past, players such as Marshall Faulk, Terrell Owens, Edgerrin James, Kurt Warner, Jeff Garcia, and Randy Moss all took cap numbers ranging from $30 - $42. This gives you an idea about how valuable fantasy owners view the absolute top players. In fantasy football, superstars win championships. Without at least one on your roster, you will find yourself battling for the playoffs, but the championship will be out of reach. So you may want to allocate the bulk of your money to your #1 QB, your #1 RB and your #1 WR, giving only slightly above the minimum salary cap numbers to the remainder of your team.

#1 QB
#2 QB $3.00
#1 RB
#2 RB $4.00
#3 RB $2.00
#4 RB $1.00
#1 WR
#2 WR $4.00
#3 WR $3.00
#4 WR $2.00
#5 WR $1.00
#6 WR $1.00
#1 K $1.00
#2 K $1.00
#1 Def. $1.00
#2 Def. $1.00
Total: $25 Cap Remaining: $75

You now have $75 to spend on your top three positions. And once again, if you want to be sure of a balanced, yet unspectacular team, you can spread that money out evenly and secure yourself a $25 QB, RB and WR. But again, this won't allow you to net a superstar.

So how can you net a superstar? Create a list of 3-4 players that are "sure-fire, hands-down, no-question-about-it" superstars that you would like to target. Now assign them a value of what you believe to be the highest price paid for a player, right around the $42 mark, say $45 to be sure. Now go out, spend $45 on the best player in the draft (so you believe) and split the remaining money between your final two positions, let's look at what your roster and cap will look like.

#1 QB $15.00
#2 QB $3.00
#1 RB $45.00
#2 RB $4.00
#3 RB $2.00
#4 RB $1.00
#1 WR $15.00
#2 WR $4.00
#3 WR $3.00
#4 WR $2.00
#5 WR $1.00
#6 WR $1.00
#1 K $1.00
#2 K $1.00
#1 Def. $1.00
#2 Def. $1.00
Total: $100 Cap Room: 0

This is nearly worst case scenario. You have allocated the minimum cap number to the positions that are difficult, if not impossible to gauge, the defenses. You have also put the minimum amount into the kicking position. A position that does not have a great differential in points. And the minimum into your #5 and #6 WR, and #4 RB, positions that if you need to play, may signal a problem with your team regardless. You have also slightly upgraded in the starting lineup prices as to give you a bit of flexibility in deciding who you want on your team. And finally you have secured a superstar and two top quality players at other positions.

Putting Players up for Bid

This takes strategy, and shouldn't be taken lightly. Early on in the nomination process you don't want to nominate players you really want, because early on is when people have the most money and are willing to throw and extra buck or two at a player just because they have it. You don't want to lose out on one of your players because Crazy Frank thought it would be a good idea to "make things interesting" and bid another dollar.

What you want to do is nominate players that may go for a bloated price, are injury prone, or are group favorites. Last year, players such as Daunte Culpepper, Randy Moss, Lamar Smith or Stephen Davis would have fit into this category. Or if you are in a group of Packer fans, throw the names Donald Driver and Brett Favre out early because they are sure to over pay for such players, like most fans do. Defenses and kickers are also quality nominations, because if you follow the above system, it doesn't matter which defense or kicker you get, while other owners may over spend on the Baltimore or Tampa Bay Defense.

Leading up to the auction you should have a good idea of mid-level players you want to try and get, or rookies you would like to target. These are the players you want nominated as late as possible. This will give you the best chance at landing them, because other owners won't have the money to spend on them, and will be less likely to get into a bidding war with you.

Audible

Establish how much money you want to pay for each position, not each player. This will allow you the flexibility to adjust on the fly. You can move and shift money as needed. If your superstar doesn't cost $45, say they only cost $38, well then you take that extra $7 and disperse it to other positions. This might allow you to bump up your #2 RB from $4 to $11. And what if you can grab a top quality QB, say Rich Gannon, for $14 instead of $15? Now you move an extra dollar to your WRs. It is this flexibility to adjust on the fly that will assist you in getting the best players, at the best prices without breaking your salary cap.

The key to the fantasy auction is research. You need to know the second level of players. You never know where you will be able to pick up a nugget of information, so the more articles you read, the more training camp battles you follow, and the more player profiles you see, the better prepared you will be to be able to pick up a Hines Ward, a Clinton Portis, a Travis Henry or an Amani Toomer for cheap. All of these players mentioned went in the $2 - $8 range last year, and all ended the year toward the top half of the league in terms of statistics.

The superstar will help get you there, but in order to get you across the finish line, you will need a surprise player or two to be consistent on a weekly basis.

Summary

NEVER nominate players you want early in an auction.

Have your research done so you know who is going to be a quality mid-level selection. Nothing says "no preparation" like thumbing through a magazine when it comes time for you to nominate a player.

Allocate money to positions, not players. This give you the most flexibility and you can change on the fly depending on how your auction is going. There are times that WR prices will start going up and up and up. This is when you adjust and move money from one position to another. It is much easier then altering your entire list of players with their prices.

Don't bid just to bid. Bid with a purpose. If you are trying to drive the price up on someone, you may get stuck with them, so be sure he fits into your plans or your entire auction strategy could be out the door because you were trying to stick another owner with a high priced player.

Most importantly, have fun. In fact, have more fun then you should, because that's what fantasy football is about. Having more fun then is allowed!


Todd Kleinheinz is the founder /commissioner of the auction-based SGFL (Sports Geeks Fantasy League). The SGFL is an intricate league with a salary cap, auction style draft, keepers and restricted free agents. If you have any questions, comments or ideas, he can be reached at Fbxpert@aol.com. Previously, Todd worked as a sports reporter for an NBC affiliate in Texas covering Texas A&M and Baylor University Sports, and in Sports Radio for KNBR and The Ticket 1050 in San Francisco.