Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Why snake when you can auction?

The most popular fantasy draft is the traditional snake format where owners take turns picking players. The order is typically random. This means that if you want A.P. on your team you better get lucky and land the number one pick. In any reasonable league there is no chance that you will be able to have A.P., Fitz, and Brees on the same team this year. The best thing about an auction draft is the freedom it gives you to form your team the way you want it. It’s also a heck of a lot more compelling. The most exciting part of a snake draft is hearing all the moans and groans of other owners as you pick their sleepers. In an auction draft there are less moans and groans but there is excitement about every single player drafted. Bidding wars can be epic. Just think, you and “Steven” may bid up Kurt Warner to $26. You go back and forth, should I go up to $27 or let him go? Well if Kurt gets injured in week 3 this year you are going to feel darn good about the one you let get away. Conversely, if Warner ends up being the #1 QB next year you’re going to feel pretty stupid about saving that dollar. Trust me, that dollar will haunt you. But the point is the decision is up to you, not the guy drafting 4 spots ahead of you.

For those of you new to fantasy auctions let me break down how it works. If you understand how they work please feel free to skip this section. There are many sites where you can participate in an auction draft. The one I use has a major tv network that starts with E and ends in N. I am going to assume a 10 team format that uses standard scoring and positions, but you can use any format that you would in a regular snake draft league. The object is to build the best roster possible using only a $200 budget. In this format you must fill a 16 player roster where you start 1 QB, 2 RB’s, 2 WR’s, 1 RB/WR, 1 TE, 1 DEF, 1 K and have 7 bench slots. One owner at a time nominates a player to go on the block. The 30 second clock and the fun begins. There is no limit on how much you can spend on any player except that you have to spend at least $1 for every roster spot. That means if you have 2 bench spots left to fill and $6 left in the budget your maximum bid would be $5 since you have to save $1 for your last spot. The computer keeps track of the max bids and also lets you know the average amount you have left for each spot. The bottom line is that whoever puts in the high bid on a player earns his services, is drafted, and the amount you bid comes out of your budget. The next owner puts a player on the block and the cycle continues until all the owners have a full roster.

Let’s talk some strategy. I told you earlier that you could have A.P., Fitz, and Brees all on your team, but this may not be the smartest thing to do. You pick up A.P. for $65, Fitz for $42, and Brees for $33. You only have $60 left for the other 13 players on your roster. If you are all about the sleepers this isn’t a bad strategy to use since you can find cheap productive guys to fill out your roster. This strategy is typically referred to as “studs and duds”. It has its obvious advantages. You have A.P., Fitz, and Brees, who could each be #1 at their position, all on your team. The problem is that you will not be able to draft much depth because you simply won’t have the money to draft any other “good” players. If you suffer injuries, as every team does, you may not be able to recover. If you are experienced in fantasy football and have done your homework on which cheap players to target then this is the strategy for you. Most of us don’t have the time it takes to do the research necessary to be successful with this strategy.

Every player has a pre-draft value assigned to them which you can change before the draft begins. For example A.P. has the highest at $61. A strategy that I find effective is drafting on value. This strategy takes some work but not nearly as much as the studs and duds method. I recommend going in and setting your own values. It is my belief that A.P. is by far the best fantasy player this year. I actually give him a value of $65. On the other hand T.O. has a set value of $20. I don’t think he is worth that much (which is a topic I won’t get into today) so I rate him at about $16. Once you have your values set you are ready to draft. What you are looking for are players who are undervalued. Honestly, you don’t even need to look at their name. The only thing that matters is your dollar rating for that player. If you can get someone at .80 on the dollar, go out and do it. If you are a new owner, this is a great way to get your feet wet and puts you into position to win your league. This method should force you to avoid overpaying for players and give you quality depth.

There are hundreds of other strategies you can employ for your auction draft and they all can be effective. The hardest part of any draft is knowing when to abandon your game plan. If things just aren’t going your way, just go to your back-up plan. Yes, you need to have a back-up plan. If you wanted Tom Brady but some jerk just won’t stop bidding, he’s up to $46, and you’ve only got $80 left it may be time to rethink things. Come on, you could get a Warner/Boldin combo for the same $40. The point is you need to have a plan B and C.

I use the Juiced Penguins strategy. What I do is slot out a dollar amount to each roster spot. I also have 2 or more players that “should” fall under that amount at each slot. Let me break out my very early chart.

QB- $10 – I am looking for one of Roethlisburger, Cutler, or Cassel.
RB1- $70 – I love me some A.P.. If he goes over $70 I will settle on Forte or MJD and spend less than $60 on one of them. That $10+ goes to the bench.
RB2- $30 – Brown, Portis, or Barber. Typically you can grab Brown for less than $25.
WR1- $25 – Jennings, Wayne, or White.
WR2- $20 – Bowe, Colston, Roy E. Williams.
RB/WR - $10 – There are a ton of guys here that I like. I am looking for best value here. This is the point where, hopefully, other owners are running out of money and you can find value.
TE - $1 – I’m not getting Gonzalez or Whitten so I’m only spending a dollar here.
DEF - $1 – Pick your favorite, but don’t spend over $1.
K – $1 – I only spend the dollar because I have to.

If things go really poorly I will have spent $168. I haven’t seen a draft this year where I spent the max on every player. Typically I have $45 or more to spend on the bench. I have some deep sleepers that I am going to save for my positional breakdowns that will fill up my bench for very little money but I like guys like L. Evans, S. Moss, D. Sprolles, Bradshaw, and Benson for under $10 that are upper end type bench players with upside. Just for fun let’s look how a team employing this strategy could turn out.

QB- Cutler $10, Gerrard $4
RB- A.P. $65, Brown $26, Sproles $12, Benson $9, Taylor $6, Mendenhall $3
WR- Jennings $25, Bowe $20, S. Moss $8, Hester $5, Lloyd $1
TE- $1 Miller
DEF- $1 Patriots
K- $1 Gould

Looks like a contender to me and I have $3 left over. On the site I mentioned earlier you can actually improve your drafting skills using their mock auction draft. This program allows you to draft a team but there is no actual league. It’s a great way to get a feel for how the trends work and to try out different strategies. I actually drafted this exact team yesterday. Too bad it’s not in a real league because it looks like a winner. One last piece of advice before I sign off, never make trades while intoxicated.

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