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A Simple Trick For Finding Value and Avoiding A Deadly Mistake in Every Auction Draft

In early August, I participated in a 12-team “expert” auction coordinated by the good folks at The Huddle of USA Today Sports. Given the ever-changing nature of the fantasy football landscape, the results of this auction hold less meaning today than they did at the time. I’ll be posting the results of the auction and breaking down my approach in a future post. However, as I’ve written about for a number of summers now, extrapolating the results of one auction to any other is a dangerous proposition.

Even leagues that share the exact same settings will see significant variability from auction to auction.  For the background that supports this idea, and pretty much everything you need to know in order to have a successful auction draft, check out some of the auction-related content I published in prior years.  I promise you, it’s just as relevant in 2019 as it was in 2017 and will be in 2025.

When You Leave an Expert Auction With Antonio Brown, DeAndre Hopkins, and Odell Beckham Jr.

Using Basic Economics to Approach Your Auction Draft: Supply, Demand, and Auctions

Using Auction Tiers for Last Minute Prep

The Ultimate Post on Auction Strategy

A simple Trick For Finding Value

I’ve participated in the Huddle’s expert auction for three years running. Each year, I find a major takeaway that makes me a stronger competitor in auctions. This year’s auction really drove home an intuitive tip that I’ve employed for some time now but have failed to highlight on the site. The best part about this tip is that it’s extremely easy to execute and there’s pretty much no downside.

Get involved in the early bidding for every player!

That’s it. That’s the tip.

Keep your full attention on the auction for the entire duration of the draft and be involved in the early bidding for every single player that isn’t a quarterback, DST, or kicker.1 Of course, there will come a point in the auction where players go for $4 or less. At this point, you can take a step back. But until that point comes or your budget is nearly kicked, which will hopefully be sooner than later, get involved in the bidding for every player.

Why? Because in every auction I’ve ever participated in, one or two players have been sold for nearly half of what every owner in the auction was expecting. I was able to take advantage of this in the Huddle auction and it provided my team with significant flexibility in the latter portions of the draft.

Here’s how things played out before Tarik Cohen was nominated at pick 58.

Pick Player Winning Bid
1 Kamara, Alvin NOS RB $46.00
2 Chubb, Nick CLE RB $33.00
3 Barkley, Saquon NYG RB $51.00
4 McCaffrey, Christian CAR RB $49.00
5 Cook, Dalvin MIN RB $46.00
7 Elliott, Ezekiel DAL RB $45.00
10 Gurley, Todd LAR RB $37.00
11 Conner, James PIT RB $41.00
18 Williams, Damien KCC RB $26.00
19 Gordon, Melvin LAC RB $21.00
22 Johnson, David ARI RB $42.00
23 Fournette, Leonard JAC RB $30.00
27 Ingram, Mark BAL RB $28.00
36 Jones, Aaron GBP RB $26.00
38 Johnson, Kerryon DET RB $32.00
42 Mack, Marlon IND RB $26.00
46 Lindsay, Phillip DEN RB $17.00
47 Henry, Derrick TEN RB $28.00
51 Jacobs, Josh OAK RB $26.00
53 White, James NEP RB $21.00
54 Michel, Sony NEP RB $13.00

The average selling price of the above players was $32 and the average price of the five picks directly before Cohen was $21. Let’s add FFPC ADP (from the week in which the auction took place) to the table and truncate it so that we can focus solely on the five RBs nominated before Cohen.

Pick Player Winning Bid FFPC ADP
46 Lindsay, Phillip DEN RB $17.00 46
47 Henry, Derrick TEN RB $28.00 37
51 Jacobs, Josh OAK RB $26.00 36
53 White, James NEP RB $21.00 50
54 Michel, Sony NEP RB $13.00 49

That’s an average ADP of 44. To be clear, auction pricing doesn’t always mirror ADP. In fact, in many cases, there will be radical differences between auction pricing and ADP. That’s exactly what we’re aiming to capitalize on here. James White was being selected four picks after Sony Michel at the time but sold for $8 more.

When the draft took place, Cohen was being drafted, on average, at pick 58 as the RB27. Michel was the RB25. As a result, one would have expected him to sell for somewhere between $13 and $28. With concerns about Michel’s health and opportunity in the Patriot’s offense, it was likely that his price was depressed and a real possibility that Cohen would sell for more.

Heading into the auction, Cohen wasn’t on my target list unless he’d come at a significant discount. He falls in a tier of RBs with wide ranges of outcomes and unfavorable historical hit rates, but this isn’t always factored into their pricing, be it auction dollars or ADP. Nonetheless, when bidding starting I threw out a $2 bid. The price increased to $4 and I threw out a $5 dollar bid. The price increased to $7 and again, I went a dollar above and placed a bid for $8.

At this point, I really began to consider the highest amount that I’d bid for Cohen. When would he no longer be a major discount? It turned out that I didn’t have to make this decision. My jaw hit the floor.

Cohen, who I believe could outscore White sold for $13 dollars less. This was incredible. Mark Ingram, a player I project with 20 fewer points than Cohen and falls 15 spots behind the speedy back in the RotoViz redraft rankings sold for $20 more!2

The takeaway here isn’t that I was able to win Cohen for $8. It’s that by simply being involved in the action early on, I was able to win him for a price that made him one of the single best values in the entire auction. I was able to draft a player that could potentially be used every week for less than half the cost of many of the players in the same tier.

While a discount of that magnitude won’t arise in every auction, you can make sure you don’t miss it when it does. All you have to do is stay focused and bid on every player while they’re at a significant discount. Every auction has head-scratchers and the teams able to capitalize on them, especially early in the auction, gain a significant advantage.

Avoiding A Deadly Mistake

While my theft of Cohen was exciting and drives home the thesis of this article, the above could have played out in horrible fashion. I see this happen a couple of times every year and have been the victim of it myself. In some cases, it essentially destroys teams.

What could have happened …

Cohen gets bid up to $7 dollars. I pause for a second to consider the ramifications of adding him to my team at that price. While I ponder this, another manager decides that they want Cohen badly. In an attempt to scare off other owners they enter and submit a bid of $20 for him. Directly after the system recognizes this action and before I am able to process the increase, I press the “+1” button and effectively raise his price to $21. The owner that raised his price is caught off guard and decides they don’t want him as badly as they thought.

In this universe, I’m now stuck with a player at a price I didn’t want to pay, and worst of all it’s entirely because of the “bad advice” I’d given myself. I should have just stayed on the sidelines!

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid this. Never use the “+1” or similar feature in your league’s software. Always enter your bids as the dollar value that you would like to raise the player’s price to. This might sound like the simplest advice in the world, but if you don’t take it you just might ruin your draft.

Image Credit: Daniel Bartel/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Tarik Cohen.

  1. This assumes that you are in a league for which roster construction does not necessitate rostering an elite passer. In most leagues, starting level QBs will end up going for a couple of bucks. Given the slim margins separating many of these players, spending more than a couple of dollars on the position is overkill.  (back)
  2. My projections could be way off, but the point is that the two should be priced in a much tighter window.  (back)

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