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. Nonetheless, let’s review my approach to this auction and hit upon some general strategy points.1
Expert auctions tend to be flatter than your typical auction. The elite players sell for prices much closer to the “good players” than in home leagues where the Saquon Barkley’s of the world can sell for astronomical prices.
To fully understand the key variables that will impact pricing and the core concepts underlying my auction philosophy check out the below. Alternatively, I just recorded a two-part auction series for RotoViz Radio.
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
Notes On the Auction
2019 will be the third year in which I draft in this league. As a result, I had a decent idea of how much my competitors were willing to spend and some information to work with. For example, it’s rare to see players sell for more than $45. Running backs like 2019 Kerryon Johnson normally sell for somewhere between $20 – $30 dollars. Receivers like 2019 Tyler Boyd sell for somewhere between $18 – $26. In general, RBs have been a little more expensive than WRs. The cool thing is that we actually play out the league every season. As a result, it’s become one of my favorites.
Each team has $200 auction dollars, scoring is PPR and starting rosters include 1QB, 2-3RB, 3-4WR, 1-2TE, 1K, 1 DST, and 16 roster spots.
MY Pre-Draft Goals
Before every auction, I write down a set of goals. There are a couple of items I always include:
- Be aggressive
- Make yourself uncomfortable
- Spend sooner rather than later
- Be willing to spend an extra three to four dollars on elite players, those extra dollars won’t be as valuable when all the good players have been taken
- Avoid being rigid
Also, I like to develop outlines for a variety of ways in which I can approach a particular auction. If the draft takes unexpected turns, I can have a plan in place and pivot off of my preferred approach as needed.
In this particular auction, I did want to try and assemble a RotoViz kind of team.
I was hoping that Christian McCaffrey or Barkley would be the first player nominated and that the auction would get off to a conservative start. If it did, I would try to acquire either player and then hope to get one elite WR, two very good WRs, and one good WR. In this league, a conservative start would be a selling price of around $42. If this didn’t happen, I’d focus on trying to purchase two elite WRs, two very good WRs, and one good WR.
Alvin Kamara was the first player nominated. His price quickly moved beyond $42 up to $46. I considered trying to make an early move – suspecting that Barkley and McCaffrey could sell for $5 or $6 dollars more, which would drive up RB prices2 – but I decided against it. If Kamara had sold for less, I may have been concerned that other owners were focusing on attacking the WRs. Alternatively, if he had gone for a few dollars more, this would have signaled that RB prices may be somewhat inflated this year.
Nick Chubb then sold for $33, a great price in retrospect,3 followed by Barkley at $51, McCaffrey at $49, and Dalvin Cook at $46. Given these prices, it seemed likely that I’d be able to get an elite WR for somewhere around six dollars less than the RBs. This six-dollar difference could allow me to start off the auction with two elite players.
Tyreek Hill was nominated next as the first WR. This worked out really nicely for me. Either the other managers were undecided as to whether or not Hill is a Tier 1 WR, which he is, or expected WR pricing to be lower. Whatever the reason, I had the opportunity to draft him for $40 and took it. It was possible that DeAndre Hopkins, Davante Adams, and Michael Thomas could sell for equal or fewer dollars. But even if they did, that wouldn’t be a major problem.
Ezekiel Elliot went for $45 with the next nomination and was followed by Michael Thomas at $41. That was a great price, but seeing the low valuation for Thomas provided some signal that JuJu Smith-Schuster, my WR1, could sell for a major discount. Knowing the other managers in the league, I was pretty confident that I was easily JuJu’s most ardent supporter.
DeAndre Hopkins was nominated after Thomas and sold for $48. As I was still hopeful that I could get one of Smith-Schuster, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, or Adams on the cheap, I passed on Hopkins. Given that Hill cost me just $40 dollars, I’d be able to absorb a $50 price tag if needed.
Again, things worked in my favor. Smith-Schuster was the next WR nominated and I got him for $41. That was a very easy decision.
Before drafting my third player I was faced with two very difficult decisions.
Damien Williams, nomination 18, sold for just $26 –half the price of Cook. This was an exceptional discount, and I’m higher than most on his 2019 outlook. Ultimately, I decided against going after him. While it was a fantastic discount, that didn’t mean it was the right decision. I like Williams but I do have some reservations. There will be a number of receivers going for similar prices with significantly fewer question marks.
The next nomination was Melvin Gordon who sold for just $21. It was really tempting, but it was still early on in the auction. As a drafter in an auction, you have so much flexibility that there’s no need to feel compelled to chase value, and especially not when it comes with risk that can be avoided. Yes, if Gordon managed to play 12 or more games this would be an amazing deal. However, I was confident that I could build a team that didn’t need a situation like this to come to fruition.
Travis Kelce was the 26th nomination and sold for $33. Given my official projections from the Projection Machine as well as his outlook per the Range of Outcomes App, he’s analogous to a Tier 2 WR. Prior to Kelce being nominated, T.Y. Hilton sold for $37 and Antonio Brown $34. While a healthy and focused Brown would likely have a stronger floor and ceiling, I still viewed Kelce’s price as reasonable.
George Kittle and Zach Ertz were nominated in the first 13 picks and sold for $26 and $20, respectively. This didn’t bother me, as there’s a substantial difference between Kelce and the rest of the Big 3. Historically, I’ve never paid up for a tight end and have opted not to chase the lineup advantage of owning a Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. Here, it was likely that I’d be able to draft Kelce and add another Tier-2 WR, while still having enough room in my budget to round out my receiving corps with a Calvin Ridley or Tyler Boyd.4
After the purchase of Kelce, I owned Hill ($40), Smith-Schuster ($41), and Kelce ($33) with $86 left in my budget. Only a single team had spent more than me. It owned Cook ($46), Hopkins ($48) and Beckham ($41) with a remaining budget of $65.
Rounding Out The Roster
Mark Ingram sold for $28, directly after my purchase of Kelce, and was followed by A.J. Green who sold for $21 at nomination 28.
Stefon Diggs was nominated with pick 29. At this point, there were three WRs left that I was really interested in — Diggs, Mike Evans, and Keenan Allen. I decided to go after Diggs aggressively. It’s hard to predict when odd sequences of nominations will occur, so it was possible that it could be 30 or so picks before Evans or Allen were nominated. If this happened they’d probably sell for a price similar to that of a player like Ridley. I wanted to leave the possibility of lucking my way into owning two of the three options. I now had $53 left to work with.
Evans was nominated two picks later and sold for $33. Allen was nominated as the 42nd pick and sold for $34. I had to pass on both as they were too expensive, and I didn’t have enough information to estimate the prices that my Zero-RB targets would sell for.
As I wrote about last week, the fantasy gods blessed me with a stroke of luck at nomination 53 and thanks to a simple trick was able to win Tarik Cohen for just $8. This left me with a budget of $45.
A Pretty Big Mistake
Ridley was nominated at pick 56. He sold for just $20. If I purchased him, I’d own 6 players totaling $175 leaving me with $25 to spread over 10 players. This would have been tight but doable. Tyler Boyd was nominated 16 picks later at 72 and sold for just $15. This was a fair price and would have been manageable. However, I got greedy and wanted to test the waters hoping I’d be able to get D.J. Moore for less. If that didn’t become an option, I could fall back on Will Fuller.
Moore wasn’t nominated until pick 94. He ended up selling for $24 which removed me from being able to consider him. This was okay because Fuller was still available. While I do worry about his health, I can’t help but be enamored with his upside. When DeShaun Watson plays Fuller is fantastic.
This is where I made a mistake. In my mind, I was penciling Fuller into my roster at somewhere around $12 to $15 dollars. Normally, I wouldn’t recommend nominating players that you’re interested in. However, at this point in the auction, I was pretty committed to adding Fuller and knowing exactly what price he would go for would have been extremely useful. Truthfully, I probably should have purchased Cooper Kupp for $16 at nomination 89. Doing so would have left me room to add an RB like Austin Ekeler, the only other integral piece of my team.
Fuller wasn’t nominated until pick 129, and I won him for just $6. In one respect, this was awesome for me. I got a player that I wanted for a screaming discount. But at this point in the auction, these saved dollars were useless as all of the good players had been drafted. These savings only allowed me to sink an extra dollar or two into players like Dede Westbrook and Devin Funchess. I wasn’t in love with the Funchess pick at the time and now it’s really eating at me. I would have been much better off being able to sink those savings into someone like Curtis Samuel, Royce Freeman, or Larry Fitzgerald.
Reflections and Takeaways
While I was disappointed with how the back half of the auction played out, I left it with a really strong team overall. In addition to owning the clear cut TE1, I also own three of the top-10 WRs according to our redraft rankings — Smith-Schuster (2), Hill (7), and Diggs (9). I spent just $23 on RB and managed to procure three of the players on Shawn Siegele’s Zero RB Countdown. At QB, I have the upside of Kyler Murray combined with Dak Prescott. The Range of Outcomes App is high on the Cowboys signal caller.
As I always find with auctions, the highlights of this draft came when I was aggressive. Spending the majority of my money early allowed it to go toward players that were scarce resources. The weakest parts of this draft occurred when I let my aggression go and became passive or greedy. While I do like this team, it could have been stronger by consolidating the money spent on my lower-level WRs and second TE into a stronger fourth WR.
Remember, make yourself uncomfortable. You’re better off spending the majority of your money early than spending it late. For example, “USA Today” didn’t cross the $100 mark until pick 62. Despite having a surplus of money available in the latter portions of the draft, the back end of their roster isn’t strikingly stronger than “DavidGonos.com” the first team to go over $100. While that’s just a single example, I see similar outcomes year in and year out.
|USA TODAY Sports||DavidGonos.com|
|Nomination||Player||POS||WINNING BID||Cumulative Spend||Nomination||Player||POS||WINNING BID||Cumulative Spend|
|39||Marlon Mack||RB||26||26||5||Dalvin Cook||RB||46||46|
|47||Josh Jacobs||RB||26||52||9||DeAndre Hopkins||WR||48||94|
|55||Chris Godwin||WR||27||79||15||Odell Beckham||WR||41||135|
|62||Chris Carson||RB||25||104||19||Melvin Gordon||RB||21||156|
|68||Jordan Howard||RB||8||112||61||Derrius Guice||RB||5||161|
|75||Kenny Golladay||WR||18||130||64||John Brown||WR||3||164|
|94||D.J. Moore||WR||24||154||69||Matt Ryan||QB||8||172|
|97||Geronimo Allison||WR||9||163||79||Josh Gordon||WR||3||175|
|106||Darrell Henderson||RB||7||170||80||Delanie Walker||TE||3||178|
|107||Drew Brees||QB||5||175||84||Jaylen Samuels||RB||7||185|
|119||Alexander Mattison||RB||3||178||87||Rashaad Penny||RB||5||190|
|131||Golden Tate||WR||4||182||128||Trey Quinn||WR||3||193|
|139||Donte Moncrief||WR||5||187||147||Trent Taylor||WR||1||194|
|142||Philip Rivers||QB||3||190||166||Ito Smith||RB||1||195|
|153||Jordan Reed||TE||4||194||173||DeVante Parker||WR||2||197|
|163||Jimmy Graham||TE||3||197||179||Mitchell Trubisky||QB||1||198|
For a look at a “Perfect” auction draft, make sure to check out the auction edition of Matt Wispe’s Perfect Draft series.
|Nomination||Player||POS||WINNING BID||WINNING BIDDER||Cumulative Spend|
|1||Alvin Kamara||RB||46||FF Today||46|
|3||Saquon Barkley||RB||51||Football Diehards||51|
|4||Christian McCaffrey||RB||49||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||49|
|7||Ezekiel Elliott||RB||45||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||45|
|8||Michael Thomas||WR||41||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||41|
|10||Todd Gurley||RB||37||FF Today||83|
|11||James Conner||RB||41||Fantasy Alarm||41|
|12||Zach Ertz||TE||20||Fantasy Sharks||20|
|13||George Kittle||TE||26||Football Diehards||77|
|16||Davante Adams||WR||47||Fantasy Alarm||88|
|18||Damien Williams||RB||26||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||67|
|20||Julio Jones||WR||47||FF Today||130|
|21||Antonio Brown||WR||34||Fantasy Sharks||54|
|22||David Johnson||RB||42||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||91|
|23||Leonard Fournette||RB||30||Fantasy Sharks||84|
|24||Patrick Mahomes||QB||21||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||88|
|25||T.Y. Hilton||WR||37||Football Diehards||114|
|27||Mark Ingram||RB||28||The Huddle||28|
|28||A.J. Green||WR||21||Football Diehards||135|
|30||Joe Mixon||RB||34||Football Diehards||169|
|31||Aaron Rodgers||QB||12||Fantasy Alarm||100|
|33||Mike Evans||WR||33||Fantasy Alarm||133|
|35||Carson Wentz||QB||11||Football Diehards||180|
|36||Kerryon Johnson||RB||32||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||77|
|37||Deshaun Watson||QB||14||FF Today||144|
|38||Baker Mayfield||QB||13||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||104|
|39||Marlon Mack||RB||26||USA TODAY Sports||26|
|40||Adam Thielen||WR||30||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||107|
|41||Andrew Luck||QB||13||The Huddle||41|
|42||Keenan Allen||WR||34||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||138|
|43||Phillip Lindsay||RB||17||Fantasy Sharks||101|
|44||Derrick Henry||RB||28||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||116|
|45||Vance McDonald||TE||11||Fantasy Alarm||144|
|46||Brandin Cooks||WR||24||The Huddle||65|
|47||Josh Jacobs||RB||26||USA TODAY Sports||52|
|48||Corey Davis||WR||13||Fantasy Sharks||114|
|49||James White||RB||21||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||137|
|50||Sony Michel||RB||13||Fantasy Sharks||127|
|52||Tyler Lockett||WR||20||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||127|
|54||Sterling Shepard||WR||10||Fantasy Sharks||137|
|55||Chris Godwin||WR||27||USA TODAY Sports||79|
|56||Calvin Ridley||WR||20||Fantasy Sharks||157|
|57||Robert Woods||WR||21||Fantasy Sharks||178|
|58||Devonta Freeman||RB||19||The Huddle||84|
|59||David Montgomery||RB||32||The Huddle||116|
|60||Evan Engram||TE||13||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||151|
|62||Chris Carson||RB||25||USA TODAY Sports||104|
|63||Allen Robinson||WR||16||The Huddle||132|
|66||Jared Cook||TE||10||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||137|
|67||Kenyan Drake||RB||13||FF Today||157|
|68||Jordan Howard||RB||8||USA TODAY Sports||112|
|70||O.J. Howard||TE||14||FF Today||171|
|71||Eric Ebron||TE||6||The Huddle||138|
|72||Tyler Boyd||WR||15||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||166|
|73||Christian Kirk||WR||11||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||148|
|75||Kenny Golladay||WR||18||USA TODAY Sports||130|
|76||Darren Waller||TE||3||The Huddle||141|
|77||Robby Anderson||WR||14||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||151|
|78||Emmanuel Sanders||WR||4||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||170|
|81||Jack Doyle||TE||4||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||152|
|82||Mike Williams||WR||14||The Huddle||155|
|83||Jarvis Landry||WR||9||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||160|
|85||Tevin Coleman||RB||15||Fantasy Alarm||159|
|86||Trey Burton||TE||2||Fantasy Alarm||161|
|88||Adrian Peterson||RB||6||The Huddle||161|
|89||Cooper Kupp||WR||16||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||168|
|90||Russell Wilson||QB||6||Fantasy Sharks||184|
|91||Alshon Jeffery||WR||10||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||178|
|92||Peyton Barber||RB||6||Fantasy Alarm||167|
|93||Kareem Hunt||RB||7||The Huddle||168|
|94||D.J. Moore||WR||24||USA TODAY Sports||154|
|95||Latavius Murray||RB||15||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||175|
|96||Ronald Jones||RB||3||Fantasy Alarm||170|
|97||Geronimo Allison||WR||9||USA TODAY Sports||163|
|98||Tom Brady||QB||3||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||173|
|99||Larry Fitzgerald||WR||14||FF Today||185|
|101||Dante Pettis||WR||10||The Huddle||178|
|104||Malcolm Brown||RB||1||FF Today||186|
|105||Lamar Miller||RB||9||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||184|
|106||Darrell Henderson||RB||7||USA TODAY Sports||170|
|107||Drew Brees||QB||5||USA TODAY Sports||175|
|108||Jimmy Garoppolo||QB||1||Fantasy Alarm||171|
|109||Keke Coutee||WR||8||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||186|
|110||Josh Allen||QB||1||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||185|
|111||LeSean McCoy||RB||3||Fantasy Sharks||187|
|112||Michael Gallup||WR||2||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||187|
|113||Jameis Winston||QB||3||FF Today||189|
|114||Jared Goff||QB||4||The Huddle||182|
|115||Curtis Samuel||WR||20||Fantasy Alarm||191|
|116||Chris Herndon||TE||1||FF Today||190|
|119||Alexander Mattison||RB||3||USA TODAY Sports||178|
|120||Tyrell Williams||WR||4||The Huddle||186|
|121||Royce Freeman||RB||8||Football Diehards||188|
|122||Anthony Miller||WR||4||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||191|
|123||Marquez Valdes-Scantling||WR||7||The Huddle||193|
|124||Dion Lewis||RB||3||Fantasy Sharks||190|
|125||Courtland Sutton||WR||5||Fantasy Sharks||195|
|126||Tony Pollard||RB||3||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||194|
|127||Jamison Crowder||WR||3||Fantasy Alarm||194|
|130||Justin Jackson||RB||4||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||190|
|131||Golden Tate||WR||4||USA TODAY Sports||182|
|132||Robert Foster||WR||2||The Huddle||195|
|134||Devin Singletary||RB||2||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||175|
|138||Carlos Hyde||RB||5||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||180|
|139||Donte Moncrief||WR||5||USA TODAY Sports||187|
|140||KeeSean Johnson||WR||1||Football Diehards||189|
|142||Philip Rivers||QB||3||USA TODAY Sports||190|
|143||Marqise Lee||WR||1||Fantasy Alarm||195|
|144||Austin Hooper||TE||2||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||192|
|145||Mark Andrews||TE||1||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||195|
|146||D.K. Metcalf||WR||1||Fantasy Sharks||196|
|149||Jerick McKinnon||RB||1||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||193|
|150||Parris Campbell||WR||1||FF Today||191|
|151||Justice Hill||RB||2||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||197|
|153||Jordan Reed||TE||4||USA TODAY Sports||194|
|154||Kalen Ballage||RB||3||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||196|
|156||Ben Roethlisberger||QB||1||Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel||198|
|157||Kirk Cousins||QB||1||Fantasy Sharks||197|
|159||Mike Davis||RB||1||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||181|
|160||Kenny Stills||WR||1||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||197|
|161||DeSean Jackson||WR||3||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||184|
|162||Frank Gore||RB||1||Football Diehards||190|
|163||Jimmy Graham||TE||3||USA TODAY Sports||197|
|164||Benny Snell||RB||1||Fantasy Alarm||196|
|165||Nyheim Hines||RB||1||Fantasy Sharks||198|
|167||Duke Johnson||RB||1||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||185|
|168||Chris Thompson||RB||1||Footballguys @JeffHaseley||198|
|169||Quincy Enunwa||WR||1||Football Diehards||191|
|171||Phillip Dorsett||WR||2||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||187|
|174||Albert Wilson||WR||2||Football Diehards||193|
|175||James Washington||WR||2||FF Today||193|
|176||Paul Richardson||WR||1||Football Diehards||194|
|178||Andy Isabella||WR||1||Fantasy Alarm||197|
|180||Kyle Rudolph||TE||1||Big Guy Fantasy Sports||188|
|181||Maurice Harris||WR||1||FF Today||194|
|182||Rex Burkhead||RB||1||Football Diehards||195|
|183||Darius Jackson||RB||1||Fantasy Alarm||198|
|184||Giovani Bernard||RB||1||FF Today||195|
|185||Cole Beasley||WR||1||Football Diehards||196|
|187||Danny Amendola||WR||1||FF Today||196|
|188||Brian Hill||RB||1||Football Diehards||197|
|189||Miles Boykin||WR||1||FF Today||197|
|190||T.J. Hockenson||TE||1||Football Diehards||198|
Image Credit: Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Travis Kelce.
- Before we get into the specifics, I am obligated to remind you that every auction is unique. No two will play out in the same way. League settings, roster requirements, auction participants, nomination order, and a variety of other factors will greatly impact pricing. As a result, do not try and extrapolate the prices that players sold for in this auction to your own. Even using percentages is a dangerous game — unless your league uses the same scoring system and has identical roster settings this will likely lead you astray. Truthfully, even if your league does employ the exact same scoring, roster requirements and other considerations pricing will likely be vastly different. (back)
- Removing money from the pool and lowering the dollars that other owners would have to spend on WRs (back)
- Despite it being a great price for Chubb, I didn’t feel comfortable with him being one of the anchors of my team. (back)
- Heading into the draft, I was expecting a premium to be placed on Kelce and thought that a Tier 1 WR valuation was possible. (back)