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Attacking A Fantasy Auction With A RotoViz Mindset: Leaving An Expert Auction With Travis Kelce and 3 Top-10 Wide Receivers

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.

Early Nominations

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.

Tricky Decisions

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 “” the first team to go over $100. While that’s just a single example, I see similar outcomes year in and year out.

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.

Full Results

NominationPlayerPOSWINNING BIDWINNING BIDDERCumulative Spend
1Alvin KamaraRB46FF Today46
2Nick ChubbRB33RotoWire33
3Saquon BarkleyRB51Football Diehards51
4Christian McCaffreyRB49Big Guy Fantasy Sports49
5Dalvin CookRB46DavidGonos.com46
6Tyreek HillWR40RotoViz40
7Ezekiel ElliottRB45Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel45
8Michael ThomasWR41Footballguys @JeffHaseley41
9DeAndre HopkinsWR48DavidGonos.com94
10Todd GurleyRB37FF Today83
11James ConnerRB41Fantasy Alarm41
12Zach ErtzTE20Fantasy Sharks20
13George KittleTE26Football Diehards77
14JuJu Smith-SchusterWR41RotoViz81
15Odell BeckhamWR41DavidGonos.com135
16Davante AdamsWR47Fantasy Alarm88
17Le'Veon BellRB40RotoWire73
18Damien WilliamsRB26Footballguys @JeffHaseley67
19Melvin GordonRB21DavidGonos.com156
20Julio JonesWR47FF Today130
21Antonio BrownWR34Fantasy Sharks54
22David JohnsonRB42Big Guy Fantasy Sports91
23Leonard FournetteRB30Fantasy Sharks84
24Patrick MahomesQB21Footballguys @JeffHaseley88
25T.Y. HiltonWR37Football Diehards114
26Travis KelceTE33RotoViz114
27Mark IngramRB28The Huddle28
28A.J. GreenWR21Football Diehards135
29Stefon DiggsWR33RotoViz147
30Joe MixonRB34Football Diehards169
31Aaron RodgersQB12Fantasy Alarm100
32Julian EdelmanWR30RotoWire103
33Mike EvansWR33Fantasy Alarm133
34Aaron JonesRB26RotoWire129
35Carson WentzQB11Football Diehards180
36Kerryon JohnsonRB32Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel77
37Deshaun WatsonQB14FF Today144
38Baker MayfieldQB13Big Guy Fantasy Sports104
39Marlon MackRB26USA TODAY Sports26
40Adam ThielenWR30Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel107
41Andrew LuckQB13The Huddle41
42Keenan AllenWR34Big Guy Fantasy Sports138
43Phillip LindsayRB17Fantasy Sharks101
44Derrick HenryRB28Footballguys @JeffHaseley116
45Vance McDonaldTE11Fantasy Alarm144
46Brandin CooksWR24The Huddle65
47Josh JacobsRB26USA TODAY Sports52
48Corey DavisWR13Fantasy Sharks114
49James WhiteRB21Footballguys @JeffHaseley137
50Sony MichelRB13Fantasy Sharks127
51Amari CooperWR29RotoWire158
52Tyler LockettWR20Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel127
53Tarik CohenRB8RotoViz155
54Sterling ShepardWR10Fantasy Sharks137
55Chris GodwinWR27USA TODAY Sports79
56Calvin RidleyWR20Fantasy Sharks157
57Robert WoodsWR21Fantasy Sharks178
58Devonta FreemanRB19The Huddle84
59David MontgomeryRB32The Huddle116
60Evan EngramTE13Big Guy Fantasy Sports151
61Derrius GuiceRB5DavidGonos.com161
62Chris CarsonRB25USA TODAY Sports104
63Allen RobinsonWR16The Huddle132
64John BrownWR3DavidGonos.com164
65Hunter HenryTE9RotoWire167
66Jared CookTE10Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel137
67Kenyan DrakeRB13FF Today157
68Jordan HowardRB8USA TODAY Sports112
69Matt RyanQB8DavidGonos.com172
70O.J. HowardTE14FF Today171
71Eric EbronTE6The Huddle138
72Tyler BoydWR15Big Guy Fantasy Sports166
73Christian KirkWR11Footballguys @JeffHaseley148
74Miles SandersRB13RotoWire180
75Kenny GolladayWR18USA TODAY Sports130
76Darren WallerTE3The Huddle141
77Robby AndersonWR14Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel151
78Emmanuel SandersWR4Big Guy Fantasy Sports170
79Josh GordonWR3DavidGonos.com175
80Delanie WalkerTE3DavidGonos.com178
81Jack DoyleTE4Footballguys @JeffHaseley152
82Mike WilliamsWR14The Huddle155
83Jarvis LandryWR9Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel160
84Jaylen SamuelsRB7DavidGonos.com185
85Tevin ColemanRB15Fantasy Alarm159
86Trey BurtonTE2Fantasy Alarm161
87Rashaad PennyRB5DavidGonos.com190
88Adrian PetersonRB6The Huddle161
89Cooper KuppWR16Footballguys @JeffHaseley168
90Russell WilsonQB6Fantasy Sharks184
91Alshon JefferyWR10Footballguys @JeffHaseley178
92Peyton BarberRB6Fantasy Alarm167
93Kareem HuntRB7The Huddle168
94D.J. MooreWR24USA TODAY Sports154
95Latavius MurrayRB15Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel175
96Ronald JonesRB3Fantasy Alarm170
97Geronimo AllisonWR9USA TODAY Sports163
98Tom BradyQB3Big Guy Fantasy Sports173
99Larry FitzgeraldWR14FF Today185
100Cam NewtonQB4RotoWire184
101Dante PettisWR10The Huddle178
102N'Keal HarryWR2RotoViz157
103Austin EkelerRB11RotoViz168
104Malcolm BrownRB1FF Today186
105Lamar MillerRB9Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel184
106Darrell HendersonRB7USA TODAY Sports170
107Drew BreesQB5USA TODAY Sports175
108Jimmy GaroppoloQB1Fantasy Alarm171
109Keke CouteeWR8Footballguys @JeffHaseley186
110Josh AllenQB1Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel185
111LeSean McCoyRB3Fantasy Sharks187
112Michael GallupWR2Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel187
113Jameis WinstonQB3FF Today189
114Jared GoffQB4The Huddle182
115Curtis SamuelWR20Fantasy Alarm191
116Chris HerndonTE1FF Today190
117Marvin JonesWR5RotoWire189
118Lamar JacksonQB3RotoWire192
119Alexander MattisonRB3USA TODAY Sports178
120Tyrell WilliamsWR4The Huddle186
121Royce FreemanRB8Football Diehards188
122Anthony MillerWR4Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel191
123Marquez Valdes-ScantlingWR7The Huddle193
124Dion LewisRB3Fantasy Sharks190
125Courtland SuttonWR5Fantasy Sharks195
126Tony PollardRB3Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel194
127Jamison CrowderWR3Fantasy Alarm194
128Trey QuinnWR3DavidGonos.com193
129Will FullerWR6RotoViz174
130Justin JacksonRB4Footballguys @JeffHaseley190
131Golden TateWR4USA TODAY Sports182
132Robert FosterWR2The Huddle195
133Matt BreidaRB3RotoViz177
134Devin SingletaryRB2Big Guy Fantasy Sports175
135Devin FunchessWR4RotoViz181
136Dak PrescottQB2RotoViz183
137Sammy WatkinsWR3RotoViz186
138Carlos HydeRB5Big Guy Fantasy Sports180
139Donte MoncriefWR5USA TODAY Sports187
140KeeSean JohnsonWR1Football Diehards189
141Greg OlsenTE1RotoWire193
142Philip RiversQB3USA TODAY Sports190
143Marqise LeeWR1Fantasy Alarm195
144Austin HooperTE2Footballguys @JeffHaseley192
145Mark AndrewsTE1Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel195
146D.K. MetcalfWR1Fantasy Sharks196
147Trent TaylorWR1DavidGonos.com194
148David NjokuTE3RotoViz189
149Jerick McKinnonRB1Footballguys @JeffHaseley193
150Parris CampbellWR1FF Today191
151Justice HillRB2Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel197
152DaeSean HamiltonWR1RotoWire194
153Jordan ReedTE4USA TODAY Sports194
154Kalen BallageRB3Footballguys @JeffHaseley196
155Damien HarrisRB1RotoViz190
156Ben RoethlisbergerQB1Gridiron Experts - @ZachGreubel198
157Kirk CousinsQB1Fantasy Sharks197
158Dede WestbrookWR3RotoViz193
159Mike DavisRB1Big Guy Fantasy Sports181
160Kenny StillsWR1Footballguys @JeffHaseley197
161DeSean JacksonWR3Big Guy Fantasy Sports184
162Frank GoreRB1Football Diehards190
163Jimmy GrahamTE3USA TODAY Sports197
164Benny SnellRB1Fantasy Alarm196
165Nyheim HinesRB1Fantasy Sharks198
166Ito SmithRB1DavidGonos.com195
167Duke JohnsonRB1Big Guy Fantasy Sports185
168Chris ThompsonRB1Footballguys @JeffHaseley198
169Quincy EnunwaWR1Football Diehards191
170Darwin ThompsonRB1RotoWire195
171Phillip DorsettWR2Big Guy Fantasy Sports187
172Kyler MurrayQB3RotoViz196
173DeVante ParkerWR2DavidGonos.com197
174Albert WilsonWR2Football Diehards193
175James WashingtonWR2FF Today193
176Paul RichardsonWR1Football Diehards194
177Marquise GoodwinWR1RotoWire196
178Andy IsabellaWR1Fantasy Alarm197
179Mitchell TrubiskyQB1DavidGonos.com198
180Kyle RudolphTE1Big Guy Fantasy Sports188
181Maurice HarrisWR1FF Today194
182Rex BurkheadRB1Football Diehards195
183Darius JacksonRB1Fantasy Alarm198
184Giovani BernardRB1FF Today195
185Cole BeasleyWR1Football Diehards196
186Dexter WilliamsRB1RotoWire197
187Danny AmendolaWR1FF Today196
188Brian HillRB1Football Diehards197
189Miles BoykinWR1FF Today197
190T.J. HockensonTE1Football Diehards198
Image Credit: Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Travis Kelce.

  1. 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)
  2. Removing money from the pool and lowering the dollars that other owners would have to spend on WRs  (back)
  3. Despite it being a great price for Chubb, I didn’t feel comfortable with him being one of the anchors of my team.  (back)
  4. 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)

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