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The “Perfect” Auction Draft: Tactics and Player Targets for the Most Fun Format in Fantasy

You know that feeling when you finish a draft and can’t find any mistakes? Everything just falls perfectly in line with your plan and you wouldn’t change anything. Today we’ll be taking a look at one such perfect auction draft in a PPR league

As was the case in the most recent edition of the Perfect Draft series where we looked at Superflex, I will follow these rules for my “Perfect Draft”:

  • Since there’s no standardized average auction price, I’ll be using averages from FantasyPros, ESPN, and Yahoo.
  • The league is assumed to be 12 teams with a $200 auction budget.
  • The team format will be 1-QB, 2-RB, 3-WR, 1-TE, 1-Flex, 1-Kicker, 1-DST, and 6 bench spots.
  • There’s some expectation that top end players will exceed average auction cost while other players will be drafted below value.

So with all of that in mind, let’s kick this perfect draft off.

Some General Strategy

No two auction drafts are the same, but typically there are a couple of aggressive spenders and some timid drafters who will save until the end. I tend to try to be a mix of both. My goal is to attack the middle of tiers, but unlike in a traditional snake draft, the tiers aren’t necessarily defined in order. It’s all about catching the middle player nominated in a specific tier. To provide an example, we’ll lay out a scenario.

The top four RBs are Saquon Barkley, Ezekiel Elliott, Christian McCaffrey, and Alvin Kamara on most draft boards and should be priced in a similar range. For the purpose of this example, let’s assume the expected cost of a Tier 1 RB is 30% of budget ($60). It’s possible to find a value if you attack the middle.

  • If Barkley is nominated first, he’s likely to go at, or just above, his expected price.
  • Elliott, if nominated second, will likely be drafted around 30% as well, but with one bidder likely removed from the picture after drafting Barkley, his price could dip slightly.
  • The third auction, McCaffrey,  presents a situation where you’re now be drafting against nine other bidders, in most cases, because these two previous winners typically will reserve some budget for later in the draft which opens up the potential for a 2 to 3% dip in price.
  • Where the problem lies is at the last member of a tier, particularly when it’s a clear cut tier. Kamara, in this scenario, is less likely to come at a discount because the nine remaining bidders have one last chance to acquire a top-tier player which result in him exceeding the price of both Elliott and McCaffrey, even if the bidders would rank those two higher. 1

While these scenarios are different in every draft and difficult to quantify, it’s important to pay attention to drop-off points in drafts and attempting to avoid the last “obvious” player in a talent tier. This strategy goes along with Dave Caban’s auction strategy to bid early and often, but I tend to avoid a few more players than he would recommend if a tier change is approaching.

Nominations, and in particular when you nominate players you like, is critical in auction drafts. My general nomination strategy is to “waste” early nomination rounds on ancillary positions like kicker and defense. I’m not spending more than $1 on either of these spots and could acquire the “top player” in either position group because my league mates won’t spend the extra dollar on a bid. If I lose out on any of them, then I forced my opponents to spend money they didn’t want to spend on a player I was generally neutral on winning. If I win, great. I don’t have to think about these positions for the remainder of the auction.

My second goal with nominations is to get some money out of the pool with players who are good enough to warrant big bids, but I’m generally not targeting. For me, that’s the elite TEs – Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz, and George Kittle – or it’s the big name QBs, Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers. If any of the QBs go for more than 10% of budget, I consider it a win.

And lastly, with my bidding, I’m traditionally going to build in some variation of a “Stars and Scrubs” mold with the hopes that I can find players on the dollar menu who will greatly exceed their expected returns. With this being a PPR format, it will focus on players who should see a rise in their volume or efficiency.

The Perfect Auction Draft

$1 – Justin Tucker, K, Baltimore

I’m not spending more than 0.5% on a kicker unless it’s a joke at the end of a draft, and I don’t want to leave money on the table. 2 There’s no real analysis of this pick. He’s a kicker on a good-but-not-great offense who will get field goal opportunities.3

$65 – Alvin Kamara, RB, New Orleans

While my first nomination is going to be a bit of a throwaway, I’m hoping to get Kamara as the third RB in the Big 4 mentioned above. In a perfect scenario, the uncertainty about Elliott will be enough to dissuade someone from nominating him before Kamara which opens up a value potential. Kamara finished as the RB4 in PPR leagues and fourth in ReEP among RBs.

Somewhat to be expected, Kamara had the lowest ruEP of the top tier of RBs as he shared the backfield with Mark Ingram, but his reEP paired with his expected increase in volume could make up the 40-point gap in PPR scoring.

Alternate Option: $63 – Christian McCaffrey

In both ESPN and Yahoo leagues, McCaffrey has an average auction value below that of Kamara, which normally would make him my primary target. However, the potential rises of D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel would cut into the targets of McCaffrey and hinder his high-end projection. And with his finish as the RB1 in 2018, he’s more likely to be nominated first overall. Should Kamara be thrown out as the first nomination or his bidding gets too high, McCaffrey is a strong pivot option.

$1 – Baltimore DST

Another position that I’m only allocating 0.5% of budget. Baltimore’s defense is one of my top picks for Week 1 for a few reasons though. Following a Week 8 loss to Carolina, the Ravens didn’t allow more than 27 points in any game, including games against Kansas City, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta. And unlike those matchups, they start off the season with one of the worst offensive line units in Miami.

Alternate Option: $1 – Philadelphia DST

$37 – Mike Evans, WR, Tampa Bay

Evans continues to be one of my favorite targets among the top WRs. On ESPN and Yahoo, his price tag is around $35, which provides additional funds later in the draft as a near $20 discount from DeAndre Hopkins. Evans should be strong target with upside.

Alternate Option: $33 – Keenan Allen, WR, Los Angeles

$26 – Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit

My RB2 position isn’t necessarily a priority, but Johnson’s price tagged is fairly palatable at just 13% of budget. Johnson ranks 14th in the RotoViz Redraft RB Rankings and 32nd overall.

Alternate Option: $24 – Marlon Mack, Indianapolis

$21 – Robert Woods, WR, Los Angeles

Alternate Option: $21 – Brandin Cooks

With both Woods and Cooks, I’m trying to get a piece of a powerful offense that should focus on the passing game and is due for TD regression at the running back position. My preference is Woods, but production is unlikely to be a concern for either receiver.

$15 – Tyler Lockett, WR, Seattle

Lockett was one of the biggest reasons for Russell Wilson’s historic efficiency in 2018, which inevitably means that efficiency regression is on it’s way. But with that regression should come additional volume as Doug Baldwin retires.

Stefan Lako showed that Lockett could have an elite WR ceiling for the season and as a WR3, he completes the starting rotation with serious upside.

$6 – Christian Kirk, WR, Arizona

Getting the likely top WR in a Kliff Kingbury offense for less than 5% of budget would appear to be a recipe for success. Kirk is ranked as WR27 in the RotoViz Redraft ranks and appears poised for a potential breakout.

$8 – Miles Sanders, RB, Philadelphia

I can’t explain it much better than Shawn Siegele, who just made Sanders his No. 1 ZeroRB target.

The advanced stats raise some ugly questions about the rest of the big names in this rookie RB class, but Sanders’ resume impresses. He outscored the other trendy names in the RB Prospect Lab, and his combined production/athleticism profile gave him an intriguing top comp in the Box Score Scout. (Kerryon Johnson)

Sanders’ average auction cost is $5, but I’m willing to spend the extra 1.5% of budget to acquire a potential starter. As a bench player, he should prove to be a steal.

Alternate Option: $2 – Duke Johnson, RB, Houston

$3 – Latavius Murray, RB, New Orleans

The nomination timing for Murray will be key in acquiring him. If he’s nominated early on in drafts, he’ll easily exceed 5% of budget, but if he slips through until the later rounds when most teams have a max bid of $5 to $10, he’s a solid addition. He’ll fill the void left by Ingram and get red zone work. His average auction cost on both ESPN and Yahoo is under $3. 4

Alternate Option: $2 – Duke Johnson, RB, Houston

$5 – Will Fuller, WR, Houston

When both are healthy, the combination of Deshaun Watson and Fuller leads to WR1 production.

$5 – Marvin Jones, WR, Detroit

Jones continues to be on of my biggest targets in drafts because his volume has been largely overlooked and his draft cost isn’t where it should be.

$1 – Cole Beasley, WR, Buffalo

Typically, I like to avoid projected mediocre-to-bad offenses, particularly those with unreliable QB. But reports that Beasley has established himself as the “safety valve” for Josh Allen should at least make him worth $1, especially when considering his success in short yardage targets.

$1 – Trey Burton, TE, Chicago

Burton isn’t the flashiest of TE picks, but he produced in his first season with Chicago, finishing as the TE8 in PPR scoring.

$1 – Matt Breida, RB, San Francisco

Another RB listed in Shawn’s Zero RB target list. His average auction cost on ESPN is just over a dollar so he’d need to fall into the final few rounds to check in at this price. But as a member of an RB committee, there’s a strong chance that other drafters pass on him in favor of traditional handcuffs.

Alternate Option: $1 – Justin Jackson, RB, Los Angeles

Final Roster

QB: Jared Goff ($3)
RB: Alvin Kamara ($65)
RB: Kerryon Johnson ($26)
WR: Mike Evans ($37)
WR: Robert Woods ($21)
WR: Tyler Lockett ($15)
TE: Trey Burton ($1)
Flex: Christian Kirk ($6)
DST: Baltimore DST ($1)
K: Justin Tucker ($1)
Bench:  Will Fuller ($5)
Bench: Miles Sanders ($8)
Bench: Latavius Murray ($3)
Bench: Marvin Jones ($5)
Bench: Cole Beasley ($1)
Bench: Matt Breida ($1) 

The Perfect Draft Series

The Perfect Draft for Traditional, Non-PPR Leagues
The Perfect Draft for Half-PPR Fantasy Formats
The Perfect Draft for Superflex Leagues

Image Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Mike Evans.

  1. This process was best explained by Dave Caban in 2016. Avoid the end of tier shift.  (back)
  2. I always find it funny when a league mate has $10 left on his last pick which has to be a kicker and he throws him out for $1. Are you so ashamed of that position that you’d rather prolong the process rather than instantly win?  (back)
  3. The analysis will get better from here. I promise  (back)
  4. Murray has been a pick in all three of my previous Perfect drafts. At 1.5% of budget, he’s an ideal pick.  (back)

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