Auctions can be a little daunting for the uninitiated. If unprepared, you can feel like the runt of the litter jostling with the big boys for whatever table scraps you can get your paws on.
Fortunately, we’re here to provide you with a list of fantasy football auction tips to help you prepare for your big day.
Tip #1: Get league-specific rankings
Whether in a draft or auction, the first step you need to take is to gather player rankings that are best suited for your particular league’s scoring system. It doesn’t make sense to study quarterback-heavy rankings if your league de-emphasizes passing statistics. Why look at points-per-reception rankings if your league does non-PPR scoring? Know what your league’s scoring rules are and prepare accordingly.
Tip #2: Organize player rankings into tiers
After compiling player rankings, make sure you break down those players into tiers. What are tiers? If not semantically clear, they are essentially groups of players expected to score similarly. How do you organize fantasy football ranking tiers? Well, after you’ve ranked your players, go through each position and figure out where the production level drops off significantly. Draw a line between those two players and continue down the list. Come auction day, try to snag a player from the top tier at each position. If there is a run of players at a position, don’t get caught taking a player from the next tier in immediate succession. You’ll lose significant value.
Tip #3: Set “ideal” and “maximum” auction values
Take your rankings — preferably organized in tiers — and assign two dollar values to each player. In one column, assign what your “ideal” value for that player would be. This should be a value that is a fair assessment of his value in comparison to other players at his position. Then, in the next column, assign a “maximum” value to a player. This should be the absolute maximum dollar value you would bid on each player. Do not exceed this value no matter how heated the bidding is or how needy you might be.
Tip #4: Study your league’s auction history
Get your hands on past auction results if you’re in a league that has been in operation for more than a year or two. Look at the trends. Which positions were taken first? How high did bidding go on premium players? When were quarterbacks auctioned? How about tight ends, kickers and defenses? How many late steals were there? Knowing this information can help you plan your strategy.
Tip #5: Gather intel on fellow owners
Get to know your fellow owners and how their minds work, assuming you’re in a league with friends and peers. Talk about past auction experiences. Ask their opinion of certain players — and they will always answer because every fantasy owner has a bit of an ego when it comes to scouting players. Seek their opinion on strategy. Gauge them in every way imaginable. Some owners might throw up smoke screens, but more often than not — especially over some beers — they will divulge everything you need to know about them and their plan of attack.
Tip #6: Practice the art of smoke screens
Never let on to your true feelings about players or strategies. Always play coy and divulge just enough truth to a conversation with fellow owners so that they know you’re not lying or throwing up smoke screens. You want them to trust you and respect your opinion while never truly guessing your intentions.
Tip #7: Do mock auctions
“A mock a day keeps the mocking away,” as I always say. It’s a play on words of the old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Essentially, if you want to avoid getting mocked for picking bad players or taking players way too early or for way too much money, run through a few mock auctions. Make it a regular part of your daily or weekly routines. It will give you a feel for the value that other fantasy owners place on players you might be interested in.
Tip #8: Practice “what if” scenarios for Plan B
Any seasoned fantasy owner will tell you that things never go the way you envisioned at a draft or auction. You need to “expect the unexpected,” as they say. Prepare yourself for an auction day shift in strategy by practicing “what if” scenarios. What if I miss out on the Top 5 running backs on my list? If a quarterback becomes available at a great discounted value, what do I do? What happens if this player slides deep into the auction? The more scenarios you run through, the better prepared you will be for the unexpected on auction day.
Tip #9: Bring necessary materials to auction
Sounds simple, right? You’d be surprised at how many owners ask to bum materials like magazines, cheat sheets, injury reports or whatnot before the auction begins. Have everything kept nicely together in a folder or binder. If you have online materials, make sure you print them out or have them saved in your phone or laptop’s browser tabs.
Tip #10: Know all 32 NFL depth charts prior to the draft
No, I’m not suggesting that you memorize all 32 NFL depth charts. But at the very least, you should print them out and bring them with you to the auction. You don’t want to accidentally bid on someone who lost his job or is fighting for the third running back spot on a bad team.
Tip #11: Bring a list of targeted players
You’ll have rankings with you on auction day, obviously. But either make a separate list, or highlight players in your rankings of potential targets. The reason you want to do this is because it’s easy to lose sight of players you are interested in while the auction is unfolding. This particularly comes in handy for guys you intend to steal late in the auction for bargain prices. You’d be surprised how many times I hear owners say, “Oh, man, I can’t believe he was still out there!” They completely forget players who offer great value at cheap prices.
Tip #12: Bring a list of sleepers
Nobody likes a slowpoke who frantically flips through his magazine late in a draft or auction while looking for a sleeper. It bogs down the draft particularly at a time when owners are getting restless and ready to leave. Scout your sleepers well in advance and make a list of them for later reference. It’ll keep the auction running smoothly.
Tip #13: Pay attention to the hype train — and use it against other owners
The hype train is a runaway locomotive that picks up steam while feeding off intriguing storylines in training camp and during the preseason. The hype train is rarely accurate and usually derails or arrives at the station in underwhelming fashion. Typically, the hype train features rookies or players who have switched teams. For a 2019 example, the hype train is building speed off the Cleveland Browns. Use this hype to build up expectations of your fellow owners and try to get them to overbid (or overdraft) those players aboard the hype train.
Tip #14: Don’t be the auctioneer
If you are running a live auction and are the commissioner of the league, find a neutral person without ownership in your league who will volunteer to be the auctioneer. You don’t want to do it. You’ve got too much on your plate. You lose the opportunity to prepare for your next acquisition every second you’re babbling, “I’ve got twenty-two dollars over here … do I hear twenty-three? Twenty-three is the new high bid. Anybody at twenty-four? Twenty-five going once … twice …”
Tip #15: Make sure everyone is present
Aside from my own selfish desires to have a fun fantasy auction, there are practical reasons to ensure everyone is present at a fantasy football auction as well. If you have owners drafting via phone call, you’re opening the door for poor cell connections, miscommunication and double bids. I’ve been in these before and the auctioneer has to keep asking, “I’m sorry, who was that bid from?” Avoid the hassle … make everyone show up.
Tip #16: Don’t rush the auction!
When you’re participating in a live fantasy football draft or auction, make sure everybody clears their schedules. There should not be anything else planned for that day. No date night with the wife, no two o’clock tee time at the country club, no child’s birthday party with Spanky the Clown. If some owner in your league complains that a draft or auction is taking too long, tell him to buzz off. From a practical standpoint, after a player is sold in your auction, allow at least a good minute for owners to scratch off the player, adjust their boards, their auction values, etc. A fantasy football draft/auction should be a marathon, not a sprint. If you can’t handle it, go join a boring, impersonal online league. It’s the most important day of the fantasy calendar … act like it.
Tip #17: Take break(s) to let the auction breathe
Sometimes it is necessary to take breaks during a live draft or auction for multiple reasons. First, maybe you want to give owners a bathroom break or get a bite to eat without missing what is going on. Second, it gives owners the chance to catch their breath and recalibrate their strategies. Sure, some of you may be thinking, “why do I want to give other owners the chance to do that? I can do it on the fly!” Fine, if you want to be Stalinistic about it, whatever. Personally, I want everybody to catch up so I can beat them on a level playing field.
Tip #18: Keep the commentary to a minimum
Every league has that one know-it-all smart ass — some have two or more. You know the kind I’m talking about: the Mel Kiper wannabes who have an opinion about every player selected. Whatever is said is usually snarky and uneducated, spewed for the sole purpose of bringing other owners down, trying to give them buyer’s remorse. Aside from wanting to punch them in the nose, this kind of nonsense has a way of slowing down the pace of the draft/auction and sometimes even causing confusion in the middle of a bidding war.
Tip #19: Wait until at least the third preseason game before holding auction
When is the best time to hold a fantasy football draft or auction? After the third preseason game. The reason is simple: the third preseason game serves as a team’s “dress rehearsal” for the regular season, during which the starters will get the most playing time they will see all preseason. Most starters will play into the beginning of the third quarter. Rarely do starters see much action in the fourth preseason game. There is little more frustrating in the world of fantasy football than drafting a player who gets hurt in the preseason. Why not alleviate that headache by holding your auction after the third preseason game when starters are less likely to get hurt?
Tip #20: Use a rotating nomination order
Most of the fantasy football auctions of which I’m aware use a rotating nomination order, where owners will take turns nominating players in sequential order. This is the proper way to do it. Some leagues allow the winning bidder to nominate the next player. There are too many side effects to this. Once an owner wins a bid, he is too consumed with updating his roster, adjusting his budget, reviewing his strategy and his next point of attack. He doesn’t have time to then find a player that he wishes to nominate — at least not in a timely fashion.
Tip #21: Track every signing during the auction
A lot of owners feel overwhelmed by the idea of writing down (or typing in) every draft pick or auction signing. It’s really not as complicated or time-consuming as it sounds. Make a spreadsheet on your laptop and put each owner in a column. Next to each owner column, you’ll have a salary column. As players come off the board, you’ll type the player’s name and his winning bid value. You’ll see how each team’s roster is filling up, plus how their cash is dwindling. This will really help you understand each team’s needs and financial situation, which in turn will help your strategy.
Tip #22: Calculate the max bid for your opponents
In conjunction with tracking each pick, using a spreadsheet you’ll be able to see how much money each team has remaining to spend. Then, using a simple formula…
Available Cash – ( Minimum Bid x ( Remaining Players – 1 ) ) = Maximum Bid
…you can determine each team’s maximum bid. This will help your bidding strategy on players you covet. To use a real example, let’s say you have $30 remaining and 6 players left to sign. And let’s say $1 is the minimum bid.
$30 – ( $1 x ( 6 – 1 ) ) = $25 max bid.
This would allow you to sign one player for a maximum of $25, leaving $1 left to spend on each of the remaining 5 players.
Tip #23: Shark Tank it: “I’m out.”
In an effort to speed the auctioning process along, when an owner knows he for sure is not going to bid any higher on a player, he should make like the investors on Shark Tank and just say, “I’m out.” What often happens during a bidding war is two owners will go back and forth raising the price of the player on the block. When it gets to a point where one owner doesn’t intend to bid any higher, he’ll sit there and allow the auctioneer to go through the cadence, “Going once … going twice … sold.” Now, if your auctioneer gives a rather quick cadence, this isn’t so much a problem. However, if the cadence is really slow, and an owner has no desire to raise the bid any higher, just make it easier on everybody and say, “I’m out.”
Tip #24: Always open with the minimum bid
If you’ve done enough fantasy football auctions through the years, there’s a good chance you’ve experienced the dreaded “high opening bid.” What happens in this unfortunate debacle is that rather than nominate a player at the minimum value (typically $1), an owner will throw out an opening bid of $5, $10, or even upwards of $20. This opening bid is then met with eerie and utter silence in the room. Then as the auctioneer begins the cadence, “Going once…” the owner who made the opening bid feels his palms begin to sweat. No other owner makes a bid on the player and suddenly the owner who nominated the player is stuck with him at a price tag that is probably too high. Oops! That could be a costly blunder. Do yourself a favor and nominate all players at league minimum.
Bonus related dip: Don’t raise a bid by more than a dollar or two either. You might raise it so high that you cost yourself a few dollars.
Tip #25: Nominate unwanted players…
You want to get the best possible value for players that you desire. One way to achieve this is to nominate a player you don’t really care for. Throw that piece of red meat to the pack of lions in your room and let them fight over it. It’ll drain their cash reserve and make them less competitive for the players that you really want. Now, be forewarned, there is one possible drawback to this strategy. If you nominate a player that you don’t really want, be prepared for nobody else to bid on him, thus it leads me to the next tip…
Tip #26: …but never nominate someone you’re unwilling to roster
You want to place guys on the nominating block who you don’t really want, but never nominate someone that you wouldn’t accept at the league minimum. Because there’s always a chance that you throw somebody out there and no one else bids on him, so you get him for the minimum bid. This could actually work out in your favor as long as you nominate a roster-worthy player. What is better than decent talent at minimum-bid value? It saves money to splurge on other big talent.
Tip #27: Nominate kickers early
Kickers suck, man. And this is coming from a former kicker myself! (Shhh! … Don’t tell my brethren). There is no reason to sign a kicker for anything more than league minimum. If you sign a kicker for $2, you just wasted a dollar. Thus, why not find a kicker that you want and bid on him earlier? Throw out the best kickers in the league at $1 until you find the kicker you desire. If someone raises your opening $1 bid, let that kicker walk.
Tip #28: Nominate sleepers early
Here’s the fun part. In fantasy football drafts, sleepers by nature are selected toward the end of the draft. The reason is simple: they don’t offer clear and indisputable value. There’s a chance that they will suck. That’s why they’re sleepers and not well-known commodities. However, everybody loves a sleeper. They covet these guys because they know if they land one who turns out to be good, they have boosted their winning potential tremendously. Thus, in a fantasy football auction, a good strategy is to nominate the sleepers early. Force owners to reach into their pockets and offer up good money on players they were hoping to “steal” later. More likely than not, these players are going to be overpaid, allowing you to swoop in and steal better — i.e. provable — talent later.
Tip #29: Maintain your composure and don’t panic
This is just a good lesson for life, isn’t it? I can’t really think of a single situation when it’s ever a good thing to panic. And as part of a fantasy football auction, losing your composure will tip your hand to your opponents and they will raise a bid on you if they can tell you really want a guy. When people panic, they make irrational decisions. If you start missing out on players that you want, don’t feel the need to overspend on players of poor value just because you feel left out, or that other teams are swiping up all the good players. Your time will come when you start snagging players at great values because you have more money than everyone else.
Tip #30: Use a poker face and send body signals
Auctions are all about attitude and savvy bidding. Yes, the almighty dollar trumps everything. But if you just throw a wad of cash at a particular player in order to win the bidding, but you end up overpaying that player, how does that help you? No, you want to win a bid at a good value, and keeping a poker face and an even-keeled demeanor helps you do this. If you send a signal to other owners that you really want someone, they will run that player up knowing that you’re “all in.” One idea to throw off your opponents is act like it’s painful to raise each bid. Grimace a little bit, let out a deep breath, scratch your head, look up at the ceiling, or bury your face in your worksheets. This will make others believe you’re only “so-so” on a guy that you might actually really covet.
Tip #31: Feed into other owners’ emotions
For the same reasons that you don’t want to let your emotions get the best of you, it’s your goal to force other owners’ emotions to work against them. For example, if you see an owner get frustrated about losing multiple bidding wars, use it against him. The next time he’s engaged in bidding, run up the price of that player because he’s going to start feeling desperate to fill out his roster. If you play in a league with any “homers,” run up the price of his hometown beloved. If you know a certain owner has been burned by a player in the past, ask him if he intends to “go down that road again.” That could cause him to back off a particular player you think will rebound.
Tip #32: Obey the laws of supply and demand (supply may go down, but so does demand!)
The law of supply and demand says a low supply of a product paired with a high demand for it will increase the price of it. Conversely, a high supply of a product with little demand makes the price go down. The latter is why kickers are not valuable. There’s a huge supply of them and not much demand. Make sure you follow this principle during your auction. Here’s the catch: Many owners might panic when quarterbacks start coming off the board. They’ll think: “Oh no, the supply is going down! I better get one before they’re all gone!” But they fail to realize the other variable in the equation: the demand. If every other owner gets his starting quarterback except you, what happens to the “demand” for it? It evaporates! Thus, the price for a starting quarterback goes way down. Why would you splurge on one at that point?
Tip #33: Always sign best available players; focus less on needs
Whether in drafts or auctions, your goal is to always sign the best available players. Stop worrying about needs. The needs will take care of themselves over time, if not during the draft/auction, then definitely via trade afterwards. If the first eight players you sign via auction are all running backs and wide receivers (thus, you’ve signed a few bench players in the process), so be it! You have much better value there then if you were to sign only four backs and receivers, plus a quarterback, a tight end, a kicker and defense.
Tip #34: Always look for good value
In conjunction with the “always sign best available” tip, you want to look for good deals, too. This means you might alter your auction strategy on the fly. Let’s say you don’t intend on signing a quarterback until later, but suddenly Patrick Mahomes is on the block and the leading bidder has him at $10. Well, by all means, jump in there and raise the bid. However, don’t get excited and get yourself into a bidding war, though. Drop out of the bidding if the price exceeds the market value. Stick to the plan of getting a cheaper option at quarterback. Always look for value, even if it’s a player you originally intended not to go after.
Tip #35: Don’t worry about filling your starting lineup first
Through the natural process of the auction (or draft), you will fill your starting lineup. Don’t fret about that. If your league has minimum or maximum roster requirements, you’ll have to be cognizant about meeting those. But there’s no requirement to fill your starting lineup first. You will get much better value by having talented bench players at running back and receiver than by spending too much on quarterbacks and tight ends (or kickers and defenses) just to arbitrarily fill your starting lineup.
Tip #36: Don’t overspend on your needs
Never overspend on a position of need. Don’t worry, unless you play in a league of 16 or more teams, there will be plenty of starting quarterbacks, tight ends, kickers and defenses available for you at some point. If every other team in your league signs his starter at those positions before you sign one, you’ll be okay as long as you’re loaded at running back and wide receiver. The difference between 1 and 12 at quarterback, tight end, kicker and defense is nowhere near as big a difference as 1 and 24 (or 36) at running back and wide receiver.
Tip #37: Don’t pass up on better players because of bye weeks
One of my fantasy football pet peeves is the obsession to “avoid the bye week dilemma.” One of the cardinal sins of fantasy football is to pass up a better player for a weaker one because the better player “has the same bye week as my starter.” Who cares!? You can work out a trade with a fellow owner — or hit the waiver wire the week before your starter’s bye week — to get a player with a different bye week. Don’t pass up on better talent for fear of bye week. Ever.
Tip #38: Avoid signing handcuffs
I’ll be blunt: I think going after handcuffs is one of the stupidest strategies in all of fantasy football. You’re essentially saying, “I don’t care if I waste a roster spot on a backup who likely will never play.” What? Yes, it’s possible your stud player will get hurt. Welcome to the “luck” portion of fantasy football. Do you really want to live in fear like that? Here’s the other part of the handcuff debacle that is rarely considered: Handcuffs generally are taken later in the draft. But the later rounds of drafts — to me and my strategy, anyway — should be reserved for kickers, defenses, backup quarterbacks and tight ends. You should fill out your running back and receiver depth charts by Round 10. Why would you draft (or sign via auction) a backup, “handcuff” player instead of a starter? Don’t do it.
Tip #39: Don’t sign more than one kicker or defense
I don’t need to elaborate on this one. Kickers and defenses are cheap and interchangeable. Don’t waste more than $1 on a kicker and a few dollars on a defense. Hit the waiver wire and stream them during the season.
Tip #40: Keep it to business; check your allegiance at the door
You have to detach your emotions in fantasy football. If you act attached to certain players, you’ll be attached to a high price tag. Enter the draft with a businesslike approach. And in business, keep costs down and production high. Find a player who is being underbid and jump on him. It’s all about best value.
Tip #41: Be conservative early
Some owners like to jump out of the gates and spend nearly 40-60% of their budget on two stud players while looking for value later. If that is the approach you intend to take, go for it. That’s not what I’d advocate, though. If you blow your budget early, there is no guarantee that you will even win the bidding on valuable players later. What money will you have left to compete for those? You almost have to be confident that your projections on sleepers will pan out. And, sorry to tell all you Mel Kiper wannabes out there, you’ll probably be wrong about sleepers more than you are right. Spend wisely at the beginning of the auction and you’ll have more flexibility to add value later.
Tip #42: Stick to your budget
Create a budget before the auction, amend it as the auction goes on, and stick to it. The first reason is so that you don’t overspend on players. You will pay too much at some point, and that’s why you edit the budget as you go. But it’s a guideline to help keep your strategy in place — which should always be: find the best value. But if you run your auction the same way so many Americans run their personal finance budgets, you’ll be broke and eating Ramen noodles — i.e. out of the playoffs.
Tip #43: Allocate more money to starters than reserves
When you’re doing a budget for your team, don’t take the number of spots on your roster and divide your auction budget evenly. It doesn’t do you any good to have a team full of mediocre, evenly-priced players. You must allocate more money to your starters — particularly your running backs and wide receivers — than to your reserves. In the same breath, however, it might be more beneficial to you to allocate more money to a backup running back or receiver (or two or three of them) than you assign to your starting quarterback, tight end, kicker or defense.
Tip #44: Set kicker budget to absolute minimum
Not to beat a dead horse, but if you bid more than $1 on a kicker, I’ll personally send an angry dwarf to come kick you in the shin. Don’t do it. And certainly don’t try to rationalize it.
Tip #45: Set quarterback and defense budget to lowest projected starter
When you compile your rankings and auction values, find the lowest projected starter (for your league) at both quarterback and tight end and use the value assigned to them as your quarterback and tight end budget. You don’t need a top tier quarterback or tight end to win in fantasy football, and you certainly don’t need to spend top dollar on them either.
Tip #46: Focus on running backs and wide receivers
In my fantasy football draft strategy, I recommend you look to fill your running back and wide receiver depth charts in the first 8-10 rounds. For the auction strategy, it’s not all that dissimilar. I’m not saying the first 8 players on your team need to be backs and receivers. You could find a steal early in the auction at the other positions if somebody nominates them. But your 8 (or so) highest-paid players should be backs and receivers.
Tip #47: Get steals late
I can’t tell you how many useable, productive fantasy football players remain available at the end of auctions. This has everything to do with owners being too aggressive early in the auction and not having much money left to spend near the end. You can make a killing swooping in and signing a handful of solid role players near the end of your league’s auction.
Tip #48: Nominate players from your position of strength
Remember the goal of a fantasy football auction is to get good value in each signing. Therefore, your strategy should be to get other owners to bid high on players you don’t want (or need). Don’t nominate a wide receiver if are in desperate need of them. Other owners will then bid that player up. Instead, nominate a running back because you are set at that position and force owners to run his price tag up instead.
Tip #49: Find value in committee backfields or competitions
Do you realize how often fantasy owners will shy away from paying too much money on committee running backs or players locked in position battles? This is an opportunity to find good value. You have to trust your instincts and your intel to decipher which RBBC player to buy, but if you correctly identify that player, then you’ve found good value.
Tip #50: Don’t be overconcerned with other owners’ strategies
As a rule of life, worry about your own problems. In fantasy football, don’t alter your strategy in order to block or counter what another owner is doing. If your strategy is to accumulate running backs and wide receivers — which is what I recommend you doing — and you see another owner pilfering quarterbacks and tight ends, don’t panic. Don’t say, “Oh no, he’s taking all the players at another position that I’ll eventually need,” and then deviate from your strategy and overspend on a quarterback or tight end. Stick to your strategy and let it play out. Don’t worry about what other owners are doing. (As a side note: the only time you really need to pay attention to what other owners are doing is from a cash standpoint. Knowing how much money they have left, plus their max bid, is a good thing.)