Fantasy Update: Auction Drafts 

Arguably, the most challenging aspect of an auction is that so much is beyond your control, especially when it comes to the actions of the other owners in your league. It’s nearly impossible to predict what they are going to do (and who they are going to target), much less anticipate what order players will be nominated. It’s both a blessing and a curse that anyone can be brought up at anytime in an auction. So how do you gain an advantage in an environment that is so unstable? It’s simple, use your nominations for strategic purpose, and don’t waste them.

The only time you will have any control in an auction (aside from when you press bid or shout it out to the auctioneer) is when it’s your turn to nominate a player. If you’ve ever asked a fellow owner why they nominated (insert random player here) so early, I can almost guarantee that you will get some form of this response. “I was just trying to get everyone else to spend their money.” It’s not a terrible move, but early on in an auction especially, that is the one time where you should nominate the players on your target list. Right about now you’re probably thinking “why would I do that, shouldn’t I wait as long as possible before bringing up the players I want when people have less to spend?” In theory, that makes sense, but I’ve rarely seen it work.

The most obvious reason for nominating the players you “really want to roster” or think represent potential bargains relative to their cost is because if you’re targeting them, its likely that someone else in the room is as well. If you get them off the board early, you know a few things. You’re either going to get your target for what you wanted to spend, or you’re going to know that you need to go someone else. The good thing is that there will still be plenty of options left to pick from. If you pass on all of the other options (and potential bargains) waiting for your target, there is a chance that you risk missing out on everyone. I’ve seen it happen and trust me, you don’t want that to happen.

The key is not necessarily to be “more aggressive” with your spending early on. Honestly, it’s about using your turn to nominate a player to go after someone you covet each time as opposed to wasting the nomination (and the opening bid as well). I want to nominate my prime targets as soon as possible so that I’m in control of the decision whether or not I am going to have them on my roster, or be forced to look elsewhere if the price tag is too high.  

To use an example, let’s say that Advanced Sports Logic's "The Machine" projects both Amari Cooper and Jarvis Landry to produce similar value in a point-per-reception league, which it does in fact. Let’s say that you think Landry will be the better value and believe that he has a much higher floor than Cooper, who might have greater upside, but is in a far riskier situation in Oakland. If Landry is your target (a player you covet more than most), you should nominate him before Cooper. The reason for that is simple. You may be able to get Landry for less than what you have him valued at, but if another owner refuses to back down and he ends up going for more than he should (and to someone else’s roster) you now can use that money on another receiver, like Cooper. A majority of fantasy owners are hesitant to overpay early in a draft because there are so many other options left, it makes little sense to overpay for someone like Landry when guys like Julio Jones or Randall Cobb could still be on the board very early. It’s just something else to think about.

The real tricky part of an auction is that you never know where the bargains are going to be. Let’s say for example you had both Landry and Cooper valued at $15 (just to throw out a random number). If Cooper is nominated before Landry and goes for $12, but you don’t bid because you’re “waiting for Landry,” you could potentially end up missing out on both of them if Landry goes for $18 and you end up passing on him as well. The one advantage you have when it’s your turn to nominate is to help your own strategy by putting yourself in control of who comes up. It sounds simple, but you would be amazed at the number of fantasy owners who don’t put any thought into it, especially in your “average joe” home league.

Just because you nominate Landry early, preferably before players you value similarly (like Cooper), doesn’t guarantee that you will get him for less than sticker price. It does ensure that if you don’t, you already know that and are prepared to target other options instead of sitting back and missing out on everyone (or worse, overpaying by a huge number to roster Landry out of desperation).  

Auction’s are an incredibly complex beast and let’s face it, you’re going to make a mistake somewhere along the line. Nobody is perfect, but if you use your nominations to your advantage, especially in the early stages, it will go a long way to ensuring that you grab a few of your primary targets. Even if you don’t manage to reel in the players you want the benefit of knowing that early is that there will still be plenty of options left and you know that you need to throw another line out, instead of just sitting there on the boat.

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