Here is a breakdown of how ESPN’s current auction prices line up with EFB’s projected value for each player. These lists should give you a good idea of which players are overrated and underrated on ESPN and which players are steals in your punting build. EFB’s prices are not meant to be used as a guide for what you should pay for each player. They are only meant to show you what each player’s projected numbers are worth. Don’t pay $18 for Brandon Clarke if you can get him for $4.
You’ll notice that almost all of the first-round players are priced much higher on ESPN than they should be. This is not a surprise. The elite fantasy assets are always overrated in auction drafts. Don’t pay $75-$85 (in a $200 league) for one of the top-tier players. You will not get a good return on your investment at that price. Usually, only one or two players will end up being worth over $60, and only a couple more will be worth over $50. The only season over the last 20 years that was worth $80 in an auction draft was Steph Curry’s 2015-2016 historic campaign, and only a handful of seasons have been worth $70 over that stretch. If Anthony Davis or James Harden are going for exuberant amounts, pass on them and target some of the other top-end players whose prices are closer to their projected value in your desired build. You do not need one of the top-five players on your team to be successful, and you should always avoid getting into bidding wars for them. The strongest auction league teams usually have a handful of early-round players on their roster and great depth, and such a squad is only possible if you avoid paying too much for your early-round building blocks.
Do not forget about fit during your auction draft. You will likely have to draft some players whose projected value in your build is below their prices, and that is OK. That’s not something you want to be doing a lot of, but it’s better than focusing only on value and coming away with a team that is stronger than it needs to be in a few categories and weaker than it should be in others.
Here are some tips for auction drafts:
- Prepare, prepare, prepare. An auction draft is significantly more complicated and unpredictable than a regular snake draft. In a snake draft, you can usually guess the group of players that are going to be available around each of your picks, especially early in the draft. In auction leagues, the entire league is available to you. You can’t just prepare to build around one or two first-round picks. In an auction league, you could easily end up with your fifth or sixth choice in early-round building block. In a snake league, I usually have a few pages of notes. In an auction league, sometimes I have a dozen pages, and I’m preparing a week or more in advance.
- When I do an auction league, I have multiple lists of players printed beside me. I do this because it is much harder to keep track of who is available than it is in snake drafts. Usually, I group players by targets for each build and by position. When I am grouping by build, I try to tier the players by type of player. You are not always going to be able to get your first choice, and you’ll want to be able to quickly check who else can give you the type of line that the player you just missed out on could have. I group by position because this tends to be the best way to monitor category scarcity. In snake leagues, you can go into your draft knowing you have to focus on certain categories by Round X. You can’t do that in auction leagues. It is very possible that there will be plenty of assists or points left late in an auction league, but you won’t know that unless you have a firm understanding of who and what is still available.
- When making your plan, make sure you know what each player is going for on the host site. It doesn’t matter how experienced your league is, the host prices will impact the prices each player goes for.
- You also want to track what strategies your opponents are employing. Make a note if someone grabs a punt FT% big early or doesn’t seem too interested in rostering point guards. This will make it easier to anticipate whether or not you will have to get into a bidding war for a player later in the draft. You also want to do this because it is usually not a good idea to punt a category that other teams are punting. This leads to bidding wars, especially with builds like punt FT% where the targets are very obvious.
- You have to be flexible. Since everything is on the table, you have to be able to adjust your strategy multiple times throughout the draft. You may go into the draft planning a stars and scrubs strategy. That can work. But if Harden, Davis, etc. are going for exorbitant prices, then you may want to adjust and target a handful of top-40 players instead.
- Speaking of stars and scrubs, it is generally not a strategy that I recommend. That is because it requires overpaying for the top fantasy options. Overpaying a little bit for top players is OK because you are not only paying for their numbers but also their consistency and safety. However, you do want to limit how much you overpay by. In most years, only one or two players will end the year worth 60 dollars. A 70 dollar season only comes around about twice a decade. Despite this, the top five-to-seven players usually go in the 60+ dollar range. If you are doing starts and scrubs and targeting two of these players, there is a good chance that you are going to be wasting 10% or more of your budget.
- Stars are scrubs is a difficult strategy to successfully pull off because it won’t leave you with as much money as you would like for your mid-round picks. What determines the difference between a good auction team and a bad one is how much of a discount a team gets on its mid-round players. If you target players who would go towards the end of the first or the beginning of the second, you will have a better chance of having enough money on hand to do well when the draft starts focusing on top-50 players.
- Stars and scrubs makes more sense for punting builds that need to consistently win the categories that dry up quickly in drafts. Points, FT%, and assists are the three categories that are most heavily concentrated among the top fantasy options. If your build is looking to win these three categories every week (i.e. Punt FG%), stars are scrubs will work better than it would if you were punting points where many of the early-round players lose a significant amount of value.
- Stars and scrubs is also riskier than a more balanced approach because it will leave you very vulnerable to injury. The idea being stars and scrubs is to get elite top-end players and then fill out your roster as the year goes on. That can work, but if one of the elite guys goes down, you are in big trouble.
- So, in most cases, we want to target top-10 to top-20 players as our centerpiece in auction drafts. I say most cases because there will be some leagues where everyone is trying to play it smart and target the second tier of players. You’ll know if you are in one of these leagues very early in the draft. If James Harden or Anthony Davis goes for something reasonable like 60 dollars, you need to be ready to adjust your strategy. In these leagues, I actually like to target the top players. If your leaguemates are avoiding them and they are going in the 55-to-60 dollar range, that is a pretty good deal and one I would consider. At that price, you’ll be able to still be competitive when the mid-round players start to get nominated.
- If you’ve played in an auction league before, you’ll know this one. Nominate big-name players that you do not want to draft early in the auction. This will drain the budgets of your competition and make them hesitate when the players you actually want are up. This applies not only for early-round players but for trendy players are well. I would be putting up players like Jamal Murray and Ja Morant early.
- Don’t feel like you need to nominate big-name players early. That’s usually how auction drafts play out, but I find that I can often get a nice price on a mid-round player I want by putting them up early. I find that managers are more hesitant to bid for a mid-round player when they don’t know who their early-round building block is yet. This strategy works better if you are putting up a player who fits multiple builds, as you may not know what strategy you are employing yet either.
- Don’t wait too long to grab your early-round build block. I like to my move after the first half-dozen or so early-round options are off the board (assuming I don’t find a nice price before that). You don’t want to wait too much longer than that. If you do, you run the risk of getting into a bidding war with the owners who haven’t scooped up an early-round player yet. Managers tend to get desperate when there is only a couple of first-round level players left on the board.
- Bidding wars are something you generally want to avoid, but getting into one or two is inevitable. We just need to make sure that we are getting into bidding wars for the right player. This is where it is important to know the value of each player in your punting build (the projections provide this information). For example, if I am punting FT%, I’m not going to get into a bidding war for DeMar DeRozan. If I can get him for about 15 dollars, I might consider him, but if he’s being bid up into the mid-20s, I’m staying away. However, if I am punting threes, and his price is headed towards the mid-20s, I’d be more willing to get involved in the bidding war as DeRozan should produce about 30 dollars of value in that build.
- Although it is very important to know the value of each player in your build, I recommend focussing on fit a little less than in snake leagues. This is because, in an auction draft, it is usually possible to get some crazy deals on players, especially towards the end of the draft. There will be situations where you can get a player worth 15 dollars for a few bucks. Take that deal and run and move the player later for a better fit.
- Make sure that you do not blow your money too early in the draft and. This is the number 1 mistake auction players can make. At the end of the draft, there will be mid-round players worth 10-15 dollars available that will be going for pennies. You will see some of these players go for two or three dollars. If you can only bet a dollar when this part of the draft is happening, you are going to fall behind the rest of the league quickly.
- However, you do want to strike a balance, and this is probably the trickiest part about being in an auction league. Ending the draft with 10 dollars in your pocket because you waited too long is going to lead to a weak team too. Because you need to know how to strike this balance, you need to PRACTICE.
- I won’t sugar coat it, mock drafts for auctions suck. I love auction drafts, and I hate auction mocks. They are extremely time-consuming, it’s hard to find a group that takes them seriously and stays until the end, and since every auction draft is going to play out very differently, they are not as valuable as snake mocks. However, you need to do them, and you need to stay until the end. You need to get a feel for when each section of the draft is going to take place. If you don’t practice, you’re not going to know when you can start to scoop-up mid-round players at a discount or how much you will need to save to clean up at the end of the draft. You don’t need to pay attention to every pick in an auction mock. Put it on while you’re watching TV. I was doing auction mocks last week while writing my punt points guide. The point of auction mocks is not to nail down the prices that different players will go for, the point is to get a general feel of how your draft is going to go. Most managers in your league will not mock, so if you do, you are going to be at a big advantage, and you will be less likely to make mistakes.