Standard fantasy drafts are fun, but veteran fantasy players are increasingly switching to auction drafts. You can get a full rundown of what an auction draft is here, but here are some quick hits:
- Each fantasy owner is given a budget, often $200
- Players are nominated one at a time and everyone has a chance to bid on that player
- The process continues until all teams are filled
It sounds easy, but things move fast, and there aren't many moments to lose focus or look away. The best thing to do is take part in a few auction mock drafts (or maybe dozens) and get comfortable with the format. Fantasy Nerds has a standard mock draft tool, but you'll have to go somewhere like ESPN to do auction mocks.
Before you do that, though, I want to give you some tips on how to attack the auction draft, how to handle certain situations, and some fun ways to mess with your opponents because, why not? This is an incomplete list and only my opinions, so don't take it as gospel. You'll find your own style as you do mock drafts, but I see these all as things anyone can incorporate into their strategy. All rankings and fantasy auction values are from Fantasy Nerds, and numbers are correct as of 8/23/2023.
Here are a few quick tips for any player to make sure you are prepared:
- Know what your budget is and keep an eye on it. Don't start spending to find out you only have $15 to fill 12 spots.
- Know the rules. Does the league use standard or PPR scoring? Do you play one or two quarterbacks each week? These rules should influence your strategy.
- Have a plan, but be willing to change. I'll get into this a little more, but write down a few names of players you want to target so you can build the foundation of your team. When things don't go to plan, however, be prepared to change course. I wrote an article recently that explored a few auction strategies, and that's a good place to start.
Top of the draft
The most important thing is to nail your top picks, and that means the highest-priced players in an auction. Each player has a recommended value to give an idea of where the bidding should hover, but some players will go for $1 and others will soar above their projected cost. Understand their cost before chasing the top guys with no regard.
- The top 20 players are most important to a successful season, so make sure you walk away with at least two of them. Spreading money around is a good plan, but depth doesn't mean as much in fantasy as finding the top stars, and production drops quickly, especially at running back. Some people like to get one top back and one receiver, others (like me) prefer two running backs, and someone will get Travis Kelce, but, however you do it, get two of the top 20 players.
- You will walk in with players you want to target, but don't go crazy over one player if the bidding heats up. Justin Jefferson is great, but paying $90 for him means almost half your budget is dedicated to one player. Another player will give you similar production at a fraction of the price, so move on to the next target.
- Kelce is an enigma of sorts. He will cost as much as almost any other player, but he will give you top-receiver production at the tight end spot. He will produce at a higher level relative to his position than any other player. One strategy I looked at in the previous article was starting with Kelce at a high price and building a team around him, and it left my team short on skill players. Kelce is great, but don't overpay without knowing what your budget will be like after spending $65 on your tight end. Proceed with caution (though I do think it's a viable strategy).
Middle of the draft
This is where you build the depth of your team and fill most starting spots. Superstars are important, but one player can't carry a fantasy team. These guys will set your team up to handle injuries, bye weeks, and bad matchups.
- The "middle" starts after the top 20 or so players have been auctioned off. Some of these guys will end the season as top-20 players, so identifying breakout situations is another route to a championship squad.
- Don't chase anyone in these rounds and overpay. Many players will end up with very similar stats, so having two of them rather than one bigger name sets up your team better.
- A good example is Keenan Allen, a player I really like this year (valued by Fantasy Nerds at $17 in a 12-team, standard league). He is a good player at $17, but if the bidding goes up to $20, there's no reason to keep going. Brandon Aiyuk, Chris Godwin, Tyler Lockett, and DeAndre Hopkins are all estimated at $13, so you could walk away with Hopkins and Diontae Johnson ($7), the number one receiver in Pittsburgh, for the same price as overpaying Allen. Don't overpay for these guys; trust me.
- Get a good quarterback and/or tight end if you want (I prefer to wait, and I'll hit that in the next section), but get plenty of running backs and wide receivers in this region. Usable running backs, in particular, are hard to come by after the top 30 players at the position, so make sure you get at least five of those top 30 runners (I often end up with six to eight).
- If you want to secure the quarterback position, I like quarterbacks who do a lot with their legs. They add great value and a strong baseline. The guys I would target are Lamar Jackson, Justin Fields, and Deshaun Watson, all in the $10-20 dollar range in the same format mentioned above. The top quarterbacks cost too much for me.
Bottom of the draft
The bottom of your roster should be used for depth players at running back and wide receiver, players who could grow into bigger roles as the season progresses, and players who are injured or (especially) suspended and will miss time early.
- Two suspended players I love at their current price: Alvin Kamara, who is valued around $10 and will miss the first three games, and Detroit Lions receiver Jameson Williams, who you can grab for a couple bucks. Williams missed most of his rookie season and is suspended the first six games, but he is a big-time prospect and could be a fantasy starter as soon as he's on the field.
- I said before I like to wait on quarterback and tight end usually, and I guess I should explain. Kelce is the best tight end by a mile, but then there is a fairly large group of players who are expected to produce similar stats. Some lack consistency, some have injury concerns, and none reaches the level of Kelce. I prefer to wait and grab Gerald Everett of the Chargers late in drafts and for $1 in auctions. He starts the season against the Dolphins and Titans, both teams who were bottom-seven in the league against tight ends last year. Mike Gesicki is another player I expect to bounce back at the position after his move to New England if you're looking late.
- As far as late quarterbacks, I just researched an article about the position, and the line of weekly starters ends with Watson as the ninth-ranked QB right now. Kirk Cousins is ranked 10th and leads a long list of players who will be playable some weeks and not others, or guys who have injury concerns. If it gets past Watson, give it some time and grab a few guys in the next tier, like Aaron Rodgers, Jared Goff, or Russell Wilson (who has a good Week 1 matchup against the Raiders).
- Anthony Richardson of the Colts is my favorite pick in the whole draft as a late-round quarterback who I see producing at a starting level early in the season. Some won't want to count on him Week 1, and I understand, but I love the idea of getting Wilson and Richardson, for example, and streaming options until Richardson proves himself.
- In the first 10 rounds or so, I like to nominate players a little bit down the list that I don't want because it causes someone else to use money they won't use on a player you want who is coming up. A good example for me is Jaylen Waddle. Waddle is a very good player, but his value doesn't line up with where I see him. I will nominate him the first time around to get someone to pay up for him, then when A.J. Brown comes up a few picks later, that person won't be bidding against me.
- Be careful the later you get into the draft, because you may nominate a player and have no one bid on him, and you'll be stuck with that player for $1. Make sure you'd be happy to have any player you're nominating on your team for $1.
- Generally, defense and kickers should wait until the end of your draft, and you shouldn't pay more than $1 for either, but there are two exceptions I use: first, if your team is mostly filled and you have excess money left, it's ok to overpay for a kicker or defense you want. You don't get to take that money with you.
- The second exception is one that is annoying but could work in your favor. The Ravens are expected to be a good defense and start the season with a tasty matchup against the Houston Texans, so in the early portion of your draft you could nominate the Baltimore Ravens and dare one of your league-mates to bid a second dollar. If not, you get a top unit for a dollar, which you would have paid later anyway for a lesser option. Same rules apply to kickers.
- If you want Kelce (or any other top 10 player), nominate him right away and see if you get him. If he's priced out in the bidding, you know you can focus that money elsewhere and skimp more at tight end.
Players I'm targeting
I'll finish with a few players I love at their current value, in order of how much I like the pick. Don't break the bank for them, but they are good targets at less than $10 for depth with potential. I will give their value from Fantasy Nerds in a 12-team standard scoring league:
- Anthony Richardson, of course, Indianapolis, $2
- Russell Wilson, Denver, $2 (Week 1 streamer)
- Brian Robinson, Washington, $7
- Alvin Kamara, New Orleans, $9
- Javonte Williams, Denver, $7
- Ezekiel Elliott, New England, $3
- George Pickens, Pittsburgh, $8
- Brandin Cooks, Dallas, $6
- Diontae Johnson, Pittsburgh, $7
- Jameson Williams, Detroit, $4
- Kadarius Toney, Kansas City, $5
- Gerald Everett, LA Chargers, $2 (Week 1 and 2 streamer)
- Greg Dulcich, Denver, $2 (Week 1 streamer)
One bonus here, the Washington Commanders defense is usually going undrafted, but they have a lot of talent and play the Arizona Cardinals Week 1, possibly the worst team in the league. They follow that up with a Denver team who could be improved but struggled mightily last year, making Washington a good two-week possibility starting the season with a great Week 1.
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