When it comes fantasy football formats, the thought of trading in a snake draft for an auction draft can seem intimidating to lifelong snake drafters. But it also can be refreshing and more rewarding. When you're lucky enough to pick No. 1 overall in a snake draft, you're thrilled that you will get Christian McCaffrey at the top, but you are also annoyed that you need to wait a 23 more picks before drafting a second player. With auction drafts, the appeal comes from the fact you can get the top two players in the rankings, McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley, to lead your backfield. That's enough to blow up anyone's cheat sheet.
Similar to the free agent acquisition budget (FAAB) that many leagues use post-snake draft for the waiver wire, auction drafts add the element of considering a budget and the true value of a particular player's projected numbers going into a season.
DOMINATE YOUR DRAFT: Ultimate 2020 cheat sheet
Thinking about doing your first auction draft in 2020? Have some auction experience but need some advice on how to navigate the prices to put together a winning roster? Here are some basic tips and advanced strategy to help you get rolling:
Fantasy Football Auction Draft Tips, Strategy
Know your budget and how much players are worth
For our purposes, let's consider a 12-team, half-point PPR auction draft. You are given $200 to spend on 20 players for your roster. Let's then look at the value of McCaffrey in relation to that. According to Fantasy Pros' running back auction values, he is worth $65. That means for the consensus No. 1 player in fantasy football, investing 32.5 percent of your budget isn't considered unreasonable.
But would you rather have McCaffrey, or based on the matching value of $65, a combination of Austin Ekeler and Chris Carson? Looking at back on 2019, McCaffrey averaged 25.8 points per game, while Ekeler and Carson combined for 30.7 points per game. If you think you can land a cheap overachiever to supplement him well later, McCaffrey might be worth it to lead your backfield, especially if you think Ekeler and Carson will both slide in production more than he will. With that in mind, you will know whether you want to even bid more than $65 to get McCaffrey.
Roughly, you should allocate about 40 percent of your budget, or $80, for running backs. The recommended number of backs to draft is six, or 30 percent of your roster, an average of $13 per back. The bottom line is figuring what starter and bench composition will yield you the most points over the course of the season. That part isn't different from snake drafts. You are just managing a budget vs. draft capital.
Know where you want to spend your money
If you are going with six running backs, with two starters and four backups, it follows that you should have eight wide receivers, with three starters and five backups. That's another 40 percent, or $80, to allot, this time on 40 more percent of your roster. That should leave about 10 percent, or $20 each, on both quarterback and tight end, two-player positions where you will start one and bench one.
Within that framework you can adjust. Like you would in snake drafts, operate with a overall rankings cheat sheet, this time with 240 players. Across positions, look for tiers and drop-off points. Adjust based on where you think there is scarcity or surplus of studs or steals.
The action of the auction can be fast and furious. Having both a positional and player-specific plan with your budget puts you in prime position to attack the best values and avoid the overpriced players.
Know why you are nominating a player
There's a general feeling that when you get the chance to open the bidding, you're doing it to start driving up the price of a player you don't want. That's a good early strategy to make some other drafter exhaust his or her budget while you keep more for you a player you really want.
But at some point, when there are more limited budgets to go around for all drafters, you can flip the script to nominate a player you do want. You might see that your fellow auction participants are forced to be tighter with their budget for running back or wide receiver, and you can take charge knowing you can reasonably outspend in the end.
You're either nominating a player that you have no intention of drafting to inflate his price or a player you do want to control his price. Randomly throwing out a player so someone else can get him for what exactly he's worth wastes this opportunity.
Know that you should still wait on a quarterback
Lamar Jackson ($28) and Patrick Mahomes ($24) are the the highest-priced QB commodities in 2020 auction drafts. Given our 10 percent allocation for two quarterbacks — $20 total on the position — neither is a good value at those prices. With even a low-end backup, you're already headed to upping that QB allocation to 15 percent. That extra five percent of $200, or $10, might not seem like much, but you can get a strong TE1 or steal RB2 or WR3 with that.
Then consider the price of Kyler Murray ($12). His value is more than 57 percent less than that of Jackson. Even before thinking Murray's production will get a nice bump with DeAndre Hopkins this season, Murray's weekly scoring average (18.6) was only 34 percent less than Jackson's (28.1) last season.
The fact that QBs such as Tom Brady ($8), Drew Brees ($7) and Carson Wentz ($6) have values below $10 means you should be more comfortable allocating as low as 7.5 percent of your budget on two QBs. It's better to have that extra 2.5 percent, or $5, to help you get a player you want at running back or wide receiver in another bid.
Know when to be aggressive and splurge
This part of the auction model is more daily fantasy football than snake drafting. In DFS, tournament roster constructions call for a few "stars" who can explode for big points living up to their big prices, rounded out by several "scrubs" who will still have a nice return on their lesser investments. In cash games, you will lean toward more balance where your rosters have more players with higher floors and fewer players with higher ceilings.
In either case, you won't find many winning lineups that don't feature two or three elite players at running back and wide receiver. In a snake draft, after you get McCafffrey, you won't get another top 20 player when you pick at No. 24. The whole reason to the auction pivot is eliminating that limitation. While you don't want to go nuts and end up spending a combined a $145 on McCaffrey, Derrick Henry and Chris Godwin, using $99 on Miles Sanders, Josh Jacobs and D.J. Moore to have three top-25 young players with massive upside might be worth it for a third of your starting lineup.
Know to keep your emotions in check
Don't get frustrated if you're not getting the players on whom you had heart set and not everything is going according to plan. Keep your head up, and keep considering how to best use your remaining budget. The speed of auction drafts doesn't allow for getting too low or too high about the process.
Know that it's not a bad thing to be overbid
You might be edged out for several coveted players during your auction and feel like you have no shot at studs. But the more that other owners at your auction spend early, the less they will have later. Stick to your maximum price points and don't suddenly go over budget just for the satisfaction of a winning bid. This is still season-long fantasy football, where the early long game, regardless of auction or draft, remains critical. Be patient knowing you will get several great values at some point.
Know the tendencies and spending of others
Keep track of what positions are starting to get filled on other rosters and keep monitoring how much everyone else has left with their budgets. Also, pay attention to your competitors' approach to the auction, whether they are reckless spenders, conservative bidders, or downright homers. After a while, this can play to your huge advantage in both knowing what players to nominate and how much to bid.
Know that you should spend next to nothing on defense and kicker
There's no reason to give up more than the minimum bid of $1 on each position. Both positions are only five percent of your roster and you can play the easy streaming game with both. You won't find any source of sneaky scoring value at either position, and every extra dollar counts toward running back and wide receiver.
Know that you should try to spend all of your money
This isn't like FAAB, where you hope to have a little money left in the late weeks of the season when there is injury attrition and there are some high-demand players on the waiver wire. In auction drafts, as the old saying goes, "you can't take it with you." You will regret it if you have even a dollar left over that could have won you a late bid.