Fantasy football auction draft strategy for dynasty startups

For those new to the format or who want to try their hand at auction fantasy football, these strategy tips will help you navigate the draft.

PFN’s dynasty 101 series continues with dynasty fantasy football auction draft strategy. What is an auction draft? How does it differ from snake? And how can you best prepare for an auction dynasty startup draft?

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What is an auction draft?

In a snake draft, there is a predetermined order of selection. Each team makes one pick, and then the next team goes, and the next, and so on.

In an auction draft, players are nominated in the same manner as a snake draft. Then, there is a bidding war — just like an auction. Teams bid on players, and the team with the highest bid wins that player.

How do auction drafts differ from snake drafts?

In snake drafts, fantasy managers are constrained by their draft position. Based on where you draft, there are certain players you simply cannot draft. There are combinations of players you cannot draft.

In auction drafts, fantasy football managers can, in theory, draft any player they want.

If you want two players that typically go around the same spot in snake drafts, you can bid on them both. Do you want to shell out for two top-five players? Go for it.

The primary benefit of auction drafts is the increased control you have over constructing your roster. This is especially beneficial in dynasty startups because these are players you’re going to have for, quite possibly, their entire careers. In a dynasty startup draft, I never want to spend early-round picks on guys because I feel like I have to.

Fantasy football auction draft strategies

Fantasy football is dominated by snake drafts. While undoubtedly the most common draft format, it’s not my favorite. Auction drafts, on the other hand, I absolutely love.

If you’re looking to join a new dynasty league, I cannot recommend enough having an auction startup draft. Let’s get into some dynasty startup auction draft strategies.

Stars and scrubs

The strategy known as stars and scrubs is, well, exactly how it sounds. Your goal is to allocate the majority of your budget toward your starting lineup and backfilling your bench with $1-2 players.

While the stars and scrubs strategy is more geared toward redraft leagues, it works in dynasty startups as well. Novice auction drafters often make the mistake of trying to have a complete team. Remember, only the players in your starting lineup score points on any given week. If you can make those players better at the cost of your bench, it gives you an advantage.

Of course, there are risks. This draft strategy leaves you vulnerable to injuries and underperformance. However, in a dynasty startup, it can be advantageous given the long-term nature of dynasty leagues. Those $1-2 players you’re taking over the final 10 or so picks of your dynasty startup draft are going to include rookies and sophomore players with potential upside. If you can hit on a couple of them while having an elite starting lineup, your roster will be even more stacked in future seasons.

As Herm Edwards so aptly put it, you play to win the game. Drafting safety valves and trying to build a balanced roster isn’t always the best way to go. It’s a great way to ensure you won’t have a last-place team, but the goal is to win, not be in middle-of-the-standings purgatory.

A balanced approach

As you likely surmised, I’m not a fan of this particular strategy. Nevertheless, it is objectively a strategy that exists so I’m obligated to discuss it.

The balanced approach is putting together a deep roster with several usable players at each position. It doesn’t mean you necessarily avoid the elite players, but the general philosophy is to have multiple players on your bench that you’re comfortable starting.

I find it helpful to compare roster construction to snake drafts to illustrate a point. Think of a balanced approach as having a starting lineup comprised of a bunch of third to sixth-round players. You won’t have a single player in your starting lineup that shouldn’t be there. At the same time, your roster will likely lack those players who can win you a matchup by themselves.

A balanced roster will consistently produce at or above the league median. Your team will be unlikely to completely faceplant any given week. You will dare other teams to be able to outscore you. The idea is based on probability — if you’re slightly above average more than the rest of the league, you will win more than you lose. That’s true. You will likely make the playoffs at a high rate. Once you get in, anything can happen. However, to rattle off the three consecutive wins needed to win a championship, you typically need upside. That’s where this approach can backfire. 

How to navigate an auction dynasty startup draft

The key tenet of auction drafting is every draft is different. You can look at 100 snake drafts occurring within days of each other and they’ll look similar. No two auction drafts will be identical — and the difference in the cost of players will be stark.

Understand what you want to do and be prepared to adapt. Read the room early. Deduce what type of managers you’re drafting against. Are they hoarding money early? Is the value now, or do you think it will be later? Are players going for more than they should?

Look out for future articles going into more detail on the nuances and intricacies of fantasy football auction draft strategy as we get deeper into the offseason.

Jason Katz is a Fantasy Analyst at Pro Football Network. You can follow him on Twitter: @jasonkatz13 and find more of his work here.

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