11 fantasy football auction draft strategy tips

Each season, fantasy football managers look for new and exciting ways to shake up their experience and try their hand at an auction draft. This unique format can put those unfamiliar with it at quite a disadvantage. To help counter that and perhaps even help introduce you to the layout, here are some strategy tips for fantasy football auction drafts set to take off in just a few short months.

What is an “auction fantasy football” draft?

Before we get going, let’s at least get on the same page about the format. It is likely a majority of fantasy players have never been exposed to it in the past.

A simple explanation is that rather than going through a traditional snake draft, fantasy managers “bid” on players. Think of it like you are at a car auction. A player is nominated, and then the bidding war begins with all bids in full view of other managers in contrast to waivers which are blind bids.

Once no one else bids, the manager who spent the highest amount wins that player and “drafts” them. That money is then deducted from the set amount that everyone starts with. Following the first round, you continue the same process — nomination followed by a round of bidding until all roster spots are filled.

In this format, it truly is the definition of “get your guy.” If you want a player, you can roster them if you are willing to put your figurative “money where your mouth is.” But spend too much too fast, and you will quickly find yourself on the outside looking in and rounding out your roster with dart throws.

With that introduction to auction fantasy drafts out of the way, let’s dive into a few strategy tips to get you on the right path in 2021.

Fantasy football auction draft strategies to follow

Each of these tips aims to get you comfortable with the layout and offer advice to beat your opponents.

1) Establish a game plan before the draft begins

I can not even begin to explain how easy it is to get caught up in the moment when the bids start to fly during the draft. You see Christian McCaffrey come up, the excitement hits, and next thing you know, you’re $70 lighter. Sure, you have McCaffrey, but now what? Was your plan to go all out on star players and fill out the roster with upside players? Maybe you intended on overall depth and filling out your roster with reliable third and fourth-tier players.

As hard as it might be to watch the big names go like McCaffrey, Jonathan Taylor, and Stefon Diggs, you need to stick to your strategy in an auction fantasy football draft.

2) How do you want to build your roster?

Three ways tend to be the most prolific for roster construction: Stars and Scrubs, Sit and Wait, or a mixed approach.

The strategies are straightforward. In a “Stars and Scrubs” approach, 75-80% of your auction budget is spent on the upper echelon of fantasy players. The hope is that in getting enough of them, they will be able to make up for the potential lack of production in your final flex spot or bench players. It’s a high-risk method but potentially offers a higher reward.

In the “Sit and Wait” approach, you allow the other members in your league to battle it out and blow the majority of their budget. This auction strategy will enable you to come in with a loaded bankroll and draft a team of players they can not afford and usually at a bargain relative to production.

The third is a mix of both. Select a stud or two and then wait for the value of players who traditionally would go in the middle rounds of snake drafts. 

There is no right or wrong way but once you have a game plan, stick with it.

3) Tiers are your friend

I can not stress this one enough when it comes to draft strategy. In an auction draft, use tiers rather than strict fantasy football rankings.

If you can get a player with a similar projection for $10 to $15 less than the “hot name,” why would you not do that? Allow others to bid on the name while you bid on the fantasy outlook. 

4) You don’t need to nominate players you want

I know, it sounds crazy. You only have a few times in a draft to nominate a player, so why would you not do it on a player that you want? Well, there are two reasons.

First, you do not want your league mates to know who you are targeting. When that happens, it’s easy for them to keep bidding up the price and forcing you to either overspend or lose out on them entirely. Second, this is a way to make them spend their bankroll. Not every player needs to be a target, and not every nomination from you needs to be someone you are even interested in.

5) Losing bids can be a good thing

This auction draft strategy plays into the previous one, and it means that the goal of some fantasy football players is not to let them end up on your roster. 

The more you can make other managers spend, the cheaper each one of your players becomes. This is a strategy all of its own, and the best managers know how to exploit it. Sure, I might want YAC machine A.J. Brown on my roster, but that 25% of a budget is just as valuable (if not more) when it comes out of someone else’s pocket. 

6) Pay attention to the others in the room

The best way to hold an auction draft is in person. Remember the good ol’ days? When you are together, the emotion comes out and is no longer hidden behind a keyboard and carefully crafted keystrokes into the chat. You see raw, unfiltered, maybe slightly intoxicated emotions. Use that to your advantage.

If you see someone lose out on a player after a fierce bidding war and are showing the signs of frustration, nominate a player just as good, if not better. Use that frustration to your own advantage and drain their account. 

7) Don’t be afraid to take jumps in the bidding process

I’m not saying go for the almighty triple-dog-dare right out of the gates. But there is no need to go dollar by dollar, especially if you use it for your gain. Against that same manager you know is on tilt, raise the bid by 20% and force their hand. It’s not like you wanted this player anyway.

But be careful. If you plan on implementing this strategy in your auction draft, don’t do it with a player you would not be comfortable with on your fantasy team. The higher you push the bid, the more people you eliminate from the bidding and the closer you are to getting stuck with the tab. It’s all fun and games to run it up until it comes time to pay the bill.

8) Keep track of the maximum bid your competition can make

I know math can be hard at times but hear me out on this one. If you know how much people in your auction draft can spend, you also know the minimum you have to pay to get a player. 

This is actually super easy to do. Add $1 to the remaining bankroll and then subtract the number of positions left to fill. 

So, if one of your opponents has $30 left and has seven roster spots to fill, the maximum amount they can bid is $24 in leagues with a $1 minimum. The lower their bankroll gets and the more roster spots they have to fill, the less they can bid.

The later in the draft it is, the more powerful this strategy becomes. You can draft certain fantasy football players without the fear of someone driving up the auction bids. 

9) Do not spend more than $1 on a defense or a kicker

If your league requires a defense or kicker, never pay more than the minimum on it. Let someone else overpay for these positions. 

Ideally, all you are bidding on is the Week 1 matchup anyway, and from then on, plan on streaming both positions. As comforting as it is to have Justin Tucker or Harrison Butker as your fantasy kicker, it’s a better strategy to target the best fantasy matchups rather than waste your auction budget.

10) Budget how much money is allocated to each position

Here is a big strategy tip for players new to auction fantasy football drafts. You need to know how much you are willing to spend on each position. 

Let’s use a standard 12-team fantasy league with a starting roster of 1QB, 2RB, 3WR, 1TE, and 1 Flex. It’s not different from a snake draft, where the bulk of your points and picks are RBs and WRs.

As a general rule of thumb, I allocate 40% for running backs, 40% to receivers, and then split the remaining 20% across tight ends and quarterbacks around 12-15% in favor of TEs. My auction draft strategy is to draft at least one stud RB and WR, then load up with depth on the remaining 40% of that positional budget. From then on, try to get a TE with upside like a Dallas Goedert or Mike Gesicki. Then, use a similar late-round QB approach as you would in a normal 1QB format. 

11) Do not leave your draft with money in your pocket

I get it — no one wants to be broke. But you can not take that money with you once the draft is over. If you wish to build a team on just $120, then, by all means, go for it. However, you are at a massive disadvantage compared to those spending all $200 (or whatever your budget is).

Unless it is implicitly agreed upon before the draft that the leftover auction budget is converted into FAAB (Free Agent Auction Budget) once the draft concludes, this is your one shot to blow that monopoly money. Now, don’t go crazy like you just ordered bottle service at the club. Stick to your game plan and see it to the end.

By no means is this an all-encompassing list. We barely even touched on setting values for NFL players. But take some of this strategy and apply it to your own auction fantasy football drafts this fall. Once you try this format, it is tough to go back to “traditional” drafting.

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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.