Editor’s Note: This is one of our many strategy-related articles from our team of writers to get you prepared for this season.
Over the past few years, auction drafts have increased in popularity. If you’re new to auctions, I would suggest you first check out Eric Ludwig’s “Auction Drafts for Beginners” article posted last off-season for a great starting point.
One of the points in that article that I would like to expand on is the lack of strategy for the nomination process. The reason there is not a lot of strategy behind nominations is that it is the least discussed and most overlooked aspect of auction drafting. Typically, you’ll hear simple high-level statements such as: don’t nominate a player that you want, nominate the over-hyped players or those with injury concerns. My “favorite” (sarcasm!) is the most useless of all: nominate kickers first to either get the best kicker or get your league mates to spend an extra dollar.
As you read through this article, you will realize exactly why that strategy is squandering one of your most important controls in your auction draft. Unlike a snake draft, one of the best aspects of an auction draft is the ability to build your roster as you see fit, unbounded by the restrictions of a slotted snake draft. The most overlooked part, however, is that you also get 16 chances (nominations) to control your opponent’s roster! It’s important to take advantage of this limited resource and not waste it on a kicker. Below, I will cover five phases of the auction and a nomination strategy for each phase.
Phase 1: Use Early Nominations to Deplete the QB Position
If you’ve been following the Fantasy Footballers for any length of time, you’ll know that Andy, Mike, Jason and the entire writing staff are all proponents of the “wait on QB” strategy in snake drafts. In an auction, many owners will try to employ the “cheap QB” strategy and focus on the RB/WR positions with their early nominations. When that happens, owner funds are reduced by the time the QBs start getting nominated and even the best QBs are a bargain.
Your goal is to keep nominating the top ranked QBs with your early nominations. By nominating the top QBs early in the draft, you’ll see their prices creep up. Your goal is to also entice a few other owners to jump on the trend and get 5-6 QBs nominated in the first 2-3 rounds of the nomination process. Nominating QBs early is forcing your league mates to think about QBs in what equates to the early rounds of a snake draft. Think of this as forcing someone in your league to take Aaron Rodgers in the first round or Tom Brady in the second round.
Oftentimes, auction drafters will feel left out when the bidding goes crazy on the top RBs and WRs. When the first few top players are nominated, almost every team will cast out a bid just for fun. Seeing the bid number climbing so fast is exciting! When a QB is nominated, fewer people will be bidding and the price will be lower. This will create the feeling of a deal to some bidders after seeing players won for twice the going price of the QB. On multiple occasions, I’ve seen this strategy cause an owner to draft two of the top 5 QBs because they were price enforcing early in a draft with plenty of money. This is the perfect way to almost completely eliminate one of your competitors from acquiring top RB/WR talent.
With these early QB nominations, you are also filling up the one required QB starter for half of the league, which will make them highly unlikely to fill a second QB position in the middle part of the draft. When you get to the midpoint of the auction, you’ll find tremendous values on the QBs ranked in the 8-14 range to employ your cheap QB strategy.While a few league mates spent $20-$40 on a top-5 QB, you could be rostering the QB9-12 for just $5-$8 after eliminating half of your competition!
Phase 2: Nominate RB/WRs Ahead of Their Ranking
One of the least recognized aspects of auctions is the impact of snake draft ADP and rankings on the final winning bid price. Surprisingly, nomination order has a huge impact on the winning bid price. An auction allows you to nominate any player you’d like during your nomination turn but it’s uncanny how closely most leagues nomination order follows ADP or your draft sites default rankings. It will obviously deviate slightly, but it’s ultimately a similar order.
Once you’ve depleted a few QBs, it’s time to switch over to nominating the RBs and WRs. There is a very important correlation between nomination order and the price paid for the player. This is where the high-level “don’t nominate players you want” tip comes into play. The problem with that generic tip is that it doesn’t specify which players to nominate or why.
Let’s dig into the underlying impact of nomination order. Owners are always subconsciously comparing their auction to a snake draft. When the other owners see the 15th ranked RB get nominated as the 10th RB off the board, they immediately assume their valuation is wrong and that you or someone else will value this player as the 10th best. They will look at the value of the 10th ranked RB on their draft list and see that as the league’s ceiling price for this player, even if they personally have them ranked lower. This inevitably leads to minor price enforcing. I have collected data for multiple leagues over multiple seasons and found a clear trend: over 75% of players nominated ahead of their ranking will be won by a bid exceeding their Average Auction Value (AAV). Think about that – You have a 75% chance of forcing one of your leaguemates to overpay for a player! This is why you absolutely cannot squander your nominations on trivial things like a kicker!
The underlying concept of this tip is trying to get the player you covet nominated AFTER his ADP/ranking. In my findings, 65% of the players nominated after their ADP/ranking (EX: WR12 nominated as the 20th WR off the board) will see a winning bid below their AAV. This is where you need to pounce! Combined, these two principles bring you this “rule”: Nominate players that you don’t want to roster BEFORE their ranking to increase their price, driving down the price of the players you do want to roster.
By nominating RB15 as the 10th RB off the board, you’ve now increased the chances of an opponent overpaying for a lesser RB while giving you a better chance at getting RB10 at a discount.
Phase 3: The Tight End Run
I have been playing in auction leagues for over 10 years. I’ve found a trend that only the top 3-4 TEs will be nominated in the early rounds while everyone is focused on RBs and WRs. After hitting 5-6 of the RB/WR nominations is phase 2, it’s time to move everyone’s focus to the suddenly valuable TEs. Just like a snake draft, many owners will still work their roster construction filling starting positions first. Around the 8th-10th nomination round is a great time to remind them that they need a TE. Humans are programmed to follow the crowd and it’s never more evident than in a positional run in a fantasy draft. Your goal here is to open the eyes of a few fellow owners to the incredible value on the board at the TE position. You’ll see that when you start nominating TEs, a few others will want to help fill out everyone’s roster. Again, the goal here is to nominate players ahead of their ranking. This is especially important at a “onesie” position like TE. By using your nominations effectively, you have the power of filling the TE spot on your opponent’s roster. You are controlling their team! Let that sink in as you are landing the TE you covet at a discounted price.
Phase 4: The Late Rounds
Once you’ve worked through 10-12 nominations rounds, you’ll see a few things occur. First, there will be a few teams who have filled out their roster and are removed from the bidding and nomination process. Secondly, you will have a few owners who have spent most of their funds and are limited to $1 players. You do not want to be one of those people. I always recommend having $2-3 available for every player you wish to acquire, excluding the requisite $1 for each of your kicker and defense (assuming your draft software requires you to take one of each position).
Nominations at this stage of the game can make or break the end of your draft. When nominating players at this stage you need to be very cognizant of the remaining owners’ rosters and available funds. If you don’t pay attention, you may nominate a player that no one wants or a position that no one needs and get stuck with that player for $1. It’s less about the money spent and more about the lost roster spot. If there is still a hyped sleeper on the board that you want, you need to work to eliminate any owner who has more funds than you. Look at their roster construction for a hint on what players they may still need. If they need RBs, nominate the handcuff to their primary RB.
Phase 5: The End is Near
At this stage of the auction, only a couple owners have roster spots available and it often turns into a straight draft, just rolling through the nominations and immediately winning the player for $1. Even if someone has a few extra bucks, don’t get cute and try to trick them into a player. It won’t work and you’ll get stuck. At this point, you must simply nominate the player you want. *TIP if you notice that you and another owner both have a $2 max bid available on your last player, nominate the player for $2 instead of $1. Nothing stings more than losing your last round flyer because you didn’t pay attention to your opponent’s available balance.
As you approach your auction drafts this year, take a deeper look at the nomination process for your league. As the auction proceeds, you’ll start to recognize that most of your league mates are simply following the stereotypical motions and all the common auction tips. Use the nomination process to take control of the auction and your league. Use the processes outlined above to dominate the draft and lead yourself to another #footclantitle!