Auction Draft Strategy: 2018 Budget Builder Guide

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When planning for your league’s auction draft, having a budget planned out is a crucial step in building a winning roster. Much like life, a budget keeps your spending under control, limits impulsive purchases and shows you the importance of stretching those last few dollars. Last year, I wrote an article detailing how to build your auction budget. This year, I’m going to dive into the draft trends for 2018 and how they will impact your budget building process.

Editor’s Note: Check out all of our auction content including how to nominate, building a budget, and finding value in an auction draft.

2018 Trends

My fellow auction aficionado, Eric Ludwig, wrote a great article(Fantasy Football: Early 2018 Auction Trends) last week that highlighted some early trends he’s found in 2018 auction drafts. It’s a must read to understand the budget building process for 2018!

*Note – All auction values mentioned are for a $200 salary cap. Rankings and values are pulled from the Ultimate Draft Kit and are subject to change.)

Quarterbacks  ($5 or less, 1 Player)

The QB pool is DEEEEEEEEEP in 2018. Looking down the rankings in the FFBallers’ Ultimate Draft Kit, most owners should be perfectly happy starting any QB ranked inside the top 20. For those owners who believe in the (very) late round QB/streaming QB strategy, you are likely to feel ok all the way down to Derek Carr (QB25). Even there, Mitch Trubisky (QB26) has plenty of hype for a sophomore leap and bargain shoppers will find likely Week 1 Starters Joe Flacco, Sam Bradford, Tyrod Taylor, and Josh McCown, or their respective rookie teammates, still available for just $1.

What does that mean for your 2018 auction budget? Unless you’re in a two-QB/Superflex league, there is no reason to budget more than $5 for your starter. As Eric pointed out in his 2018 Trends article, QBs like Cam Newton (QB3), Matthew Stafford (QB5) and Drew Brees (QB6) can be acquired with just $8-$11 in some drafts.  With a $5 budget for QB, you can feel confident that you will land a capable QB like Philip Rivers (QB12), Matt Ryan (QB15), or Dak Prescott (QB18).

Additionally, with the QB pool being so deep, there is no reason to acquire a second QB in normal one-QB leagues. Don’t waste the money buying a “back-up” QB when you will be able to grab one off the waiver wire if necessary.

Running Backs ($90-$100, 5-6 Players)

Fantasy Football experiences a lot of ebb and flow to player values based on the results from the previous season. After an abysmal 2015 season, the RB prices plummeted in 2016 drafts. A strong 2016 and resurgent 2017 has significantly increased RB prices in auction drafts. The top-tier RBs have always commanded a hefty price tag, but it’s the RBs in the next few tiers who have seen the biggest cost increases.

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Auction drafters in 2018 have been reflecting this by paying up for RBs in the 10-20 ranks, where they previously sought bargains. Overall, total spending on RBs across the league should increase, making it harder for you to acquire quality players.

In 2018, It’s going to cost $40-$50 to land a back-end RB1 like Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt or Dalvin Cook. If you’re intent of landing two RBs from the top 20, expect to pay another $30-$40 to acquire a player like Christian McCaffery, Devonta Freeman or Jordan Howard.

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If investing nearly half your budget on two RBs scares you, look to the Players in the $15-$30 range. Here you can take the “shotgun approach” and buy 3-4 RBs that all have the upside to finish in the top 10, especially rookies Rashaad Penny, Royce Freeman, Sony Michel, and Derrius Guice. This price range also contains a nice selection of veterans, such as Alex Collins, Dion Lewis, Kenyan Drake, and Jay Ajayi.

2018’s plan should include at least 3, perhaps 4, RBs acquired for a total of $90 (average price of $20-$30), with the remaining $10 spent on a couple sleeper bench stashes.

Wide Receivers ($75-$90, 5-6 Players)

2017 was one of the worst seasons for WR scoring in 10+ years. We also saw the continued trend of targets getting spread across a bigger group of players. Part of the increase for the re-found love for RBs has been their usage in the passing game. TE targets are also creeping up, further reducing available WR targets. This has created a “mega-tier” effect, where the difference between WR15 and WR30 is often negligible to owners and personal rankings are far more varied. In years past, owners were spending big bucks on the top 10-15 WRs and bargain hunting for RBs. 2018 is seeing a flipping of that script, where owners are waiting to draft players like Sammy Watkins and Michael Crabtree in the WR25-30 range and feeling confident they can produce similarly to players ranked 10-15 slots higher. Why pay $24 for Marvin Jones (WR18) when you can have Emmanuel Sanders (WR30, $13) and Jarvis Landry (WR32, $11) for the same $24?

What some owners will overlook is the effect this will have on the higher ranked players. It’s likely that some savvy owners will acquire top 10 WRs at a discount. Budgeting $60-$70 for two of the top-ranked WRs might just work in 2018. Image landing Michael Thomas (WR5, $36) and Adam Thielen (WR9, $32), then backing them up with one of the aforementioned WRs such as Sanders or Landry. Save a few bucks for potential breakout players I’ve highlighted in our Path to WR1 Series; Sterling Shepard (WR36, $7) and Will Fuller (WR40, $5) and you will have built a potent roster!

Tight Ends ($5-$10, 1-2 Players)

The TE position has developed a wide gap between the “haves and the have-nots”. After the top three (Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, and Travis Kelce), there a noticeable price drop down to Greg Olsen and Evan Engram. After those top 5 TEs, there is a gaggle of TEs that will cost between $1-$8 and it’s mostly personal preference. In one league you may be bidding against someone for the unknown upside of Trey Burton, while in another draft you will land him for $1. The TE position is so fickle, it might be best to draft two TEs for a combined $5-$10.

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Defense and Kickers ($1 each, never more)

If your league still has kickers, direct your commissioner over to my “Rules that Need to be Eliminated” article and get rid of them from your league. If the league is too stubborn to eliminate the kicker position, do not, under any circumstances, pay more than $1 for a kicker.

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Just (don’t) do it.

Over on the defense position, someone will nominate the Jaguars and the Rams early enough in the auction that owners will have money to spend and end up paying $6-$10 for them. Just sit back and laugh at them wasting money. Streaming defenses is a way to make the position more exciting, so wait to acquire the Lions Defense for $1. You can enjoy watching them pick on the hapless Jets in the first Monday Night Football Game of the year. If you miss out on that matchup, the Ravens will be hosting the Bills, another team projected to have one of the worst offenses in the league.

Bringing it All Together

This year will be the first time in a long time where RB spending will mirror or even surpass WR spending after a few years of owners spending more on WRs than RBs. In 2018, The way to budget in 2018 will be to spend almost all of your funds on RBs and WRs and next to nothing on QBs and TEs. Avoid the temptation to spend on a premier QB like Aaron Rodgers or an elite TE like Travis Kelce. At the end of the draft, you’ll be much happier with your roster if you saved money by drafting Matthew Stafford and Kyle Rudolph, giving you that extra funding to either spend up on a stud RB or WR or to build greater depth at those positions.

Sample Budgets

Below are 4 sample budgets based on “Ballers Preferred” league formatting. These samples are intended to be a starting guide for building your 2018 budget. Owners must know their competition and adjust accordingly for their league set-up, roster rules, and league scoring format. Use these samples and play around with moving funds around. Try pushing some of the bench funds up for starters in a “Studs & Duds” approach. Perhaps you want stronger depth at RB, so move some of the bench WR funds over. If you have any questions, shoot me a message on twitter @mpw270. Good luck in 2018!


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