Auction Draft Strategy: Building and Using a Budget

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Editor’s Note: Check out some of our other auction related articles.

The quickest way to ruin your auction draft is to spend wildly without having a plan. In fact, I’ve seen people get caught up in the moment and win the first two players and get caught price enforcing on the third. Suddenly, they have spent most their auction funds on two QBs in a start one QB league.

Having a viable budget will help you control your spending. Once you have built your budget, you will have a great baseline of how you intend to construct your roster. This will keep you on track to avoid unnecessary bidding in a bidding war and make sure you avoid the temptation to price enforce. Price enforcing typically rears its ugly head when drafters are comparing the current bid to the draft platforms “Average Auction Value” (AAV).

Average Auction Values

The best way to build a successful team in an auction draft is to have a solid base of knowledge regarding the expected auction values and then acquiring the best players possible for each auction dollar. You can’t maximize your auction dollars without some research into Average Auction Values (AAV). AAV is the auction version of a snake draft’s Average Draft Position (ADP). AAV simply gives you an idea of what each player could cost, but not exactly what they will cost. There are a million factors that can skew a player’s AAV.

The beauty of an auction draft is the ability to build your team however you see fit. That said, Your league mates won’t allow you to roster Aaron Rodgers, Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham and David Johnson, regardless of how much you think it’s possible. Someone will overpay to make sure they prevent that roster from occurring.

Know Your League

Even if AAV suggests that you could create that roster, the fact of the matter is that in a 12-team league with a $200 cap, there is $2,400 available to acquire players and your league mates want those players as much as you do and after you’ve acquired one of the big-name players, they will have more funds than you.

Unless this is your first season, you should have some experience with your league mates draft styles from previous seasons. If it is your first season in the auction, you can still get a good idea of how the league will value players. Starting lineup requirements will play a major role in the pricing of players in the auction. Leagues with shallow starting requirements will typically see higher prices for the top players as owners attempt to build the strongest starting lineup possible. Deeper starting requirements will see slightly lower price points on the top players as everyone tries to spread the same money over more players. A great example of this is a 1-QB vs a 2-QB league. In a normal 12-team 1-QB league, owners will spend about 6-8% of their auction funds on the QB position rostering only 16-20 total QBs across the league. If that same 12-team league is a 2-QB league, you might see as much as 10-11% of the total auction funds get spent on QBs.

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Knowing the scoring settings will also impact the spending. A full PPR league will see higher prices for the WRs and pass catching RBs compared to a standard scoring league. Scoring settings combined with the starting requirements can have as much as a 3-5% impact on total spending. While that might not sound significant, a spending variance of $70-120 at a position will dramatically impact all the other positions.

In a completely stock, 12-team league with the Baller’s preferred settings, you can expect a league to spend:

Building Your Budget

There is a common budget concept that simply applies a dollar figure for each position, similar to the projected total spend we looked at above. This type of budget would give you the freedom to spend across the position, with little regard for which players and what prices. Unfortunately, this budget is not specific enough to keep your spending under control in the heat of the moment.

My preferred budget building method, and what I suggest you consider, is roster construction specific. Instead of giving a total spend for each of the positions, I suggest you budget a specific amount for each roster spot. In the sample below, I have built a budget based on a 12 team league using the Baller’s preferred rosters and scoring.

Beyond the budget keeping your positional spending in line, a major advantage of this is that you can pre-build sample rosters before you ever draft. Using the AAV and projected league spending covered above, you can anticipate just which players could be available to you. Using this tactic, it becomes easy to adjust your budget to make sure you’re building a roster that you think will be the best in the league. The sample below takes the sample budget from above and adds some possible players at each position, using the Baller’s consensus AAV found in the Ultimate Draft Kit. I suggest picking a player or two slightly above the budget, two or three at the budget and finally one or two that you would be ok with if the pricing goes higher than expected. Combining the AAV with the tiered rankings also found in the UDK will show you what players in a tier you can anticipate acquiring.

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The sample above gives you an idea of how you can create a budget and tweak it to build possible teams before the auction. If for example, you don’t like the options for your RB2, you can simply adjust the funds across a few positions to either give you more funds to get the RB you want or reduce funds while dropping down a tier, thus adding the funds to another position. Once you’ve built a budget you feel confident in, you can stay focused during the draft in acquiring the best possible players within your budget. Staying focused on your positions and target players allows you to avoid significantly overpaying or acquiring players you don’t like.

Know Your Draft Platform Before You Draft

While you may feel really comfortable with the AAV you got from the UDK or built yourself, don’t overlook the impact of the draft platform’s stock AAV. There can be major variations and in the heat of the moment, you need to be able to take advantage of those variations. The Pre-Draft list and player info for the nominated player will be front and center for all to see. You may catch your league price enforcing based on inflated site values or not bid you up on players the draft site undervalues. Let’s compare some of the AAV from the UDK vs the stock ESPN AAV:

Adjust on the Fly

Auction drafts are fickle beasts. It’s inevitable that you will need to adjust on the fly. Having a budget ready and knowing where and how you can adjust it based on the trends of the draft is crucial. If a position run occurs and a whole tier or two of players suddenly goes way over budget, don’t chase the pricing. Adjust! An overspending at one position simply reduces the funds available overall. This will result in either reduced pricing for lower-tiered players at the same position or reduced prices at other positions. You must zig when you league mates zag.

One of the best ways to adjust on the fly is to use the technology in your pocket. A simple Excel, iOS Pages or Google Sheets file will make your life much easier in the draft. Using a budget file like those sampled on this article will be a simple way to adjust. If you win a player, plug in the winning bid. With a simple “sum” formula, you can have it adjust your total. If your winning bid was over your budget, you’ll quickly see how much you need to remove from another position or positions. Conversely, if you land a nice deal, you can add funds to another position!


Using a detailed budget is another step to dominating your auction draft. While your league mates forgo using a budget or only use simple position totals, you can control your spending and make sure you can build the roster you want to take home that #footclantitle!

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