Auction Strategy: Avoiding the Bidding War (Fantasy Football)

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Editor’s Note: Researching for an auction draft? Find out how to build an auction budget, find 2019’s auction values, and organize it all into auction tiers.  Lots of fantasy football advice to be had.  

The worst feeling after a Fantasy Football Auction Draft is regret. Regret that you didn’t spend that extra dollar to get “your guy.” Regret that you left a couple of bucks on the table that could have been used to get that sleeper. Those feelings are not realized until the draft is over. But the regret over a bidding war? OOOOHHHH, that’s an instant feeling. You know you shouldn’t keep going. You know you shouldn’t hit that button again. But yet, you do. There are a lot of reasons that owners will get into a bidding war, and the goal of this article is to highlight some of the most common ones so that you can avoid it.

My 2018 Blunder

I’m writing this article because I committed a major blunder in my 2018 home league’s auction. Last year, I over-paid on a player. Big time. My league has four keepers, so player pricing is inflated*, but I went way overboard. The player in question was Chris Hogan, and I had him ranked as my WR21 heading into the season. After the keepers were declared, he was the 9th best WR available. His AAV was sitting at $16, and I had him projected at a post-keeper-inflated rate of $27. When the smoke cleared, I had paid $42 for him, making him the 6th highest paid WR and 4th highest of the non-keepers. OUCH. Talk about busting a budget. How, with all my auction experience, did I fall into this disaster?

*To learn more about Price Inflation due to Keepers, check out this article I wrote in 2017. Ignore the names and focus on the process.

The Last Player in a Tier

This is how I got wrapped up in the bidding war over Chris Hogan. If you’ve participated in an auction before, you’ve seen this scenario play out, but if you’re new, here’s how it goes; As the nominations roll on, there is that one player that everyone keeps skipping. You’ve got money budgeted for a player at that level, and as you’re looking at your cheat sheet, you continually see players ranked 10-15 spots lower in fantasy rankings than him getting nominated. When he is finally nominated, he’s the best player available by at least ten spots and likely two tiers worth of players. The example would be the last WR2 when the next best player is a WR4. At this point, there are a couple of owners with money budgeted for a WR2 level player. As the price climbs above AAV, some owners will drop out, but there is always that one owner with as much or more money than you and the bidding war ensues. At some point, one of the owners will finally cave and cease bidding, but it’s too late; that player comes out with a price way above their ranking.

To avoid this, you need to be honest with yourself and the falling player. Too often, owners will sit back and hold out on nominating that player, hoping that their league mates will spend too much along the way so you can land a steal later. But it rarely happens. When you identify a player you’re interested in as the last player available in their tier, you need to get them nominated as quickly as possible. While he is the last player in that tier, if there are a few players in the tier immediately below, owners won’t feel the pressure to roster that one last player, reducing the likelihood of a bidding war.

The Pre-Season Hype Train

Every year, a player will see a meteoric rise in the rankings as we proceed through the pre-season. By the time your draft hits, a player who had a mid-round ADP and a nice, low AAV is now a top 30 player with an AAV chart that would make Wall Street drool.  Often, this player will be nominated early (especially if you read my nomination strategy article!) when multiple owners have most of their funds available. Everyone wants to get into the action when auction drafts first kickoff and that pre-season hype train is unstoppable. Next thing you know, that RB13 is getting paid like the RB6.

Mark Brown/Getty Images

To avoid this bidding war, you need to look for the veteran who has had a “quiet” camp and is ranked close to the hyped player. He’s not a sexy pick. But when you can step back and look at the whole picture, you will likely feel just as good rostering a player that is ranked within a few spots of that hyped-up player for a significantly lower price, where the savings can be used to improve another position. The perfect example for 2019 is Kerryon Johnson and Leonard Fournette. Don’t get me wrong, I love Kerryon Johnson in 2019. In fact, in my home keeper league mentioned above, I will be keeping Johnson. However, he is getting a ton of preseason hype, and since the end of July, his ADP has risen from the early 4th Round all the way up to inside the 2nd Round. Some of this rise is warranted with the release of Theo Riddick and the projection of increased targets, but he will still be competing with last year’s playoff darling C.J. Anderson for goalline work. Meanwhile, Leonard Fournette only has a rookie to spell him, and the release of T.J. Yeldon has put Fournette in a position to be a sneaky 3-down back catching more passes and is a candidate for 300+ touches. To top it off, he is definitely the goalline option. While now ranked 14th and 17th respectively, Leonard Fournette could be half the price of Kerryon Johnson.

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The Unknown Workload

While the bidding war may not reach budget-breaking proportions, every draft inevitably sees a bidding war over a player with an unknown workload. Somehow, two owners will fight over a player who MIGHT get more work than projected. Often this transpires in the latter-middle of the draft when a few owners have some leftover funds that are unlikely to be spent in whole on any other player available for the rest of the draft.

To avoid this, you need to stick to a reasonable AAV limit. Players who fall into this bidding war are often an NFL team’s 2nd runningback lingering behind a starter with a minor pre-season injury or holdout. This year could see owners overpaying for Justin Jackson, Tony Pollard, and Darrell Henderson. Ending up in a bidding war over these players can destroy your bench depth. Save those few extra dollars so you can get more of your sleepers at $1-$3, instead of blowing it on a player who may not ever justify their inflated price.

Leftover Money

At some point in the draft, an owner or two will have missed out on some of the top players or were stingy with their money early, saving it for the middle rounds. Unfortunately, those owners will then have too much money in relation to the quality of the players available. Those owners will inevitably feel comfortable over-paying for nearly every player they acquire moving forward, as they try to spend all their money by the end of the draft.

The way to avoid this situation is to spend your money early. While some owners will feel scared off by spending $40+ on one player with a $200 budget, you can relate this to snake draft ADP. Would you trade your picks in rounds 1, 2, and 3 in exchange for three picks in rounds 4-7? Many people will overlook the fact that ADP and AAV have a surprising level of correlation. Using pick 6 in a 12 team league as an example,  taking a player at ADP in each round, then adding up their AAV, it will be shockingly close to $200.  The point is, don’t be afraid draft a highly ranked player; it won’t bust your budget, and it will improve your team. You just need to avoid the bidding war. Look for the player who is about to be sold at a price at or lower than the AAV of the players in the same tier.


When you stay focused and avoid bidding wars throughout your auction draft, you will find yourself building a stronger, deeper team. Combining the tactics in this article with my previous strategy articles (Budget Builder, All-Value Team, and Nomination Targets), you can dominate your auction draft and set yourself up for that 2019 #FootclanTitle!

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