Fantasy Football: Creating Your Own Player Values for Auction / Salary Cap Drafts

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One of the primary draws to the Auction / Salary Cap draft format is the increased level of strategy that comes along with it. Most auction aficionados are not using “stock” rankings or values. If you’re not using your own rankings and values, you’re falling behind your league mates. As highlighted in my previous article, the settings in your league will have a major impact on the final player salaries, and you must take this into account for your league.

Creating your own player values might sound like a daunting task, but, with a little spreadsheet magic and a baseline of information, creating your own valuations for your league will be a major advantage in your draft. In another article this year, I highlighted how site rankings and their salaries are a decent baseline for player values, even if they are not precisely set up for your league. So how can you use those values as a baseline to create your own customized salaries for your league?

Editor’s Note: Make sure you check out all of our Auction/Salary Cap content on theFantasy

The Baseline

First, you need to find a reliable source of data for your salaries. I’m obviously partial to those found right here in the Fantasy Footballers Ultimate Draft Kit. Additionally, I like to gather intel from the host sites rankings as well, since many of your league mates will simply use the site’s default rankings for both their rankings and their nominations. Recognizing the variances between rankings is one of the best ways to find “deals” during your draft. 

Once we have the baseline of rankings and salaries, the first step is to try and identify a projected number of players that you expect to be drafted at each of the core skill positions: QB, RB, WR, and TE. This, like many things in Fantasy Football, is an educated guessing game. Using some common sense, it’s not a good idea to project all 32 QBs being drafted in a 1QB league. Conversely, only projecting 20 QBs drafted in a Superflex league is also not realistic. The easy part about all this is that there are a finite number of players drafted overall using a finite amount of draft funds. Using simple assumptions can lead you very close to the typical draft results. For example, most owners will draft 1-2 QBs, 4-6 RBs, 4-6 WRs, and 1-2 TEs. 

If this is not your first year in the league, it’s a great idea to go back through historical drafts to look for patterns. How many players are drafted at each position and how much total spending is done at that position. If your league is historically RB-Heavy, you can begin to recognize patterns across multiple years. Maybe your league is WR crazy and no one spends on QBs. All great info to discern from your league history. 

Furthermore, while the players change yearly, many of your league mates will be creatures of habit. Manager X will always draft backup QBs and TEs while Manager Y is always a Zero-RB drafter. Simple trends open a world of possibilities to your draft preparations. In my personal home league, I have been using historical salaries and draft patterns to become scary good at projecting salaries. While I don’t nail every salary, so many players will fall within $1-$3 of my projections that it makes my budgeting process highly accurate, allowing me to draft the roster I want each season.

Each Player is a Percentage of the Total Spend

One thing that I’ve found over the years is that most player salaries are a reasonably consistent ratio of salary to total spending at that position. Using this, we can take any list of player salaries and convert it to our own projected positional spending projections. Your goal is not to nail every player’s salary projection, but to be close enough to separate yourself from your league mates. One of the keys to winning an auction/salary cap league is to get as much value out of each draft pick as possible. Many fantasy players will misunderstand that to mean you have to get a “deal” on every player acquired, but that is not true. What you need is to get more players who outperform their draft day salary than your opponents. It’s not just about hitting on late-round $1 players who outperform their draft spot, it can be as simple as drafting the RB with the 5th highest salary, yet he performs as the 2nd best RB all season. Even then, you got great value out of that pick. Finding these values often becomes a much easier task by having a working projection system of salaries.

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As an example, I’m going to use the QB position and review the top-20 ranked players. The player names are not important at this time, just the process, as it would be applied to every position.

Rank Salary
QB1 $38
QB2 $31
QB3 $28
QB4 $25
QB5 $23
QB6 $23
QB7 $21
QB8 $19
QB9 $17
QB10 $15
QB11 $13
QB12 $12
QB13 $11
QB14 $10
QB15 $3
QB16 $1
QB17 $1
QB18 $1
QB19 $1
QB20 $1

As you can see, this ranking is very aggressive on QB spending. In a normal 12-team, 1 QB league, there is a near-zero chance that the 14th-ranked QB will command a $10 salary. In fact, my experience says that QBs 8-12 will be closer to $1-$5 than $10. With a total spend on the top 20 QBs of $294, this list is too aggressive for my liking and it needs to be toned down. Additionally, it’s a very linear trend, dropping just $1-$3 between players. In my experience, a 12-team, 1 QB league spending will be closer to $200-$225 total, with heaving spending at the top with a rapid decline in spending going down the list. 

Applying some Spreadsheet Basics

The first thing I want to do is figure out what percentage of each player’s salary on my baseline list is vs the total spend. In this case, QB1 is $38 out of $294. While I could do this math on a calculator (38 / 294  = 12.9%), doing this for +/- 200 players overall will get real old, real quick. Assuming you’re working with a spreadsheet program (Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, iOS/macOS Pages), there is a simple formula to use that will figure each player’s percentage for you. 

1 TOTAL = $294
2 Rank $
3 QB1 $38 =B3/$B$1
4 QB2 $31 =B4/$B$1
5 QB3 $28 =B5/$B$1
6 QB4 $25 =B6/$B$1
7 QB5 $23 =B7/$B$1

*Using the $ before a column and/or row in a cell reference will make it “stay” in that spot as you copy/paste your formula. Just write it once in the first cell and then apply it to the rest, making each cell divide by the total to get the player’s percentage of total spend.

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Using that formula, here is what our original chart looks like:

TOTAL = $294
Rank $ Percentage of Total Spend
QB1 $38 12.9%
QB2 $31 10.5%
QB3 $28 9.5%
QB4 $25 8.5%
QB5 $23 7.8%
QB6 $23 7.8%
QB7 $21 7.1%
QB8 $19 6.5%
QB9 $17 5.8%
QB10 $15 5.1%
QB11 $13 4.4%
QB12 $12 4.1%
QB13 $11 3.7%
QB14 $10 3.4%
QB15 $3 1.0%
QB16 $1 0.3%
QB17 $1 0.3%
QB18 $1 0.3%
QB19 $1 0.3%
QB20 $1 0.3%

Now that we have a percentage for each player, we can now apply it to our own projected total spending for that position. For my example, I’m going to reduce total spending down to $200 at the QB position. What I will do is put my new total spend at the top of the next open column. In each player’s cell under that total, the formula will be a simple multiplication of the cell with the percentage x the cell with the total. (Don’t forget to use those ‘$’ when referencing the total cell, so that your formula always references that total.

TOTAL = $294 $200
Rank $ Percentage of Total Spend $
QB1 $38 12.9% $26
QB2 $31 10.5% $21
QB3 $28 9.5% $19
QB4 $25 8.5% $17
QB5 $23 7.8% $16
QB6 $23 7.8% $16
QB7 $21 7.1% $14
QB8 $19 6.5% $13
QB9 $17 5.8% $12
QB10 $15 5.1% $10
QB11 $13 4.4% $9
QB12 $12 4.1% $8
QB13 $11 3.7% $7
QB14 $10 3.4% $7
QB15 $3 1.0% $2
QB16 $1 0.3% $1
QB17 $1 0.3% $1
QB18 $1 0.3% $1
QB19 $1 0.3% $1
QB20 $1 0.3% $1

This chart is starting to look a little better, but for my personal preferences, I’m still not pleased. The top QBs came down a bit too far, while QBs 8-14 are still too high. Because we’ve changed the baseline, there is now less manual work to do. The next step is to identify where I want to project the salaries for those mid-tier QBs to be. For this exercise, I’m going to lower the salaries for QBs 8-14, while also projection that only 18 QBs get drafted. These reductions will give me auction funds to reallocate to the top players. I will go through and manually add a new column with my own salary projections, always making sure it adds up to my total positional spending.

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TOTAL = $294 $200 $200
Rank $ Percentage of Total Spend New $ My Value
QB1 $38 12.9% $26 $31
QB2 $31 10.5% $21 $28
QB3 $28 9.5% $19 $26
QB4 $25 8.5% $17 $25
QB5 $23 7.8% $16 $22
QB6 $23 7.8% $16 $15
QB7 $21 7.1% $14 $12
QB8 $19 6.5% $13 $10
QB9 $17 5.8% $12 $9
QB10 $15 5.1% $10 $7
QB11 $13 4.4% $9 $5
QB12 $12 4.1% $8 $3
QB13 $11 3.7% $7 $2
QB14 $10 3.4% $7 $1
QB15 $3 1.0% $2 $1
QB16 $1 0.3% $1 $1
QB17 $1 0.3% $1 $1
QB18 $1 0.3% $1 $1
QB19 $1 0.3% $1 $0
QB20 $1 0.3% $1 $0


Using a process like this, you will be able to create customized player salary projections that are tailored to your league. Bonus points if you have some league history to work with, which will make your salary projections and subsequently your budgeting process, all the more accurate.


CommisionerMo says:

Hey Michael, I love this article. Last season I won the Championship after a last place finish the season before, and I fully believe following your articles and building my budget for the first time was a fundamental component of that Championship. Now I am back and revisiting this article, and I have a clarifying question to try and fine-tune my budget some more: When you use the term “my value” is this meant as “my value” for what I would pay for each player during the draft, or “my value” for what I believe each player costs in my league regardless if I would purchase them at that price or not?
Thanks for your contributions to The Footballers Community!

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