Fantasy Football: Early 2018 Auction Trends

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

Each auction draft has it’s own character and auction drafts vary wildly from year to year. Still, this year is beyond unique-it’s bizarre. Here’s what I’m seeing in auction drafts* with actual buy-ins and how you can exploit auction drafts in 2018. You’re going to have to adapt the values to your own settings, league sizes, and scoring but this will give you an idea of what to expect.

*These trends are from 12-team bestball/draftmaster drafts with $200 budgets and PPR scoring. 1QB/2RB/3WR/1TE/Flex/PK/DEF.

The Top-10

In the past couple of years, we saw a handful of players command top-dollar. LeVeon Bell, David Johnson, and the big-three receivers(Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr, and Julio Jones) were auction value leaders in 2017. The big-three WRs dominated the top three auction values in 2016. This year is nearly identical to 2015 where RBs dominate the top-10 auction values, but even then LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, and Jamaal Charles were well ahead of the rest of the field. You could expect to see those top players go for right around $60 the last few years.

The values are much more evenly spaced out among the top-10 options and are eating up a whopping 17.5%-19.5% of the total league budget despite not having any players top $60 as has happened the last few years. Without having those $60+ players and a deep group at RB, the top 10 players have formed 1A, 1B, and 1C value-tiers.

Todd Gurley and LeVeon Bell have formed a 1A value-tier. The 1B grouping starts with Antonio Brown who edged out Ezekiel Elliott and David Johnson as the third most expensive player. ADPs often seem very finite, but I think it’s more an indication that Zeke, DJ, and AB are more interchangeable than it seems.

Saquon Barkley, DeAndre Hopkins, Kareem Hunt, Alvin Kamara, and Odell Beckham Jr. round out the top-10 most expensive players and form a 1C grouping. These players are cheaper than 1A, but not by a whole lot. Gurley has yet to be $13 more expensive than Kamara in any draft and even then, a couple of these drafts were done before the Mark Ingram suspension was announced.

Running Backs

RBs occupy 16 of the top-30 auction values. Beyond the 8 RBs in the top-10, clear value-tiers have formed:

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RBs 8-10 Melvin Gordon Leonard Fournette Dalvin Cook
RBs 11-12 Christian McCaffrey Devonta Freeman
RBs 13-16 LeSean McCoy Joe Mixon Jordan Howard Jerick McKinnon

There is a huge drop off after these value-tiers. After the top 16 RBs, you’re looking at Rashad Penny, Derrius Guice, Derrick Henry types. You can even start to see the drop off in that last group of RBs who are susceptible to fluctuations caused by how much the top RBs cost early in the auction and when these RBs get nominated (with the exception of Jordan Howard who, like his yearly fantasy output, has been remarkably consistent):

Earliest Nomination Latest Nomination Value Differential
LeSean McCoy 3.1 for $30 5.8 for $24 $6
Jordan Howard 3.3 for $27 7.5 for $27 $0
Joe Mixon 1.7 for $33 6.12 for $20 $13
Jerick McKinnon 1.8 for $28 8.1 for $22 $6
Wide Receivers

Like RBs, the top WRs have formed value-tiers.

WRs 4-5 Michael Thomas Julio Jones
WRs 6-8 Keenan Allen Mike Evans AJ Green
WRs 9-10 Davante Adams Doug Baldwin Amari Cooper

There is a massive grouping of WRs beyond the top-10 including Tyreek Hill, T.Y. Hilton, and Larry Fitzgerald.  Fitz seems like a huge value and you can easily afford him as the third or fourth WR on your team.

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Quarterbacks

One of the biggest mistakes NUB (new useful bidders) make is spending too much on the quarterback position. I generally like to nominate a middle of the road QB early because most of the time someone would overpay for him, but sometimes I’d be able to scoop him up cheap when people didn’t quite know how much to pay. It was basically a win-win for me because I would either get someone else to overpay(usually a NUB) for a QB I could live without or I would get a great price on a QB that should finish as a QB1. I still like that strategy, but there’s a market inefficiency I spotted through the first four auction drafts I’ve done this year. It will probably jump right out at you:

QB Auction Averages Fantasy Footballers' Rank
Aaron Rodgers $24 1
Deshaun Watson $18 10
Russell Wilson $15 2
Tom Brady $14 4
Drew Brees $11 4
Carson Wentz $10 10
Cam Newton $8 3
Andrew Luck $8 7
Philip Rivers $7 12
Matthew Stafford $6 4
Matt Ryan $6 13
Kirk Cousins $5 7
Ben Roethlisberger $5 9
Jimmy Garoppolo $4 18

I won’t own Aaron Rodgers because I know I can get a perennial QB1 for half as much or less, but I wouldn’t bash anyone for spending up on him since he’s as close as you can get to a top-3 lock at the QB position. It’s not Rodgers that sticks out to me though. Why is Watson costing as much or nearly as much as Rodgers? I have no idea, but I’ll happily exploit it.

Jason is the highest on Watson and still ranks him number four behind Rodgers, Wilson, and Newton. A good auction drafter will wait on QB just like in regular snake drafts to see if someone like Newton, Brees, or Stafford falls. A great auction drafter will exploit this market inefficiency and nominate Watson early or right after Rodgers gets nominated. Let someone else pay Rodgers-like sums for Watson.

Tight Ends

There is Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, Zach Ertz, and the rest. Greg Olsen is going for about half of what Gronk and Kelce are going for.

Place Kickers

Stephen Gostkowski and Justin Tucker are going for about $4. $4 isn’t a lot, but that difference can upgrade you from Kareem Hunt to Ezekiel Elliott or Amari Cooper to A.J. Green. There are ways to find good kicker values than spending up for Gostkowski and Tucker.

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Defenses

I didn’t even really want to include kickers or defenses in here, but there’s something sticking out about defenses that had to be mentioned. It didn’t seem right to include defenses and not kickers so here we are. Like kickers, NUBs love to overpay for defenses. QBs and defenses-that’s how you know if someone hasn’t done a lot of auctions. $3-4 is reasonable for a top defense, but Jacksonville has cost $7 in three of the past four drafts. Would you rather have Jerick McKinnon and New Orleans’ defense or Jay Ajayi and Jacksonville’s defense?