Fantasy Football: WR Auction Strategy in 2018

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Editor’s Note: Check out all of our auction content including how to nominate, building a budget, and recent auction trends.

How you plan for an auction draft is completely different than snake drafts. Values can fluctuate wildly based on where players are nominated and how your league mates bid, unlike snake drafts where Average Draft Positions (ADPs) largely dictate where players are drafted. While my fellow auction aficionado Eric (@FF_Gouge) recently tackled QB Auction Strategy, I’ll be laying out my plan for the pass catchers. This article will focus on the WR position, and how to prepare your WR budget for auction drafts.

Scoring System Matters

How we approach the WR position in 2018 is highly impacted by the scoring system that the league is using. While PPR scoring does impact RBs, it does not impact the majority of them as greatly as it does the WR position.  If we remove the touchdowns from player scoring and only look at yardage and receptions, TEs derive the greatest percentage of their points from receptions, followed closely by WRs. When comparing top WRs to top RBs, there is a 15%-20% variance between the percentage of those points that come from receptions. For example, Todd Gurley had 23% of this points (excluding TDs) come from receptions, whereas Antonio Brown had 40% of his points come from receptions in full PPR leagues. When looking at the top RBs like Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard, and Leonard Fournette, who are not known as pass catchers, PPR scoring has minimal impact on their scoring. This makes them that much more valuable in a standard league when compared to a WR. This distinction is important when planning your WR budget.

The Perception of WR Depth

One of the statements that I hear thrown around too often is the depth of the WR position. Many owners cavalierly proclaim that “WR is so deep, I’ll just wait and grab them later in my draft”. This statement often comes from owners who are heavily invested in early-round RBs.

The reality is that the WR position is deep, however, there is a part of that statement that is mistakenly overlooked. There is a clear top eight WRs that are the same eight players across almost all ranking sites, including the Fantasy Footballers Ultimate Draft Kit. After those eight WRs, rankings begin to vary wildly for the WRs 9-35. Many tiered rankings break down into very small specific tiers through this zone, however, I prefer to create large tiers with sub-tiers within them. My first tier of WRs includes those top eight which I denote as my WR1 Tier. These are the only players I feel really comfortable plugging into my top WR slot each week with the expectation that they will provide consistent high-end WR2 and, most often, WR1 scoring weeks. My sub-tiers within that grouping is top 3 and then the other 5.

The next Tier of players is my WR2 Tier. This tier covers WR9 to WR35 in most rankings. This grouping is where this perception of depth comes into play due to the WRs having rankings that vary significantly from site to site, yet all of them have very similar expectations of consistent WR3 production with a good mix of WR2 production for the majority of the season. TD rates will be the biggest variance of year-end scoring for this group, but week-to-week, there is actually minimal variance. Many will finish with similar yardage totals. Last year, there were 20 WRs that posted yardage totals within approximately 300 yards of each other (the grouping of 750-1050 yards). At most, this group varies by just 1.8pts per week from their yardage totals.

The reception and touchdown totals are what will create separation in their year-end rankings along with creating the sub-tiers in this grouping of WRs. The expectation of a high-volume pass catcher like Jarvis Landry or Golden Tate is different than players who produced high yards per reception or TDs, such as Mike Evans, Doug Baldwin, Marvin Jones or Devin Funchess.

Heading into an auction, regardless of scoring format, I want to build my budget around acquiring one of those top eight WRs to lock in that top end production. After that, the league scoring format will determine the rest of the roster construction and budget. For 2018, I’m suggesting heading into every league with two budgets at WR. Early WR spending in the league will determine which one to use.

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Plan 1: Top Tier WR, Value Mid-Tier Players for WR2-3

With this plan, I’m budgeting $55-60 for one of the top 3 WRs: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham or DeAndre Hopkins. All three of these players could go over this price point in some leagues, but in general, $60 is around the right price point to land one of those three. If you believe in Julio Jones, he can be added to this group.

Daniel Dunn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The second tier of WRs ranked 9-35 is where the WR2 and WR3 slots will be filled, but you should actually be targeting three players in this range. While the players at the top of that list are likely to be $30 themselves, I’m looking for the value, not the name. The goal is to find three players who end up falling down the nomination order and present a value buy. There are plenty of examples where WRs in this range are going for $6-$9 if you’re patient, which gives you wiggle room if you have spent $15-$19 on another WR.

Plan 2: Two WRs from Back of Tier 1

If pricing goes too high on one of the top 3 WRs, or one of the WRs from the back of that top tier come up early, I’m switching to targeting two players from ranks 4-8. It’s absolutely possible to land two of the WRs in this range for a combined $85 or less depending on the scoring system. Specifically, I’m looking to land two of Keenan Allen, Michael Thomas, and/or A.J. Green. It’s not uncommon to see A.J. come off the board in the high $30s. He’s a great value target in that upper tier.

When you lock in two of these players, you will really need to go bargain hunting for your 3rd and 4th WRs. Players like Chris Hogan, Michael Crabtree, and Emmanuel Sanders have all seen auction prices well below their likely output. The key here is spotting the value and pouncing.

With both plans, you’re spending big on the top WRs on your squad. Depending on starting rosters and bench configurations, I usually want to roster 6 WRs in a full PPR league, with the plan to start one in my flex position. The bench WRs will need to be cheap players in the $1-$4 range. In a standard league, I’ll likely only roster 5 WRs. The goal is to look for players that have major breakout potential, such as my 3rd Year WR Breakout Candidates: Will Fuller and Sterling Shepard. It is best to roster a WR with weekly upside like Kenny Stills or Tyler Lockett over a veteran with questionable situations, like Jordy Nelson or DeSean Jackson. Go big, or go home.

In all cases, you do not want to have any reservations about dropping a player for a waiver wire acquisition. If you spend $10 on a player, it’s psychologically more difficult to drop them over a $1 player. Spend the money early and then churn the back of the roster looking for waiver wire gems. In any given season, only 25-35% of your drafted players will remain on your roster throughout the season. Don’t waste important auction funds on players you’ll likely end up dropping.

Full PPR Leagues

In a full PPR League, the top WRs can often be as valuable to your fantasy team as a top end RB, yet the resurgent love for RBs is also slightly depressing WR pricing this year. Full PPR leagues give us additional value in players who are target vacuums like Golden Tate and Jarvis Landry. In a full PPR league, I’m going into my drafts with the 2 plans outlined above and a total WR spend around $100-$110.

Half-PPR Leagues

In half point per reception leagues, the WRs still get a little boost but do not have the dominant point potential they hold in full PPR leagues. Players that rack up receptions but not yardage are downgraded a bit more. Where a PPR WR such as Golden Tate could be high-end WR2 in a full PPR, he’s more likely going to be a back-end WR2 in Half-PPR unless he scores more than 6TDs. In a half-PPR league, WR spending league-wide drops a little, so your budget should reflect that. A total WR budget of $85-$95 is likely to give you a shot at the top end WRs while leaving enough funds in your budget for RBs.

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Standard Scoring Leagues

In a standard scoring league, the “PPR Monsters” really take a hit. When all the points come from yardage and TDs, those 90-100 receptions are not important if the player is not posting 1,100+ yards and 8+TDs. Your budget should still include funding for at least one of the top WRs, but the key in this format is your focus on WR values in the middle of the auction. Players with 8-10 TD upside like Chris Hogan and Devin Funchess are better targets than reception driven players like Cooper Kupp or Pierre Garcon. In a standard scoring league, I’m looking for players to score TDs and I will likely only roster 5 WRs with a total WR budget of $75-$80.

Budget Samples
Plan 1: PPR Half-PPR STD
WR1 $60 $55 $50
WR2 $23 $20 $18
WR3 $12 $10 $6
WR4 $10 $7 $4
WR5 $3 $2 $2
WR6 $2 $1 -
TOTAL $110 $95 $80
Plan 2: PPR Half-PPR STD
WR1 $45 $40 $35
WR2 $40 $35 $30
WR3 $17 $12 $12
WR4 $5 $6 $2
WR5 $2 $1 $1
WR6 $1 $1 -
TOTAL $110 $95 $80