Fantasy Football 101: Using Your Auction Budget During the Draft

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Many fantasy managers will participate in mock drafts before their league draft. It’s fun, it’s interesting, and many times, it’s a great precursor to roughly what you can expect in your draft. Auction drafts are much different. While mock auctions exist, anyone who has actually participated in one will tell you that they are more for learning the nuances of the draft platform than they are for getting any real insight into your league draft.

I’ve often said, you could have the same 12 fantasy managers participating in 10 consecutive auctions and none of their teams would look the same while player salaries would vary wildly. Unlike a snake draft, where you only get one pick per round, an auction allows you to build your team however you see fit. If you participated in that scenario, after draft one was completed, you’d recall the “deals” and try to snag them in the following draft, only to find other fantasy managers doing the same. Suddenly deals become over-pays, and new deals will emerge. If someone drafted Travis Kelce for $40 in draft one, you can rest assured someone else will push up the salary in draft two.

When you get into your auction draft, knowing ahead of time that you will need to adjust your budget along the way means you have to be prepared ahead of time to make changes to your budget on the fly.

Expect the Unexpected

You never know when a deal is going to present itself. It is inevitable, at some point during your auction draft, someone is going to acquire a player that is well below their AAV and expected salary. Many drafters will look back at the end of the draft and say, “I sure wish I would have bid there.”

Normally, I am very much against “price enforcing,” the act of increasing the salary of a player who you do not intend to draft, simply because you believe the salary is too low. Too often, managers will get caught price enforcing and end up stuck with a player they did not want, like a second QB in a 1QB league.

And yet, there is a time and place for everything, especially early in the draft with high-ranking players. If you see a high-ranking player at a salary significantly below his expected value, you need to be ready to pounce on that opportunity. Similar to a snake draft, if a first-round draft pick is falling into the end of the second round, you need to scoop them up. While you expected to get a certain type of player in that draft spot, you’ll have to pivot and take the value.

The same goes for auction drafts. If you already have two stud WRs on your roster and another top-end WR is nominated but not drawing a similar salary, you might want to jump in. In the investing world, it’s called “dollar cost averaging” and the same principle can be applied to fantasy football auctions. Remember, your auction dollars are being used to acquire fantasy points produced by a player. So as long as that player can be put in your starting line-up, it doesn’t hurt to get more points for less salary.

Adjust on the Fly

Continuing the scenario, you’ve now acquired your third high-end WR and likely overspent your budget for WRs. Time to adjust. Having a budget ready and knowing where and how you can adjust it based on the trends of the draft is crucial. Having spent big on WR, you now likely need to change your budget and plan for RB. It’s time to stay focused on the spending trends of the auction.

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If a position run occurs and a whole tier or two of players suddenly goes way over budget, don’t chase the pricing. Adjust! Remember, there is a limited number of auction dollars available for each team. When they overpay at one position, they will also need to adjust at other positions. 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 your league mates zag.

Were You Prepared?

If you followed my advice from the budget-building article, you should have prepared a couple of sample budgets where you spend more on one position than your base budget. Each budget should be focused on “overspending” at each of the core positions. Where your primary budget might have been more balanced, an alternate budget might have focused on this scenario of spending on a third highly ranked WR and filling your WR3/flex position.

As you reassess the league spending thus far in the draft, look for indications of where your league might be cutting corners. If this is a 1QB league, it might be time to consider dropping your budget down to just a few dollars and going with the late-round QB approach. If all of the teams have filled their TE position, you might get yourself a sleeper TE for just $1.

I like to keep a simple Excel, iOS Pages, or Google Sheets file to assist with my in-auction budgeting. When you win a player, plug in the winning salary. If your winning salary was over your budget, you’ll quickly see how much you need to remove from another position or multiple positions. Conversely, if you land a nice deal, you can add funds to another position.

As the auction goes along, reallocate unspent funds from winning bids to other positions, or pull funds from lower-importance positions (QB, TE, bench), to have those few extra bucks to go get a targeted player. I’m not afraid to pull funds out of my allotted bench positions to acquire a targeted starter. Oftentimes, you’ll end up getting a “deal” on some of those final starters that can push leftover funds back down to the bench. There is no sense in saving a large pile of funds for your bench, as the other owners in the league will have spent their funds, so they cannot push the bids too high. You never want to leave money on the table, so spend it!


Chris W says:

While I agree that you don’t want to leave your draft with a large amount of unspent funds, if you play in a hard cap salary league, I would encourage you try and have $5-$10 left.

Free agency means being able to outbid your opponents in a hard cap league, and with a little extra money not tied to any player, your flexibility increases greatly. It also helps when making trades, if you can take on a little more in salary than you trade away.

But I completely agree with the idea that recognizing trends, pouncing on value, and being able to pivot mid-auction are all great skills to have!

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