Fantasy Football: The Art of the Nomination for Auction / Salary Cap Drafts

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If you want to dominate your draft, you need to have real-world strategies to control the draft, and the nomination process is the primary way to do that. 

As you read through this article, you will realize exactly why certain, commonly stated strategies, are actually squandering one of the most important controls in your auction draft. Unlike a snake draft, one of the best aspects of an auction draft is the ability to build your roster as you see fit, unbounded by the restrictions of a slotted snake draft. The most overlooked part, however, is that you also get +/-16 chances (nominations) to control your opponent’s rosters!

It’s important to take advantage of this limited resource and not waste it. In my “Impact of Nomination Order” article, I highlighted the importance of paying attention to all the nominations. This article is all about what to do with YOUR nominations and the impact they can have on your opponents’ rosters.

Early Nominations: Salaries that “Set the Market”

It’s no secret that the early part of any auction/salary cap draft is going to be filled with the top-ranked players. However, sometimes fantasy managers try to get “cute” and sneak a lower-ranked player in an early nomination in hopes of a deal. It rarely works, as highlighted in my previous article, “The Impact of Nomination Order, it was proven that players nominated before their ranking have a high probability of being over-paid. 

Wait – you just said you want to draw out big salaries, so isn’t getting someone to overpay a good thing? Yes, to an extent. Remember that nominating a lower-ranked player early will push down the higher-ranked players and the earliest part of the auction is where we see the market salaries get set. You do not want top-ranked players hanging around too long – someone is going to get a deal. It might not be huge, but in a recent mock draft where Josh Jacobs was the first overall nomination, Joe Mixon ended up being the 8th RB nominated and carried the 8th ranked salary. Except he’s ranked as RB6 in AAV, making him a deal for his acquiring manager.

What you should do is make your early nominations small “reaches”. A great example is the top tier of WRs this season. Depending on the ranking site, the top three WRs all have someone ranking them #1. In this instance, you might nominate the site’s #3 ranked WR as the first WR off the board. Sit back and watch the salary counter spin. Then, a few nominations later, someone will nominate your WR1 and you might just acquire him with a salary below the first nominated WR.

Early in the auction, if you acquire one of the top-ranked players, your next nomination should be the next highest-ranked player at that same position. With the market price set, the supply of top players is lower, and you want your opponents to spend big money while they have it, and do so on a player you’re not going to acquire. 

If your league-mates are going hot and heavy nominating the RBs and WRs, you can always cause a little chaos by nominating one of the top-ranked QBs or TEs. In a Superflex setting, QBs will go early, but in a single QB league, a top QB getting nominated “in the first round” is out-of-the-0rdinary.

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Oftentimes, when the first few players are nominated, almost every team will click that +1 button just for fun. Seeing the bid number climbing so fast is exciting! Rarely will they stay in long enough to acquire a player in the first few nominations, as the salaries push into the $50s, $60s, and maybe even $70s. When a QB or TE is nominated, fewer people will be bidding and the overall salary will carry a lower number than the RBs and WRs. To some managers,  this can create the feeling of a deal after seeing players being acquired for 2x-3x the going price of the QB or TE.

On multiple occasions, especially in casual home leagues, this strategy can cause a manager to draft two of the top 5 QBs, or a top QB and top TE because they get caught price enforcing early in a draft with plenty of money in their bankroll. Image starting a snake draft with Travis Kelce and Josh Allen at the 1-2 turn. While not a total roster killer, tying up 35-45% of available auction funds on the two “onesie” positions will take them out of the running for a top RB or WR.

Another part of that strategy is the often overlooked aspect of “filling rosters”. I’ve mentioned this in all my previous articles, but there is a set number of players to be drafted. Each team needs at least 1 QB and 1 TE, and many fantasy managers will only plan to roster one of each. These early QB and TE nominations are filling up the one required starter for a few teams, taking them out of the equation for the next tier of QBs and TEs. Less competition = lower salaries. 

Nominate Mid-Round RB/WRs Ahead of Their Ranking

It’s pretty amazing how closely most league’s nomination order follows the ADP or your draft site’s default rankings. After the first couple of rounds of nominations, it’s time to focus on nominating the mid-round RBs and WRs. There is a common auction strategy that says “don’t nominate players you want to roster.” As highlighted before, many fantasy managers are subconsciously comparing their auction to a snake draft because that is likely where their draft research has focused. When the other managers see the 15th ranked RB get nominated as the 10th RB off the board, they immediately assume that you or someone else will value this player as the 10th best. 

The underlying concept of this tip is focused on getting the players you covet nominated after their ADP/ranking. Remember, players nominated after their ranking carry a greater than 50% chance of being considered a deal. Adding to the above-mentioned strategy: Nominate players that you don’t want to roster BEFORE their ranking to increase their price, driving down the price of the players you do want to roster.

Fill Out Your Opponents Rosters

Humans are programmed to follow the crowd and it’s never more evident than in a positional run in a fantasy draft. As the draft wears on, your goal shifts to reminding a few fellow managers that they have an opening on their starting line-up. Again, the goal here is to nominate players ahead of their ranking. This is especially important at a “onesie” position like TE. By using your nominations effectively, you have the power of filling the TE spot on your opponent’s roster with players you do not want to roster. When another manager sees a TE come off the board, knowing they still need one, they might just nominate one for themselves as well. Essentially, you are controlling the other team’s roster construction! Let that sink in as you are landing the TE you covet at a discounted price.

The Late Rounds

Once you’ve worked through 10-12 nominations rounds, you’ll see a few things occur. First, there will be a few teams who have filled out their roster and are removed from the bidding and nomination process. Secondly, you will have a few managers who have spent most of their funds and are limited to $1 players. You do not want to be one of those people. I always recommend having $2-3 available for those last few sleepers.

Nominations at this stage of the game can make or break the end of your draft. When nominating players in these later rounds, you need to be very cognizant of the remaining managers’ rosters and available funds. If you don’t pay attention, you may nominate a player that no one wants or a position that no one needs, getting stuck with that player for $1. Early in the draft, it’s all about getting people to spend their auction funds, but at this stage, more about roster spots. If there is still a hyped sleeper on the board that you want, you need to work to eliminate any manager who has more funds than you. Look at their roster construction for a hint on what players they may still need. If they need RBs, nominate the handcuff to their primary RB. Do they only have 2 WRs? Time to nominate a solid veteran or over-hyped rookie who is the 3rd option on a low pass-volume team.

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The End is Near

At this stage of the auction, only a couple of managers have roster spots available and it can turn into a straight draft, just rolling through the nominations and immediately winning the player for $1. Even if someone has a few extra auction funds remaining, don’t get cute and try to trick them into a player. It won’t work and you’ll get stuck. At this point, you must simply nominate the player you want. *TIP – If you notice that you and another manager both have a $2 max bid available on your last player, nominate the player for $2 instead of $1. Nothing stings more than losing your last round flyer because you didn’t pay attention to your opponent’s available balance.

Conclusion

As you approach your auction drafts this year, take a deeper look at the nomination process for your league. As the auction proceeds, you’ll start to recognize that most of your league mates are simply following the stereotypical motions and all the common auction tips. Use the nomination process to take control of the auction and your league. Use the processes outlined above to dominate the draft and lead yourself to another #FootClanTitle!

Comments

Ryan B says:

Interesting idea of early nominations being that “near the top” RB or WR to see if they go for a lot and then try to get the top guy for less; not sure if that would work consistently though.

My preferred strategy is to first the nominate the player that will determine my roster layout. Why not nominate a top QB like Allen or Herbert to see how much they go for? If everyone is hesitant and you get him for a discount, do it. You probably won’t end up with Jonathan Taylor later, and you might have a more balanced roster. If the top QB’s/TE’s go for higher, sit back and spend your money on top RB/WR, maybe going with a more “studs and duds” approach.

Either way, have multiple strategies laid out so that whatever happens early in the draft, you have a plan for what your team is going to look like.

There’s no 1 roster strategy that wins championships. The key is finding value in the draft from beginning to end.

Peter Mazurkiewicz says:

Thanks for the auction article. Not too many people are into this superior format…

I don’t find auction order mirrors ADP very much in many of the auctions I’ve taken place in. They do often follow more of a tier based progression, but even that can get off script very quick.

I find, as a prepared auction drafter, one of the best strategies is to do anything to cause chaos with your nominations. One of the better ways to do this is to nominate players early that have very wide ranges of outcome. The love/hate type guys. Especially if you happen to love a love/hate guy (two of mine this year are Saquon & Cam Akers), you may be able to make an aggressive opening bid and get it through with no competing bids. A $25 Akers may walk right through early while owners are saving for the bigger ticket RBs. However be ready to be outbid by someone who loves your guy more. If so, it’s also a win because you made someone buy a 3rd tier player at a 2nd tier price.

Another tip to me is not to always bid +1. if you want a player, sometimes throw your best punch. If you’re willing to go 50 on CMC, than throw the 50 out right away. Don’t let people think about it. Doing this early also can help you identify which bidders are aggressive, passive, inexperienced or unprepared.

And for what it’s worth, to me nothing stings more than dropping out of the bidding on a player you really wanted only to end up with extra cash at the end because late players went too cheaply. Finding that sweet spot can be so challenging.

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