Step by step through a fantasy football auction

For the last two seasons, I’ve played in a PPR auction league ($400 cap, 2 RB, 3 WR, flex) and as much as I enjoy drafting, auctions are so much more fun. In snake drafts, you are at the mercy of what the guys ahead of you do, and you know that if you have the #11 pick, you aren’t even going to sniff any of the top 6 RBs this year. In an auction, if you want a particular player, you can have him — provided you are willing to pay the price.

My auction league is so much fun that I joined another that is run by the same commissioner. Our slow auction has already started, so I’m planning to update this post throughout the process. As some background, I finished third in my league in 2009 (after finishing as the #1 seed heading into the playoffs) and won the league last year even though I lost Tony Romo midseason. (Thank you, Josh Freeman…thank you.)

Each owner can nominate one player every 24 hours and that player is up for auction for 24 hours. If there is a new high bid on that player, the clock on his auction is reset. This gives everyone an equal opportunity to react.

My strategy early in drafts is typically to try to acquire two studs using a max budget of 50% of the cap. I normally go after one RB and one WR, but this year, with so much depth at WR and not as much at RB (at least right now), I was hoping to grab a top 6 RB — Foster, AP, CJ2K, Charles, Rice or McCoy — and get one of the guys from the second tier — DMC, Gore, Forte, Mendenhall, MJD, S-Jax or Hillis. (Bradshaw could join that group if he re-ups with the Giants.)

When I nominate, I look for big-name players whom I believe are overrated. I do this to coax the money out of the other owners and give myself a better shot at the guys I do like. To start this year’s auction, I went with Greg Jennings (whom I like, but not as a 2nd round value). He went for $67, which was predictably more than what I was willing to spend. After locking up a couple of studs, I nominated Roddy White, knowing I had no chance of winning him with the remainder of my budget.

Arian Foster was the first player nominated and I immediately put a big bid in. I project his value in the $135-$145 range, and I ended up getting him for $98, which is a screaming deal. One by one, the other top 6 RBs were nominated and their prices climbed into the $80-$95 range. Jamaal Charles was sitting at $82, so I decided to see if I could get him for $100 and ended up landing him for $95. I had my two studs at a total price of $193. To put this in perspective, in 2009 I nabbed Adrian Peterson ($111) and Larry Fitzgerald ($84) for $195 total. In 2010, I bought Chris Johnson ($120) and Miles Austin ($77) for $197.

Needless to say, I’m feeling very good about my start.

It’s now time to sit back and let value emerge. I have a certain budget set for each of my other starting slots (QB, WR1, WR2, WR3, flex, TE) and have a list of guys that I think I have a shot at at each position. My goal is to get a player at each spot at a price that is no more than 80%-90% of my calculated value.

I won’t be spending much on a QB1 — I spent $14 on Romo in 2009 and got him for $39 last year, and regretted it. Not just because he got injured, but because of the other almost-as-good players who went later, for less. Just like I’m targeting Big Ben, Eli, Freeman, Ryan, etc. in drafts in the middle rounds, I’ll likely be going after the same guys in this auction.

That’s it for now. I’ll update this post after I win a couple of more auctions.

Update (8/3)

I haven’t forgotten this post! It just took a while for my roster to develop after grabbing my two studs. The third player I targeted was Cedric Benson (pre-contract w/Bengals). He went for $24 and I pegged his value at almost twice that. I think with Bruce Gradkowski at QB, Cincy will feature Benson early and often, and he should make a great flex/RB3. One downside is that everyone in the league knew that I wasn’t all that interested in RBs in the short term, but that’s a small price to pay.

I’m not sure why, but when I saw Stephen Gostkowski sitting at $1, I decided to throw $2 down and ended up winning him at that price. Normally, I wouldn’t spend more than $1 on a kicker, but he kicks for what will probably be the most prolific offense in the league, so what the hell?

It was time to get down to business and fill out the rest of my starting roster. I needed a QB, three WRs and a TE. (DT could wait since I normally play Defensive Team By Waiver Wire throughout the season.) Rob Gronkowski was nominated and after missing out on Zach Miller ($16, pre-SEA), I jumped all over Gronk. He was a stud down the stretch last season and even with the addition of Chad Ochocinco, I think he’ll be the team’s main red zone receiving threat. I locked him up for $9.

At WR, I tried unsuccessfully to get Hakeem Nicks ($76), Dez Bryant ($40), Vincent Jackson ($54) and Mike Thomas, who went for a bit more ($30) than I was prepared to pay. I ended up targeting Santonio Holmes, Mike Williams (TB) and Stevie Johnson, and got outbid a few times on each. It became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to afford all three, so I focused on Holmes ($41) and Johnson ($45). Williams went for $48.

The reason I eventually gave up on Williams is because there was a certain player that I was targeting as my WR3 — Mario Manningham. With Steve Smith sidelined, Manningham has a great opportunity to have a top 20 year at a 6th/7th round price. I ended up landing him for $31 (after raising my bid a couple of times to fend off other owners) and I’m pleased with that price. To put it in perspective, Anquan Boldin ($37), Chad Ochocinco ($30) Austin Collie ($33) and Mike Thomas ($30) went in the same range. I do think Collie is a nice deal at $33, but otherwise, I am quite pleased with my receiving corps.

On to QB…I had budgeted $15 for my QB1, but was willing to throw caution to the wind and play QBBC if need be. I was on Matt Ryan for a long time and even extended my high bid to $16, but once I was bumped off of him, I moved on to Josh Freeman. I like Ryan a bit more than Freeman, but not much, and I ended up landing the up-and-coming Buccaneer for $14. With Williams, Winslow and a healthy Arrelious Benn to throw to, I think he’ll have a top 10 year.

So my core roster is set: Freeman, Foster, Charles, Benson (flex), Holmes, S. Johnson, Manningham and Gronkowski. Now it’s time to find a backup at each position along with a few cheap upside guys. I don’t worry too much about the bottom of my roster because I’m pretty active on the waiver wire. Last season, I dropped my entire free agency budget ($100 bidding bucks) on Austin Collie. That worked, for a while at least.

I’ll update this post one more time with my final roster. Thanks for reading.

Update (8/12)

Final Roster:

QB: Freeman ($14), Flacco ($7), Fitzpatrick ($2)
RB: Foster ($98), Charles ($95), Benson ($24), B. Scott ($7), B. Jackson ($1), McClain ($1)
WR: S. Johnson ($45), Holmes ($41), Manningham ($31), Ford ($5), Benn ($1)
TE: Gronkowski ($9), Hernandez ($6), Celek ($7)
K: Gostkowski ($2)
DT: Chargers ($2), Lions ($2)

I was happy to land Jacoby Ford for $5. I did go after Ben Tate and Derrick Ward to backup Foster, but missed out on both. I like Fitzpatrick as a third QB at $2 and feel good about my TE situation with both Gronkowski and Hernandez, plus I think Celek could have a bounce back year.

My main goal in the first few weeks is to secure some more quality depth at RB, which means I may big bid on a waiver wire RB who emerges in the first week or two. I plucked Peyton Hillis off the waiver wire in one league last year, but I doubt I’ll be able to repeat that success.

On the whole, I am very happy with this team. My main roster will be Freeman, Foster, Charles, Benson (flex), Johnson, Holmes, Manningham and Gronkowski, with Ford as my first and best reserve.

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