Categorized | Football, NFL

Five Popular Pieces of Fantasy Football Auction Advice (That Never Work in My League)


Evolution has a lot of work to do.

Sure, we’ve evolved some useful behaviors in the last few millions of years: Fight or flight, belching the alphabet, etc. But it still seems like I’ve got a bunch of useless genetic traits floating around in my DNA. Not only that, these traits seem to exist to undermine me at the most important times in my life, like feeling butterflies in my stomach before a big job interview or getting tongue-tied when talking to a pretty girl. The scientific term for this behavior is “herp de derp,” and it definitely makes things harder when it comes to my most important time: My annual “Super League” fantasy football auction.

My yearly fantasy football get-together requires the sublime combination of presence of mind, excellence at mathematics, and absence of my screaming twin sons. I prepare for fantasy football more than I prepare for anything else in my life, as there’s nothing I like more than sorting out numbers in my mind, and studying sports. I follow from the start of free agency, through the draft and minicamps, and all the way to week 1. I have no problem reaching the finals in about 80% of my other leagues, but the “Super League,” is the gorgeous lady to my teenage nervousness, causing me to screw up in unbelievably extreme ways

Case in point, a few years ago: I was in a bidding war over running back/law firm Ben Jarvus Green-Ellis. He had just switched from New England to Cincinnati, and I was wondering if I should bid another dollar for him or pass. I considered my notes, I considered Cincinnati’s offensive line and run scheme, and I swiftly decided for plan C.

Plan C: Hurl my half full bottled beverage at the empty dumpster at the other end of the draft table, flinging liquid on everyone and most of their laptops.

Herp de derp.

One of the easiest ways to pull a boneheaded move in a expert-caliber fantasy auction such as the Super League is to go in confident about a piece of advice or strategy that turns out to not apply at all. As such, my self-fulfilling anxiety about making a huge mistake makes me extremely sensitive when I hear advice from fantasy auction “pros” that just doesn’t apply to my league at all. Advice like:


2 Value GAme

1. Play the Value Game

Before your draft, ask yourself what your max is for a specific player. Ideally, if you want to win his services, aim to lock him up at roughly 80-to-90 percent of his perceived market value. Yahoo Sports

Waiting for value on a quarterback that’s predicted to finish 7th-12th is fine, sure. But, in a league that knows what it’s doing, nobody’s gonna let you have a tier 1 or tier 2 player for less than market value. In fact, it’s a virtual guarantee that a starting running back won’t go for less than market value in the Super League.

ESPN has been publishing PPR auction guides for 4 years, so I compared them to my results from the last 4 Super League auctions. I looked at ESPN’s top 24 predicted running backs from each of the last 4 seasons.

Of these 96 running backs, only 16 went for less than ESPN’s recommended value. I list them here, followed by the position they were expected to finish, and the position they actually finished (DNF means “finished out of the top 32”):

2011: Frank Gore (Proj 8, fin 17), Peyton Hillis (9, not top 32), Stephen Jackson(10, 10), Jahvid Best (15, DNF), DeAngelo Williams(16, 29),  Knowshon Moreno (18, DNF), Reggie Bush(20, 13)

2012: Demarco Murray (15, 26), Kevin Smith (23, DNF)

2013: Trent Richardson (6, 32), Stephen Jackson(10, 30), Darren McFadden (15, DNF)

2014: Marshawn Lynch (5, 4), Reggie Bush (13, 42), Ray Rice (18, DNF), Joique Bell (20, 13)

Notice a pattern? These “bargain” players tend to do much worse than projected. In fact, only 5 times has a player gone for less than ESPN value and finished in the top 24.

Five times… Out of 96 possible times.

One has to enter this league’s auction preparing to overpay like a pay-per-view subscriber to a Floyd Mayweather fight.


3 Nominate a player you want

2. Nominate a Player You Want Before the Market is Set

If you see a player you want, consider going against the grain, throwing his name out at the beginning, and attempting to set the market at that particular position. ESPN

The logic behind this is sound enough: If everyone’s waiting on bargains, then you can get a good player out there for a fair price before anyone knows what the true market is for that tier and position.

However, in a league where the market for tier 1 and 2 players tends to be anywhere from market value to $15 over, determining if you really are getting a player for less than what the market will be is next to impossible. Case in point: In our 2011 draft, Ray Rice went early for $62. That turned out to be good market value for a tier 1 RB, as the other four backs in that tier went for $65, $69, $69, and $70.

The problem, though, was that this $62 was already $6 over the ESPN projected value. So who could know that it was a deal? I looked at the other players that year, as well as 2012, 2013, and 2014: With only one or two exceptions, the first players nominated in the top 2 tiers at any position went for market value or even higher compared to the average for that tier for that auction.

Not only that, but it just takes one other owner to have strong feelings for the player you try to snag, and your game is shot. They’ve got a fistful of cash and can easily start a bidding war. Wouldn’t it be better to just wait as long as possible, and greatly increase the likelihood that that other owner(s) fill up at that position, or spend all their cash on other things?


4 Stud RBs

3. You Need Studs at RB

Identify the most valuable players in your draft and don’t be stingy. Don’t worry if you’ve got to sit out for a while if you’ve already netted the two best running backs because, well, you have the best two running backs.Sporting News

What do these running backs have in common?

Le’veon Bell, Demarco Murray, Pierre Thomas, Joique Bell, Darren McFadden, Giovani Bernard, Bishop Sankey, Trent Richardson, Ray Rice, Shane Vereen, Rashad Jennings, Andre Williams, Alfred Morris, James White, Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, Donald Brown, Matt Forte?

They were all drafted by the four teams that made the playoffs in my auction league, last year. With a few notable exceptions, these are mainly mediocre-to-bad running backs.

Bell, Murray, and Forte finished 1-2-3, but beyond that there isn’t a top 12 RB in the bunch. Joique Bell came in 13th in PPR, Ingram 14th, Morris 16th, Bernard 17th, and Vereen 20th. That’s it for the top-24 starters. One playoff team had Forte and drafted no other RB that finished in the top 50. Another only had one drafted running back finish in the top 34: 13th-place Joique Bell.

It’s less about nailing stud RBs, and more about getting starting-quality RBs on a well-balanced team.


5 Mock Auction

4. Mock Auctions: The More The Better

Do a mock. Or Five – Fox Sports

The only advantage gained from mocking is making sure you know how to stay flexible with your budget. Once you have that down, stop mocking. You won’t gain any insight to your particular draft from the fluctuating behavior in mock auctions.

Don’t fall in the trap of doing too many mocks, you’ll find yourself leaning on “bargain players” that could easily not be bargains in your league, dropping the bottom out of your draft. Also mocks won’t necessarily reflect your league settings.

To this end, I examined the final four mocks I did leading up to last year’s auction, and how they related to the actual values that occurred at my Super League table:

mocks vs actual

Note that, on average, a top 20 player will go in a mock auction for a price that’s almost $7 off of my actual league’s price. I can’t determine any kind of specific financial strategy with a variance that wide.


6 Nominate a Kicker

5. Nominate a Kicker for $1 Early

… if you throw out your $1 kicker early in the auction, no one should outbid you. If you had a specific one you wanted, why wouldn’t you nominate him quickly and get that spot secured? ESPN

Let’s be clear: There is a good reason for nominating kickers early, but it has nothing to do with strategy.

Nominating a kicker early is hilarious.

Super League has a rule that if the room generally agrees that someone paid way too much for a player, that owner must take a shot. So, someone will nominate a good kicker for $1 early, and everyone will eagerly watch as the bid goes around the table. Eventually, someone talks themselves into bidding two, at which point the trap is sprung.

If you haven’t already, you need to stop caring about what kicker you end up with. The top guy, Stephen Gostowski, averaged an impressive 10.5 points per game. The 12th guy, Caleb Sturgis, averaged 8.3. That’s a difference of only 2.2 points per game. For comparison, in a 4-point passing TD system, Aaron Rodgers averaged 5.5 more points per game than the 12th QB, Philip Rivers. In a 6-point passing TD the gap jumps even more to almost 7 points per game. Spend your time worrying about skill positions, not kickers.

The argument has also been made that this strategy is good because the person who bid two now has less money. But, this idea fails to consider that A. It’s only $1 less in their bank, and B. Do you really need to sweat the guy who’s game is so off they’re bidding $2 for a kicker?


Not all fantasy football advice will apply to your particular auction, just as it doesn’t always apply to mine. Due to settings, owner preparation, and just plain luck, each auction is unique. Therefore success requires flexibility, above all. Because herp de derp moments can happen at any time (except times that don’t matter).

For more fantasy football auction advice, check out these articles:

20 Key Tips for Your First Fantasy Football Auction

25 Fantasy Football Players that Are Priced Way Too Low

20 Differences between the 2014 and 2015 Fantasy Football Seasons

Leave a Reply