Mining For Value In Auctions - Intro
By Jeff Tefertiller
June 21st, 2010

Sold To the Highest Bidder

Whether entering a draft league or one utilizing an auction, every fantasy owner has the same goal: To maximize the value of players across positions. Basically, we want to get the most total player value for the entire team. It is the same if drafting or auctioning players. This will be the basis of this series of articles exploring value in auction leagues. The focus will be on comparing average auction values against a player's expected production with an eye toward accumulating as much value on a team as possible.

In order to maximize value during our auction, we must make some determinations as to which positions we will invest heavily. For this reason, each position article will be broken down into tiers based on the average auction values. We will look for situations to exploit that offer the most value.

For this series of articles, a $200 cap and a standard 12 team league that starts 1QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, and 1 DEF will be used.

David Dodds writes "The Perfect Auction" article each year. In that article, he uses his proven plan for finding total team value. Each owner should come into the auction with his own plan. It can be to get a tier one quarterback, load up on premium players and fill in the rest with cheap options (sometimes called "Studs and Duds" theory), or a plan looking for balance at all positions. No matter the strategy, there are ways to increase the value of the team. We will explore different strategies and ways to best attack different positions in an auction.

Going into an auction, a fantasy owner must ask himself a series of questions in order to best determine a strategy. Only the major questions need to be addressed. Just the process of thinking about the questions will help immensely. The following are questions that must be answered going in. The rest of the plan can be built on the fly.

Quarterback

  • a. Do I want to spend the money for one of the top quarterbacks? If not, which tier am I comfortable with for my starting passer? In auctions more than drafts, the quarterback values fall off quickly so the low-end fantasy starters are very cheap.
  • b. How strong of a QB2 do I want? Am I happy with a $1 or $2 backup like Alex Smith or David Garrard or do I feel more comfortable with Carson Palmer for $4 or Eli Manning for $6.
  • Running Back

  • c. Do I want a top running back? Since the elite running backs rarely go for below the average values, an owner has to plan around either going all out and securing a top ball carrier or formulating a plan to compensate accordingly.
  • d. What depth backs do I think offer value compared to their Average Auction Values? Most fantasy owners have guys they like who will only cost $1 or $2 in the auction. It is important to identify these in order to achieve optimal roster distribution.
  • Wide Receiver

  • e. What level of WR1 do I want? If going with a lesser WR1, do I compensate with a strong WR2?
  • f. With so many wide receivers producing similar numbers after the top 25 or 30, should I pursue the ones I like the most or wait for the cheaper options after the first 40-45 are gone and possibly take two of this group?
  • Tight End

  • g. Do I want, and need, a stud tight end? If so, whom do I consider studs?
  • h. With the drastic drop in cost after the first few tight ends, am I comfortable with the tight ends in the TE8-12 range? If not, who is the lowest tight end I can start with confidence?
  • In Dodds' "The Perfect Draft" referenced above, he has three listed goals that should be utilized in order to maximize value:

    1. Predict what players will cost
    2. Value what players are worth
    3. Get value with the majority of selected players

    In order to ensure we maximize value, we will address these goals for each position. The MyFantasyLeague.com Average Auction Values will be used to predict the cost of each player. We will use different methods including ADP (Average Draft Position) to determine value. Additionally, we will try to showcase ways to get value on several players at each position. It is interesting to see which players are worth more in drafts versus auctions. One such example is Bengals running back Cedric Benson. He has an ADP of RB10 in fantasy drafts, but is only the 17th most expensive running back. At first, this seems crazy. But, it does make sense. Fantasy owners have Benson in a tier with a few other fantasy backs. Drafters have to take the one they like the best with a pick in the middle of the second round. Auction owners can sit back and wait to see which ball carriers in the tier will be the cheapest. This allows Benson to slide in price. Also, the lack of many true fantasy RB1 options translates to a big drop in price to the next tier. This is different from drafts where there is a scarcity issue. Drafters feel compelled to "reach" for a running back early because they are afraid of what will be left with their next pick. In auctions, the players "true" value is his auction price. There is no mutual exclusivity that is apparent in drafts. You can only select one player per round in drafts. In auctions, the only restriction is money.

    Interesting Tidbits and General Rules

  • It is best to watch the first 20-25 players go off the board to get a good feel for how the auction values will flow. For example, if the league is bidding up wide receivers, then you can adjust accordingly.
  • Usually the first and last players within a certain tier will be the most expensive. Obviously, most will like the top player within a tier, but the last player has significant value as well. Fellow owners put a premium on having a member of that tier as opposed to a lesser one. This is especially true for the Quarterback and Tight End positions.
  • The low-end fantasy starting quarterbacks offer extreme value. Each year, one or two from this group emerge as elite fantasy options. Ben Roethlisberger, Matt Schaub, and Brett Favre all were steals last season. To be able to spend only 5%, or less, on a strong starting quarterback is very nice. It allows an owner to spend the money needed on a favorite player, or upgrade at a different position.
  • With so many players at the same position having similar auction values, there are two ways to proceed. First of all, bid all up to 60%, then 75% of Average Auction Value to see it you can get some steals. If all are the same to you, why not merely take the cheapest ones and spend the extra money on players you love? Secondly, the longer the tier is open, the cheaper the players will get until the last player within the tier. For example, if there are ten players you value the same as a third fantasy back, you know from "b" above that the first and last within the tier will be most expensive. As other teams satisfy their RB3 need, the other backs will get cheaper until the last of the tier.
  • At the end of an auction, when all players are just $1, the auction turns into draft. Whichever player you nominate, you will get. So nominate accordingly. This is when to nominate your favorite sleepers.
  • It is best to isolate sleeper and handcuff situations that you want to make the basis of your auction. If you love the value of certain players, chart out their estimated cost and plan the rest of the auction around those players. In the future articles, we will look at several players at each position that are good options in which to plan your auction around.
  • Please feel free to email me at tefertiller@footballguys.com with any questions or comments. Also, I am on Twitter, so feel free to ask me questions there.