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So your league has decided to give auction drafting a try. It may seem daunting at first, and it is natural to have some anxiety about it, but by following some simple guidelines you can already be ahead of a good portion of your league before you get there. Drafting in an auction format is at once both exciting and stressful. It requires a level of attention that serpentine drafting does not. As a result, you will literally make hundreds of micro-decisions throughout the draft that ultimately lead to the players you end up with. But before you can excel at all of those decisions and run away with the best team, you have to learn to walk first. And if you are here that means you are just learning to walk. The best way to do that is to avoid some common beginner mistakes.
Beginner Mistake #1 – Leaving Money Behind
This is not a difficult concept intrinsically, but in practice, it is very hard. Chances are good, that in any article on auction drafting you have ever read, this concept is one that you will see. In fact, the Auction Primer series covers this very same thought. Why is that? Because it is THAT important. Too often novice drafters end up with extra money (for a variety of reasons that will be covered down the road), and that leads to frivolous spending on defenses or throwing the last money at the RB55 because that is all that’s left. Again, the concept is simple – spend your money! – but for practical purposes walking the fine line between blowing your money too early and not spending it all is a tough one to navigate. This series will give you those tools, but for now, just remember to try not to leave the draft with any money. If you find yourself at the end of the draft with too much money and all that is left is the RB40 and a couple of wide receiver flyers, don’t scoff at them and think “these guys aren’t worth this money”. Instead, spend the money and take them anyway. Last year a quarterback by the name of Josh Allen was a player with a low price tag and he turned into a league winner for many teams. Rather than beating yourself up, go grab the best that’s available and hope that one of them pans out. Last year if you already had a starting quarterback, such as Dak Prescott or Russell Wilson, but had auction money to burn and Allen was still on the board should you just leave the draft with money because you didn’t need another quarterback? Of course not. You should stockpile talent however you can. Allen would’ve been great trade bait, or more likely, would’ve been an elite option to pivot to after Prescott’s injury and Wilson’s late-season swoon. You won’t always land a Josh Allen caliber player with that move, but there are plenty of cheap players that turn out to be valuable producers. Using your remaining cap on as many of them as you can is the single biggest lesson to learn before your auction.
Beginner Mistake #2 – Eliminating yourself early
It doesn’t matter if a fantasy manager is new or experienced at their first auction or 51st, there will always be someone that takes themselves out of the auction early because they spend all their money in the first few rounds. This idea is a beginner concept, but the fact is, even veteran drafters can still fall prey to this pitfall. If you eliminate this possibility with careful planning and self-control you can be better than 10% of drafters right out of the gate. Also, this idea is not mutually exclusive with the thoughts laid out above. In fact, these two concepts have a direct relationship. Your job is to spend all of your money but to do it in a manner that leaves you flexible at the various key points in the draft. These points can occur 4 to 6 times during the draft and they are known as Inflection Points. You must massage your budget as the draft moves along to secure top talent, not take yourself out of the draft, and leave yourself maximum flexibility when these various Inflection Points hit. (Stay tuned in the series for a detailed discussion of Inflection Points and how to take advantage of them)
Beginner Mistake #3 – Failing to Secure Elite Talent
This is often a function of each particular player and their penchant for risk-taking. Some people have it in their personality to spend wildly and get lots of top talent and some don’t have the stomach for that. That is, of course, what makes auctions so much fun. In a serpentine draft, you get one first-round pick. In an auction, you can spend enough to have several first-round picks. But the mistake comes when a drafter gets uncomfortable every time the bidding gets high enough that it represents a large part of their budget. This will often result in a few teams without any elite first or second-round picks. They drop out because they didn’t have enough money allocated, or they didn’t have the fortitude to keep bidding in a pressure-packed moment where 20-30% of their budget is in play. In this scenario, the bidding will surpass a drafter’s number they had earmarked for a particular position, and rather than recognizing the moment, they fold instead of continuing to bid. This most often happens when there is a bidding frenzy for the top talent near the beginning of the draft. While auction strategy dictates that if players are way overpriced then eventually the deals will come, you simply can’t afford to wait while the top talent flies off the board. If you wait and refuse to pay market rate (which may be too high in raw dollars but is what this room is doing with top players) you will leave the draft with plenty of solid players but nobody elite. If you translate that from auction to serpentine terms it would be like leaving the draft with multiple third- through fifth-round picks and no first- or second-rounders. Would you trade your first- and second-rounders for two thirds and a fourth? Of course not, so guard against this in an auction. You will almost never regret throwing a few extra dollars at elite talent, but you will certainly regret stopping and then realizing that the top guy on the board is the WR21. Make sure you leave the draft with some first and second-round picks and not a glut of mid-round players.
Beginner Mistake #4 – Lack of Preparation
Doing an auction draft requires an altogether different level of preparation than a conventional draft. Printing out a cheat sheet or looking at some rankings on a phone may be an easy and even somewhat reasonable way to pick players in a serpentine, but that is not the case in an auction if you want to succeed. The auction forces you to form an opinion on every single player that will be available during the course of the draft. Why? Because you don’t know when players will be nominated. There is no 20-minute wait for you to narrow down your pick or do some quick research as you sit and wait for picks to be made ahead of you. When a player is nominated it can often be when you aren’t expecting it and you must be able to react. If you need a running back and someone says Chris Carson then you have to know exactly what to do at that moment. When the bidding stops at $19 and that seems too low to you, you won’t have minutes to ponder your move, you’ll have mere seconds. So the answers to the following questions must already be answered and ready to be recalled in your brain: What is Chris Carson worth? Do I care if he goes cheap, in other words, do I even want him on my team at all? Do I like him more than similarly ranked players like David Montgomery and Josh Jacobs? If you don’t have an opinion on Carson, and also Montgomery and Jacobs, you won’t make a good decision in the heat of the moment. The key to not losing your head when faced with those calls during a draft is preparation, preparation, preparation.
Beginner Mistake #5 – Poor Record Keeping
One of the single biggest ways you can gain an edge in auction drafting is by keeping good records during the draft. Simply crossing names off the list as they’re drafted is not enough anymore. It’s rare to have a display of the entire league’s cap situation provided for you during the draft so you should plan on doing it yourself. The best way to do that is to have some software that allows you to input the winning bids as you go to keep track of what each team has left to spend. Footballguys has their own answer to this issue, and that is the Draft Dominator. It is a fantastic piece of software that keeps track of every single thing you need to know during your draft including remaining cap space, maximum bid allowed, estimated auction values for remaining players, and individual roster construction. All of these things make you vastly more capable of understanding who will bid, how much they want the player, and whether they can afford to be involved after a certain price point.
However, while the Draft Dominator is great, the recommendation here is quite simple: keep track of as much as you can while the draft is happening. You can do this by hand, a simple excel spreadsheet, or using the powerful Dominator. But the absolute minimum for a beginner is to keep meticulous track of your own situation. You should know to the exact dollar, not an estimate, what you can spend at any point in time. If you are not keeping good track of your situation it will trip you up at some point. Doing this by hand is fine, but if you want to keep track of the whole league (which you absolutely have to do at some point to progress as an auction drafter) it is smart to use some kind of software to track everything. It makes your draft much more manageable, especially when you are just starting out. And as you will see as this series progresses, pulling off some of the more advanced moves requires constant omnipotence over the league’s various cap situations.
So now you have some ideas about some basic things that trip up beginners as they are starting out. None of these thoughts are particularly novel or advanced, but they are absolutely essential to master as the bedrock of a more polished auction skillset. Next up, Part 2: Attacking Beginner Auctions.Follow @DrewFBGAuctions