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Auction Drafts: Tips for dominating the best format in fantasy football

Brad Evans
Roto Arcade
LeSean McCoy
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In an auction, anyone, even Shady McCoy, can be yours for the right price. (Getty)

Before jobs, kids and other unplanned life events splintered the group, my friends and I went to a fine local establishment about a month before our annual fantasy football snake draft to draw the draft order.

It was always a special occasion.

Beer flowed. Stroke-triggering quantities of wings were consumed. Wild late night stories about drunken lawn-mowing at midnight were rehashed. Don't ask. And in predictable fashion, I always got stuck with the tenth pick every friggin' year. Nothing felt worse than that unbearable, empty feeling knowing you have zero chance at a Jamaal Charles, LeSean McCoy or Matt Forte

Yippee. 

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If you've experienced a similar pre-draft sob story there's a solution: Auction draft. This grassroots pigskin fantasy revolution, once only accepted in highly competitive baseball leagues, is gaining momentum in savvy circles. Similar to purchasing livestock, antique cars or a date with Screech Powers, auctions are the ultimate utopian experiment where equality is the norm. All it takes is a numbered paddle, a little strategy and a large pair of HUEVOS. The best part: Any player is fair game.

How does it work?

Each owner is given a budget, usually $200, to field a 15 or 16-player team. Based on a predetermined serpentine order an owner queues a name and people bid for the services of said player, usually under a one-to-two minute time limit. The highest bid wins. It's that simple.

Believe me. Auctions are the trendy designer drug of fantasy football. The high you get forcing another dollar out of your budget, or someone else's, for a player's services is unparalleled. As an 18-year veteran of this addictive game, once you try it, you'll never want to go back to antiquated serpentine drafts again.

GAVEL SLAMMERS: EIGHT TIPS TO RULE YOUR AUCTION DRAFT

As with any draft style, auctions are one giant chess game. What are the more important tips to follow? Here are my top ways for you to dominate an auction league:

1. Never Leave Money on the Table

In a recent 14-team PPR auction Andy Behrens and I recently particpated in (The Red Grange Invitational), one drafter left $7 on the table. Many probably think $7 may only seem like a six-pack of good times, but in the fantasy auction world it's the equivalent of picking a fight with Martellus Bennett, which based on recent news is an unwise move. In average Yahoo auctions, that $7 could've won the services of a Philip Rivers, Terrance West or Mike Wallace. Always find a way to spend your cash, no matter what.

2. Be a Pacifist: Don't Get into a Bidding War

Regardless of how large a man-crush you may have on a particular player make sure to never go overboard. If you do, you'll likely empty your pockets. Case in point, last year in the Red Grange auction I idiotically engaged in a bidding battle over the services of then buzzy Miami RB Lamar Miller. When everyone else bailed at $30, I absurdly ping-ponged back and forth with two other bidders for another $11. Dumb. Those who refused to sink their teeth into temptation not only fleeced money from my pocket but also allowed themselves to allocate cash elsewhere. Remember, each extra dollar saved could help you acquire a greater value later on.

3. You're Not Andy Dalton ($115 million?! Really?!), Establish a Budget

Before you jump in head-first, make sure to have a concrete action plan in place. It's imperative, pre-draft, to approximate your per position allowance. Typically, in a standard non-PPR performance league with a $200 budget, you want to set aside 50 percent ($100) for your backfield, 35 percent ($70) for your receiving battery (WRs and TEs) and 15 percent ($30) for your quarterback, defense and kicker. Overall, an organized approach will help you establish boundaries and prevent over-extension. Oh, and if you are wondering why so little should be allocated for a quarterback, outside the upper tier – Peyton Manning ($45.7 AAV), Drew Brees ($40.7) and Aaron Rodgers ($37.8) – most signal callers have gone for under $25 this year. Heck, I scored Matthew Stafford for $22 in the above mentioned 14-teamer. 

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Patterson, and his awesome hat, could cost drafters a pretty penny. (USAT)

Patterson, and his awesome hat, could cost drafters a pretty penny. (USAT)

4. Advertise the Avoidable

Before your draft, come up with a list of players you absolutely despise. When the time comes for you to nominate a player, simply look at your list and pick a needless name. For example, those familiar with my recent "Diss List" piece know I'm not especially fond of Cordarrelle Patterson. Due to my incredible disdain for the sensationalized fantasy dreamboat, there is no way I would bid for his services at the expected price point. However, knowing most people would sell their souls to acquire him, he's at the top of my nomination list. In auctions this season, I've queued the Viking early, sat back and watched money fly out the window. In one draft, he went for a staggering $36. STEEP! By implementing a similar strategy, you can whittle down your opponents' stack, become a bully in the draft room and secure the players you believe are destined for greatness.

5. Set a Ceiling

Look, we're not Daddy Warbucks. 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. Keep a cheat sheet of Average Auction Values (AAVs) handy to use as a guideline. Fantasy Pros and FFToolBox are fantastic sites where you can customize price lists for standard or PPR. Just remember auction drafts should be conducted like buying a new car. Unless you're completely gaga for a player, never pay full sticker price.

6. Play the Patience Game, But Not for Too Long

Axl Rose said, and whistled, it best, "All we need is just a little patience." Take a tortoise approach and avoid going bonkers too early. Very rarely do I chase a big-ticket item within the first 10-15 nominations. Why? When people have a briefcase full of bills they're going to spend lavishly and balloon player price tags. McCoy, the 10th player on the block in the Red Grange Invitational, went for a whopping $69, a mere 25 smackaroos above his proposed cost per Fantasy Pros. However, Mike Wallace, nominated 40th, sold for $10, eight bucks below his AAV. Don't burn your cash stash too quickly. A good value is always a couple of nominations away.

The patience game can also be detrimental. If you wait on a position too long you'll likely have to pay out the nose for the last player in a tier. For example, Bishop Sankey, the last perceived RB2 available in Red Grange, was nominated 53rd overall. He sold for a wallet-slapping $32, substantially above Fantasy Pros' projected low $20s tag. Again, define your limits before your draft and have a cheat sheet nearby. When the well looks like it's about to run dry, be prepared to pay.

7. Hawk Your Friends' Funds and Rosters

One of the best "in-game" auction strategies is to gauge the competition's remaining surplus and roster holes. This will give you a peek into how much money they might be willing to spend on a certain player or position. For instance, in any auction someone will turn into a ruthless dictator. This Kim-Jong will hoard money in the hopes of bullying bargains or overbids out of other owners in the later rounds. To seize power, it's important for you to drain bank accounts by nominating players on your avoid list that could fill an opponent's need. You can achieve this by keeping close tabs on rosters to glean what they might be holding out for. Playing the right cards can give you the perfect read on how to reduce a bully's power and give you, as George Costanza would say, "HAND!"  

8. Honest Abe Hates Kickers and Defenses 

Any kicker or defense, in a traditional scoring system, is worth nothing more than a crisp George Washington. Think of as K's and D's as Taco Bell value menu items. The allotted budget spent on them shouldn't exceed anything more than a price of a bean burrito. Squeeze out an extra dollar for Andre Ellington, not Matt Prater.

Want to bull rush Brad? Follow him on Twitter @YahooNoise. Also check out "The Noise' along with colleagues Andy Behrens and Brandon Funston for another season of 'Fantasy Football Live' every Tuesday-Thursday at 6:30 PM ET on NBC Sports Network

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