Since 1996, my friends and I have gone to a fine local establishment about a month before our annual fantasy football draft to draw the draft order.
Beer flows. Massive quantities of wings are consumed. Wild late night stories about drunken' lawn-mowing at midnight – don't ask – are told. And in predictable fashion, I get stuck with the tenth pick every friggin' year. Nothing feels worse than that unbearable, empty feeling knowing you have a zero chance at LaDainian Tomlinson, Larry Johnson or Steven Jackson. Sigh
If you've experienced a similar pre-draft sob story there is a solution: the auction. This grass-roots pigskin fantasy revolution is gaining momentum in savvy circles. Similar to purchasing livestock, antique cars or dates with Corey Feldman, 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 stones. The best part: Any player is fair game.
How does it work?
Each owner is given a budget, usually $200, to field a 16-player team. Based on a predetermined serpentine order an owner queues a name and people bid for the services of that 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 sports. The rush you get squeezing another dollar bill out of your budget to get the services of a player before time expires is downright thrilling. As a 12-year veteran of this addictive little game, once you try it, you'll never want to go back to conventional serpentine drafting again.
GAVEL SLAMMERS: EIGHT TIPS TO RULE YOUR AUCTION DRAFT
As with any drafting style, auctions have their fair number of chess games. What are some of 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 last year's Yahoo! Auction Invitational, KFFL's Cory Bonini was caught with his pants down, leaving an insane $14 on the table. Many probably think $14 may only seem like a 24-pack of good times, but in the fantasy auction world it's the equivalent of leaving your wedding ring on the mistress' nightstand. This season, if Bonini would have repeated his inappropriate disbursement feat, he could have had a Calvin Johnson, Jerious Norwood, Donovan McNabb or Jon Kitna for nearly the exact amount he discarded. 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 toe-to-toe with another bidder for his services. If you do, you'll likely empty your pockets. Case in point, in this year's Y! Auction Invitational Fantasy Auctioneer's Ben Ice and Rotowire's Jeff Erickson exchanged blows over the rights to lighting bolt Antonio Gates. When everyone else bailed at $20, they ping-ponged back and forth for another $7, until Erickson decided the Charger leviathan wasn't worth it. Not sinking his teeth into temptation allowed Erickson to devote more money to wide receivers, a very wise move – he netted Reggie Brown, D.J. Hackett and Braylon Edwards for only $3 more than what Gates sold for. Remember, each extra dollar saved could help you acquire a greater value later on.
3. You're Not Donald Trump, Establish a Budget
Before you lift that paddle, make sure to have a concrete action plan penned prior to the draft so you know how much cash you are willing to devote to a specific position. Typically, in a standard non-PPR performance league with a $200 budget, you want to set aside 60 percent ($120) for your backfield, 25 percent ($50) for your receiving battery and tight end and 15 percent ($30) for your quarterback, defense and kicker. Use an organized approach so you don't overextend your boundaries. Oh, and if you are wondering why so little should be allocated for a quarterback, outside of the upper tier – Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Drew Brees and Tom Brady – most signal callers have gone for under $20 this year.
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 that are familiar with my "Bringin' the Noise" columns from last year know there is no single player I loathe more than the over-hyped Reggie Bush. Due to my incredible disdain for the sensationalized media love-child, there is no way I would bid for his services, but knowing most people would sell their souls to acquire him, he vaults to the top of my nomination list. In auctions this season, I've queued Bush very early just to see money fly out the window. On average, owners have paid a mind-blowing $42 for Bush. Since Deuce McAllister will again be the primary goal-line back in 'Nawlins, he'll likely score roughly two fantasy points-per-game less than Bush. Because Deuce's AAV is exactly half of Bush's, is the miniscule point per game disparity really worth an extra $21? By implementing a similar strategy, you can whittle down your opponents stacks and focus on the players you believe are destined for greatness.
5. Set a Ceiling
Look, we're all not Daddy Warbucks and have pockets lined with an endless flow of green. Before your draft, ask yourself what your spending maximum is for a specific player. Ideally, you want to win a player's services for roughly 80-to-90 percent of their perceived market value. Keep a cheat sheet of Average Auction Values (AAVs) handy to use as a budget guideline. FantasyAuctioneer.com is a fantastic site you can access this priceless information – and also implement it in mock drafts for free. Just remember auction drafts should be conducted like buying a new car. Even though the sticker price may look good, there is no way you would ever pay it.
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 overboard too early. Very rarely do I chase a marquee name in 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. Frank Gore, the tenth player on the block in our Yahoo! Auction Invitational, went for a whopping $65, ten smackers above his average cost. However, ferocious football Frankenstein Brandon Jacobs was nominated 30th and sold for $28, four bucks below his AAV. Make sure never to burn your cash stash too quickly, because a good value is just 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 an abhorrent amount of cash for the last player in a tier. For example, Marc Bulger, the last elite QB available in the Y! Auction Invitational, was nominated 53rd overall. Since I had yet to shop for a gunslinger, it was imperative for me to chase the treasured Ram. Unfortunately, Fantasy Guru's Scott Pianowski had a similar idea. We entered into a bidding war and in the end, the Piano Man shelled out a ridiculous $28 (AAV: $19) shelled out for his services. Again define your limits before your draft and have a cheat sheet nearby. When the well looks like it's about to run dry, it's time to jump in.
7. Hawk Your Friends' Funds and Rosters
One of the best "in-game" auction strategies is to gauge the competition's needs by taking note of their remaining surplus and roster holes. This will give you a peak into how much money they might be willing to spend on a certain player or position.
For instance, in any auction someone will eventually turn into a ruthless dictator. This fascist will hoard money in the hopes of bullying bargains or overbids out of other owners in the later rounds. It's important for you to drain their bank accounts by throwing out players on your avoid list that could fill a need for them. To achieve this, keep close tabs on their roster to gain insight on what they might be holding out for. Its head games like this that can give you the perfect read on how to reduce a bully's power.
8. Honest Abe Hates Kickers Adam Vinatieri is worth nothing more than a late-round pick in conventional drafts and a crisp George Washington in an auction. Think of kickers as Taco Bell value menu staples. The allotted budget spent them should not exceed anything more than a price of a bean burrito. Squeeze out an extra dollar for a LaDanian Tomlinson, not a Nate Kaeding.