Auction Drafts: Eight Simple Rules

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 Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander or LaDainian Tomlinson. 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 fantasy circles. Similar to purchasing livestock, antique cars or dates with Carrot Top, 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 an 11-year veteran of this addictive little game, once you try it, you'll never want to go back to conventional serpentine drafting again.


Recently, twelve fantasy pundits came together for the Yahoo! Auction Invitational hosted by our good friends at This year's participants were:

Blue Division: Yahoo! Sports fantasy writers, Brandon Funston, Brad Evans, Christopher Harris, Matt Buser and Matt Romig; George Del Prado-Fantasy Auctioneer

White Division: Jeff; Mike; Scott; Ryan Bonini-KFFL; Corry Bonini-KFFL; Andrew

Roster Requirements: QB, RB, RB, WR, WR, WR, TE, K, DEF, six bench spots
Scoring system: Standard performance

To see full rosters with dollar amounts, click here.


Who hit the clearance rack? What did Mike Bell go for? Here were the Goodwill gets:

Mike Bell, RB, Den
Cost: $14
AAV (Average Auction Value): $15
Notes: Bell was an accidental fluke that made Romig appear to be a genius. The third player nominated, Romig, dressed as a wolf, scared off the flock with an initial $14 bid. After his flub worked flawlessly, he eventually purchased Tatum Bell for $19, locking up the Denver running back situation for a dollar more than what Reggie Bush sold for. Mike Bell's skills set is tailored made for the Denver zone-blocking scheme and he alone will exceed a $35 net value. Bravo Romig, bravo.

Clinton Portis, RB, Was
Cost: : $53
AAV: : $51
Notes: KFFL's Bonini takes advantage of market fears based on Portis' injured shoulder. Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs said on Wednesday that Portis is well ahead of schedule and will likely suit up Week 1. In an Al Saunders' system that produces fantasy gods, Portis will easily turn a profit, averaging close to 110 total yards-per-game and 12-14 touchdowns.

Ahman Green, RB, GB
Cost: : $10
AAV: : $8
Notes: Funston pulls a rabbit out of the hat for the price of one Alexander Hamilton. Green has drawn rave reviews from the Green Bay coaching staff in limited workouts this summer and still possesses one of the most underappreciated skills sets in the league. Sure Funston paid an extra couple of bucks, but if he can play 13 or more games this season, he will easily be a $25 back.

Domanick Davis, RB, Hou
Cost: : $21
AAV: : $26
Notes: Actually a player on my all-avoid list, I couldn't pass up the injury bargain buy. Questions continue to vulture around Davis' constantly swelled knee, but when healthy he is one of the most consistent – he had eight games of 100 plus yards in 11 '05 starts – backs in the league. Snagging him for five bucks under his AAV, I'll was more than happy to take the risk. If he plays 13 plus games this season, his end-season worth will easily double my money.

Marc Bulger, QB, StL
Cost: : $11
AAV: : $15
Notes: Erickson set a new Fantasy Auctioneer minimum winning bid on Bulger with his $11 steal. Take note. This is an ideal example of why you can afford to budget little cash on a quality quarterback. When healthy, the Rams bazooka has averaged a sensational 280 passing yards-per-game since 2003. With new head coach Scott Linehan a fan of the long bomb, Bulger will hook up for Holt and produce top-seven quarterback numbers.


Who ate the cash cow? Who will regret paying $33 for the big hype machine? Here were the worst purchases:

Reggie Bush, RB, NO
Cost: : $33
AAV: : $33
Notes: Drag racer fast, devastatingly elusive and ridiculously overvalued, Bush isn't worth the lofty price tag. As I've preached continuously this summer, the media darling will be nothing more than a No. 3 back selling for No. 1 prices. With a highly suspect offensive line, Deuce McAllister the goal-line back and the speed of NFL linebackers, Bush will struggle at times. What is most unbelievable: Eleven true No. 1 backs went for under $30.

Larry Johnson, RB, KC
Cost: : $80
AAV: : $79
Notes: I still believe Johnson will be the tops in the league despite losing Willie Roaf, offensive coordinator Al Saunders and fullback Tony Richardson. However, he is not five bucks better than Shaun Alexander. Interestingly, he was nominated behind Alexander and LT and still commanded a much higher salary. With Donte' Stallworth as Erickson's third receiver, he should have spread the love more evenly.

Ronnie Brown, RB, Mia
Cost: : $59
AAV: : $52
Notes: Brown will be good, but not seven dollars over AAV good. Similar to my Rudi Johnson bank breaker, Harris put himself in a bind by being too timid. Nominated at No. 26, Brown was one of two – Johnson was the other – top-15 backs available. Brown will be a top-10 back capable of 1,500 total yards and 9-11 scores, but not at a net result of minus seven dollars. As Harris has taught us, don't wait until the last couple of tier one runners to make a purchase.

Hines Ward, WR, Pit
Cost: : $28
AAV: : $26
Notes: Ward was sensational in the red zone last season, totaling 11 touchdowns along with eight games of 75 or more yards. However, Miami high flyer Chris Chambers went for $23, sticky-fingered Indy wideout Reggie Wayne went for $25 and Detroit long-strider Roy Williams went for $24. There is no way Ward is worth three-to-five dollars more than any of those guys, especially with a nagging hamstring injury. The eighth receiver nominated and the 27th player overall, chock up the ballooned price to early draft inflation.

Peyton Manning, QB, Ind
Cost: : $36
AAV: : $40
Notes: Ok, before you send me a million emails noting that Manning went for four dollars under his AAV, know this, the next highest quarterback, Carson Palmer, sold for $17 less. Last year, the difference between Manning and the 20th-best quarterback Byron Leftwich was just 3.6 points-per-week in standard performance leagues. That small point margin is not worth the extra dough. Always aim for an $8-$12 quarterback.


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 our recent Yahoo! Auction Invitational, KFFL's Corry Bonini was caught with his pants down, leaving a stupid $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. If Bonini would have disbursed his funds appropriately, he could have had a Mike Bell, Matt Hasselbeck, Joseph Addai, or a Tom Brady for 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
No matter how large a man-crush you may have on a 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, my Yahoo! colleague Matt Buser and I exchanged blows over who would win the rights to lighting bolt Antonio Gates. When everyone else bailed at $22, we ping-ponged back and forth for another $5, until I decided the Charger leviathan wasn't worth it. Not sinking my teeth into temptation allowed me to devote more money to wide receivers, a very wise move. Remember, each extra dollar saved could help you acquire a great 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 Peyton Manning, most signal callers go for less than $15.

4. Advertise the Avoidable
Have you ever been stuck in an annoying office conversation and used a random passerby as a scapegoat? If you have, you've already practiced a perfect auction strategy without even knowing it. 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 know there is no single player I loathe more this season than 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 for the soon-to-be bedeviled Saint, he vaults to the top of the nomination list. In two auctions this season, I have queued Bush very early just to see money fly out the window. On average, owners have paid a mind-blowing $33 for Bush, who will at best be an 1,100 total yard, six touchdown performer. 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 on 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. is a fantastic site you can access this priceless information 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
Axel 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 nominations. Why? When people have a briefcase full of bills they're going to spend lavishly and balloon big name player price tags. Larry Johnson, the sixth player on the block in our Yahoo! Auction Invitational, went for a whopping $80, two dollars above his average cost. However, ferocious Chicago Bears running back Thomas Jones was nominated 28th and went for $18, a couple of 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, Rudi Johnson, the last tier one back in the Y! Auction draft, was nominated 35th overall. Since my only other running back on roster was Brian Westbrook, it was imperative for me to chase the treasured Bengal. Unfortunately, it punctured my piggy bank as I had to shell out a ridiculous $54 for his services, an idiotic nine dollars over his AAV. 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, Mike Nolan dictator. This fascist will hoard money in the hopes of bullying bargains 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. Also, look at their roster and see what player they could be potentially holding out for. It's head games like this that can give you the perfect read on how to reduce a bully's power.

8. Honest Abe Hates Kickers
Neil Rackers is worth nothing more than a late-round pick in conventional drafts and a two dollar bid in an auction. Think of kickers and defenses as Taco Bell value menu staples. The allotted budget spent on these secondary fantasy positions should not exceed anything more than $5 or a couple of chicken chalupas. Squeeze out an extra dollar for a LaDainian Tomlinson, not a Sebastian Janikowski.