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Fantasy Football Auction Strategy In Action: The Pentathlon Experts League

Fantasy Football Auction Strategy In Action: The Pentathlon Experts League
Davis Mattek August 28, 2019 4:43PM EDT

Fantasy Football Auction Strategy In Action: The Pentathlon Experts League

Fantasy football auctions are pretty drastically different than a standard snake draft. Obviously, instead of drafting players in sequential order, fantasy football managers are given a fake budget (usually $200 “dollars”) in which to complete their starting roster and bench spots. There are many different ways to approach fantasy football auction strategy but by far the most important is to have good player values. Here at RotoExperts, we have customizable cheat sheets and auction values (both in dollars and percentage of total salary) that correspond to our projections and rankings.

One of the biggest issues I have had with reading about auction strategy in the past is that most of the “advice” is theoretical. I find it to be more instructive to use real examples from real drafts (where real money is wagered) to become a better fantasy player and to help others become better.

The fantasy football draft that we will be using as a nexus for this fantasy football auction strategy discussion is a $200 budget, 18-man roster with 1 QB/2 RB/3 WR/2 TE/1 SuperFlex/1 PK/1 DST lineup composition. This link will take you the full draft board with player prices and full lineups of all the industry cohorts.

The idea behind doing this article as both a hybrid fantasy football auction strategy piece and league coverage is to give RotoExperts readers an idea of how drafting in an auction actually works and how to react when something unexpected occurs.

I was invited to participate in the RotoWire/Athletic Penthalon Experts Leauge in 2019 as a partner with my old cohort, Sammy Reid of RotoGrinders. The SuperFlex Auction that we will be using as an instructive point on participating in auctions is part of a five-segment football prognostication competition.

Final 18-Man Roster:

Fantasy Football Auction Strategy In Action: The Pentathlon Experts League

What Went Right:

Pretty clearly, this is not the best auction team ever. The WR2 is one of DeSean Jackson, Trey Quinn, Tyrell Williams or Marquise Goodwin. However, that does highlight the importance of having one dollar players that you are prepared to start. If you aren’t, that should inform your strategy on how much you spend on studs.

The biggest wins in this auction were winning Evan Engram and O.J Howard in a league that starts multiple tight ends. Having two of the top six at a position of extreme scarcity (basically the opposite of QB) is a great way to create a unique roster that can open you up to trades and beating your opponents at a given position on a weekly basis.

What Went Wrong:

In the most ironically appropriate way, I got caught price enforcing on Le’Veon Bell and Joe Mixon. Mixon and Bell were two players that I did not particularly want in this auction but drafted them because they were far under the projected auction value that I had for them in the RotoExperts projections. While this left me with two players that I am not crazy about, it did also mean that four of the best values of the entire draft were on our roster (Bell, Mixon, Engram, Duke Johnson).

The worst bid that I made was going to $5 on Darren Waller. In doing so, I hamstrung myself from going an extra dollar on players like Matt Brieda, Will Fuller and Sammy Watkins who were some of the best values of the entire draft. Overall, the team feels solid but needs improvement at second/third quarterback and wide receiver depth. You are not hear to simply read about my team though.

A few of my esteemed colleagues dropped a few words on their teams and auction strategy.

Scott Jenstad: “Due to a large number of starting roster spots, I think the auction was unlike most we all take part in as the elite first-round players did not have huge bidding wars for their services like almost every auction does. The SuperFlex plus regular flex plus two starting tight ends makes it tough to go fully stars and scrubs and I think we saw that early on and it left people with more money than usual in the mid-game. I gambled that with even with SupeFlex, I could still wait at quarterback and it was a bit stressful to wait quite that long, but it ended up working with Goff and Brees for $20 combined. It’s a great format and I encourage anyone to add a couple of active roster spots to your league as it really makes the league more challenging and more fun.”

Pat Fitzmaurice: “Normally there’s one egregiously stupid “Why did I bid so much on that guy?” purchase that ruins the auction experience for me, but I didn’t really have one this time, so maybe that’s a good sign. That said, I wouldn’t mind a mulligan on Michael Thomas at $39. He was a little less expensive than some of the other top receivers, but in hindsight, I’d rather have spent $18 on Brandin Cooks and had an extra $21 to throw around elsewhere.The Yahoo guys love this start-two-TE setup, and apparently, they’ve sold Pentathlon founder Derek Van Riper on it too. I think it’s torture. Last year I was all right at one TE spot and spent the year fishing the waiver wire at the other spot, rotating dudes like Tyler Higbee and Jesse James.
It felt grimy, so I was willing to pay through the nose not to go through that again. No regrets whatsoever about spending $44 for Kelce, and I was thrilled to get Njoku at $12. (People fading a freak athlete like that based on the “too many mouths to feed” argument are out of their minds.) Sometimes in an auction, you just freeze. I LOVE Russell Wilson and have him ranked QB5, and yet I just sat there slack-jawed while fellow Wisconsin grad Van Riper snuck him through for $16. I think Derek Carr went for $10, and somehow Russ went for $16. Argh. Melvin Gordon, A.J Green and Josh Gordon collectively cost me $34. There were some heavy discounts on the high-risk guys, but in the Pentathlon, you’re hosed if you finish at or near the bottom in any single event, so I definitely don’t think I pulled a fast one by getting those guys cheaply. The auction format is great, especially when it’s a league full of sharp people and the prices are mostly logical. Overall, I disagree with the people who think auctions are the only way to go. The more morons there are in a league, the less I want to do an auction, even if it resents a bigger competitive advantage than a traditional snake draft.”

Actionable Fantasy Football Auction Strategy Takeways

  1. Have Projected Players Prices For Everyone: This is probably the most important step you can have headed into an auction. Either generate these prices yourself or use the auction prices and percentages outlaid for you by the intense mathematical work here at RotoExperts.  Regardless of how you end up at the prices, it is important to have prices for all players/positions so that you don’t find yourself making inefficient market choices.
  2. Nominate Players You Do Not Want Early: This is really a core tenant of any auction in any fantasy sports. Throw out players who are considering “studs” or first few rounds players and do it early simply to get money out of the room. Examples this year would be players like DeAndre Hopkins or Julio Jones who our projections think are basically equal players to who will go cheaper (like Odell Beckham or JuJu Smith-Schuster) but you can make those determinations yourself. This takes away both roster spots and  money from your opposition.
  3. Do Not Pay For Defense Or Kicker: Similar to our advice from the Ultimate Guide To Win Your Draft, this is pretty simple advice. Spend one dollar on your defense or kicker, or if your league doesn’t require that you leave the draft room with one, simply do not take them at all. You can grab an extra $1 RB that has a chance to be a starter with an injury instead of locking in Matt Prater to your team.
  4. Even In Two-QB/SuperFlex, Be Reasonable With QB Spending: This is a point that all RotoExperts readers should be comfortable with by now. There are legitimately 30 fantasy football viable quarterbacks at the moment and there is no reason to go insane for any of them especially if your league mates are going to overvalue them. Would you rather $1 Jacoby Brissett and $40 James Conners or $20 Dak Prescott and $20 Drew Brees? The answer, even in a Superflex, should be obvious to you.
  5. Don’t Panic, Regardless Of The Situation. You didn’t get any of the elite, first-round talents? Well, then you need to re-focus and jam as many possible mid-tier values. Your team could end up with Kerryon Johnson, Latavius Murray, Matt Brieda, Sammy Watkins, Will Fuller and DeDe Westbrook for as much as one top-five player goes for. If that is the scenario, then make the best of what you have. On the converse, if you find yourself buying three of the first 12 players nominated and only have 40% of your total money left, play smart. You likely won’t be able to afford great depth so fill our your starting lineup and have $1 players that you are ready to use if you must.
  6. Know You Are Going To Have Regrets. No one has ever left an auction and said “Well, that went perfect.” You won’t properly predict the price of every player, you will try to price-enforce a player you do not like and get stuck with them or you will see a player that you do really like go for half of what you expect after you run out of money. This does not mean that you have lost your league. It just means that like everyone else, you have been stuck into a wild and relatively inefficient market. This is largely anecdotal but I also often feel like the fact that many people regret their choices in auctions opens them up to trading a bit more than standard snake draft leagues.

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