How to nominate players in your auction draft
The key to winning your fantasy league is to find value in whatever type of draft in which you participate. In a snake-style draft, your goal is to take calculated risks in the middle and late rounds on players who will outplay their draft position. In an auction draft, again, the goal is to purchase players who will produce higher than the price you paid. Unlike in a traditional snake draft, however, you have the opportunity to get values at every position in an auction draft.
The first thing that happens in an auction draft is the managers do a random draw. Instead of actually picking players for their teams with this draw, as is done in a normal draft, the competitors use this system to nominate players to put up for bids at auction. Each manager then gets to nominate one player a round. Nominating the right player, and paying the right price, are the two factors you can control in the auction and you want to make sure you are taking advantage of both to increase your edge and chances of winning.
From an auction rules standpoint, you need to have a rule that whoever nominates a player has to open the bidding on that player. The minimum bid should be $1, and if no one bids, then the manager who made the nomination will roster that player. The manager can have a larger starting bid if they wish. I someone is nominating the top RB of the year, that final bid will most likely be above $50 in a $200 budget, so it saves time if the opening bid is higher. A good rule of thumb is to open the bid at about half of what you think the final price will be. So if you think a player should sell for $50, you can open the bidding at $20-25. If you think a player should sell for $20, then you could start the bidding at $10. If you are new to auction drafts, there is no benefit to putting out a higher nomination, so you are best to just start low and see how each player goes.
Another option it to have tiers of players in your auction, with certain levels of players having different minimum starting bids. If you have a $200 auction budget, then the consensus top 12 running backs, which should be selling anywhere from $20 to $50 should not be able to be opened for $1, or even $5. First, this wastes everyone’s time, as the players are never going to sell that cheap and it can also keep integrity in your auction league by never allowing top tier players to sell for a ridiculously low amount due to stupidity, collusion, or too many managers expending their budgets too quickly on lower tier players. Now, you may not have a problem with this so you don’t prop up poorly prepared competitors; so, you don’t have to do this if you don’t mind taking advantage of other teams.
I am also a proponent of not allowing mangers to nominate any more players once they have completed their lineups. This should be standard in any auction draft. Someone with a full roster should not be able to determine another player’s team, and if they cannot bid the minimum amount, they should not be able to nominate anyone. This can also save time at the end of the auction, and most online auction drafts and software is set up this way. If you have roster limits in your league, then a manager should not be able to nominate a player that they cannot have on their roster.
One of the key complaints I hear about auction drafts is that everyone is not at the same level of fantasy knowledge or auction knowledge, and players who have not done auctions before will end up with poor teams. An example is someone paying an outrageous amount for a player, and by that I mean a number that no one else would have paid $1 or even $5 less for. This would be someone who really wants Saquan Barkley opening the bidding at $75. While he might have sold for $50 to $60, or in New York maybe $70, but most smart participants realize that no one player is worth 1/3 of your budget. What is actually worse is when a marginal player that should be selling for $2 sells for $10 to $20. While this can create an advantage for the remaining players, it also puts smart managers in a more defensive position. They will now have to bid more on players they may not really want, in order to keep pricing fair and not allow others to steal players. I do think it is wise to make sure every manager in your league has done at least a mock auction to get a feel for how things work. Most people who do at least one mock will get a good enough feel for what is going on, at least enough to avoid embarrassment, at least not in regards to how they bid. Mangers new to auctions can also watch the videos posted on this site to see how an actual auction draft should work. Now, let’s look at some strategies for nominating players.
There are multiple strategies available when nominating players. The first two obvious choices are to:
- Nominate players you actually want to get on your team
- Nominate players you have no interest in, in order to drain other competitors’ resources.
The tips below will explore which strategy may work best for you, and some subtle nuances you can take advantage of in your auction draft. The two things you control in an auction draft are your nominations and bids. You do not want to waste your nominations, so make sure you nominate with purpose depending on how you want to build your squad.
NOMINATION TIP 1: DETERMINE YOUR STRATEGY - Try to determine what your overall strategy for building your team will be. How you want to construct your team will make a difference in who you nominate, and when. There are two basic strategies for building a team at an auction draft. The first approach is known as “Stars and Scrubs” or “Studs and Duds.” This is where you spend 80-90% of your budget on your starting players (Excluding kickers and defenses) and then use the rest to buy your bench players, your kicker and defense. The second is the balanced approach, where you try to spread your budget out over as many good, but not usually great, players as possible. If multiple people are using the first strategy, it should leave many middle tier players available at reasonable prices. I believe when building a team through an auction draft, you need to end up with a roster that, at minimum, has players that would have been taken in every round of a snake-style draft. Now I believe, that you can actually end up with more higher round players if you purchase wisely at your draft auction, but you need to be willing to spend a little more to get a first round, or at least a couple of second round talents on your team. This is similar to actual NFL teams
NOMINATION TIP 2: BE READY AT THE BEGINNING - The very first player, and maybe two, who sells at your auction will probably be slightly undervalued. Most bidders at auctions, including those at a fantasy auction, take a few sales to get warmed up to the auction action. Many people don’t want to be the first bidder or buyer at an auction. Part of the reason to wait is to try to determine what the market is going to be for different tiers of players. If all the top running backs in your league sell for $25, no one wants to be the buyer of the first running back who overpaid at $40. However, because more people tend to be cautious at the beginning of an auction and avoid overpaying, the first player or two will most likely end up being a bargain. Now, if your entire league reads this, that would no longer be the case, and if they put up the consensus number one player first, this may not happen. If you have the chance to nominate one of the first two players and can nominate someone in the middle of the top tier of running backs, I think, more often than not, you will get a good deal. This can also happen slightly later in the auction when the first player of a position group is nominated. The market has not been set at this position, which means the first player offered may be a bargain.
NOMINATION TIP 3: NOMINATE PLAYERS YOU WANT - You may want to nominate players you want at the beginning of the auction. For most top-tier players, you are never really going to get a great deal, so there is no point on waiting to bid on the players you want on your team. In normal auctions, when we have similar items, we always sell the best one first. This is because we do not want potential buyers to wait on the best item, and not bid on the lesser ones. If they wait, and then the item they wanted goes higher than they want to pay, they end up going home with money in their pocket. When it comes to draft auctions, at the start of the auction, every manager's pockets are full of money. If they are waiting on a certain player to be nominated, they may not bid on players they think are slightly less valuable. This gives you the opportunity to get the second or third player in a top position tier with less competition, and therefore a lower price than other players in that tier. Once the top player in a tier is sold, everyone knows what the market is for that auction, and adjusts accordingly. If you are willing to go out and get your player early, especially top tier talent, you may be able to save a dollar or two to use later in the auction. If you nominate a top tier player you do not want on your team, you are in some ways helping the other managers in your league fill out their rosters and determine values for the remaining players. This is more true of positions like QB and TE which usually have only one starter, especially when only RB's and WR's have been offered. You don't want your competition to get a feel for what the prices should be for every position. Never be afraid to go get the players you want early in your auction draft. You may save money by not doing so, and in the middle and end of the draft may be able to control the action, but only end up with several mid-tier players that will not score enough points on a weekly basis.
NOMINATION TIP 4: NOMINATE PLAYERS YOU DON'T WANT - You may want to nominate players you don’t want, especially mid to upper-tier players you don't like. This is not new advice, but if you are budget-conscious, you need to follow this strategy all the way to its conclusion. First, if you know members of your league like certain players who you think are overrated, injury prone, or on the decline, nominate them in the early to mid rounds in order to get money out of other mangers’ hands. Second, if you think a position like quarterback is deep, keep nominating quarterbacks to drain your fellow competitor's resources so you can purchase running backs or wide receivers at a cheaper price. The key is to nominate players that most people think should be on a team. If you are nominating kickers in the first round of your draft, it is a wasted nomination. You need to continue to do this until there are only a couple of other people left with money. If you do this correctly, you will never purchase any player you nominate until maybe your last couple of roster spots—and maybe not even then. A word of caution on this strategy. it is highly unlikely you will be the only manager in your league trying to not buy players you nominate. This means, that even as the auction winds down, and you have saved a fair amount of your salary cap, there will still be one or two other managers that have similar amounts of money. You will still probably have to compete with these managers, so try not to overpay for lesser players at the end of the auction when you could have been more competitive at the beginning of the auction on better players.
NOMINATION TIP 5: NOMINATE POPULAR PLAYERS. If you are trying to purchase values at your auction, it is not going to be on players everyone loves. It is difficult to get a deal on any auction item if there are a lot of bidders. Simply put, more bidders equal more competition, which equals higher prices. You want to nominate the more popular players, whether it is because of the previous year’s stats or because they play for your hometown team. This will get other managers to purchase them and leave you with more money to buy the players you really want. You want to purchase players with as little as competition as possible, so nominating a player with a perceived wart or two helps your chances to get them on your team.
NOMINATION TIP 6: BEWARE OF TIERS - Don’t wait to purchase the last couple of players in a particular tier. More and more websites and magazines publish tiers of players, so most competitors at an auction or regular draft are aware of the different levels of players available. There are only so many top tier running backs who are the clear-cut starters on their teams. Many people are content to let others spend their money on the top of the running back tier one, and then hope to purchase the back end of the top tier players at a discount. While this is a good strategy, it only works until everyone realizes there are only a couple of these players left. The last couple of players in a given tier will most likely experience more potential managers wanting to buy them, meaning more competitive bidding, which obviously results in higher prices.
NOMINATION TIP 7: HANDCUFFS - Be willing to nominate handcuffs you like early. Once someone has spent good money on a starting running back, they are going to be more invested in buying their backup. If there are backups you like, don’t be afraid to nominate them before the starter in front of them. Most people will be hesitant to purchase backups if they don’t have their starting backfield set. If there is a backup you absolutely have to get on your team, try doing it early.
NOMINATION TIP 8: KNOW YOUR COMPETITION THROUGHOUT THE AUCTION - Pay attention to everyone’s rosters and know your current competition. As the auction progresses, different people will fill out their rosters at different paces than others. Whichever strategy you employ, be mindful of the others who need players at the same position you do. Your competition will shift throughout the auction, but is most important in the first ten rounds of bidding. A great way to track this, is to use FanDraft's software. With FanDraft, you can project a draft board that is color coded with each team's roster, and also shows how much money they have spent, and how much they have left. Using this makes it easy to see which positions have a surplus, which have a shortage, which mangers need the same positions you do, and how your remaining money compares to theirs. This is key in the middle of the draft as it will allow you to be in the strongest position to nominate players you need to fill out your roster with the least competition. At the end of the draft, this is also important as you need to know if you and other managers both have $2 for one roster spot and only $1 for the rest of your team. You need to know when to bid $2 to start, so they cannot out bid you. Or if you have $7 or $8 left for one good player, make sure you bid your max amount before someone else does and you miss out because they bid first. If a competing manager has $4 left on a player, and you have that much or more, if you bid $4 before they do, they cannot raise the bid on you.
NOMINATION TIP 9: GET YOUR STARTERS - Wait to build depth, don’t wait to build your starting lineup. First, there is usually no benefit to having any of your auction money left after the auction. While you could use your last $10 to pay $5 each for a kicker and defense, you should only be paying $1 or $2 each for these positions and you should be using that money elsewhere. You have the opportunity in an auction draft to get several of what we term late round flyers in traditional drafts. If you save 20% of your budget for the end, you will be able to pay $4 or $5 for a flyer, when everyone else can only afford $1 or $2. This can give you an advantage in potentially picking up several younger players with upside that you may only be able to get 1 or 2 of in a traditional draft. By doing this you can get four or five tenth round values, and not have any higher round players on your team. However, while getting bench players that hit may help put you over the top in your league, you are probably not going to win your league if you don’t have true early-round talent on your team. While you can buy one backup running back or wide receiver early, you do not want to buy too many backup players before you have all of your starting players, with the exception of kickers and defenses. If you are in a standard league and can only start one QB, it could be a mistake to buy another QB before you have purchased all of your RB's, WR's and flex position players. While getting a second QB at a great value may seem like a good thing, if you are using a limited budget at the end of the auction on a backup when you still need a starter, it does not help you be successful. You need to spend the majority of your auction budget on players that will start for your team the most amount of weeks. While an auction allows a little more flexibility in building a roster than a snake draft, make sure you are saving and spending enough money to get high-quality starters on your team. The last thing you want is to be laying awake after your auction draft wishing you would have rostered more of the higher-end players on your team. Auctions allow you to decide who is on your team, so go out and get the players you want.