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How to Avoid Five Simple Auction Mistakes

I wouldn’t be a good ambassador for fantasy football if I wrote about auction fantasy leagues without an experience of my own. Through that experience, I have some lessons to share about what not to do during an auction.

Before we begin, let’s cover some auction basics. In an auction, you get a set amount of “cash” to spend on players. This allows you to have a more flexible experience, in that you can take two or three first-round-level talents but that means you’ll have very little money left to fill out your roster. Each owner in an auction league takes turns “nominating” players, so there’s a strategy for that as well.

The “live” auction experience may be different, but on the Yahoo site you get 30 seconds to nominate a player, and 30 seconds tick off once you make that first bid (usually $1). The clock resets after every bid, but over time the starting clock goes down to 20 seconds then to 10. Eventually the clock runs out and someone’s won a player.

Now, for my experience. I joined a Yahoo mock auction Sunday morning with the goal of getting a little tread off my auction tires. It was a 12-team league with the following starting lineup: QB-2 RB-3 WR-TE-D-K with 15 total roster spots (the Yahoo default). Owners took turns “nominating” new players.

Mistake number one: Being afraid to spend early.

My auction prep consisted of me looking up values in FF Toolbox and using that page as a guide when nominations came up. It took ten players for a guy to get taken for anything close to the recommended amount. Gronk went for $30. The top 4 RBs went for around $70 a pop, or a third of the total budget. I got my first player as the 20th guy off the board, Dez Bryant for $60.

During the entire auction, I remained the person with the most remaining cash. In an auction, like a draft, sometimes you do have to overpay. It doesn’t hurt to wait (as you’ll see later), but shots have to be taken.

Mistake number two: Value isn’t the only thing

Players flew off the board, almost always going for 10 to 20% above the sticker price. Some guys were getting closer to realistic prices, like Randall Cobb at $32 and Emmanuel Sanders at $14. I had a very “auction” moment in which I was winning Lamar Miller for $5 and at the literal final second, someone else outbid me for $6. I immediately bumped it a buck and won. It’s OK to lose a guy at the last minute, unless it’s one of your targets and you are willing to pay a little extra.

I was really close to winning Matthew Stafford, but I let him go for $18. Later in the game, I got Andrew Luck for $15 and I think I prefer Luck. Sometimes when you lose a guy, you win later.

Mistake number three: Don’t bid if you don’t want the player

There are times in a poker game when you splash the pot, and by that I mean you raise with no intention of staying in the game. It’s a way to get your opponents’ attention. This came back to bite me later when I bid $2 for RGIII, totally expecting the bid to go up and it didn’t. I have nothing against RGIII as a QB2, especially at that price, but I was leading the league in extra cash and I was starting to run out of roster spots.

Mistake number four: Know Your Rules

When 8 of the owners were down to $20 or less and I still had about 40% of my funds, I had to hit hard on some mid-priced players. The problem was, the league immediately shifted from overspending to bargains galore. Players were going for the $30s and $40s went down to the single digits.

In a few minutes I picked up Michael Crabtree for $11, Ben Tate for $6, Trent Richardson for $6, Jeremy Maclin for $4 and Mike Wallace for $4. I was loading up on mid-level guys for low prices, but I realized that almost everyone was broke, I still had 30% of my money, and roster spots were precious.

Mistake number five: Timing is Everything

Chris Johnson went for $4 and I discovered that I only had roster spots left for one wide receiver, a tight end, defense, and kicker. I got Reggie Wayne for $3, bargain city, and Greg Olsen for $5, easy to do when there was only one guy left who would bid up anyone. I finished with the Patriots D and Steve Hauschka.

I also finished with $57. I didn’t spend 28.5% of my allocated funds. It was a disaster in planning. I went too far in the “wait for bargains” round of the auction. I could have taken Jimmy Graham ($62) instead of Greg Olsen ($5) or could have picked up Jordy Nelson ($41). Instead, I got the studs and scrubs, potentially minus the scrubs.

Here’s my final squad:

QB: Andrew Luck $15, RGIII $2
RB: CJ Spiller $15, Lamar Miller $7, Trent Richardson $6, Ben Tate $6, Chris Johnson $4
WR: Dez Bryant $60, Michael Crabtree $11, Jeremy Maclin $4, Mike Wallace $4, Reggie Wayne $3
TE: Greg Olsen $5
K: Steve Hauschuka: $1
D: Patriots: $1

Good thing it was a mock, eh? Learn from my mistakes and consider your options all the way through your auctions. Early on, people are going to overpay but there will be bargains, and sometimes you just have to jump in and test the waters. Understand that if you bid a lot, you may end up with players you don’t necessarily want. Have a list of your low-dollar guys to target. Mess with your league by throwing out those expensive guys early, or be the first person to toss out a mid-level sleeper, because you could get a deal. Know that this is so much more involved than a draft and you have to pay attention the entire time. It’s not for everyone, but it’s a fun experience.

About Zach Law

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