Imagine planning an event in which a dozen or so people will be there to get a limited amount of cakes. In the real world, the outcome of such an arrangement is an auction. Not one person would agree everyone should just draw out of a hat to form a line to get the cakes, especially when only a handful of those cakes will be truly coveted. The only people who would agree to it are cheapskates who would rather rely on luck.
Don’t let luck dictate some undeserving clown getting Christian McCaffrey, thanks to a roll of the dice. There’s enough luck involved in fantasy football already. Most people I’ve talked to who have actually done an auction draft prefer it to snake drafts.
In recent years, auction drafts have gained a lot of steam in the fantasy community. The only problem is the fact they take an extremely long time to complete. Auctions typically take somewhere between three to six hours, depending on whether they’re live or online. Online auctions don’t take as long due to the automatic timers, but if you are doing a live auction, prepare for it to be a lot slower. Despite the time investment, the strategic advantages of an auction outweigh the negative aspects. If they want the best cake out there, they’re going to have to pay up to get it.
The Fruit Cake Strategy
Does anyone really like fruit cake? No, not really. We think others do and we get fruit cakes for others in the holidays since it’s perceived to be a good gesture, but we know what we’re doing. To quote Jim Gaffigan, “Fruit…Good, Cake…Great, Fruit Cake…nasty crap.”
With the fruit cake strategy, the same reasoning applies. When it’s your turn to nominate a player, you nominate a player who is perceived to be popular, that you want no part of. You do this for one reason, to reduce the money pool and increase the chances you can get the players you actually want. The important part is, the players have to be good enough to warrant some bids, and you should only open the bidding with one dollar. Otherwise, you may end up nominating a guy and get stuck with him.
This strategy works wonders because you can employ it early in the draft, and if you know someone else knows you really don’t like that player, it won’t change anything. I had one season where I was called out for it and later in the draft, I shifted strategy and started nominating players I low-key valued. It worked and others avoided bidding on them with me. Unlike some of the other strategies which focus on positions, you can utilize this strategy throughout a good portion of the draft. I typically use it for the first half of a draft and then shift to other strategies to close.
The Chocolate Cake Strategy
This strategy is quite the antithesis on the fruit cake strategy. In every draft, there will be at least a couple of managers who go straight for the players they want. Chocolate cake people are very direct with their love of chocolate and will target it at every opportunity. Don’t be surprised when the same couple of people in your draft continue to nominate every elite breakout candidate from every major fantasy publication. When the purpose of auction drafts is to get the people on your list, this strategy can be detrimental to everyone else in the draft.
Alas, the point is to get the players on your list you really want, so this strategy goes at it with a very “Leeeroy Jenkins” approach. Regardless of whether you decide to use this strategy or not, keep in mind, more than one person in your draft will be using it.
The “Better than Sex” Cake Strategy
This strategy focuses on the one or two actual recipes perceived to be good. Much like the tight end position, there are only a couple of great variants of this cake. The tricky part is, the recipe is known to be a home run when executed perfectly, but it can come at a great cost if you don’t get it right. Unlike snake drafts, where the elite few tight ends go pretty early and the rest go rounds later (in groups, mind you), the importance of the position in auction is rarely overlooked.
Typically, the top three or four tight ends go in the price range of an RB2 to as high as a back-end RB1 (Unless you’re in a TE premium, of course). However, If you’re looking at the drop in value at the position every season, you should be valuing the top guys a lot more. If you’re planning on prioritizing this position, this is the strategy for you. To successfully execute this strategy, you should open the draft by nominating the tight end among the top three you want least on your team. I’ve done this probably seven times in drafts and even in the first nomination slot, it’s gone well. Usually, the player will go for or slightly over their average draft cost, because everyone’s bankrolls will be healthy and they understand getting a good tight end is crucial.
This is the only position you can do this with because it’s so top-heavy. By getting the least desired of the top tight ends out of the way early, you can focus on waiting for one of the other two to get nominated and hope everyone’s funds are a little more exhausted. However, to utilize this strategy to its maximum effectiveness, you should keep nominating potential breakout guys at the position and hoping either people continue to outbid you, or you end up with one for the minimum bid. Having a bonified top three guy and one of the many breakout candidates at the position is the ideal end-game for this strategy.
The Angel Food Cake Strategy
Angel food cake is always pretty good, but it’s overlooked on the cake power rankings because it misses the key elements that make you want cake when you’re thinking about cake; most notably, the frosting. Player buzz is a lot like frosting. If there isn’t a lot of buzz around a player prior to a draft, there’s a slim chance that player will fall out of nomination queues. When that happens, they become angel food cake, thus opening the window to use this strategy. It’s just like that old quote from that Christmas movie nobody watches, “Every time a nomination bell rings, an undervalued player gets his wings.”
Every draft, without fail, there will be a handful of receivers and quarterbacks who fall out of favor and tumble down the nomination queue. Keep this in mind in your auction drafts. For the past few seasons now, I’ve realized this and spent most of my money on a pair of good RBs, one or two good WRs, and one elite TE. With this setup, it allows you to have some money in the bank later in drafts to get a couple of pretty good QBs.
Keep in mind, the fluctuation at this position is huge, so you’ll likely get great value waiting. There should be a WR or two who should be solid, but fall out of everyone’s favor each year (i.e. Julian Edelman, Marvin Jones). To properly utilize this strategy, you’ll need to be one of the top three bankroll teams when you get later in the draft. Going top-heavy with elite RBs and tight ends while saving your money elsewhere will give you the ability to snag those pieces of angel food cake with little resistance later.
The Cheesecake Strategy
Much like cheesecake, quarterbacks can be very unpredictable. If you get a good one, it can be the best cake you’ve ever had, but you can also get one that turns out to taste like it was made in a bathroom of a convenience store. The key here is to look where to get them. As unpopular of a strategy as this may seem to be, there’s one store that gives you a majority of the high-end quarterbacks; the dual-threat bakery.
At the dual-threat bakery, you can get undervalued guys who overperform. You can also get the more expensive dual-threat guys who give you less variance and a high floor. Though there is reason to be concerned of an increased injury risk due to all the running, the data in recent years suggests pocket QBs are almost as likely to suffer a major injury. For whatever reason, it took a lot of people a long time to realize there was less variance and higher floors with the dual-threat guys, but don’t worry, a lot of people still haven’t figured it out.
The Tres Leches Strategy
This strategy typically only works if you’re the first or second nomination in the draft, and much like the cake, it’ll go bad if you wait too long on it. The conditions have to be right for this to work. Traditionally, everyone makes it on-time to a draft, but on occasion, not everyone is present for the first couple picks in a draft. When this happens, it’s time to pull a fast one and open with the Tres Leches.
I’ve noticed, over nearly a decade of doing auction drafts, it takes a couple picks for people to feel comfortable enough to dive-in and open up the checkbook. If there’s a player you really want, who is popular and at a rich position like WR or RB, it’s a risk. However, nominating them out of the gate typically yields solid results. Before the landscape settles in an auction draft, people often play things a little more conservatively, so use it to your advantage and get that moist Tres Leches before it becomes a soggy, congealed mess.
The Cupcake Strategy
The final strategy is the cupcake strategy, which can be used for multiple reasons. Much like cupcakes, wide receivers come in a wide variety and the variance of taste is unpredictable as it is vast. As I mentioned earlier with the Angel Food Cake strategy, there will always be receivers who go well beneath their average cost later in drafts. The cause is inflated spending at other positions earlier in the draft. The receiver position is so vast, there will undoubtedly be guys available late for next to nothing.
With the Cupcake strategy, you’ll want to nominate some of the lower-end WR2 and WR3s early in the draft, knowing they’ll certainly go for more than a dollar. With these guys out of the way and other rosters filling up, you’ll have two advantages. For one, you can either spend your money on the receivers you want when someone else nominates them, or you can save up your money for the more competitive positions. I like to go get one elite receiver early and focus on other positions, knowing if I save my money, there will be plenty of good value receivers available when everyone is broke. Unlike a snake, where players typically don’t fall too far from their ADP, there will be a few solid guys available with only a few capable bidders to compete against.
Fruitcake – Nominating relatively popular players early on, knowing you don’t want them, for the purpose of exhausting opposing team budgets.
Chocolate – Nominating players you want, period.
Better than Sex – Getting an elite TE and a sleeper TE.
Angel Food – Saving money for the point where you have a top 3 budget, so you can grab good value guys late.
Cheesecake – Getting a solid dual-threat QB and a sleeper dual-threat as insurance.
Tres Leches – Opening the draft nominating a player you want, understanding draft spending will be hesitant at first.
Cupcake – Nominating WR2s and WR3s the whole time, taking those who nobody wants for value, while exhausting everyone else’s budgets.
Generally, people don’t like change in the world of fantasy football. For years, I stood firm in my main league that we should keep it as a snake draft. When 2011 rolled around, the voting time came and auction won. I wasn’t thrilled about it at the time, but it’s now 2020. I’m in an auction league in the majority of my leagues and prefer it greatly over snake drafts. The big reason why is equality. Going into every draft season, there are a few players at the top that you know will finish in the top five by the end of the season, if healthy. The players drafting outside the top eight are not getting the same guarantee and likely won’t have very good odds finishing the season with one of those elite players.
In auctions, everyone gets their shot. Auction is a free market economy and in that, the true value of a player can be reflected by his draft price. Another way of looking at it is, would anyone give up the number one pick and the 24th pick for the 12 and 13? Of course, they wouldn’t, because the production you’ll get from the top player alone will likely outweigh what you’re going to get from the 12 and 13.
The other big advantage for auctions is the lack of runs. In snake, if you’re at the top or bottom of a draft and a run on tight ends happens, you may not have a shot at drafting a tight end until all the good ones are gone. You’ll just sit there helplessly as your aspirations go down the toilet and all everyone will say is, “Well I guess you should’ve taken one early.” You know what, screw that guy. Get into an auction league and go for the players you actually want.
It’s time to move away from the antiquated system of drafting, where the people at the front of the line get the best cakes and leave you with the ones with veggies in them. With auction drafts, you can have your cake and eat it too.
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