Setting Auction Values For Your Draft


If you are like me, there is nothing quite like an auction draft in fantasy football. My first ever experience in fantasy football was sitting in on an auction over a decade ago, and I had absolutely no clue what I was doing. Strategically, I made several errors because I had no idea what I was doing, though I managed to pick good players (I remember being laughed at by the room when I picked Daunte Culpepper for too much money when he had never played before). Since then, I have done an auction league since 2003, and it’s always one of the highlights of the season.

 The typical “snake” draft favors the early picks, who get the best players and then 3 of the top 24 before the other teams add their third player. If we thought of it in auction terms, the team with the first overall pick would be operating with about a $107 salary cap in a league where other teams have $97 to spend.

I’ll hopefully do a more specific post on fantasy auction strategies soon, and also give some values for a league. The problem with mine, or anybody else’s values that you get off a website, are that they are not customized to your league. I would strongly advise you to take an hour or two to come up with league specific values. Strategy at the draft is important, but having a strong set of values tailored to your league is the underlying foundation upon which you can then adjust to the gamesmanship of the draft.

It’s gonna get a little geeky up in here, so if you want check out and come back when I actually post values, I understand. For those that have a handle on using a spreadsheet and want to see how the sausage is made, I’ll walk you through how I set my fantasy values.

  1. HAVE AN UNDERLYING SET OF PROJECTIONS: many sites will have these, just make sure they make reasonable sense, and take them and adapt to your views on specific players.
  2. APPLY YOUR LEAGUE’S SCORING RULES TO THOSE PROJECTIONS: Extremely important. Looking at a base set of values does you no good if they were prepared for a different type of league. 4 points per passing TD versus 6, or 1 point every 20 versus 25 passing yards, or PPR—all of these things impact point totals and relative value.
  3. APPLY YOUR LEAGUE’S ROSTER, STARTING LINEUP REQUIREMENTS, AND TYPICAL DRAFTING BEHAVIOR:Another extremely important step, as it affects value as to whether you start 2 or 3 RB’s, how many teams are in the league, and how many starters come from each position. A 2 RB/2 WR/1 Flex league alters values versus a 2 RB/3 WR league, even with the same underlying scoring system. So note all the following: Total Projected Starters at Position, Total Expected Players Drafted from Each Position (if it’s not a set number by rule, use experience of drafting behavior to estimate).
  4. FIND THE BASELINES FOR DETERMINING MARGINAL VALUE: You’ve got your Excel spreadsheet where you’ve loaded the expected points (Rule #2, above) for all players expected to be drafted at that position (Rule #3). Now, calculate the marginal value. I do so by using 4 different baselines: Roster Baseline, Top Reserve Baseline, Starter Baseline, and Elite Starter Baseline. Roster Baseline is the expected points of the last projected player at that position to be drafted. Top Reserve Baseline is # of starters at position x 1.5. Starter Baseline is # of starters at position. Elite Starter Baseline is # of starters at position x 0.5. Why all these baselines? Because marginal value matters, and a 30 point difference in your projection at the top of a position is far more valuable than one at the bottom with the final backups, because it will be in your lineup.
  5. APPLY THE FOUR BASELINES TO EACH PLAYER AT THE POSITION: Let’s say you are in a 10 team league with 1 starting QB, and based on your league, you expect a few teams to carry a 3rd QB, and for 24 total to be taken. You would then find your projected points for QB #24, QB #15, QB #10 and QB #5. In four separate columns in the spreadsheet, subtract each of those numbers from each QB’s projected total to get points over baseline. (You can then do a Ctrl-V and paste that same formula into remaining QB’s in same column). Make sure any player below a particular baseline just has a zero, not a negative number. Set up a 5th column, which sums those 4 columns. Set aside that position, and repeat with each position, finding the four baseline numbers and subtracting from each player at that position.
  6. SUM THE TOTAL POINTS OVER ALL FOUR BASELINES, AND COMPARE TO LEAGUE’S FREE MONEY AT THE DRAFT TO CONVERT POINTS TO DOLLARS. The first part is easy–just calculate the Sum of all draftable players value over baseline in a cell. The next part involves knowing your league cap and determining what I call “free money” or discretionary money. In a 10 team league with a $100 cap and a requirement of 16 players on roster, everyone must spend at least $16 on those players. Thus, the “free money” above those minimums is $84 per team, or $840 total. Divide that really large number you got from summing all the points over baselines, by the total free money (in my example, $840). That number is marginal points over baseline, per dollar spent.
  7. CALCULATE EACH PLAYER’S AUCTION VALUE: Take that number we just calculated in Step 6 (It will probably be between 12-25 in a $100 league depending on scoring system, half that in a $200 league). Divide Each Player’s Total points over baseline (The Summing of 4 columns from Step 5) by this number. Plug it in for one player, then paste in the column for the rest. Finally, add $1 back in as well, which is the minimum bid per player. That number is your auction value for each player. If the top players have a value of around 25-30% of the cap, you’ve done it right.
  8. ENJOY A COLD BEVERAGE AND PLAN FOR DOMINATION. Complicated? Well, the first step is actually the most time consuming, though some websites may have projections you can download. If you are comfortable with Excel, inserting a formula, then pasting it to all other applicable columns, you can actually do steps 2-7 in about 30 minutes once you have the underlying projections in one place. Still, you’ll want that cold beverage to reward yourself.