Dynasty Startup Auction Draft Strategy
Drafting a new dynasty startup is one of the most fun and exciting aspects of playing dynasty fantasy football. The downside of a snake draft is that you are at the mercy of the draft board. In other words, there are some players that you don’t have a realistic shot to draft, and some that you would have to reach for unless you are able to wheel and deal around the draft board like Kevin Costner in Draft Day.
The solution: an auction draft. There are some different ways to set up and run the auction, but the meat and potatoes are all the same. Each owner is given a starting budget to bid on players. From there, owners nominate players, and any owner is free to bid on the player(s) on the board.
The main rules to live by in an auction draft are to have a plan, be flexible, and fade quarterbacks. Okay, the last one is my personal rule, but it has worked out well for me.
I am currently in two leagues in which I drafted my team like a startup auction draft, in addition to many other auction drafts I have been in. Both leagues are Superflex and yet I approached each draft with a modified quarterback fading approach. In the first league, I have won the title back-to-back in the first two years of the league's existence and am the favorite for the season ahead. In the second league, I am rated first in the contender category and first in the dynasty build category from the tools that analyze and rank dynasty teams.
I’m not sharing this with you to pat myself on the back, but rather to let you know that my strategies have worked.
With that in mind, let’s dig further into the strategies and approaches to consider, as well as some tips for drafting.
“Success happens when opportunity meets preparation.” This quote has been attributed to a number of people, but in NFL circles it’s credited to Hall of Fame coach Jimmy Johnson.
No matter who has said it in the past, I am saying it to you now. It’s pretty straightforward, but the point is that if you do your homework and are prepared, you will have success when an opportunity arises because of that preparation. There will be points in the draft where some owners are making it rain like they’re a famous rapper in a music video, and while some will panic, your preparation will allow you to remain confident.
That’s why I can tell you that having a plan is beneficial when the draft is heating up and large bids are being tossed out. Being prepared and going into the draft with a plan will help ensure your success and make sure that your bids and roster construction are consistent.
BREAK DOWN YOUR BUDGET
Start with your budget and determine roughly how much of it you want to spend on each position. Remember, these are not hard rules but rather guidelines. The next thing you should do is figure out how much you would be willing to spend on some of the top players. There are going to be surprises in the draft, but this will help you understand values that are on the board and guys that are being overbid.
As you build out your budget, you should also consider whether you want to compete in year one or build for the future with younger guys. This can also be determined as the draft goes along and you find values on the board, that’s part of being flexible. If you are committed to only drafting guys in a certain age bracket you will find yourself missing out on values.
More important than determining if you want to compete right away or not is understanding what positions you want to focus on, and which ones you are willing to fade or go a bit cheaper on. Make a list of guys that you are targeting, but don’t spend whatever it takes for anyone single-player as that can quickly put you in a hole.
For example, in my most recent dynasty startup auction, Patrick Mahomes was one of the first players nominated. He ended up going for $350 out of $1000. The same owner also spent $275 on Dak Prescott. I’m not saying this strategy won’t work, but all of a sudden this owner only has $375 left to play with. On the other hand, I waited on QB while prioritizing the rest of my roster and ended up acquiring my starting QBs for a combined $85. While my QB’s aren’t nearly as good, I was able to play the board on many of the position players I wanted.
NOMINATE PLAYERS, YOU DON’T WANT
When the draft gets going, be sure to nominate some players that you don’t have an interest in, especially players you know will cost a lot. This will eat up other owner's budgets but keep yours alive for other players.
If other owners are spending big on players that you don’t want, you are more likely to see good values on guys that you do want down the line. If you are nominating players that you want early in the draft, you are likely going to feel obligated and an urge to keep bidding on them, even if they are bid up out of your price range.
If you find yourself in a bidding war, it can also be beneficial to nominate another similar player of the same position group to get the attention away from the player you are bidding on. This of course is only possible if you are nominating multiple players at a time and have a nomination available to use.
HAVE A PLAN OF ATTACK
There are a few specific approaches with regards to handling your budget once the draft is in full swing.
Spend Big Early
A lot of big names will be nominated early on and money will be flying around. This is where it comes in handy to know where you value some of the top guys at. You can determine if players are going way over your valuation, even with your valuation, or under.
There are some pros and cons to spending big early. On one hand, most of the super studs will go off the board early and it’s tough to win without one. On the other hand, you don’t want to run low on money early in the draft and limit yourself down the road.
Save Your Money
Being patient has its benefits as well. You might miss out on many of the big names, but some might slip through the cracks and become values later on.
Even if you are without a super stud, you will be in a position to find great values as the draft goes on and build yourself a deep roster.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to either spend big early or save all of your budget for later, you can do a bit of both.
While every draft is different, there will be some guys available early on that are within your budget. Don’t be afraid to spend on them without putting yourself in a hole. You can stack some players early and then wait for the values to roll in later in the draft.
Most importantly, stay true to how much you want to spend on each position. Try to keep some guys you really like off the board so that you can save money and scoop them up for a good value later in the draft.
This seems obvious, but it’s also the most important aspect of an auction draft. You’ve prepared, you’ve budgeted, and you have a plan of attack. However, the dirty little secret is that every draft is different and somewhat unpredictable. Surprises throughout the draft are inevitable, but if you remain flexible you have the best chance to get the most value.
You should have an idea of whether you want to compete right away or build for the future, but don’t stay so attached that you miss out on good values. It is acceptable to change course during the draft if you find that some guys on the other spectrum are going cheaper than you imagined.
If you are planning to compete right away but see a young player going cheaper than you think he should, don’t be afraid to go get him. While you don’t want to get stuck in the middle of competing or not, it’s also not a bad thing to have a balanced roster of veterans and young players.
This is also the best way to find the most value. Teams that are dead set on playing for the future will be over-spending on big-name rookies and young players, while many win-now teams will be overpaying for big-name veterans.
Let’s use Allen Robinson as an example. He’s not the sexiest of names at the WR position, but he’s a great player who still has a lot of football left and a young QB with upside on his team. I was able to draft Robinson in the middle of my draft for $105 out of a $1000 budget. Many win-now teams will be looking at Stefon Diggs, Davante Adams, etc. While those guys are great and I’m not against acquiring them, as I did spend up for A.J. Brown, owners often ignore the guys who aren’t a big win now type of name or a young player with a lot of potential. Scoop up some players in between the two, that’s where drafts are won.
BE CAREFUL WITH ROOKIES
Some startups will include rookies in the auction, while some will draft rookies separately. If rookies are included in your auction, be careful of overloading. They are exciting to evaluate this time of year and tend to generate a lot of buzz. The reality is, however, a good portion of them will fade into the darkness that we call “bust.”
If your roster is heavy with rookies, you risk being in a position with a low hit rate and no real assets on your roster.
ASSESS TRADE MARKET INSTANTLY
Start checking other owner's rosters in the middle of the draft and keep an eye on teams that are heavy in one position or another. You can strategically outbid them on certain positions to keep them from balancing their roster, but that is risky business and I do not recommend it.
With the fundamentals of an auction draft, it is inevitable that some teams will be heavy in certain position groups and lack others. Reach out to these owners before the draft is over and put some trade ideas on their radar. They will be desperate to balance out their roster via trade and you should take advantage.
Overall, auction drafts are incredibly fun and exciting, so have fun with it. Stay true to your preparation but be flexible and assess the draft board as it unfolds.