Fact: an auction draft is not only the best form of the fantasy football draft, it’s also the pinnacle of the fantasy football experience on the whole. Instead of a dozen owners picking up players one by one in a plodding soup-kitchen processional, the auction draft is a fast-paced, kill-or-be-killed struggle for fantasy supremacy. Rather than having your favorite value player snatched one pick ahead of yours, you have the right and the privilege of dueling your opponent for that player with a six-shooter full of cold, hard cash.
An auction draft simultaneously builds league camaraderie, through constant banter and draft interaction, and bitter rivalries between owners who won’t back down on that one superstar player. It’s a roller coaster of emotions, as TFA’s own Justin McCasland once chronicled, and will leave you crying tears of both joy and anguish. But best of all, you’re much more likely to come out of your draft loving your team, as you had an equal opportunity to grab all your top targets.
With this in mind, join me as I endeavor to build the ultimate team through the perfect auction draft. Using typical 12-team league and roster construction, PPR scoring, and player prices from FantasyPros’ nifty Auction Calculator, we will turn $200 into an unstoppable championship lineup.
You’ve heard the mantra “wait on a quarterback” in standard snake drafts. In an auction draft, the same concept can hold even more value. Unlike in the NFL, where a half-decent signal-caller eats up a huge chunk of team salary, starting fantasy QBs can be had for pennies.
Well, technically for $5, because we’re taking Andy Dalton. If you’ve read anything at The Fantasy Authority this offseason, you know we’re pretty high on Dalton. I insanely predicted he would finish as a top four QB and Richard Jenkins labeled him a low risk investment with huge potential back in July. With an explosive arsenal of pass-catching weapons and a season as the No. 5 fantasy QB under his belt, Dalton has tons of upside in 2017. Simply put, he is a QB1 when healthy and is somehow priced six to seven times cheaper than the top-shelf talent at the position.
By buying our starting QB this cheap, we will open up massive budget space for the shallower positions throughout the draft. We’re also going to ignore backup quarterback — there will be plenty of talent available on the waiver wire in case of injury.
Budget Spent: $5
Players: Andy Dalton
Again, we can look to standard drafts for an idea of what to expect at the running back position. Much shallower depth and an extremely top-heavy tier breakdown makes RB the most important position to target strong, reliable production. And because this is an auction draft, we can do things no one could in a typical draft.
That’s why we’re spending big to grab LeSean McCoy and Devonta Freeman. This dynamic duo should give us one of the strongest starting RB stables in the league. Especially in PPR, McCoy and Freeman are absolute elite talents, with 60-plus receptions in the cards for both this year. The pair comes at a hefty price — $38 each, for a total of $76 of our budget — but with the value available everywhere else, it’s going to be worth it. Freeman just signed a big five-year deal with the Falcons that guarantees him the most money per year among NFL backs on multi-year contracts. Incidentally, second on that list is LeSean McCoy. Both will see huge volumes and have shown consistent ability to turn touches into fantasy excellence.
We will want some depth as well and will need to look for value after spending up on our starters. There are a few types of RBs available on the cheap, and we’ll dip into each. In the high upside category, we’re snagging Derrick Henry for a measly $4, offering us a potential RB1 if Demarco Murray gets injured or slows down—for the same price as Chris Thompson. Then, we’ll get a nice PPR value in C.J. Prosise for $4 as well. Finally, we’ll add Jonathan Williams for $1 as the handcuff to McCoy. While I normally avoid drafting handcuffs, the Bills’ running game is too valuable to ignore and Williams could have standalone value as Mike Gillislee did last year.
Budget Spent: $85
Players: LeSean McCoy, Devonta Freeman, Derrick Henry, C.J. Prosise, Jonathan Williams
As with the quarterback position, WR is a great place to save money and pad our wallet for the rest of the draft. There’s much less of a tier cliff than with RBs or even TEs, so we can completely skip out on “first rounders” and build our receiver corps through quantity. Especially in a PPR leagues, we’ll find plenty of points in the sub-$25 range.
For starters, we’ll land a couple of PPR beasts in Stefon Diggs and Keenan Allen. Both have had their price points deflated by health concerns, down to $24 and $22 respectively. But if they can stay on the field, each guy is a near lock for 100 catches. Diggs admitted to being limited by a groin issue even when playing last year, and has committed to being stronger this year. His ceiling should be even higher than his 14.9 fantasy points per game from 2016. Allen, meanwhile, has been the victim of some rough injuries, but not the kind you would expect to recur. And in his eight games in 2015, he averaged an insane 8.4 catches, 90.6 yards, and 0.5 touchdowns per game — projected to 16 games that would have been the No. 1 WR in PPR.
We’re also going to snatch up Jeremy Maclin at $13 — a bargain-basement price for the presumed WR1 in Baltimore. The Ravens led the league in pass attempts each of the past two years and have lost 390 targets and counting this offseason to retirement, injury, and free agency. Maclin has WR1 pedigree and all the opportunity in the world — 90-plus catches and eight TDs are well within the realm of possibility.
To round out our receiver corps, we’ll take Eric Decker for $10, Corey Coleman for $7, and Ted Ginn for $3 — two veterans with sneaky upside and a second-year youngster poised for a breakout. Neither Decker nor Ginn are the go-to WR1s for their teams (Titans and Saints, respectively) but both have been fantasy relevant before and could be surprise values on good offenses. Either can fill in as the WR3 for our team in the right matchup. Meanwhile, Corey Coleman, last year’s highest drafted rookie receiver (15th overall), appears to have strong chemistry with newly-named Browns starter, DeShone Kizer. If Coleman stays healthy this year, he could see 120-plus targets as the lead receiver in Cleveland and begin returning dividends on that draft pedigree. If he does break out, we could steal a WR2 for pennies.
Budget Spent: $79
Players: Stefon Diggs, Keenan Allen, Jeremy Maclin, Jordan Matthews, Cameron Meredith, Kenny Golladay
If you’ve been paying attention (and crunching the numbers), you’ll notice we still have $31 left with only tight ends, kicker, and D/ST. No, that’s not because we’re budgeting $5 each for the “best” kicker and defense. It’s because we’ve been saving up for a grand finale: Rob Gronkowski.
Aside from being the most dominant TE in the NFL and in fantasy, Gronk is also a surprising value on the FantasyPros auction draft calculator. At $28, he’s less expensive than Aaron Rodgers ($29) and far cheaper than guys like Doug Baldwin ($40) and T.Y. Hilton ($38), all of whom are going behind Gronk in ADP (per FFC). In case you’ve forgotten what Gronkowski can do, here’s a brief per-game statistic comparison between the Patriots tight end and a couple other top-shelf guys since 2010.
|Player||Receptions||Yards||TDs||PPR Fantasy Points|
You read that right. Gronkowski averages more fantasy points per game than two of the best in the league … at wide receiver. Compare his production to the best of the rest at his position and things get laughable. Gronk single-handedly elevates our team from solid to exceptional by bringing elite production that no other tight end can touch.
Due to Gronk’s injury history, we will want to grab a backup tight end. While deep sleeper Austin-Seferian Jenkins is an attractive PPR dart throw as arguably the pass-catcher on the Jets, we can likely find him on waivers after a couple weeks. Instead, we’ll grab Austin Hooper on the Falcons for a buck. Hooper showed flashes of talent towards the end of 2016 (including that TD catch in the Super Bowl) and could break out in an Atlanta offense looking for their next Tony Gonzalez.
Budget Spent: $29
Players: Rob Gronkowski, Austin Hooper
KICKER & D/ST
Shame on me for even writing this section. The only rule here is to not be the guy or gal that pays more than $1 in an auction draft for either position. We can try nominating Justin Tucker and the Denver defense for a buck, but someone will likely trump us for the top picks. Instead, we’ll end up with Mason Crosby on the offensively-dominant Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers D/ST, who open the season against the Cleveland Browns, Minnesota Vikings, and Chicago Bears.
Budget Spent: $2
Players: Mason Crosby, Steelers D/ST
Final Auction Draft Roster
|QB||Andy Dalton||RB||Derrick Henry|
|RB||LeSean McCoy||RB||C.J. Prosise|
|RB||Devonta Freeman||RB||Jonathan Williams|
|WR||Stefon Diggs||WR||Eric Decker|
|WR||Keenan Allen||WR||Ted Ginn Jr.|
|WR||Jeremy Maclin||WR||Corey Coleman|
|TE||Rob Gronkowski||TE||Austin Hooper|
And there you have it. A team with elite upside but a decent balance and plenty of bench talent, all for $200. Disagree with my strategy? Think I should have gone for an elite QB and punted TE? Hit me with our comments and question on Twitter @FantasySensei.