Unfortunately, there isn't a secret formula for success when drafting in an auction league, but there is a strategy you can follow. The first thing I tell someone who is participating in an auction draft is to take emotion out of the equation. If you really like Ray Rice, be careful you don't overbid on him and wreck the rest of your draft. Rice is great, but not when you’re starting him every week alongside Jason Snelling. Spend wisely. The key to a good auction draft is landing guys who are good value picks.
Before heading into your auction draft, here are some tips to help you walk away with a good team.
Be Prepared: Have an updated cheat sheet with the estimated high-bid price tag for each player. This cheat sheet sets your maximum bid for each player and will help you determine value picks once the draft begins.
Bidding: Always increase your bid in increments of $1. You never know when another owner is going to bow out of the bidding. In a recent draft, an owner tossed out Robert Griffin III for $15. The room fell silent and he won RG3 for that price. He clearly overpaid for RG3 and threw away valuable auction dollars. Start small and work your way up to the price that feels right.
Find Value: Always pay attention to your cheat sheet. When a player’s name is submitted for auction, look at his estimated high-bid price and assess the value as the bidding is taking place. If the auctioneer is counting down to a sale and you see value, throw out a bid. Example: If Cam Newton is a $20 QB on your draft board and the bidding stalls at $12, toss out a $13 bid. You might land him at $7 under his estimated value.
Submitting Players: When it’s your turn to submit a player for auction (early in the draft), name a player who you think will fetch big money - perferably someone you don’t necessarily want. By getting these high-priced players out there early, your opponents' auction money will start to dwindle and they will get more conservative. However, later in the draft, you will need to toss out guys you want on your roster – because your $1 bid may be enough to land that player.
Bring a Calculator: Lastly, always be mindful of how much money you have and how many players you need on your roster. This is important because you need to know how much you can spend on each player. This is especially important later in the draft when you're trying to fill-out your roster. Don’t leave any money in your wallet.
FieldandCourt’s auction draft strategy, by position:
Quarterbacks: Don’t overpay for a quarterback. Let Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady go for their outrageous prices. Focus on the quarterbacks priced in the $4-10 range (Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger). Those guys all have the potential to be very good this year, and they'll come at a fraction of the price of the top tier quarterbacks. Use the money you save on quarterbacks to spend on running backs and wide receivers.
Running Backs: Be careful you don't get caught up in a bidding war over the top tier running backs. Arian Foster and Ray Rice will likely be the two highest priced guys in your draft. My advice, stay away from them and focus on getting two solid RBs for the same price as one Foster or Peterson. Target guys like Matt Forte, Steven Jackson, Ahmad Bradshaw, Doug Martin and Reggie Bush. You should be able to get two of those guys (maybe three) for the same price as Foster or Rice. When the draft concludes, make sure you're leaving with three starting running backs on your roster.
Wide Receivers: You can usually find great value at wide receiver in auction drafts. Much like running backs, the top tier wide receivers will go for a high price. However, once Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson, Julio Jones and Larry Fitzgerald are gone, prices typically begin to come down. The real value at wide receiver comes in the second wave of receivers with players like: Victor Cruz, Jordy Nelson, Brandon Marshall, Percy Harvin – all are solid players who should be excellent value picks. In most drafts you can get two (maybe three) of these guys for the price of one top tier wide receivers.
Tight ends: If your league requires tight ends, be careful you don't overpay for them. Like quarterbacks, there is a lot of mid-level value at tight end. If you can land Antonio Gates, Jermichael Finley and Brandon Pettigrew in the $4-6 range, that's great value. There are also a handful of tight ends that should be available for $1-2, including Kyle Rudolph, Jacob Tamme and Jermaine Gersham. All are players who could have a big impact this year.
Kickers: They are a dime a dozen. Don’t spend more than $1-2 on a kicker.
Defense/Special teams (DST): It's easy to overvalue DST, so be careful you don’t get in a bidding war. If you can get one of the top three (San Francisco, Chicago, Baltimore) for $4 or less, do it. If you can’t get one of the top tier DST at a reasonable price, focus on the $1-2 teams. Once the big three are gone, there isn't much differentiating the rest.