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Doug Orth | Archive | Email | Twitter
Staff Writer


The Art of the Auction
SOFA Auction League Recap
8/30/12

Auction drafting has quickly become my favorite way to build a fantasy football team. While the general idea of this format is to allow every owner an equal opportunity to “buy” the players they want, it combines the ability to value a player’s potential contribution with managing a budget, all the while testing a drafter’s patience in any number of ways.

While four years of experience in auction drafting may not qualify as the leading expert in the field, I have enjoyed the good fortune of making the playoffs in the SOFA Auction League in each of my first three seasons, with championship game appearances in each of the last two.

With that in mind, I wanted to write an article this season about how I approached Year 4 and take a look back at the most recent league draft completed on August 22, a day before the start of the “dress rehearsal” week of the preseason, so keep that date in mind as my opinions on several players changed over the last week while other players such as kickers have been released or put on IR. Below, you will find the values I used to prioritize the players and the rationale I used in selecting my team.

Before I start, I do need to note that I battled a number of technology-related hiccups on draft night. (If you’d like to know what they were, send me an e-mail or tweet. It got a bit comical after a while.) Either way, I came out of the draft with a much different team than I usually do. Keep reading and decide for yourself how it turned out.

Pre-draft

Thanks in large part to all the hours I put into constructing my PMAs and Big Boards, I entered this draft willing to do whatever it took to get one of the four clear RB1s on my list while also grabbing a top-six quarterback since I feel the value at those positions take a sizable dip this season after Chris Johnson and Matt Ryan, respectively. As is my usual strategy, I was willing to accept 1-2 top-end WR2s in order to be strong at each of the other positions since I believe there are roughly 40 receivers that are capable of being regular fantasy starters in PPR leagues.

Although it is a complete departure from the conventional auction-draft strategy, I’ve never been a big fan of setting and sticking to pre-draft positional budgets. Much like a redraft format, value is only truly recognized during the course of the draft. If half the owners are willing to spend nearly half of their budget in order to lock up top-flight running backs and you are not (but you entered the draft placing a high priority on the position), you are forced to reassess your budget in the middle of the draft or face the possibility of ending up with a deep team with few superstars. While that is not a bad strategy, superstars win in fantasy and complementary players can generally be found on the waiver wire throughout the year.

Instead, I identified about 40 players in various tiers that I felt were either good bets to match or exceed the numbers I have forecasted for them and tried to stay within that list as much as possible. I only departed from that list when players that I liked – but thought I wouldn’t be able to afford – were struggling to bring $10-15 less than my valuation.

The Draft

Below you will find the prices that secured that player’s services (actual $) and the price I valued them at before the draft (My $). A dash in the first column reflects the fact that player was not drafted. The blue highlight represents winning bids for FF Today. Finally, I will follow each position with a brief comment.

All values are based on a $200 cap.

 Quarterbacks
Acutal $ My $ Player Tm
43 50 Aaron Rodgers GB
34 46 Tom Brady NE
39 38 Drew Brees NO
32 35 Cam Newton CAR
17 27 Michael Vick PHI
25 25 Matthew Stafford DET
26 19 Matt Ryan ATL
11 19 Tony Romo DAL
22 11 Eli Manning NYG
7 10 Robert Griffin III WAS
6 10 Peyton Manning DEN
13 9 Philip Rivers SD
6 8 Jay Cutler CHI
4 7 Jake Locker TEN
3 6 Josh Freeman TB
7 6 Andrew Luck IND
1 3 Christian Ponder MIN
1 2 Alex Smith SF
1 2 Joe Flacco BAL
3 2 Andy Dalton CIN
1 2 Sam Bradford STL
9 2 Ben Roethlisberger PIT
2 1 Matt Schaub HOU
- 1 Matt Cassel KC
1 1 Ryan Fitzpatrick BUF
- 1 Kevin Kolb ARI
- 1 Blaine Gabbert JAC
4 1 Carson Palmer OAK
- 1 Matt Flynn SEA
- 1 Brandon Weeden CLE
1 1 Mark Sanchez NYJ
- 1 Ryan Tannehill MIA

Observations: Based on the first two quarterbacks, my super-secret method for setting values on players appears flawed, but things started to fall into place more on draft night after Aaron Rodgers ($43) and Tom Brady (($34) were off the table. I’m still unclear as to why my fellow owners felt Drew Brees ($39) was worth $5 more than Brady, who went $9 cheaper than Rodgers. I’m also not sure Rodgers can improve upon his career year – although I expect him to maintain roughly the same pace – but I think Brady will have a great opportunity to improve upon last season’s totals now that he has a deep threat he trusts in Brandon Lloyd to complement Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker. The bidding war over Eli Manning ($22) was a bit of a stunner to me, although I was more shocked to see Matt Ryan ($26) bring more than Matthew Stafford ($25). It is something I would usually attribute to a bidding war as the quality options were falling off the board, but Ryan was nominated right after Stafford – the fifth and sixth quarterbacks up for bid.

 Running Backs
Acutal $ My $ Player Tm
59 61 Arian Foster HOU
58 53 Ray Rice BAL
58 51 LeSean McCoy PHI
51 42 Chris Johnson TEN
41 40 Darren McFadden OAK
39 39 DeMarco Murray DAL
35 25 Darren Sproles NO
24 25 Ahmad Bradshaw NYG
41 24 Matt Forte CHI
32 22 Ryan Mathews SD
31 22 Maurice Jones-Drew JAC
24 22 Reggie Bush MIA
36 21 Steven Jackson STL
32 20 Jamaal Charles KC
25 20 Fred Jackson BUF
15 18 Kevin Smith DET
31 18 Doug Martin TB
27 16 Marshawn Lynch SEA
28 15 Trent Richardson CLE
32 15 Adrian Peterson MIN
15 12 Willis McGahee DEN
18 12 Peyton Hillis KC
3 10 Roy Helu WAS
14 10 BenJarvus Green-Ellis CIN
13 10 Ryan Williams ARI
12 10 Mark Ingram NO
6 10 Michael Bush CHI
15 10 David Wilson NYG
8 9 C.J. Spiller BUF
13 8 Donald Brown IND
19 8 Frank Gore SF
7 8 Beanie Wells ARI
8 8 Rashad Jennings JAC
10 8 DeAngelo Williams CAR
5 8 Ben Tate HOU
7 7 Shane Vereen NE
7 7 Jacquizz Rodgers ATL
4 6 Shonn Greene NYJ
16 6 Michael Turner ATL
7 6 Pierre Thomas NO
13 6 Jonathan Stewart CAR
1 5 James Starks GB
6 5 Stevan Ridley NE
5 5 Isaac Redman PIT
8 5 Kendall Hunter SF
5 5 Toby Gerhart MIN
5 5 Mikel Leshoure DET
2 4 Evan Royster WAS
4 4 Vick Ballard IND
9 4 LeGarrette Blount TB
3 3 Ronnie Hillman DEN
1 3 Mike Tolbert CAR
3 3 Isaiah Pead STL
- 3 Jonathan Dwyer PIT
1 2 Daniel Thomas MIA
3 2 Bernard Scott CIN
3 2 Rashard Mendenhall PIT
2 2 Alex Green GB
3 2 Mike Goodson OAK
5 2 Montario Hardesty CLE
1 1 Jahvid Best DET
2 1 Felix Jones DAL
1 1 Bilal Powell NYJ
- 1 Leon Washington SEA
- 1 Jason Snelling ATL
- 1 Chris Rainey PIT
- 1 Mewelde Moore IND
- 1 Brandon Jackson CLE
- 1 D.J. Ware NYG

Observations: The top six running backs were well within reason, but a number of questionable RB1s or clear RB2s cost much more than they really should have in this auction. The price tag of Matt Forte ($41) was exorbitant for a player who will leave the field when his team enters the red zone. The same can be said about Jamaal Charles ($32), although he has consistently shown the ability to overcome the lack of short-yardage work with long scoring runs. The biggest surprises to me, however, were Doug Martin ($31), Trent Richardson ($28) and Adrian Peterson ($32). Martin has been a personal favorite of mine for some time and was one of my “strategy” players I was sure I could land for under $25, but the bidding got too high too quickly for a player who hadn’t even secured a starting job yet. Richardson’s bid seemed odd considering he will likely be a part-time back for anywhere between 2-4 weeks as he recovers from knee surgery. Peterson was the most surprising, however, since one would expect a group of fantasy writers to be more conservative about a player coming off one of the more severe knee injuries we’ve seen from a running back in a while.

 Wide Receivers
Acutal $ My $ Player Tm
44 47 Calvin Johnson DET
25 30 Victor Cruz NYG
25 29 Andre Johnson HOU
24 29 Hakeem Nicks NYG
27 28 Roddy White ATL
32 28 Julio Jones ATL
15 25 Eric Decker DEN
31 25 Larry Fitzgerald ARI
24 25 A.J. Green CIN
20 25 Dez Bryant DAL
25 25 Brandon Marshall CHI
18 25 Jeremy Maclin PHI
18 25 Percy Harvin MIN
21 22 Marques Colston NO
11 21 Demaryius Thomas DEN
25 21 Greg Jennings GB
14 19 Miles Austin DAL
22 19 Dwayne Bowe KC
27 18 Wes Welker NE
15 18 Vincent Jackson TB
21 18 Steve Johnson BUF
20 18 Steve Smith CAR
16 18 Brandon Lloyd NE
26 18 Jordy Nelson GB
21 15 Mike Wallace PIT
19 14 Antonio Brown PIT
14 12 DeSean Jackson PHI
4 10 Nate Washington TEN
17 10 Reggie Wayne IND
13 10 Torrey Smith BAL
9 10 Titus Young DET
9 9 Darrius Heyward-Bey OAK
8 8 Denarius Moore OAK
4 8 Robert Meachem SD
10 7 Greg Little CLE
3 7 Anquan Boldin BAL
4 6 Mike Williams TB
10 6 Pierre Garcon WAS
5 6 Malcom Floyd SD
5 6 Santonio Holmes NYJ
12 6 Michael Crabtree SF
1 5 Austin Collie IND
8 5 Danny Amendola STL
3 5 Santana Moss WAS
2 5 Kendall Wright TEN
10 5 Kenny Britt TEN
6 5 Justin Blackmon JAC
5 3 Lance Moore NO
7 3 Randy Moss SF
2 3 Sidney Rice SEA
8 3 Jerome Simpson MIN
2 2 Jonathan Baldwin KC
2 2 Brandon LaFell CAR
3 2 Brian Quick STL
2 2 Davone Bess MIA
4 2 Randall Cobb GB
4 2 Alshon Jeffery CHI
1 1 Laurent Robinson JAC
- 1 Eddie Royal SD
- 1 David Nelson BUF
1 1 Steve Smith STL
1 1 Vincent Brown SD
1 1 Doug Baldwin SEA
- 1 Mike Thomas JAC
4 1 Michael Floyd ARI
1 1 Nate Burleson DET
- 1 Earl Bennett CHI
- 1 Harry Douglas ATL
- 1 Jason Avant PHI
- 1 Lestar Jean HOU
- 1 Leonard Hankerson WAS

Observations: Although it wasn’t a huge reach, Larry Fitzgerald ($31) was a bit pricey for my tastes considering his quarterback situation. Much like Wes Welker ($27), I thought Fitzgerald went for more based on name recognition and not as much because he is expected to thrive in his current situation. While Reggie Wayne ($17) could easily live up to his cost in this auction, I thought his price tag was a bit steep considering Austin Collie ($1) went so cheap and was emerging as Andrew Luck’s favorite receiver. Certainly, Collie’s concussion history is scary, but he’s worth $1 even if he is a third receiver in the Colts’ offense for half a season. Nate Washington ($4) and Kendall Wright ($2) going for almost half the price combined as Kenny Britt ($10) did was also struck me as odd since Britt will likely be on a “pitch count” for the foreseeable future. Two other players who brought much more than I would have expected were Jerome Simpson ($8), who will miss the first three games of the season, and Michael Floyd, who hasn’t exactly lit up the preseason and has the same questionable quarterbacking Fitzgerald does but will likely start the season behind Andre Roberts or Early Doucet. One other quick note: I did not choose to nominate Laurent Robinson, he was nominated for me. (Remember, technology is our friend.) Among many other players, I would have preferred Jonathan Dwyer or Alfred Morris, both of which went undrafted.

 Tight Ends
Acutal $ My $ Player Tm
35 40 Jimmy Graham NO
30 30 Rob Gronkowski NE
17 26 Aaron Hernandez NE
18 24 Antonio Gates SD
14 18 Vernon Davis SF
9 14 Jermichael Finley GB
10 14 Jason Witten DAL
5 10 Jermaine Gresham CIN
6 10 Tony Gonzalez ATL
9 9 Brandon Pettigrew DET
13 7 Fred Davis WAS
4 6 Jared Cook TEN
5 5 Greg Olsen CAR
4 5 Jacob Tamme DEN
2 4 Brent Celek PHI
5 4 Kyle Rudolph MIN
1 2 Dustin Keller NYJ
2 2 Coby Fleener IND
- 2 Kellen Davis CHI
1 2 Heath Miller PIT
3 2 Owen Daniels HOU
- 1 Tony Moeaki KC
- 1 Charles Clay MIA
2 1 Martellus Bennett NYG
- 1 Ben Watson CLE
- 1 Ed Dickson BAL
- 1 Marcedes Lewis JAC
1 1 Scott Chandler BUF
1 1 Lance Kendricks STL
- 1 Dwayne Allen IND
- 1 Kellen Winslow SEA
- 1 Robert Housler ARI

Observations: Just like at the running back position, it isn’t so much that tight end suffers from a dearth of talent so much as it lacks elite fantasy options. As a result, it probably goes without saying that Jimmy Graham ($35) is far and away my favorite tight end this year and somebody I would be willing to pay a great deal for in order to secure his services. Last season, Rob Gronkowski ($30) averaged just less than two fewer fantasy points than Graham in this league, which is roughly about the same margin I expect Graham to hold over Gronkowski this season. After Aaron Hernandez ($17) and Antonio Gates ($18) come off the board, there is roughly a seven point-per-game difference between Graham and Vernon Davis ($14) in my rankings, which is about the same difference I have between my WR1 (Calvin Johnson) and WR25 (Torrey Smith). Of the rest of the TE group, only Fred Davis ($13) drew a significant amount more than I expected. The Washington Post attributes Davis’ lack of use in the preseason to trying to get Niles Paul involved, but one has to wonder if Robert Griffin III won’t be tempted to tuck it and run if favorite target Pierre Garcon is covered. While a big, athletic tight end is usually a young quarterback’s best friend, few young quarterbacks have the ability to break off a 50-yard run at will.

 Kickers
Acutal $ My $ Player Tm
2 2 Stephen Gostkowski NE
1 1 Mason Crosby GB
1 1 Matt Bryant ATL
1 1 David Akers SF
- 1 Randy Bullock HOU
2 1 Sebastian Janikowski OAK
1 1 Matt Prater DEN
1 1 Dan Bailey DAL
1 1 Alex Henery PHI
1 1 Garrett Hartley NO
1 1 Robbie Gould CHI
- 1 Lawrence Tynes NYG
1 1 Jason Hanson DET
1 1 Rob Bironas TEN
- 1 Nate Kaeding SD
- 1 Billy Cundiff BAL
- 1 Rian Lindell BUF
- 1 Ryan Succop KC
- 1 Olindo Mare CAR
- 1 Josh Brown NYJ
- 1 Mike Nugent CIN
- 1 Steve Hauschka SEA
- 1 Connor Barth TB
- 1 Adam Vinatieri IND
- 1 Dan Carpenter MIA
- 1 Josh Scobee JAC
- 1 Blair Walsh MIN
- 1 Jay Feely ARI
- 1 Phil Dawson CLE
- 1 Shaun Suisham PIT
- 1 Neil Rackers WAS
- 1 Greg Zuerlein STL

Observation: Nothing out of the ordinary here. I want a strong-legged kicker in a good offense and don’t mind paying an extra $1 to get one if necessary.

 Defense / ST
Acutal $ My $ Player
3 2 49ers
2 2 Texans
- 1 Falcons
2 1 Packers
3 1 Eagles
1 1 Bears
2 1 Bills
- 1 Chiefs
2 1 Steelers
- 1 Broncos
1 1 Lions
1 1 Patriots
2 1 Giants
1 1 Seahawks
- 1 Chargers
1 1 Jets
1 1 Ravens
- 1 Redskins
- 1 Cardinals
- 1 Jaguars
- 1 Rams
- 1 Vikings
- 1 Cowboys
1 Bengals
1 Raiders
1 Titans
1 Browns
1 Panthers
1 Colts
1 Bucs
1 Saints
1 Dolphins

Observations: I’ll make pretty much the same comment I made regarding kickers: I will pay an extra $1 for a good one (I nominated the Niners at $2 but was outbid), but I was more than willing to accept the Texans, who may have the best young defense in the league along with San Francisco.

Post-draft

When I enter an auction draft, I try to project my “ideal team” based on my auction values and common sense, all the while allowing myself the flexibility of scooping up a “value pick” whenever I see one. Entering this draft, I envisioned the following team:

QB1: Ryan
RB1: One of the top four: Foster/Rice/McCoy/Johnson
RB2: One of the following: Sproles/Steven Jackson/Fred Jackson/Martin
WR1: Cruz or Julio Jones
WR2: Decker or Maclin
WR3: Young or Washington
TE: Hernandez or Gates
FLEX: Any number of players, although I was probably shooting for Peyton Hillis.
K: Gostkowski/Crosby/Akers
DST: Niners/Texans

For the most part, mission accomplished. In retrospect, if I knew I would land Ben Tate for $5, I would have spent the extra money on Foster and accepted Ryan as my QB or Hernandez at TE. My obvious weakness to begin the season is at my RB2 spot, although I have no problem using Rashad Jennings in that spot until Maurice Jones-Drew reports (if he does). One of the bigger surprises of the draft was that MJD’s owner didn’t even bid on Jennings, an oversight I plan to expose at some point this season. Given how long this holdout has lasted, I’d be surprised if Jennings doesn’t have flex value for most of the season.

Although I did want Foster badly at the top of the draft, I reasoned the funds I would save by accepting Chris Johnson as my RB1 would allow me to spread the wealth to other positions while also giving me a player who could realistically challenge the “Big Three” as fantasy’s top RB. As it turned out, that “savings” was the money I ended up spending on Jennings, which could end up being a real bargain if MJD’s holdout continues indefinitely.

For my top two receiver spots, I targeted Decker and Maclin as players who I thought would go for less than $20 but had WR1 upside and landed them both. Because this league uses a flex on top of three starting WRs, it was important to identify two more receivers capable of delivering WR2 production in a given week. Instead, I think I was able to grab three: Young, Washington and Collie.

Overall, this year marks the first time in my four years in this league I did not come away with at least two feature running backs. The ironic thing is that I’m may not be that far away from having a stacked deck at the position either. I already discussed Jennings, but it is not a stretch to say Jacquizz Rodgers outproduces Michael Turner in PPR this season in a Darren Sproles-lite kind of role. We already know what Ben Tate can do when given the chance and I can easily make the case that Evan Royster and Alex Green will be the lead backs in their offenses. For good measure (and because I knew the league had two IR spots), I snagged Jahvid Best as well.

In short, I sacrificed consistency and production from my RB2 spot with my winning bids on Brady and Graham early in the draft. In exchange, I landed two players better than the ones I initially targeted that I feel could finish No. 1 at their positions, a tradeoff I am more than willing to make. Heading into this season, I will be rolling with my No.2 QB, No. 4 RB, four of my top 32 receivers (including two in my top 12), my No. 1 TE, No. 2 K and No. 2 defense/special teams unit.

Suggestions, comments, musings about the article or fantasy football in general? E-mail me or follow me on Twitter.


Doug Orth has written for FF Today since 2006, appeared in USA Today’s Fantasy Football Preview magazine in each of the last two seasons and served as a weekly fantasy football analyst for 106.7 The Fan (WJFK – Washington, D.C). He is also a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.