Saturday, October 9, 2010

Xing Li Coaches Fantasy Football: Auction Drafting

Yeah, I know, I'm behind the times. This year was my first year participating in auction drafting for fantasy football. I know that the national sports czar (Bill Simmons) has preached the virtue of the auction for years, but I've been reluctant, mainly because I've been crazy effective at snake drafts. I admit that I was afraid of going away from something that would give me 1-2 titles a year (out of 3 teams).

But I wanted to try it. Just one couldn't hurt. And you know what? I loved it so much, that I drafted 2 more auction teams (2 on ESPN, 2 on Yahoo! Sports). I loved it because I got a team that I fell in love with and could really support my guys. Sometimes in snake drafts, guys luck into players (like CJ) via their draft position, and there is nothing you can do about it. Or maybe I've done my homework on a guy, and think he is a value, but because I can't pick for 21 selections, he's off the board. I can't draft at just the right time, instead needing to find value at my position. And usually I do (which leads to titles), but still, I'm not in love with my guys.

With the auction, all that changed. I am in love with my teams. They are the right guys at the right values. I have full confidence in my homework and that what I am doing is right. So what about my results?

3 teams, 8 weeks played (I drafted my last league in Week 1), a record of 8-3 (each team has 1 loss). For comparison's sake, my one snake draft team is 4-0 (my snake teams usually go undefeated for several weeks until byes and luck run out, then I make a strong push through the playoffs). So not quite as successful, but I think my auction leagues are more competitive (you have to do your homework).

So what advice can I give for coaching auction drafting? I've compiled a few pointers I've gotten from various online sources here:

1. Pick a few guys you gotta have. For me, this year, it was receivers. It seems year after year, there are 3 great backs that everyone knows is great, plus one wildcard. Beyond that, there seems to be 6-7 backs that are starting-quality on a good team, and many of these are regarded as top talents. But as for receivers, I really think this year (especially with the crappy quarterback play I projected), there are only a few top guys. Guys like: Miles Austin, Andre Johnson, Greg Jennings, Calvin Johnson, Roddy White. Yeah, that list is missing a few notables. I thought Indy's receivers were too deep for Reggie Wayne to be as huge as his value would belie (I was wrong), and I thought Arizona's QB situation would sink Larry Fitzgerald (it did).

Of the receivers I noted as locks, there was one guy I absolutely needed to have: Roddy White. Year after year, no matter the turmoil or QB situation, he produces. I listened to a Simmons podcast on the subject, and I totally agree: TD's for receivers are enigmatic; you need a guy that gets yards, which means he gets targets, which means he has more cracks at the end zone. I'm talking to you, DeSean Jackson. Yeah, I know you won a league for me last year (with only one loss in 16 weeks), but I don't trust you now that the cat's out of the bag. So I looked for yards. Another guy I had to have was Calvin Johnson (should be more consistent with Stafford back). I know he's not great against elite coverage, but he was the bottom end of my elite tier, and I really wanted two of those guys.

This is my thinking: having two elite receivers will give my an absolute advantage over almost anyone I play at that position, without paying the price for  top RB's. This gives me enough for 1 good to great QB (I have Schaub, Brady, and Orton, with Orton being the pre-conceived weak point), one quality starter (I have DeAngelo Williams in all leagues, I also got MJD to go with him in one), and a couple of other backs that could pan out (I wanted Arian Foster, didn't get him, wanted Jahvid Best, got him in one league). So I get average-good RB production, top QB production, and I absolutely kill at WR. Plus in 2 of my leagues, I have Antonio Gates, another starts Dustin Keller, and my last starts Zach Miller, I think I dominate at that position, too. Anyways, I digress. My point was: I wanted Megatron and Roddy, and paid sometimes above-average prices for them, but it all worked out.

2. Draft on value. Do mock drafts. Look at expert mock drafts. Read as much as you can on player values. Through all my drafts, I had a cheat sheet I agreed with on player values. That's how I got DeAngelo in so many leagues: he was going considerably lower than my data (probably because of injury issues). Other guys at good value: Forte (starter, but cheap, have him in two leagues) and of course, Best. In one league, I didn't want to gamble on DeAngelo staying healthy, so I got MJD. In another, I got Gore to provide a lift. But in all cases, I went on value, and DeAngelo was the best value.

3. Pretty standard, but until later rounds where people have spent all their money, nominate guys you don't want. That's right: you have to have a list of guys you don't want to pay for, because someone else will pay for him. Bleed 'em dry, and then pounce.

4. Save money for the end. At the end, nearly everyone is broke, so if you're the one guy with cash to the middle-late rounds, you can get guys cheap for the simple reason that no one else has cash to outbid you. Of course, you have to balance this with rule 2: if a guy is a steal but he's gonna take all you have left, get him (I got Best this way).

Anyways, that's what I have for now. Do your homework, and you should be successful. We'll see if I can get 2-3 titles out of this bunch of teams, but I have enjoyed it. Here are some of my starting lineups, you make the calls on their title potential (most teams except my last are standard settings; my last team favors TD's slightly more than others because yards aren't as valuable).

Orton, DeAngelo, Gore, Tolbert, Forte, Mario Manningham, Roddy, Calvin, Antonio, Dustin Keller, Packers D, Mason Crosby.

Brady, DeAngelo, Forte, Calvin, Roddy, Mark Clayton (from FA), Collie, Keller, Zach Miller, Bears D, Neil Racker (I had a chance and should have drafted Michael Turner).

Schaub, Tolbert, MJD, DeAngelo, Roddy, Clayton, Ochocinco, Collie, Steve Smith (NYG), no TE (this league doesn't require one), New England D, Jeff Reed.

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