Fantasy football comes in several formats, with infinite variations of each of those formats. One of the least common styles of play is that of dynasty leagues with auction drafts. There are those who play in dynasty leagues using traditional annual re-drafts that permit each team to hold over 3-5 players from their previous season’s roster onto their new season’s roster. And there are auction leagues that re-draft every season using bidding. Each of these formats has their unique style of play and billfold of strategies. However, when you combine these two formats, you enter an entirely new realm of play that requires simultaneous thought along multiple lines of strategy if you want to legitimately contend for your league championship this season and over the course of the next few that follow.
My most recent exposure to this style of play came last month when I joined a dynasty auction league that uses real-world NFL salary caps to fill a 45-man roster (check out realitysportsonline.com for the construct that supports this – they have no business affiliation with me). We first held a 5-round rookie draft, which flowed like a traditional fantasy draft and mimicked the NFL Draft in terms of the rookie contracts allotted to these picks. Some owners traded up or down; some piled up draft picks; while others traded out of the draft altogether for future draft picks. Then followed an auction for veterans over the course of several two-hour sessions during the next few weeks. Each team was allotted nine contracts of the 4-year variation, as well as nine each of the 3-year and 2-year variations, as well as an unlimited number of one-year contracts to issue.
When competing in a dynasty auction league, most owners are aware that there is a balance to be struck between winning today and winning tomorrow. But each owner will approach the situation in their own way. Some try to stock up immediately with proven players, despite age, only to break their team down the following season and rebuild in like manner. Others will balance their current team with young and experienced players, hoping to carry over the young ones into the next few seasons while stocking up with new players behind them. And yet others will forgo the current season in an effort to create a young talented team that will win big 2-5 years from now. All are legitimate ways of approaching this type of league; every owner is entitled to their opinion and method – that’s part of what makes the game of fantasy so fun. At the same time, I believe there are some guiding principles worth following when building a team in this type of league no matter what strategy you pursue to win.
1) Know What You Want When you go into an auction draft, you should have a firm idea about which players you want. Why? Because you have no idea which players will be nominated for bidding at any given time. Which means there could be a psychological tendency to pursue a player whose name is well-known that you had not thought of previous to the draft. Getting caught up in the moment like that could lead you to chase after a player that doesn’t fit your strategy. Not only will you have a bad fit for your roster, but you could unexpectedly deplete your funds before you get to the players who would’ve been a better fit for your approach.
2) Be Disciplined The previous paragraph speaks to the first half of this one: stick with your gameplay so you don’t get swayed by other possibilities on the fly. But there is another important element to being disciplined when building a team: know when to stop bidding. Yes, you have a plan. Yes, you want certain players. But other fantasy owners may want them as well. And if you do not put a limit on how much you are willing to spend for each specific player, you could find yourself coming out the other side of a bidding war having paid a pretty penny that could cost you the rest of the way. Establish an annual price limit for each player you seek, and make sure you stay within those limits unless you have a bona fide reason for pushing past them. Creating a list of secondary players you can pursue if those on your primary list don’t pan out will help quell the desire to go berserk-bidding after any one player.
3) Pay Attention Most fantasy owners in this type of league go into the rookie draft and veteran auction with certain plans and strategies in mind. If you pay close enough attention to what other owners are doing during these events, you might pick up on cues that will help you work your way around the competition. For instance, you might notice that one owner is keen on acquiring players that belong to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at all cost. In this case, you might want to make a point of nominating a Buccaneer player when it comes your turn, and maybe even driving up the price in the bidding until he comes off the board to your fixated opponent at a high cost. Paying attention to the maneuvers of your competition will also help you pick-up on traps to avoid as you work on building your team.
4) Make Your Move There comes a time or two (or more) during the rookie draft and the auction bid when it’s time to simply go after the player you want. In the rookie draft, it may mean drafting someone one round sooner than you’d like because you know better than to risk losing him in the subsequent set of picks before your next one. In an auction, it means occasionally going all-out at any price to get the player you want on your team. This you must do judiciously. And hopefully, it will happen at a time later in the auction when your competitors have spent much more of their salary than you have (a favorite strategy of mine) – they won’t be able to keep up at that point and you may get your prize on the cheap. Regardless, know which players on your plan are worth pursuing relentlessly, and when that time comes, make your move.
5) Keep An Open Mind During this entire process of team-building, it is essential to keep an open mind. In this recent auction I went through, Jimmy Graham and Brandin Cooks went off the board early in the bidding at prices I wasn’t willing to pay at that time. However, as the auction went on and I found myself with more cash on hand than I expected, and these owners found themselves too short on cash, I suddenly received trade offers for Graham and Cooks (in exchange for draft picks and rookies) that were now well-within my means and decidedly in my favor. Neither player had been on my original list, but by being disciplined to begin with and keeping an open mind to this type of opportunity, I was able to bolster my roster significantly (and unexpectedly) through these unanticipated offers. Don’t sell yourself short; keep an open mind.
Dynasty auction drafts require thinking that goes beyond the here-and-now. Yes, you want to win this season. But you also have to keep yourself competitive during the seasons that follow. The building blocks for those subsequent seasons are laid during the first season of dynasty play. Make sure you approach your initial roster building process with these short-term and long-term perspectives in mind. If you do that and apply the five principles I just shared with you, you are bound to make yourself competitive under any circumstance in this type of league. Give it a go and watch the results unfold….