Contributed By: Russ Knight
Having recently completed my first Fantasy Football auction, I can highly recommend it to you if you have never participated. Do you find it curious that an auction newbie is writing an article/epic saga that purports to be an auction “how-to”? For the record, I am no FF expert, nor have I ever played one on TV. I have been around the block a few times, at least on my bike and I truly believe that what I have to share will be worth the considerable time you are about to take reading and digesting it. I will attempt to share some insights, with the focus being on the offensive side of the ball.
My sincere intention is to help you prepare for a fantasy football auction. My particular point of reference for this article was in preparation for HAFA (The Hire and Fire Association) league that is a new team concept league here at Fantasy Asylum. Again, to the truly insane FF player, I highly recommend looking into it.
Since I’ll be referring to this throughout this discussion you should know that in HAFA we are allocated a $30,000,000 budget, with starting lineups of fourteen players: QB, RB, WR1, WR2, TE, PK & O-Flex, LB1, LB2, DL1, DL2, DB1, DB2 and D-Flex. After year 1, there will be one keeper from either side of the ball, and a somewhat complicated system of restricted free agency whereby you could keep an additional two more guys per side, but you’d have to pay for them. For more information about HAFA – Click Here.
Starting from scratch, having never done an auction, I had several questions:
• What will the top guys at each position go for?
• How much should I allocate for each guy on my roster, i.e. What’s my budget look like?
• How should I split my budget between offense and defense?
• How will the rest of the league split their budgets on average?
To prepare for an auction you must do the following:
1. Know the rules of your league very well.
2. Research everything; they say defense wins championships, but in Fantasy Football, it’s RESEARCH that wins championships.
3. Get historical data by position going back at least three years for every position you need to fill.
4. Get results from other auctions, even results from prior years with different scoring systems will help you.
5. Use that auction data to set target prices for everyone.
6. Prepare a budget, which will change constantly, but keep in up to date at all times.
7. Track everything.
KNOW THE RULES OF YOUR LEAGUE VERY WELL
If you don’t understand why this is crucial, then follow these steps until it becomes more clear: 1. Stop reading this. 2. Take off your shoe and begin tapping the heel on your forehead. 3. Continue step 2 with increased force until you understand or blackout.
The guy with the most information and UNDERSTANDING of that information is the best bet to win. You want to be that guy.
So you say to yourself, “Self, I already have all the player stats, what else is there to research?” The answer is lots of things. Here are several to start:
Off-season movement – Example #1: Did you know that in the 2003 off-season Travis Henry got a significant upgrade and now has one of the best blocking Fullbacks in the game? That should have fantasy implications and make you bump him up your board. There are all kinds of movements that happen where the fantasy player who is impacted by those moves is never mentioned in the article. Example #2: San Diego released Terrell Fletcher at the end of last season, so who is the new backup for Ladanian Tomlinson? Jesse Chatman. (There is an excellent article out today by Rick Hawes over on the Premium side outlining significant fantasy impacting free-agent moves. Check it out, and this base will be covered.)
Offensive line – I’m no X’s and O’s guy, but paying attention to the contract status of Orlando Pace for STL is a good idea if I’m interested in acquiring M. Faulk for the 2003 season. Upgrades/downgrades on the O-line could dramatically affect the success or lack thereof of your offensive players.
Contract years – The status of a players contract matters in FF. Pay attention and find out what you can for players of fantasy value. Follow the money.
Depth Chart – As much as you can, pay attention to guys who are moving up/down within a teams depth chart. Knowing who is the #2 RB behind E. James or P. Holmes could mean a lot if the primary goes down. In deeper leagues, it could be valuable to know the top four WRs, two or three QBs, and two or three RBs for every NFL team.
Character – In fantasy football, are you kidding me? I wouldn’t attempt to quantify it, but if a guy is spending a lot of time in court, it’s a reasonable assumption that he isn’t working out/practicing or resting to prepare for on-field success. Does this mean I’m going to take an obviously inferior talent based on this issue? No. But if you’re to the point of comparing nearly equal talents, this could be a deciding factor.
All this is applicable to preparation of any kind of Fantasy league you are in. If you’ve played FF for any length of time, then you already know all this. There is always more to research, so at the very least just get in the habit of reading the articles that address these secondary concerns, as well as the ones with obvious fantasy relevance – like articles about Priest Holmes’ hip, etc.
GET HISTORICAL DATA
by position going back at least three years for every position you need to fill. Let me assume you have spreadsheets with this information already developed. If not, get those done. You can get the stats from any number of the major sports sites.
Once you have the historical data, convert that into your scoring method. Just because one site has Culpepper listed as the best FF quarterback does not make him the most valuable for your league. What if your league gives 4 points for a passing TD, 6 points for a rushing TD and -3 for interceptions. Whoops. Drop Culpepper down your list. How far? Calculating based on your particular scoring system will tell you how far.
Using that historical data, you can then calculate what you project for every fantasy player at every position. This calculation will factor in all those little things mentioned earlier, your “gut feel” and several other strange factors that maybe only you care about. This is what makes the game worth playing – we all value players differently.
For your projections, you can look at the historical data to give you an idea of what has been done by a particular guy, or by the very best at the position. Based on this, you can make YOUR projections for each position. Here are a few examples:
My belief is Tiki Barber & Charlie Garner both had career years last year and they won’t be able to exceed those numbers. Right or wrong, time will tell. Based on that assumption, for my own projections I took last years’ numbers and discounted them by 10% for Barber, and 15% for Garner, to come up with my estimated fantasy production for those guys. On the other hand, I think Tim Brown had an unusually bad year in 2002, but I don’t think he will return to his prior form. Based on that, I took his 2002 numbers and added 12% to come up with my projections for his production in 2003.
GET RESULTS FROM OTHER AUCTIONS AND CONVERT TO YOUR SCORING SYSTEM
To explain this as simply as possible, I’ll lay out what I did to prepare for the HAFA auction. My major problem was that I couldn’t find anything from prior years that had IDP auction data. It was all data that used simple team defense. I found auction results from four different sources, all with this same problem. NOTE: Right now, it doesn’t matter so much whether Marshall Faulk or Priest Holmes went as the most expensive RB in a particular set of data, but what matters is what the #1 RB went for, then the #2 RB, #5, #45, etc. guy went for at each position. Later on, we’ll plug in who we think fits where. Here’s what I did:
1. Convert whatever salary information you can find into %’s. Pretend every one of them has a $100.00 budget if you prefer, but this is necessary to compare apples to apples. If the data set you’re using uses a team salary of $200, you have to be able to convert it to your specific cap number, which in the case of HAFA is $30,000,000.
2. Determine what percentage of the ENTIRE LEAGUE’s budget will be spent on offense vs defense. Based on significant research, discussion with the rest of my team and a lucky guess, I correctly projected the split would be 65% offense, 35% defense. This number is very important at this stage and has nothing to do with what YOU/YOUR TEAM plans to do. The important number is the LEAGUE number.
Why is this important?
Here’s an example: using the FantasyAsylum auction data that I had, the top RB went for 42% of that team’s budget. However, since they weren’t using IDP, I couldn’t assume that the top RB would go for 42% of a team’s budget in HAFA, which does use IDP.
FA’s auction in total spent 89.19% on offense, and 10.81% on defense. Based on my earlier assumption about HAFA splitting 65% to offense, and 35% to defense, I need to discount that 89.19% to where it equals 65.00%. This is why the league % split number is important. Algebraically, this can be expressed as: X * .8919 = .6500
Divide both sides of the equation by .8919
X*.8919/.8919 = .65/.8919
To determine the multiplier we’re after
X = .72880168
Hot diggity. I finally found a practical use for algebra. Yeah, math!
This number, .72880168 is now my multiplier for all the values I have from the FA auction. I will need to do this calculation for each set of data I find.
The top RB, according to the FA data was originally 42% is now 30.6%, which in HAFA $’s, that would be $9.2M. We know based on how the auction worked out that the top RB, L. Tomlinson, went for $7.74M, a margin of error of 15.7% for the TOP guy.
The 19th most valuable RB went for 12% in the FA auction, but when converted by the multiplier, the price is now 8.76% or $2.62M in HAFA dollars. In the actual HAFA auction, Eddie George, the 19th most expensive RB went for $3.0M, a variance of 12.7%.
From a position of thinking the top RB would go for somewhere between $5M and $11M, I think we’ve dramatically narrowed our price-target window considerably.
When using multiple data sets, you can further refine the target price numbers. Using the four sets of data each converted using this multiplier, the average price we came up with for the top RB was $7.98M, when in actuality, L. Tomlinson went for $7.74, which is a margin of error of 3%. Pretty good.
We projected the 19th most valuable RB to go for $2.04M based on the average of the four data sets, when in fact as I said earlier, E. George went for $3.0M, which is a margin of error of 34%, which isn’t very good at all.
I think this error occurred for two reasons: First, the further down the list, the more widely the variance you should expect. Second, the Florida HAFA franchise, the team that got Eddie George, overpaid considerably. OK, I’m just kidding. I wanted to see if you’re still awake or paying attention. No, the second reason for this error may have something to do with the league size. In a larger league (HAFA is 16 teams) there will be 6 more RB1s bought at auction than in a 10 team league, inflating some of the middle/lower #1 RBs. I think there might be a way to calculate for this discrepancy when converting the data, but it isn’t a plug number like we had for this other correction. The correction wouldn’t be a linear one; what I’m getting at is the correction would be awfully hard to determine.
The way we accounted for this was to bump up the average prices of the #13-16 guys at QB, RB and the #25-32 or so WRs (since each starts two). Exactly who you bump up and by how much will depend on the players. Hopefully, a small adjustment will give you a better idea for your particular league. If the data you are using is from the same or even similar league size, this adjustment isn’t necessary.
Using this multiplier will allow you to compare data from non-IDP leagues for use with leagues using individual defensive players.
CONVERTING IDP STATS INTO NON-IDP STATS (THE REVERSE)
If you were going to use the HAFA auction data for your league that doesn’t use IDP you could do a reverse of this calculation by:
Determining what % of your league’s budget would go to team defense. Using the FA data from above, let’s assume it’s 10.81%, so 89.19% goes to offense. So now you’re trying to convert the other direction and increase the $ value. Therefore:
X = .8919/.65
X = 1.372
So, using the HAFA data in a non-IDP league, you can say the top RB in your league would go for $7.74 * 1.372 = $10.62M (using a $30M budget) or 35.4% of your budget.
USE OTHER AUCTION DATA (NOW CONVERTED) TO DETERMINE PRICE TARGETS
Now I have historical data formatted to my league’s scoring. From this, I have determined who I think is the best, second best and 32nd best guy at each position. Now I can take that list and plug it into my listing of auction values that I developed from the other auction data. I now have a reasonable idea of what the 1st through 50th +/- guy at each position will likely go for at auction. From here, you need to determine your own team’s price targets.
To do this, I suggest you come up with three price targets for each guy:
High – the absolute top dollar I am willing to pay for this guy
Middle – the price a guy likely ought to go for (what we calculated)
Low – The “I can’t let him go for less than this” price, meaning even if I hadn’t really targeted this guy as someone I want, if he’s on the board for this bargain price, I should probably bid on him.
Since we have calculated this average auction value number, we should probably base our other two prices on this number. Those numbers may not be the same % higher or lower for each guy. For example, just because I happen to really like L. Tomlinson, and I want to bump the average up 10% to be my high number for him doesn’t mean I should do the same thing for say, Priest Holmes who maybe I wouldn’t bump up at all for my high number because I’m worried about the hip (just an example).
RBs HIGH AVG LOW
L. Tomlinson 110% of Avg 26.6% 85% of AVG
R. Williams 110% of Avg 23.1% 85% of AVG
C. Portis 110% of Avg 22.3% 85% of AVG
P. Holmes 100% of Avg 18.8% 80% of AVG
M. Faulk 102% of avg 17.6% 82% of AVG
(Remember, these %’s are based on % of TOTAL budget, not just the offense.)
This will give you a guideline to keep you from bidding outside what you’re willing to spend to get a particular guy that you like, or to keep you from letting another guy go to a competitor at a huge bargain.
I’m sure there are a dozen other ways to do this and one of those might make more sense to you. The goal is to get something down before the auction so you know what you’re willing to spend on each guy.
PREPARE & USE A BUDGET
The first thing in preparing a budget is to know the rules of your league, as mentioned previously. Just using the budget I’m about to put together without changing it to fit your particular strategy/beliefs will likely not help you. Hopefully, it will paint a picture of how you can create your own budget based on the particulars of your own league and your personal strategies to succeed.
For HAFA, the guidelines for a budget before even looking at specific positions and players, we have a roster minimum of 14 for offense and 14 for defense, with a total roster maximum of 32. The minimum you can spend on a guy is 300K or 1% of $30M.
To utilize the cap most effectively, ideally you’ll come out of the auction with 14+14 = 28 minus whatever draft picks you have for the rookie/free agent draft. So assuming you have your original six picks, you MUST come out of the auction with 22 players. Most teams came away with more, which is a good strategy to give them the flexibility to take either offensive or defensive players in the draft as they see fit. If you came away with the bare minimum needing say 5 offensive guys and 1 defensive guy from the draft, you would be bound to get those guys no matter what opportunities came up during the draft.
However, for the sake of simplicity and applicability of this article, let’s ignore the draft element of HAFA and assume our target for the auction is 12 + 12 with our budget based on %’s. Further, let’s begin with breaking out our budget as 65% offense and 35% defense. If you use just team defense, your budget would look something more like 90% – 95% spent on offense, with the remainder for team defense.
Starting with the 65% offense and wanting to fill 7 starters + 5 backups for a total of 12 players, here is one way to go about preparing your budget:
ASSUMPTION #1: Let’s say you have decided that L. Tomlinson will be the A#1 stud RB for 2003, and you want to get him as the anchor for your offense.
ASSUMPTION #2: You plan to start a RB in your O-Flex position.
1. Determine how many of each position you want. This may change as things develop in the auction, but it’s a good idea to have something in place as a guideline.
2. Plug in your high number for Tomlinson, since you want him.
3. You’re willing to settle for a mid-range QB. Let’s say you project the 10th best QB to go for 7.7%, so plug that in as your QB starter budget.
4. Since you went strong on RB1, you feel comfortable taking another lower ranked RB for your O-flex position, so according to the projections, the 19th best RB will go for 7.0%, so plug that in on your O-flex.
5. Because of my stronger-than-average investment in RBs, I need to trim somewhere, which is likely WR. So let’s say I won’t even be able to get into the top 16 WRs, so we plug in our 18th best WR value, at 5.8%.
6. We feel pretty good about our ability to find some value at the WR position, so let’s plug in 3.0% for our WR2 spot.
7. I must get one TE & one PK, so let’s put in minimum, with a little bit extra for each of those positions, 1.5% for TE, and 1.2% for PK.
8. That means I’ve allocated 55% of my budget to my offensive starters, leaving me with an even 10% for backups. As a reference point, the average HAFA team allocated 51.44% of their budget to offensive starters.
9. Since QB is a pretty important position, let’s plug in 3.3% for a backup there.
10. Since I went lean on my top two WRs, let’s put 2.1% on my WR3, and just a little over minimum for WR4 at 1.2.
11. The remaining funds are for backup RBs, so let’s split that 1.6% and 1.3%.
QB1 (starter)= 7.7%
QB2 (backup)= 3.3%
RB1 (starter) = (26.6% * 110%) = 29.3% (to get the high number for Tomlinson)
O-Flex/RB2 (strtr.) = 7.0%
RB3 (backup) = 1.6%
RB4 (backup) = 1.3%
WR1 (starter) = 5.8%
WR2 (starter) = 3.0%
WR3 (backup) = 2.1%
WR4 (backup) = 1.2%
TE (starter) = 1.5%
PK (starter) = 1.2%
Total = 65.00%
This budget represents a strong “stud RB” philosophy. I believe the ideal average roster would have less in on RB1 and more in on WR1 and then plays the matchups at WR2. However, looking at the results of the HAFA auction, I don’t see an ideal average roster. Virtually every team shorted some position to go strong in another. Some shorted the entire offense to have an expensive defense. Others did the opposite. Some skimped on RB spending to go big on WRs. These are the things that set us apart and make this game worth playing. We all value players differently. We all have different philosophies and beliefs about FF, and those will be reflected in your spending.
Even though you have a budget in place to begin with, you will undoubtedly find yourself changing it often. Even though you might change it 30 times during the auction for a variety of reasons, you must still abide by your current budget/plan and keep it current to avoid getting yourself into trouble.
HAFA is a team concept league, where there are 4 or 5 people on each team. Based on my evaluation, nearly half of the 16 teams, made some type of error either by making a small error like not drafting enough RBs to actual budget mistakes. That’s with several guys running each team. My point is that if teams of “experts”/experienced players are making mistakes, how much tougher is it for you all by yourself?
If I’m paying attention to my budget, target prices on the guys I want, I don’t need to pay attention to what other teams are doing? Wrong.
You need to track their bids. Who are they bidding on? You need to try to guess why. If at some point you see a team that has 90% of their money out on the table, evaluating who they have their money on might give you a good idea of what their budget looks like. This might give you some information about who they might bid on if they were to lose one or more of these auctions. That may help you determine what kind of competition you might get for a guy who has yet to come up for bid.
Another reason to pay attention to other teams is to be able to anticipate potential trading opportunities. If you follow all other teams closely, you could really find ways to stretch your auction dollars. For example, if you see that all but two teams have starting QBs, you might find there is less bidding competition for your targeted starting QB because you waited until the fourth round.
If you’re going to play this game, you might as well play it to the best of your ability. Feel free to contact me if you have any feedback regarding this information. My hope is that some of this will be useful to you for upcoming auctions. Remember, RESEARCH wins championships.