On Monday evening, I joined up with 11 other members of the Pro Football Focus Fantasy staff for a rare mock auction.
The results are in and I feel comfortable calling this the most competitive auction I’ve ever participated in. As you’ll come to see later on in this piece, all 12 drafters were, for the most part, on their game. There were some value picks and a few occasions where an owner overspent, but you’ll notice a complete lack of incompetence across the board. No one was handcuffed by overspending early and each team put together a capable starting lineup by maximizing their budget.
Before we get started, we’ll go over the league settings. Each of the 12 teams was given a budget of $200. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to ignore that for the most part and instead use the percentage of the budget spent on each player (e.g., 5% = $10). This way you can easily apply it to your league’s auction budget.
Rosters ran 16 players deep, which included 10 starters (1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 FLEX, 1 K, 1 DEF). Scoring was PPR and was relatively standard otherwise.
Click here for complete results.
In Part I of this two-part series, I’m going to break down the quarterback and running back positions. In Part II, we’ll get to wide receiver and tight end.
Before I start on analysis, I need to explain what you’ll be seeing in each of the positional charts. ‘Ovr’ refers to where the price of each player ranks among the field. ‘Rd’ is based directly off ‘Ovr’ and is there to give you perspective as to which round pick you’d need to use to get the player in a snake draft. ‘Actual%’ is the price paid for the player in the auction, whereas ‘RW%’ is the player’s suggested value according to the Rotoworld staff rankings. ‘Diff.’ is simply the difference between the actual and proposed.
Shown here are the 15 most expensive quarterbacks. Simply scanning over the list, we don’t see any massive surprises in terms of how the players are ranked, but the auction values may shock you a bit.
First of all, Aaron Rodgers went for 18 percent, which ranked him 15th overall. That makes him worthy of an early second-round pick and, when compared to ADP, a bit of a steal. Cam Newton and Tom Brady show up as third round picks, which isn’t much of a reach, but it starts to get interesting after that. Michael Vick and Drew Brees both went for 13 percent and, considering that it’s a third-round equivalent, Vick was a bit of a reach.
In fact, according the baselines I’ve laid out, you may have already noticed that almost every quarterback selected was “overpaid”. Rodgers is an exception at the top. Although he may seem like a steal at $36 of a $200 budget, that’s just about what he’s worth when you consider the need to fill a lineup with two backs, three wide receivers, and a flex. The drop from him to the rest of the field is significant, however, and it led to most owners overpaying by three or four percent. The reason for this is that the quarterback position is very deep relative to the depth of other positions. Notice that Peyton Manning and Matt Ryan each went for six percent. Eli Manning went off the board late for just 3.5 percent (or $7).
Aside from Vick, Matt Schaub really stands out as a reach. One of the first quarterbacks up for bid, Schaub was run all the way up to five percent, the equivalent of a seventh-round pick. Schaub is a competent QB2, but has no business being valued where he was here. 23 total quarterbacks were sold.
Best Value: Ben Roethlisberger (+1.1 percent)
Worst Value: Michael Vick (-4.8 percent)
Advice: The general public may not know it yet, but the fantasy value of the quarterback position has taken a dive over the last month. Smart drafters are noticing that the recent uptick in passing across the league has created, at least, 12 capable weekly starters. Do not overpay for a quarterback. Spending 10 percent of your budget to get a guy like Brees or Newton is acceptable, but they’re unlikely to go that low. Instead, spend big elsewhere and target Matt Ryan, Tony Romo, or Eli Manning at a reduced price.
Here we have the 12 highest bids at the running back position. No shockers here, as it’s pretty consistent with ADP. Note that 12 of the 14 highest bids went to the running backs on this list. The only exceptions were Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald. Matt Forte might seem a bit pricy at 21.5 percent, but it’s not far off when you consider that we’re in a PPR format.
That brings me to a quick lesson: knowing when to sit back vs. knowing when to pounce. This is far from an exact science, but it’s something you always need to keep in the back of your mind during an auction. Bidders tend to overspend in auctions on two occasions. One is right off the bat. The first players up for bid are usually the top guys and inexperienced/ill-prepared owners won’t understand the relative value of those players to the field (e.g., Ray Rice might seem like a steal at $50…until LeSean McCoy goes later for $37). The second is when the supply getting low at a particular position. Demarco Murray and Steven Jackson were among the last of the top running backs to go up for bid, which has something to do with why they were a bit expensive.
What’s the solution? Patience. Avoid forcing bids and definitely don’t try to fill your starting lineup out in the first half hour of the auction. Values will come at every position. Wait for them…just not for too long. If your rankings show 15 strong running back options, you’ll want to focus on trying to get two of them. If only three or four are left on the board, make sure you’re following closely. It’s almost a sure bet that the last “top” player at each position will go for more than they should.
Anyways, back to running backs…
Next up we have what are essentially the league’s RB2s. Because running backs are more valuable than many realize, there a ton of good finds here. Darren Sproles stands out the most. He went for 14 percent, but was valued at 18 percent. Ahmad Bradshaw, Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller, and Roy Helu were each valued as fifth rounders, bringing back strong value.
The final tier of running backs that I’ll show gives us our prime flex candidates. These guys range from 7.5 percent ($14) to 3.5 percent ($7). This is where we find our biggest value of the draft. Jonathan Stewart was snagged for just 4.5 percent ($9). We value him at 12 percent ($24). The 7.5 percent difference was easily the biggest gap of the auction, which really shows how patient each owner was throughout the evening.
Ryan Williams stands out as a guy who was overpaid here, but note that he went extremely late in the auction when a few teams had extra cash to throw away. Williams has some upside, but obviously can’t be counted on as a flex early in the season. Jacquizz Rodgers went for a bit more than he should’ve, too, but wasn’t overly expensive at four percent.
26 more running backs were bought, but none went for more than 3.5 percent ($7). As important as being strong at running back is, it’s worth noting that the likes of LeGarrette Blount, Tim Hightower, Toby Gerhart, and Mikel Leshoure went for under five bucks.
Best Value: Jonathan Stewart (+7.5 percent)
Worst Value: Ryan Williams (-4.0 percent)
Advice: Try not to overspend on the first few backs up for bid, but make sure you’re gameplan surrounds landing a pair of top 15 backs. Spending near 45 percent of your total budget on two running backs is a recipe for success. You can still get a capable flex like Donald Brown, Willis McGahee, or Beanie Wells for near five percent.
Check back tomorrow for breakdowns of the wide receiver and tight end positions in Part II of the series.