Auction Draft Mistakes and Lessons Learned

Auction draft mistakesEven after 8 years of doing auction drafts, it’s still possible to make mistakes. And I made some in my league’s online auction last week. So to help me learn from them and to help you avoid them, I’m sharing my auction draft mistakes with you.

This was my only auction draft of the season. It’s a competitive 14 team league and we switched to auction drafting eight years ago. Most of the managers have been in the league that long so everyone is experienced at auctions.  That leaves little room to recover from any serious auction draft mistakes.

Draft Preparation Errors

First, I committed one of the biggest fantasy football mistakes and didn’t start preparing early enough. My biggest excuse for this is that the week before the draft was way busier than planned. So I scrambled to build my cheat sheet a couple hours before the draft after getting home from work. Then I threw together a budget plan without much thought. I also didn’t do a mock draft which might have helped me find a couple of these before the real auction.

Make your draft preparation a priority.

Player Selection and Bidding Mistakes

These are things I should have done throughout the auction.  I forgot to do each of them on at least one bid or nomination during the draft.

1. Check a player’s bye week before nominating or bidding on him.

Having multiple players at a position with the same bye week is fine if you have a good bench and/or a plan to cover it. It’s not good to realize after drafting your backup QB that he has the same bye week as your starter. That’s what I did.  It then cost me another roster spot (and money) to draft a third QB with a different bye. For your single slot positions (QB, TE, DEF) that most people only have two players on their roster for, you don’t want both those players to be out the same week. Always check the byes.

2. Check a player’s current bid against the latest going prices in the same tier.

A tier 3 RB went on the block. I checked prices for that tier and started bidding, hoping to get him as my RB2. Somehow I forgot those prices and bid higher than I should have. Several other RBs were still available in the same tier who went for much less later on. When the bidding gets hot, remember to double check that you’re not about to overbid for a player.

3. Don’t nominate a low priced player that you want too early.

Managers with plenty of budget left can easily bid up the price past what you’re willing to pay. This happened to me twice when nominating kickers. Yes, kickers. I target kickers that have their home fields in domes and tried to get one half way through the draft for $1. Another manager outbid me both times I did that. One of those might have been due to a team on auto-bid. Either way, my nominations could have been better used on other players at that point in the draft.

Draft Management Lessons

1. Always have players you want in your queue.

Our league commissioner changed the nomination period from the default 30 seconds to 15 seconds this year to shorten the draft. That’s not much time to choose a player to nominate, find them in the player list, select them, possibly enter a higher starting bid amount and click Nominate. If you don’t nominate someone before the timer hits zero, the system will auto nominate the first player in your queue, if any. If there’s no one in your queue, it nominates an available player based on the pre-draft rankings.

In my case, there was a round where I was slow to nominate a player, didn’t have anyone in my queue and the system nominated Cameron Brate for me. I wasn’t targeting Brate and no one else bid on him since there were still plenty of better TEs available. So I ended up with Brate as my second TE. Not the end of the world, but I wanted to use that slot for a different player. I usually have one or two players in the queue. From now on, I’ll always have several players in there, especially in auctions with a short nomination time.

2. Mark your cheat sheet to easily filter out players that have been selected.

Time is critical in an auction. Once a player is nominated, you have to find them on your cheat sheet, figure out their value in this auction based on what comparable players have sold for, decide if you’re going to bid, how much you’re willing to pay for the player and submit your bid. All while keeping an eye on what other players are bidding and how much time is left.

Shaving seconds off of that process will help you stay chill and, hopefully, make better bid decisions. Normally I strike a line through player names as they’re picked and write down what price they went for.  I noticed during this draft that I wasted a lot of time scanning through names that had already been picked. In future drafts, I’ll draw a line with a highlighter down from the top of the list to the first available player for that position. That way I can jump to the first available name and start scanning from there.

You can use this tip in snake or auction drafts, but it should be most beneficial in auctions because the player nominations can be from all over the cheat sheet. In a snake draft, players are typically selected in order of their rank by position (at least for the first 6-8 rounds).

3. Be patient and stick to your budget.

My budget kept me on track even though I scribbled it on the back of an envelope twenty minutes before the auction started. Yes, I went over on a few positions, but I used the budget to balance that by spending less on other spots. The key thing is to plan a budget in advance (more than twenty minutes) and check it often during the auction. I ended up with $6 left over at the end so the overspends didn’t hurt and I could have bid a little higher on some of the better ranked players earlier in the auction.

Auction draft mistakes
My back of the envelope auction budget.

Other Auction Draft Notes

A couple review notes on some of the tools I used for this auction.

In my rushed draft prep, I found and used a site called Most of their info, including custom cheat sheets, is premium. But they do offer free tier breakout sheets by position with target price ranges for each tier. Their price ranges were very consistent with what players went for in my draft. They don’t say what league size or position roster they used, but their prices were way closer to my league’s actual prices than the free custom sheet I built on another site. I will probably use them again next season if they still offer this for free (I don’t pay for rankings or cheat sheets).

We host this league on Yahoo and use its online auction draft tool. Overall, it works pretty well. Most of this year’s changes were cosmetic and the draft screen seemed more crowded this year. One problem with the new layout was that the list of teams with their remaining budget and current bid amount didn’t show all of the teams. This is a 14 team league and the list only showed the first 13 teams. There was no way to scroll the list, so I couldn’t see how much money team #14 had or what he’d been bidding on the current player. Knowing the other teams’ budgets is key info during the draft.  Other fields are scrollable so Yahoo could make this one scrollable, too. This wasn’t an issue in previous seasons doing auction drafts on Yahoo. I reported this on their post-draft survey. Hopefully they’ll fix it.

Post Game Recap

Despite the mistakes I made, it was still a good draft. I’ll need to get rid of the third QB and pick up a better backup TE via waiver wire or trade. According to Yahoo’s post draft standings, my team’s projected stats for the season puts it in second place. It’s about 70 points behind the first place team and nearly 200 points ahead of the third place team. Projections don’t mean squat once the first whistle blows, but I’d rather be projected to get second place than last.

Most importantly, I’ve identified areas where I can improve in future auctions. Hopefully my auction draft mistakes will help you improve your auction draft skills as well.

Despite the mistakes I made in this auction…at least I didn’t drop $69 on Le’Veon Bell.

Image Credit: “Samuel T. Freeman & Co. Auctioneers” by las – initially used under Creative Commons.

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