Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) -
"Name one thing in this world that is not negotiable" - Walter White.
The famous Breaking Bad quote may not tell us everything about auction drafts, but it's a great place to start. Auctions are what separate the strong from the weak, the fantasy gods from the mere mortals. The good news is, you don't need a business degree from Harvard to be successful. Here are seven ways you can beat the system.
1) Don't leave any cash in your wallet
For those of you who are new to the world of fantasy auction drafts, here's how it works. Usually in a ten-team league, each owner is given $200 to fill 16 positions: one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, one tight end, one defense, one kicker, one flex spot and seven bench players. If you spend all your money, each player should cost you about $12.50. Of course, that never happens because running backs are more expensive (the good ones go for $50) and most of your bench players are only going to cost you a dollar or two.
There are two ways to approach a non-keeper auction draft. One strategy is to sit back and let everyone else overpay. Using that technique, you can make your move later in the draft and get players at half the price.
This is a fine way to go about your draft if you plan on finishing in last place. Why eat at Arby's when you can get a steak at Morton's? Good players are expensive for a reason: because they're good. I did a mock auction last night and one of the participants finished the draft with $108. His starting backfield consisted of Andre Ellington ($11) and Chris Johnson ($10).
What a waste. Meanwhile I ponied up $57 for LeSean McCoy and another $18 for Frank Gore. Those two combined for 3,415 yards and 20 touchdowns last season. You get what you pay for.
2) Only bid on players you really want
Here's another theory I don't subscribe to: bidding on a player just to drive up the price. Sometimes this works but there's also a chance you'll end up with a player you never wanted in the first place. That's playing with fire. If you're bidding $47 for Zac Stacy just to trick somebody into paying more for him, you're taking an unnecessary risk.
3) If you're going to spend big, spend it on a running back
Halfback is fairly deep this year, but the difference between the best running back and the 20th best, is still pretty massive. Outside of Calvin Johnson, there is no dominant wide receiver. There are, however, about 20-to-25 receivers that could be classified as good or very good.
This is a passing league, after all. Last season, 24 wideouts produced over 1,000 receiving yards. Only 13 halfbacks rushed for 1,000 yards. This means you can get Torrey Smith and T.Y. Hilton for about $10 each and still be in good shape. If you wait that long on a halfback you'll end up with guys like Pierre Thomas and Danny Woodhead. Those are flex options at best. Pay the $50 and get yourself a quality halfback. You deserve one.
4) Know your limit
Adrian Peterson went for $59 in the auction draft I competed in last night. Anything more than that would have been pushing it. I know AP is a guaranteed 1,000 yards and ten touchdowns but $60 on a $200 budget is no joke. That's 30 percent of your team's cap and it leaves you only $140 to spend on your remaining 15 players.
Many fantasy sites help you out by providing price estimates for each player. By all means, use them. If it says Dez Bryant is only worth $37, why would you pay $45 for him? It's okay to go a dollar or two above face value but let's be reasonable here.
5) Be on the lookout for bargains
Competing in an auction draft is like shopping at Wal-Mart; there are bargains all over the place. You don't walk when you see Cam Newton available for $10. You sprint. The same goes for Philip Rivers ($1) and Tom Brady ($2). If you can get a quarterback for cheap, it frees up more cash to spend on running backs and wide receivers. That's just good business.
6) Pick players you like
In fantasy football, there's no more personal experience than an auction draft. In snake formats, we're limited to who is available when it's our turn to pick. In an auction, you can have whoever you want as long as you're willing to pay. If Jimmy Graham is your man crush, go for it. If you enjoy Marshawn Lynch and his Skittle-eating antics, he's all yours. I've found that if you pick guys you like, you'll care about your team more and will probably have a better chance to succeed.
In an auction, you also have the freedom to ignore players. There's no pressure to take Rob Gronkowski just because he's the best player left. If you don't like him, let somebody else bid on him.
7) Be patient
Unlike a snake draft when you always know when it's your turn to pick, there are lulls in an auction draft. At one point last night, I think I went 20 minutes without making a serious bid. Don't freak out if you have $15 left to spend on nine roster spots. It may take a while, but eventually, everyone will be in the same boat.
Remember, you only start seven position players. If you have enough money left to spend $10 or $11 on a bench player, it means your starters aren't good enough. I bought Dwayne Bowe, Darren McFadden and Hakeem Nicks for a dollar each last night so you can still find plenty of talent late in the draft.
For $200, you can paint a masterpiece. Here's your brush.