Today is August 4th, which means one thing: we are one day away from the first preseason game of the year! Football is on the horizon, boys and girls!
Thus far, we have looked at the top-40 quarterbacks, top-100 running backs, top-175 wide receivers, and top-50 tight ends for the upcoming fantasy football season. Taking that all into account, we have been able to formulate a top-300 redraft big board, letting the market define positional valuation through xADP. Today, it is time to put the final piece on the puzzle. Although most fantasy football players participate in standard leagues where you draft a player when on the clock, similar to the actual NFL draft. However, for those who prefer a process similar to free agency, auction leagues may appeal to you.
What Is An Auction League?
What is an auction league? I’m glad you asked! Essentially, participators take turns nominating players to be bid on. From there, each participator is able to bid as much as they please on a player they want, as long as it does not preclude them from going over their overall salary cap in a way that prohibits them from having a roster that meets positional criteria. In simpler terms, the highest bidder wins the player, but be aware of the rules when it comes to how much overall money you have to spend and how many players you need at each position.
In an auction league, strategies vary. Some may prefer to save their funds to build a deep, bullet-proof roster, while others would prefer to bid big on star players even if comes at the cost of at diminished depth. Which process is more optimal? In my opinion, there isn’t a clear answer to that question. With how unpredictable injuries can be, I personally would prefer to have the least-fragile roster imaginable. Yet, there is data to back up both methods, leaving it up to you to decide which one to utilize. Really, though, just have an idea of how much you want to spend on each player, and adjust from there! It’s always important to be as prepared and flexible as possible.
Need extra preparation? Well, I may have just what you’re looking for. Looking at how much spot on a typical bid board is value in terms of bidding amounts, I have calculated auction values for each player. I will note that these are my own rankings, but it is also subject to your own input as well. Should you believe X player is closer to the 80th-best player than the 100th, you’ll be able to know how much that increases his value, for instance. Meanwhile, the rankings have shifted somewhat since our last update due to injuries and other notable news, so you’ll want to play close attention to that.
With that addressed, here are my auction values for the top-300 PPR and SuperFlex players for the 2021 fantasy season!
Note: Click here to access google sheets version of auction values. Simply by moving players up and down, new auction values will be calculated for them.
From here, let’s take analyze each position more in depth. Rather than in typical draft leagues, where we’d look at the ideal range to target a player, we can be a bit more specific by highlighting top values, in addition to “buyer beware” players based on typical auction values of them. Meanwhile, we can also take a look at how to build a strong group of players at each spot within the financial constraints the salary cap (standard $200 is assumed) provides. What are we waiting for? Let’s get right into it!
In leagues with just one starting quarterback, it appears that the position tends to be a bit overpriced. The rationale may be that since you only need one starter, it might as well be a star. However, when the opportunity cost is productive players at more-valuable positions, that would appear to be illogical. Thus, I’d generally avoid targeting the likes of Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Dak Prescott, Lamar Jackson, Russell Wilson, Aaron Rodgers, and Justin Herbert, all of whom will be coveted beyond what their projected value indicates that they should be. This doesn’t mean you can’t target them at a reasonable price – I’ve seen Jackson and Wilson be priced lower than you’d expect, for example – but don’t go overboard to win the bidding for them. In fact, you can put yourself in a great position to build a strong roster by nominating these players early to cause a run at the position, causing other productive players
Instead, I’d target players in the perceived “next tier”, all of whom could be surplus values and finish as top-ten quarterbacks. That includes Joe Burrow, Tom Brady, and Matthew Stafford. Further down, Matt Ryan and rookies Trey Lance and Justin Fields are also intriguing talents. Saving here allows you to build depth at positions where it is much more critical; a replacement-level fantasy quarterback has been found to be much more productive than a replacement-level player at other positions. Obviously, this goes out the window for SuperFlex leagues, but for typical leagues, let others spend big in the bidding process.
The ideal approach to adding running backs to your roster is significantly more complicated. We know that star players at the position can win you your leagues, but it also is a position with greater injury risk, and bidding big on a premier player that doesn’t pan out could leave you in a very tough spot.
This year, two running backs stand out above the rest: Christian McCaffrey is in a tier of his own, followed by Dalvin Cook. From there, there is a lot of uncertainty with regards to who should be ranked to finish out the top ten. My advice? Avoid this group unless there is a clear undervaluation of a specific player. McCaffrey and Cook are priced a bit too highly for my liking, but you need to be looking for surplus value with the top running backs. Outside of Saquon Barkley, that isn’t likely to happen. Instead, look towards Austin Ekeler, Aaron Jones, and Joe Mixon, who I believe will finish the year as top-ten running backs with the ability to contribute in all facets of the game, yet are currently undervalued and can allow you to build a deeper group of players. If you can’t secure two of them, Chris Carson, Myles Gaskin, and Mike Davis are cheaper options to look towards. By contrast, at their current price, I’d avoid Derrick Henry, Jonathan Taylor, JK Dobbins, Nick Chubb, and Antonio Gibson, who are far too risky with how much you’ll have to pay to win a bidding war from them.
Don’t wait too long to add to your running back corps, but do it responsibly. Each person is going to have a much different preference when it comes to who to value, based on how polarizing rankings have been this year. Thus, identify your favorite options, and work from there! Luckily, there are plenty of contingencies in place to allow you to not over-bid to secure a player you want on your team.
This is officially a passing league. It is clear that quarterback play has improved across the league, yet there is one position that has gotten better at an even faster pace: wide receiver. Hasn’t it been the “year of the receiver” for three straight NFL drafts? Perhaps this will continue to be a trend moving forward, though, at the very least, there is currently a load of talented players at the position.
What does this mean? I would say to avoid the top receivers, yet their current prices seem reasonable; if you can secure a top-five (Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, Calvin Ridley, and DeAndre Hopkins), there might be a path for you to do so responsibly. Still, there is even better value elsewhere. Look towards Allen Robinson, Keenan Allen, Terry McLaurin, Amari Cooper, DJ Moore, Cooper Kupp, and Diontae Johnson. If you strictly target these players, you should come away with a talented receiving corps; I’d rather have both Robinson and McLaurin than just Hill, and the prices to do so will be similar. I’d personally avoid players who are touchdown reliant (Mike Evans) or require too much projection, but it’s hard to go wrong here.
Similarly to quarterback, you only need one tight end, but that doesn’t mean you have to sell out for a star player. In fact, based on how unevenly the tight end position is priced, being patient can allow you to secure optimal value.
Tight end is a less deep position than quarterback, so whereas quarterbacks around the #8-#12 range should be targeted, target the middle of the top-ten tight ends makes sense. For me, TJ Hockenson, Dallas Goedert, Noah Fant, and Tyler Higbee are my favorite targets, with Adam Trautman, Anthony Firkser, and Blake Jarwin being intriguing sleepers later on. At the same time, I won’t be rushing to overspend on Travis Kelce with Darren Waller coming at a much better price, while Kyle Pitts has too much downside as a rookie tight end to want to invest significant resources in a bidding war for his services.
There are many different approaches to building a successful roster through an auction draft. I prefer building a deep, non-fragile roster, but it really a matter of personal preference. Most of all, though, be flexible, set your price points for each player, and be responsible from there. Hopefully, these auction values can help you provide assistance when it comes to valuing players in an open bidding war. Just remember, fantasy football is fun! Prepare ahead of the draft, and enjoy the bidding process as it progresses! Good luck!