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Auction Budgeting
David M. Dorey
August 6, 2004

Along with taxes, speeding tickets and flat beer, the notion of creating a budget is unpleasant for most people. After all, it is placing a limit on what you can do with your money. The reality in auction drafting is that all teams have the same bidding constraints, so managing your auction well can give you a distinct advantage over the impulse buyers of the world. In short, you must budget to win.

Before the auction begins, each team is sitting on a full salary cap looking at the same players that you are. There is no scheming what player will fall to a draft slot, you get a shot at any player and if you are going to build a better team, you have to trade those salary dollars for more value than any other team. Let’s take a look at how you could devise a game plan for your auction.

Consider a salary cap of $200 to spend on 18 players. First player up is Priest Holmes. You went to the University of Texas when he played there. You had him on your fantasy teams since he was with Baltimore and own three of his jerseys. The bidding hits $77 and you start to sweat like a crack addict, and, like, you still have all this money to spend and it is the Priest, man! PRIEST FREAKING HOLMES! $80! $90! $100!

You have to make a budget so that your salary cap dollars purchase the maximum overall value possible. That might get Holmes, it might not. But rather than end up with Holmes and a squad of scrubs, you’ll be better off building a complete team.

Budget building should follow five steps and all are independent of what an individual player might be worth. This is what a fantasy team should be worth.

Step 1 – First Cut for Relative Positional Value : Taking the positions that are required in your league, make a rough cut at what you think each position is worth to your team. Consider how much the position scores for comparison.

Step 2 – Consider Scarcity vs. Demand : Knowing that certain positions are far more coveted than others, adjust your positional values according to how much it will likely take to get the better players.

Step 3 – Consider the Starting Players : For each position, array that cash down when the position requires more than one starter. Just take your total positional dollars and spread them out over the starting positions. Do you prefer one super-stud and an average player or two very good performers?

Step 4 –Consider Total Roster Depth: You still have a full team to fill and backups have a nasty habit of becoming starters for many reasons. There is nothing wrong with assigning minimum values to some slots in the hopes you get very lucky or it does not matter, but no team ever makes it through an entire season without some change to their starters. There are also bye week fillers to consider, especially in those positions that start more than one player.

Step 5 – The Final Tweak : Take a look at what you have and decide where you might be able to scrimp a little more in order to get you more money to spend on more important areas. The values you assign to the top players in each position will largely dictate what you can do later, so make sure you are comfortable with those.

For an example, let’s apply this to a sample 12 team league that uses a 16 man roster and require 2 QB, 4 RB, 4 WR, 2 TE, 2 PK and 2 DEF with a weekly starting lineup of QB, 2 RB, 2 WR, TE, PK and DEF and a salary cap of $100 to spend.

1. First cut for relative values 2. Consider scarcity versus demand 3. Consider the starting players 4. Consider total roster depth 5. Tweak for final auction budget plan
QB1 $20 QB1 $15 QB1 $15 QB1 $10 QB1 $11
QB2 - QB2 - QB2 - QB2 $5 QB2 $2
RB1 $30 RB1 $50 RB1 $25 RB1 $25 RB1 $25
RB2 - RB2 - RB2 $25 RB2 $15 RB2 $15
RB3 - RB3 - RB3 - RB3 $7 RB3 $5
RB4 - RB4 - RB4 - RB4 $2 RB4 $2
WR1 $25 WR1 $25 WR1 $15 WR1 $15 WR1 $15
WR2 - WR2 - WR2 $10 WR2 $5 WR2 $10
WR3 - WR3 - WR3 - WR3 $3 WR3 $3
WR4 - WR4 - WR4 - WR4 $2 WR4 $1
TE1 $10 TE1 $4 TE1 $5 TE1 $4 TE1 $4
TE2 - TE2 - TE2 - TE2 $1 TE2 $1
PK1 $10 PK1 $3 PK1 $5 PK1 $3 PK1 $2
PK2 - PK2 - PK2 - PK2 $2 PK2 $1
DEF1 $5 DEF1 $3 DEF1 $5 DEF1 $3 DEF1 $2
DEF2 - DEF2 - DEF2 - DEF2 $2 DEF2 $1

Armed with this budget, I can enter the auction knowing how much money is available per position and for depth. The above budget addresses the need for two great running backs, two very nice receivers, a decent yet not great quarterback probably (there are always others), just enough to get a decent tight end. Kickers and defenses will allow one bid on a player brought up by someone else.

I know going in what I want to pay and am willing to pay. I know if I go over $25 for my RB1, then it will come out of somewhere else. Conversely, if I get that RB1 for less money, I can pump up another starting area like quarterback or receiver. My budget is a good reflection of how I value my team players. If people want to go nuts on running backs, I can decide to join the folly and wreck my budget as well or I can hold off, knowing that running backs will be weaker for me but that all my other positions just got stronger with more money to spend.

You need to adjust your budgeting dollars to the positions that matter the most and if you have to own a top player, you need to realize that going in and be prepared for which lower tier other players you will be able to pay for. Bidding always escalates on top players, well out of range of their proportional value. But they are the difference makers for your team, the question is if you can get solid in other areas on a smaller budget.

As your auction starts, your budget continues to evolve. If you snatch that first running back for $30 instead of your budgeted $25, you can quickly decide where the $5 must come from to stay on target. If you get him for only $23, another budgeted slot becomes $2 richer.

Another big help to a budget will be tiering positions into groups of similar players. If you see that your first two tiers of receivers are almost empty and you must have a starter, you can quickly decide when your options are being limited. Sometimes you have to join the madness and overpay if it means the overall effect to your team is still positive. Conversely and more importantly, tiering players is a good way to watch teams burn up their money on individual players when you know that three or four similar risk/reward options are still out there. When possible, let the spending sprees clear out the big spenders so long as you can still access the player value you need.

Most auction drafters show up with only a casual budget for positions and some team owners display the financial discipline of a sailor on shore leave. Create your budget, monitor it during the auction and you just might end up with Priest Holmes. Even if you don’t, you might end up with the trophy instead.