Fantasy Football 2011: Bid High on Auction Leagues

Forget IDP, PPR, and keepers.  The hottest thing in fantasy these days are auction leagues.

Since I’m behind the times and have never partaken in auctions (beyond eBay), I enlisted the help of a man of an auction league expert, Paul Charchian.  Charchian is the President of the Fantasy Sports Trade Association and runs, LeagueSafe, a nifty service that handles all your league’s financials.

Charchian is not only an expert in auctioning; he’s also a pioneer.  After his first auction draft in 1995, he began writing about the then new system in Fantasy Football Weekly magazine. The publication was the first to list auction values for players and mock auctions.

I caught up with Charchian recently to get his explanation on how fantasy leagues work.  His message is pretty clear: Once you go auction, you never go back.  Here’s why.


Melissa Jacobs:  Please describe the mechanics of an auction league.

Paul Charchian:  The way an auction league works is every team starts with fictional dollars; this has nothing to do with your real life entry fee.  I recommend  a $100 or $200 draft.  What happens is in a typical league players take turns drafting players.  Here, you don’t draft players but you take turns throwing players up for auction, and then you also throw out a dollar amount as the starting point you’re willing to bid on the player.  Say if you, Melissa bid $25 on Roddy White and he goes for that amount, your cap is reduced by $25. Simple enough.  Of critical importance is that you have at $1 left because you need to have that to be able to fill out your roster.

We recommend you have someone act as an auctioneer, which will simplify your auction a lot. They’d give the traditional “Going once, going twice…” count and when the player’s maximum value is reached, he or she will call it

MJ:  So the auctioneer is that authentic?

PC:  Oh yes, he or she will always say “going once, going twice.” A good auctioneer will get into this cadence where everyone knows how much time they have.  The first time it might be a speedy “Goingoncegoingtwice”and the next time it’s “Going…once….going…twice.”  You don’t need a professional auctioneer, just someone willing to drink a couple beers during your draft.


MJ:  Clearly auction leagues are designed as an in-person experience.  Is it realistic in this day and age to hold in-person drafts?

PC:  It is for auctions.  But I will mention CBS, ESPN and Yahoo all have excellent online auction tools.  But the vast majority of auctions are held in person.  Where it gets tricky is an in-person draft where one person is on speakerphone.  It’s a bad scenario and one you’ll probably want to avoid.


MJ:  Describe the rationale behind auction leagues.

PC:  Team owners have the opportunity to get every player.  Right now, say Adrian Peterson is the #1 pick, there’s one or maybe two people that even have a crack at him.  You have virtually no chance of drafting elite level guys if you draft at the wrong end of the first round.

And it opens up all kinds of strategies. You get to think tactically about how you want to build your roster, much like an NFL team does.  Do I want to base my roster on two stud running backs even though it will cost me most of my cap?   If you want to have Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster, you can do that in an auction. You can never do that in a draft.  It unlocks all kinds of strategy.


MJ:  Can you describe the various strategies?

PC:  First, you have what I call the pyramid approach – you get a couple of guys that are very expensive, maybe one guy who’s middle-tiered, then all bargains after that.  As opposed to a domino approach, which to go for a lot of middle-tiered guys.  They say ‘I’ m not spending 25% of my cap on any one player; I’m going to spend 15% of my cap on a bunch of guys and go to war with those guys, knowing I have a lot of depth.  Some people just come in looking for value.  They aren’t going to be beholden to any one thing.  When they sense bidding is teetering out on someone worth a lot more, they’re jumping in.

MJ:  What happens on the waiver wires, in-season?

PC:  In-season I think it’s even more compelling to use blind bidding for player distribution.  It works similarly to auction drafts, where you give an amount; say $100, to each team owner to spend over the course of the year. They bid on the free agents they want each week.  Traditionally we reward the worst teams in the waiver wire and I think that’s messed up.  You’re almost better off losing Week 1.  This means that regardless of record everyone’s got the same crack at free agents.  I really think this is the most equitable way to handle in-season transactions.


MJ:  How would you rank the difficulty of auction leagues versus other formats?

PC:  It only affects the player distribution.  It’s a little more complicated than a draft and if your goal is to drink seven beers, you probably want to stick with the draft model and not the auctions.  But the rationale for the auction is so airtight and almost nobody goes back to standard drafts in my experience.