You can approach your Fantasy Football Auction in three different ways and I think taking the Studs and Duds approach makes the most sense. In general, taking a Studs-N-Duds approach means to me; spending all auction money on a few players and paying around a dollar for all other players to fill the rest your lineup. I think there are two other mindsets you can have going into the auction; the first one would be creating a balanced communist team where you don’t have any standouts and no real low end players. The third approach is basically having no approach and just flying by the seat of your pants. I don’t know if there are exact definitions for any of these approaches and there are of course varying degrees of all three, but going forward, this is my mindset when I speak to each. Also, regardless of your approach, there should be a certain degree of flexibility if things get out of hand; severe under or over spending compared to fair auction values. You might have to roll with it when that happens and flip your strategy. In general though, if everything is equal I think Studs-N-Duds is the way to go.
Let’s work our way from the bottom up. The “I have no strategy” approach requires almost zero discussion. Everyone knows the owners in their respective leagues who come in having just opened their fantasy magazine the night before and are mostly clueless. Let’s be honest though, we don’t mind these kinds of players. Hopefully they don’t get too lucky and just end up donating their buy in to the league. If you’re reading this article in June, chances are you are not this person.
If you actually do some research before your auction, chances are you might have talked yourself into the balanced team strategy at some point. While, I don’t think this strategy is a disaster like the “I have no strategy” approach, I do think it is flawed. The main issue I have with it is too much depth on a roster. One might say, what’s wrong with too much depth, my guys get hurt every year and I need solid backups. While I agree with that in theory, the problem lies in your lack of flexibility. I found this out first hand when I took this approach early in my auction career. You end up with such a stacked bench relative to everyone else; you’re completely handcuffed to make any moves. Simply put, you can’t make any additions via the waiver wire because you have no one to cut. Also, once the bye weeks start up, you will run into issues with filling positions you don’t have a backup at (probably kicker, defense, TE and maybe even QB depending on your bench size). So you then have to cut someone that you shouldn’t be cutting and then end up strengthening your opponent via waiver wire. Personally, I think a lot of the fun during the season is picking up players that come out of no where or have a lot of upside once a key starter gets injured. Last year nobody knew much about Jamaal Charles at the start of the season, but once he got the starting job, he was a guy you could ride to the championship. If you insist on creating a balanced team with depth, at least leave yourself one spot that you can cut without feeling too bad about it for a bye week pickup or a waiver wire gem.
The arguments against the balanced team approach end up being part of the reason why I think going in with the Studs-N-Duds (SND’s) approach is best. When you spend your money early, you have no choice but to be left with some crappy players that maybe don’t even belong on a roster. That’s OK though, you’ve given yourself the opportunity to go after that WR that just had a breakout game (see Miles Austin or Sidney Rice last year) and the potential to become a star the rest of the season. There are so many players that come out of the woodwork during the year due to players getting injured in front of them or someone who just emerges as a superior talent. When that happens, you will always have a shot to add these players because you have someone you can cut with a clear conscience. Sure you might miss on a few or many of your waiver wire pick ups, but the fact is you’ll be able to play it much more freely because you have bad players you can easily part with. It’s just like a sales rep and cold calling, numbers, numbers, numbers, the more clients called on the more they convert to customers. Having this increase flexibility and by the sheer number of waiver moves you are allowed to make, you’re bound to be able to land a couple players that pan out and when they do, all the better. Now you’ve just landed a waiver wire stud. Couple that with you’re pre-established studs you bought in the auction and you could be on your way for a run at the championship. Conversely, if you have too much of a balanced team, you’re much more reliant on the team you bought at the auction (that was based on preseason info and assumptions). Since you’re more vested in the players you have and can’t cut them, you’re limited in the amount of transactions you can make. Thus have a much lower chance of being successful in mining the waiver wire because you’re not getting enough good looks at players. Also, by going SND’s, you don’t get yourself into a bad spot where you’re cutting good talent just so you can field a starting position where you have no back up and don’t want to cut your starter.
For me though, the biggest reason to go SND’s; if you spend your money on the best players early, you are getting the difference makers on your team. Every team needs a homerun hitter or two that can go out and win you the week. By spending your money on two to three big name high value players, you’re setting yourself up for the opportunity to score big points each week. Those middle of the road guys just don’t quite provide the pop a big name can. If you take middle of the road talent, expect middle of the road results. Sure, you might get a bunch of steady guys and every team needs some of those, but to win week in week out you need someone who can drop a monster game. I’d rather have Chris Johnson and some schmoes than have a bunch of mid-tier talent because I know Chris Johnson will win me some weeks outright by himself even if surrounded by waiver wire talent. You can always find QB’s, WR’s, TE’s, K’s and Def’s on the waiver wire that are playable and maybe even have decent matchups. When sitting on a balanced team, you might get 40 points out of 2 RB’s and 2 WR’s and feel ok, but someone like a Chris Johnson or AP has the potential to put that up by themselves every week. Doesn’t it seem like a lot of years, the guy who wins the league or does really well in the regular season is someone who had a player that had an incredible season? While players definitely can come from no where (which you are now free to go after on waiver wire), the best players most often end up being the ones that were expensive at the auction.
So let’s say you got your studs and duds team and it’s not working; you’re not winning and you want to mix it up or you’ve taken multiple injuries to other positions. Providing your stud is performing, you can always sell him off in a 2 for 1 or 3 for 1 deal and get a bunch of fresh faces in the clubhouse. It’s funny because usually it’s the balanced team that is looking to trade to get the stud players. You never see the teams with the stud players out shopping them unless something awful has happened. So why not just pay for your studs right up front and build around them.
The only downside to the SND approach is injury and not having any trade value if your star(s) get injured. Truth is though, if one of your big horses goes down, your basically effed anyways. Even so, I’d argue that injuries are so unpredictable as far as who will get hurt and when, it’s just not worth building a backup plan for. Most championship teams aren’t won from someone’s backup plan if their starters got hurt. Some seasons you’re going to take more injuries than others. Sometimes you can manage through them, sometimes you can’t. But if you build a mediocre team to try to handle potential injuries, expect average results. Go big or go home.
While I think the right strategy coming into an auction is going SND’s, that’s not to say you should spend all your money at foolish auction prices. I know I’ve written about being flexible at the auction in the past. I still agree with that theory, because if the Studs are just way too outrageous priced, you can’t cripple your team by egregiously overspending. If that inflation does happen, you need to be flexible and acquire a more balanced team (and of course filling at least one roster spot with someone you can walk away from in 5 seconds flat if you smell a better player around the corner).
In general though, my mindset going into the auction is to get your studs early and be prepared to be an active manager who is always working the waiver wire to fill holes with solid prospects all season.