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Auction Draft Budget Busters: Players to Fade

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As fantasy draft season soon approaches, it’s important to recognize which players are best to avoid at their ADP/cost.


The purpose of this article will be to unveil my auction drafting player fades based on their baseline auction values. As I explained in my Auction Draft Targets article, every dollar of your budget matters in an auction draft The task at hand is to now discover which players to avoid in your auction draft to maximize the potential of your budget.


Baseline Value Context

The baseline auction values I will be referring to are from the ESPN PPR auction values last updated on Tuesday, August 24. For proper context, this was the day that Jacksonville Jaguars RB Travis Etienne was put on season-ending IR. That development caused several rankings changes, especially at the RB position.

If you read my auction draft targets article, you would know the three specific player traits I look for — high volume, quality opportunity, and appealing relative positional cost. However, in this article I’m identifying my auction value fades.

 

Player Traits to Avoid

1) Poor quality of touches
2) Poor projected opportunity
3) High price or unappealing relative positional cost

For the purposes of an auction draft, these players stuck out like a sore thumb. Let’s dig into my auction draft fades at baseline values starting with the Running Back position.

 

Running Backs

Joe Mixon, Cincinnati Bengals, $33

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All the reasons why I’m high on Joe Burrow (in theory) are the same reasons why I’m low on Joe Mixon. The Cincinnati defense is projected to be a struggling unit while in a high-scoring division. Another knock on the Bengals is the quality of their offensive line — rated 25 out of 32, according to Pro Football Focus. Bad defense and a bad offensive line is a recipe for RB disappointment.

Mixon’s positive traits are projected volume and playing ability. He is a do it all RB who projects to have the rare but legitimate three-down role. My biggest fear with Mixon is that the quality of his touches will be extremely poor. The Bengals’ futures betting line for season win total is at a very sad 6.5. Despite the low season win projection, what we want to consider most is what will happen week to week.

It is entirely possible the Bengals will be playing from behind often, which is an avoidable scenario for an RB you are paying low-end RB1 price for. I fear the return on investment will be lacking as Mixon’s desired volume will be highly inefficient while being touchdown-dependent on a week-to-week basis.

For $1 less, I’d prefer to target Kansas City Chiefs’ RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire. Edwards-Helaire will be the featured RB in an elite offense, often playing in positive or neutral game scripts which will provide a higher percentage of quality touches.

Miles Sanders, Philadelphia Eagles, $25

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I really like Miles Sanders the player, however for a baseline value of $25 (or 1/8 of a $200 dollar budget) I think money is wiser spent on a different caliber RB2. Sanders may have some boom weeks as his efficiency will be trending up starting alongside mobile QB Jalen Hurts.

However, the Eagles still have Boston Scott and drafted pass-catching specialist RB Kenneth Gainwell in the 2021 draft. Scott and Gainwell could limit Sanders’ opportunity ceiling on a team that may very well may struggle defensively. Like with Cincinnati, I am more interested in the pass catchers. For a safer RB2 option, I’d look to the Seattle Seahawks’ RB Chris Carson for a baseline value of only $15.

Raheem Mostert, San Francisco 49ers, $3 and Melvin Gordon, Denver Broncos, $2

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I find that Mostert and Gordon have a lot in common going into this season. Essentially, they are quality veterans who I could easily see their opportunities be minimized by their rookie teammates. There is certainly potential that these two players will have an opportunity at early season success.

Although I struggle to see the scenario where Mostert and Gordon handle an appealing workload beyond being a FLEX (<15 touches) play, I would opt to start a WR since there is a larger amount WRs I would feel comfortable not only starting but also drafting at that price same point.

If the rookies (49ers RB Trey Sermon and Broncos RB Javonte Williams) earn more offensive opportunities, the veterans become roster cloggers. A roster clogger is a player you can’t start in your lineup nor use well in trades as the value window will completely shut.

The worst part is that Mostert and Gordon are tough to cut from your team because they hold upside in the scenario that the rookies struggle or get hurt. Let someone else in your league deal with that issue — I say aim for the upside of the rookies!

Ronald Jones and Leonard Fournette, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $2 each

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For these prices, my preference would be to target high upside handcuffs in Tony Pollard, Gus Edwards, or AJ Dillon.

The difference between Tampa Bay and Houston is that the Buccaneers have a strong defense and a fantasy-friendly offense. The Texans, well, more on them below. The main issue is the projected workload between Jones and Fournette. Fournette is more of a power back useful at the goaline where Jones is a bit more versatile and better athletically which has resulted in big ability.

Another issue is that Tampa Bay signed Gio Bernard specifically to fill Head Coach Bruce Arians’ coveted pass-catching RB role for the offense. This is a prime example of a backfield to avoid in the draft but a target to acquire as the season unfolds granted that clarity of workload is presented and viable for your roster.

David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay, Houston Texans, $1 and $2

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Let’s address the Houston Texans running game. Here is what I’ll say; I really like David Johnson and Phillip Lindsay as pure football players, but in addition to signing Lindsay the Texans also felt the need to add Mark Ingram and Rex Burkhead.

The Texans backfield is a triple whammy: crowded house with unknown opportunity share, Texans future wins betting line is at a pathetic four with ensuing negative game scripts, which will lead to poor quality of touches. Only in the deepest of leagues should you even consider having them on your draft board.

Even in shallow leagues, I fear that the upside is minimal and the trade value is nonexistent. Let someone else draft them and deal with that mess. Aim for upside!

 

Tight Ends

Travis Kelce, Kansas City Chiefs, $58

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Don’t stop reading now! hear me out. I get it, the argument for Kelce is that he plays with the best QB in one of the leagues’ best offenses while consistently accumulating WR1 output. This represents a massive advantage at the Tight End position, for sure!

The only problem is that his baseline value is $10 more than the top-priced WR, Davante Adams at $48. Kelce’s price point of $58 is over 25% of the total budget! With that type of budget sacrifice, I’d prefer to pass and aim to acquire the perennial TE1 through mid-season trade.

George Kittle, San Francisco 49ers, $28

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Again, hear me out. This is not a knock on Kittle at all, I’m just pointing out that the price point doesn’t make a ton of sense. Look at Raiders TE Darren Waller — for only $4 more you are getting the clear-cut top target share leader and play-maker of an offense that is going to pass the ball a lot.

Kittle is a phenomenal player and fantasy assest but his weekly target and opportunity ceiling gets capped with both Brandon Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel on the field. Kittle was the de facto target hog similar to Darren Waller before Aiyuk was drafted.

The premium price is considerable only when the target share is elite; I’m hedging that the target share will become a disappointment relative to his cost. It is also important to mention the QB battle ensuing in San Francisco. Jimmy Garoppolo looks to be the early season starter, but I’m also baking in some risk with the possibility of growing pains with rookie Trey Lance since he struggled with consistency in the preseason.

A better option I would consider is the TE who is directly below Kittle in the ranks, Baltimore Ravens’ Mark Andrews. Andrews holds a more budget friendly cost of $9 with tremendous target share upside. The Ravens’ first-round WR Rashod Bateman will have a slow start to the season with a core injury and Andrews has already shown to be a favorite target for Lamar Jackson.

Kittle and Andrews are part of attractive fantasy offenses, but Andrews has a clearer path to elite target share and better QB stability at a more appealing price!

 

Wide Receivers

Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos, $10; JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers, $9, and Will Fuller, Miami Dolphins, $6

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Courtland Sutton holds a lot of risks, as he is coming back from a torn ACL and returns into a shaky QB situation. Teddy Bridgewater got the starter nod over Drew Lock. The receiver who benefits the most from this decision is Jerry Jeudy. Even though $10 is a fair price for Sutton, Jeudy is much more appealing for $7.

Similar to the Sutton and Jeudy dynamic, there are two more teammate discrepancies I want to expose.  Juju Smith-Schuster at $9 and Chase Claypool at $7 and Will Fuller at $6 and DeVante Parker at $2.

Comparing Pittsburgh WRs Smith-Schuster and Claypool, for $2 less I want to hedge on the upside of Chase Claypool and his big play ability! Comparing Miami WRs Fuller and Parker, for $4 less I’d prefer Parker.

Fuller will unfortunately begin the season missing Week 1 as he completes his suspension from the 2020 season. Another issue is that Tua Tagovailoa played primarily the role of game manager during his rookie season. I am questioning the opportunity for Fuller to thrive in an offense that played conservatively and leaned on their defense to win games.

This is the total opposite of his appeal with his former team and the gun-slinging DeShaun Watson. I am in a state of “wait and see” with the Miami pass-catchers but would take a chance on DeVante Parker since he has the lowest baseline auction cost. Plus, he will actually be on the field in Week 1.

Michael Thomas, New Orleans Saints, $4

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The situation surrounding Michael Thomas is tricky. Thomas is an elite talent who receives an elite target share. The problem is that major questions linger regarding the exact time frame in which he will be able to return to the field (from the poorly timed ankle surgery in early August) but also whether he will be able to play at a high enough level that is feasible for your fantasy teams’ success.

I advise removing him from your draft board and purely look to acquire him via trade especially if the team who is holding him is performing poorly and you are in a position to make a playoff run. The correct play is to involve Michael Thomas as part of your end game, not as your draft foundation.

Marquise Brown, Baltimore Ravens, $3

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The young boom and bust WR is easily avoidable in weekly lineup leagues until clarity of a consistent target share is evident. For the same cost, I would pivot to his older cousin; Antonio Brown.

Brown thrived with Tom Brady in the Tampa Bay offense as they made their way to win the Super Bowl. As far as the Brown family cousins are concerned, Antonio is the better auction draft investment as he maintained nearly 8 targets per game in 8 game appearances with the Buccaneers 2020. I will take the safety of the target floor compared to the volatility of Marquise Brown.


Optimal Roster Foundation

Most of these players I would have more confidence targeting in a snake draft format. Since league-wide results of an auction draft can be volatile, I believe these players are avoidable in an auction draft.

I ultimately worry that you will be left disappointed if you make room for these players in your budget! Always remember that just because a player is unappealing to your draft plan doesn’t mean that they aren’t worth acquiring. I advise setting the optimal foundation through the draft but be open to pivoting to other avenues once the season starts and new information is presented!

I hope you feel prepared for what to look out for during your auctions drafts! Good luck!


Thank you for reading! You can find more of my work here. Feel free to reach out anytime on Twitter at @FantasyLadder for any fantasy football-related advice, questions, or discussion so you can climb the ladder of fantasy football success with me.

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