• Auction Draft Value Targets: Tips for the “Perfect” Draft

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    The "perfect" auction draft is achieved by discovering the optimal value targets through the proper budget blueprint. The question is: Which players fit the budget to achieve auction draft day dominance?

    An auction draft is like a "choose your own adventure" style of drafting where you fill a roster using a draft budget, leaving endless possibilities of how to construct a team. Before the draft, it is best to explore how to use your budget and maximize your season-long output.

    How does the perfect auction draft look? It's an absurd question because you can rarely determine season-long success by the draft alone. In a snake draft, an experienced drafter would refer to ADP data to provide an expectation gauge of player cost, which helps the drafter seek out the optimal player or position targets for each round given their draft slot.

    Baseline Auction Values

    The draft process is entirely different in auction leagues. It's wise for a drafter to seek out baseline auction values to gauge the expectation of literal player cost. Once you find the values, the budget plan begins with the ultimate question of "What is the ideal roster using the $200 budget?"

    This article will show you my process of breaking down the optimal auction draft targets to achieve the "perfect" draft using baseline auction values.

    The baseline values used are from the July 24, 2021, ESPN PPR positional rankings cheat sheet. For context, the values in that update were in response to the Michael Thomas and Cam Akers injury aftermath. For this exercise, I will formulate a 15-player roster using only the primary offensive positions: QB, RB, WR, and TE.

    The Ideal Roster ($200 budget)


    Joe Burrow $2

    Wide Receiver

    Calvin Ridley $35

    Mike Evans $24

    Tyler Lockett $15

    Cooper Kupp $15

    DeVonta Smith $4

    Mike Williams $2

    Tight End

    T.J. Hockenson $6


    Antonio Gibson $42

    David Montgomery $26

    Myles Gaskin $18

    Kareem Hunt $7

    Trey Sermon $1

    Tony Pollard $1

    Gus Edwards $1

    Why these players?

    As I survey the baseline auction values, what navigates my search is a blend of three specific player traits:

    1. Low or appealing relative positional cost.
    2. Projected high volume, such as target/opportunity share for TEs/WRs/RBs, or pass attempts for QBs.
    3. Quality opportunities, such as receiving targets from elite QBs or from teams projected to be in high passing situations.

    Traits in Action:

    A team with a projected poor defense could lead to the team playing from behind, creating a positive game script for QBs and pass-catchers for fantasy purposes. It could also mean rushing attempts behind an elite offensive line or a team with a projected strong defense.

    A projected poor defense could pave the way for neutral and positive game scripts that benefit the running game, resulting in a larger volume of rushing attempts. The players that have the best mix of these traits are the ones who I will prioritize to complete my "perfect" draft. How do these players fit those traits, you ask? Let's dive in!


    Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals, $2

    Joe Burrow appeared in 10 games and averaged 40 passing attempts per game. If he continued at that pace for the entire season, 640 pass attempts would have put him in the league's top spot, 14 more attempts above the actual leader, Matt Ryan (626).

    Cincinnati will again look to be a defensively struggling team, which should pave the way for Joe Burrow to repeat as a league pass attempts leader.

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    What excites me the most about Burrow is the impressive trio of WRs at his disposal — Tyler BoydTee Higgins, and former college teammate Ja'Marr Chase. Chase played a major role in helping Burrow break college football QB records in their 2019 National Championship-winning campaign.

    For only 1% of my auction budget, I am targeting a quarterback with top eight upside due to his pass attempts potential. Burrow and his WR arsenal could be garbage time monsters!

    Tight End:

    T.J. Hockenson, Detroit Lions, $6

    Franchise-altering changes swept over the Detroit Lions' organization after the 2020 season — a new general manager, head coach, and franchise quarterback, while losing their top two wide receivers to free agency. All of these changes benefit one player in particular: Tight End T.J. Hockenson.

    Hockenson was impressive in his 2020 breakout season, where he nearly doubled every statistical category for receiving (targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns) from his 2019 rookie season.

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    He finds himself in a position where he may lead the Lions in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. New starting quarterback, Jared Goff, excelled in Los Angeles, targeting the middle of the field, where Hockenson roams and feasts.

    For only 3% of my budget, Hockenson holds TE3 upside for only 25% of the cost of the baseline value of the pre-draft TE3.

    Running Backs:

    Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team, $42

    Gibson has the benefit of holding the lowest price of the true RB1 bunch. He displayed tremendous versatility and efficiency as a rookie. Increased volume is imminent with the support of a solid defense to keep the WFT in neutral to positive game scripts.

    David Montgomery, Chicago Bears, $26

    Training camps began on a pretty eventful note, and David Montgomery has become a significant benefactor of the early training camp news. He gets a general boost in value from me with the news of satellite RB Tarik Cohen beginning camp on the PUP list.

    Montgomery had an epic stretch of fantasy performances to end the season in 2020. He averaged 25 points per game, due in part to Tarik Cohen's absence. Since Cohen will be limited, at best, to start the 2021 season, I believe a hefty workload is in store for Montgomery.

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    Myles Gaskin, Miami Dolphins, $18

    Gaskin was a pleasant surprise for fantasy managers in the 2020 season. The Dolphins remained competitive with the support of their stout defense and mostly conservative offensive approach while favoring the use of a workhorse running back.

    If these factors remain for the 2021 season, the presumed running back starter Gaskin will immensely benefit as a solid FLEX play or a low-end RB2 option.

    Kareem Hunt, Cleveland Browns, $7

    Kareem Hunt represents the end of my RB2 tier, yet his baseline pre-draft value is that of a low-end FLEX or top of bench type of player. The value is too good to look over. In this scenario, he comes in as my teams' fourth RB, providing critical depth as the league will continue to navigate through the pandemic and the added week of the regular season.

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    Lottery ticket time!

    Trey Sermon, San Francisco 49ers, $1
    Tony Pollard, Dallas Cowboys, $1
    Gus Edwards, Baltimore Ravens, $1

    Pollard and Edwards are two of my favorite backups that legitimately have unique roles in their perspective offenses. They are very different players in very similar high-upside situations as part of elite offensive units.

    Edwards is a weekly goal-line and short-yardage back with game-closing ability behind a strong Baltimore defense and RB2 upside if starter J.K. Dobbins is to miss time. Pollard is a dynamic pass-catcher who shined brightly in week 15 against San Francisco, where he churned out a 30-point performance. These two RBs are the perfect draft day lottery tickets and are serviceable as deep league FLEX plays.

    As for Trey Sermon, he is my favorite rookie running back to target in drafts. The combination of the cost and landing spot makes him an attractive option.

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    HOT TAKE ALERT: Sermon has the potential to break out the way Jonathon Taylor did in 2020.

    Why? Because Sermon is a perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan's fantasy-friendly scheme and has already had reps with the first-team offense early in training camp. The 49ers have, perhaps, the best fantasy football playoff schedule. Their opponents for weeks 14-17 include Cincinnati, Atlanta, Tennessee, and Houston.

    If things break right for Sermon, he could seriously become a league winner in 2021! Another perfect $1 lottery ticket!

    My teams' RB group is now complete with 7 RBs for $96 draft dollars, 48% of my auction budget.

    Wide Receivers:


    Calvin Ridley, Atlanta Falcons, $35

    Calvin Ridley broke out gloriously in 2020. As predicted, the Falcons struggled on defense, which led Matt Ryan to lead the league in pass attempts. Like the Bengals, the Falcons remain a team whose passing attack will be friendly for fantasy football. Sign me up for the player who will lead this team in targets, Calvin Ridley!

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    Mike Evans, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, $24

    Mike Evans is a thousand receiving yard machine with significant touchdown upside and presents a safe weekly floor with serious boom potential any given week. Evans is a solid "set it and forget it" WR2 option with plenty of peace of mind for only 12% of the auction budget.

    Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks, $15
    Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams, $15

    Tyler Lockett and Cooper Kupp are both the presumed number two pass-catching options in their respective offenses. The unique thing about these two receivers is that they are paired with elite passers in Russell Wilson (Lockett) and Matthew Stafford (Kupp) and in what should be strong offenses. I think it would be rare to come away with both in a snake draft, but since this is an auction, I can and I will!

    DeVonta Smith, Philadelphia Eagles, $4

    The Eagles are a team in transition, and new head coach Nick Sirianni enters his first season as head coach with all eyes on him and the further development of second-year starting quarterback Jalen Hurts. The #10 overall pick in the 2021 draft, DeVonta Smith, joins a generally uninspiring group of wide receivers in Philadelphia.

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    The Eagles may often be playing from behind, with Smith leading the pass-catchers in targets and Jalen Hurts' second-year development playing a key factor in Smith's and Eagles' success in general. For only $4 or 2% of the auction budget, that could be a massive steal.


    Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers, $2

    To round out my wide receiver group, I set my sights on Mike Williams. Williams enters the 2021 season in a prime position to impress suitors around the league for his second contract. Justin Herbert, 2020 Rookie of the Year, was impressive and quickly filled the gap Phillip Rivers left.

    With Herbert being expected of greatness, I think Williams could significantly aid in Herbert's development. Mike Williams has top 20 and Mike Evans style upside; I predict Williams finishes second on the team in targets behind Keenan Allen.

    The WR group is now complete with six WRs for a price of $95 draft dollars at 47.5% of my auction budget.

    My ideal team is now complete. The total cost of draft dollars at each position: $95 WR (47.5%), $96 RB (48%), $6 TE (3%), $2 QB (1%), and with $1 (0.5%) leftover from the $200 budget.

    Auction Budget Blueprint

    In the 10 years that I have participated in competitive auction leagues, I have found the most critical pre-draft step is creating an auction budget plan. The budget will serve as a draft outline and define what percentage of your total budget you want to spend on each position to fill your roster.

    I use percentage markers for the universal implementation of any auction team budget amount. The standard is around $200, but it could be any amount ranging typically between $100-$1,000. Here is an example of what I believe to an ideal starting point for your auction budget blueprint:

    QB – 9%, RB – 40%, WR – 40%, TE – 9%, K+D/ST – 2%

    In a $200 auction budget, this equates to $18 on QB, $160 on RB and WR, $18 on TE, and $2 on your K and D/ST. However, it is best to be flexible, so you can easily adjust on the fly as the player market sets. This is the ideal blueprint — the price point at QB and TE gives you room to target a top-tier option if you desire it. This blueprint also allows for budget reallocation if the auction market for those positions is above your comfort level.

    Maximizing Budget Reallocation

    In this particular exercise, I deferred from my ideal blueprint because the values of Burrow and Hockenson stood out, allowing for the budget reallocation to fit Kupp and Hunt as luxury depth options for my roster. 

    From my auction drafting experience, baseline values cannot be guaranteed since auctions can be unpredictable. Remember, this exercise was to help you discover the optimal auction values at each position to complete the "perfect" draft. You now have the blueprint and the players to target. Now it is time to draft! Happy drafting!

    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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