How To Dominate a Fantasy Football Auction Draft (Pt. 2): Developing a Game Plan

We're here to help you develop an auction draft strategy.

If you haven’t read part 1 of this series, please click here. Part 1 includes an overview of my fantasy football auction draft philosophy, plus an amazing Excel tool to help you set the perfect player prices.

Part 1: How To Dominate a Fantasy Football Auction Draft – Setting Player Prices
Part 3: How To Dominate a Fantasy Football Auction Draft – Budgeting Audibles for Every Scenario
Part 4: How To Dominate a Fantasy Football Auction Draft – In-Draft Strategy & Tips

Now that you’ve set the perfect 2021 fantasy football auction player prices — customized with your league settings/history and value-based drafting — it’s time to come up with a league-winning auction game plan. Below, we use our pricing tool to form a blueprint, analyzing how to attack and budget for each position.


After inputting my league rules and site-specific numbers, I first like to look at the Auction sheet for a few minutes. Scroll through the list and see if any of the values are particularly different from what you were expecting. You will probably find a few that pop out. 

All the following screenshots (zoom in) and analysis are based on a 10-team half PPR league on ESPN. Your league might be different, so the goal of this series is to teach you how to analyze any set of data and come up with your own conclusions. Read part 1 to learn how to customize the tool to your league settings.

Three things jump out at me:

  1. Christian McCaffrey looks like a HUGE value. Even though projections will not perfectly reflect reality, McCaffrey still has a massive $20 margin of safety between his projected value and ESPN Average Auction Value (AAV), and we have all seen McCaffrey’s earth-shattering upside.
  2. Finding league-winning players is much easier in the first round of your draft, so grabbing 1-2 of the top-ranked “sure things” in this range makes a ton of sense. McCaffrey makes a lot of sense, but don’t be afraid to target McCaffrey and one additional top-tier stud as long as you’re getting decent value
  3. In general, there seems to be a lot of value to extract from players going between $10-$20. The 23 players in this value range have an average positive site skew of over $2 in column L, which means their true value is greater than their ESPN AAV. Even if you grab two studs, you should have room to add a few players in this range.

After scanning the data overall, I like to filter the Auction sheet by position (see: POS Tab, second in from left, and filter) to spot any position-specific trends.

Wolf Note: Based on my personal projections, McCaffrey is worth over $80 and more than $20 more valuable than the next closest (Cook). I fully agree with Jackson in breaking the bank to get him, and figuring the rest out from there.


Summary: Capitalize on the value of Allen, Lamar, Kyler, or Dak if you have the budget and can get them for a reasonable price. If not, grab a couple of cheap options with upside and stream.


QB Streaming is a great way to save on money, for similar fantasy points. Most savvy owners “stream” QB based on matchups, rather than lock in a single player. Except for the truly elite, streaming usually generates more QB points over the course of the season than sticking with the same guy each week.

This decreases the value of top QBs because of the opportunity cost. You can almost always get mid to low-end QB1 production from two cheap options. This year, I modified the model to account for streaming QBs. According to FantasyPros, the combination of Jalen Hurts and Trevor Lawrence projects to score 19.5 fantasy points per game, about the same as Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers over the season.

You might not be able to get the exact combination of Hurts and Lawrence, but you should pretty easily be able to secure a pair of QBs that project to score at least 19 points per game essentially for free in a 10-team league, according to FantasyPros projections. Because of this, I added an artificial “floor” of 19.0 points per game for 10-team, single QB leagues. QBs that project under this average have little auction value because you can get an equivalent pair of streamers for free.

This “floor” changes based on league size. Two-QB leagues are of course different – just adjust the settings in the tool to see their prices sky-rocket.

Most likely, you’ll already have some players on your team by the time the quarterbacks get nominated. If you’ve already used most of your budget on CMC and another stud, paying up for a “onesie” QB position can really hurt your auction flexibility, and you should grab a couple of free streamers.


However, if you have extra money available, other mid-tier QBs like Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, and Lamar Jackson, and Dak Prescott all look like solid values and all have massive upside.

While he is a great player, avoid overpaying for Patrick Mahomes. He is the only top QB with a negative site skew, and you can find better value elsewhere. Also, avoid overpaying for low-end QB1s. Either pay up for Allen, Murray, Lamar, or Dak if you have the money or take a stab at a couple of streamers with upside like Hurts and Lawrence.

Wolf’s Take: I agree on paying up for two first-round talents, including McCaffrey, which means I will definitely be saving at QB. Ryan Fitzpatrick should cost you no more than $1, and I love his upside. I believe one, if not both, of Trey Lance and Justin Fields will win leagues, but they may be a bit buzzy come your draft and could sneak into overpriced range fast compared to a snake. My guess is someone from the Stafford – Brady – Tannehill tier will go for $4 or less. Snag them, a rookie, and/or Fitz, and you’ll be golden.


Summary: Budget a huge portion for RBs. Pay up for McCaffrey. Try to secure at least two guys with high-end RB1 potential.

At first glance, the running back position seems fairly valued by ESPN drafters with a mix of positive and negative site skew. McCaffrey stands out as the best value and someone I would target. The mid-tier RB1s seem to be the most overvalued, but I see a lot of value everywhere else. Given this data, it would be extremely hard for me to leave the draft without McCaffrey. Even though nobody has a higher average value on ESPN, McCaffrey’s ceiling and floor are being undervalued.

Even if all players were valued perfectly by the site I was playing on, I still would try to target at least one top back because my preferred strategy at running back is bell cow or bust. I want players who have the best chance of dominating their team’s rushing and receiving share.

Running back production also tends to drop off more quickly than wide receiver production as you move down the list of players, so locking up two elite backs gives your team a massive advantage at the most important position in fantasy. Ideally, I would target another back in the RB1 range like Aaron Jones or Joe Mixon to pair with McCaffrey because that is where the most favorable values lie.

High-end backs are very expensive, but I am willing to spend on them because I know I can find cheaper players at other positions to fill out my roster. If you play in a larger league, two elite backs might be too expensive, so I encourage you to download the tool and check out custom values based on your league settings. Guys like Mike Davis, Chase Edmonds, and Travis Etienne look like nice values as your third running back, or even your second back if you play in a deeper league.

Wolf’s Take: Fully agree — unless you are taking the plunge on Davante Adams or Travis Kelce, two huge edges at their respective positions, to pair with CMac. Those guys, and maybe Tyreek Hill or Stefon Diggs, are the only players I’d forego my “Bellcow Breeding” strategy for.  More likely, I’m going for horses. In Snakes, you likely can’t pair CMac with Antonio Gibson or Najee Harris. You can and should create such a monster, however, in auction. Round out the stable with whoever goes too cheap among Damien Harris, Mike Davis, and Raheem Mostert.

You can fill in QB, WRs, and TE given all the depth at those spots


Summary: After paying up for RBs, target the mid-tier WRs, finding 5-6 you’d accept as your Top-3 WRs and plucking the top values. Then, load up on high-upside, low-cost “Penny Stocks” or underappreciated upside veterans like Mike Williams and Marvin Jones.

Because the wide receiver position is deeper than running back, drafting a receiver to start in your flex spot is typically the best strategy in full-PPR leagues… if you don’t secure three bellcows per The Wolf’s recommendation.

However, all screenshots in this article use half-PPR scoring, and we saw some good values on cheap running backs, so you could go either way in this case. Last year, these cheaper running backs were priced much less favorably. Drafters might be overreacting to the many articles on the running back dead zone, so don’t be afraid to flex a running back this year if you get good value.

Investing in high-level assets like McCaffrey at running back and loading up on your favorite receivers in the WR11-WR25 range seems like a solid strategy here. In general, I would prefer to invest more assets in the running back position even if the site AAV perfectly matched the real value for every player.

Since the top backs and mid-tier receivers like Amari Cooper, Tyler Lockett, Cooper Kupp, and Tee Higgins also have favorable site skews, building a team around these players is even more enticing. However, if you love one of the top receivers and prefer to only spend on one top back, adding a top receiver like Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, or Calvin Ridley makes sense here.

Wolf’s Take: Mid-tier WRs are LOADED with upside this year. CeeDee Lamb at $16 would be highway robbery. I have both Rams WRs projected for Top-12 finishes with Stafford, so $20 or under would be fantastic for either. In the $10-15 range, Brandon Aiyuk or Tee Higgins could feast. Based on these prices, you could spend ~$50 on a Lamb, Kupp, Higgins trio while still securing two horses. Do that. Now.


Summary: Tight end was a wasteland outside of the top guys in 2020, and 2021 could be similar. George Kittle and Darren Waller are screaming values here. They are as close to must-buys as you can get in an auction draft.

Other than McCaffrey at running back, George Kittle and Darren Waller have the two largest site skews of all players, meaning they are the best value. They are clearly mispriced, and you almost have to get one of them if they go anywhere near this AAV in your draft. We will go over budgeting in more detail in part 3, but I highly recommend budgeting the roughly $25 it will take to secure an elite tight end here.

Mark Andrews and TJ Hockenson also look like solid values if you overspent at other positions before tight ends are nominated, but I would still prefer to leave my draft with Kittle or Waller. Travis Kelce is an elite player, but his price tag is sky-high. I’d much rather take the value on Kittle or Waller and put the $30 savings towards better running backs and receivers.

If you miss out on all of these options, you can technically stream tight end, but doing so is very difficult because the player pool is shallow. A more viable strategy is to draft 2-3 high-variance players, hold onto them for a couple of weeks, and drop the ones who don’t perform. Some names that fit the bill are Noah Fant, Tyler Higbee, and Robert Tonyan. Irv Smith Jr. and Adam Trautman can almost certainly be had for a dollar as well. This strategy certainly has risk, but it only costs bench space and is much less risky than drafting a single unproven tight end and relying on them alone.

Wolf’s Take: If I’m paying up for two stallion RBs, plus securing upside “midround WRs” for a corps I like, then TE is probably getting the shaft like QB. Fortunately, these prices project Logan Thomas to go for $1. I absolutely love him, and think he should be closer to the $10 range. If you can sneak out of your draft with him for $5 or under, you’ve nailed the position. Otherwise, take some stabs at Jared Cook, Gerald Everett, and Cole Kmet for $1.


After breaking down the data by position, my initial plan would be to draft two high-end running backs, Kittle or Waller at tight end, three mid-tier wide receivers (with one higher-end guy if possible), and a quarterback after that. A sample starting lineup I like would be something like:

QB: Jalen Hurts $2

RB: Christian McCaffrey $67

RB: Joe Mixon $33

WR: Calvin Ridley $34

WR: Tyler Lockett $13

Flex: Tee Higgins $7

TE: George Kittle $23

Total: $179

If you don’t like the particular players I selected, that’s okay!

You can swap them for comparable alternatives and end up with a team you like better.

Similarly, if a few players go for more than expected, I can plug-in alternatives. This team should leave me with around $20 to draft a few bench players I like. I am unlikely to finish my draft with this exact roster, but I can build a similar team in most drafts.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of the series, where I outline how to develop a more comprehensive draft plan to prepare for any draft day scenario. The team I put together above would work if everything goes according to plan, but no auction draft goes exactly according to plan. Backup plans are extremely important because you don’t want to be in panic mode when your only plan fails.

Our Auction Series is all you need to dominate your 2021 Fantasy Football Auctions. Don’t miss a single part:


  • I am currently working as an accountant and have been obsessed with fantasy football for over 10 years. My specialties are auction draft strategy and discovering unique team management strategies to maximize winning odds. Thanks for reading!


Most Popular

Related Posts