2023 Fantasy Football Auction Strategy (Salary Cap): Developing a Game Plan (Pt. 2)

Now that the player prices are set up, it's time to develop the perfect game plan.

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 – How to Set 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 2023 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 12-team, full-PPR league.

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. The QB and TE positions are generally undervalued with solid options at nearly every price point. I would be okay chasing a top option or settling for a mid-tier option with upside, but I don’t want to completely punt either position and miss out on the value.
  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 the top five makes a ton of sense.
  3. In general, there seems to be a lot of value to extract from players going between $10-$20. The 24 players in this value range have an average positive site skew of $2 in column L, which means their true value is greater than their 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 column, second in from left, and filter) to spot any position-specific trends.


Summary: I prefer to leave the draft with one of the top nine projected guys: Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, Joe Burrow, Justin Fields, Justin Herbert, Deshaun Watson, or Trevor Lawrence. Watson will be my choice for this sample team because he is going significantly cheaper than most of the others and has more rushing upside than Lawrence.

In previous years, my auction advice was to spend as little as possible on two cheaper QBs and stream the position, but that strategy is much less effective today.

Elite quarterbacks who produce both on the ground and through the air are becoming more common, which makes streaming tougher. Even in snake draft leagues, I am increasingly open to paying up for an early or mid-round quarterback, but in an auction, it’s a no-brainer.

I have no problem targeting Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, or Joe Burrow in your auction draft if you can fit them into your budget, but they do have a real opportunity cost. Each is going for at least $24 on average, and Mahomes is much higher at $38.

However, you can still get potentially elite options in Deshaun Watson or Trevor Lawrence for an average of $5. I believe both have top-five potential within their range of outcomes for 2023.

As you can see below, the value of an elite QB is absurd relative to their cost. Watson or Lawrence could potentially provide you with an extra win for just a few bucks, which could be the difference between securing a first-round bye and getting knocked out in the first round of the fantasy playoffs.

Two-QB leagues are of course different – just adjust the settings in the tool to see their prices skyrocket.


Summary: Budget a huge portion for RBs. Pay up for McCaffrey or Ekeler. Try to secure at least one guy with high-end RB1 potential.

At first glance, many running backs are being overvalued by AAV, with a ton of negative site skew towards the top. It may seem like the optimal strategy here would be to punt the position and stick with cheap options like Alexander Mattison, but our goal is to draft players with league-winning upside.

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.

Your only real chance to draft a league-winning running back is in the first two rounds, so I want at least one guy in this range. If the price was right, I would even consider drafting both Austin Ekeler and Christian McCaffrey since they are the clear top options at the position, but that won’t be realistic in most drafts.

If you miss out on the top guys, Bijan Robinson, Derrick Henry, and Alvin Kamara are all solid alternatives with a slightly negative site skew, but significant upside. Rachaad White is a nice value if you’re looking to save money. Second-year backs typically make a leap, and White is an excellent pass-catcher.

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.


Summary: If you can afford one top WR, go for it. But generally, 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” like Michael Thomas or underappreciated young guys like Quentin Johnston.

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.

Pairing a high-level RB like McCaffrey or Ekeler with an elite WR, and then loading up on your favorite receivers in the WR20-WR30 range seems like a solid strategy here. In general, I would prefer to invest in as many elite assets as I can fit on my team without leaving starting spots to terrible players.

Since mid-tier receivers like Amari CooperChris GodwinChristian Watson, Mike Evans, and DeAndre Hopkins 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 Cooper Kupp makes sense here.


Summary: Tight end was a wasteland outside of the top guys in 2022, and 2023 could be similar. Darren Waller looks like the top target on his team, and he would be my value pick here if I can’t get one of the top guys.

All tight ends have fairly large site skews, meaning the position is undervalued in general. You can build a team around almost any option, but the goal is to draft high-upside players. Darren Waller is my favorite target because he is affordable at only a $9 AAV, and he also projects to be the top target in the Giants’ passing attack. We have seen Waller put up elite seasons before, and I believe the injury risk is more than priced in.

If you miss out on Waller, Kyle Pitts is another intriguing upside option, although he has an extremely low floor. Travis Kelce is an elite player, but his price tag is sky-high. If I was going for an elite option, I’d rather have Mark Andrews and put the roughly $33 savings toward better running backs and receivers. Andrews outscored Kelce in 2021, so Kelce being over twice as expensive seems a little aggressive to me.

If you miss out on all of these guys, you can technically stream tight end, but doing so is very difficult because the player pool is shallow. I don’t love any particular late-round guys this year, so I would try to avoid this strategy.


After breaking down the data by position, my initial plan would be to draft Watson or Lawrence at QB, a high-end running back paired with a cheaper option, an elite receiver with two other mid-tier guys, and Waller at tight end. A sample starting lineup I like would be something like this:

QB: Deshaun Watson $5

RB: Austin Ekeler $63

RB: Rachaad White $14

WR: Cooper Kupp $58

WR: Amari Cooper $21

Flex: Mike Evans $13

TE: Darren Waller $9

Total: $183

Note that this sample team is for a 12-team PPR league. Your league might be different, but you can still use the same process to generate a sample team that is realistic for your league.

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 $17 to draft a few bench players I like. I usually like to spend about $180 on my starting lineup, but I am okay going a bit over, especially since I am planning on getting two extremely high-end players. 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 2023 Fantasy Football Auctions. Don’t miss a single part:


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