Friday, September 2, 2011

Football Auction

God, another dollar. And then another. Then a few more. It was so much, was it worth it? My wallet was emptying faster and faster. But I couldn't just stand there.

I needed a freaking running back!

My fantasy football league switched to an auction style format last year. After trying it, I've become convinced it is absolutely the only way to go. Now that most of the readers have realized this is about fantasy football, I'm sure most have already X'ed out their browser (particularly the wife), but I still care a lot about it (much to her dismay). But doing an auction draft is just so much fun, maybe it requires a bit of an explanation.

In fantasy football, you build a team of NFL players who, based on their play each week, earn you points. Things like touchdowns are really good and earn a bunch of points. Other things like fumbles are bad, they can lose you points. Each week you face off against a different opponent from your league, one-on-one, and try to set the best lineup to get more points than your opponent (which can make for good trash talking).

The draft is how you build your roster, and in an auction format, you're awarded a certain budget to start with, and as each player gets nominated by someone in the league, you have the freedom to bid however much you'd like to have them on your team. It opens up a whole new world for fantasy football players who are used to randomly ordered drafts, where you just take turns selecting, in that you are now free to pursue all kinds of strategies and aren't limited by your draft slot.

Want to build around a franchise quarterback? Or two stud wide receivers? Or maybe a great kicker? (Hint: Don't try that last one) But that's the idea, that you have so much more flexibility in what you can do and how you can build your team. (As an aside, our league also adds some more complexity by adding 'keepers', players you can keep on your team from last year's roster for a certain raise over the price you paid last year. Again, it opens more strategic options)

Only one thing annoyed me about last year's draft, and all fantasy football drafts, was that I couldn't remember exactly how I approached it. I know how I felt about some players, and why I tried to acquire others, but the memory was a little hazy and probably falls victim to revisionist history (e.g., of course I didn't pick that guy who ended up sucking, I knew he would be terrible) Well, I don't want that this time. So I thought it would be helpful to quickly blog up some notes on how the draft went. Not for you guys, who almost assuredly won't care, but for me. If nothing else, it'll keep me honest and I can't pretend like I knew Felix Jones was going to rush for 2000 yards.

Below I've listed out the draft picks in the order they were selected, complete with the price someone ended up paying for them. I've also included my recollections, and also bolded the players which I took.

A couple of notes. You'll notice some major players aren't listed here (Tom Brady for example). That's because of those keepers that I mentioned. In my case, I kept Michael Vick ($5), Mike Wallace ($23), and Mike Williams ($5), so I already had a quarterback and two wide receivers. Also, our league is slightly different from most in that we are what's called a PPR league. PPR refers to point-per-reception, which means that each catch by a running back or receiver is worth a fantasy point, whereas in many leagues they are worth nothing. Just mentioning because it skews the pricing on some of those players (those with lots of catches are more valuable obviously).

What I mean by all this is, don't call me totally crazy.

Pick Player Cost

1 Rashard Mendenhall (Pit - RB) $38 - The first person up for auction is an interesting case, as no relative prices have been set. There's a school of thought that you should definitely try to buy a big name guy if available early in the draft, because bidders might be skittish about paying a lot. That may be what happened here for Mendenhall, who's not typically thought of as a top 5 guy but had a good year last year. I don't like him because a) he's a Steeler, b) he had a ton of carries last year and may have a greater likelihood of getting hurt, and c) I don't think he gets a lot of receptions (which is a big theme for me). So I passed entirely.

2 Adrian Peterson (Min - RB) $52 - AP is a well known fantasy stud. He's been very consistent, always rushing for a ton of yards. But again, not a big receiving threat, so I didn't really want to jump this early. The guy I really wanted was Ray Rice, who hadn't been put up yet. Rice always catches a lot of passes, and will also rush for a bunch of yards on a decent team. Let's cut to the chase, I had a Rice crush.

3 Chris Johnson (Ten - RB) $47 - Big play threat, but was holding out this year (and then agreed to a contract after we were done). Again, I know he's a great RB, but I wanted more of a pass catching threat.

4 Drew Brees (NO - QB) $32 - Now a player I was finally happy to see. While I coveted Rice, I also wanted everyone else to spend as much as possible to leave me in a position to outbid others for him. To me, the key to that was nominating players at positions I already had. Brees was a textbook case of that, given I already had Vick. I was thrilled to see him out there with other people bidding on him.

5 Calvin Johnson (Det - WR) $39 - Another non-running back at a position I already had two players! This was actually my nomination, and I threw him out because I knew we didn't have a lot of available WRs in our league. I was thrilled to see the bidding get to $39, thinking that Rice would be the next RB available and I would be in a good position to grab him (long story short, I had one of the highest budgets because of my cheap keepers)

6 Maurice Jones-Drew (Jac - RB) $32 - A bit of a surprise to see him nominated, as he's lower on the rankings. He's a guy I desperately wanted last year and wasn't able to get (hint: he catches a lot of passes). But there are concerns about his health, and the Jaguars aren't particularly good, so I didn't really want to grab him, and again, I was waiting on Rice.

7 Jason Witten (Dal - TE) $19 - A great tight end, but man, I wasn't sure I wanted to spend a lot of money on a tight end when I could get one really cheaply much later in the draft. But damn, I think he's going to have a pretty good year. He's also a Cowboy though, and owning him in previous years was never fun to see him against the Eagles.

8 Ray Rice (Bal - RB) $71 - The guy I was waiting and saving for, and I couldn't bring myself to get him. That's not a misprint. He went for over $70, and by the way, our standard budget is $200. The bidding got really crazy, and while I gained infamy in our league for paying around that much for him last year, I couldn't bring myself to do it again. He had been the centerpiece of my strategy, but apparently he got around. I still think he'll have a great year, just sadly, not for me.

9 Nate Kaeding (SD - K) $2 - Yeah, a kicker. Actually not a bad strategy to nominate one and try and buy them for a dollar. If someone else bids, they spend more of their budget and you'll just get another one. But you have to endure the complaints from the other guys for nominating one. So I usually pass.

10 Antonio Gates (SD - TE) $36 - Again, a stud TE, but wow. Too rich for my blood.

11 Michael Turner (Atl - RB) $41 - I don't know what it is about him, but I've always hated this guy for my fantasy team. Never wanted to ever get close, and wasn't about to start.

12 Shonn Greene (NYJ - RB) $27 - $27 may be a pretty good deal for this guy, but I wanted a pass catcher and I was sick of waiting

13 Steven Jackson (StL - RB) $38 - Finally, my first purchase. My strategy going in had been to spend a bunch on two stud running backs, because I was pretty set on QB and WR. Then of course, I waited for Rice and wasn't able to get him. So I quickly needed to get myself some talent at running back. I wanted a pass catching running back, and Steven Jackson does that. Plus, everyone's expecting big things from the Rams this year, and I guess I'm no different. For the same price as Mendenhall, a guy I don't like as much, I was able to get a guy who I'm now trusting to carry me. Hope I don't regret not buying Rice.

14 Peyton Manning (Ind - QB) $19 - Another QB, good news for me. Of course, this doesn't begin to describe the panic that set in when I bid on Manning and the auction clock got to two seconds before someone else bid. I was trying to push the price up, and almost got cracked with an expensive backup QB (although, it wouldn't have been the worst thing for me with a guaranteed injury victim like Vick).

15 Matt Forte (Chi - RB) $44 - My second acquisition. Another ride on the Matt Forte Pain Train. I just can't help it, he's too tempting a pass catcher to let go. I ended up in a bidding war with another guy over him, I'm guessing he thought along the same lines as I did. But as someone who had Forte last year, I should've been able to convince him that it's not worth it. The guy has so much potential, but last year the combination of his terrible offensive line and Chester Taylor (scourge of 3rd down carries), got me perpetually upset at every Bears game (could've been worse, I could've been a Bears fan). But, I can't resist, even if it cost me more than Steven Jackson. He could catch 60-80 passes this year. Once I got into the game, things stabilized a little bit. In a reflection of that, my notes will now be a little more concise.

16 DeSean Jackson (Phi - WR) $26 - Love him as a player, would hate to own him in fantasy. The guy weighs less than I do.

17 Frank Gore (SF - RB) $37 - Miffed to see the next running back go for less than Matt Forte, but what could I say, free markets.

18 Miles Austin (Dal - WR) $31 - Another big time WR I was happy to see go for more than $30. Again, don't like those Cowboys

19 Wes Welker (NE - WR) $29 - I bid a fair amount of Wes Welker, who I used to love as a Miami Dolphin, then hated once he joined the showboating Patriots train of jackwagons. But he's really really good in our type of league. I tried to get him, but as the price rose, I really thought about some of the other wideouts still available and concluded I could manage without Wes. Probably for the best, I'd hate to have to root for Tom Brady.

20 Green Bay (GB - DEF) $5 - Defenses for more than a dollar? Questionable.

21 Pittsburgh (Pit - DEF) $5

22 DeAngelo Williams (Car - RB) $15 - A low-rent running back option, a guy who splits time and has gotten hurt. No thanks.

23 Brandon Marshall (Mia - WR) $21 - I had Marshall a couple years ago. At the time he could've carried my team for weeks as a time with a ton of catches and big plays. I tried to get in for him, but the fact that he's a little crazy made me think twice.

24 Matt Ryan (Atl - QB) $13 - Overrated, perpetually.

25 Felix Jones (Dal - RB) $23 - Cowboy. Sorry.

26 Mark Ingram (NO - RB) $14 - As someone who tried out Reggie Bush, and looked at Pierre Thomas and Darren Sproles, I can't in good conscious support a New Orleans running back. I feel like Sean Payton just lives to screw over fantasy players across the country.

27 Greg Jennings (GB - WR) $35 - I actually had Jennings last year, and he was fantastic. My price to keep him this year would've actually been $34. I tried to buy him back for less, but I don't think he's going to repeat his performance given that Jermichael Finley is back and healthy. Again, a pass.

28 Ryan Grant (GB - RB) $14 - Was injured pretty bad, pass.

29 Neil Rackers (Hou - K) $2

30 Jermichael Finley (GB - TE) $24 - I think he might have a fantastic year, but I decided money would be better spent elsewhere. Man, I really hope my TE selections pay off.

31 Kenny Britt (Ten - WR) $13 - This guy got arrested three times this off-season. We run a clean ball club here...well, except for Vick obviously

32 Matt Schaub (Hou - QB) $13 - This is one of my bigger regrets of the draft. I thought Schaub would be a great pick as a back-up, and someone I could spend a little more on. I was bidding him up, and just didn't keep going. I kind of wish I had.

33 Jahvid Best (Det - RB) $23 - Maybe another one of my regrets. I think Best has sick talent, and he catches a ton of passes. I was tempted a lot (obviously, enough to buy the guy). But this guy wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and gets dinged up. He stays healthy, this might be my best pick of the year. He doesn't? It's 23 flushed away.

34 Mario Manningham (NYG - WR) $22 - I think he'll have a great year. Wanted him pretty badly, but at the time I thought there were still a couple other guys I could grab for less. In hindsight, I think he'll have a better year than the guys I ended up with.

35 Mike Tolbert (SD - RB) $13 36 Ryan Mathews (SD - RB) $13 - Two San Diego running backs, both splitting time, which I really hate a lot. I have enough frustration in my life with this stuff.

37 Julio Jones (Atl - WR) $12 - Didn't want to trust a rookie WR.

38 Knowshon Moreno (Den - RB) $14 - Moderate risk, potentially high reward. I had him last year off waivers and still like him a lot. You guessed it, he catches passes. My hesitation with him was twofold, one was Tim Tebow, who I didn't think would throw to him a lot. Two was his injury history. But Tebow, despite his direct line to Jesus, isn't starting for the Broncos. Kyle Orton is, and Orton will throw him the ball. Not a bad chance for my fourth running back in my view.

39 Anquan Boldin (Bal - WR) $15

40 Vernon Davis (SF - TE) $18

41 Marques Colston (NO - WR) $12

42 Philadelphia (Phi - DEF) $5 - They should get a bunch more sacks this year, but again, not $5 for a defense

43 Jeremy Maclin (Phi - WR) $18 - Maclin was a flat out great fantasy player last year (and a great real player, and from all reports, a great person). Had a lymphoma scare in the off-season and lost 15 pounds. I don't know about you, but to me that always screams BUY. I didn't buy him for the first couple weeks, but if he can regain form by mid-season, that'll help me out for the playoffs.

44 Eli Manning (NYG - QB) $8 - Another good backup option, I thought long and hard about him but didn't think he was as good as Schaub. I also saw Stafford, Bradford, and Freeman available, and while I need a decent backup QB, I thought one of those guys could be fine.

45 Tim Hightower (Was - RB) $22 - One of my favorite sleeper picks. I really wanted to be able to buy him, I just had four running backs already.

46 BenJarvus Green-Ellis (NE - RB) $12

47 Stevie Johnson (Buf - WR) $17 - Someone has to be good on Buffalo right? And Ryan Fitzpatrick as a QB is underrated. Now we're really going to get brief...even though this is the area of the draft where you make real winners (Because anyone you get here, you'll be able to keep easily for next year).

48 C.J. Spiller (Buf - RB) $5

49 Joseph Addai (Ind - RB) $10 - I drafted this guy in the first round maybe 4 years ago, and like him a lot this year, but it's funny how quickly you plummet as a RB in the NFL

50 Owen Daniels (Hou - TE) $10

51 Sidney Rice (Sea - WR) $6 - Tavaris Jackson? Ha!

52 Santonio Holmes (NYJ - WR) $22 - He was the last big WR I would've targeted, but thought Maclin and Johnson were better than him by himself

53 Chris Cooley (Was - TE) $3 - I was the guy who bid $2. But I don't love the Washington QB situation

54 Beanie Wells (Ari - RB) $13 - No way.

55 Chad Ochocinco (NE - WR) $9 - My wife's favorite player, but that wasn't enough for me.

56 Santana Moss (Was - WR) $16

57 New York (NYJ - DEF) $6

58 Kellen Winslow (TB - TE) $6

59 Mason Crosby (GB - K) $2

60 Stephen Gostkowski (NE - K) $3

61 Danny Amendola (StL - WR) $5 - The world loves a white wide receiver! I should've bought this guy. For $5, man, that was dumb. I was just worried about other new WRs taking his catches

62 Reggie Bush (Mia - RB) $8

63 Chicago (Chi - DEF) $1

64 Plaxico Burress (NYJ - WR) $8

65 Cedric Benson (Cin - RB) $10

66 Michael Bush (Oak - RB) $6

67 Baltimore (Bal - DEF) $2

68 Mike Thomas (Jac - WR) $5

69 Sam Bradford (StL - QB) $7 - The start of my backup backup QB list. I would've liked to get him, but I think I was saving money for a TE. Not sure exactly why. Bradford should have a good year.

70 Jimmy Graham (NO - TE) $3

71 Marshawn Lynch (Sea - RB) $11

72 Matthew Stafford (Det - QB) $9 - The second of the three QBs. I was in the bidding but dropped when I remembered that he pretty much always gets hurt. I decided to throw my lot in with Josh Freeman (this may be a dumb choice)

73 Sebastian Janikowski (Oak - K) $1

74 New York (NYG - DEF) $3

75 Matt Bryant (Atl - K) $1

76 Fred Jackson (Buf - RB) $5

77 New Orleans (NO - DEF) $1

78 Joe Flacco (Bal - QB) $4

79 Josh Brown (StL - K) $1

80 Rob Bironas (Ten - K) $1

81 San Diego (SD - DEF) $1

82 Brandon Jacobs (NYG - RB) $8

83 Jay Cutler (Chi - QB) $4 - Wow, why didn't I buy Jay Cutler? $4, that was pretty cheap. I think I remember him getting the benefit of lots of dropped interceptions, so maybe that's what was going on.

84 Mark Sanchez (NYJ - QB) $1

85 Detroit (Det - DEF) $1

86 Ben Tate (Hou - RB) $4 - Oh, if Arian Foster gets hurt, this will be a really smart pick. I bid on the guy, but wanted to make sure I could still afford Josh Freeman.

87 Jonathan Stewart (Car - RB) $5

88 Braylon Edwards (SF - WR) $3

89 Davone Bess (Mia - WR) $5

90 Mike Sims-Walker (StL - WR) $4

91 Lance Moore (NO - WR) $3

92 James Starks (GB - RB) $1

93 Malcom Floyd (SD - WR) $1

94 Tony Gonzalez (Atl - TE) $3 - I almost bought Tony G, and was debating bidding an extra dollar, but couldn't rationalize the fact that his projections are so much worse than other top guys

95 Zach Miller (Sea - TE) $3 - So I spent the same amount on a guy who'll be catching his passes from Tavaris Jackson? But this guy simply owned when he was with the Raiders a couple years ago, and got hurt a bunch last year. A bounce back would be big from him.

96 Kevin Kolb (Ari - QB) $3

97 Daniel Thomas (Mia - RB) $12

98 Thomas Jones (KC - RB) $3

99 Josh Freeman (TB - QB) $10 - Here's where I blew the rest of my cash. At this point I was basically backed into a corner. I needed a decent second QB, and while he won't have as good a year as he had last year (more INTs, definitely), he was the last guy before Donovan McNabb that I'd take.

100 Nate Burleson (Det - WR) $2

101 A.J. Green (Cin - WR) $6

102 Lee Evans (Bal - WR) $3

103 Marcedes Lewis (Jac - TE) $3

104 Darren Sproles (NO - RB) $4

105 Alex Henery (Phi - K) $3

106 Pierre Garcon (Ind - WR) $3

107 Steve Smith (Car - WR) $2

108 Kyle Orton (Den - QB) $2

109 Pierre Thomas (NO - RB) $7

110 Antonio Brown (Pit - WR) $5 - Saw him in a pre-season game and he tore it up, so what the heck. He's also good Mike Wallace insurance.

111 Atlanta (Atl - DEF) $9

112 Ronnie Brown (Phi - RB) $1

113 Garrett Hartley (NO - K) $1

114 Jordy Nelson (GB - WR) $3 - I had nominated this guy, and had really kind of wanted him, but I didn't have enough money to outbid the last guy with a lot more cash than me. The same thing happened with Crabtree a couple picks down

115 Matt Cassel (KC - QB) $1

116 Jacoby Ford (Oak - WR) $1

117 Michael Crabtree (SF - WR) $3 - Bid $2, wasn't enough.

118 Jacob Tamme (Ind - TE) $1

119 Emmanuel Sanders (Pit - WR) $1

120 Brandon Pettigrew (Det - TE) $2 So I spent it here, I couldn't figure out what other wideouts to nominate, so I figured even though I normally hate having two TEs, if the Lions do turn into the 1999 Rams, he'll be a good guy to have.

121 Montario Hardesty (Cle - RB) $1

122 LaDainian Tomlinson (NYJ - RB) $1 - Wow, not too long ago a consensus #1 overall pick. Yikes.

123 Robert Meachem (NO - WR) $1

So that was it in a nutshell. I think my team should be pretty good, but I have a lot of health concerns. Vick, Best, Miller, Maclin. That's probably a lot of risk, but I do have faith that if healthy, it should be a decent year.

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