“Did you do it?”
“What did it cost?”
Much like Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War,” I too paid a great price. Mine came in fantasy football.
I’m the commissioner of the FOX4 fantasy football league, which held its draft last weekend. It’s always fun to compete against my coworkers, especially since we do an auction league.
For those unfamiliar, an auction league works with a set budget for players ($200 in our case.) You bid against the other owners for players to fill out your team.
The positive is literally everyone has a shot at the players they want. In most standard leagues, Saquon Barkley is going first overall. If you draft 8th, he’s long gone.
Here, you just have to be willing to pay the most. If you wanted, you could even outbid everyone for Barkley and Christian McCaffrey to have the top two projected players on your team.
The downside: That’s going to cost you. A lot. That means a lot of sitting and waiting as other quality players go off the board with other owners easily able to outbid you.
As you might’ve guessed by my lead-in, you can tell something about my strategy.
I’m sharing with you my draft results, along with the dollar amount I spent on each player. I’m hoping to provide some insight into my thinking.
It’s also my goal to track this team as the season goes along, including any free agent acquisitions and/or trades along the way.
So let’s do it.
RB Saquon Barkley ($73): What can I say? There’s just something nice about having the likely best player in fantasy football on your squad.
Barkley is not only a strong runner but a good pass-catching back as well. That’s the single-most valuable asset in fantasy football.
The downside is obviously the cost. I spent more than 35% of my budget on a single player, and not surprisingly, this was the most anyone in the league spent to get someone.
WR Deandre Hopkins ($64): Not only did I get RB1, I’ve got WR1 too! That’s something that would never happen in a snake draft.
While wide receiver is suddenly the deepest position in the league, Hopkins is still the elite of the elite. His numbers have only grown since the Texans have given him Deshaun Watson at quarterback. But just like with Barkley, I had to go significantly over the Yahoo! dollar projections to make it happen.
It’s been my experience in these leagues that it’s better to err on the side of overly aggressive than too passive, particularly for top-flight players.
My team is probably sunk if these players get hurt, but I feel that’s the same for any team losing a first-round pick.
RB Dalvin Cook ($47): I wanted to get another bell cow running back to go with my team.
I honestly didn’t want Cook. It was at this point in the draft that my app acted up, so I closed it, and by the time I had it reopened, I had a new running back on my team. It’s still more than I wanted to spend for him, but was right in line with the Yahoo! spending.
If there’s one silver lining, it’s that Cook is no longer working in the offense of John Defilippo, who heavily skewed toward the pass for the Vikings. He should see an uptick in carries.
The downside: I’ve now spent 92% of my budget to fill 20% of my roster. Welp.
QB Carson Wentz ($4): I feel fortunate to get such a high-upside QB here that didn’t kill me on cost.
By this point in the draft, I was mostly nominating players I had no interest in with the hopes my competitors would chew up some of their remaining budget. Quarterbacks are a good place to start.
Simply put, you can get very good production from the ones outside the elite tier at a small fraction of the cost. Wentz has top 5-upside when healthy, but that’s a big if. I still had to gamble on it here.
WR Corey Davis ($2): Woof. I know wide receiver is deep, but Davis as my second-best receiver is a long fall. The Titans haven’t exactly been lighting it up no matter whether it’s Marcus Mariota or Ryan Tannehill at the helm.
I have to hope Davis shows something here that explains why he was a top 5 draft pick long ago.
RB Austin Ekeler ($1): By far, this is the best value I have in this draft, and it probably came by chance.
Ekeler will slot in nicely into my flex position, especially since contract talks between the Chargers and Melvin Gordon seem to be going nowhere.
Ekeler will have to split duties with Justin Jackson, so it’s not like he has a firm grip on the job, but he’ll get enough carries that he’s more than worth the minimum. I’m lucky my competitors were either in a similar position as me and/or had already grabbed enough RBs.
TE Greg Olsen ($1): This is again gambling on health and upside. Olsen’s been extremely productive when he’s on the field, which hasn’t been much the last two seasons.
But once you get outside the tier of Travis Kelce, Zach Ertz and George Kittle, I don’t find it worth spending heavily on a position that really only provides a lot of value when they’re scoring touchdowns.
I’ll take a chance Olsen can stay healthy, and if he doesn’t, it’s not a lost cause.
K Wil Lutz ($1): He’s a steady kicker, which is really all I’m looking for.
One of my favorite strategies early in an auction league is to nominate a kicker you have rated somewhere around third to fifth. Early on, a lot of opponents will be reluctant to spend their budget on that position, and you get a reliable option for just a buck.
The alternative is probably even better—that someone uses more of their budget to take a kicker, which I can never justify. It worked for me when I nominated Harrison Butker, who ended up going for $5.
DEF Baltimore ($1): Similarly, I use this strategy with defenses as well, although the Ravens were probably closer to a mid-tier defense for me. I was hoping someone would bid me up here, but I can live with it.
They’ll take a step back in all likelihood, but I think are still worthy of weekly starts.
WR Michael Gallup ($1): All I can basically do at this point is to take a buckshot approach with wide receivers — draft plenty, hope one pans out.
Gallup will be the number two option in Dallas behind Amari Cooper. Dak Prescott isn’t a star quarterback, but he’s serviceable.
I’m hoping Gallup gets some chemistry here, though it’s also about at this point in the draft where I started questioning whether I should’ve nominated a second wide receiver earlier and hope someone with a bigger budget would be hesitant to spend.
WR Demaryius Thomas ($1): Every draft you find a guy or two that’s way down the Yahoo! rankings, hope no one else notices him, and you make a move. That was Thomas for me.
He’s coming off a lost season with Houston but played well in the preseason with New England. The Patriots initially cut him, but it appears to be a procedural move, and he’ll likely return to them.
I don’t think Thomas will see a lot of time at first, but I’m hoping he can build a rapport with Tom Brady and return to his status as a WR1. I’d even settle for anything resembling it.
TE Jimmy Graham ($1): Graham joins the ranks of my “what once was” tight end group with Olsen. He certainly wasn’t a superstar with Seattle like he was in New Orleans.
I’m hoping that there’s some magic he can find with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Most likely, I’ll be playing the matchup game week-to-week with my tight ends.
QB Kirk Cousins ($1): There’s no reason to ever spend more than this on a backup QB. They’re all pretty similar to one another, but Cousins gives me a viable option should Wentz get hurt. Throwing to Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs doesn’t hurt.
RB Justice Hill ($1): I feel this is a decent mid-upside pick for me. Hill will start the season behind Mark Ingram in the backfield in Baltimore, but he seemed to get rave reviews from the Ravens in the preseason (beware of falling for this too often.)
He’s also probably the better pass-catching/third down option as well. This may be a draft and stash for me, provided I can afford it.
WR Courtland Sutton ($1): Just adding to my pile of receivers at this point. Emmanuel Sanders isn’t what he once was, the Broncos have a new QB with Joe Flacco, and Sutton has promise.
15 players, $200 spent. This is about as “studs and duds” as a roster gets.
The best-case scenario for me?
Barkley and Hopkins prove why they’re the best at their positions, Cook gets a chance to show off more in Minnesota, Olsen stays healthy and reasserts himself as a top-5 tight end, one of my receivers pulls away from the pack to be a viable WR2, and I’ve got a beast to deal with in the playoffs.
The worst case?
Either of my top picks misses significant time, Wentz’s injuries hamper his production, neither of my tight ends win the battle with health and Father Time, my wide receivers never step up and leave a gaping hole in my roster, and I’m consolation bracket fodder.
Unlike Thanos, I’m as perfectly imbalanced as can be.
You can build a team like that, but it also means more than ever, you have to be diligent in scouring the waiver wire, keeping an eye out for trade possibilities and making the right calls on who to start and sit every week.
I look forward to doing that for you all season.