Here at DFF, we completed a startup dynasty league draft with a unique format that few had tried before. But few will willingly go back to a standard snake draft after experiencing the thrill of the hybrid setup. This was a shallow, 12-team league including a Superflex starting roster and tight end premium scoring. The unique format of this draft is that we started with a partial auction, then rounded out the rosters with the standard snake-style.
The startup auction draft consisted of five rounds, during each of which every team had one player to nominate on the board, with a 12-hour timer. This means that you must be the high bidder on a player for 12 hours to win the player. We used a proxy bidding system similar to what Ebay.com uses, which means you set an upper limit on the player, and the proxy will match any bids up to that number.
We used a budget of $1,000 for the five-rounds of the auction, and the money did not roll over to FAAB, so it was a use-it or lose-it situation. The parameters for the draft were each team nominates three veterans, one rookie, and one devy player, and each owner can come away with as many or as few players as they would like. We also enforced veteran nominations must be top-50 ADP players, and the rookies must be within the top-24 rookie ADP. Devy being the final round, there were no parameters so managers could nominate any player who was enrolled in college.
The main reason why I love starting with a partial auction-style draft is that it completely removes the innate advantage of getting lucky on a random draft order generator. The person who is awarded the 1.01 gets the right to select Patrick Mahomes first-overall or trade the pick for a king’s ransom. In this format, everyone has a fair and equal shot at Mahomes, it’s just a matter of deciding how much to allocate on the top-tier players.
Like any league, preparation is key. Players who come into the draft with a clear strategy will have a leg up on the competition. The people who did not engage in preparation work before the draft found themselves scurrying to fill positions of need. Heading into the draft, I created a specific trade value calculator that could guide me to success. For the trade calculator, I used my own Superflex rankings and tiers as the inputs for value. I then used a reverse logarithmic function to calculate the value. Knowing that there is a total of $12,000 being bid on all players, rookies, and devy targets, we can use the sum of each player’s value as a numerator, and the total budget as a denominator to calculate the average value per dollar spent. For each player, we will use this as their expected price.
The 36 veterans that were nominated are the following in no specific order:
Knowing the players that would be included means that we can predict their expected price point. Each time someone bids up a player, we will make sure our spreadsheet is reflecting the new price, and we can compare this to the average value/budget equation. What this will tell us is what players are currently at a good value, versus who is being overvalued. Once we knew all 36 nominations the expected prices look like the prices below.
Now an important thing to remember is to approach this using a Bayesian Epistemology, which in layman’s terms means that we are updating our inputs to all known information, and adjusting our outputs. Thus as the veteran auctions were completed, we no longer need to use the expected value formula, we can simply take total player values and compare that to the total that was spent on them.
In auction drafts, especially these partial auctions, there is a bit of game theory involved. The major theme is gaming whether you think the good values will appear early in the draft. This means that people would be holding their money for later options to hedge against the uncertainty of what players would be nominated. In this draft, this is not the way it ultimately played out. Managers were paying heavy premiums at the top for quarterbacks such as Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Justin Herbert, Deshaun Watson, and Kyler Murray. In total, managers spent 82% of their total budget on veterans, with still 12 rookies and 12 devy players to be nominated.
The following chart will portray the players that people were forced to pay a severe premium on. While there was overall a positional premium for top-tier quarterbacks, there were a couple of other positional players who went much higher than expected.
A lot of the players that you would expect to be overspent on are on this list. There were no blatant terrible values though, for example, if someone were to put all of their budgets on Mahomes to land him. In these formats spending 45% of your budget on the consensus 1.01 is sound, though one would hope to get any deal that they can. The one thing that sticks out is Josh Allen going for the same price as Mahomes. Allen is for many people the QB2 going into this season, however, most also have a tier gap between the two young stars.
THE MODEL WAS CORRECT
There was a large cohort of players that the model was very close to. The following chart will show you the values in this auction that the model was within 20% on.
As you can see there were a couple of quarterbacks here in Prescott, Wilson, and Rodgers who went close to their expected price. If we were to apply an additional positional premium on these quarterbacks their return on investment would be immense, all these players can be considered good values. The other positional players went for around their expected value. As a reminder this is based on my personal rankings and tiers; this would look somewhat different if I were to use consensus rankings.
THE SUPER VALUES
As stated previously when touching upon the game theory nature of the auction-style draft we saw some huge values slip by. Specifically, Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams were super values and they were the final veterans to close. As we waited for them to close there was some price enforcement between their two respective bidders. Both of the uber-talented wide receivers were priced around $220 before price enforcing and jockeying for the rookie auction.
James Robinson and Ezekiel Elliott are analytically super vales here, but a piece of that is their unstable long-term future. Elliott is at a similar age to Todd Gurley, Melvin Gordon, and David Johnson. Players who were awarded by the team who drafted them, who then moved on from them and plummeted their respective dynasty values. Robinson is a bit of a different situation, as he just completed his rookie season with the Jaguars. Because he was an undrafted free agent some are wary of Robinson being replaced by the new front office via the draft. Though I am personally a firm believer that the Jaguars stick with Robinson for next season, in which he will have the opportunity to earn the role as their franchise running back.
THE ROOKIE AUCTION
At the point that we moved on to the rookie section, two major pieces of information we now have clarity on. First and foremost, we know what veterans will be available for the snake draft, so managers can now start positioning themselves via trade to select the players that were not included in the auction. Highly-rated players such as George Kittle, Stefon Diggs, and Calvin Ridley stood atop the available player pool. Secondly, we know how much budget remains for rookie and devy players. While comparing the values of veterans to devy players can be a difficult task, we do know that less than 20% of the total budget remains unallocated, so there are going to be some immense value plays.
As a reminder, the rookie nominations were required to be top 24 rookie ADP players. These restrictions were in place for veterans and rookies to prevent a manager from allocating a vast majority of their budget to one or two players and then nominating inconsequential players, thus ‘watering down’ the pool of players for the other owners. Another workaround for this is to have the managers declare their nominations before the open of the auction. That allows owners to prioritize all players under the same perspective and prepare a strategy.
The rookies that would be included in the auction were Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Travis Etienne, Ja’Marr Chase, Najee Harris, Kyle Pitts, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Rondale Moore, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Kadarius Toney. As you may have inferred, all of these players went at a value both from the perspective of initial expectations and from the Bayesian approach of adjusting expected values after the total spend is known.
In the veteran portion of the draft, 82% of the budget had been spent on veteran players. This is a tad bit high, but it’s around the expected amount. During the rookie portion, another 14% of the total budget was spent, leaving only $509 with the majority being held by two managers.
THE DEVY AUCTION
The devy portion of the auction had any and all restrictions lifted. One owner went into it with their nomination and only $3, though if they were to nominate a player low enough on other manager’s boards they could potentially come away with them. Because the money would disappear after the auction closed, no owners would benefit from holding it, rather the trading of auction budget for late-round picks became a crucial crutch for owners who were priced out of players. Also, because the money would disappear after the auction, the actual price and return on investment became irrelevant when comparing to veterans and rookies.
Because of this, it is not worthwhile to look at the prices that the devy players went for other than to create a consensus ranking amongst the devy players. If you can find a league with a similar format you will likely see the same patterns we did here.
HOW DID THE AUCTION SHAKE OUT FOR TEAMS?
Now that you know what the results of the auction were for each individual player it is time we take a step back and look at how teams approached their team-building strategy. Some teams chose to pay up for the top players, whereas others attempted to compile value. When reading the below team level outputs, keep in mind that managers were trading auction budgets between each other, for the teams who spent over their $1,000 budget they had to give up startup draft picks in the snake portion to acquire the extra budget. Some teams traded away valuable startup picks as high as the 2.03 to acquire auction budget.
While the startup draft is still going on, we are into the 16th round, which makes each team have an average of 21 players. We can take a look at how each manager executed their strategy and which teams left some meat on the bone.
The above chart is a much more accurate depiction of the overall league landscape; some teams who traded out of the auction look wise for doing so as they guaranteed a return on value as the pick guaranteed them a player, whereas value can be lost in the auction.
In summary, we are going to look at the positional value that was earned in the auction, to give our audience a feel for what may happen if they chose to brave the waters of a unique startup format that you may not find on a typical hybrid startup.
POSITIONAL SPEND AND VALUE IN THE AUCTION
As you can see the quarterback premium is consistent across all players. The average quarterback was $68 more expensive than non-quarterbacks. On average the investment in a quarterback yielded five value basis points less per dollar spent on a quarterback. Though you would not get an elite quarterback in a Superflex setting, this leads one to believe that the optimal strategy would be to address the quarterback position in the snake-portion.
The running back position could be acquired for an average of $16 less than the league average. This indicates that targeting running backs in the auction portion and addressing other team needs would be the optimal strategy.
Even more drastically than running backs, the pass catchers are at a discount of $39 on average. There are many value-optimizing routes that one could go by focusing on pass catchers and addressing other team needs in the snake portion of the draft.
However, a disclaimer on the positional spending and value return, it must be noted that the running back available pool in the snake portion of the draft became thin very quickly. Whereas quality pass-catchers could be found for multiple rounds in the snake draft. There is always going to be a premium on elite-level quarterbacks in any Superflex or two-quarterback formats, so acquiring one is going to cost you extra.
To close out why I personally will always choose the hybrid startup over a traditional snake draft of even a full auction or bankroll league is because of the flexibility it gives owners to attack unique strategies that fit their fantasy football style. During the 60-player auction, there were over 1,200 auction bids and 19 trades accepted. The trading was highlighted by the aforementioned trade for the 2.03 pick in the snake draft. The manager traded 25% of his auction budget for the 2.03 and a 2022 second-round rookie/devy pick.
Though there would be more trades in a standard snake draft startup, the activity level during the auction is intense. And to get an edge on your opponents you must have a strong strategy and stick to it. I will never do a standard snake startup if a hybrid format is possible, it is far too enjoyable and the strategies that can be executed are far more flexible.
Thank you for reading my article! If you enjoyed it, keep an eye out for my future articles. You can also follow me on Twitter @DynastyDiagnos1 and reach out with any questions, comments, or ideas you’d like me to explore for a new article.
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