Going into any draft you should have some type of game plan so you don't feel like you are always on the edge of losing your wits - you need to keep those about you. But just as in any draft, you have to be ready to switch up your strategy. And, this can be more difficult in an auction draft than in a snake draft. I usually feel like I need to be slightly more prepared for an auction. So, this is what I do:
Throw out players you don't want early
This tenet is becoming old news to most auctioneers, but it still holds true. When you have more money, you are more likely to spend it. And, even if every person in your league knows this rule, it still isn't going to hurt you if it doesn't work. The best players to toss out early are those who are being hyped a lot at the time of your draft. Always throw out hype-machine players who you don't want first. Let a few people fill out their positions and spend some money so you have less people to bid against. Backup running backs like Wendell Smallwood, Terrence West, Josh Ferguson or rookie wide receivers like Corey Coleman or Laquon Treadwell might get some nibbles, but if for some reason you end up getting them cheap, they are still worth the cheap price.
Don't waste money on your bench
This is usually a tenet of someone using the "Studs and Duds" draft strategy, but who wants a dud? Do you want to build your team with David Johnson and Antonio Brown as the anchors, well, sure, but you can't afford them! If you do get both, you will be playing the ultimate "Studs and Duds" strategy. So, when I say don't waste money on your bench, I don't mean go into the draft thinking you'll be grabbing $1 players for your bench, but that you will concentrate on building a team where you feel good about your starters, because yes, they are the ones scoring points. Do you want five third- and fourth-tier receivers or three first-, second- and third-tier starting receivers? You have to pay for quality.
Have a budget
A lot will depend on your salary cap and the number of starting slots, but come up with a rough number for each starting position just so you don't go crazy. For this, we'll be going with a $200 budget. (FantasyPros has a pretty cool Auction Calculator that's worth a look-see). So, I will want to put a big percentage of my cash in studs who have a steep fall-off after them. For me, those are the top tight ends and running backs. But what percentage? In this default league, we have 1 QB, 2 RB, 1 Flex, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 D/ST and 5 bench players. I like to spend about 45% of my cap on my top-3 players. So, in our default league that's 90 dollars. Does that get you three top-tier players? Nope, but how often does that happen in a snake draft? Don't get greedy!
This season, I like the mid-range wide receivers quite a bit, so I believe I can find bargains there. I think this can be accomplished with 25 percent or $50.
So you've just spent a whole bunch of cash on your starting RBs and WRs, and you are afraid you are going to have Mark Sanchez and Brandon Pettigrew starting on your team. I can understand; been there, done that. So, you've got about $60 to spend on a QB, Flex, K, D/ST, and 5 bench spots. That isn't all that much, but let's take a look at what we have here.
If you pay more than a dollar for a kicker, it better be because you accidentally had $2 left over and it was your last slot to fill. So, $1 for a kicker, $1 for a defense, $10-15 for a Flex, $20-25 for a quarterback, and that leaves you with $23 for your bench - around $5 a bench player - which, by the end of a draft, when people are out of money and have mismanaged their whole draft, is actually a decent amount.
Remember, just because this is an auction doesn't mean you will get everyone you want. In snake drafts, you are taking fliers on backups toward the end. Those guys can be had for $1-3 usually. With these projected prices and percentages, I think you are safe to overspend a little on that guy you are sure is going to break out, and it still won't leave you with just a dollar for your quarterback.
Get the snake out of your head
Think of how the talent flies off the board in a snake draft. Brown, gone, Beckham Jr., gone, Gurley, gone, and so on and so on. And in an auction draft, you might go in with the same mentality. First, I need to fill up my running back slots, then my wide receivers and, well, you can see where this is going. But yes, you can draft a bench player first. It's ok! This is why you need a budget.
Why wait on your kicker in an auction draft? Nominate a kicker you want early. People want to get kickers for a dollar - as they should -, so throw Hauschka or Gostkowski, or whomever, out there early, and if someone wants to up the bid, let them. If not, you've got the dollar kicker you want. Same is true with defenses. Pick your sleeper defenses and throw them out on the table. You'll be playing matchups mostly anyway.
Let the others go first
Look at how the draft is going. Are people driving up the price of certain positions? Is one person collecting all the top running backs? Are people playing it safe? Don't sit out of the bidding, but unless there is a player on your must-have list who is going for dirt cheap - which probably won't happen -, then just throw some "drive up the price" bids in there to make your league-mates think you are ready to spend.
Throw in "drive up the price" bids, but only if you are willing to take that player at that price
If you see someone who isn't your favorite, but has good value at the current bid, then bid. But if you get too sneaky, you might just get jacked hard. Say you really don't think Matt Jones will do well this season so you nominate him early. People might want him, might not. So, somebody throws in a couple bucks, then four, then eight, so you chuck a $10 bid in there to keep things rolling, but the bus stops here and you are stuck on it. You now have Matt Jones, who you despise, littering your starting lineup.
Be frugal as a default position
This goes along with the letting people go first position. If you have more money than the person you are bidding against, you win. You may have to miss out on some of your guys early on, but there are more of "your guys" and they will be a little cheaper later in the draft and you will have the cash to get them. Patience is not a strong trait in fantasy footballers or people in general, so practice it and pounce when need be.
Spend on the guys you want
Contradiction alert! When you look at a list of average auction prices, there is about a 99 percent chance the guy you want will go for more than that. Have a budget, but don't be afraid to splurge a little. You only live once!
Don't back yourself into a corner
You are being patient and looking for value, when all of a sudden you need a quarterback, but somehow all the guys you want are almost gone and you are suddenly in a bidding war for Matt Schaub. Track who is left on the board carefully. The more of "your" guys who are left, the easier it is for you to pass on players who are getting bid sky high.
Handcuffs are pricey later in the draft
If you are really high on Jerick McKinnon this season, then try to get him before Adrian Peterson is paid for. If you wait, and the Peterson owner is really keen on getting McKinnon, the price goes up. Same goes with all backups.
Pay attention to who your opponents want
In auctions, you get a good idea who your opponents are after, which might help you in trades later. But this idea goes both ways. Don't publicly go on a tangent when you just don't have enough money for Donte Moncrief. There are other fish in the barrel; take another shot and one will float up. Is this really a thing? Shooting fish in a barrel? When you miss a guy you want, shrug it off. The buyer probably paid too much for him. You are the one coming out ahead.