Fantasy football auction draft advice: Why zero-RB strategy can work, and more

Brandon Marianne Lee provides notes from her experts auction draft to give you tips that can help you win your league.

| 11 months ago
(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

(AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Fantasy football auction draft advice: Why zero-RB strategy can work, and more

Over the weekend I got the honor of drafting with some of the best minds in the fantasy industry. And if that wasn’t enough, I also got to compete with them in auction format.

Auctions are incredibly fun and up the strategy quotient. You can’t complain about someone swiping your player. You are completely responsible for who’s on your team. You simply have to budget for it.

Like all leagues, read your league settings! In this league, The FLEX League, it’s standard scoring. No PPR. However, there are two FLEX positions. And for those that care, there is also no kicker.

Here was my strategy going in:

1.) Pay up for one of the top three wide receivers: Antonio Brown, Odell Beckham Jr. or Julio Jones. Once I have one of those I can budget everything else accordingly.

2.) I normally like to have one stud wide receiver and then one stud running back.

3.) Don’t pay more than $5 for a quarterback, unless it’s Russell Wilson or Drew Brees. Since 2012, both players have been top-10 quarterbacks every season. They are the only two.

It may seem like those are easy goals, but drafts are live, dynamic events. You have to pivot. And in this case, a winning strategy stared me right in the face …

There are two running back spots and there are two flex spots in the starting lineup. What if I concentrate on getting five stud wide receivers and treat my running back spots as the flex spots?

That’s exactly what I did, and I am thrilled with the results.

I’m thrilled because there are a variety of running back by committee situations out there, and if I play a running back as a flex, I won’t be deterred by the shared situation in the way I would be if I felt like they needed to produce at a starter level.

I’m thrilled because I will never own Odell Beckham Jr., Mike Evans, Keenan Allen, Demaryius Thomas and Jarvis Landry all on one team ever again in my fantasy life.

I’m thrilled because I know that I’m good at spotting running back talent and productivity on the waiver wire and I can be laser-focused on that position for the remainder of the season and feel confident in my choices.

I’m thrilled because I got Tony Romo for $2 with Week 1 at home against the New York Giants while Andy Dalton, Blake Bortles, Kirk Cousins, Matthew Stafford and Ryan Fitzpatrick sit on waivers. I can stream quarterbacks in this league with ease.

I’m thrilled because I got both of my sleeper tight ends, Zach Miller and Clive Walford, for just $1 a piece. Hopefully at least one of them will break out, and if not, I’ll pick someone up. The investment in them is at rock bottom.

And I’m thrilled because I love auction drafts.

This was by far the easiest auction I’ve ever done, because our PFF Draft Tool made it easy for me to see that the top running backs were overvalued in this draft. Sure, it’s a standard league, but if you take the top three wide receivers out of the equation, the running backs and the wide receivers were going in the same $30-40 price range. Due to the volatility at the running back position, it seemed much more prudent to go with consistent production from the wide receiver position at the same price point.

Final rosters:

Brandon Marianne LeePro Football Focus

QB: Tony Romo ($2)

RB: Jonathan Stewart ($18)

RB: Theo Riddick ($3)

WR: Odell Beckham Jr. ($57)

WR: Mike Evans ($34)

WR: Keenan Allen ($29)

TE: Zach Miller ($1)

FLEX: Demaryius Thomas ($24)

FLEX: Jarvis Landry ($19)

DEF: Carolina Panthers ($1)

Bench: James Starks ($2), Zach Zenner ($2), Bruce Ellington ($3), Nelson Agholor ($2), Reuben Randle ($1), Clive Walford ($1)

Leftover: $1

Observations: I’m biased, but feeling pretty good about this. Zach Zenner was a knee-jerk reaction and will probably be my first drop. I already covered my strategy, but I will say that I overpaid for Odell Beckham Jr. on paper, but I would do it again if I had to. Getting one of the top three wide receivers was a priority that I was not going to abandon.

Jeff HaseleyFootballguys

QB: Russell Wilson ($14)

RB: Mark Ingram ($37)

RB: Jeremy Hill ($18)

WR: Brandon Marshall ($31)

WR: Jeremy Maclin ($25)

WR: Sterling Shepard ($11)

TE: Greg Olsen ($11)

FLEX: Giovani Bernard ($26)

FLEX: Delanie Walker ($6)

DEF: Arizona Cardinals ($2)

Bench: Justin Forsett ($7), Chris Ivory ($6), Chris Johnson ($1), Jamison Crowder ($2), Anquan Boldin ($2), Will Tye ($1)

Leftover: $0

Observations: Hasely is very running back-heavy. Full disclosure, he already asked me for a trade. This makes sense because I’m wide receiver heavy, but you now know that was my strategy so I’m sticking to it. I put Delanie Walker in the flex for him because it’s hard to imagine benching either Walker or Olsen, but starting two tight ends is a little unconventional.

Michael RathburnRotocurve / Rotowire

QB: Tyrod Taylor ($4)

RB: David Johnson ($50)

RB: Dion Lewis ($14)

WR: Antonio Brown ($53)

WR: Brandin Cooks ($27)

WR: Randall Cobb ($25)

TE: Jared Cook ($2)

FLEX: Breshad Perriman ($1)

FLEX: Mike Wallace ($2)

DEF: Los Angeles Rams ($1)

Bench: Tom Brady ($8), C.J. Prosise ($5), Wendell Smallwood ($4), C.J. Spiller ($1), Davante Adams ($1), Chris Hogan ($1)

Leftover: $1

Observations: If you start off with Antonio Brown and David Johnson you probably feel great. Clearly Rathburn went with a balanced approach. If Dion Lewis can get healthy he could be the steal of the draft at $14. His only tight end is Jared Cook, which is dicey, but you have to believe he’s going to scour the waiver wire for upgrades.


QB: Ben Roethlisberger ($5)

RB: Matt Forte ($21)

RB: Jeremy Langford ($10)

WR: Julio Jones ($50)

WR: Jordy Nelson ($33)

WR: Michael Floyd ($21)

TE: Dwayne Allen ($3)

FLEX: Latavius Murray ($26)

FLEX: Melvin Gordon ($14)

DEF: New England Patriots ($1)

Bench: Jameis Winston ($1), Kenneth Dixon ($3), Paul Perkins ($1), Kamar Aiken ($5), Tyler Boyd ($2), Pierre Garcon ($4)

Leftover: $0

Observations: This was an interesting roster because you can tell that Beller first concentrated on getting three strong receivers and then he shifted to four RB2- or RB3-level players. Matt Forte, Jeremy Langford, Latavius Murray and Melvin Gordon are on the “do not draft” lists for a lot of analysts, but all of them are slated to get a ton of work this season and were cheaper than the other backs ranked in that some area due to their negative buzz. It will be interesting to see if getting these players at a bargain will work out in Beller’s favor.

Jayson BraddockSportstalk 790 The Source

QB: Aaron Rodgers ($16)

RB: Adrian Peterson ($46)

RB: Eddie Lacy ($33)

WR: Sammy Watkins ($27)

WR: Doug Baldwin ($16)

WR: Kevin White ($17)

TE: Coby Fleener ($11)

FLEX: Marvin Jones ($12)

FLEX: Jay Ajayi ($5)

DEF: Houston Texans ($1)

Bench: Matthew Stafford ($1), Darren Sproles ($1), DeAndre Washington ($4), Josh Doctson ($1), Michael Thomas ($8), Stephen Anderson ($1)

Leftover: $0

Observations: Braddock drafted some strong starters, but his second FLEX position and his bench is filled with both late season potential and early season question marks. Sammy Watkins for $27 and Doug Baldwin for $16 sticks out as two very good values.

Jake CielyRotoExperts / FNTSY Network

QB: Drew Brees ($16)

RB: Devonta Freeman ($34)

RB: Duke Johnson ($12)

WR: Alshon Jeffery ($30)

WR: Larry Fitzgerald ($11)

WR: Steve Smith Sr. ($2)

TE: Travis Kelce ($9)

FLEX: Ryan Mathews ($16)

FLEX: DeMarco Murray ($19)

DEF: Seattle Seahawks ($2)

Bench: Tevin Coleman ($5), Isaiah Crowell ($4), Sammie Coates ($9), Travis Benjamin ($8), Mohamed Sanu ($6), Jaelen Strong ($3)

Leftover: $14

Observations: Ciely is the coordinator of the FLEX League so a big thank you to him. He left quite a bit of money on the table and certainly went running back-heavy. The standard scoring does make the running backs more valuable, but it wouldn’t surprise me if Ceily is at home right now wishing he spent that extra $14 on another strong wide receiver.

Rich HribarFakeFootball / Rotoworld

QB: Eli Manning ($7)

RB: Jamaal Charles ($40)

RB: Frank Gore ($16)

WR: DeAndre Hopkins ($44)

WR: Torrey Smith ($9)

WR: Tyler Lockett ($16)

TE: Ladarius Green ($7)

FLEX: Carlos Hyde ($32)

FLEX: Rashad Jennings ($13)

DEF: Philadelphia Eagles ($1)

Bench: Jerick McKinnon ($5), Chris Thompson ($1), Dorial Green-Beckham ($2), Rishard Matthews ($5), DeAndre Smelter ($1), Terrance Williams ($1)

Leftover: $0

Observations: Hribar went for balance by spending $44 on DeAndre Hopkins and $40 on Jamaal Charles. Both of those players have proven track records, but the outlook for this season is a little grim. Charles is still recovering from his second ACL surgery and Hopkins has unproven Brock Osweiler as a quarterback on a team that wants to run. Clearly these situations didn’t phase Hribar. He also got Torrey Smith for $9 which could be a real league saver.

Raymond SummerlinRotoworld

QB: Carson Palmer ($3)

RB: Lamar Miller ($43)

RB: LeGarrette Blount ($7)

WR: Dez Bryant ($41)

WR: A.J. Green ($47)

WR: Julian Edelman ($11)

TE: Julius Thomas ($3)

FLEX: John Brown ($13)

FLEX: Corey Coleman ($9)

DEF: Oakland Raiders ($1)

Bench: Cameron Artis-Payne ($1), Tim Hightower ($1), Christine Michael ($1), Bilal Powell ($10), Spencer Ware ($4), Brandon LaFell ($2)

Leftover: $3

Observations: During the draft it felt like Summerlin was sitting back and not really participating, but when I look at his final roster it seems he was doing quite a bit, albeit incognito. Lamar Miller will get a plethora of opportunities and he anchors this roster at $43. And the absolute steal of the draft was Julian Edelman at $11. I know his value gets a ding in standard scoring, but look at the prices of all the other wide receivers! I actually screamed when this went down. At that point in the draft I already had all of my receivers and was hindered by my remaining salary cap, but wow. That was unbelievable.

Karl SafchickDynasty One Fantasy

QB: Cam Newton ($20)

RB: Le’Veon Bell ($35)

RB: Derrick Henry ($6)

WR: Allen Robinson ($35)

WR: Emmanuel Sanders ($14)

WR: Josh Gordon ($11)

TE: Rob Gronkowski ($32)

FLEX: Jordan Reed ($19)

FLEX: Tavon Austin ($3)

DEF: New York Giants ($1)

Bench: Javorius Allen ($1), Alfred Morris ($4), Leonte Carroo ($1), Willie Snead ($8), Kendall Wright ($4), Tyler Eifert ($4)

Leftover: $2

Observations: Safchick started the draft by spending $55 on his starting quarterback and tight end and then took yet another tight end. Hey, it’s unconventional, but isn’t that what makes fantasy football so fun? He needs running backs in a big way. He also has a large quantity of suspended and/or hurt players. He must have decided to look towards the end of the season and hope he can get enough wins to make the playoffs. Then your record doesn’t matter. We’ll see.

Chad ParsonsUTHDynasty

QB: Derek Carr ($1)

RB: DeAngelo Williams ($9)

RB: Matt Jones ($18)

WR: Amari Cooper ($25)

WR: Kelvin Benjamin ($16)

WR: Jordan Matthews ($11)

TE: Zach Ertz ($5)

FLEX: Donte Moncrief ($21)

FLEX: Michael Crabtree ($11)

DEF: Kansas City Chiefs ($1)

Bench: Jordan Howard ($5), Charles Sims ($12), Danny Woodhead ($9), Devin Funchess ($5), DeVante Parker ($17), Antonio Gates ($3)

Leftover: $31

Observations: Holy leftover money, Batman! Parsons waited out the room, but he left the draft without a clear stud at any position. There are a ton of upside players like Amari Cooper and Donte Moncrief, but there are a lot of question marks as well. He’ll get a lot of value out of DeAngelo Williams in the first four weeks of the season for only $9. That pick sticks out as a value compared to the prices of the other backs in this draft.

Dennis EsserThe Fantasy Coach Podcast

QB: Andrew Luck ($11)

RB: Todd Gurley ($43)

RB: Doug Martin ($28)

WR: DeSean Jackson ($11)

WR: Golden Tate ($18)

WR: Stefon Diggs ($6)

TE: Gary Barnidge ($5)

FLEX: C.J. Anderson ($32)

FLEX: T.J. Yeldon ($6)

DEF: Denver Broncos ($2)

Bench: Ameer Abdullah ($9), Devontae Booker ($5), Victor Cruz ($1), Phillip Dorsett ($6), Laquon Treadwell ($3), Jimmy Graham ($1)

Leftover: $13

Observations: Esser had to be surprised that he had money left on the table when he started off paying $43 for Todd Gurley, $32 for C.J. Anderson and $28 for Doug Martin. He spent $5 insuring against a whacky running back depth chart in Denver, but the extra money could have been spent on more dominant wide receivers. But hey, this is a standard scoring league so he’s feeling fine with that stout group of running backs.

Corey ParsonScout Fantasy

QB: Philip Rivers ($7)

RB: Ezekiel Elliott ($46)

RB: LeSean McCoy ($32)

WR: T.Y. Hilton ($29)

WR: Eric Decker ($24)

WR: Allen Hurns ($12)

TE: Martellus Bennett ($4)

FLEX: Arian Foster ($12)

FLEX: Thomas Rawls ($20)

DEF: Minnesota Vikings ($3)

Bench: Mike Gillislee ($1), Darren McFadden ($1), Karlos Williams ($2), Vincent Jackson ($3), Jermaine Kearse ($2), Markus Wheaton ($2)

Leftover: $0

Observations: I got a chance to talk with Parson after the draft and he said that he wanted to take Elliott and David Johnson at the top, but Johnson went for too much. Instead he went for McCoy for $31. If Rex Ryan gets his way and the team grounds and pounds all season long, McCoy could be a steal. His wide receivers are all touchdown heavy, but that’s fine for a standard league. It’s interesting that he focused on handcuffing his stud running backs especially since it took two picks just to cover McCoy.

Brandon Marianne Lee is a PFF Fantasy contributor, a SiriusXM host, co-founder of Her Fantasy Football and was a finalist for FSWA's Newcomer of the Year in 2014.

  • Chad

    I like the strategy as a long time fan of the zero RB approach I always try to add a starting caliber WR to my flex spot(s) in PPR leagues.

    I really like how Michael Beller’s team started but not a fan of the quantity of RB2-3s. It hurt his flex spots IMO but he has a really good team.

    • Brandon Marianne Lee

      Totally agree with you. I think Beller is going to be a force.

      • Jenniferehager2

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  • Achilles

    Thanks for the information on the Auction league. This comes right when I need it!

    $200 Budget 1 PPR, 0.3 YPC. 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 W/R/T Flex.

    I have decided to go Zero RB despite the 0.3 YPC setting.
    Shall I go aggressive and get 1 from {$65 AB/Julio/OBJ} , 1 from {$50 AJ, Dez, B Marsh}, 1 from {$40 K Allan, Alshon, Evans, Jordy} by spending around $150? AND then wait for the value to add 3 more WR for depth?

    OR You prefer spending $110 on 1 from {$65 AB/Julio/OBJ} , 1 from {$50 AJ, Dez, B Marsh} and wait to add value at WR/RB? I can easily get a combo like {Tate, Moncrief, M Floyd, Aiken } and { Fleener/Walker} and decent RB starters.

    Thank you

    • Brandon Marianne Lee

      Hey, there! Do the top prospects really go for $65 or do you think you can get them in the 50’s? I guess I’d go big with AB/Julio/OBJ and then load up with $40 range guys and skip the $50 range. I’ve rather Evans, Allen, Watkins and have a hint of cash for the RBs and a TE that won’t tear your hair out. Having one of the big three sets the tone. Normally I like to save, but this year, I can’t imaging choosing NOT to have one of them on my team. Good luck!

      • Achilles

        Thank you for the response!

        This is the first auction and not sure where they would really go. My numbers are from the mock drafts on Yahoo.

        Do you want to try to get one of the big three + Evans + K Allen + Watkins and save the rest for RB/TE? Based on the mocks, that could cost me around $165 to $175 for those 4. Hope they go cheap in the real drafts.

        Yope the big three will help you win lot of games. I’d probably go aggressive and get one of them very early. I have noticed the early nominated one (say AB) going for a less price compared to the other two (Julio, OBJ) since people will wait to get them cheap and overpay actually.

        Also, does the 0.3 PPC make the RBs that valuable? I’d prefer Blount, Gordon cheap who get plenty of carries.

        Really appreciate your help and good content in this article. Thank you.

        • Brandon Marianne Lee

          Awesome! I think you’re spot on with the Gordon/Blount thinking. Also consider Jonathan Stewart and Isaiah Crowell. But I wouldn’t get too caught up with the .3 PPC because there is still replacement value at the position. Go with the one of the big three (the first is a good idea) and then get as many WRs as possible. Good luck!

          • Achilles

            Thank you. Yeah J Stewart, Crowell are good targets as well. Sims, Powell, Jennings are few more cheap ones.

            Tate, Landry, M Floyd, J Brown, Moncrief, Crabtree, Aiken are the ones I want to get as my WR3 to WR6. Any more WRs or sleepers you like this year? Hard to keep Dorseett, Coates, Funchess on bench since it is small (6)

            I will keep you informed on how my draft unfolds. You got great value in DT which makes up for the extra money spent on the stud WR1.

          • Brandon Marianne Lee

            Looking forward to it.

          • Achilles

            Auction Draft Recap:

            QB: Stafford ($1)
            WRs: Julio ($62), Green ($50), A Robs ($40)
            RB: Jennings ($5), Powell($1)
            TE: Walker ($5)
            Flex: Alshon ($26)

            Henry($2), Booker($2), Dixon($1), D Washinton ($1), Starks ($1), Rishard Mathews ($1), Sharpe ($1), K Stills ($1)

            Any thoughts on this team? 1 PPR , 0.3 PPC

            Auto draft hurt me with R Mathews and K Stills picks instead of C Thompson, M Thomas. Planning to add C Thompson dropping Stills. Need to dump 3 more players for K, Def and M Thomas. Which 3 do you like to dump? Thank you

          • Brandon Marianne Lee

            Probably Mathews, Starks and Washington. Congrats on your draft!

  • BigEdgehead

    Hey pff member here. I have an auction up to 2 keeper league draft tomorrow. $200 budget so far have A Robinson keeping for $8 and trying hard as heck to decide between beckham keeping for $53 or Cooper $13 (price goes up $5 or 20%) whichever is greater, and it’s up to 3 years contracts. My plan would be to go hard after zeke at least an rb1 and rb2 for combined $60-80. Cooper is the better value and can keep all three 3 years I couldn’t obj but of course he’s the top guy to have in a keeper too.
    So far rbs that will be out there are: Ingram McCoy Charles zeke lacy Rawls. Possibly Martin and as they haven’t been announced as keepers yet. Up until 10am tomorrow. Thoughts? Appreciate the help. Pff is awesome

  • Redteg02

    So, who won?