WR-Heavy Strategy In Auction Leagues

One of the higher prestige internal football leagues here at RotoWire is the Steak League (16 teams, $200 cap, 1 QB/2 RB/3 WR/1 TE plus IDP with 6 player benches... it's a deep league), named because the losers end up buying the winners a steak dinner after the season in addition to the prize money that gets divvied up.

I've had middling success in the league over the last few years (one Super Bowl loss to perpetual powerhouse Dalton del Don in 2011), so this season rather than just trying to take what value the auction threw at me, I wanted to implement a specific strategy and see if it would pay off.

The strategy, in a nutshell, was this: rather than chase an elite RB or two into the $50-$60 price range, and leave myself short at other positions, I was going to spend no more than about $60 for my two starting RBs and focus the bulk of my resources on elite receiving talent, either three top WRs or (ideally) two top WEs plus Jimmy Graham, who was the only TE I judged to be worth going to the wall for.

My rationale for this was essentially two-fold. One, as Peter Schoenke points out seemingly every year, top WRs are more reliable than top RBs. The linked piece applies specifically to the viability of going WR-WR with your first two picks in a draft league, but the same principle applies to having your two most expensive players in an auction league being WRs.

Two, or possibly 1B depending on your perspective, you're much more likely to hit on a productive rookie RB than you are a productive rookie WR. Last year saw Doug Martin, Alfred Morris and Trent Richardson emerge compared to T.Y. Hilton, Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon, and that's fairly typical. Now obviously rookie RBs will be more expensive than rookie WRs as that trend gets priced into the bidding, but if you're not willing to spend big bucks on established top-end RBs going after a top rookie or two gives you the best chance to find a stud at less than stud prices. (Of course stars returning from injury are also a great way to find studs at bargain prices, but there are no Adrian Peterson's in this year's player pool.)

So with that approach in mind, how did I do?

QB: Alex Smith $7, EJ Manuel $3
RB: Eddie Lacy $33, Rashard Mendenhall $18, Le'Veon Bell $6, Bilal Powell $6, Zac Stacy $2
WR: Dez Bryant $40, Demaryius Thomas $38, Stevie Johnson $18, Justin Blackmon $8
TE: Owen Daniels $8, Jordan Cameron $5
K: Kai Forbath $1
DL: DeMarcus Ware $4
LB: Paul Pozluszny $1
DB: Kam Chancellor $2

Obviously my success is going to hinge on Lacy. If he proves to be the best of this year's crop of rookie backs (and so far in the preseason he's looked great, and has less competition than other rookies like Montee Ball and Giovani Bernard), the production I get from my wideouts should allow me to be very competitive. Mendenhall is a mediocre RB2, and in retrospect I might have been better off getting, say DeAngelo Williams (who went for $20) and passed on the safer Daniels to complement my Cameron upside pick at tight end. I actually wanted Daryl Richardson as my RB2, but he came out late and 'best back with any upside' price pressure saw him shoot up to $30. Other options in Lacy's price range included Frank Gore at $31, DeMarco Murray at $36, Reggie Bush at $35, David Wilson at $32 and Lamar Miller at $28. With the possible exception of Wilson, I think Lacy's got more upside than any of them. Ball and Bernard, incidentally, went for $21 and $20 respectively. My darts are solid too. Bell was brought up early, as news of his Lisfranc injury had just hit, and I figured as a possible second-half rival to Mendenhall's spot he was worth the risk. I've got little faith in Chris Ivory either, so while Powell's nothing special he could prove to be a useful bye-week plug-in.

The WRs I selected need no justification. For the record, Bryant was my top target at WR. I think there's a reasonable chance he's neck and neck with Megatron as the top fantasy wideout this season. The added bonus of having Blackmon as the backup to my big three is that they all have late bye weeks, so he'll be well back from his suspension by the time I need him. Health is the only thing that will prevent my Dem-Dez duo from being the engine that drives my roster. Graham, incidentally, ended up going for $39, and while I was tempted I couldn't justify it since I already had Bryant and Thomas rostered.

Dropping $100 on my WRs and another $50 on my RBs, of course, didn't leave much money for other spots. My QBs are sketchy, but I'm banking on Andy Reid to work his usual magic with Smith, and once he heals up Manuel should be at least semi-productive given his running ability. My IDPs are solid too. Ware was an endgame, "where else am I gonna spend this money?" kind of buy, but if he stays in one piece he could have one last huge season left in the tank in the Cowboys' new attack-oriented, Monte Kiffin defense.

All in all I think the strategy worked pretty well. By contrast, here's the roster of the person who sent the most on their two starting RBs. I like my team better, but then, I would:

QB: Matthew Stafford $31, Jake Locker $2
RB: Adrian Peterson $61, Marshawn Lynch $47, Daniel Thomas $5, Fred Jackson $4, Toby Gerhart $3
WR: Cecil Shorts $16, Darrius Heyward-Bey $10, DeAndre Hopkins $4, Stephen Hill $3, Santonio Holmes $1
TE: Brandon Myers $6
K: Matt Prater $1
DL: Robert Quinn $1
LB: Patrick Willis $3
DB: Cortland Finnegan $2

Full auction results are here.


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