This article is part of our Fantasy Football Draft Strategy series.
Tuesday saw the completion of the annual RotoWire Steak League auction — a 14-team, half-PPR IDP league with a $200 budget. While there is a monetary prize for first place, the real stakes revolve around steak, or rather an entire steak league meal, which has grown increasingly pricey since I joined the league six years ago (let's just say I wouldn't blame the rise on inflation). If you're familiar at all with RotoWire you've certainly heard of this draft, so it's not worth going into greater detail. Just know it's arguably my most important league every year along with many others at the company.
I've had mixed success over the course of my Steak League "career," but I've been on a bit of a rough skid lately, paying for a steak meal in two of the last three years. Determined to change the course this go around, I spent an embarrassing amount of time reviewing my past drafts, compiling a few of my league mates tendencies and reworking my planned auction budget three separate times. I discussed a number of different auction strategies in a podcast a few weeks back, ultimately going with a mix of a couple of successful approaches I've seen completed.
Here's the results:
I feel confident I at least predicted how the rest of the league would react to a couple key position groups, and just overall some players specifically, though I'm not sure I capitalized on the knowledge as much as I would have hoped.
I was incredibly thankful COO of RotoWire and Bills superfan, Tim Schuler, wound up with the first nomination because Josh Allen's modest price tag of $20 to begin the draft set the tone on the only point of demarcation that I've noticed in past drafts, i.e. the price of QBs. Had Allen been nominated at pick, say 20, a possibly less reserved group of bidders might have pushed up the MVP front runner even further, creating a trickle down effect for the rest of the signal callers. As a result, I immediately adjusted my budget for a cheap QB and was pleasantly surprised to get my preferred target in Derek Carr. It was frustrating ESPN's mobile draft software automatically upbid me to $3 despite already having him at $2, but I probably shouldn't have put myself in a position to be so reliant on one more dollar, so I considered the malfunction a product of deserved punishment.
That set the stage for a Steak League first for me — paying for the most expensive player in the draft. Yes, I did want a piece of Jonathan Taylor and I knew with my bad luck that just wouldn't be possible, but, more important, I wanted a safe first-round RB, and I knew some of the other targets I'd consider (Joe Mixon, Najee Harris, Derrick Henry) just weren't ever going to be "values" in a group of smart drafters. I priced JT at $66 and felt fortunate to get him just a bit lower, especially after it was revealed the sister Steak League ultimately got him at $69.
From there, I wanted to remain patient. I knew the big-budget RB would remove me from any WR in the upper echelon, but it also meant I had to be aware of when the tier price changed and make sure I was proactive. Getting Kyle Pitts fell right into my plan, especially because I anticipated my flex spot would likely be filled by a $3-5 tight end to zig from what I anticipated would be an overzealous market for second-tier WRs.
That didn't really unfold. DK Metcalf is absolutely one of my "guys" this year, and I was frustrated to see Liss had just drafted Metcalf in a NFFC RotoWire Online Championship earlier in the day basically ensuring I would be in a bidding war, but I felt comfortable if I got him early enough in the process he'd ultimately be a value. While $27 is certainly reasonable for his upside, the decision to commit to Metcalf meant I'd be unable to capitalize on any sort of value that cropped up. That value ultimately materialized in the form of so-so RBs like Miles Sanders ($12), Antonio Gibson ($11), Rashaad Penny ($15) and my choice, Clyde Edwards-Helaire ($13). I didn't want to battle with someone else at the end of a tier and sitting with a rocky RB2 in J.K. Dobbins I knew I had to plug my nose and wade into uncomfortable waters, but I would have much preferred Penny at his price had I known how lukewarm the rest of the room would be.
I love Drake London, Allen Lazard and Christian Kirk this year, but it became clear pretty quickly that the rest of the room had anticipated spending their money on the trio, so I evacuated a bit early snapping up Chris Godwin as my WR2. I should have been more proactive and also tried to get Marquise Brown ($16), fully committing to a stars/scrubs approach, but thankfully my timid heart was rewarded because the 0.5 point PPR scared off people just enough to land Hunter Renfrow at a reasonable discount.
I'm going to have to get a waiver-wire gem at some point during the season to feel confident in this team, and Dobbins needs to be healthy pretty early on, but it's a team pretty full of guys who have comfortable upside with little risk.