One True Bye Week: An Alternative Auction Strategy
By Michael Plis, Guest Contributor
Conventional wisdom says the key to bye week management is making sure you spread the byes out. And I agreed with the conventional wisdom until I read Greg Alan’s groundbreaking article on managing bye weeks.
I won’t go into too much detail because Greg does a great job explaining his reasoning, but his main point is that in head-to-head formats, you actually increase your chances of winning if all of your players have the same bye week. You’re giving up that one week, but there will be several other weeks where the rest of your league will be missing starters and you’ll be at full strength.
I’ve dubbed this strategy the One True Bye Week (OTBW) because it sounds cool and honestly makes writing this article a little easier. I felt like the theory presented by Greg Alan was solid, but ever since I read that article I’ve wondered how it would work in practice, so I’ve toyed with the idea of trying out this strategy on draft day.
Here’s the problem: in a serpentine-style draft, it’s almost impossible to build a competitive team with this strategy because you’re locked into a specific drafting position. And when things go wrong, well, they can really go wrong.
Because of how NFL bye weeks work out, there will likely only be a couple of weeks in any given season that have enough players on a bye for you to build a good fantasy team around, but because of the snake-draft format, you might not be in an ideal position to acquire them.
For example, what if your only practical options at RB both have ADP’s right around where your second pick will fall? Or what if you’re drafting first overall, but the highest ranked player that has your target bye week isn’t usually taken until the back half of the first round? You’re likely going to be sacrificing a lot of value trying to get certain players.
Even if the ADP’s line up perfectly, you’re still at the mercy of the other owners. Remember that time the owner picking right before you sniped that stud RB or sleeper WR you were hoping would fall to you? That stung right? Well, the sting would be much worse if that player you wanted was the only player with your target bye week that had an ADP within the next two rounds. You’d either have to abandon your strategy during the draft or drastically overdraft a player, neither of which spell fantasy success.
Trying to draft a team with a common bye week in a serpentine draft can backfire very easily. The strategy is too inflexible and you’re at the mercy of your draft position and the other managers in your league.
Enter the Auction Draft
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to draft your team without having to worry about draft position? What if there was a draft format that allowed you to get any player you wanted at fair value?
If you’re thinking that that sounds too good to be true, then allow me to introduce you to the wonderful world of auction drafting. In an auction draft, if you want a player, he’s yours as long as you’re willing to pay for him. There are no draft positions so everyone has a fair shot at every player.
I love auction drafting. It’s a format that requires an extra level of skill and planning, and it also lends itself very nicely to this strategy of assembling a team with a common bye week.
OTBW and Auction Drafting: A Winning Combination
Since you’re not hamstrung by your draft position in an auction, it’s much easier to target a specific group of players without sacrificing value. You can get 2 top-5 RB’s if you want, which is nearly impossible to do in a serpentine draft.
Another advantage using this strategy in an auction draft is you can allocate more resources to your starters. Usually, you need your bench players in case your starter is on a bye or is injured, but with this strategy, you don’t need any bye week fill-ins since all of your starters are out the same week so you’re probably going to lose that matchup anyway. Since you’ll only need your bench players if your starter gets hurt, you can focus on acquiring their handcuffs, which you can usually get at a much cheaper price than a typical fantasy backup.
Having more auction dollars available to spend on your starters not only means that you will have a stronger starting lineup, but that you’ll also have a greater ability to outbid the other owners for the starters that you want. It’s typical to allocate about 80-90% of your auction dollars towards your starters, but with this strategy, you can bump that up to as high as 95%.
Also, having a smaller group of players to target allows you to use your nominations to your advantage. You can nominate other players in the same tier as the players you’re targeting so that you can reduce competition for their services when they get put up for bidding.
OTBW in Action
If you’re still not convinced, allow me to show you what your team could look like if you put this strategy into practice in 2014. I’ve selected three potential target bye weeks, listed 4for4’s top players available at each position, and provided my own commentary. The maximum suggested bids (MSB) listed below assume a $200 budget, PPR scoring, and a starting lineup of 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, and 1 TE (fully customizable Auction Values tool here).
Week 10 (On Bye: HOU, WAS, SD, NE, MIN, IND)
Week 10 is one of 3 weeks in 2014 (along with weeks 4 and 9) that has 6 teams on a bye, thus offering a big enough pool of players to build a solid team around. This is likely the worst week of the 3 to target when using this strategy due to several factors. First, there is a lack of elite talent at WR and QB. Second there are very few quality options at RB. Finally, the only truly elite players at their position in this group are Gronkowski (with his well-documented injury history) and Peterson. All of this combines to almost necessitate that you secure Peterson, Foster and Gronkowski. Without those three, you will likely end up a slightly below average team at best. Having an inflexible strategy in an auction draft can put you in a very dangerous position if another owner bids up the guy you’re targeting. Spending so much money on your RB’s and TE will mean you either won’t be able to grab both Allen and Garcon at WR or that you’ll have to settle for RG3 as your QB.
Example Week 10 roster:
Total cost - $189
Week 4 (On Bye: SEA, ARI, STL, DEN, CLE, CIN)
Initially it may seem that Week 4 offers a great roster solely due to Denver’s offense, but there’s plenty of offensive talent to build around across several teams. One of Demaryius Thomas or A.J. Green is necessary to build a Week 4 team because of the drop-off in WR talent after them. People are paying a premium for a piece of Denver’s offense this year, so Green may be the better value of the two. You can even try to grab both of them, but it could be risky given the top-heavy nature of the other positions this week. There are several mid-low RB1 and high RB2 options in Week 4 starting with Montee Ball and ending with Zac Stacy, but there’s a significant drop after Stacy, so you’re likely going to have to pay up for two of these top RB’s. After dropping so much of your budget on RB’s and WR’s, you likely won’t be able to grab Peyton Manning, but I think that’s fine because Russell Wilson is a solid option at QB and a great value in most drafts. Depending on how your draft goes, you might be able to get Julius Thomas as your TE, but may have to settle for Jordan Cameron who I think presents a better value anyway.
Example Week 4 roster:
Total cost - $187
Week 9 (On Bye: TEN, GB, DET, CHI, BUF, ATL)
Week 9 is loaded with offensive talent, especially at WR, with 6 of the top 10 ranked WR’s riding the pine this week. Shelling out money for 2 top 10 WR’s and either Forte or Lacy at RB will give you a solid core to build around. If one of those WR’s happens to be Calvin Johnson, you may have to fill out your roster with guys like Sankey, Tate, and Watkins because in most auctions, you’ll have to overpay quite a bit to secure Megatron. Spending money on top RB and WR talent will likely put you out of the running for the services of Aaron Rodgers, but Stafford and Ryan should both be able to fit into your budget. Unless Bennett or Walker get nominated early, you should be able to get one or both of them for the minimum bid.
Example Week 9 roster:
Total cost - $190
As you can see, these example teams would be plenty competitive regardless of bye weeks. Given the advantage your starting lineup should have over other teams and the fact that you’ll be at full strength for 8 out of the 9 NFL bye weeks, you should be in great position to make the playoffs and make a strong run at your league’s championship.
I strongly encourage anyone considering this strategy to try it in a few mock drafts first. It’s an unusual strategy and not for the faint of heart, so you need to feel comfortable with it and confident that you can get the team you want. It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy that, if done right, could give you the edge you need to help you dominate your league.