Running Back Average Auction Value Tiers (Fantasy Football)

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I’ve long believed that auction values can tell you a lot more about the relative value of players far better than rankings. There can be a huge drop off between the value of the RB6 and RB7 in traditional ranks, but it doesn’t look like it because they appear one right after the other. Similarly, there may not be much of a difference in auction value between the RB ranked 19th and 25th, but they could be separated by a full round or two in serpentine drafts. Looking at these Average Auction Value Tiers is useful when building the sort of team you like to manage and can also help you find arbitrage opportunities(similarly valuable players at lower costs) in regular serpentine drafts.

For this series of articles, I’ve taken auction values from five auction drafts that occurred over the past few months with real money on the line(not from mock drafts). The settings for these drafts were 12-Teams, $200 budget, PPR, QB-2RB-3WR-TE-Flex-PK-DEF, 18 players per team. These were bestball drafts where lineups are optimized each week without the need for setting lineups, Head-to-Head matchups, or playoffs. Unlike most bestball drafts, each team can make up to one waiver wire move per week. While these settings may not align perfectly with what you’ll see in your drafts, these values are a good way to ballpark values and create strategies for your drafts.

*A quick note about Average Auction Value Tiers(AAVT) because this isn’t a term that’s used very often (or ever since I invented it just now). Last year I used the term Auction Value Tier, but it’s too easily confused with values and tiers within rankings or projections. Average Auction Value Tiers are based solely on actual prices from drafts with buy-ins and cash prizes. They are what ‘is’ as opposed to what ‘should be.’

RB Average Auction Value Tier 1

It’s not surprising that Christian McCaffrey holds the highest Average Auction Value(AAV) and has been the most expensive player in every one of these drafts, but the gap between him and Saquon Barkley is pretty significant:

Tier 1A/B Players AAV High/Low
Christian McCaffrey $60.6 $65/56
Saquon Barkley $55.2 $57/53

I debated about placing McCaffrey into a tier of his own, but Barkley is significantly ahead of the next group of RBs himself. I settled on cheating with a 1A/1B AAVT. Each draft is unique, but you can probably expect a $4-6 difference between McCaffrey and Barkley in leagues where teams start at $200. By the time drafting season gets into full swing, you’ll probably see McCaffrey go in the $65-70 range.

RB Average Auction Value Tier 2

These two have had almost identical values in drafts with the difference in value a dollar or two in each draft. You can see their AAVs and high/low bids are nearly identical:

Tier 2 Players AAV High/Low
Ezekiel Elliott $48.7 $53/45
Alvin Kamara $47.8 $52/43

If I had written this a month ago, Dalvin Cook would have been included in this tier, but nothing like a holdout threat combined with an extensive injury history to tank a player’s value.

RB Average Auction Value Tier 3

Dalvin Cook still leads the group, but you can see that massive split between his high and low bids:

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Value Tier 3 Players AAV High/Low
Dalvin Cook $42.4 $50/35
Joe Mixon $38.0 $42/35
Nick Chubb $37.6 $42/35
Derrick Henry $36.8 $41/33
Josh Jacobs $34.1 $42/26

Cook’s two winning bids since the holdout threat have been $43 and $35 for an average of $39. He’s renting space in this third AAVT, but I expect him to either jump up or down a tier depending on whether he actually follows through on the holdout or not.

Most RBs in these higher tiers have fairly stable price points, but Josh Jacobs has been hot and cold with low bids of $26, $30, and $31 and high bids of $38 and $42. This is one of those players that you should nominate early to let someone else “overpay” if you don’t like him.  If you like him, set aside some money and hope he gets nominated later.

RB Average Auction Value Tier 4

This group features a few RBs that were affected by some sort of shock to their fantasy outlook:

Tier 4 Players AAV High/Low
Aaron Jones $33.2 $39/25
Kenyan Drake $31.6 $35/22
Miles Sanders $30.3 $32/26
Leonard Fournette $30.3 $37/26
Austin Ekeler $29.9 $33/25

Up until the draft, Aaron Jones was going for around $38 consistently. I’m not sure Second-Round rookie draft pick A.J. Dillon is a direct threat to Jones’ volume although the bruising back could limit the TD-upside Jones displayed last year. The drop in value may be tied more to concerns about the direction the offense is heading. Whatever the reason, Jones’ value will probably fall more in line with the rest of the RBs in this tier than the next higher tier.

There were two big winners from the DeAndre HopkinsDavid Johnson trade and Kenyan Drake was one of them. With Johnson still in the fold, Drake was going in the low- to mid-$20 range. He’s been $30 or more in the three drafts completed since the trade heard ’round the world.

RB Average Auction Value Tier 5

There was one really big winner from the NFL draft and he lands firmly within this tier:

Tier 5 Players AAV High/Low
Clyde Edwards-Helaire *$19($25.7) $30/9
Le'Veon Bell $23.0 $31/16
Jonathan Taylor $22.8 $25/18
Todd Gurley $22.8 $28/19
Melvin Gordon $22.8 $25/19

Clyde Edwards-Helaire wasn’t an RB many people had pegged as the top RB in the draft class, but then he was the first RB taken and by KC no less. His auction price shot up far more than the other top rookie RBs, which is why his AAV has two prices. His overall AAV is only $19, but he’s averaged $25.7 since the draft placing him atop this tier of RBs. *Update: With the recent news of Chiefs RB Damien Williams opting out, CEH likely will be a tier 2 or 3 RB in auction drafts.

Jonathan Taylor is also in this tier, but he didn’t get nearly the auction bump CEH received since he was one of the top RB prospects heading into the draft if not the top prospect. His auction value pretty much remained constant post-draft.

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RB Average Auction Value Tier 6

The other winner from the Hopkins trade was David Johnson:

Tier 6 Players AAV High/Low
Devin Singletary $19.4 $21/17
Chris Carson $19.3 $22/15
David Johnson *$14.2($21) $23/5
D'Andre Swift $17.5 $21/12

DJ was going for around $12 before the trade, but he shot up to around $20 after the trade.

De’Andre Swift was going for about the same as Jonathan Taylor before the draft, but his DET landing spot has dropped him a few dollars.

Devin Singletary has been remarkably consistent. Maybe it was because drafters knew BUF would add an RB through free agency or the draft and priced him accordingly, but his value didn’t dip even with the addition of Zach Moss.

RB Average Auction Value Tier 7

This may be the most isolated RB Value Tier:

Tier 7 Players AAV High/Low
James Conner $16.8 $21/14
David Montgomery $15.6 $17/13

If James Conner looks healthy heading into the season, I expect his AAV to increase to the point where he may slide up an AAVT or two. Montgomery…he’ll get a lot of carries.

RB Average Auction Value Tier 8

The Baltimore Raven Value Tier:

Tier 8 Players AAV High/Low
Cam Akers $13.6 $16/12
J.K. Dobbins $11.2($12.7) $14/8
Kerryon Johnson $12.0 $14/9
Kareem Hunt $11.8 $17/7
Mark Ingram $13.2($10.0) $19/8
Raheem Mostert $11.60 $15/9

Mark Ingram and J.K. Dobbins have basically flipped values with Dobbins normally a little more expensive than Ingram. In one of the more bizarre flukes of these drafts, Cam Akers has either been exactly $12 or $16 in every draft.

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RB Average Auction Value Tier 9

This is a highly speculative Value Tier:

Tier 9 Players AAV High/Low
Ke'Shawn Vaughn $6($9.3) $11/1
Phillip Lindsay $8.3 $10/7
James White $8.2 $16/4
Derrius Guice $8.0 $12/4

James White-we love 10 fantasy pts/week, but it would be a lot cooler if it he did more. Ke’shawn Vaughn landed in one of the best teams for a rookie RB and saw a post-draft bump, but questions remain about whether he can overtake Ronald Jones.

RB Average Auction Value Tier 10

There is almost zero chance I leave a draft without at least one of these players:

Tier 10 Players AAV High/Low
Sony Michel $6.4 $9/4
Tarik Cohen $6.2 $9/5
Zack Moss $4.2($5.3) $8/2
Ronald Jones $5.0 $6/4
Tony Pollard $4.4 $10/1

Despite coming in under $5, I included Tony Pollard because of that relatively big $10 bid(that wasn’t mine…I double checked). Zach Moss had a slight post-draft bump, which was interesting because it didn’t seem to affect Devin Singletary’s value.

Comments

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jamie de Teliga says:

this is some kind of wonderful

Justin D says:

Steve, that makes sense that prices would be higher in your league, considering the number of players going in this article is way more. 12 team- 18 players per team (36 more players being drafted). People likely need to save more money just to stay competitive. The tiers are likely comparable to yours and who will be expensive vs a value.

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Alex Koford says:

Great work! As someone who has never done an auction draft but has done probably 100+ serpentine drafts, its very valuable to see it from this perspective.

steve larson says:

Seems a little low…or my league values more….we do 10 team 150 for 15 players……..QB, RB, RB, WR,WR, WR, TE, FLEX, K .5 PPR Our top RB’s go between 70 and 75…..then the top 2.5 tiers would be over those numbers, then coming back in Line……we always seem to pay more for the top guys….at RB and WR……Just interesting to see other takes.

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