Stars & Scrubs vs Balance

This is either balance gone wrong or the guy on the left is a star
Photo Credit: theogeo

Auction drafting allows managers freedom to draft teams however they wish. Every player in the pool is available to every manager in the league. Auction drafts are more fun, challenging and fair for all. They’re slightly addictive. If you’re a snake drafter looking to compete in his or her first auction draft I must warn you: you’ll be chasing the high from your first draft for the rest of your fantasy life.

With the ability to choose who you want when you want, two strategies often emerge. You can go Stars and Scrubs by spending the majority of your budget on top-tier talent only to fill out the rest of your roster with cheap commodities. Or you can draft for balance, filling your entire starting roster with mid-tier talent. Both plans of action work, but each strategy works better within specific environments. After the jump we’ll figure out when it’s best to use each tactic.

The method to figuring out which strategy will work best for your draft is to get a sense of whether or not you’ll be comfortable fielding $1 players. Calculate how many players will be drafted in your league, do this for each position. If your league starts 50 WR every Sunday and you’re not comfortable starting a Davone Bess, Mike Thomas or Jacoby Jones you may want to use a balanced approach and target mid-tier Wide Receivers rather than paying full price for a pair of expensive Johnsons. If you’re in a standard (ESPN) 10-teamer that starts 30 WR every Sunday and you’re completely comfortable trotting out a Johnny Knox, Malcom Floyd or Jacoby Ford, by all means target two top-tier WR like Hakeem Nicks and Miles Austin. It’s all about figuring out who will be the $1 players and whether or not you’ll feel comfortable starting them.

Because auctions are hard-to-predict beasts it will be nearly impossible for you to say exactly who will go for $1. You should not go into an auction draft expecting to land your favorite sleepers at discount rates. In my experience managers often fight over sleepers and drive up the price to the point where little profit can be made. When Stars & Scrubbing it, be sure to have a group or tier of $1 players that you’ll be pleased to roster. Auction drafts force you to know the entire player pool rather than simply choosing the best player from a group of ten-or-so of the higher ranked options.

Stars & Scrubs is usually the best option for small leagues (12 teams or fewer with standard roster sets). There are enough Quarterbacks, Tight Ends and Running Backs to fill out 12 and 24 roster slots. You can easily find a few cheap gems at WR in smaller leagues. The only time that I’ll go with a full blown balanced approach is in very deep leagues (think 18 to 20-team leagues with a Flex spot). The majority of my leagues are 14-team leagues with a Flex spot (and IDP) added. For these leagues I’ll use a hybrid approach. I’ll be prepared to lean toward the Stars & Scrubs method unless managers inflate the prices of top-tier talent. If major inflation is occurring then I’ll try to hoard three 2nd Rd-ish picks rather than overpaying for a 1st Rd option. Knowing the entire player pool and unearthing hidden gems can help make up for overspending early on, in case I do get caught up in the heat of the moment.

Auction leagues are all about being prepared. Understanding which scheme will work best for your league is huge. These two tactics (Stars & Scrubs vs Balance) are really two polar opposite ends of the spectrum and correlate with Shallow vs Deep leagues. If you’re somewhere in between you’ll have to find a hybrid model that suits your tastes. Know the player pool, understand the concept of supply and demand (with the player pool), keep an eye on your (and your opponents’) money situation, watch for the ebbs and flows of the draft and you should be able to leave your war room with a winning team.

S&S perfected: Studs nearly everywhere w/ a few sleepers to fill out your WR3
S&S gone wrong: Studs at a few positions with weak sleepers everywhere else
Balance perfected: Good players everywhere while most teams have gaping holes
Balance gone wrong: Solid players everywhere while most teams have studs