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Approaching an Auction Rookie Draft – My Orphan Story

There are plenty of articles about rookie drafts, but what about an auction? Keith Ensminger (@TheSmingDynasty) writes about his orphan rookie auction

I took over an orphan dynasty team at the start of the offseason in a rather unique league. It is Marvel Comics-themed, and each team can use their given “powers” to do various things like winning a waiver claim, swapping players out of lineups, or canceling out the score of another team’s player. There are other minor aspects, but that is an article for another time.

Regardless of any league theme, suffice to say that the orphan team I picked up was much more Ant-Man than Iron Man. It had a few good players, which I’ll get into later, but it is a pretty big rebuild. Where to begin? This league also utilizes an auction to hold their rookie drafts, so I knew that this was where I had to attack. Therefore, I didn’t want to go in blind, so my research began.


Any time you join a new league, either a startup or an orphan, look at the league rules, settings, and scoring. Above all, I cannot emphasize this enough! This league is a PPR Superflex league with tight end premium, but more importantly, it is a points-per-carry league. I’ve been in a few PPC leagues before, and I know running backs are supremely expensive. Knowing that quarterbacks are also king in Superflex leagues, these two details definitely come into play with my auction strategy later.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at my orphan’s roster.

My original roster when I picked up the orphan.

A quick analysis:

Quarterbacks –

I am not the biggest Kyler Murray fan, but in a PPC league, I knew he would be a good asset. Having Joe Burrow as my QB2 also made me pretty confident in this position. I wanted Taysom Hill to be my must-sell asset, but none of my league mates bit, unfortunately, even at far less than market value, and he remains on my roster. Knowing quarterback was one of the strongest positions on my team allowed me to sit out the insane bidding wars on the quarterbacks in this draft.

Running Backs –

We start two running backs in this league each week, so despite having both Saquon and Edwards-Helaire, I felt very thin here. I am a big fan of Nyheim Hines, so he was my other hold. I wanted to sell anyone else on this list that I could, and I did so, which I’ll discuss in a bit.

Wide Receivers –

Yikes. This was clearly the weakest part of my roster. I like Campbell and Mooney as mid-level assets. Slayton and Preston Williams are at least names with youth and past production. The good news for this roster is that wide receiver is such a deep position in dynasty right now, and this rookie auction would be plentiful to restock my team.

Tight End –

Also, yikes. While Harrison Bryant and Anthony Firkser may be decent TE2 types, I knew I had to figure out what to do at this position if I had any chance of rebuilding this roster. Kyle Pitts was an obvious target, but I knew that he would be expensive. Was there someone else I could potentially target for far a cheaper cost?


My next step was to look at the league’s economy. How much was each draft pick worth? How much money does each team have? What did previous draft picks go for?

First RoundSecond RoundThird RoundFourth Round
The dollar amounts assigned to each draft pick.

If this is your first time doing a rookie auction, it is critical to understand that you will not get Trevor Lawrence at 1.01 for $200. That would be the case in any rookie auction format, but more so here, as money carries over from season to season. Our dollar amount is also one collective pot, and it includes money given annually for waiver claims and other bonuses. Here is a chart of the winning bids for the top 30 rookies from the 2020 rookie class.

Burrow, Joe CIN QB$676.00
Taylor, Jonathan IND RB$454.00
Herbert, Justin LAC QB$401.00
Swift, D’Andre DET RB$361.00
Dobbins, J.K. BAL RB$355.00
Tagovailoa, Tua MIA QB$350.00
Akers, Cam LAR RB$320.00
Edwards-Helaire, Clyde KCC RB$317.00
Vaughn, Ke’Shawn TBB RB$226.00
Reagor, Jalen PHI WR$141.00
Lamb, CeeDee DAL WR$140.00
Jeudy, Jerry DEN WR$131.00
Jefferson, Justin MIN WR$126.00
Ruggs, Henry LVR WR$121.00
Higgins, Tee CIN WR$115.00
Eason, Jacob IND QB$110.00
Pittman, Michael IND WR$105.00
Mims, Denzel NYJ WR$101.00
Moss, Zack BUF RB$101.00
Edwards, Bryan LVR WR$93.00
Shenault, Laviska JAC WR$75.00
Hurts, Jalen PHI QB$74.00
Fromm, Jake BUF QB$72.00
Gibson, Antonio WAS RB$66.00
Love, Jordan GBP QB$66.00
Aiyuk, Brandon SFO WR$65.00
Dillon, AJ GBP RB$54.00
Hamler, KJ DEN WR$38.00
Claypool, Chase PIT WR$30.00
Winning Bids for 2020 Rookie Class

Two conclusions from this chart? First, the top nine players all went for over $200, the dollar amount for pick 1.01. Second, the prices were skewed heavily towards the quarterbacks and running backs. This is what I would be facing in our upcoming auction.

Finally, I looked at the league as a whole. How much money does each team have? What positions will each team likely be looking to get in the draft? Thankfully, with the help of our DynastyGM tool, this was an easy process! I ranked the teams by tiers of money on hand, with my team highlighted in blue.

Team $$ On HandQB RankRB RankWR RankTE Rank
Breakdown of the 12 teams in the league, using the Dynasty Nerds DynastyGM tool. (If you haven’t tried it yet, you should!)

As I suspected, my team was weakest at wide receiver. I also quickly discovered that the only three teams with more money than me were weakest at quarterback. With that knowledge in mind, I suspected the team with the most money (double the amount of the second-place team!) would immediately go for Trevor Lawrence. The other two would likely fight for Fields, Wilson, Lance, and Jones.


With a few weeks to go before the draft, as rookie fever set it, I did make a few moves which I thought were good value:

Trade 1 – On March 2nd, I gave up Zack Moss and $40 for Curtis Samuel.

This was a no-brainer for me. I am not a fan of Moss, even in a PPC league. The presence of Josh Allen will always dampen his touchdown totals. This move was made pre-free agency and the NFL draft, and many believed Buffalo would try to improve at running back during those few months. In return, I picked up Curtis Samuel, a wide receiver I am very high on. He immediately became one of the top wide receiver assets in my weak stable of pass-catchers.

Trade 2 – On March 2nd, I gave up Preston Williams for Tre’Quan Smith and $50

Later that day, I swapped Williams for Smith and more than recouped my $40 investment in Samuel. I see no difference between the value of these two wide receivers, especially with rumors of Miami wanting to draft a wide receiver. Not every move you make in a rebuild has to be a swap of major assets. Do not be afraid to make these little moves!

Trade 3 – On March 28th, I gave up $100 for Cam Newton

This move may be the biggest head-scratcher to you, but I am a believer in Cam’s ability to succeed with the Patriots this year. Yes, this was before the drafting of Mac Jones. That does not phase me. The Newton owner put him up on the trade block, so I reached out with an offer hoping to buy low.

Does acquiring Cam make any sense to a rebuilding team? No. However, my process in rebuilding is not limited to just soaking up young players and draft picks. It is to obtain any player I believe is a good value that could be flipped for a higher value later this season. For the cost of the equivalent of the 19th drafted rookie, a mid-second round pick, from last season, I picked up a starting quarterback with rushing upside in a points-per-carry league. In this league’s PPC scoring, Cam scored 20.04 points per game on the season and finished as QB20. However, through his first three games before COVID, Cam was QB7, scoring 27.47 points per game. Therefore, I believe Cam is the Patriots quarterback for this season, and I believe I will be able to trade him and make a profit on my offseason investment.

Trade 4 – On April 23rd, I gave up $110 for Corey Davis

Remember being weak at wide receiver? Not much more to say here for my rationale. This was just days before the NFL draft, and I knew there was a chance that the Jets may take a wide receiver. Despite that, I felt acquiring Davis was worth the investment amount of a mid-second round rookie. At this point, I had specific targets in mind for the rookie auction, and I knew there would be a steep drop-off in value after my secondary tier of receiving targets. I could not pass up the chance to get a still-young WR3 now paired with a top-flight rookie quarterback. Even if he merely duplicates his numbers from 2020, this move was worth it.

Trade 5 – On May 2nd, I gave up $100 for Irv Smith, Jr.

I saved the best for last. This was by far my favorite trade. Following the NFL draft, but still before our league’s rookie auction, I was able to trade for my top offseason tight end buy for nearly the same cost as Pat Freiermuth would end up going for shortly after that. Yes, I like the Steeler rookie, but he and Smith are both 22 years old. However, while Freiermuth is a highly-touted rookie, Smith has two years of experience on him at the same age. Picking up Smith freed me from targeting the expensive Kyle Pitts to voraciously attack wide receiver in the rookie auction.


As anyone who has participated in an auction will tell you, it is difficult to discuss the moment-by-moment ins-and-outs of any fantasy football auction. So I will spare you the minutiae and skip straight to the results, filling in a few details at the end. To give you an idea of overall values for your own rookie auctions, here are the complete results of our league’s rookie auction. My players are highlighted in red.

Lawrence, Trevor JAC QB$730.00
Fields, Justin CHI QB$555.00
Lance, Trey SFO QB$500.00
Pitts, Kyle ATL TE$470.00
Harris, Najee PIT RB$451.00
Wilson, Zach NYJ QB$451.00
Jones, Mac NEP QB$390.00
Etienne, Travis JAC RB$340.00
Williams, Javonte DEN RB$333.00
Chase, Ja’Marr CIN WR$266.00
Sermon, Trey SFO RB$200.00
Carter, Michael NYJ RB$194.00
Waddle, Jaylen MIA WR$185.00
Smith, DeVonta PHI WR$164.00
Marshall, Terrace CAR WR$143.00
Moore, Elijah NYJ WR$140.00
Moore, Rondale ARI WR$140.00
Bateman, Rashod BAL WR$135.00
Freiermuth, Pat PIT TE$101.00
Trask, Kyle TBB QB$100.00
Toney, Kadarius NYG WR$87.00
Mond, Kellen MIN QB$81.00
Mills, Davis HOU QB$61.00
Hubbard, Chuba CAR RB$56.00
Eskridge, D’Wayne SEA WR$55.00
St. Brown, Amon-Ra DET WR$55.00
Collins, Nico HOU WR$44.00
Rodgers, Amari GBP WR$40.00
Brown, Dyami WAS WR$35.00
Gainwell, Kenneth PHI RB$34.00
Stevenson, Rhamondre NEP RB$28.00
Herbert, Khalil CHI RB$27.00
Powell, Cornell KCC WR$25.00
Palmer, Josh LAC WR$20.00
Jordan, Brevin HOU TE$16.00
Long, Hunter MIA TE$15.00
Nwangwu, Kene MIN RB$13.00
Doaks, Gerrid MIA RB$12.00
Hawkins, Javian ATL RB$10.00
Atwell, Tutu LAR WR$6.00
Book, Ian NOS QB$6.00
Fitzpatrick, Dez TEN WR$6.00
Tremble, Tommy CAR TE$6.00
Williams, Seth DEN WR$5.00
Mitchell, Elijah SFO RB$4.00
Wallace, Tylan BAL WR$2.00
Ehlinger, Sam IND QB$1.00
Farrell, Luke JAC TE$1.00
Fehoko, Simi DAL WR$1.00
Granson, Kylen IND TE$1.00
Huntley, Caleb ATL RB$1.00
Jefferson, Jermar DET RB$1.00
McKitty, Tre’ LAC TE$1.00
Newsome, Dazz CHI WR$1.00
Rountree, Larry LAC RB$1.00
Schwartz, Anthony CLE WR$1.00
Surratt, Sage DET WR$1.00
Yeboah, Kenny NYJ TE$1.00
2021 Rookie Auction Results

Notes and Observations:

  • As I suspected, just look at the prices on those quarterbacks and running backs! While my league mate’s money and attention were zigged up in those two positions, I zagged towards the wide receivers. The plan worked!
  • There was a lot of “price enforcement” going on early with those top targets. As a result, no one was getting any players for what I would consider cheap. In fact, I would argue that many of the top quarterbacks and running backs went for a fair bit more than I would have spent on them.
  • That said, I am still surprised that I was able to get Chase for only $266. I was ready to go a lot higher on him if I needed to. But, considering my plan, he was my number one target going into the draft. My team needed an alpha wide receiver, and Chase fits that bill. “Ja’Marr Chase, no matter what!”
  • I was equally elated to land Devonta Smith, Elijah Moore, and Rondale Moore. Each of them will go straight into my starting lineup for years to come.
  • Kadarius Toney was a consolation prize after losing out on an early bidding war for Rashod Bateman. In hindsight, I wish I would have pushed hard for Bateman, but he was one of the very first players to go off the board. I was still getting a feeling for how things would shake out, and I did not want to go overboard so early. You can’t win them all.
  • I went hard after Jaylen Waddle, but it was soon apparent that I would not get him. There was another owner who drove hard with his price every time I increased the bid. With so many other similar and cheaper options, I did not want to get into a bidding war and tie up too much of my money.
  • I landed both Cornell Powell and Josh Palmer towards the end of the draft after most teams were tapped out. They were a little costlier than some of the other cheap fliers, but in an auction, you get your guys. That is the entire point of an auction.
  • Similarly, I was able to get Granson, Newsome, and Yeboah for the minimum bid of $1 to fill out the rest of my roster. I had so many players to cut from my weak roster that I would much rather take a chance that any of the three of them hit as opposed to holding on to roster cloggers.

My post-draft roster looks like this, a huge improvement over where I started.

The post-draft results. How did I do?


I am very happy with the progress on this orphan so far. With a young roster of wide receivers, I can let them mature as I gain enough draft equity to go for a title run in 2023. I plan to mostly sit out the 2022 draft and save up for the talented devy running backs everyone is starting to salivate over in the 2023 class.

However, that is two years away. A dynasty manager’s work is never done, so there are still moves to be made here in the meantime. I’m still a rebuilding team, so does it makes sense to hold onto Saquon? Should I try to move Kyler at what is almost certainly his maximum value? What to do about Taysom and Cam?

Rebuilding an orphan can be a tough, long process, but as Spider-Man once said, “No man can win every battle, but no man should fall without a struggle.”

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