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Bending the Rules, Part Three: Draft & Auction Manipulation

Matt Plumb breaks unique draft and auction settings to add to your dynasty and salary cap leagues.

This is part three of a multi-part series on different rules and settings you can add to your dynasty and contract leagues to give your league a new and exciting dimension. These articles will be broken out into different changes ranging from rosters to contracts and trades. 

To view Part 1, click HERE

To view Part 2, click HERE

Note: For this part, I would like to shout out to a commissioner and league mate, Brian Matteo, who runs an MFL league that incorporates many of the below aspects. I would love to share some of the settings in that league and others.

Draft & Auction Manipulation

The rookie draft and free agent auction are critical events in the offseason. In salary cap leagues, auctions usually occur after the rookie draft. Teams acquire free agents using any remaining cap space they have. Here are some different ways to make your offseason more interesting AND entertaining:

Auction Before the Rookie Draft

Most leagues have the rookie draft before the free agent auction. This is a direct contrast from the NFL. For the NFL, free agency occurs in mid-March, and the draft happens at the end of April. Flipping the events adds a new level of complexity to the offseason that is fascinating! Teams must map out their offseason and salary cap. What positions are most needed? How many dollars should be allocated for draft picks that the team currently owns? A full accounting of the “salary cap health” for the team is necessary. It also allows teams to redirect their draft efforts if they miss out on talent in the auction.  

UDFA

The UDFA or Undrafted Free Agent Auction is a fun way to acquire young talent for cheap. A UDFA is precisely what it sounds like. All rookies undrafted in the draft would be subject to the UDFA. Teams would bid on these undrafted rookies based on their perceived talents. The UDFA will occur later in the summer once teams become more aware of the impact and place that rookies will have on their actual NFL rosters. Sleeper rookies, so to speak.  

One reason to incorporate a UDFA is if your league seems to have too many rounds of draft picks. Four rounds of draft picks may seem like too many depending on the number of teams and roster size. Too many draft picks may hamstring the team into selecting rookies and dropping other players to meet roster limits. The UDFA allows leagues to limit the required draft rounds, yet it will still enable owners to draft rookies they see future upside in. The option to draft or not draft gives roster flexibility.

RFA Offer Sheets

One way to keep rookies you drafted at a more manageable cap hit with some insurance is an RFA Offer Sheet. For example, in Brian Matteo’s MFL league, our salary cap is $200. When a drafted player’s rookie contract expires, they become subject to the Restricted Free Agent (RFA) Offer Sheet process. The cap hit per season is different depending on how you value the player. There are four buckets:

First Round pick – $16 salary

Second-Round Pick – $8 salary

Third-Round Pick – $4 salary

No Pick/Low Tender – $2 salary

The cap hit corresponds to the draft pick another team has to provide you if they either match or exceed your offer for the player. Let’s use AJ Brown as an example.

AJ Brown’s four-year rookie deal expires this offseason, and I tag him at the first-round value. This set his initial cap hit at $16. During the RFA Offer Sheet process, another team can offer AJ Brown $17 or more to try and steal him from me. Let’s say they offer AJ Brown $20. Because I drafted him, I can either match that new offer of $20 or decline to match it. If I decline to match it, the other team who “stole” AJ Brown will have to surrender their first-round pick in the upcoming rookie draft because I tagged Brown at the first-round pick value. The RFA Offer Sheet allows owners to assign contracts to players while allowing them to recoup draft capital if another team decides that the player is worth more.  

Slow Draft & Auction

Isn’t one of the worst parts of fantasy football trying to find a single time for 12 or more people to meet and do a rookie draft or free agent auction? It always seems like a time never works perfectly for everyone. Or don’t you hate when you panic bid on a player and then regret the contract and salary immediately after the auction? Or panic draft a player? Try a slow draft or auction! 

Slow drafts and auctions are just like regular drafts or free agent auctions, but instead of having only seconds on the draft, nomination, and bid clocks, the clock can be hours long. This is a great tool and very helpful in planning when to have your league’s draft and auction. It also helps owners make more rational and informed decisions on contracts so that your league isn’t full of bloated contracts and the best rookie for your pick.  

Compensatory Picks

The San Francisco 49ers received SEVEN compensatory draft picks in the 2023 NFL Draft (including three 3rd round picks). Compensatory picks are a way to add draft capital for teams and create another avenue of asset acquisition in your leagues. The NFL award compensatory picks for a variety of things. But in fantasy, the two ways to award compensatory picks are (1) high-priced veterans being signed by another team or (2) an expiring rookie being signed by another team.  

If a top veteran on your team is signed to a new contract by another team, the team can receive a compensatory pick. Each league can determine what round the compensatory picks can be. It can be as simple as a third-round pick for any player and contract. Or the round can be determined by the contract’s value awarded to the player—the more money, the higher the draft round.  

The second option revolves around rookies. If a rookie signs a second contract with a team other than the one that drafted them, the drafting team receives a compensatory pick.  

Many adjustments can be made to the settings to enhance the experience. These are just a few adjustments that have been made in the leagues I’m in, and they have made the experience so much more fun and interactive.

Get the Dynasty Nerds app in the Apple and Google Play stores. Mock drafts for Superflex, 1QB, and Standard. If you are a DynastyGM subscriber, it even syncs with your actual teams so that you can do rookie mock drafts with ALL of your actual picks, also on desktop.

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