We're going fantasy football wild here at PV for a few days or weeks. Nobody asked for my advice on approaching an auction draft, but here it is.
Auction drafts are fluid: everything changes as the draft moves along. If you are used to snake drafts and are participating in your first auction, the most important advice you need is to stay flexible. You should have a plan, but you don't know what will happen, and you need to adjust as it goes along. Teams' roster needs shrink, teams' available salaries shrink, sometimes certain positions cost more than others, and as the draft progresses managers' strategies even evolve. But over the years I've seen one factor alter the draft from beginning to end more than any other.
The available talent pool shrinks
With players going off the board, the number of desirable players at each position shrinks. With a diminishing number of elite players, the elite players become more valuable. Going into the draft, you may see little value difference between RB4 and RB5. However, if RB1, 2, 3, and 4 are off the board, RB5 might become more expensive. If two or more managers feel a big dropoff between RB5 and RB6, the bidding can escalate, making RB5 much more expensive than RB3 and RB4.
This year, I only view five running backs as elite: Adrian Peterson, Chris Johnson, Maurice Jones-Drew, Ray Rice, and Frank Gore. After Gore, I just don't like any RBs as my #1. So in the Hazelweird Auction (300 salary cap), after Peterson, Johnson, Jones-Drew, and Rice were drafted, I was committed in the bidding to getting Frank Gore. So was one other manager. Rice had gone for 80, MJD for 99, but the two of us bid Gore up to 111.
I'm not happy about it: I wish I had stayed in the bidding on Rice or MJD. But when you're drafting in an auction, you cannot say "I don't want to pay more for RB5 than RB4 went for," because you might end up with no good RBs. The context of the draft is just too different at different points of the draft. Of course, I could have altered my strategy at that point ("Screw elite RBs--there are other ways to go"), but I didn't.
There is a better argument, however. If there are five elite RBs, and you are really committed to getting one of them, try to get one of the first two or three elite RBs thrown out for bidding. You'll probably get that player relatively cheap, as other managers know there are still other elites available later. But if you wait until all other elite RBs are off the board, and there is only one left, you'll probably have to overpay for that elite RB.
I used RBs in the example here, but in fact I've seen this phenomenon occur more frequently at WR: managers pass on a lot of quality WRs, realize late in the draft there are only a handful of quality WRs left, and then pay through the nose for those guys.
Essentially, there's little reason to save your money in a fantasy auction--spending early often means spending wisely.