2016 Fantasy Football Auction Horseshoe Effect

The Horseshoe Effect – How To Save Money At Your Fantasy Football Auction Draft

The Horseshoe Effect is a way to describe and predict how prices from players in the same tier will fluctuate compared to their AAV.  If you look at a tier (or maybe two depending how you rank), when the first couple players are nominated from that tier they typically are bought right at or even above their AAV.  Owners are usually antsy and they want to get a stud at a position of need so they don’t have to stress about it later.  Also at this stage, owners should have the majority of their budgets to spend and that money can be burning a hole in their pockets.  

Then as you approach the middle of the tier, you may be able to grab a guy for a few dollars less than AAV.  Often this is because the owners that were impatient already grabbed the first few studs nominated and the other owners may now have their eyes on certain other guys that they feel will be cheaper and they can wait and get those players a little later in the draft.  

Finally, near the end of the tier, again you will pay top dollar, as at this point owners are scrambling because they are worried they will miss out on a top tier player at a position they were banking on and waiting for.  For example, an owner knew he was going to take a top tier running back as his RB1.  He waited patiently for a particular player at a certain price and now there are only two legitimate RB1 caliber running backs left.  It has gotten to the point where this owner simply has to do and pay whatever is necessary to fill this RB1 spot with the caliber of player they had initially imagined.

Let’s look at a real life scenario that happened in a recent mock draft I was a part of that can help to illustrate how to you can use the Horseshoe Effect to your advantage. (See last our previous Horseshoe Effect Article)

If we use wide receivers in this example, my top four tiers at that position include 12 players, so all my potential WR1s in terms of fantasy scoring in PPR leagues.  Here are the tiers in order (AAV in brackets):


Fantasy Football Auction – WR Tiers

Tier 1

360+ Points

Tier 2

300-360 Points

Tier 3

275-300 Points

Tier 4

250-275 Points

Antonio Brown ($68) Julio Jones ($59)

Odell Beckham Jr ($59)

AJ Green ($52)

Dez Bryant ($53)

DeAndre Hopkins ($56)

Allen Robinson ($51)

Alshon Jeffery ($45)

Keenan Allen ($41)

Brandon Marshall ($41)

Jordy Nelson ($44)


In this example I am only going to focus on tier 3 and 4 — so a total of eight receivers.  Brown, Jones and OBJ all consistently go close to, and in Brown’s case over, $60, therefore those three don’t really ever fall into the same category as the other WR1s, and they did not factor into this example.  I would say the majority of owners would have these eight receivers in and around their top 12 in some fashion.  I also have TY Hilton in Tier 4 but for the sake of this discussion we will remove him because the Horseshoe Effect only works if the vast majority of owners view the same players in a similar way.  In this case, most likely we all view these eight receivers in the top tier at the position in some order.

So how might you use this to your advantage?  If you look at the AAVs of the players listed, it seems to make sense that you could wait on guys like Keenan Allen or Brandon Marshall and you will have a legit WR1 while saving close to $10 compared to other similar players.  In the last mock I did, I tried this theory.  Hopkins, Jeffery and Dez were nominated in the first few picks and went for $56, $50 and $58 respectively.  They would be the beginning of the horseshoe shape — the initial high side as compared to their relative values– which is usually expected.  Owners want to get their shiny toy early in the draft to ensure they have at least one consensus stud.  … more


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Jordy Nelson was the next receiver nominated and he went for $45, $13 less than Bryant.  When I saw this, I decided I was going to nominate another receiver I wanted to try and get so I put up AJ Green as he was my next highest ranked WR according to my rankings (he is my WR4).  I ended up winning Green for $45 which was $7 under his AAV (although as my WR4, our PRV value says he should be worth closer to $56).  Brandon Marshall was nominated a little later and I got him for $40 which was only $1 below his AAV but it still gave me what I feel is a decent duo for a total of $85 or 42.5% of my budget.



Fantasy Football Auction Horseshoe
Fantasy Football Auction Horseshoe


That left Keenan Allen and Allen Robinson as the last two players from our top receiver tiers.  I wanted to wait to nominate either of these guys just to see how long they would last and if flushing out opposition budget money may keep their prices low.  They didn’t last long.  ARob went for $57!!! A few nominations later, Allen went for $45, both higher than their AAVs suggest.  Robinson was bought by an owner who hadn’t spent a dollar yet, so he had deep pockets and could very well have been feeling the crunch on the WR1 run.  The Allen buyer had already bought David Johnson for over $60 so he may have been subscribing to the “Studs and Scrubs” theory.

The sample size is small, but it shows how the Horseshoe Effect can influence the prices of certain players, no matter how marquee they may be.  Now obviously in any auction you can nominate whoever, whenever and this theory can be applied to virtually any tier with the running back and wide receiver positions.  Typically with your late round $1-2 tiers you are not going to need to think about this.

Try this with your mocks.  Any time you can have another secret weapon come auction day, the better off you will be.   

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