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Fantasy Fodder: Auctions, Boldin and draft trends

At the urging of ESPN's Bill Simmons, I decided over the weekend to give fantasy auction drafts a try. Yes, somehow, in the 12 years that I've played in fantasy football -- sometimes playing in five or six leagues at a time -- I had never adventured outside the comfort of standard snake drafts.

Don't judge me.

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I signed up for a random Yahoo! auction league Sunday afternoon with no game plan. I considered it an experiment. In hindsight, I realize that's a bad idea, but I'm pretty pleased with how my team turned out.

In standard Yahoo! leagues, you get a $200 salary cap. I went hard early. I got Adrian Peterson for $62 (cheaper than Chris Johnson, Ray Rice and Maurice Jones-Drew), Andre Johnson for $38 and Peyton Manning for $27. I blew more than half my budget, but wound up with three guys who are arguably the best at their respective positions.

Then I filled in my roster with high-upside guys such as Mike Sims-Walker, Mike Wallace, Jerome Harrison, Jermichael Finley and Kevin Kolb. I'll let you know how it turns out.

I enjoyed the auction experience. Any player can come off the board at any moment, so you have to stay on your toes. If you target the players you really like, the only thing that can stop you from getting them is other bidders. And, most importantly, I had fun doing the online draft with a bunch of strangers (they were a chatty group with no knuckleheads, so that was a plus). It would be a blast to do an auction draft with friends, something I'm going to try to set up next summer.

If you're late to the party like me, I recommend you give auction drafts a try. Just sign up for a random online league and see if you like it. What's not to like about being in another fantasy league?

Boldin's value

Based on ESPN's live draft results, it seems that new Ravens receiver Anquan Boldin has been getting drafted about where he should. His average draft position of 37.1 is 13th (though I'd take Boldin over Carolina's Steve Smith, 12th, without hesitation).

Diehard Ravens fans who are fired up about the acquisition of Boldin might be tempted to grab him sooner. Don't do it. He has looked great in training camp, but he's not a top-10 wideout in the realm of fantasy football. The talent is there, but the looks won't be.

The Ravens' passing attack should be more efficient and effective now that Joe Flacco has another year under his belt and Ozzie Newsome has upgraded his receivers. But the Ravens will continue to be a running team first, and there are many mouths to feed in this offense.

My prediction for Boldin's 2010 stat line: 80 catches, 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns.

Draft trends

Here are five fantasy draft observations based on ESPN's live draft results:

1. Fantasy owners are buying into the Joe Flacco hype. His average draft position (ADP) of 59.8 is eighth best, putting him ahead of Jay Cutler, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning and Donovan McNabb. I wouldn't draft Flacco that early, but I won't knock you for doing so.

2. Jonathan Stewart ranks 18th among running backs with a 36.1 ADP (his backfield partner, DeAngelo Williams, has a 13.4 ADP). Running back committees are always a risky proposition, but Stewart is worth a flyer earlier than that.

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3. Wes Welker's stock is on the rise after his early return to the practice field. His ADP is 64.7, nearly 30 spots higher than it was a week ago. So much for him being a late-round steal.

4. The first seven tight ends are coming off the board in Rounds 3-6 (in 12-team leagues), but some intriguing players can be had in the next few rounds. I like Owen Daniels and Chris Cooley, who are coming off injuries, and Greg Olsen, who could be the first pass-catching tight end Mike Martz ever makes use of.

5. Ben Roethlisberger's ADP is 115.7, a number that is no doubt affected by his six-game suspension. He's a creep and he's a Steeler -- you tell me what's worse -- but I love him as a late-round sleeper. If you draft a player with upside like Flacco, Kolb or Cutler in the middle of the draft and Roethlisberger as insurance late, you'll be set at QB.

My weekly Fantasy Fodder column will run in some fashion on the Virtual Vensanity blog every Wednesday. E-mail your fantasy questions to matt@btheite.com, Tweet them to twitter.com/mattvensel or leave them in the comments section below. Carrier pigeons are also acceptable.

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