The single most important factor in doing well in fantasy is the draft. The most overlooked tool you have in building a championship team may be the waiver wire. You won’t win a league if you don’t prepare for your draft, but you also need to understand the waiver wire, and know how to utilize it to your advantage to bail you out of all those mistakes you made during the draft.
The waiver wire is generally a simple process where you have a priority based on either draft position to start the year or your team’s record as the year goes along. You can then choose to use that priority before free agency opens each week, or run the risk that the player you want or need is still available when free agency opens again. It can get more complex or strategic should your league choose to adopt the blind bid method of waivers. In this method, you are given a set dollar amount for the entire year and bid on players on waivers. It is my preferred method for waiver claims, and if you have not tried it I highly suggest you do. It adds a brand new dimension to your fantasy experience and allows all teams to have a fair shot at a specific player.
So, the process is simple but the decisions behind it can either get you to the title or relegate you to the bottom of the pack. The most common mistake is burning a high priority on a kicker or a D/ST. You rarely have to do this. Check all other rosters and find out who is available on the wire before throwing away your priority on a kicker or D/ST you may only start for one week. If there are two or more quality starters at either position, don’t make a claim — wait for free agency. You don’t use a high draft pick on a kicker or D/ST, so why would you use a high waiver priority? It is slightly risky, but I think it is the right move and one that can also be followed in smaller leagues for QBs or TEs if you are only rostering one. If you see that there are multiple choices on the wire for a bye-week skill player and no other owner needs one, then take the risk and let them go into free agency, allowing you to keep your priority and still pick up a player to fill in.
The time to think about using your priority is when the player you want is no longer considered a bye-week fill in. This is a player who has moved past that level and is bordering on, at the very least, spot starting for your team. Hopefully, this player has moved into the full blown starter category. Plainly put, if you are going to burn a top WW priority, get something out of it. The addition of a Jamaal Charles or Ricky Williams in 2009 could have taken you to a championship. Staring at Jamaal Charles going to another team because you used your #1 priority on Sebastian Janikowski will haunt you. Well, maybe not haunt you, but you will be grumpy for a little bit.
The wire is an important tool in redraft leagues but even slightly more important in dynasty leagues and keeper leagues. Finding that gem in dynasties or keeper leagues that can start on your team for several years to come is a massive advantage. Imagine looking at your four-player keeper league this year and seeing that you can keep Charles, Arian Foster, Sidney Rice and Mike Wallace and all you have to give up is your picks in rounds 13-16. All four of these players were likely available in a 12-team keeper leagues at some point last year. I play in several dynasties and almost all utilize the blind bidding system. Kareem Huggins was this year’s early gamble as he currently has the most potential at being a starting RB and warrants a roster spot. Is he a true breakout player? No. Is he worth a risk in large roster dynasty leagues? Absolutely. Take the risk, but make sure you take the right risk based on your league’s structure.
Michael Hawes is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. Nearly 20 years of FF, had to have learned something in that time. You can catch up with Michael in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of bungle613.
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