Did you win your fantasy league last season?
If you didn’t, it’s probably because you didn’t play the waivers properly.
The waiver wire is the only arena where you can out-work the rest of the league. You’ll find many players in your league only make use of the waiver wire when they lose a player to injury, or when they need to resolve a bye-week issue. These are the players doing the bare minimum to compete. In other words, they’re lazy, and you can outmaneuver them on the waiver wire to gain an edge. If you aren’t analyzing your roster each week to identify your draft-day busts, following up on injuries to starters on other teams, or monitoring free-agent activity, you aren’t working hard enough to win a championship.
Aside from trading, the waiver wire is the only way a fantasy GM can add talent to their roster. I would argue that the waiver wire is actually more effective than trading because you’re not up against the reasoning ability of another player, however logical or flawed it may be. Some leagues allow you to take advantage of the league sap or sucker, but most leagues with veto voting ensure trades are mutually beneficial. While these types of trades reshuffle the roster, they tend offer little benefit in terms of points scored
Here is a list of notable players that came off the waiver wire last season:
QBs: Josh McCown, Nick Foles
RBs: Zac Stacy, Joique Bell, Rashad Jennings, Ben Tate
WRs: Harry Douglas, Keenan Allen, Julian Edelman, Riley Cooper, Marvin Jones
TEs: Jordan Cameron, Julius Thomas, Charles Clay
K: Steven Hauschka, Nick Novak
D/ST: Kansas City
Not all waiver adds are for the long term. Some are just one week fill-ins. If you can stomach it, take yourself back to Week 8 of the 2013 NFL Season. Let’s say you had a running back on bye: Arian Foster, Matt Forte, Chris Johnson, Ryan Mathews, and Ray Rice all had Week 8 byes. Maybe you just lost Doug Martin to injury? Did you know you could have picked up Arizona Cardinals running back, Andre Ellington, and started him against a weak Atlanta Falcons run defense? Mr. Ellington rushed for 154 yards and one touchdown. Did you win your Week 8 contest?
Is that salt in the wound?
Okay how about another scenario? Let’s say you really weren’t hip to the fact that the Falcons’ run defense couldn’t stop a nosebleed last season. You probably missed your opportunity to start Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back, Bobby Rainey. In Week 11 against Atlanta, Rainey scored three touchdowns and ran for 163 yards. Notable running backs on bye in week 11: Demarco Murray, Zac Stacy.
There is also a darker side to the waiver wire, and it involves injuries and bye weeks. While this technique is not the classiest thing you can do in fantasy football, it’s not exactly cheating either. Essentially what you are trying to do is anticipate the waiver needs of your opponent, and pick up desirable players in an attempt to block their efforts to build their team. For example, when Michael Vick went down in Week 5 it would have been wise to pick up Nick Foles even if you didn’t have a need at quarterback.
Anything that makes the game harder for your opponents will make them easier to beat. Players who stole Foles from Vick owners benefited from blocking a solution for the Vick injury, and wound up pretty lucky due to Foles’ outstanding performance down the stretch. You can apply a similar technique by monitoring gaps created during bye-weeks on opposing teams as well. Employ these tactics to take your waiver game to the next level.
The waiver wire is not simply used for rebuilding after injuries or preparing for bye weeks. It should be used weekly and is your best bet to distance yourself from the competition.