Whether you are a fantasy football fanatic or a casual office league player, you probably know that as many leagues are won via the waiver wire as by the draft. Shrewd (or lucky) adds off the wire can often be the difference between fantasy gold and mediocrity. However, the process for adding players from waivers is not the same in every league. Many of you may still use the traditional rolling waivers format, where the waiver order is based on standings – i.e. the teams possessing the worst record get priority. This system has its merits, but one can easily argue that it is antiquated and quite frankly unfair. Why should Jim, who drafted a steaming pile of camel dung for a team, be sitting on the first priority add after Week 1 as a reward for his incompetence? Or worse, maybe he was a no show at the draft and that’s why he ended up with a lousy autodraft roster. The goal is to promote parity–bring the bottom teams up in the spirit of competition. In reality, all this system does is give unearned advantages to the less deserving owners.
To be fair, many times an owner is hit with brutal misfortune. They suffer injuries to core players early in the season and find themselves in a deep hole to begin the year. In those cases, it’s nice to get a lifeline with the top waiver priority to grab the handcuff off waivers for your injured No.1 running back. Then again, the counter-argument would be that the prudent thing to do was to roster the handcuff in the first place; the owner unnecessarily put him or herself into this predicament with poor roster management. They should suffer the consequences of their actions.
Regardless of how you feel on the matter, many leagues have transitioned to a more egalitarian approach to waivers called “FAAB.” It stands for “Free Agent Acquisition Budget.” Essentially, each team is given a bankroll for the year–a budget, if you will. That sum is typically all you have to spend on waivers for the season. Each week, owners bid on players still on waivers with the highest bids winning the players. It adds yet another litmus test in fantasy football skills and removes a good amount of luck involved in traditional waiver order. Put simply, it doesn’t reward owners for not playing well, regardless of circumstances.
Personally, I find FAAB to be the only legitimate waiver process. If you want a player badly enough, he’s yours for the right price. If you overspend or fall short in your bidding, then there is cost analysis baked into the process one couldn’t consider in the traditional waiver process. I love the fact that you have some ability to control your own fate. From the heartbreak that comes with discovering your bid has come up short for a player you covet to the realization you bid far too much and wasted precious and finite resources, the range of outcomes adds an interesting dynamic that makes the fantasy football experience better.
Those outcomes are determined by various strategies, and I’m going to examine a few popular ones to help you get a clearer understanding of what FAAB is and how to use it.
Guns Blazing Approach
(Bid Heavy Early)
This strategy involves making high bids–and frequently overbidding–for players that become available on waivers early in the season. The advantage of this strategy is that if you hit on a breakout player, you get to maximize his value by banking virtually an entire season of stats. The risk baked into this strategy is that you can easily spend copious amounts of FAAB on a player that turns out to be a “one week wonder” or fails to deliver beyond a few good games. In that case, you’re left with a few pennies in your pocket and a long, grueling road ahead where you’ll likely fail to win any other big names that emerge.
Still, many swear by this strategy and argue that it’s better to strike first and strike hard. Just ask anyone who bid high dollars on Philip Lindsay after week one last year. His owners enjoyed a top-10 running back for an entire season, and that level of production is ultimately the dream for every waiver wire pickup.
Who is this strategy for? This approach is best used by owners coming out of the draft with buyer’s remorse or who spent draft capital on suspended or injured players and need quality starting options during the interim.
Gun Shy Approach
You never know when a league-winning asset will emerge on the waiver wire, so it’s prudent to make sure you have available funds when that magical player gets their golden ticket. A conservative approach involves making competitive bids on targeted players without wildly overbidding. The advantage of this approach is that you’ll be ready and able to add when the opportunity presents itself during any week of the season. The risk is that you may find yourself falling short on most of your bids and lose out on players that could have made all the difference. The key is gauging the bidding patterns of everyone in your league, which you won’t get much of a handle on until after week one. Therefore, there’s a good chance that you will miss out on the first top waiver add of the season. However, the slow play approach will provide intel on your league mates and their auction habits that may offer a distinct advantage throughout the season. There is risk, but players like Lindsay–who offered season-long value–emerging immediately on the waiver wire are more outlier than expectation.
Who is this strategy for? Owners who feel good about their draft haul and believe in practicing patience with the players they drafted, even if those players struggle out of the gate. This is the most common FAAB strategy, but not for those that believe fortune follows the bold. For them, it will be hard to adhere to this approach.
Last season, while you may have missed out on Phillip Lindsay by hoarding your FAAB, you very likely had more than enough to buy Josh Allen, Damien Williams, Josh Adams, Jaylen Samuels, Gus Edwards, Keke Coutee, and DJ Moore… a collective team of waiver wire fodder that alone could easily have won you your league during Weeks 9-13 last year. Every season, injuries take a toll on running backs, giving lightly used backups a chance to shine against downtrodden defenses in winter months that prioritize running the football. Additionally, playoff-bound teams typically begin resting starters more and more as they secure their seeding, again giving second and third-stringers an opportunity to rack up stats.
Who is this strategy for? The argument against this approach is that you will miss out on all the impact players off the wire when you need them the most; this is true if your team begins the season slow out of the gate or you suffer devastating injuries to core players. You won’t have the luxury of hoarding FAAB because you’ll be out of playoff contention by the time the bye weeks are finished. This approach is best used by teams ahead in the standings whose success out of the gate came from a strong draft, and they are now looking for an edge to put them over the top once playoffs start.
So, which strategy is the best one? The answer, while probably unsatisfying, is entirely league-dependent. Your playing style and the waiver wire tendencies of your league mates will almost certainly determine which strategy you ultimately employ. Moreover, the results of your draft, as well as unforeseen circumstances in the first few weeks, can easily force you to pivot and change your strategy. The key is to be open-minded and flexible; don’t rigidly stick to a single strategy, but being willing to alter your approach as things change on the field.
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)