Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay
- While fantasy football drafts receive the lion's share of attention each season, the waiver wire is often the key to winning your league.
- We explain why dominating the waiver wire is so important and how fantasy football players can find an edge each week.
I love fantasy football. Throughout the years, fantasy football has provided me almost two decades of enjoyment, plenty of adult beverages and even set the groundwork for what would eventually become the happiest day of my life and an OK Saturday my wife — our wedding day.
While I would describe myself as an avid and very experienced fantasy player, I am by no means an expert (remember those adult beverages mentioned above) like The Action Network’s team of brainiacs, including Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon and Matthew Freedman.
However, I have learned a bit along the way and my top piece of advice for those looking to take down a fantasy football crown goes something like this … you win or lose your league on the waiver wire.
It’s fantasy football’s version of drive for show, putt for the dough.
No, I’m not saying that the draft isn’t important because it is.
Drafting a team with both depth and upside will set the stage for a successful fantasy campaign, but remember, there are approximately four months from most drafts until the end of the fantasy season!
That’s a long time for a game as physical as professional football. Injuries are simply a byproduct of the sport and one of the key roadblocks to manage as a fantasy football owner.
And let’s be honest, fantasy football drafting performance — which can be optimized through education and experience — is still an inexact science.
Per Fantasy Football Calculator’s 2018 average draft position (ADP) statistic, David Johnson and LeVeon Bell were the second and third picks, respectively, in both standard and PPR drafts last season.
In the name of transparency, I drafted Bell with the second-overall pick in my most competitive league, but was able to weather that storm by winning the waiver wire and, ultimately, the championship.
Prior to the season, nobody would have expected a team with Chris Carson, Derrick Henry, Jaylen Samuels, Spencer Ware, Kenneth Dixon, C.J. Anderson and Jamaal Williams to be a title winner.
Per Fantasy Football Calculator’s ADP, Henry, who carried my dumpster fire of a team to late-season glory, was the 15th running back taken in standard drafts last year, the only ball-carrier on my championship roster to be taken among the first 25 players at the position.
The point of this isn’t to brag, but to illustrate that this happens every year in drafts. There’s no guarantee that top draft picks will perform up to their draft-position expectations for a myriad of reasons.
So what is one to do if hit with unfortunate injuries, holdouts, poor drafting strategy or simple underperformance? Dominate the waiver wire!
Every season fantasy stars emerge out of nowhere, and the best way to land them if through the waiver wire.
Remember, everybody has the entire summer to get ready for drafts. Plus the sheer quantity of quality draft information levels the playing field among owners.
However, the hustle and bustle of every day lives makes it much more reasonable that other owners won’t put in the same research when making waiver-wire pickups, or simply may forget altogether some weeks.
And as the season winds down, teams will inevitably fall out of contention and stop making pickups, adding even more talent to the free agent pool.
So yes, do your draft prep and find your edge before the season begins. But don’t stop there! Continue the push to dominate all season long, including the waiver wire.
With this in mind, here are four ways to ensure you do so.
Fantasy Football Waiver Wire Tips
1. Set you waiver pickups/priorities each week
This is so simple, yet so important. Just reminding yourself to do this, whether by memory, phone alarms, Alexa notifications, etc., will put you ahead of the curve in most leagues.
2. Do a little research
You wouldn’t go into your draft blind, would you? Of course not, so don’t submit waiver pickups blind either. Download and listen to The Action Network Podcast every Tuesday to hear who our experts are targeting.
3. Plan ahead
It’s inevitable that you’ll eventually need a plug-and-play bye-week QB, so plan ahead, especially if your QB’s bye week is also a big week for byes.
If there’s a solid player on waivers with a good matchup for your bye week, go grab him a week early to ensure you have him.
4. Maximize bench spots by ditching backups
When saddled with bye weeks, there’s no way around having backups on your roster to plug in as one-week starters.
But if you’re playing in standard 10- and 12-team leagues, there is frankly no reason to be carrying backups unless they’re high-upside stashes. And yes, that means you don’t need two QBs, TEs, Ks or D/STs.
So load up on those high-upside players (mostly RBs and WRs) whenever possible, and as your bye weeks come and go, lose your backups and continue hoarding skill-position players with paths to touches and targets, and hopefully fantasy football glory.