It didn’t take long for Tim Hightower to go from semi-tragic figure to fantasy football legend.
A competent but limited rotational RB with the Cardinals from 2008 to 2010, Hightower joined Washington in 2011, tore his knee early in the season and then was out of the league for three years. He signed with the Saints in 2015, was waived the day before the season opener, re-signed two days later, was waived again the next day, and then re-signed a second time in early November. After Mark Ingram was placed on the go with a shoulder injury after the Saints’ Week 13 game, Hightower took over as lead running back. he produced 95 total yards and a TD in week 14, went for 85 total yards in week 15, then went for 169 total yards and two TDs in week 16, championship week in most fantasy leagues. hightower was no. 2 rb overall during that time.
Reading: Fantasy football waiver wire faab
hightower brought thousands of fantasy owners to titles less than a month after almost no one owned it. For a decade now, friends and league mates gathered in bars and arcades have recited the story of how Hightower came out of the ether to win a championship for one owner and dash another’s title hopes.
and to think that hightower was just some kind of inconsiderate waiver cable.
last season, raheem mostert was ownerless in all but the deepest fantasy leagues when the regular season started. from Week 11 through Week 16, he racked up eight touchdowns, with at least one touchdown in each of those six games. the fantasy coaches who got the most waivers dramatically improved his starting lineups. mostert made a lot of money for a lot of people.
The draft or auction may be the most important component of a successful fantasy season, but it’s only the first step. owners who win championships typically make a number of significant upgrades during the season. sometimes this is done through trade-ins, which you can test with our trade-in tester to make sure you win, that they deliver key parts. often through the waiver cable.
No matter how many players are selected in a raffle or auction, there are always gems that are not mined. getting your share of these gems is crucial. some of the players on the waiver wire turn out to be dynamic contributors capable of turning a mediocre team into a playoff contender, or turning a decent team into a title contender. and sometimes the difference between making the playoffs and missing out is the ability to find a solid week-long patch when a layoff or minor injury leaves you temporarily shorthanded. your ability to navigate the waiver wire can often determine the course of your season.
overview of exemption systems
There are variations of each, and some leagues have devised their own exotic methods of handling exemptions, but most sites that offer administrative services to fantasy football leagues offer three types of exemption systems:
This is an acronym for Free Agent Acquisition Budget or, if you prefer, Free Agent Auction Bidding. owners are given a spending limit throughout the season, usually $100 or $1,000, and unowned players are acquired through a blind auction system. faab is generally considered the most equitable exemption system, and it also adds a thick layer of strategy to all-season leagues, making it very popular. we will devote more space to faab in this article than the other systems simply because it is widely used and requires much more tactical effort than the other systems.
2. exemption priority system
Each week, teams line up in an exemption priority order. the team at the top of the list can choose from one or more available free agents. the team second on the list gets their pick(s), and so on. priority can be handled in several ways:
- Rotating order. Teams line up for exemption priority, often in reverse draft order. after a team has had first priority in a given week, that team moves to the bottom of the order the following week, with all others moving up one place.
- reverse order of ranking. the worse your history, the higher you are on the priority list.
- continuous rotating order. this is similar to rotating order, except that the list does not reset from week to week. after making a successful claim, go to the end of the order.
3. first to arrive, first to be served
Any owner can sign a player at any time, although some leagues impose weekly or season-long limits on the number of players you can claim. The popularity of fcfs is declining, and this system tends to be used primarily in smaller, less bloodthirsty leagues.
To start, we’ll take a closer look at positional spending.
For several years, I did 4for4’s weekly waiver wire watchdog along with the godfather himself, john paulsen (the esteemed alex gelhar handles www duty now and does a terrific job). every week john and i would agree on potential free agent signings (players with less than 50% ownership in yahoo leagues) and come up with a recommended offer for each based on the rest of the season. ratings we looked for a number that would give you a great chance of acquiring the player you wanted without wasting your resources by overbidding.
See also: Mark Stoops – UK Athletics
I dug through the archives and looked at the recommended waiver wire watch offers from 2014 through 2017, starting in week 2 (after I’d gotten a week’s worth of results) and ending in week 13 (the end of the regular season in many leagues). recommendations are based on a $100 fabulous budget, so each suggested offer represents the percentage of your fabulous budget that you would spend.
(note: suggested offers were estimated in some cases, such as when the end of season offer recommendation for a good racer was to spend the rest of their faab).
First, let’s take a look at the average suggested bids for the top five weekly waiver cable targets at each position over the last four years:
- qb – 2.7
- rb – 12.0
- wr – 10.0
- te – 3.2
and here are the average suggested bids for no. 1 Weekly Waiver Wire Goal at each stall:
- qb – 5.0
- rb – 22.9
- wr – 15.3
- te – 6.3
as you can see, rbs tend to require the most investment, and quarterbacks and tight ends are relatively inexpensive. this is a simple matter of supply and demand. it is harder to find productive rbs than it is to find productive qbs and tees because (1) the ratio of productive fantasy rbs and wrs to starting spots to be filled is less than in qb and te. Additionally, RBS tend to be injured more often than players at other positions, leaving owners of injured RBS desperate to fill the void. 4for4 has had some of the most accurate rankings in the industry due in part to the fact that we realize filler rbs can often end up among the highest scoring players at their position.
QBS and waiver cable tees generally require a smaller capital outlay because these are “monkey” positions in many leagues – only one starts per week. that generally makes for a larger pool of usable free agents at each of those positions. Some owners try to capitalize on large pools of ownerless QBS and tees by “streaming” one or both positions, working the waiver wire relentlessly, and shuffling different players in and out of the starting lineup based primarily on matchups. (more on streaming strategy later).
the zero rb strategy, which has pockets of support in the fantasy community, advocates using first round draft capital on pass catchers and refilling the rb position in the middle and late rounds , adding attractive waiver wire rbs as needed.
It’s a good strategy, but the suggested average rbs bids shown above illustrate a potential danger of the zero rb strategy in faab leagues: rbs exemption doesn’t come cheap.
Owners of faab leagues can afford to change qbs and tees as often as they change their underwear due to the greater fungibility at those positions. RBS, with its Gucci price tags, can’t be mixed in and out of lineups that often because you’ll be out of money early on, unless you’re willing to shop off the shelf and settle for lesser quality products.
every season there are backup rbs who suddenly take on significant workloads due to injuries or benching. not surprisingly, rbs that inherit workload windfalls become popular faab targets. (Often, one of the most aggressive bidding owners is the owner whose RB was injured or benched.) In selecting QBS, WRS and tees from the waiver wire, he’s looking for a combination of talent and opportunity. When selecting waiver cable RBS, opportunity is king and talent is a secondary consideration. You can try to cut costs by paying a lower price for a broker whose talent you believe in but who is buried in the depth chart. but at best, you’ll have to wait for your new rb to get its chance, and at worst, the chance will never come.
The takeaway here should be obvious: waiver cable rbs can be expensive in faab leagues, so plan accordingly.
Obviously, quoting is the primary consideration in navigating the faab system. The prices listed above should help you get an idea of what you’ll need to spend on waiver cable replacements. but the important thing is how you allocate your resources throughout the season. often your spending will be dictated by need. a series of injuries will inevitably force him to loosen the purse’s strings. But if you’re not on a run of bad luck with injuries, you should let your situation determine the pace of your spending.
If you’re off to a bad start and clearly don’t have the horses to compete for a championship, spend aggressively early on. the regular season is short, and if he doesn’t turn things around quickly, he’s going to get run over. identify deadweight on your list and be willing to pay a premium for the best replacements you can find. If, on the other hand, you’re off to a fast start and your team looks like a title contender, be thrifty with your fabulous money early on. just as the season has started for you, there may be bumps ahead. By being thrifty early in the season, you’ll be able to outspend your competitors later on if you need to plug a leak or there’s a compelling player available on the waiver wire.
Before we get past faab, let’s take a minute to address all-in maneuvers.
Some owners are willing to spend their entire fabulous budget on a single player. It’s not necessarily a terrible strategy if the player looks like a season savior, but he personally would never empty my coffers before I’m on the verge of elimination in the playoff chase. Going all-in on one player in the first few weeks of the season is often foolhardy. his free-agent savior might bust, or he might not last the entire season. you’re playing a dangerous game if you run out of money to use in case of an injury emergency.
exemption priority system
There’s really only one system-specific tip for owners of these leagues: Don’t waste your waiver priority if your waiver priority rotates every week. having the first priority is an advantage that you should take advantage of. if you don’t have obvious needs at a single position, pick the best non-quarterback available. (remember: qbs are more expendable assets than players in other positions).
Sometimes the best way to take advantage of your exemption priority is with an exchange. Is there an owner in your league desperate to plug a gaping hole? if you don’t have such holes of your own, talk to this owner before filing your claim. you can claim the player this owner covets and include him in a trade that upgrades you to another position.
first come first served
The key here is to be vigilant. know what time the waiver wire opens each week (assuming it closes between the start of early Sunday games and the end of Monday night games). determine your needs before the waiver wire opens, and then act quickly to get what you want.
As with waiver priority systems, you can combine waiver insight with trades to enhance your list. try to acquire the most coveted waiver transfer assets in the league, then trade them for assets that are more valuable to you personally.
pay attention to programming
When choosing waiver transfer targets, a player’s status and ability are primary considerations, but it’s important to pay attention to your upcoming schedule, especially if you’re looking for a short-term stopgap. if you’re trying to acquire a player who can start for you the rest of the season, schedules are less important. But if, say, you need a wide receiver to cover a bye week or fill in for a starter who will be out a game or two with a minor injury, look for an available wide receiver who has significant features and deals with a bad pass. defenses in the weeks you would probably use it. The strength of the 4for4 schedule’s hot spots gives you a color-coded bird’s-eye view of when each player has the best matchups.
as mentioned above, this is a strategy whereby owners make a minimal initial investment in a “monkey” position (quarterback, tight end, kicker, or team defenseman) and shake up the staff at that position , taking advantage of favorable pairings and making minimal investments to acquire weekly starters. What makes this strategy attractive is that by making a minimal investment in one position, you can invest additional capital in other positions while hoping to achieve a reasonable production from the position you are apparently betting on. A streaming approach works best in FAAB leagues and especially FCFs. it’s a less viable approach in leagues that use a waiver priority system, because it’s harder to get what you want from the waiver cable. At faab leagues, committing to a broadcast approach means budgeting accordingly. don’t make big one-time expenses on the position you’re supposed to broadcast. be thrifty and make low-cost purchases that allow you to purchase as many transmitters as you need while leaving you with enough money to tackle other positions in the event of injury.
take a long-term view
In the midst of the chaos of the regular season, many fantasy owners develop tunnel vision, focusing solely on what’s in front of them and failing to capture the whole scene. If you’re looking for matchups when purchasing the waiver cable, look at a player’s matchups for the next few weeks instead of just their matchup for the next week. If you’re trying to pick a long-term replacement for a player who just left, take a look at what kind of matchups a potential replacement has during the fantasy playoffs. try to stay ahead of your competitors regarding players returning from injury or suspension. grab potentially valuable players a week or two before they return from injury instead of waiting until they’re cleared to return.
weakness loves risk, strength loves certainty
If your team is off to a slow start, or if you’re buoyant but realize you don’t have champion-caliber personnel, take a chance. bet on talented players whose value has been diminished by injury, suspension or positional jamming. lead players with compelling best-case scenarios, even if those outcomes are long shots. you can’t afford to make only incremental improvements if you’ve dug a hole for yourself early — a 13- or 14-game regular season leaves little room for patience. conversely, if your team is off to a fast start, or is 2-2 but sitting on a loaded roster, take a more conservative approach to waivers. If you have a strong squad and need to sign a player to cover a bye week, target a consistent but low-ceilinged contributor rather than an erratic player who spreads the rare explosive performance among infrequent performers. you don’t want to take a chicken egg anywhere in the lineup. take the safest exit, and the rest of your lineup can deal heavy damage.
vegas is smarter than us
Most of us think we’re good talent evaluators, but we’re rarely as good as we think we are. When shopping for waiver wire to complete bye week or other one-week fixes, let Vegas punters be your guide. give additional weight to players in games with higher/lower totals and players on teams that are heavy favorites. punters let us know which teams they see as top scorers in a given week. when in doubt, heed their wisdom.
lock at the end of the season
If you have an important game against a big rival, especially if it’s a playoff game or a critical late-season matchup, try to anticipate which players you’d like to acquire from waivers to use against you, then pick that one up. player yourself, even if you have no intention of using it. this really only works when your opponent has one or two obvious quit targets. But if executed right, this stunt is the ultimate fantasy football game. the key is to get inside your opponent’s head, discern his plans, and launch a preemptive strike. sometimes you may even need to do it a week or two in advance. but if you have the resources and foresight to pull it off, it can be a deadly strategy.
kickers and defenders
We’ve come to the end of the column and hardly any kickers or defensemen have been mentioned. There’s a good reason for this: kickers and defensemen are highly expendable assets that are acquired at the lowest possible price. kickers are wildly unpredictable, so don’t waste a ton of fabulous money or your precious exemption priority to acquire one. defenses are only slightly more predictable, and their value tends to rise and fall based on matchups. don’t invest too much.