Waiver Wire vs. Free Agency

Preparing for a fantasy draft is complicated enough with ADPs, understanding your league’s makeup (i.e. PPR vs. Defense), and a million experts advising you to follow a trillion different variations of the same draft board.  Luckily you are all past that now, ready to revel in all your players lighting up the literal fantasy scoreboard.  But what happens when this season’s Tom Brady goes down after one quarter or you pick a guy who is a flat out bust?  (Rob Bironas owners, this does not apply to you yet)

Now it’s time to turn to the waiver wires and free agency.  On the surface the terms can be confusing, almost seeming interchangeable. They are nothing of the sort.  Think of yourself of a brand new gym member.  Will you fall under the majority and rarely see the inside of that gym a few weeks into your membership partly because you don’t know how to”use the machines”; or will you be sporting a rockin’ body because you choose to stick with it?  Same idea applies to the waiver wire and free agency and will be where you make or break your season.  So please, let us be your player pickup trainer.

Waiver Wire:

A waiver wire is an option in almost every PPR League which allows owners to pick up new players.  This means that at some point after the Monday Night Football game, every team will be awarded an opportunity to swap out players.  Known as the worst to first system, the last place owner will get first dibs at a player for a specified period of time (i.e. several hours, one hour). Then the second to last place owner will get the same time to make a move, if she so chooses.  The worst to first is by far the most popular and if you’re reading this, there’s a better than average chance this is your league’s method

Other leagues use a more incentive based waiver system.  Some leagues will give owners funny money -say $50 – to use for the season.  Owners will then have the same period of time to blind bid on a player, but they must be careful not to blow the wad at the beginning.

When to utilize the Waiver Wire:

  • A skill player gets hurt
  • An awesome fantasy prospect emerges (think Eddie Royal last year)
  • An injury catapults a backup to a starter role, thus greatly increasing his fantasy potential
  • Another owner inadvertently drops a great player or defense due to a bye week

Free Agency:

Free agency is similar to a waiver wire in that it falls under the umbrella of picking up players.   But as the name suggests it is more of a free-for-all and should generally be used more to fill gaps caused by the bye week.   In most leagues, the waiver wire will come first followed by the free agent period, usually starting on a Thursday and Friday with some lasting up until kickoff Sunday.   In leagues that offer both a waiver wire and free agency, to rule of thumb is this:  Waiver Wire pick-ups:  Players you want on your roster for the long-term Free Agency:  Players to borrow for one week only

Another method, which generally only applies to leagues with large entry fees, is to flat out a charge an owner for picking up a player.  Exemptions will usually be made for injuries.

When to pick up a free agent:

  • To fill a kicker or defense hole caused by the bye week
  • A free agent kicker or defense has a great match-up (read: anyone playing Detroit)
  • To stock up for playoff matchups
  • The ultimate evil: add to an already stacked roster in an effort to leave holes on your opponents’ teams.