Last Updated: Jul 15, 2014 1:10 PM
Fantasy Football University – Class VI
In-Season Roster Management – Part I
Once you have drafted your team, those are the guys you are going to war with. However, you are going to try to improve your team each and every week. The easiest and most likely (as well as impactful) way to improve your team is through the waiver wire. Many leagues allow trading, and this is another of the truly strategic and fun aspects of fantasy football. We will cover both in this class.
Scouring the Waiver Wire
The Waiver Wire could be the most important thing in winning your league. We told you how to pick keepers. We told you how to rate the players. We told you how to draft the players. Now we are going to tell you how to maximize your roster. Your league will be won and lost on the waiver wire. Inevitably your players will get hurt. Also, players on the other guy's team will get hurt. Some of your players will get benched. Also, some of the other owner's players will get benched. Your job is to scoop up all the players that you can and stash them away for when you might need them. This will serve several purposes.
1. You will fill the holes that have been created on your roster.
2. You will block the other owner from filling the holes on his/her roster
3. You will build valuable depth to either allow you to play matchups with your firings players, or group a basket of players in a trade for another stud player.
All of these things are equally important. The first one is a no-brainer because you are always going to try and fill holes on your team. Many owners overlook the second purpose. They stay with their current team because they are lazy; they have no need for a fourth-string runner, or whatever their reason is. What they fail to do is block the other team from getting a player.
For example, when Colt WR Anthony Gonzalez went down in just week1 of last year many owners just stuck with their team and didn't try to pick him up.. Heck, it was early in the year and they were going to give their roster a chance. Instead of dropping their backup kicker and reeling in Pierre Garcon, they allowed the guy who drafted Gonzalez or guys who were weak at WR to get him. Those owners that passed missed a golden opportunity to get a solid #w type WR, but also they could have prevented that other owner from covering his butt. That would have been one less team to contend with.
My saying with waiver wires is that they are like the Wild West, you have the “Quick and the Dead”. Shoot first and look to grab guys, and ask questions later as you can drop them the next week for someone else. Often the best waiver wire picks of the entire season, are guys that emerge within the first few weeks. Go back and read that line again, then go pick up anyone you see coming out of nowhere the first few weeks of the year (think Miles Austin, Sidney Rice), and thank me at the end of the season.
What to Look For On Waiver Wire
News - The news services will give you the biggest clues as to what player might make a good waiver wire selection. Read the newspaper and surf the web for other news services. Look for injuries to players that might give another player an opportunity. You can also look for quotes from an owner or from a coach about a particular player. These are helpful because usually the coach will follow through on what he says. Either he will say that he wants to get a young player more involved or he will say that a particular player isn't working hard enough. If you watch out for this stuff you can have the next Chris Johnson on your team.
Box Scores - The box scores are one of the most overlooked sources of information. Every fantasy owner wants the news delivered right to his or her front door. At FFChamps we learned a long time ago that, if you want an edge, go out and get it yourself. We go to the box scores every Monday morning and look at who caught the passes and who ran the football. A lot of times a team will call one runner their starter and give it to another runner more times. This happens when there is a platoon situation like with the Bills and the Texans last year. If you watch the box scores you see who they start to give more carries to. With WR's this is more important because they don't get the publicity. By publicity I mean that they use the term “starter” more loosely than they do with the runners. If you see a WR catching more passes than the so-called starters, he might be worth a pick up. We believe TD's can prove to be a random event. If you watch the guy's with a lot of receptions, eventually the TD's will follow.
Our Receiving Targets tool also is a HUGE help, as a lot of times a QB or WR can be on the wrong page on a given day, but the amount a player is targeted can tell you a lot about his role. Look for guys getting a lot of targets, even if the stats aren't there yet. This player is involved in the game plan and that could continue.
Training Camp - We all follow training camp closely and there are always guys that stand out but are not used as starters once the season starts. It could be that they have a star playing in front of them or they are just too young. Either way, take note of these guys and if you get a roster spot, or you see something developing on their particular team, you might want to go ahead and take a chance.
Kickers and Defenses - This pertains mostly to the Bye weeks of your kickers and defenses. During the season you get a feel of who is doing well (kickers and defenses) and who is not. Inevitably your kicker and your defense will have their Bye weeks. We like to analyze all the K's and D's that are not on a roster to see which one we think has the chance of having the best week. We will then pick them up for that week, the week that are guys are off. I very often will find my season long Kicker or D as well in the first few weeks on the waiver wire. This is a VERY important position to jump on early on the wire.
When to give up
The business of using the Waiver Wire is a short term one - If a player that you picked up doesn't start performing like you thought he would then you cut him and move on. (Sometimes you pick up players for different reasons like as a keeper for next year, don't drop these players until sometime next year) Do not hold on to a waiver wire pick up with the mentality that he will come on strong. This doesn't work for players you draft, let alone waiver wire pick-ups.
When a better opportunity arises - The roster spots you use for waiver wire picks can be rotating. By this we mean that when you think that something better comes along grab it, and don't be afraid to be wrong. It is a short season and you want to try to do as much as you can. Don't get stuck playing the waiting game.
Be Proactive: The most important thing about the waiver wire is to use it. The only way to win is to use the waiver wire. So many things happen during the course of the year that you guarantee failure if you don't make changes.
How to Spot Rising Talent
What to Look for
As stated before, wide receivers historically break out in their third season. Also, be on the lookout for quarterbacks who annually improve their touchdown-to-interception ratio. Another point is to look for players who had strong averages before missing time with injuries or starting a limited number of games off the bench. Let's say a running back racked up just 800 yards over 12 games. Nothing special there on paper –- but this runner topped 100 yards four times before suffering an injury that went on to end his season. He qualifies as a player with rising talent, who will likely slip under the radar the following year. Also, let's say another running back started the year with 460 rushing yards over four games before going down with a season-ending injury. Extrapolate his numbers over a full 16 games, and you get 1,840 rushing yards. That is a good way to spot rising talent.
Lastly, look for players who come on strong down the stretch of a season. The odds are often good that they will pick up where they left off the following year. We definitely overweight hoe a guy finished the second half of the year before when analyzing who we like for the upcoming season. We like guys who finished strong to improve the next season.
When to Believe in a No-name and Cut a Has-been
When considering a no-name, fantasy owners should look at the situation that the unproven player is in. Is he a running back whose team loves to pound the pigskin? Or is he a quarterback who is being called into service after the starter got hurt or was benched due to poor play? With receivers, look no further than the guy who is throwing him the ball. A good quarterback can make an average receiver better. With that in your mind, would Pierre Garcon have posted solid numbers last year without Peyton Manning throwing him the ball in Indianapolis? I think not.
On the flip-side, we come to cutting a has-been. A tell-tale sign that a running back is on the decline and past his prime is a decrease in his yards per carry average. Look at Jamal Lewis from last year. He dipped to just 3.5 yards per carry, and the 30-year-old vet remains unsigned as of now after being cut loose by Cleveland in February. For receivers, look at a dip in passes thrown in their direction, AKA targets. If a quarterback has a gradual decrease in his efficiency rating, then it is a pretty good chance that he is on the decline, and time for fantasy owners to cut him loose as a has-been.
Again, be sure to back up your studs and make the essential handcuff moves. You can also beat other owners to their handcuffs, and in turn hold that backup player for a lofty ransom in trade talks when that owner's star player goes down with an injury. Be prepared for injuries, because at least one star player will miss significant time this year –- it is a fact of life in the grueling habitat of the NFL and if you don't prepare for injuries to your team you will likely be beat because of it.