The offseason is the time of year when many fantasy leagues hold their annual meeting - or at least open a discussion about updating/changing their league's rules. Footballguys.com's staff are all also avid fantasy players and many are league commissioners, so we are undergoing this same process in our various leagues across the fantasy landscape. This article series will highlight rules that our staff, almost unanimously, agrees are bad rules for any fantasy league, and will also present arguments that our customers can use to try and persuade their league-mates to change for the better.
In the last installment, we considered First Come, First Served/Free For All Free Agency. This time, we'll look at another bad way to handle waivers - the Tuesday Night Waiver Wire. This is a feature of leagues that have a free agent auction or waiver claim period that is concluded on Tuesday night, and then usually a period of unrestricted, first-come, first-served free agency for the rest of the week. It is a slight improvement over anytime waivers, but not much of one.
There are many reasons why Tuesday night waivers are a bad idea. Speaking specifically to issues surrounding injured players:
- Tuesday night is before the NFL-mandated Wednesday injury report - many teams will not release injury information until required to do so by the league. Also, the closer we get to the weekend's games, the better our information is about the severity of any given injury, because we can watch the pattern of the player's practice participation - if he moves from did not practice to limited in practice to full practice over the course of a week, this is a good sign - if the opposite progression, it's probably time to hit the waiver wire.
- Teams have to schedule players who need MRI's - these machines are in high demand and availability is limited, which my delay accurate diagnosis of injuries until after mid-week.
- The team and/or the player in question may decide to seek alternate opinions from nationally-recognized authorities, like Dr. James Andrews - scheduling an appointment with these specialists often takes a few days after an injury is inflicted on a player.
Allowing fantasy owners time to assess the significance of their player's injuries gives them the ability to fine-tune the allocation of their free agency resources (especially important in leagues where there is a salary cap or a limited pool of funds available for signing free agents in a season). If an owner knows his starter is lost for the season, he or she can prioritize picking up the best available replacement at that roster spot. On the other hand, if the injury is of the one-to-two week variety, then an inexpensive, stop-gap free agent who enjoys a good matchup in the next contest may suffice to bridge the fantasy team over the gap with their starter. Good information is key to managing a fantasy team's free agency budget effectively - and is something that a Tuesday night waiver deadline does not allow.
When a player is confirmed lost for a few weeks of the season due to injury or suspension, NFL teams have several options open to them as a remedy - they may not plug in the "next man up" on the depth chart.
- Practice squad guys are sometimes elevated onto the active roster.
- The team may have worked out a veteran free agent earlier in the season, and decide to sign the street free agent to step in for the player that has been lost.
- Sometimes the game plan will simply change, with other players already on the roster receiving more targets or repetitions. In this case, there won't be a viable free agent signing from that team available to the owner who lost her fantasy player/starter.
Allowing fantasy owners time to assess how a NFL team is going to respond to a change on their roster allows everyone to make more informed choices when allocating waiver wire picks or salary cap dollars to free agents, rather than forcing owners to make ill-informed guesses early on Tuesday night in any given week.
While there is no way for any owner to protect herself from injuries/suspensions and etc., there are better ways to conduct free agency which allows some chance for an owner with a run of bad luck to stay competitive.
During the Footballguys' staff discussion, it became apparent that most of our fantasy owners prefer some sort of two-event system, wherein players appearing in the Thursday Night Football game (or in Thanksgiving games) are available for a waiver period sometime Wednesday afternoon or evening, while the players on the other NFL teams playing on Sunday/Monday are available for waivers transacted on Friday evening or even Saturday morning. Then, after the second batch of waiver claims are processed, owners who have to deal with "game time decision" players are usually allowed to transact first come/first served waiver claims right up to the time that lineups lock on Sunday. Given the high level of flexibility on the various league hosting websites these days, there is no reason to avoid a multi-phased free agency process each week of the NFL season. In the same vein, there is no reason to insist on an unreasonably early, Tuesday night waiver wire deadline in fantasy football leagues.