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How to Manage Early Waiver Wire Moves in Leagues with Transaction Limits (Fantasy Football)

by Matt Barbato | @realmattbarbato | Featured Writer
Jun 5, 2020

Sometimes it pays to aggressively target an early-season breakout like Terry McLaurin on the waiver wire.

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Many fantasy football leagues have implemented transaction limits to even the playing field. Whether it’s a hard cap on how many waiver-wire additions you can make or a pre-determined Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB), these limitations play a crucial role in building your fantasy roster throughout the season.

Transaction limits can be especially tricky to manage during the early stages of the season. They force you to ask yourself whether adding a player now is worth the risk of not having enough FAAB money or transactions to make a move later in the season.

Here are some tips that will help you manage early transactions like a pro.

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Consider Opportunity Cost

Without delving too far into an economics lesson, opportunity cost is the benefit an individual misses out on when choosing one option over the other. For example, if you choose to save money by cooking at home instead of eating out, the opportunity cost you missed out on was the enjoyment you get from going to a restaurant.

The decisions we make as fantasy owners all come with opportunity cost. Before you make a waiver-wire decision, always make sure the benefits outweigh the opportunity cost of making that move.

If you’re adding a player to your roster, you’ll often have to drop another player. The value you could’ve gotten from that dropped player is the opportunity cost. Another opportunity cost of making a move early is the extra transaction or FAAB money you could’ve used later in the season.

We obviously can’t predict the future, but thinking of opportunity cost on the waiver wire will help you weigh the pros and cons to make a good roster decision.

Target Valuable Running Back Handcuffs

I normally don’t target handcuffs during the draft unless I already have a bell-cow back on my roster. However, if a stud running back goes down with a serious injury, I’ll usually go all out to add his handcuff on the waiver wire.

The opportunity cost rarely outweighs the benefits of adding a high-level backup who just assumed the starting role. Of course, you never want to use a large portion of your FAAB money on one player. But spending up to 30% of your budget early in the season for a potential stud tailback is worth the risk.

Make sure to use our running back handcuffs chart as a convenient resource for identifying a starter’s top backup.

Solve Short-Term Emergencies

Sometimes Lady Luck isn’t on your side, and your team gets riddled with early injuries. If this happens, then you’ll have no other choice but to use your transactions and FAAB early to keep your team afloat.

Overpay for premium handcuffs. Take bigger risks on high-ceiling players. Dig deep to find players who might be on the verge of a breakout. Look ahead at schedules to identify players with great matchups on the horizon. Do whatever you can to keep your team alive as you weather the storm.

However, don’t make all of your allowed transactions immediately. Remain selective, rely on your bench, and refrain from making desperation adds. Players can emerge as waiver-wire darlings out of nowhere, so maintain some long-term flexibility as you try to plug holes.

Add Players Whose Best is Yet to Come

The start of the fantasy season is the best time to add players who could end up being that season’s breakout star. Of course, taking stabs on players who are performing well in a small sample size is always risky.

Sometimes the production is an obvious sign of a player’s talent. For example, Terry McLaurin caught 16 passes for 257 yards and three touchdowns in his first three games. But even when a waiver add seems like a safe bet, make sure to do your homework. Try to watch clips of a player you’re thinking about adding to verify that their talent matches their production. The worst thing you can do is waste precious waiver resources on a flash-in-the-pan player.

The best fantasy owners are consistently a step ahead of the competition. Finding waiver-wire gems like McLaurin, D.J. Chark, and A.J. Brown will go a long way in helping you win a fantasy title.

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Matt Barbato is a featured writer at FantasyPros. For more from Matt, check out his archive and follow him @RealMattBarbato.

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