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FFPC Strategy Session: A Guide to Waivers

This is the sixth article in a multi-part series on how to attack the high-stakes Main Event, the flagship contest of the Fantasy Football Players Championship that pits up to 2,400 teams against each other in a race for the $500,000 grand prize. In the FFPC Strategy Sessions, we learn from one of the best, the 2017 regular season Main Event points champion, Monty Phan. 

Every year, around July and August when NFL training camps open and preseason starts, I get that itch. My springtime mantra of “I need to cut down how many leagues I’m in” turns into “oh, just one more league, what’s the big deal.” Then by late October when I’m slogging through the 12th iteration that day of entering waiver bids, I think, Oh, yeah, now I remember why I wanted to ditch some of these leagues.1

If you’ve never done FFPC Main Event waivers, it’s not too difficult to understand. Each team starts off with $1,000 in blind-bidding cash. Waivers run on Wednesdays and Fridays, with a couple caveats: On the Friday runs, you can’t pick up anyone who played the night before (but you can drop them if on your bench), nor can you claim anyone dropped in that week’s earlier waivers run. It’s important to note that this is the only way to replace players on your roster – there is no first-come, first-served waiver system, and trading in FFPC redraft leagues is prohibited.

Just know that, like auction drafting, blind-bidding waivers isn’t an exact science. You could put a $254 bid on someone in two different leagues and get outbid by $300 in one and have no one else bid on him in another. However, there are some tips and strategies that have served me well when slogging through weekly waiver bids.

Worth Versus Want

When evaluating how much to spend on someone, consider bids in these terms: how much you think he’s worth, compared with how big a bid you think it would take to land him. They’re not always the same, and they fluctuate as the season progresses. A good example is Tyler Boyd, who had a big Week 2 last season after doing little in the opener. We put in what we felt was an aggressive $228 bid on him and won him in a Main Event league where we needed WR depth, but on another Main Event team that was already deep at WR we bid only $118 (and lost by $1).

Avoid bidding round numbers

This is a pretty common tip, but worth mentioning here. I bid in amounts ending in 4 or 8.2 It’s most natural for people to think in terms of 5s and 10s, so they bid accordingly. Knowing this, some then make a habit of entering bids ending in 1, which is why they never see it coming when I put in my genius bid ending in 4. Is my method based in sound reasoning? I have no idea. Probably not! All I know is, one time, four years ago, then-rookie Thomas Rawls had 100-plus yards and a TD for Seattle after its third game, so we bid $214 on him and won by $3. He was a pretty decent flex play the rest of the season, and that’s all the evidence necessary to prove why a bid amount that ends in 4 is better than one that ends in 1.

Monitor bye-week drops

When drafting a kicker or defense, one of my main tie-breakers is bye week. I hate thinking about the kicker or team defense positions. It makes me so angry! Therefore, the longer I can put off having to replace one of them, the better. However, occasionally there will be a top kicker or defense that gets dropped due to an early bye. After that bye week has passed, grab that kicker or defense to swap with the one you have, then enjoy the calming sensation that washes over you as you no longer have to think about replacing that position on its break.3

It’s also good to track which offensive players get dropped on bye. This is especially important later in the season, such as in Week 9, when four teams rich with top players have their bye (the Falcons, Saints, Rams and Bengals) and in Week 10, when six teams are off (New England, Denver, Washington, Philadelphia, Jacksonville and Houston). If you know you’re going to face bye-week hell with multiple starters off the same week, then start planning a few weeks early, ditching weaker backup bench depth on their bye and replacing them with potential starters with good matchups on the week you need them. You can conserve blind-bidding cash this way – because competition for that player might not be as fierce if the favorable matchup is weeks away – while avoiding the feeding frenzy later when everyone else is having to find replacements for their starting lineups in the same week.

Don’t go all-in on a Week 1 TE bid

Last year was a rough one for the tight end position. In the first week alone, Greg Olsen and Delanie Walker suffered injuries, making their respective backups, Ian Thomas and Jonnu Smith, sought-after waiver adds, as well as then-rookie Will Dissly, who had 100-plus yards and a TD in his debut. Adding to their potential value was the 1.5 points per reception the FFPC awards tight ends.

None were worth it. It seems every year there are TEs who have a big first week, draw multiple large bids and then end up back on waivers later in the season. It’s rare that such a TE pans out. If you want to take a shot and you have an easy drop, put in a nominal bid, but don’t blow your whole budget.

Drop a largish bid after the first few weeks

We tend to play it conservative after the first week. Yes, you miss out on the occasional Phillip Lindsay, but if you don’t have an obvious drop candidate, you risk giving up on someone too early (Nick Chubb last season, for example) in favor of a flavor of the week. Waiting until the second, third or fourth weeks to put in a sizable bid on a potential difference-maker – say, a bid of $300 or more – is as much about making sure the guy you’re getting rid of is truly worth dropping.4 And RBs will always attract higher bids than other positions, so plan accordingly.

Pay attention to how much everyone else has

This is more for late-season bidding. If you’re lucky enough to have the most cash left when a high-ceiling waiver guy suddenly becomes relevant (2018 Chubb after the trade of Carlos Hyde, for example), then all you have to do is bid $1 more than the guy with the next-highest amount.

In the league playoffs in weeks 12 and 13, only the four playoff teams are allowed to put in bids. If you’ve got the most cash left – or even just more than that week’s opponent – then you can use your remaining funds to block the competition from landing any prized free agents. All’s fair in love and fake football.

Image Credit: Ric Tapia/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Phillip Lindsay.

  1. I make a mental note to cut down the next year, but I forget due to my advanced age.  (back)
  2. I should probably do 4 and 9 for consistency, but the beauty of picking arbitrary numbers is you don’t have to be consistent.  (back)
  3. Barring injury or ineptitude at kicker, of course.  (back)
  4. Losing a player to injury makes this decision easier.  (back)

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