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How to Strategically Approach a Dynasty Waiver Claim

RotoViz Dynasty Coordinator Curtis Patrick shares some thoughts about how to strategically approach making a dynasty fantasy football waiver claim.

One of my favorite things about dynasty fantasy football is that there’s always something to be working on. The grind never stops, regardless of the state of your team. I like to encourage activity, sometimes even for its own sake. Even a single owner becoming more active can spur the rest of a league to action. Action is exactly what is needed right now if you want to take full advantage of your opportunity to make moves before rookie season hits.

If you’re having a banner year and look like a strong title favorite, there are still moves you can and should make. If you’re an intentional rebuilder, then hopefully you’ve been grinding the waiver wire all year for upside dart throws and making value trades when you can – don’t stop now. Or maybe you narrowly missed the playoffs after mortgaging some draft picks for a chance at the trophy. Don’t sulk and start ignoring your team – things will only get worse. Reboot!

The reason for this preaching? The dynasty calendar year kind of mirrors the four seasons. And we’re about to enter the dead of winter. That dark, cold period after the new year where many dynasty leagues fall silent. Trade partners are scarce. Some leagues even lock down waivers for months (seriously, why do this though?). Many will unofficially freeze their rosters, scared to make moves until they know everything there is to know about the rookie class, free agency, and retirements. You’ve got a few weeks left before this time of year hits. Let’s explore some basic strategies that can help you make difference-making moves before the offseason.

How I Evaluate Waiver Wire Pickups

There are many reasons to grind the wire all year long, but a few simple ways to look at why we grind the wire are:

  • to add young players with good prospect profiles who could emerge valuable assets
  • to add players who are producing cheap points so you can trade them to other owners

Let’s take a look at two players who are likely to be available in your dynasty league (or may have just been claimed very recently) and play out the process – Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin. Each of these players became more interesting after the Dolphins placed Kalen Ballage on injured reserve with a torn Achilles. There’s an opportunity for another back to grab the role and accumulate some dynasty value and potentially remain relevant in 2020. Head Coach Brian Flores said Gaskin and Laird will both get their shot – so who should we grab?

Among the things I consider when evaluating two players for a waiver claim:

  • prospect profile (college pedigree, college production, NFL draft capital, etc. – the Box Score Scout is perfect for this)
  • the quality of players comps generated by the prospect’s profile
  • what do other RotoViz analysts think about the players in question

Other considerations:

  • how much I’ll have to spend (assuming a FAAB waiver setup) or whether you’re willing to forfeit your waiver priority
  • do I have an open spot on my roster – and if not – can I create one by moving another player to injured reserve or taxi
  • if I don’t have an open spot, is there a player I’m willing to drop — waiver claims are actually no different than trades in this regard

Laird has received a lot more buzz than Gaskin (mostly on the redraft side of things), thanks in part to his willingness to engage in podcast shenanigans with RotoViz friends Peter Overzet and Davis Mattek. To Laird’s credit, though, he did see a spike in usage in week 13 with 15 total opportunities. He turned that into a PPR RB17 performance, making streamers who bought into the hype very happy. Last summer, Blair Andrews correctly predicted that Laird could find relevance in 2019.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t try to grab Laird if he’s still available in your league, but if you only have room to add one Miami running back as a late-season dart throw, he’s not the one you should grab in dynasty. That distinction belongs to Gaskin. Why?

Dating all the way back to college recruitment, Gaskin was a top-35 recruit at the position nationally and made a name for himself as a true freshman. Check out his career log from our Box Score Scout. His consistency and ability to shoulder a full workload at a young age at a major Power-5 school was remarkable.

Laird converted to running back after walking on at Cal (he was a wide receiver in high school) and spent three years working his way up from seventh string before finally finding relevance as a redshirt junior. He posted consecutive seasons with 45 or more receptions in 2017 and 2018, so we definitely have to give him credit for strong production once he earned the role.

NFL evaluators, and our tools, however, continued to see these players as cut from different cloths based on their college profiles.

  • Gaskin was a combine invite, Laird wasn’t.
  • Gaskin was drafted, Laird wasn’t.
  • Gaskin’s top Box Score Score Scout comps include a list of productive players like Jamaal WilliamsMarlon MackAndre Ellington, and Alex Collins, while Laird’s “best” comp is Ito Smith.

I love an underdog story as much as anybody, but if one of these two players manages to find lasting (and meaningful) relevance in dynasty, Gaskin’s profile is a cut above Laird’s. Cort Smith even contemplated whether Gaskin could be 2019’s Phillip Lindsay.

So, who are you going to claim? If you’ve got two spots available, claim them both, stash Gaskin, and flip Laird for any draft pick you can get. If you can only claim one, many signs say Gaskin is the correct target.

Image Credit: Roy K. Miller/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Myles Gaskin.

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