Fantasy Football: How to Win Your League With Waiver Claims

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Aug 24, 2014; Glendale, AZ, USA; NFL referee Buddy Horton during the game between the Arizona Cardinals against the Cincinnati Bengals at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports


I can’t emphasize this one enough. You should have already reviewed you league’s player claim rules well before week 1 begins. If you haven’t done so, do it IMMEDIATELY.

Knowing the rules can make all the difference.

The first big distinction is to know the difference between “street free agents” and the “waiver wire”. Some leagues have separate rules for how claims work for players dropped from other rosters” (waiver wire) or unclaimed players (street free agents).

Often players dropped from other rosters are subject to claim order rules (such as reverse current standings) while unclaimed players are claimed on a “first come, first serve” basis. During my 11 league win streak, I typically looked for leagues that had the latter rule, because I knew my ability to pluck guys from the bone pile. That meant I was often putting in claims on SUNDAY during games, and between games, as I reviewed stats during game days.

The key is you need to know your league’s claim rules inside and out before you can hope to be clever.

To really make this work, you need to have a good idea of the perceived strengths and weaknesses of every team in the league coming into the season, so that you can immediately recognize when a player breakout combines with long-term opportunity.

In such “first come first serve” situations, you put in every waiver claim under the sun. Even so, you will want to put in your best candidates first, because you want your best shots to have the earliest claim times when they hit the commissioner’s desk (or league claim software).

Some leagues, however, make all unclaimed players subject to waiver rules. Again, a couple of leagues during my win streak changed to this format specifically to harm my chances to win.

Typical waiver priority rules are in reverse order of current standings,  reverse draft order, often combined with the rule that your priority shifts to the bottom of the pecking order once a waiver claim on a player is granted. Under these rules you need to be very careful to target the best prospects with your first claim. Here, getting your claim in fast isn’t at all important, and targeting the right claims is everything.

Some leagues will have separate priority for “waiver wire” and “street free agent” claims. There are endless variants and claim tactics often become obvious once you know the rules.

The key is you need to know your league’s claim rules inside and out before you can hope to be clever.