Free agent advice

Fantasy help still available.

Fantasy help still available.

As I’ve stated before in this space, I don’t think fantasy saviors tend to reside on the waiver wire at this point in the season – nor should they. If anyone worth weekly starting consideration is freely available nearly three-quarters of the way through the year, it’s a sign that your league lacks either ideal size or competitiveness.

With that in mind, simply passing along top pickup candidates for a given week is probably not helpful. If you’re serious enough about your fantasy to be seeking out online advice, odds are you’re about as aware of the recently emergent names as I am. This late in the year, most such names represent a crapshoot. I could tell you why Danario Alexander makes sense, but if he needs a sixth knee surgery after the second quarter of his Week 13 game, then it’s all moot.

Instead, I’m opting this week to suggest some waiver-wire strategy for the final quarter of the fantasy season. Keep in mind that you’ll have to adjust any suggestions to your particular situation and format, but here are some fairly general rules for free-agent treatment that I think differ from the early part of the season.

Back up all positions (except kicker)
This is akin to backing up everything on your computer’s hard drive to avoid losing it all in the case of a crash. It might make sense through much of the year to simply ride Aaron Rodgers and use what would be a second quarterback slot to take some chances on guys like Steve Johnson, LeGarrette Blount or even Anthony Gonzalez – waiver shots that may or may not pay off. After all, David Garrard, Jon Kitna and a couple of others have been dangling out there pretty much all year in case Rodgers goes down, and there’s always the trade desk.

At this point, though, the waiver wire is extremely picked over and trading is closed for many leagues (or not a worthwhile option for flailing redraft teams that won’t sniff the playoffs). With all of the byes long gone, it’s time to realize that a fifth running back or sixth receiver is probably not going to do anything for you the rest of the way. Dump that guy for a backup quarterback, whatever real option might still be available. Chad Henne might not have looked very attractive all year, but if you’re staring at him and the Panthers’ rancid flavors of the week on your wire, then it’s time to suck it up and support your starter with the lackluster Dolphin. Better to have a guy with at least some upside than watch one injury end your fantasy season prematurely.

Favor handcuffs over fringe options
Javon Ringer and Bernard Scott made a lot of sense at draft time to those who picked up Chris Johnson and Cedric Benson (respectively). As the starters have made it this far without injury, though, and helped lead to their backups producing nothing, it has gotten a lot easier to view such players as fungible assets.

Why continue to wait for Tashard Choice to start getting meaningful carries, though, or hold out on Derrick Ward just in case when you should be more concerned about your starter going down? Even if he has made it through 11 games unscathed, it takes just one hit (or misstep in the turf) to end a player’s season.

Players such as James Davis or Michael Bush could be worth keeping around if you have the space, but neither is likely to start as long as you have Matt Forte and Maurice Jones-Drew healthy. If one of those two goes down, you can feel pretty certain that Chester Taylor or Rashad Jennings would be in for some more work. Davis and Bush, meanwhile, could still represent no change from the previous week.

A second defense is OK
Most of the time, keeping a second defense around will be good only for producing your own aggravation. So many relatively unpredictable factors go into a unit’s fantasy scoring that it’s often tough to figure out what might be a positive matchup and which might be the better play in a given week.

If you’ve gotten to this point without a strong weekly fantasy defense, though, why not drop an unimportant player for a second choice? Check out what the crappy Houston D did against Tennessee in Week 12, or how positive any matchup with Carolina appears. There are times when playing the matchups with your defense will pay off, and even if you’re happy with the option already on hand, you could take a free-agent candidate away from your fellow playoff contenders.

Grabbing insurance in this area is far from imperative. As with the rest of the suggestions, though, if your roster size and situation allow, it’s a move that could pay off.

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Matt Schauf

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