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How Injuries Affect Fantasy Football


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If you’re asking yourself, “who should I start,” in fantasy football, a lot of that decision-making can hinge on injuries.  

In fantasy football, games aren’t won and lost because of things like touchdowns and interceptions—it’s coming down to injuries. 

Some people argue that it’s becoming problematic because the best team is no longer winning fantasy leagues. It’s the healthiest team that’s now often winning. 

Many people in fantasy will take a look at their team and see they might have three, five, or even more players hurt. 

There are things that leagues can do to soften the blow of injuries, which we’ll talk more about below. 

The Basics of Injuries and Reserves

The key job you have in fantasy football is managing your roster. To manage your roster effectively, you have to know how to deal with players when they get injured during the season. You might have a key player who gets hurt at an important part of the season, but there are things you can do to combat your production losses and keep your team in the running for the playoffs. 

When you have an injured player, they aren’t able to score your team points. This means they’re taking up a spot on your roster that you could instead be using to earn points. 

You have three primary options with an injured player. You can trade him, drop him and get a replacement or keep the player. 

Trading an Injured Player

One option you have in fantasy is to trade your injured player to another team. The player loses value when they’re injured, but you may be able to get a good deal regardless. If a player is anticipated to come back later in the year, deciding whether or not to trade them gets tricky. 

You have to ask yourself whether you’ll be able to win games without that player until they do come back. If so, you might want to keep your player for the playoffs. 

You can make trades only before your league’s set deadline for trades. 

If you aren’t going to be able to win games without the injured player, what’s your view of the championship? If you are part of a keeper league and the player isn’t coming back until the following season, do you want to keep them so they have a strong return the next season? If they’re injured a lot, you might trade for depth. 

Waiver Wire

The waiver wire can make or break your season. Your waiver wire is what lets team managers pick up players who weren’t drafted or who were let go by other teams in their league. 

Since there’s inherent unpredictability in the NFL season, the waiver wire can let you fix mistakes you made in your draft if you’re strategic. Stay active on the waivers and realize that the players who end up there could be who wins you a championship. 

At the end of the week, general managers can make changes to their team for the upcoming week. When they drop a player, they go to the waiver wire. Then managers from other teams can request to sign one of these players. The complexities in this happen if multiple people want the same player. 

A way to find good pick-ups on the waiver wire is to assess matchups. 

Injuries, in general, have a big impact on the waiver wire for all positions, but in particular, running backs. The running back has the most opportunities to score, so they become a prime commodity on the waiver wire. When a starting running back is injured, even if it’s just for one game, managers go to the waiver wire to get someone who will take the bulk of the carries. 

The IR Spot

In the NFL, there isn’t a weekly injured list. Instead, teams submit a practice report weekly and then a Friday injury report. For Monday night football, it’s Saturday. Then, they make a declaration of inactive players 1 ½ hours before kickoff. 

The injured reserve was historically for players out for the season, but in 2012, the NFL changed the rules to allow one player to be designated for return. That could mean that player could return to play in the season after missing a minimum of eight games. 

The number went up to two players in 2017 and then, in 2020, to three. Again in 2022, the NFL set new rules. Players on injured reserve have to miss at least four games, and then the number of players that can be designated to return went up to eight. 

In fantasy football, a lot of commissioners have the issue of wanting the IR spot to be used for anything but the players on injured reserve. 

On fantasy platforms, you can put a player in your IR spot if they’re on their team’s injured reserve. 

Then, things can become more complicated if a player isn’t playing but’s not on injured reserve. 

In some leagues, a commissioner doesn’t have any discretion on the issue. If a player is listed out, then a manager can put them on their IR spot. In others, commissioners have a lot of options as far as how they use this spot. 

In fantasy, the IR spot is meant to reduce the impact of injuries in the NFL a bit. If your team loses a starter, you replace them by choosing another player. If you can put your player into an injured reserve spot, the player doesn’t count toward your total roster. It frees a roster spot for managers to add replacements without having to drop someone else. 

The IR spots do reduce some of the frustration if you lose a starter. If you didn’t have the IR spot in fantasy, you’d lose your injured player and also potentially another one of your bench players because you’d have to drop him, replacing the injured player. 

Injuries are a tough part of fantasy sports, but if you’re a savvy team manager, you can figure out strategies that will allow you to work around them.

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