Fiscal responsibility might have its place in fantasy -- such as scouring endgame bargains in an auction -- but one area in which it doesn't belong is your FAAB strategy.
Simply put: Open up your wallet! The sooner the better.
In-season prizes secured via FAAB -- or Free Agent Acquisition Budget, a set amount of "money" with which you buy your free agents, rather than by a traditional waivers system -- can be found at any stage of the season, but it's exiting Week 1 when your odds of making a major splash are greatest. Considering some of the names commonly found on this year's list, including T.J. Hockenson, Marquise Brown, Malcolm Brown, John Ross III and Chris Thompson, all of whom can be found available in more than two-thirds of ESPN leagues at the dawn of Week 2, it's as true a statement in 2019 as in any past year.f
First, simple mathematics show why Week 2 -- or "exiting Week 1" -- is the one during which you should be prepared to shell out the greatest percentage of your available FAAB funds. Players acquired during this week grant you the greatest impact window, 15 games/16 weeks of potential production, with those numbers incrementally decreasing with each passing week.
For example, if we were to assume that all prospective FAAB acquisitions had identical chances of success, and therefore would produce identical scores every week if rostered, then Week 2 additions would warrant spending 12% of your total, seasonal FAAB budget. Compare that with Week 10, when additions would be worth spending 5.9% of said budget, or less than half of the Week 2 amount. Those numbers are reached by comparing the players' 15 games/16 weeks' availability from Week 2 on to the eight remaining weeks from Week 10 on, as well as comparing those to every other week of the season. And that's before accounting for leagues that eliminate Week 17 from their schedules, or have a 13-week regular season in which FAAB doesn't carry into the fantasy playoffs, or have a large percentage of teams eliminated by then. Those leagues warrant that even greater weight be placed upon the early weeks.
But to assume that every FAAB acquisition has an identical chance of success is a huge leap, and that's where things skew even further in favor of an aggressive Week 2 bidding strategy. Whatever the reason, from minuscule preseason player sample sizes to the difficulty of gathering detailed scouting and/or role situations throughout the preseason (these things perhaps linked), Week 1 is perhaps the most telling of the entire football season. That's not to say that all of the Week 1 takeaways are to be set in stone -- I'm looking at you, Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns -- but there's much more to be gleaned by comparing player roles and trends from Week 1 to your offseason research or the preseason returns than there'll be by comparing any future week to the one before it (such as comparing, say, Week 9 to Week 8 returns).
Recent history supports this: In the past three seasons, seven of the 20 most impactful undrafted, in-season pickups were those most popular on the Week 2 pickups list, and another five were players commonly added in Week 3 but who had already planted seeds in their season openers (shrewd fantasy managers might've gotten ahead of the game by adding them in Week 2).
That 20-player sample included only players drafted in fewer than 20% of ESPN leagues, using their final PPR fantasy point totals as well as the percentage of ESPN playoff rosters on which they resided. It's a group that included -- most recently as 2018 -- Tyler Boyd (221.1 PPR fantasy points for the year, 5.6 in Week 1), Phillip Lindsay (222.8 and 18.2), Eric Ebron (222.2 and 15.1) and Austin Ekeler (168.8 and 23.6). In 2017, those who were most aggressive on the FAAB front might've netted Alvin Kamara (320.4 PPR fantasy points for the year, 7.8 in Week 1), and in 2016, those same managers might've landed Tyrell Williams (216.9 and 9.1).
There's no hard-and-fast number for the amount of your FAAB budget you should spend in Week 2 of any given year, but let your player scouting drive this decision. If the player fits a particular roster need for you and/or has the skills you see resulting in a top-shelf season, pay the extra dollar -- heck, pay 10 extra dollars, if you think that's what it'll take to secure him.
My rule of thumb is that as much as 50% of your FAAB should be in play for Week 2. That number can rise if the prospective additions perfectly align with your roster needs and your own scouting. For example, if Hockenson provides that much-needed TE2 that you missed out on in the draft, and you're in a PPR league with a running back shortage and Thompson is out there, it's not unthinkable to drop, say, a $31 bid on Thompson and $26 on Hockenson in a $100 FAAB league.
In the event neither player fits the need, or you have some doubts about their prospects to repeat their opening-week outputs in most future weeks, then it's fine to lower that percentage beneath 50. For example, if you're excited by the weekly upside either Hockenson or Brown presents but you're in good shape at their positions already and worry about possible inconsistency, it's fine to bid, say, $19 on Hockenson and $15 on Brown, understanding that if someone outbids you, you might need to step up the aggressiveness of your bidding accordingly in Week 3. Just remember that the more big bids you lose, the more you'll be throwing unnecessarily larger sums at future picks, who don't have as much time available to help you.
What you should not do, however, is passively approach this week's free-agent market. Someone from this week's FAAB class is probably bound for a big, lead-you-to-a-championship 2019, and even for fantasy teams rich in talent, it's worth grabbing some shares in the hopes of a big score. Remember, you can always trade your excess, and if you leave stale players on your bench for too long, you'll find them increasingly difficult to replace with high-upside performers -- most of the later-season adds will probably be tied to unexpected injuries that open up other player opportunities, and those are inherently random.
So be bold, open that wallet, and spend, spend, SPEND!
Other handy FAAB tips:
Always know where you stand compared to your competition, including who holds the tiebreaker in the event of matching FAAB bids. Always. Absolutely every FAAB dollar is precious, could be the key to your entire season, and needs to be preserved with careful money management. If you have $13 remaining in FAAB and your counterpart has $12 and doesn't have the tiebreaker, a $12 bid -- not $13 -- is sufficient to guarantee you the player.
Prioritize, prioritize. If you see several prizes on the weekly list, tie your bids to multiple player drops, and consider making your top-priority bids the largest, with lower-priority bids more conservative. That way you'll still have the best odds for your top targets, but you might even score a bargain in a lower-priority bid if your competition isn't paying attention.
If your league carries FAAB into the fantasy playoffs, as most of mine do, be aware that eliminated teams are often scratched from the ledger or are involved in consolation brackets where they could be less invested in managing their teams. Always consider your prospective playoff competition's FAAB, because teams destined for the playoffs are often the ones draining their budgets the quickest. Say you're entering Week 12, need a running back and see that your five most likely playoff counterparts have $10 fewer in FAAB remaining than you do. That gives you more wiggle room to bid big on that necessary piece in Week 12, knowing you'll still be competitive on the FAAB market once the playoff arrives considering those will be the only teams still bidding.