Ask The Commish: Should I Allow Waivers for Non-Playoff Teams?

By Reginald James
Reginald James


Should I allow guys to work waivers if they’re not in contention for the championship, but are still part of the consolation bracket? I’m going to allow it, but I’m getting pushback for it. I think if you’re still playing you should be allowed to help your team.


I say ignore the pushback. As long as managers are allowed to play during the course of the season, they should be allowed to play the full scope of the game. This includes working waivers and picking up free agents.


There’s a line of thinking by some that as soon as a manager is out for the season, then they should no longer have access to waivers. That makes sense to me. I don’t have a problem with this line of thinking for redraft leagues. It’s a completely different story if we’re talking about keeper leagues and dynasty leagues.


Say for example, I get knocked out of the first round of the playoff. My regular season is over, yet something might happen during the next couple of weeks where a player suffers a serious injury that’s going to have them report late to camp next spring, or miss the early part of the regular season. This is not an odd occurrence. I might take interest in their backup. I should be able to pick up that player. Depending on what happens during the offseason, that player’s value may appreciate. I have the right to stash and wait (or hope) and reap the benefits for looking ahead.


Also, in some leagues, there are players like A.J. Brown, D.K. Dobbins, and maybe even Trey Lance who are available for rostering right now. If I’m in a keeper league, I should have the right to pick up and stash those players. I should not be barred from doing that just because I’m not managing one of the last four or two teams playing in Week 16 or 17. There should be no restrictions to the player pool either.


Commissioners have to decide why they have a consolation bracket. Is it because they want to give people in their league the opportunity to keep playing a little longer into the season? If so, then you can’t say, “Hey, keep playing, but you have to play with only the guys on your roster. If they get hurt, or lost for the season, too bad. If you don’t have a viable starter at running back? Too bad. Only the people in the winner’s bracket have access to the player pool.”


No. In my world, you can’t do that. That seems to be your position. I agree. I don't think it's fair. In my opinion, commissioners have to make a choice if they are on the side of limiting roster management, because that's what we're really talking about here. Make a choice: loser’s bracket or no loser’s bracket. That way, when the playoff starts, the only people who have a vested interest in the existing player pool are the ones still actually playing. You don’t get to devalue the playing experience of the others just because they aren’t in the running for the championship. If they are still involved in some way, then they should be afforded the same access. The whole “you can play, but don’t really play” notion doesn’t make sense to me.


You didn’t say what kind of league you have, whether it’s a redraft, keeper or dynasty league. If your league is one of the last two, and you have a consolation bracket, then yes, it’s not right to tell those players they can’t work waivers. How can we tell the people in our leagues, to make sure they manage their roster, to make sure they have starters and not start people on bye, but then come to a point where we’re literally asking them not to play all out?


I’ve also heard the argument that people in the “loser’s bracket” don’t care anyway and end up checking out. First of all, I think it’s ignorant for someone (on Twitter for example) to make blanket declarations about what’s going on in leagues they aren’t playing in, and about the mindset of people they don’t even know. Some people like playing fantasy football, and are competitive, and they will play all the way through no matter what - even in a consolation/“loser’s” bracket. But let’s say they’re speaking on their own experience as a commissioner or as player. Okay, fine. Then why have a consolation bracket in the first place if you know people aren’t really going to be into it? Get rid of it. Now, there’s no conflict and we’re right back where I started: As long as managers are allowed to play during the course of the season, they should be allowed to play the full scope of the game. This includes working waivers and picking up free agents. Done. Problem solved.


If someone really loves fantasy football, it seems to me they’d want to play as long as they could. I think that’s why some commissioners will have another playoff bracket, so everyone can still get their full fantasy football fix - but that choice comes with baggage as I've discussed. One alternative would be to not have a playoff, play the full season, head-to-head, where the team with the best record wins. The winner is rewarded for their full body of work. In this setup, everyone plays to the very end. We no longer have the issue of who gets to really play, who gets to kind of play, and who doesn’t play at all.


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