An introduction to FAAB

August 13, 2020

Why adding a free agent acquisition budget just might be the best thing for your league

As Jason Moore of The Fantasy Footballers wisely put it, “I once used waivers, like a dummy, but then I grew up.”

Over the past decade the fantasy community has gradually moved away from outdated formats. Standard scoring has been largely replaced by half-PPR and PPR scoring, with the former the default for Yahoo and the latter becoming the default for ESPN. We have moved away from non-fractional scoring where players couldn’t earn a partial point.

It’s time to make another change in the way we play fantasy football.

FAAB, or free agent acquisition budget, is the best way to play fantasy football, plain and simple. Each owner receives a set budget to spend on waiver wire pickups for the season, typically $100. When waivers run, a blind auction takes place for each player as owners place bids for players they want. Whoever bids the most gets the player. Ties in bidding would then default to traditional waiver priority. Furthermore, losing bids won’t impact a teams’ budget either.

Simply put, traditional waivers are underwhelming. Certain teams know they have absolutely no shot at some players, which is never fun. Teams can win their Week 1 matchup with an outlier performance and miss out on the star-studded breakout group. There’s no thinking involved — put a claim in and call it a day. 

There aren’t many flaws with traditional waivers. But there aren’t many positives either. It’s just boring.

Hockenson was an expensive pick-up after his 22.1 point performance in Week 1, but fell off a cliff afterwards, finishing the season as the TE31.

FAAB is a breath of fresh air. Rather than restricting teams from picking up players, everyone has a shot. Every team has the same budget starting out and it is up to each individual owner to manage that budget all season long. It adds another level of strategy with owners trying to figure out how much each player is worth. Sure, that running back might have an opportunity this week with the starter inactive, but how much is a one-week rental worth to your team? Is that Week 1 breakout player worth the big bucks you might need to pay to get the George Kittle breakout or is he just a T.J. Hockenson?

Not to mention it fixes the biggest problem with traditional waivers — it’s FUN. It is the best feeling in the world to watch a team massively overbid for a player. Likewise, it is the second-best feeling in the world to get a player you want for just $1 more than the next team. It happens in every league. Each day you play the waiver game, trying to gauge how much you want to bid relative to how much you need the player while everyone else is doing the same. It requires more strategic thinking in a fantasy football game that should revolve around it. 

It opens up new roads for different strategies. The cost of that Week 1 star might prevent you from picking up a backup-turned-starter in Week 14, and who knows whether the player is even worth the money? On the flip side, being stingy with the budget could make Week 14 meaningless if your team misses the playoffs. 

Now, the biggest concern for people who are new to the system is that they will be unable to add players if they blow their budget. The most important part about implementing this system is to include $0 bids. Teams can add players without wasting their budgets and are never locked out.

Waller was a league-winning pickup last year after going undrafted in fantasy leagues, finishing as the TE3.

Going off of that, let’s run through some tips to keep in mind when starting off with a FAAB waiver system. First, don’t be afraid to spend the money early. While every league owner spends differently, more often than not first-time FAAB owners are hesitant to pay up early in the year. There will always be big-money pickups that bust, but when there is the opportunity to pick up guys like Darren Waller or DeVante Parker (who both went undrafted in most redraft leagues in 2019 and were picked up before too long), you take that chance. 

With that being said, keep some of the budget squared away.

If your star goes down, so does your team. If there’s a clear handcuff to that player, he is invaluable. The FAAB system makes it possible to acquire that must-get player IF you manage your budget well. An easy way to manage your FAAB is to bid in percentages, which is why the $100 format is ideal. I tend to square away 25% of my budget for the last quarter of the season so I’m not caught off guard should injuries sweep through my team. Use it as a rule of thumb.

The biggest obstacle in the way of adopting FAAB as a standard set-up is that it requires more out of the owners. It adds another layer of complexity. If your league is new to fantasy football, feel free to start off with the traditional waiver system. Enjoy the simplicity of it as you get used to the game. But when you get the hang of everything and are looking for more, adopt FAAB and never look back.