When to Jettison a Player from your Fantasy Football Team

"Man, every time I start Joe Zero he hardly gives me any points!  Argh!"

"Gosh, is Mike Sprain ever going to play this season?"

Most fantasy football owners are familiar with those refrains; situations where a player continually flops or is always hurt can make you wonder if you should release them or not. Often it's tough to know when to release a player from your fantasy football squad, even when they will miss many weeks due to injury or are consistently performing poorly.  Usually what makes an owner hesitant to release a player that's hurt or that has burned them a few times is the fear that the player will start to produce after they've released or traded them.  Here's a few things to keep in mind when considering jettisoning a player from your fantasy football squad:

Injury Considerations

The easiest decisions are those involving players that are out for the year or marginal players that are out for a long time.  In those cases, you can always release the player without regret in a redraft league.  If in a keeper or dynasty, though, you will have to decide if the injury is a sign of things to come (e.g., the player is injury prone or getting older and has a chance of becoming increasingly injury prone) prior to making any move to trade or release.

The hard decisions involve elite players that may be out for many weeks.  In those cases, you have to remember that the fantasy football season is not that long -- the regular season in many leagues is only 13-14 weeks.  So, in the case of an injury, when a player is out "only" 5 weeks in a 14-week league, he'll have missed over a third of the season.  Can you afford to use a roster spot to keep a player with a long-term injury?  If in a redraft league, you may want to release that player if you think that when they come back they will not make much of an impact and that by keeping them on your roster, you are preventing yourself from acquiring other players that could help you immediately.

Performance Evaluation

Elite players that are not producing up to your expectations can be tricky to evaluate. As with injuries, remember that the season is brief and that just a few losses can have a huge impact on your ability to make the playoffs. As with injured players, in the case of low productivity, there is the opportunity cost of not rostering more productive players while waiting for a turnaround that may never occur.  Can you afford to keep a player with disappointing production on your roster?

To answer that question, you'll have to look at your record, competition, and roster depth. Are you cruising?  If the player is someone you deem worth the wait, then wait if it looks like they are likely to turn things around; for example, they may have an easing schedule upcoming.
 
If you are barely in contention, the decision gets harder. You may have to make a move immediately to remain in the hunt if you're in a redraft league but as mentioned above, you'll need a longer-term outlook if you're in a keeper or dynasty league.  In any type of league, you might be able to trade the player for a undervalued one that is producing (perhaps a player on a bad real-life team); if in a keeper or dynasty, you will have to decide if the slide in production is a sign of impending decline or just a bump in the road to endure.

Remember, don't cling to a player that is doing you no good just because their name or reputation or because of the fear of them snapping the slide after you've parted with them.  Logically evaluate the situation and then decide whether releasing or trading someone that is hurt or putting up goose eggs will help your team. 

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