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What is ‘IR’ in (ESPN) Fantasy Football and How Does It Work?

The IR spot(s) in fantasy football is for players on injured reserve who cannot compete and generate fantasy points for at least four weeks.

Your roster is limited to sixteen players in a public (standard) ESPN fantasy football league.

Nine starting players will accumulate points for you during the week, in addition to your seven bench players. [1]

All sixteen players are integral to your team’s success, and you spent draft picks to acquire them.

Imagine your stud running back suffers an injury during week 2 of the NFL season and is placed on injured reserve.

Luckily, the injury is not season-ending, and your RB is expected to return in four-to-six weeks.

You still must replace that player on your roster for the time being.

However, with the player returning later in the season, you certainly don’t want to drop him now and enable a competitor to acquire him.

Nonetheless, suppose you keep the injured player, who will be worthless for at least a month. 

He occupies a valuable roster spot in that case while providing zero production.

This is why the IR exists in fantasy (and real) football.

I’m Tracy, and I’ve been an NFL and fantasy football student for years. So I know the rules and available options regarding ESPN fantasy football and IR.

In this post, I’ll explain the purpose behind the IR. Next, I’ll examine which players are eligible for the IR and how the Injured Reserve (IR) slot impacts waiver claims and free-agent acquisitions. Lastly, I’ll discuss some controversy regarding the use or misuse of the IR in fantasy football. 

We need a safe and quiet space to enjoy this article.

After all, the last thing we need is to end up on IR!

Let’s get smarter!

Key Takeaways

  • The IR spot(s) in fantasy football is for players on injured reserve who cannot compete and generate fantasy points for at least four weeks.
  • Players with either the Out (O) or Injured/Reserve (IR) status may be placed into the IR slot.
  • The IR slot in fantasy football is a very controversial topic: some fantasy managers view it as strictly for players that are on the IR, while others feel very differently.

What Is the Point of IR?

The above injury to your star running back is precisely why the IR exists.

If one of your players lands on IR (in real football), you can place him on IR in your fantasy league.

By placing your injured player on IR, he is inactive until he returns.

He also does not occupy one of your precious sixteen roster spots.

You don’t have to worry about dropping him or any other player to free up a roster spot.

You can move your backup running back into next week’s starting lineup or pick up a running back via the waiver wire or free agency.

Which Players May Be Placed on IR?

Players with either the Out (O) or Injured/Reserve (IR) status may be placed into the fantasy IR slot.

Suspended players (SSPD), Questionable players (Q), and Doubtful players (D) are NOT eligible for IR.

ESPN Fantasy Football uses the NFL’s official injury/inactive list to update a player’s injury status.

If your player is placed on IR (in real life), the system will register that change shortly.

Notice that players with the Out (O) status may be placed in the fantasy IR slot.

Players who are Out (O) are simply missing the upcoming game.

They are not expected out for a prolonged period and are not on injured reserve.

This inconsistency is a subject of great controversy for fantasy football managers that we will discuss later. [2]

How Does the Injured Reserve (IR) Slot Impacts Waiver Claims and Free Agent Acquisitions?

You gain an open roster slot when you place an eligible player into the IR slot. 

Basic waiver claims and free-agent pickups will remain unchanged as long as the IR player is eligible for the IR slot.

Problems may result when you attempt to sign a player via waiver claims or free agency and the player’s status in the IR slot changes. 

The system always ensures you stay within the roster size limit for your league.

Some scenarios to consider when making a claim while you have a player in an IR slot:

  • You cannot add any new players to your roster if you have a healthy player in an IR slot.
  • If you have a player on your IR who becomes healthy between when you made the waiver claim and when the claim is processed, the claim will go through as expected.

However, you must free up a roster slot before moving the now-healthy player out of the IR slot.

  • If you have a player that has recently been upgraded from “O” or “IR” to “QUESTIONABLE” or “DOUBTFUL,” your claims will go through as usual. 

Those player(s) can remain in that IR slot, and the user can make claims/add players, and adjust their lineups as they wish, provided the position/roster limit has yet to be reached. 

  • Suppose you have a “Questionable” or “Doubtful” player on your IR. In that case, you can add free agents, assuming you have an open roster slot.
  • If you have an open bench slot when you make a waiver claim but then activate an IR player before the claim processes, your claim will fail. [3]

IR Slot Etiquette and an MLB Fight

I mentioned earlier that some fantasy managers view the IR slot as strictly for players on the IR.

The problem is that Yahoo and ESPN allow those players designated as Out (O) to also be eligible for IR.

Even in a League Manager League, policing any such policy would take much work and effort.

Nonetheless, some fantasy managers, including MLB players Joc Pederson and Tommy Pham, hold firm and opposing views regarding this use (misuse) of the IR slot.

In fact, Pham and Pederson engaged in fisticuffs over the issue last year.

Apparently, Pham was not amused that Pederson was exploiting the ability to place players with the Out (O) designation onto the IR.

The below video sheds a bit of light on this controversial loophole in fantasy football software:

Read more:

Closing Thoughts

It must be serious business if MLB players are brawling over fantasy football etiquette.

And you and I both know that fantasy football is very serious.

Let’s be honest.

In any competition, you want to win.

But in competition against your good friends, you REALLY, REALLY WANT TO WIN!!

Lastly, should non-IR real-life players be allowed to be placed in the IR slot in fantasy football leagues? 

Let me know in the comments section below. 


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