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What Is IR in Fantasy Football?

Jan 31

To take home the hardware in a fantasy football league, you need to use every advantage that comes your way. But if you’re new to the fantasy football ranks or unfamiliar with all the jargon, you may find yourself in quite a pickle.

One of the newer concepts of fantasy football that some players may not initially understand is IR. However, IR has crucial implications for in-season strategy, roster management, and setting your weekly lineup.

So, “What is IR in fantasy football?” Find out how this integral aspect of your roster can provide much-needed depth to your team and how you can potentially exploit it for gain.

What Is IR in Fantasy Football?

Football player putting a heavy tackle on another player

IR in fantasy football — as well as the NFL — stands for injured reserve. A player on the injured reserve has a serious injury that prevents them from playing. The important note is that if a player’s status puts them on the IR, they no longer count against the number of players on a roster. The injured player effectively reduces the active roster by one player and opens a roster spot for a new player — presumably a player from the practice squad or a free agent. That’s true for both fantasy teams and the NFL.

NFL Injury Report Rules

During the NFL season, the league requires all NFL teams to release an injury report two days before their scheduled game — except for Thursday night games, which require each team to release their injury report on Wednesday afternoon. This list shows any players on the IR and PUP (physically unable to perform), as well as weekly injury designations, such as questionable (Q), doubtful (D), or out (O).

In a real-life NFL scenario, a player placed on the injured reserve list before the start of the season must be out for the entire year. Conversely, if a team places a player on the IR list during the regular season, the IR player must miss a minimum of four games.

What the IR Means for Your Fantasy Football League

When each NFL team releases its injury report, your fantasy football league automatically updates player injury statuses. If a player goes on the IR, you’ll see an “IR” next to their name. However, you need to know whether you’re responsible for placing the IR-eligible player into the IR spot. Yahoo and ESPN do this automatically; other platforms may not. Failing to put a player in the IR spot means you can’t select a new player from the waiver wire, and the player counts toward your total number of roster spots — a grievous error if you’re inattentive.

As a result, remain vigilant regarding injury reports throughout the fantasy football season. Depending on when your fantasy player is on the field, these reports should come out on Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. You can also read news on websites like, ESPN, or other sports sites to get updates on purported injury updates so you aren’t hit with any surprises.

Understanding Player Injury Tags

Now that you understand “What is IR in fantasy football?” let’s shift gears to player injury tags. By understanding all of them, you can make better decisions regarding the IR slot and how to use it to your advantage during your fantasy football regular season and the playoffs.

When the NFL releases injury reports, teams categorize injured players in various ways; healthy players are not listed. Here are the injury designations and what they mean:

  • Doubtful (D): The player has a 50/50 chance of playing that week’s game.
  • Questionable (Q): The player is highly unlikely to play in that week’s game.
  • (Out): The player will 100% not play in that week’s game.
  • Suspended (SSPD): Used for a violation of team or league rules, suspended players are ineligible to play until their suspension is over, but they do not take up a roster spot.
  • Physically Unable To Perform (PUP): A player on the PUP list does not participate in practice but is still a part of team activities. They still count as a rostered player, but unlike the IR, they can return to the team before the four-game minimum that the IR requires. Still, the NFL requires the player to be medically cleared before they can participate in practice or games.
  • Injured Reserve (IR): A player on injured reserve must sit at least four games, but they do not count as a rostered player. NFL teams are free to fill that extra spot until the four games are over, at which point, they can add the IR player back to the roster.

Remember that players listed as questionable or doubtful in any given week are not eligible for the IR slot. Only players officially listed on the IR by the NFL — and in some fantasy leagues, players listed as out — are eligible for the IR slot.

Utilizing the IR Slot

Black and white picture from behind of a football player with his hands pointed in the air

An interesting part of the IR in fantasy football is that a player doesn’t necessarily need to have IR status from the NFL. On platforms such as ESPN, CBS Sports, and Yahoo, players can fill the IR spot with a player listed as out (O) unless your league commissioner has banned this action in the league settings.

If your IR spot is open to out players, this leads to an intriguing situation. You can hop into the waiver or free agency pool and add a player to your roster without releasing the player currently listed as out. Think of it as a way to increase your depth without major consequences. So if you don’t want to release an elite wide receiver or running back who banks major points in your PPR league, you won’t have to.

The IR Conundrum

One of the more difficult aspects of the IR is what to do with your extra roster spot. You’ll obviously want to look to your current bench players for depth and the upcoming matchup for the week.

However, you can also look to add the best possible player on the waiver wire for multiple reasons. First, any player on waivers who’s better than a current bench player is always a welcomed addition. Second, you can potentially block your opponents from selecting a player they may want or need for the upcoming week.

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether filling the position of the IR player or selecting the best possible player is the better option. But considering both of the above aspects is also of great importance.

Waivers and Players Coming off IR

Players sent to the IR during the regular season must remain on the list for four weeks. After that, injury updates are crucial to your fantasy football decision-making. Even with round-the-clock NFL news, you can never be sure when a team will take a player off IR, which can lead to some confusing scenarios — especially with the waiver.

Make sure to note these scenarios with players coming off the IR to avoid any issues:

  • Any healthy player in the IR slot immediately counts as a rostered player. As such, you cannot add any free agent or waiver player to your roster.
  • If you make a waiver claim when a player is in the IR slot, but the IR player becomes healthy, your waiver claim will still go through. However, you will need to release a player or free up a roster spot to accommodate both the now-healthy IR player or the waiver player.
  • An IR player who’s upgraded to questionable or doubtful still counts as a rostered player. Your waiver claim will still be processed, but again, you need to decide who to drop from your team, assuming you have no open roster spots.

Resist the Urge to Panic

Man in a blue shirt with hands up and looking panicked

When a player goes on IR or even becomes listed as out, some players hit the panic button and automatically release the player. Such an impulsive urge can often backfire. Even if a player is out for four weeks on IR or listed as out, they can still return and make a huge impact on your team and season.

All you need to do is plan accordingly. Measure the value of each player, have an exit strategy (the most games you’re willing to have a player on IR), and put forth a contingency plan to add depth. This will help you avoid the panic and the huge mistake of releasing a player who goes on to bank major points for another team in your league.

Choosing the Best Player in an IR Scenario

“What is IR in fantasy football?” It’s a chance to add another player to your roster, increase depth, and master the art of roster management.

If you’re unsure what waiver wire or free agent player to add to your squad, Wise Guys Edge can lend a helping hand. Wise Guys Edge uses current Vegas sportsbook odds to help you find the perfect fit for your squad, and the five-player comparison tool sorts out the best possibility for your IR situation.

Just like NBA, MLB, and NHL fantasy leagues, injuries are a part of the game NFL fantasy landscape. But how you manage your team is what may make or break your season. Make sure to use all the tools afforded to you.