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Waivers of the Future: Training Camp Edition

Your guide to making preemptive waiver pickups in the context of dynasty fantasy football.

Player value in dynasty football reminds me of watching ocean waves. They ebb and flow, always in a state of flux. Competitive dynasty players anticipate these movements before they happen and act by picking up, buying, or selling players as the situation demands. Owners have previously been at the mercy of regular waiver segments to assist in dynasty pickups, but these fail to take the long-term view necessary to dynasty success. This segment (which will become a weekly feature in-season) will focus on identifying assets that will help dynasty teams build for the future.

Important Note: Budget percentages will be added to the in-season version of this report for both contending and rebuilding teams as an extra guidepost.

The Shoreline

(May be available in 25 or fewer roster spot leagues)

Quarterbacks

Robert Griffin III, WAS- According to beat writer Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns are “all in” on Griffin. They have named Griffin the starter. The newly drafted Corey Coleman and the return of Josh Gordon can only help Griffin’s case. One of Griffin’s biggest strengths is his deep accuracy, and Coleman in particular excels at speeding down the field to grab those deep shots.

Colin Kaepernick, SF- The Kaepernick situation continues to be up in the air. Untraded and now healed from offseason surgery, he’s competing in camp with Blaine Gabbert for the starting job. Some in the organization are hinting that Gabbert is still the favorite to win the job. Kaepernick better suits the Chip Kelly system, but that may not matter if the organization has soured on Kaepernick. This is a situation that we need to continue to watch closely in camp.

Brock Osweiler, HOU- The big money Osweiler received in free agency shows that the Texans are committed to him, at least for this year. Osweiler will finally be the unquestioned starter for the first time in his young career. The Texans added Lamar Miller via free agency and took Will Fuller in the first round of the Draft. Jaelen Strong has also had a good camp and may start opposite of DeAndre Hopkins, giving Osweiler another viable option that should take some of the pressure off of his shoulders.

Running Backs

Jerick McKinnon, MIN- Adrian Peterson's time in Minnesota is drawing to a close, and the athletic project is losing the project tag with how well he's played when he has seen action.

Matt Jones, WAS- For the time being, Jones looks poised to showcase his skills as the lead man in Washington. Jones is still being overlooked in some leagues. Though not the athletic talent that we typically target at running back, Jones could excel this season purely on the volume of touches he is slated to receive.

DeAngelo Williams, PIT- Though a season winner for many folks last year, Williams was tossed back to the waivers in many dynasty leagues after the season ended. Though he is not a long-term play, Williams’ short-term potential is just too much to ignore. LeVeon Bell’s appeal is still pending, but it is very unlikely that he will escape the four-game suspension for not taking his drug test. Williams proved that he still has plenty to offer due to years of being underutilized in Carolina. Bell has an extensive injury history during his time in the league. If he were to go down again, Williams becomes an instant RB1 who could win your league.

Wide Receivers

Marvin Jones, DET- With Calvin Johnson retiring, Detroit felt a strong need to go out and fill the void opposite Golden Tate. While he won’t completely fill the shoes of Megatron, Detroit will definitely look to make him a focal point in their offense, unlike Cincinnati.

Sammie Coates, PIT- The offseason buzz has been constant for Coates and that is a terrific sign for his prospects this season and beyond. He was very raw coming in, but the physical gifts are definitely there. In an explosive Steelers offense and with Martavis Bryant about to serve a year-long suspension, Coates has the potential to make a splash in his absence.

Stefon Diggs, MIN- Diggs came on strong for the Vikings in the middle of 2015. He was sometimes being traded for two future first-round picks in dynasty leagues. His value comes crashing back to earth with the addition of Laquon Treadwell, signaling the Vikings don’t view him as the primary option. Still, Diggs will be one of the nicer complimentary options in the league as Teddy Bridgewater continues to develop.

Cody Latimer, DEN- We saw Latimer become more involved when Manning wasn't at the helm last year. With either Mark Sanchez or Paxton Lynch as quarterback, we can expect Latimer’s involvement to increase. Our own Cecil Lammey has been at the Broncos camp and reports that Cody Latimer has been making "a ton of plays in practice" thus far and showcasing his athletic ability. Latimer certainly needs some things to break his way ahead of him on the depth chart, but it’s too early to give up on the talented prospect in dynasty leagues.

Tight Ends

Ladarius Green, PIT- Pittsburgh was one of the most exciting landing spots Green could have found. He will undoubtedly get another production bump from the Martavis Bryant suspension.

Dwayne Allen, IND- Allen stayed in Indy and won’t have Coby Fleener siphoning away his targets. Though the dynasty community is low on him as a whole, look for him to rebound with a healthy Andrew Luck under center as long as Allen can stay healthy.

Coby Fleener, NO- The Fleener signing was one of the bigger surprises of free agency. With the big money New Orleans paid and Fleener’s lack of prowess as a blocker, we can expect him to be a featured piece of their passing game.

Zach Miller, CHI-Chicago traded away the disgruntled Martellus Bennett to the Patriots. Meanwhile, Miller quietly signed a 2-year deal to remain with the team. He showed well when Bennett was out last year and becomes much more interesting now that Bennett has been dealt away. The Bears also abstained from drafting a tight end, making us believe they are very comfortable going forward with Miller as the starter.

The Splash

(May be available in more than 25, but fewer than 40 roster spot leagues)

Quarterbacks

Brett Hundley, GB- The Packers had genuinely good things to say about his development in year one. He’ll sit behind Rogers for several years, but he’ll get his shot, either with the Packers or someone else.

Jimmy Garoppolo, NE- Groomed behind Tom Brady, Garoppolo has learned from one of the best in the business. Some other team (or New England themselves) will give him a shot to start. It doesn’t hurt that he’ll get a four-game audition at the beginning of this year due to the Brady suspension.

Ryan Nassib, NYG- Eli Manning has stayed surprisingly healthy, so Nassib has rarely gotten to show what he can do. Nassib is heading to free agency in 2017 and will more than likely pick a team with which he has a chance to start. We will watch Nassib closely in preseason action to see if he is showing the signs of development that we want to see in a young prospect.

Mark Sanchez, DEN- The Broncos took Paxton Lynch in the first round of the draft, but would prefer to let the young man sit and learn behind a veteran in Mark Sanchez. Sanchez will eventually give way to Lynch, but has value as a starter until that time.

Running Backs

Jay Ajayi, MIA- Ajayi’s dynasty stock took a slight tumble with the signing of Arian Foster. I see this merely as a depth signing, especially when you consider how little Miami payed him. Foster has an uphill battle back to prolonged fantasy relevance. It takes players time to have the same explosion and effectiveness after tearing an achilles. He also has the chronic soft tissue issues with which to contend. We’ve seen enough of Ajayi on the field to know that there is real talent there that could make Foster an afterthought. Though his stock is currently depressed, we should still be very interested in Ajayi and use this as an opportunity to buy him at a discount.

Charles Sims, TB- Doug Martin got an extension, but I still see Sims as someone who will have a role in that Buccaneers offense, especially as a pass catcher. The Buccaneers did not add a running back in the draft, something I believe signals their contentment with their running back situation at this time.  

Jeremy Langford, CHI - Langford appears to be the back that Chicago trusts (for now) with the starting duties. He’s a clear sell-high for me in dynasty, but if you can’t trade him at value, he makes a fine bye fill-in or starting option on a rebuilding dynasty squad.

James Starks, GB- I saw Starks discarded in a lot of dynasty leagues when he hit free agency. After testing free agency, Starks decided to re-sign with the Packers. He’ll have value this year should Lacy’s weight woes creep up again or should Lacy suffer an injury. He's worth stashing in deeper leagues to see if you hit the production jackpot.

Terrance West, BAL- West has improved his physique this offseason and ran hot during Ravens' preseason game. There is chatter from beat writers that West may serve in a committee with or win the job outright from Justin Forsett. At the least, we need to pay careful attention to this situation as the preseason rolls along.

Andre Ellington, ARI- Talent was never the question-- it’s been the injuries that have derailed Ellington. It may not happen with Arizona, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ellington once again producing as a starter with another team.

Wide Receivers

Travis Benjamin, SD- Benjamin landed in a great situation in which a secondary wide receiver to play opposite of Keenan Allen was sorely needed. We saw that he could fill that role nicely last year in Cleveland. He'll likely do even better this year with Phillip Rivers throwing him passes.

Seth Roberts, OAK- We heard the buzz in camp and it didn't die down when the 2015 regular season came. Roberts is behind Cooper and Crabtree, but he is one injury away from being able to step into a number two role in a productive situation.

Jeff Janis, GB- In the nightmare that was the Packers’ 2015 season, Janis had more opportunity than usual, but failed to latch on the way I had hoped he would. I believe the Packers will rebound in 2016 and simply getting on the field may have been enough to jumpstart the development of the metric freak.

Chris Hogan, NE- Stuck in a tepid Buffalo offense for the last three seasons, Hogan has shown flashes of what he could do with a better situation. He's got that situation now in New England. It wouldn't be a huge surprise to me if Hogan produces better than most expected in 2016, especially when Tom Brady returns from suspension.

Jaelen Strong, HOU- Strong has had, well, a “strong” training camp. He will likely start the season opposite of DeAndre Hopkins. Though Osweiler’s accuracy doesn’t inspire loads of confidence, Strong’s talent is such that I’m taking notice and stashing him where I can.

Terrelle Pryor, CLE- A metrically freaky converted quarterback project for the Browns, Pryor has had a magnificent camp, earning praise from coaches and Robert Griffin III. He could start the season opposite Corey Coleman and continue to play a role in three wide sets even when Josh Gordon returns from suspension.

Rishard Matthews/ Tajae Sharpe, TEN- In an offense that has yet to establish clear passing options outside of Delanie Walker, both Matthews and Sharpe could become a dependable target for Marcus Mariota. The drumbeat on Sharpe especially has been constant throughout practices.

Cordarrelle Patterson/ Charles Johnson, MIN- Minnesota took Laquon Treadwell in the first round of the Draft, a clear indicator that they are relegating these two to situational work. It’s clearly going to take a team change for either to have the fantasy relevance they once enjoyed.

Tight Ends

Jace Amaro, NYJ- Injury robbed him of a chance to show what he was capable of in his sophomore year, but we could see that change on a blossoming Jets offense.

Vance McDonald, SF- I personally am not a fan of his game, but I cannot deny that there was some improvement in 2015 and that the tight end situation for the 49ers is wide open for 2016.

Ben Watson, BAL- His resurgence with the Saints last year was intriguing, and his landing spot on a tight-end needy Baltimore squad could give Watson some sneaky value this year.

The Deep

(May be available in 40+ roster spots leagues / league with large taxi squads)

Quarterbacks

Blaine Gabbert, SF- A laughing stock for many years, Gabbert showed development and poise during his time as the 49ers starter in 2015. While I believe that Kaepernick will end up starting the season for the 49ers, there is enough volatility in that situation to warrant holding on to Gabbert in very deep leagues to see how things pan out.

Mike Glennon, TB- Trade rumors swirled around Glennon leading up to and during the Draft, but Tampa hung on to him as the backup to Jameis Winston. He will need an injury to Winston or a change of scenery (he is a free agent next year) to unlock his value.

Garrett Grayson, NO- He’s a little short for the quarterback position, but he’s very smart and poised. Sound familiar? That’s because he’s sitting behind Drew Brees, who had a very similar profile. I look for him to be Brees’ eventual replacement.

Chase Daniel, PHI- The drafting of Carson Wentz and the Eagles’ insistence on keeping an unhappy Bradford are the reasons Daniel has moved down a section in these rankings. A Bradford trade or in-season injury could bump Daniel back into primary backup relevance.

Running Backs

Javorius Allen, BAL- Unfortunately, Allen’s value took a major hit when Baltimore drafted the more talented Kenneth Dixon in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. Allen will now face competition in camp with Dixon, Justin Forsett, and Terrance West. I don’t see him coming out on top on the depth chart with all that competition.

Zach Zenner, DET- An injury marred his rookie season, but he was outplaying fellow rookie Ameer Abdullah at that point. With Joique Bell cut, we could see Zenner secure Bell’s old role this upcoming year. 

Josh Ferguson, IND- The Colts did not take any running backs in this year’s class, but they did sign a talented UDFA in Ferguson. Frank Gore isn’t exactly a spring chicken at age 33 and despite being number two on the most recent depth chart, Robert Turbin looks washed up. Ferguson has had a nice camp and is showing chops as a receiver out of the backfield.

DeAndre Washington, OAK- Showing impressively since arriving with the team, the round five Draft pick and Texas Tech product has earned first-team reps frequently in training camp. He is the backup to Latavius Murray on the most recent depth chart. Murray is far from tenured and it’s conceivable that Washington could earn a sizeable portion of the passing down work in an ascendant Oakland offense.

Keith Marshall, WAS- He was drafted in the seventh round by the Redskins. In spite of early reports indicating he would not be healthy enough to make the team, Marshall has battled back and even flashed at times during camp practices. If Matt Jones’ fumble problems crop up again, we could see Marshall get into the mix this season.

Jonathan Williams, BUF- Williams is the more talented of the two Arkansas runners that went in the draft. He recently got a DUI, but it probably will not result in a suspension until 2017. It’s going to give him time to get his foot in the door as the backup, especially with Williams struggling with weight and a four-game suspension.

Christine Michael, SEA- Taking three running backs in the Draft is not good news for Thomas Rawls or Michael long-term. However, with Rawls still ailing, Michael has been the lead back throughout training camp. If Seattle moves to a committee approach, as many believe they will, Michael might play a valuable part in that committee.   

Karlos Williams, BUF- Williams’ stock is down and he has no one but himself to blame. Gaining weight throughout the offseason and then earning a four-game suspension to start the season has sent his stock into a tailspin. He will need to get things together quickly and reclaim the backup spot behind LeSean McCoy or face appearing in the Lost at Sea portion of this column in the near future.

Malcolm Brown, LA- It may take a Gurley injury or a change of team for him to become relevant, but there's a lot to like based on his tape. It is looking as if he will be the Rams’ third string back heading into the season.

Peyton Barber, TB- This Matt Waldman favorite and UDFA is behind Doug Martin and Charles Sims in the pecking order in Tampa Bay. However, he’s been raising eyebrows in camp and seems to be a coaching staff favorite. His talent makes him worth stashing or placing on a watch list in very deep leagues.

Tyler Ervin, HOU, Drafted this year by the Texans, the Darren Sproles-sized runner has showed his quicks and a willingness to run between the tackles and take hits. He is someone to monitor in deep formats.

Daniel Lasco, NO- A SQARQ standout, Lasco is seemingly buried behind Mark Ingram, C.J. Spiller, and Tim Hightower. However, all three of the backs ahead of him have not exactly been the healthiest runners in their time in the league. Lasco has the skills to shine if he can find his way into the rotation.

Dreamius Smith, SD- He's somewhat raw, but he has the athleticism and power to make a splash if he does see time.

Terrell Watson, CLE- A big and athletic back that Cleveland signed away from the Bengals, Watson would likely step into a Jeremy Hill-type role for the Browns if Isaiah Crowell were to miss time.

Corey Grant, JAX- Here’s another athletic back who is buried behind Ivory, Yeldon, and Robinson on the depth chart. Yet we only need to look at what happened with David Johnson this past year to see that sometimes injuries break just right and allow a buried player to emerge and show what they can do.

Wide Receivers

Willie Snead/Brandon Coleman/ , NO- With the Saints taking Michael Thomas in the second round, one has to think they eventually see Thomas and not Coleman or Snead as the #2 option to Brandon Cooks. However, one of these guys could present sneaky value for this season if the raw Thomas takes a while to develop. Out of the two, Snead is the guy who has already shown he is capable of NFL production.

Tyrell Williams, SD- This raw small-school prospect has my attention. His height, speed, and movement skills are very intriguing. Malcolm Floyd retiring and Stevie Johnson getting injured could be just the thing he needed to stick on the active roster. He has been showing out in camp and has developed excellent rapport with Rivers. The Chargers also did not take a wide receiver in the Draft, which is encouraging news for Williams.

DeAndre Carter, NE- We can say with confidence that both Baltimore and New England know how to scout talent. Carter started as an undrafted free agent in Baltimore, where Steve Smith took him under his wing. After being cut and spending some time with the Raiders, Carter drew interest from the Bengals, but ultimately made it onto New England's squad. With a real need for quality receivers on this team, it would be easy to envision a scenario in which Carter is promoted and rises quickly.

Kenny Bell, TB- The Matt Waldman favorite could step in when Vincent Jackson's time is up in Tampa. The skillset is nearly identical.

Jalin Marshall, NYJ- A former five-star recruit, the UDFA out of Ohio State has been impressive in camp. Praised by Ryan Fitzpatrick for being a “sponge,” Marshall has a chance to make the roster as a kick returner and depth wide receiver who could eventually develop into more.

Tre McBride, TEN- He's basically “Amari Cooper lite,” and with very few established receiving options in Tennessee, McBride has a fighting chance, however small.

Tight Ends

Erik Swoope, IND- Dwayne Allen ended up sticking around, but we know he hasn’t exactly been the picture of health. If he were to go down again, the very athletic and developing Swoope may see the field, especially with Coby Fleener no longer standing in the way.

Tyler Higbee, LA- A fourth-round pick due to a checkered past, Higbee appears to be making plays in camp and showing acumen on underneath routes. With Jared Cook departing for Green Bay and no established options on the depth chart, Higbee has a chance to eventually be the guy at tight end for the young Jared Goff.

Jesse James, PIT- Ladarius Green has been banged up throughout his career in San Diego, and he’s started that way in Pittsburg, too. Likely out through the preseason, James has been getting his reps and snaps in practice and looking impressive in red zone drills. Though James is a deep league stash for now, if Green doesn’t pan out for the Steelers due to injury and inconsistency, James could rapidly increase in value.

Lost at Sea

(Players who recently appeared in this column, but have had their value decrease to the point they hold no value in all but the very deepest of dynasty leagues)

Johnny Manziel, CLE- The reports have continued to go from bad to worse on Manziel. His lawyer accidently sent a text message to the Associated Press about his doubts that his client could pass a drug test. Even Manziel’s father admitted that his son is a drug abuser. With charges pending and a four-game suspension from the NFL, no team seems willing to touch Manziel. It’s time for fantasy owners to give up on him until he shows consistent desire to turn his life around.

Juwan Thompson, DEN- The Broncos taking Devontae Booker in the fifth round was very bad news for Thompson long-term. Much to our surprise, Booker ascended the depth chart and sits squarely behind C.J. Anderson. It hasn’t helped matters for Thompson that Kapri Bibbs has been stealing the show in camp.

Ka'deem Carey, CHI- Langford appears to be the team’s choice to carry the bulk of the rushing responsibility in Chicago, leaving Carey as no more than a depth player for the Bears.