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Waivers of the Future: Week 1

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 account for the long-term view necessary to dynasty success. This bi-weekly column will focus on identifying assets that will help dynasty teams build for the future, as well as players that may plug a hole at a position of need on an otherwise strong squad.

RIDE THE WAVE

(These are plug-and-play options who might patch a hole on your team in the short-term.)

QUARTERBACK

Tom Savage, HOU- Savage won’t be flashy, but backed by a healthy Texans defense and a conservative game plan, he can be serviceable.

Scott Tolzien, IND- It’s hard to feel good about Tolzien. Yet, with Andrew Luck’s future very uncertain at this time, Tolzien gets the keys to a good offense.

Brian Hoyer,SF, Josh McCown, NYJ, Mike Glennon, CHI- Their teams don’t figure to be very good this season, but there will be a lot of garbage time to pad the fantasy numbers.

RUNNING BACK

Serviceable runners on waivers are scarce. Injuries will need to occur in-season for this section to get traction. See the other running back sections in this report for possible available options in your league.

WIDE RECEIVER

Jermaine Kearse, NYJ- He was part of what the Jets landed in the Sheldon Richardson deal and should figure to see early targets on a team devoid of talent at the position. He’s still there on some of the shallow waiver wires.

Justin Hunter, PIT- Sammy Coates was traded away to the Browns, making Hunter the de facto number three wideout until Ju-Ju Smith-Schuster can learn the ropes. He was very involved in the red zone passing game for the Bills and could be used in the same capacity for the Steelers. With Pittsburgh being very productive on offense in recent years, Hunter could surprise this year.

TIGHT END

Seth DeValve, CLE- It is apparent that David Njoku is being groomed as the starter for the long-haul, but DeValve has demonstrated in preseason that he is the one who will catch the bulk of passes until Njoku can get up to speed.

Benjamin Watson, BAL- Watson is coming back from a significant injury and has to worry about Maxx Williams, who looked dynamic in preseason work. However, Watson could be serviceable for a short period of time - or longer if Williams once again struggles with injuries. The tight end is one of Flacco’s favorite targets and will serve as a checkdown safety valve when the patchwork offensive line is overmatched.

Tyler Higbee, LAC- Gerald Everett is the heir apparent to the receiving tight end spot in this offense. However, until he’s more developed, we should expect Higbee to fill that role.

A.J. Derby, DEN- The Broncos will use Virgil Green to block. Long-term, the team is looking to Jake Butt; but for this year, Derby will likely take the receiving tight end role in this offense. Trevor Siemian is a quarterback who prefers not to take big risks, so Derby might garner more targets than he would with Brock Osweiler or Paxton Lynch at the helm.

Will Tye, NYJ- The Jets claimed Tye because they needed someone to fill in while Austin Seferian-Jenkins serves his suspension. While playing Tye is not advisable, he’s worth a gamble in an emergency situation.

CHANGING TIDES

(Pre-emptive running back options that will have value if the starter goes down and that are not as likely to be owned. I see them more as short-term options. For those that have long-term appeal, please see the other sections of this report.)

Kerwynn Williams, ARI- If David Johnson were to go down, we would see a committee, but Williams would be the leader of said committee.

Matt Breida, SF- So much for Joe Williams and Tim Hightower. Williams was placed on IR and Hightower was released, leaving Breida as the primary backup to Carlos Hyde. Hyde hasn’t been the most durable back in his tenure. Breida is the most likely benefactor if this scenario plays out.

Robert Turbin, IND- He looked a bit sluggish in action last year, but Turbin actually appeared rejuvenated during preseason work. Many are projecting Marlon Mack to take over if Frank Gore went down, but the team seems to favor Turbin’s pass blocking acumen at this moment.

Charles Sims, TB- With Doug Martin away on a three-game suspension, it is Sims who would stand to benefit most if Jaquizz Rodgers were to get hurt. Sims has proven pass-catching chops and still figures to be utilized a few times a game even with no injury to Rodgers.

Mike Tolbert, BUF- The Bills cut Jonathan Williams. If an injury were to occur today to LeSean McCoy, Mike Tolbert would likely split work with Joe Banyard. As Tolbert is the more obvious goal-line option, he has the most value of the two.

THE SPLASH

(May be available in 30 or fewer roster spot leagues.)

QUARTERBACK

Contending and Rebuilding 15-25%| Jay Cutler, MIA- Cutler is still out there in some shallow formats because folks remember how he performed last season. If he’s still there, he needs to be owned. He’s working with Head Coach Adam Gase, with whom he’s had the most success in the past. Cutler has arguably the best set of offensive weapons he’s had in a few years at his disposal in Miami.

RUNNING BACK

Contending 15-20% and Rebuilding 5-10%| Darren McFadden, DAL- He is owned even in most shallow leagues, but he is worth mentioning just in case he is still kicking around on your waiver wire. Even with a restraining order temporarily keeping Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension at bay, it is likely that Elliott could miss time this year. McFadden won’t have nearly the appeal of Elliott, but the Cowboys have a good offensive line and don’t like to deviate from giving their featured runner a full slate of touches. A contender will want to have McFadden to ride while a rebuilder can target flipping McFadden for draft capital.

Contending 10-20% and Rebuilding 5-15% Tarik Cohen, CHI- There aren’t many leagues in which Cohen is not owned now, but if yours is one, snap him up. The Bears are showing a huge amount of faith in the rookie by allowing him to be the backup to Jordan Howard after cutting Jeremy Langford. Cohen may get significant usage even with Howard healthy, making him a back to own both for now and possibly for later.

WIDE RECEIVER

Contending and Rebuilding 5-10%| Kendall Wright, CHI- Due in part to frequent injury and in part to the dysfunction that has existed in Tennessee, Wright never really did live up to the hype of being a first-round selection. There is a bevy of opportunity for a slot receiver in Chicago. Wright may have additional motivation to perform with a fresh start and a team-friendly, prove-it contract. He is also back with Offensive Coordinator Dowell Loggains, with whom he had his best statistical year in Tennessee.

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Torrey Smith, PHI- A poor fit for the 49ers offense, Smith has moved on to a team that can utilize him much better than he ever was used in San Francisco. I postulate that though Smith is getting older, having a more competent quarterback and offense in Philadelphia could refresh Smith’s value. We even saw flashes of it in the preseason when Wentz hooked up with Smith for a deep touchdown.

TIGHT END

Contending and Rebuilding 10-15%| Vance McDonald- PIT- It looks like the Steelers thought the same thing that many of us thought while watching Jesse James-- an upgrade at the position was needed long-term. They traded for Vance McDonald, who has been stuck in a morose offense for years. He will likely garner the worst coverage on the field due to all the offensive weapons the Steelers have at their disposal. McDonald could finally thrive.

THE DEEP

(May be available in 30 or more roster spot leagues, or leagues with large taxi squads.)

QUARTERBACK

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Jimmy Garoppolo, NE- Groomed behind Tom Brady, Garoppolo has learned from one of the best in the business. Garoppolo will certainly stay in New England this year after the trade of Jacoby Brissett, but there’s always a path to him becoming the starter for New England or another team down the road. While I’m not a huge fan of Garoppolo’s work, I do believe in making a speculative add with the chance that he increases in value next year, and then can be flipped for a pick.

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List| Brett Hundley, GB- Don’t forget about Hundley. Rodgers has taken a great deal of physical abuse in his career and has missed extensive time in years past. Don’t underestimate the cumulative impact of those injuries. Hundley has been groomed behind Rodgers for years now and seems to be developing nicely. He’s going to eventually get a chance to start, either with the Packers or with another team.

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List| Cardale Jones, LAC- The Chargers traded for Jones and it didn’t take him long to become the primary backup. Rivers is aging and Jones has shown in the snaps that he has gotten that he is a bold thrower not afraid to trust his targets.

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List| Nathan Peterman, BUF- He’ll be backing up Tyrod Taylor this season, a quarterback with whom the new regime doesn’t seem comfortable long-term. If the Bills end up being as bad as we think they might be this season, we could see Peterman in action as early as mid-season. Peterman already has experience running a pro-style offense, is very accurate, and shows uncommonly good anticipation on his throws.

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List | Chad Kelly, DEN- Paxton Lynch was given every chance to win the job this year, but floundered. If the light doesn’t come on for him before the end of this year, we can expect to see Kelly competing with Lynch. Matt Waldman did some fantastic work profiling Kelly here; but to sum it up, Kelly is a very complete quarterback with the physical tools and leadership skills that could make him an instant hit.

RUNNING BACK

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%- Zach Zenner, DET- The lack of quality run blocking by the Detroit line held back all runners in this offense in 2016. The Lions made securing better offensive linemen a priority in free agency.  Ameer Abdullah hasn’t panned out as a between-the-tackles runner yet, leaving the role wide open for someone to seize. That someone could be Zenner.

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Malcolm Brown, LAR- It may take a Gurley injury or a change of team for Brown to become relevant, but there's a lot to like based on his tape and preseason performances. He is the Rams’ second-string back now, but could see a change of team next year when he hits the free agent market.

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List| Peyton Barber, TB- The fact that the Buccaneers kept Barber over Jeremy McNichols, who had higher draft pedigree, tells you that they like Barber for the long-term. Doug Martin isn’t going to be around much longer and Barber should be hitting his prime around the time Martin is done. Barber has been impressive on his touches and continues to grow into a possible future feature back.

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List| Alex Collins, BAL- I really like Collins’ talent long-term. He’s someone I’m stashing wherever I can find room because I’ve seen flashes of more in his limited action. He has impressive foot frequency for a man of his size. Though he is not imaginative as a runner, he’s a solid, consistent option. He was cut by the Seahawks, but landed shortly thereafter on the Ravens' practice sqaud. I will be watching closely to see if he gets promoted to the active roster.

WIDE RECEIVER

Contending 1% and Rebuilding 1-5%| Dede Westbrook, JAC- Westbrook has been flashing all preseason and we should be stashing him on the back end of our rosters in all but the most shallow of leagues. He is buried on the depth chart for now, but with Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns potentially leaving in free agency in 2018, there is a good chance that Westbrook can be a starter by next year.

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List | Kamar Aiken, IND- Like Justin Hunter who was mentioned earlier, Aiken moves into the third wide receiver position after a trade. Phillip Dorsett was dealt away to the Patriots. It is going to take Andrew Luck returning to unlock his potential (which is why he didn’t make the plug-and-play section), but he’s worth keeping an eye on in deeper formats.

TIGHT END

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List| Michael Roberts, DET- Eric Ebron has largely been disappointing, especially in the red zone. That’s where Michael Roberts did his damage in the college game and the Lions could use him in the same capacity. Roberts is also a good blocker, which may get him on the field more than he otherwise would be. If Ebron goes down, Roberts will jump from this section to being an interesting pickup for dynasty and redraft alike.

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.)

None yet this season...