Waivers of the Future: Week 1 - Footballguys

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. Dynasty general managers 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 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.

Welcome to the week one edition of Waivers of the Future! Many of you are making cuts and finalizing your roster in preparation for the regular season. Whether you are a contending or rebuilding team, this report will endeavor to spark some ideas about whom you might want to claim.

RIDE THE WAVE

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

QUARTERBACK

Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 1%| Case Keenum, DEN- Perhaps someone threw Keenum back to waivers after the Viking playoff loss to Philadelphia. If that occurred, Keenum is someone to consider acquiring. Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, and Courtland Sutton is a better trio than most offenses have. The running game with the very competent Royce Freeman should also open up some passing lanes that were not present last season.

Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 1%| Joe Flacco, BAL- Flacco played truly awful football last year, but there may have been some mitigating factors. His offensive line was fairly banged up and his wide receiver corps often let him down. Drafting Lamar Jackson seems to have lit a fire under Flacco, who has played much better in the preseason. The favorable receiving additions of Michael Crabtree, John Brown, and Willie Snead IV have also given the offense more life. This offense stands to be much improved. While Flacco is unlikely to be back among the elite, he can be serviceable if you are in need of a quarterback.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Sam Bradford, ARI- Yes, he struggles to stay healthy, but when he is healthy, he generally plays above average. Having one of the savviest veterans in Larry Fitzgerald and arguably the best pass-catching back in the league in David Johnson will give Bradford some options.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Ryan Fitzpatrick, TB- Fitzpatrick is by no means inspiring, yet he has one of the better sets of receivers in the league with which to work while Jameis Winston serves his three-game suspension. Last season when Fitzpatrick started for an injured Winston, his tendency was to lock onto Mike Evans. There are worse plans than targeting one of the league’s best big-bodied pass catchers and trusting him to come down with the football. Fitzpatrick is one of the better spot starting options if you need someone to fill in.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Nathan Peterman, BUF- He’s a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency quarterback and the week one matchup is scary. Resort to using Peterman only if you have no other choice.

RUNNING BACK

Contending 50+%, Rebuilding 20-50+%| Peyton Barber, TB- There are very few leagues in which he’s still a free agent, but if your league hasn’t allowed pickups since the rookie draft, it’s a possibility. Barber will be the unquestioned starter and he will have a bigger role than previously thought because of Ronald Jones’ struggles over the summer. The Buccaneers can be potent on offense, especially when Winston returns, so don’t sleep on Barber. If you are not contending this year, you still may want to make this pickup and flip him for a 2019 rookie pick. Shoot for the second-round range or add a pick to this player to upgrade to a first rounder.

Contending 50+%, Rebuilding 20-50+%| Adrian Peterson, WAS- He’s still out there in a great many shallow formats or in leagues in which the waivers have been locked down over the summer. Washington’s third preseason contest showed us that they intend to feature him behind their now healthy offensive line. Yes, Peterson has lost some of his long speed. However, as Frank Gore has shown in recent years, it does not take elite athleticism to be a good NFL running back. Understanding where to be and how to optimize runs will go a long way. Peterson has those skills, and we can expect decent production from him as long as both he and the offensive line remain fit. He is the unquestioned starter, which is also a plus. If you are not contending this year, you still may want to make this pickup and flip him for a 2019 rookie pick. Shoot for the second-round range or add a pick to this player to upgrade to a first rounder.

Contending 40+%, Rebuilding 20-40+%| Alfred Morris, SF- Breida is ahead of him on the depth chart, but it’s fair to assume both will split the load left behind by the injured Jerick McKinnon. Morris has been reliable, if not spectacular, in his work with multiple teams. He also has a familiarity with the system from his time in Washington and the coaching staff will not hesitate to turn to that experience. If you are not contending this year, you still may want to make this pickup and flip him for a 2019 rookie pick. Shoot for the second-round range or add a pick to this player to upgrade to a first rounder.

WIDE RECEIVER

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Phillip Dorsett, NE- The Patriots will have Dorsett and Chris Hogan as their primary receivers while Julian Edelman serves his suspension. While it’s difficult to picture Dorsett as a long-term asset, he’ll certainly have increased value for the first quarter of the season. He makes a fine fill-in option for those who are light at wide receiver heading into the season.

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Cordarrelle Patterson, NE- The Patriots have been using Patterson as a gadget player in the preseason with some success. Though his opportunities per game will be limited, he is a threat to score any time he can find the open field.

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Brandon Marshall and Jaron Brown, SEA- These two are commonly available on waivers of all league sizes and will have emergency starting value based on the high volume of the Seattle passing game. Marshall appears to be healthy when he wasn’t last season and Brown has flashed talent at times in his stint with Arizona.

TIGHT END

Contending 5-10%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Benjamin Watson, NO- Watson is older, but he’s back with Drew Brees in an explosive offense whose concepts he already knows well. Tight end is a position in which veteran savvy and an understanding of where to go can make you serviceable. Jason Witten and Antonio Gates are great examples of guys that folks thought were too old to be playing, yet continued to produce somewhat right up until calling it quits. Watson seems to be a similar case.

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Ryan Griffin, HOU- He is a great option for teams that like to pick up several underrated options and stream matchups. Folks are excited about Jordan Akins, but for this year, it’s more likely that Ryan Griffin is the play. If Deshaun Watson can come back and be as effective as he was last year, Griffin stands to benefit greatly.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Virgil Green, LAC- Green has never really gotten a chance to be a receiver on the Broncos team, despite his acumen in that area. Now with the Chargers, he’ll finally have that chance. His rapport with Rivers in camp has been strong. Don’t fret about Antonio Gates being signed -- it’s likely he’s merely depth at this point.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Nick Boyle, BAL- With Hayden Hurst out with a stress fracture in his foot to start the season, the big man could be called upon to do more work. Boyle has shown the capacity to be a capable receiver. One could do much worse if having to select someone for a spot start.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Luke Willson, DET- Willson joined Detroit to take the place of Eric Ebron. Willson played well in Seattle, but the ball was spread around so much in the offense that his scoring was unpredictable. Offensive Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter seems to target his tight end at a greater frequency, making Willson more interesting. Willson has been nursing a knee injury and the team has been mum on his status, so keep that in mind as you bid.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Nick Vannett, SEA- Russell Wilson is known for spreading the ball around. Yet in an offense that will have to pass a lot to make up for the deficits created by a poor defense, it’s reasonable to expect Vannett to do about as much, if not more, than Luke Willson did in the offense last year.

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.)

Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 1%| Frank Gore, MIA- Like Peterson, Gore is being discounted because of his age, but is still one of the savvier runners in the NFL. He’ll have to split work with Kenyon Drake, but expect Gore to be the more effective of the two.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Jeremy Hill, NE- The Patriots typically like to carry a goal-line option on the roster and Hill seems to fit that bill. While it is doubtful that Hill will excel in the yardage category, he may be a great option to throw into the lineup any given week and hope he converts a goal-line opportunity or two.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Rod Smith, DAL- If Elliott were to miss time, Smith is the next man up. He did much better than you would think filling in for Ezekiel Elliott last year. On a bad offense, he scored five total touchdowns and logged over 430 total yards. The Cowboys released Bo Scarbrough, showing their complete faith in Smith as the primary backup. There could be value here again if Elliott is out for any reason.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Malcolm Brown, LAR- For the time being, Brown is the primary backup to Todd Gurley, not John Kelly. While I expect both would see work if Gurley were to miss time, it would be Brown who would lead that committee. Brown hasn’t gotten many chances because Gurley has been very healthy in his NFL career. However, when he has gotten an opportunity, Brown has flashed. He may have value after this year if he can go to another team in the restricted free agency process, but that’s tough to project at this time.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Christine Michael, IND- He’s become a punchline for fantasy analysts everywhere, but he may have locked down the number two job with the Colts. The Indianapolis backfield situation remains a jumbled mess, with Marlon Mack not being 100% healthy and rookies Jordan Wilkins and Nyheim Hines not excelling as quickly as some had hoped. Robert Turbin is also still hanging around, but Michael has looked the best out of any back on the roster in game situations.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Wayne Gallman, NYG- Jonathan Stewart looks completely gassed and if Saquon Barkley’s quad injury is reaggravated, the Giants may have no choice but to turn to Gallman. He is unimaginative as a runner, but his no-nonsense, banging style can work well on goal-line carries. The Giants should be more competitive on offense this year with Odell Beckham Jr Jr. back from injury.

The SPLASH

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

Quarterback

Contending and Rebuilding 10-20%| Tyrod Taylor, CLE- Taylor may have been dropped when he exited the Bills. Baker Mayfield is clearly the future for this team, but in an effort not to repeat last year’s mistakes made with Deshone Kizer, Taylor is the starter for the foreseeable future. Taylor has been quietly superb during preseason action. In addition to having competent quarterback play, the team looks to have improved its offensive weapons by adding Jarvis Landry and Carlos Hyde in free agency. David Njoku seems to be taking steps forward as well, setting this unit up to be one of the surprises of the season. Taylor also has long-term value beyond this year, even if he transitions to a new team.

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 10-30%| Teddy Bridgewater, NO- A recent trade sent Bridgewater from the Jets to the Saints in exchange for a third-round pick. Bridgewater looks to be fully recovered from the horrific injury that cost him his starting spot in Minnesota and has played well in the preseason. He could be the heir apparent to Drew Brees, which is great for his long-term value. In superflex leagues, be willing to spend 50%+ percent on Bridgewater if he’s out there.

RUNNING BACK

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Ameer Abdullah, DET- Despite trade rumors swirling, the Lions decided to hold on to Abdullah. There’s still a possibility we see a trade happen. For now, Abdullah will be a role player. He will be a free agent next year and have an opportunity to land a role on a team that has more willingness to use him.

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Corey Grant, JAX- The coaching staff has promised increased opportunity for Grant each game, which is exciting considering how efficient Grant has been on a few touches every game. He will be a free agent next year and possibly land in a spot where they’ll use him as the second back rather than the third option on his depth chart.

WIDE RECEIVER

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%| LaQuon Treadwell, MIN- There has been great rapport between Cousins and Treadwell in camp and lots of buzz about Treadwell’s legitimate improvement. Despite the fact that he’s earned the third wide receiver spot and should see more involvement in the offense this year, many have tossed Treadwell to the waiver wire. It’s understandable in shallow formats, but Treadwell should be rostered in dynasty leagues in which there are 40 or more roster spots.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Kevin White, CHI- He may be out there in your leagues since many have given up on him. Beat writers project White as the fourth receiver on the depth chart, but he is likely to perform better than rookie Anthony Miller. White may be heading for a new team in the offseason, but he may gain enough traction this year to recover some of his dynasty value, especially if the Matt Nagy offense takes off as some believe it will.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Chad Williams, ARI- Wiliams will move into a bigger role this season. While David Johnson will siphon away targets that would otherwise go to receivers, we want to keep an eye on Williams’ development. There may be a time coming when the offense is more potent and this is likely the last year Larry Fitzgerald will play.

TIGHT END

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Vance McDonald, PIT- McDonald is oft-injured, which is why he’s probably out there on your waiver wire. Between health issues and adjusting to the change in offense, it didn’t really come together for him last year. By all accounts, he’s grasped the offense this preseason, so it is now just a matter of staying healthy. Xavier Grimble and Jesse James have also been ailing, so it’s still McDonald’s job for the taking.

THE DEEP

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

Quarterback

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 5%-20%| Chad Kelly, DEN- Paxton Lynch just didn’t pan out to the point that the team had to acquire Case Keenum this offseason to be their starter. Lynch’s fall continued when he was demoted to third string and Chad Kelly was promoted to backup duties. Finally, the Broncos cut Lynch from the team. There’s a great chance that Case Keenum will fail to live up to the expectations placed upon him and that Kelly will be developed enough next year to compete and win the starting spot. In superflex formats, be willing to put a 30-40% bid up for him if he’s still on waivers.

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Jacoby Brissett, IND- Brissett remains one of the few backups that may get another shot at starting down the road. He played well in a really bad situation last year and earned the respect of many around the league. There were rumors in the offseason that multiple teams tried to trade for Brissett, but the Colts declined their offers.

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Nick Foles, PHI- He was responsible for winning a Super Bowl and is likely going to get a game or two of work this season as Carson Wentz continues to make his recovery. Like Brissett, there were rumors swirling that a few teams were interested in Foles over the offseason, but the Eagles declined to deal him.

RUNNING BACK

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Phillip Lindsey, DEN- Royce Freeman will be the man in Denver shortly, but Lindsey could be a decent satellite back much like Tarik Cohen is in Chicago. He’s been very impressive in camp to the point that he could make Devontae Booker an afterthought as the season rolls along.

Watch List| Chris Warren, OAK- He’s blocked by Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin for now and was just put on IR due to a knee procedure. However, both Lynch and Martin are on one-year deals and Warren has caught the eye of both his coaching staff and his fellow players with his preseason performances.

Watch List| Boston Scott, NO- The Saints trusted Scott enough to cut Jonathan Williams. He could see some touches with Mark Ingram II out of the mix due to suspension. Update: Scott was waived after this was written and will be placed on the practice squad if he clears waivers.

Watch List| Justin Jackson, LAC- He spent most of the offseason nursing an injury. Despite not getting to show much in preseason, he did make the 53. Jackson has some very impressive college tape and if Melvin Gordon III were to go down, I doubt that Austin Ekeler would carry the load alone. Update: Since this was written, Jackson has been released by the team, presumably to be put on the practice squad.

WIDE RECEIVER

Watch List| Amarah Darboh and Chad Hansen, NE- Hansen has the size, speed, and skills to be a viable perimeter threat. Observers of his work with Jared Goff and Sam Darnold this summer said that they saw Hansen make strides in his development. Darboh is a fluid route runner who makes smart, smooth transitions in his breaks. Darboh and Hansen both have flashed at times with the Seahawks and the Jets respectively but were both casualties of Cutdown Day. The Patriots snapped both up on waivers. As they are very thin at the position, we should monitor the progress of these two closely and see how they look after spending some time acclimating to their new team.

Watch List| Austin Carr, NO- The Saints kept Carr on the active roster and the slot receiver role is wide open with the departure of Willie Snead IV. Carr could jump from the watch list to a priority pickup very quickly if he excels in this role.

Watch List| Richie James, SF- James appears to have made the final roster, possibly indicating

that 49ers didn’t feel he would make it on to their practice squad. James has the skills to eventually play from any receiver position in this offense. His trademark skills are being very shifty and great on contested catches, despite his smaller size. The players ahead of James have documented injury concerns and that may lead to an unexpected opportunity for James in the future.

Watch List| Josh Reynolds, LAR- He’s buried on the depth chart for now, but don’t forget about Reynolds. As Matt Waldman recently documented in a recent episode of the RSP Cast, Reynolds is very skilled and will have the chance to grow as a role player this year with perhaps more usage coming next year.

Watch List| Jordan Lasley, BAL- Lasley did not have a flashy preseason, but he did make the cut over first-round pick Breshad Perriman. It was obvious when watching practices that he and Lamar Jackson have developed a rapport, much in the way Phillip Rivers and Malcolm Floyd did years ago. It may be a year or two before Lasley has a big role, but he’s worth holding on to if you have the room and placing on your watch list if you do not.

Watch List| Auden Tate, CIN- With lots of question marks at receiver on the roster, Tate is worth keeping in mind. He has shown flashes of what he can do as a big-bodied red zone threat this preseason. He would be especially interesting if Tyler Eifert ends up missing time again.

Watch List| Justin Watson, TB- He made the 53, despite how crowded Tampa Bay’s wide receiver corps already is. Watson impressed from the Senior Bowl on and made tough contested catches often in camp. If this is truly DeSean Jackson’s final year, Watson may have a chance to jump into his role next year if the same regime is still in power.

Watch List| Javon Wims, CHI- Wims was constantly making plays throughout the preseason, so much so that the Bears dared not put him on the practice squad. It’s a crowded depth chart at present, but Wims can easily work his way up, especially if Kevin White does move on in free agency next year.

TIGHT END

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Tyler Kroft, CIN- Tyler Eifert is being given one more chance to prove himself, but it’s wise to think about adding Kroft preemptively just in case. When Eifert has been dinged, Kroft has proven in recent years that he is more than capable as a replacement. The Bengals’ contract with Eifert is such that they can easily move on from Eifert if he fails to stay healthy again. If Eifert were to move on, it’s probable the Bengals like Kroft well enough to make him the long-term starter.

Watch List| Hakeem Valles, DET- Luke Wilson is nursing a knee injury and Michael Roberts has been awful in camp. That leaves the door open for Hakeem Valles, the wide receiver convert who has an intriguing size and speed combination. He’s admittedly a longshot but could make a surprise emergence like his former Arizona teammate Ricky Seals-Jones.

LOST AT SEA

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

None yet this season...