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 4 edition of Waivers of the Future! We’re starting to see the waiver wire constrict as we now have three complete weeks of data on which to base our pickups. It will only get thinner as the season wears on, so we want to critically pay attention to the preemptive guys we can still get while they are free or of little cost.
IN THE SKY
Players on this list have previously appeared in this article as pickups, but have had value spikes at points in the season that make them unlikely to be out there in your league. If they are still available and you need help contending, consider spending 30-50%+ of your budget on them.
Here are other players that have been featured in this article that are likely to be owned, but are worth only a smaller percentage of your budget.
RIDE THE WAVE
(These are plug-and-play options who might patch a hole on your team in the short-term.)
Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 1%| Joe Flacco, BAL- As sad as it is to say, Flacco is probably one of the better starting options that are still out there on a few dynasty waiver wires. He’s had at least one touchdown in every start this year, which is something. Though it’s a rivalry game, the Steelers’ poor pass defense is a favorable draw for Flacco if you need to put him in there.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| C.J. Beathard- Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3, leaving Beathard as the starter. Recall that Beathard was starting last season before the team acquired Garoppolo and had some decent statistical output because of his rushing ability. While the 49ers offense won’t be nearly as attractive an option with Beathard at the helm, he might do enough himself to be useful as an emergency starter. The 49ers face the Chargers in Week 4.
Contending and Rebuilding 1-5% Marcus Murphy, BUF- Buffalo unexpectedly rolled the Vikings and Murphy had a role with eight touches and a target. Monitor LeSean McCoy’s rib injury and legal woe statuses, but Murphy may get another crack at sharing the backfield with Chris Ivory. The Bills will have the Packers to contend with in the upcoming contest.
Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Albert Wilson, MIA- Adam Gase is finding all sorts of ways for Wilson to get involved. He scored both a passing touchdown on a trick play and a receiving touchdown against the Raiders. The lacking Patriots defense is up next for Wilson and company.
Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Jaron Brown, SEA- Brown has been more of a factor with Doug Baldwin out of the lineup. He caught a touchdown against the Cowboys. Seattle will face a very vulnerable Cardinals defense next week and Brown is a fine play if you are hurting at the position.
Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Terrelle Pryor, NYJ- Pryor’s usage continues to trend upward-- he played 70 percent of the snaps in Week 3. While the Jaguars’ defense is a tough draw in Week 4, he won’t draw the best coverage, which may mean Sam Darnold looks his way more often.
Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Jordan Matthews, PHI- He signed with Philadelphia late last week and his familiarity with the system means he didn’t need long to get up to speed. He got limited work in Week 3, so we need to see him get more snaps before we can think about trusting him in lineups. Tennessee’s pass defense is not suffocating, so perhaps he will build additional momentum this upcoming week.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Bruce Ellington, HOU- Ellington had only one reception in Week 3, but Week 2 should remind us that Ellington is a threat to score on any given week. That’s all we’re looking for out of a plug-and-play option. The Colts will play the Texans next and can be beaten through the air. Update: Ellington injures his hamstring and landed on IR on Tuesday, rendering him irrelevant.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Jarius Wright, CAR- Carolina has a reliable third option in Wright, and he may be more important going forward without Greg Olsen. Like Ellington, he’s a guy you can throw into your lineup if needed and get a couple of catches. The Panthers are on bye in Week 4 but will play the Giants in Week 5.
Contending 15-30%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Ben Watson, NO- If Watson is still out there, this is likely your last chance to snag him after going 5 for 71 in the track meet against the Falcons. The Saints will face the Giants in Week 4, who have been quite generous against opposing tight ends.
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. He’s getting the majority of the snaps anyway. He’ll see the Colts this week.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Will Dissly, 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 one of his tight ends to do as much as Luke Willson did in the offense last year. Dissly seems to have emerged as the option of choice, despite having a rough Week 3. The Cardinals’ leaky defense is up next for Russell Wilson and company.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Rhett Ellison, NYG- With Evan Engram out for a few weeks with a knee injury, we should see more of Ellison. We know the offense isn’t one of the better ones, but Eli Manning not throwing downfield may actually be a positive for Ellison. The Saints’ spotty defense awaits Ellison and the Giants.
(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 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. Recall that 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, not John Kelly, is the primary backup to Todd Gurley. We saw this play out when Gurley left the game in Week 2 to get fluids for cramps. While I expect both would see work if Gurley were to miss significant 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%| 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.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Alfred Blue, HOU- Blue is the clear backup to Lamar Miller and is getting some carries in each game. He would be relatively unexciting but functional if Miller went down.
(May be available in 30 or fewer roster spot leagues.)
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 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.
Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Corey Grant, JAX- Head Coach Doug Marrone doesn’t believe Leonard Fournette’s hamstring will keep him out much longer, but with hamstrings, there’s always the possibility of straining it worse if one tries to come back too soon. The coaching staff has promised increased opportunity for Grant each game and this may be just the break that this electric runner needed to get worked in more.
Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Ito Smith, ATL- Smith is getting work with Devonta Freeman out of the lineup. The small, shifty back proved to be a good pass catcher and causes headaches for opposing defenders. Smith may be someone to get more excited about if Atlanta lets Devonta Freeman walk next year and keeps Tevin Coleman. Like Grant, he also makes a great speculative add for the back end of rosters.
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 will have an opportunity to land a role on a team that has more willingness to use him.
Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1%| Laquon Treadwell, MIN- Treadwell continues to be used more this year, but seems to still be struggling with confidence and drops. While it’s a crowded passing game, one significant injury to Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen could change everything for Treadwell’s career trajectory. Treadwell should be rostered in dynasty leagues in which there are 40 or more roster spots.
Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%| 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 IV IV. It will be interesting to see if his role keeps growing or if he is merely depth. He is worth holding for a few weeks to see which of those scenarios plays out.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Kevin White, CHI- With Anthony Miller’s shoulder injury, White may get a chance to redeem himself. He could 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 begins to click soon.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Chad Williams, ARI- Wiliams may not be able to flourish with the offense as it is. There could be a time coming when the offense is more potent and this is likely the last year Larry Fitzgerald will play. Keep an eye on Williams for next year.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Vance McDonald, PIT- Finally healthy, McDonald looks to be the tight end to own in this offense. His stiff arm of Chris Conte will be a play we remember all season. A divisional matchup between the Ravens and Steelers will be up next.
(May be available in 30 or more roster spot leagues or leagues with large taxi squads.)
Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 5%-20%| Chad Kelly, DEN- Case Keenum’s doomsday clock ticked much closer to midnight after the way he played against the Ravens. We may see Chad Kelly this year after all. In superflex formats, be willing to put a 40-50% 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 filled in for Carson Wentz in the first two games. Foles is back on the bench, but he’s done enough that another team may want to make him their starter after this season.
Watch List| Chris Warren, OAK- He’s blocked by Marshawn Lynch and Doug Martin for now and was put on IR due to a knee procedure. However, both Lynch and Martin are on one-year deals and Warren caught the eye of both his coaching staff and his fellow players with his preseason performances. Stash him in deep leagues if you have the room. You can let him ride in your IR spot in some leagues.
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 before being cut and put on the practice squad to make a roster move. Jackson has some very impressive college tape and if Melvin Gordon III III III were to go down, it’s doubtful that Austin Ekeler would carry the load alone. They would likely ask Jackson to split time with Ekeler in that scenario and he could surprise.
Watch List| 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. Hansen flashed at times with the Jets and was a casualty of Cutdown Day. The Patriots snapped him up on waivers. As they are very thin at the position, we should monitor his progress closely and see how he looks after spending some time acclimating to his new team.
Watch List| Richie James, SF- James made the final roster, possibly indicating that the 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 him in the future. He still remains a long-shot to get playing time without more injuries in front of him, but in a lost season, the coaching staff may want to get a look at him.
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 an 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 showed 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.
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.
Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Jacob Hollister, NE- With Gronkowski nearing the end of his career and being prone to injury because of his physical style of play, we need to think about Hollister, whom the Patriots have been developing for a while now.
Watch List| Demetrius Harris, KC- If Travis Kelce gets hurt, we would want to pick up Harris. Harris has been simmering behind Kelce for years but is a similar talent. Harris served a short suspension to start the season, but now should be on our radar, especially considering the potency of the Chiefs offense.
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.)
Sam Bradford, ARI- The offense isn’t doing much and Bradford was benched for Josh Rosen on a game-winning drive. Even if Bradford does get the start next week, we can’t have confidence in him between the offense, his health, and the fact he may be pulled for Rosen if he plays badly.
Blaine Gabbert, TEN- He sustained a concussion that makes him questionable for the upcoming contest against the Eagles. On top of that, Mariota played well enough in his relief that you have to think Gabbert will be back on the bench even when he’s healthy.
Corey Clement, PHI- Clement ended up being upstaged by Wendell Smallwood, showing us why we can’t trust Philadelphia's backfield usage to be consistent. With Darren Sproles and Jay Ajayi possibly close to playing again soon, it’s just not worth holding on to Clement, let alone playing him.
Virgil Green, LAC- The Chargers baffle us by continuing to give Gates the most opportunity out of the group. Until we see that trend change, Green is droppable.
Luke Willson, DET- Willson hasn’t worked out as we had hoped and is basically splitting playing time with Levin Toilolo. The tight end no longer seems to be a large part of the offense as it was when Eric Ebron was around.
Jesse James, PIT- With McDonald healthy, James is expendable. He might be worth mentioning again if McDonald gets dinged up later in the season.