Waivers of the Future: Week 4

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 Week 4 of Waivers of the Future! While not as bad as Week 2, Week 3 did have injuries to fantasy contributors such as Diontae Johnson, Chris Godwin, Mike Williams, John Brown, Russell Gage, Dallas Goedert, Tarik Cohen, Chris Carson, and others. The waiver wire continues to grow thinner, but there are still options to help you put a bandaid on your dynasty team.

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.

IN THE CLOUDS

Players on this list are probably also rostered but are worth less than 30% of your budget.

RIDE THE WAVE

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

QUARTERBACK

Contending 5%, Rebuilding 1%| Ryan Fitzpatrick, MIA- Fitzpatrick is clearly a caretaker quarterback that will be holding down the fort while the Dolphins develop Tua Tagovailoa. He is also one of the most prolific backups in the league, which is why he has been successful for so long. He is capable of multiple touchdown outings, but he can also throw interceptions with his daring and aggressive style of play. The Seattle Seahawks in Week 4 are vulnerable to the pass. The 49ers may be healthier by the time Week 5 rolls around, but the significant injuries they have had means the defense is a lot less scary than it was at the beginning of the year.

Contending 5%, Rebuilding 1%| Dwayne Haskins, WAS- While the writer is skeptical that Haskins will be a starter beyond this year, there is no shame in using Haskins in the same manner that the Washington Football Team is using him-- as a stopgap option. The Ravens in Week 4 is a game in which to avoid starting Haskins. The Rams will also be a tougher contest, so Haskins’ general managers may want to play him only if there are no other choices.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Nick Foles, CHI- Chicago has finally had enough of Trubisky and made the switch to Foles, despite being 3-0. While Foles is himself an inconsistent and streaky decision-maker, he has some quality weapons such as Allen Robinson and Anthony Miller who can help elevate his play. The Colts and Buccaneers in the next couple of weeks are neutral passing matchups.

Contending and Rebuilding 1% Nick Mullens, SF- Jimmy Garoppolo suffered the dreaded high ankle sprain and could be out for a while longer. Mullens has shown he can run the offense completely in previous relief duty. The Eagles and Dolphins over the next two weeks are also favorable for Mullens and Co.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Jeff Driskel, DEN- Drew Lock exited Week 2 with a shoulder injury and his status for this week is up in the air. Driskel has been a career backup for a few teams but has been able to cobble together some good fantasy performances in relief of the starter. The Jets in Week 4 is a great matchup if Driskel remains in for Lock and the newly-signed Blake Bortles does not take his place. The Patriots matchup in Week 5 is one to avoid.

Update: Since this column was published, the Broncos made the switch to Brett Rypien. He was serviceable against Tampa Bay and is a nice emergency option against the Jets if you need a starter.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Taysom Hill, NO- Hill is not the starter, but he sometimes earns high leverage work in the red zone as a versatile wrinkle in the offense. He is a safe bet to give you at least some points each week and has one-to-three touchdown upside in any given week. That is preferable to taking a zero at the position. The Week 4 opponent, the Lions, are generous to quarterbacks. The Chargers in Week 5 are a little tougher but not necessarily a dealbreaker.

If you play in a superflex or are desperately in need of a quarterback who might earn starting work in future weeks if the starter struggles…

All of these guys are generally available on the waiver wire and reside behind starters who have tenuous holds on their jobs. The writer prioritized them this week by how likely they are to replace the starter. Baker Mayfield tops the list currently. He played better in the last two weeks, but he could be replaced if the team loses a few games in a row. Each has flaws and weaknesses of their own - but again, when desperate for a quarterback to fill a lineup spot, options are limited.

RUNNING BACK

Contending 10-20%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Jeff Wilson, SF- The writer underestimated how much the 49ers would use Wilson and was remiss in not including him in last week’s list. In basically an even split with Jerick McKinnon, Wilson was able to convert two scores. The plush matchups against the Eagles and Dolphins coming up could make Wilson a surprising value if he maintains his share of the backfield work.

Contending 10-20%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Carlos Hyde, SEA- Chris Carson grabbed at his knee after a tackle and did not return. It was revealed later that he had merely sprained his knee. Even so, he may miss a contest or two. Hyde is a capable backup who has had stints as the starter in his various stops over the years. The Dolphins and Vikings are both decent matchups if you need to play Hyde and Carson is indeed out.

Contending 5-10%, Rebuilding 1%| Malcolm Brown, LAR- Some of the luster has come off Brown as the Rams have started to feed Darrell Henderson increasingly, but Brown will still get work and the waiver wire is thin. The Giants in Week 4 are more accommodating to rushers and Week 5's tilt against Washington is also nothing to fear.

WIDE RECEIVER

Contending 5-10%, Rebuilding 1%| Adam Humphries, TEN- Humphries spent much of last year injured, but really came on for Tennessee late in the year. They are a run-first team, but if their pass offense takes a step forward this year, Humphries could be fantasy relevant as a spot starter for dynasty teams. Considering A.J. Brown is having trouble recovering from a bone bruise, we will see more of Humphries for the next several weeks. The tough Steelers and Bills matchups are ahead, but that could cause Humphries to see more targets as the best coverage will roll toward Corey Davis.

TIGHT END

Contending and Rebuilding 5-10%| Robert Tonyan Jr Jr, GB- He could just as easily give you a goose egg, but if you are desperate to start someone and possibly get a touchdown, Tonyan is one of the few readily available waiver wire options to consider. The Falcons allow yards in bunches and the Buccaneers are likely to be without their best corner, Sean Murphy-Bunting. Tonyan is one of the lower-priority defensive assignments, which means he’ll see some favorable coverages in both games.

Contending and Rebuilding, 1-5%| Dan Arnold, ARI- In the wasteland that is trying to find a tight end off the waiver wire, Arnold may be at least a stopgap for your team. Carolina and the Jets in the next two weeks are at least good matchups for those who need to plug-and-play Arnold.

CHANGING TIDES

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

The waiver wire for running backs in dynasty leagues is, as usual, razor-thin. Here are some backups that are widely available in most leagues that have a big upside if their starter is injured.

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Darrel Williams and Darwin Thompson, KC- Both backs are likely to get used this year anyway. However, if Clyde Edwards-Helaire were to get dinged, Williams and Thompson would get the lion’s share of the work in an offense in which they would be the lowest priority for defenders that are stretched defending the likes of Patrick Mahomes II, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, Mecole Hardman, and Sammy Watkins. Both are worth holding if you have the roster space to spare.

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Benny Snell, PIT- Snell goes back to being a preemptive pickup after James Conner resumed his usual workload in Week 2. Due to Mike Tomlin’s preference to give carries to one runner, he is one that we need to have on the back end of the roster in case of a James Conner injury.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Giovani Bernard, CIN- Joe Mixon is locked up to a shiny new contract, but he has not proven to be the most durable back. That could pay off massively for Bernard, who will have the benefit of working in an offense that will be reinvigorated by Joe Burrow. Bernard has long been a player with the ability to do more, but the Bengals have been content to use him in an ancillary role. If he were to get that chance and the offense was actually functional, it could be very profitable for general managers who used an open roster spot on this lottery ticket.

Contending and Rebuilding, 1%| Ryan Nall, CHI- David Montgomery was able to play in week one despite a groin injury sustained in preseason practices. In Week 2, he had some sort of stinger that kept him out for a quarter of play. If Montgomery were to re-aggravate either injury or suffer a more substantial problem, Nall could absorb his between-the-tackles workload while Tarik Cohen does his work as a satellite back. Nall is a very no-nonsense, north-to-south runner, but he has a great deal of power to his game.

These are a few free-agent running backs that are waiting for a call from a needy team. These players could provide fill-in value depending on their landing spot. If you have roster space, they may be worth holding on to in anticipation of a future opportunity. They are prioritized by how likely the writer believes it is that they will be given a shot to compete on a new team.

THE SPLASH

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

QUARTERBACK

None this week. Please see other quarterback sections of this report for pick-up ideas.

RUNNING BACK

None this week. Please see other running back sections of this report for pick-up ideas.

WIDE RECEIVER

Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%| Auden Tate, CIN- A.J. Green is healthy right now, but he cannot seem to stay that way. That could lead to a lot of work for Tate alongside Tyler Boyd. Tate had, by all accounts, one of the more impressive training camps of any Bengal. He has shown flashes of what he can do as a big-bodied red zone threat in the past.

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1%| Mohamed Sanu, SF- Sanu was cut from the Patriots, but that does not mean he is a bad player. The Patriots had so much redundancy at the position and wanted to save cap room. If he can get up to speed quickly in San Francisco, there is a path for him to be an important yet cheap addition to your fantasy squad.

TIGHT END

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Ryan Griffin, NYJ- As much time as Chris Herndon has missed due to injury, he might as well be named Chris Hernia. While Griffin also is not the poster child for robust health, he is experienced and basically free on all but the deepest of waiver wires. Sam Darnold developed a great rapport with Griffin last year before Griffin’s season-ending injury in December. If that carries over and Herndon gets dinged again, that will be a recipe for fantasy success.

Contending and Rebuilding 1%| Vance McDonald, PIT- McDonald is oft-injured and the Steelers signed Eric Ebron in the offseason. Those two things are the reason McDonald has been tossed back to the waiver wire in dynasty leagues. We should remember that Eric Ebron also has a checkered past when it comes to injury. There is also another path for McDonald to become relevant again. If the Steelers modernize their offense and run more two-tight end sets, McDonald and Ebron could both be equally as valuable. One can pay a fraction of the price of Ebron to roster McDonald and see if either of these scenarios play out.

THE DEEP

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

QUARTERBACK

Watch List| Jake Fromm, BUF- Considering Josh Allen’s struggles as a passer, Fromm is not being rostered nearly enough in dynasty leagues. Fromm will have to work his way up the depth chart, but is the most promising of all three quarterbacks the Bills have in terms of decision-making and accuracy.

Watch List| Josh Rosen, TB- Rosen has bounced around quite a bit in his short career, but he is still one of the more talented backup quarterback prospects in the league. He is signed to the Tampa Bay practice squad where he will get to work to rehabilitate his career. That is one of the better moves he could have made. A year or more to sit and learn behind Tom Brady and work with quarterbacks coach Clyde Christiansen is ideal for the young signal-caller.

Watch List| Chad Kelly, FA- Chad Kelly could very well be the most intriguing and high-upside quarterback name on this entire list, but character issues and immaturity make him a volatile asset. If he can learn lessons and increase in practical wisdom, he has the physical skills to develop into a starter. We will see if there is another team out there willing to give him that shot on their practice squad.

RUNNING BACK

Watch List| Justin Jackson, LAC- Jackson has battled injuries during his NFL career, but some very impressive college tape has fantasy general managers holding out hope that Jackson could emerge, even if it is on another team. Jackson is close to returning and we will see if he can earn a small role behind Joshua Kelly and Austin Eckler.

Watch List| C.J. Prosise, HOU- The Texans signed him to their practice squad and then promoted him in Week 2. David Johnson and Duke Johnson Jr have not always been the picture of health and now that Duke Johnson Jr is banged up, Procise is making the active roster each week. Prosise also struggles with injury, but if he were to get an opportunity in this offense, he might be able to make the best of it with his diverse skill set.

WIDE RECEIVER

Contending and Rebuilding Watch List | Jon'vea Johnson, DAL- Some teams are so good at evaluating talent at one position that they have an embarrassment of riches. Dallas is a great example of a team that evaluates receivers well. As a result, the talented Johnson lies buried behind Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Michael Gallup, and Noah Brown. Dallas did not have the room to hold on to Johnson and put him on the practice squad. Other needy teams monitoring the situation might be willing to give Johnson a spot on their 53-man roster eventually. It is a long shot, but this camp standout two years running is worth monitoring to see if he gets a true opportunity elsewhere.

TIGHT END

Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%| Kaden Smith, NYG- Evan Engram is often banged up and Smith has demonstrated surprising competency for New York when called upon to fill in. Could he be the future for the team at the position? It is certainly possible and worth taking a flier on.

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.)

Mitch Trubisky, CHI- Predictably, Trubisky was benched for poor play and Nick Foles took his place. Foles is not much better, so we may see Trubisky again at some point. For now, Trubisky can hit the waiver wire.

Tyrod Taylor, LAC- We found out that the team doctor punctured Taylor’s lung and that his status for future weeks is up in the air. Justin Herbert’s performances also are enough to wonder about Taylor’s status when he is healthy. It is ok to drop Taylor for now.

Dion Lewis, NYG- There is just nothing there, folks. Send him packing.

Olabisi Johnson, MIN- Justin Jefferson had his coming out party in Week 3. It is time to move on from Johnson.

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