Final roster spots are key to building deep, successful dynasty squads. In shallow leagues, stashing long-term talent bets buried down depth charts is a tough task. In deep leagues, scouring the waiver wire and late rounds of rookie drafts for longer-shot talents makes more sense. Regardless of roster depth, however, all dynasty owners are looking or 'pop' players who can be had for cheap (or free) with the short-term upside to evolve into spot starters or flip candidates for more sturdy long-term assets. Here are the situations and players to stash heading into Week 1:
Broncos Tight Ends
Jeff Heuerman and Virgil Green are the two attractive dynasty names in this open competition. The presence of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders tempers the upside overall, but the starting role is up for grabs. Green is the metric favorite, sporting a +72% Athleticism Score in my projection model for college prospects - on par with names like Jimmy Graham, Jordan Cameron, Jared Cook, and Dustin Keller. Heuerman is a middling metric prospect, but a top-100 pick a year ago. I watched all of Green's targets from 2015 and saw a thick, smooth athlete with after-the-catch ability. Both are worthy stashes with rosters of 25+ spots as TE3-4-5 options to see the depth chart battle result.
Giants Tight Ends
Larry Donnell and Will Tye are both seeing first-team reps. Tye has a higher regard in dynasty circles and is heavily-owned, but a quick check of my dynasty leagues shows Donnell on most waiver wires. Like the Denver tight end situation, the starting role is up for grabs. In this case with the Giants I see more upside. I have no faith in Victor Cruz to return to relevance. Sterling Shepard is an incoming rookie. The starting tight end could be the No.2 target in the passing game pecking order here. Donnell is the ideal deeper league, or tight end premium stash.
Colts Running Backs
Frank Gore enters his age 33 season. The back-up job is a cluttered situation heading into the preseason. Jordan Todman is the best veteran bet, who has stuck around the NFL fringe and been efficient on limited touches in recent seasons. Todman, like Larry Donnell, is available in most dynasty leagues regardless of depth. Josh Ferguson and Trey Williams are the younger guns. Ferguson is a Round 3 rookie pick valuation. Williams, like Todman, is on most waiver wires and could be a cut when the 53-man roster is finalized. However, Williams was a top high school recruit with collegiate chops yet to show much in the NFL. I have deep dynasty leagues were I have all three upside shots in the Colts backfield rostered. If Gore goes down, or even erodes, there will be a hot waiver pick-up from this list.
More Tight Ends
Jacob Tamme, Lance Kendricks, and the 49ers tight end job are other Week 1 starters available on many waiver wires. If banking on Tyler Eifert or Ladarius Green or other questionable starts to the season, these are stopgaps with some short-term potential. On the San Francisco front, Vance McDonald is the high-upside option with a quality build and athleticism profile, but McDonald has been inconsistent in the NFL putting together those tools. Blake Bell is the sturdy pass-catcher. When I watched his 2015 tape, he was a chain-mover with dependable hands. If Garrett Celek has the starting role, I project a lackluster fantasy result as more of a blocker and ho-hum pass target.
Britt was the primary outside receiver for the Rams last season. Enter Jared Goff with a high probability to be a substantial upgrade under center. Britt had the highest average length of reception in the NFL last season. I have no faith in Brian Quick to return to relevance. Lance Kendricks is worth a stash as the incumbent tight end starter (see above), but Britt and Tavon Austin should be the primary receivers involved for the Rams. Britt is worth a shot and is available in plenty of dynasty leagues of 25 or fewer roster spots.
Hightower was a difference-maker late in 2015 for dynasty owners surging for a title. Mark Ingram II has missed at least three games in each of the past three seasons. Hightower projects as a best fit to replace Ingram as a true three-down option as opposed to C.J. Spiller, Daniel Lasco, or another option. Hightower is a mandatory stash for Ingram owners and highly recommended in leagues of more than 25 roster spots.
I have high expectations for Carlos Hyde this season, but health has not been his strong suit through 2015. Draughn is the ho-hum veteran on the roster for the 49ers if Mike Davis does not improve on his poor efficiency to-date (plus is not a roster lock) and Kelvin Taylor is an incoming rookie. Draughn is free in most leagues.
Roberts quietly had a very solid 2015 season - especially for a small school prospect - with 32-480-5 on 55 targets as the No.3 receiver in Oakland. If Amari Cooper or Michael Crabtree were to miss time, Roberts becomes a hot waiver wire addition. As it stands today, Roberts is largely ignored in the dynasty community. With quality athleticism and a solid quarterback, Roberts is a deep league special who is one injury away from a strong uptick.