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.
The writer is making changes to the format of this article this year. Instead of listing different levels of pickup options, I will instead add roster percentages for every player. This will be updated each week so that general managers can get a sense of how likely a player is to be available in their leagues. A two-week look ahead at matchups will be provided for prospects that are or will shortly become starters and will be useful to contending teams.
Jameis Winston, NO| 77% rostered on MFL| Contending 6%, Rebuilding 5-10%|
Winston may be out there in a few dynasty leagues-- many dropped him when he became the backup to Drew Brees. Even when Brees retired, many thought Taysom Hill would win the backup job. Winston has looked revitalized in the preseason and the organizational fit was a good one for rehabilitating his value. While Hill will bite into Winston’s fantasy upside, Winston is probably still the best of the bunch when it comes to retaining dynasty value headed into the future. He will not be out there long and his roster percentage is likely to rise dramatically as soon as waivers run before the season. The Packers in week one are not a great matchup under normal circumstances, but it may help that Zadarius Smith might sit due to injury. In week two, the Saints will face off against a much easier Panthers defense. However, the matchup is a divisional rivalry, so that may complicate matters.
Ryan Fitzpatrick, WAS| 65% rostered on MFL| Contending 5%, Rebuilding 1%|
Does it not seem like Ryan Fitzpatrick is on this list every year, just with a new team? This year, it is the Washington Football Team. He remains 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 Chargers are a tough draw in week one, but he will get a much easier matchup in week two against the Giants.
Carson Wentz, IND| 63% rostered on MFL| Contending 5%, Rebuilding 1%|
Wentz has earned the injury-prone label and has not played particularly well as of late. It should also be noted that Wentz has chosen not to vaccinate and is at greater risk of missing time due to that fact. However, he is back with the head coach who was the offensive coordinator for the Eagles in Wentz’s career year. The Eagles did a great job that year of disguising Wentz’s weaknesses and playing to his strengths. Perhaps we can see that version again in Indianapolis.
Sam Darnold, CAR| 60% rostered on MFL| Contending 5%, Rebuilding 1%|
Darnold has looked reinvigorated in the preseason and has lots of great weapons with which to work, something that could not be said at any prior point in his NFL career. It is not out of the realm of possibility that Darnold could have a Ryan Tannehill-like resurgence in his new environment. The Panthers will have an easier matchup in week one against the Jets. Things will get tougher in a divisional tilt against the Saints in week two.
Teddy Bridgewater, DEN| 51% rostered on MFL| Contending 4%, Rebuilding 1%|
As we saw in Carolina, Bridgewater is not extremely exciting at this point in his career, but he will take care of the ball, which will be a relief for general managers playing in leagues in which interceptions are heavily penalized. Additionally, Bridgewater has some very quality options in Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy. Denver also has good matchups for the next two weeks against the Giants and Jaguars, which may help break ties in favor of Bridgewater.
Andy Dalton, CHI| 37% rostered on MFL| Contending 3%, Rebuilding 1%|
Dalton is likely to give way to Justin Fields at some point in the season, but he will be the caretaker for this offense to that point. Dalton has not been very good in a while now, so expect that whatever scoring he accomplishes will also come with some interceptions. The Rams in week one is a matchup to avoid, but the Falcons in week two have a much more generous fantasy defense.
Tyrod Taylor, HOU| 35% rostered on MFL| Contending 3%, Rebuilding 1%|
With Desean Watson likely headed toward healthy scratch status this year, it will be up to Tyrod Taylor to hold down the fort until the Texans decide they want to see what they have in Davis Mills. Taylor has been more productive in his past than in the recent future, but he cannot really be blamed for the medical accident in week 2 and Justin Herbert’s emergence that closed the door on his return to the starter role in 2020. Houston will get a team this week in the Jacksonville Jaguars that is nearly as abysmal as they are, so if there is a week to start Taylor, this is probably it. The Browns in week two are definitely a matchup to avoid if you can.
Sam Ehlinger, IND| 5% rostered on MFL| Contending Watchlist, Rebuilding 1%|
Ehlinger had some great moments in preseason action. He was splitting first-team reps with Jacob Eason before suffering a knee sprain that placed him on injured reserve. Carson Wentz is not a sure thing as a reclamation project, so it would be good for quarterback-needy dynasty teams to roster Ehlinger and see if he continues to develop.
Jake Fromm, BUF| 2% rostered on MFL| Contending Watchlist, Rebuilding 1%|
The development of adding Mitch Trubisky to the roster is concerning, but it may just be that Trubisky is more ready for backup duty than Fromm and the team is in a contention window. Fromm will have to work his way up the depth chart, but he is the most promising backup the Bills have in terms of decision-making and accuracy.
Josh Rosen, ATL | 5% rostered on MFL| Contending Watchlist, Rebuilding 1%|
It is not encouraging that 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 also behind Matt Ryan and can continue to learn from another quality veteran as he did last season in Tampa Bay behind Tom Brady.
If you play in a superflex or are desperately in need of a quarterback who might earn valuable fantasy starting work in future weeks if the starter struggles or is hurt, consider picking these quarterbacks up for free or a minimal bid. They are listed in order of the writer’s preference:
- Mitchell Trubisky, BUF| 24% rostered on MFL |
- Gardner Minshew, PHI| 29% rostered on MFL
- Marcus Mariota, LVR| 22% rostered on MFL |
- Drew Lock, DEN| 40% rostered on MFL |
- Tyler Huntley, BAL| 5% rostered on MFL |
- Blaine Gabbert, TB| 2% rostered on MFL |
- Chad Henne, KC| 4% rostered on MFL |
- Jacob Eason, IND| 21% rostered on MFL |
- P.J. Walker, CAR| 7% rostered on MFL |
- Case Keenum, CLE| 6% rostered on MFL |
Mike Davis, ATL| 77% rostered on MFL | Contending 50+%, Rebuilding 10-30%|
The fact that Mike Davis is a starter and is less rostered than Tony Pollard, a backup, is beyond me. Davis performed incredibly admirably when Christian McCaffrey went down last year, so much so that he earned a starter role in Atlanta. Recently added Wayne Gallman is the backup and is unlikely to make a significant challenge for carries. Davis will not be out there in leagues long, so if he is still there in yours, you need to grab him. The Eagles mean easy sledding in week one, but the week two draw against Tampa Bay will be a very tough one for Davis and company.
Ty'Son Williams, BAL| 42% rostered on MFL | Contending and Rebuilding 20-30%|
Williams earns a more valuable place in the pecking order now that JK Dobbins is out for the season. He will spell Gus Edwards and as much as the Ravens like to run, that role will have fantasy value. The Raiders contest this week is far easier than the Chiefs next week in terms of run defense.
Tony Pollard, DAL| 80% rostered on MFL | Contending 15-30%, Rebuilding 5-10%|
Pollard is not likely to be out there on any dynasty waiver wires. However, if he is available, you need to make sure he is rostered. If Zeke Elliott were to miss substantial time, Pollard would likely absorb a great deal of his workload. Recently added Corey Clement is not much of a threat to Pollard’s potential production.
Justin Jackson, LAC| 50% rostered on MFL| Contending 10-15%, Rebuilding 1-5%|
Injuries have held back Jackson. Most recently, he suffered a groin injury in a preseason contest. However, he is the primary backup to Austin Eckler and if he can suddenly have a stint when he stays healthy and Eckler cannot, he could pay off big for patient fantasy general managers.
Malcolm Brown, MIA| 53% rostered on MFL| Contending 10-15%, Rebuilding 1%|
Brown is not flashy or as explosive as some other backs in the NFL, but he could easily lead the Dolphins’ running back group in yardage and touchdowns at the end of the year, simply because he understands how to take what yardage is there and does not lose yardage trying to make a bigger play. If Myles Gaskin goes down yet again, Brown will still split carries with Salvon Ahmed, but would become much more interesting in a two-way split rather than a three-way split.
Marquez Callaway, NO| 72% rostered on MFL| Contending and Rebuilding 20-40%
Callaway’s rise in the dynasty community over the summer has been meteoric, in part because of the Micheal Thomas injury news and in part because he was so impressive in camp. Trequan Smith is the primary starter for now, but he really has not panned out the way general managers had hoped. Callaway will not be around long and should be on everyone’s radar during that last waiver run before the season. The Saints will have the Packers’ beatable pass defense in week one and the Panthers’ remade-but-unproven corner group to contend with in week two.
Chris Conley, HOU| 17% rostered on MFL| Contending 5-10%, Rebuilding 1-5%|
Conley has had stints on multiple teams, but never one when he could legitimately challenge for the #2 role until now. Brandin Cooks has not exactly been the picture of health in his tenure, so we could see a scenario play out in which Conley becomes the primary receiver for Houston. While the quarterback situation is not ideal, the volume alone may be enough to make Conley a serviceable option in fantasy lineups. The Texans play the hapless Jaguars in week one and then face a tougher Browns pass defense in week two.
Byron Pringle, KC| 22% rostered on MFL| Contending and Rebuilding 5-20%
He is a Matt Waldman favorite, but beyond that, he is also in an extremely good organization. He has jumped Demarcus Robinson for the WR3 spot. Mecole Hardman has been something of a disappointment with the opportunity he has had, so it is not beyond imagination that by opportunity or by injury, Pringle could end the year as the #2 WR in the offense. He should be rostered everywhere.
Devin Duvernay, BAL| 21% rostered on MFL| Contending and Rebuilding 5-20%|
It is a shock to see Duvernay’s roster percentage so low, especially with Sammy Watkins’ injury history and Miles Boykin and Rashod Bateman on injured reserve. He has a playing style close to that of Percy Harvin. The Ravens offense has yet to show the will to use that type of skill set, but they may have no choice with their current receiver situation.
Donovan Peoples-Jones, CLE| 37% rostered on MFL| Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 5-20%|
Last year Peoples-Jones did not get as much work with the injuries to Odell Beckham Jr Jr. as the writer believed he would, but he is still a fine stash player for dynasty. Peoples-Jones has moved ahead of Rashard Higgins on the depth chart and could continue his upward climb if the Browns let go of Odell Beckham Jr Jr. in the next couple of years.
Josh Palmer, LAC| 32% rostered on MFL| Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%|
As injured as Mike Williams has been, we could see rookie Josh Palmer step in and play Williams’ rebounder role in the offense at some point this year. Palmer was impressive in camp, so he may get an opportunity sooner rather than later.
Tyron Johnson, JAX| 11% rostered on MFL| Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%|
Johnson switched teams this offseason, and while he went to an inferior organization, he may have landed in a situation with greater opportunity for him. Laviska Shenault Jr is not known for his robust health and Marvin Jones Jr has also spent some of the offseason banged up. There will likely be an opportunity for Johnson at some point this season, especially if he can ingratiate himself to Trevor Lawrence with the limited looks he will get in the meantime.
Collin Johnson, NYG| 13% rostered on MFL| Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-5%|
The Jaguars’ new regime cut Johnson and New York picked him up off waivers. The writer is not convinced that Kenny Golladay will be able to stay healthy and live up to his paycheck in the Big Apple, which makes Johnson worth consideration. Johnson also flashed somewhat in his limited work during his rookie season.
Tyler Johnson, TB| 22% rostered on MFL| Contending and Rebuilding 1-5%|
A recommendation in last year’s iteration of The Replacements, Johnson showed last year he could win contested balls. Johnson is merely a name to keep in mind if injuries devastate the Buccaneers receiving corps or if Antonio Brown’s off-field issues once again become a problem.
Kyle Rudolph, NYG| 22% rostered on MFL| Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 1%|
Rudolph signed a short-term deal this offseason and will serve as the primary option until Evan Engram is able to return from injury. Do not count out Rudolph because he is old-- he has been very good in the red zone and I could see him becoming a favorite of Daniel Jones when the Giants are in scoring range. The Broncos and Washington are tough defensive draws for Rudolph and company during the first two weeks of the season.
Dan Arnold, CAR| 30% rostered on MFL| Contending 1-5%, Rebuilding 1%|
Dan Arnold’s landing spots just get better every year! He landed this time in Carolina with Sam Darnold, who is working to rebuild his career. While Joe Brady did not utilize the tight end very much last year, that could change with a competent Arnold leading the group. While not the most talented player, Arnold has landed in a situation in which he could very easily put up a career year. The Panthers have an easier matchup against the Jets in week one, but the Saints’ stingy defense could be a problem for them in week two.
Chris Manhertz, JAX| 0% rostered on MFL| Contending and, Rebuilding 1%|
Manhertz has a new team and came out of camp on the top of the depth chart. It does not hurt that he will have a rookie quarterback using him as a security blanket option. Jacksonville will draw the inferior Houston defense and the superior Broncos defense in their first two weeks.
Tyler Conklin, MIN| 17% rostered on MFL| Contending and Rebuilding 1%|
With Irv Smith done for the year, Conklin will step in to receive some of the volume that Smith would have gained. Conklin is not a revelation at the position, but he has proven to be serviceable. Also, a bonus is the fact the Vikings have pass-favorable matchups against the Bengals and Cardinals over the next two weeks.
Kaden Smith, NYG| 5% rostered on MFL| Contending 1%, Rebuilding 1-10%|
Evan Engram is often banged up (he is yet again this offseason) 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. Kyle Rudolph is a mere stopgap for the team. We will see if the team lets Engram move on this offseason and if they trust Smith enough to let him take the place as the starter.