Finding Dynasty Gems on the Waiver Wire (Fantasy Football)
Fantasy football tends to be a results-driven, “what have you done for me lately?” hobby. Even dynasty football zealots aren’t immune to giving up on unproductive youngsters when facing rosters limits that can often require tough decisions.
It’s not unusual at all to see decent players go un-rostered in 12-team leagues that finalize rosters below 30 spots. Quite often, decent talent can be found on the waiver wire. Last year, plenty of dynasty owners begrudgingly cut bait on Nelson Agholor after two disappointing seasons, and Alex Collins was widely dropped after the running back-starved Seahawks unwisely released him.
Aghlor and Collins became championship-winning waiver wire additions in countless fantasy leagues last season. While it’s highly unlikely to routinely find these type of players as fantasy free agents, digging deep can help you identify undrafted rookies and young veterans that may be able to produce if given the right opportunity.
Here are some players that dynasty owners will want to keep an eye on during OTAs and minicamp. The next unheralded fantasy hero just might make an excellent addition to that final roster spot you’re sitting on.
Mason Rudolph (QB – PIT)
There’s a big gap between the top-five rookie signal-callers and Rudolph, who isn’t even a sure bet to get drafted in four-round rookie-only drafts. While Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t seem to have much interest in mentoring his potential replacement, Big Ben owners should be interested in adding Rudolph to their dynasty rosters where they can. Roethlisberger, 36, has recently hinted that he may be close to retiring, and Big Ben has missed at least one game in three consecutive seasons and made 16 starts in just three of his 14 NFL campaigns. Rudolph has a solid NFL skill-set and could finally be the mid-round QB of the future the Steelers keep trying to find.
Kyle Lauletta (QB – NYG)
QB6 in the 2018 draft class is also unlikely to be selected in most rookie-only drafts, meaning he’ll be waiver wire fodder. Lauletta was highly-regarded by several NFL Draft insiders and landed in a good spot to have a redshirt developmental year or two, playing behind Eli Manning. At 37, Manning is nearing the end of the road and comes off the lowest yards-per-attempt figure since he became a starter. Manning is set to become a free agent after the 2019 season and Lauletta could be primed to potentially take over, making him a name to watch in single QB dynasty formats and somebody worth late-round consideration in 2QB leagues.
Ito Smith (RB – ATL)
Smith’s ADP is the 47 in rookie-only drafts, so he’s barely being taken at the very end of the fourth round. It’s easy to see why, as initial playing time will be hard to come by behind Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Smith is small (5-9, 195) but is an excellent athlete with plus receiving skills and all-purpose upside. With Coleman set to be one of the most highly-coveted free agent running backs at the conclusion of the 2018 season, Smith could have a fairly sizeable role as soon as 2019.
Javorius Allen (RB – BAL)
Alex Collins is the Baltimore running back to target early, but “Buck” Allen was surprisingly effective last season and may have secured the change-of-pace role ahead of Kenneth Dixon, who missed all of 2017 with a suspension and knee injury. Collins isn’t a great pass-catcher, so either Allen or Dixon should have a decent role, but what sets Allen apart is that even after Collins became the club’s featured running back, Allen continued to get short-yardage carries and actually received twice as many goal-line attempts.
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At 26, Allen is entering a contract season and could draw some offseason interest as a free agent. Dixon also could be an interesting dynasty addition if he wins a role in the passing game, but comes with a bit more risk.
Tavon Austin (RB – DAL)
Let’s face it– Austin isn’t a great fantasy option as a wide receiver. Anyone can look at his pedestrian yards-per-catch average and lack of impact and come to that conclusion. That said, Austin’s move from wide receiver to running back is actually quite big for his fantasy value. The Cowboys plan to use Austin as a hybrid ball-carrier and receiving option out of the backfield, and if that somehow works out, Austin could become an interesting RB3 play in the Theo Riddick mold.
Danny Amendola (WR – MIA)
Amendola is 32 and has a history of nagging injuries that have kept him off the field, but he’s in a prime spot to see a ton of targets in 2018, taking over the slot role in Miami that was vacated by Jarvis Landry. At 32, Amendola is all but being ignored in many dynasty drafts and has an early dynasty ADP of 227, placing him in the 19th round. You’re less likely to find Amendola sitting on waivers in an established dynasty league, but he’s an excellent value in start-ups and could be acquired very cheaply in a trade.
Brice Butler (WR – MIA)
Butler is big (6-3, 220) and ran a sub 4.4-second 40-yard dash prior to the 2013 NFL Draft. Those wheels were on display at Dallas, where Butler averaged over 21 yards-per-catch last season, yet somehow the Cowboys could never figure out how to get the ball to Butler more than once a game. Butler joined the Cardinals in the offseason and has a very good chance at earning a top-three wideout role in Arizona’s revamped receiving corps.
Amara Darboh (WR – SEA)
With Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham, and Luke Willson no longer in town, just under 41 percent of Seattle’s targets from last season are unaccounted for. Someone is going to have to step up to fill that considerable void, especially in the red-zone, where the Seahawks’ starting wideouts, Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, are both listed at 5-10 and under 190 pounds. Darboh played the fifth-most snaps in Seattle’s receiving corps last season, so he has familiarity with the scheme and also has the size (6-2, 219) to be a solid jump ball and end-zone target.
Kendall Wright (WR – MIN)
Wright caught 59 of 91 targets last season for Chicago and now moves on to a better spot as the WR3 for the Vikings, who have a pair of excellent starting wideouts. This assures that Wright will see plenty of lesser coverage against nickel cornerbacks and linebackers, putting him in a very good position to eclipse 60-plus receptions for the third time. At just 28, Wright has been around but is still in his prime and is largely being ignored in dynasty leagues.
Taywan Taylor (WR – TEN)
A third-round last season out of Western Kentucky, Taylor only caught 16 balls as a rookie and saw his playing time dwindle down to six or fewer snaps in Tennessee’s final four games. But with Eric Decker gone, Taylor is expected to take over as the club’s slot receiver, which could lead to a lot of targets with a brand new offense designed by new offensive coordinator and play-caller Matt LaFleur, who resurrected the Rams’ offense last season. Taylor is a sneaky bet to have a role that could command 80-plus targets for an offense with a lot of potential.
Clive Walford (TE – NYJ)
A 2015 third-round selection by the Raiders, Walford flashed some decent receiving skills in his first two seasons before being a casualty of the new Jon Gruden regime this offseason. After losing Austin Seferian-Jenkins in free agency, the Jets claimed Walford off of waivers and he is looking at entering training camp as the club’s starting tight end. Just 26, Walford has never really been given much of a chance to be featured and he just might have that opportunity with a Jets offense that could be quarerbacked by a rookie signal-caller. That could set Walford up for a ton of targets and he’s widely a forgotten asset in most fantasy leagues.
Jordan Akins (TE – HOU)
Incumbent starter C.J. Fiedorowicz retired in the offseason, forcing the Texans to use their third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft on Akins, a 6-3, 250-pound tight end out of Central Florida. Ryan Griffin will likely take over starting duties but Akins is a receiving-first tight end who has an opportunity to earn an immediate role in Houston’s potentially-potent passing attack. Akins spent some time trying to be a pro baseball player, so he’s already 26, which has likely helped push him down the dynasty ranks. Keep an eye on his usage throughout the summer.