by Anthony Fuentez
For NFL fans, August is about training camps and preseason games. It’s a time to gain a sense of whether rookies might work out, new veterans will fit in, and old veterans will take their game to the next level. If a new coaching staff is in town, it’s also a time to see if new schemes and new attitudes offer the potential for a winning, and possibly championship, season. In short, it’s a time when hopes are born.
For dynasty fantasy football owners, August is the month for fine-tuning their rosters. As the preseason unfolds, opportunities might present themselves to buy low or sell high on players through trades.
It’s also a perfect time to pick up a player or two off the waiver wire, especially if they generate buzz in camp or perform well in preseason games. Of course, most rosters are at full capacity after rookie drafts. But there’s always a way to open up a roster spot whether it be through an injured reserve assignment or cutting bait with a player who you finally concede will never make your lineup. Why not grab a deep sleeper with potential that everyone else is sleeping on?
Of course, it’s hard to say who’s available on waiver wires generally because every league is different. Furthermore, the best platform for dynasty fantasy football, MyFantasyLeague, only shows player ownership percentages (from which you can determine availability percentages by simple subtraction) across all its leagues, and doesn’t narrow them down to dynasty leagues.
The best way to gauge who is available on most dynasty league waiver wires is to go by startup ADP. In a regular, 1 QB, 12-team league with 20 roster spots and 5 taxi squad spots, 300 players are drafted. That means that players drafted around #300, but especially after, are probably available on the waiver wire.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll use Dynasty League Football’s ADP. While it only goes up to #273, you need to keep in mind that their ADP is based on monthly mock drafts by 6 experts. Some players might be far lower in ADP if the casual fantasy football player were involved in the draft. And they don’t pick kickers or defenses, which might push down late picks even further.
So here’s 3 veteran players most likely on your waiver wire based on Dynasty League Football ADP. I’ll also use as examples the waiver wires from my own dynasty leagues. You should consider picking them up before other owners start developing an interest.
Jaron Brown (WR, Seattle Seahawks)
Last year, Russell Wilson finished as the overall QB1 in fantasy scoring, with his league leading 34 TD passes and his second best in the league 586 yards rushing yards giving him an extra edge. This year he’s expected to do just as well if not even better.
Despite the addition of first round pick Rashaad Penny, Seattle’s rushing game probably won’t improve much with the same troubles on the offensive line. With several veterans departing, the Seattle defense will be much worse, which should lead to more shootouts. Not only is Wilson projected to be a fantasy stud again, but many analysts before August were projecting Doug Baldwin to break back into the WR1 ranks with a vengeance.
Enter Jaron Brown. Unlisted in DLF ADP, which goes to 273, he’s probably available on your waiver wire. He was also available on the waiver wires of my 12 team, 30-man roster, 1 QB, league and even my 14 team, 30-man roster, superflex league.
A 6th year, 28-year old vet, Brown first entered the league as an undrafted free agent out of Clemson with the Arizona Cardinals. At Clemson, he didn’t really produce noteworthy numbers since he was buried behind such future NFL players as DeAndre Hopkins, Martavis Bryant, and Sammy Watkins. In the pros, it was déjà vu all over again as he was once again buried on the depth chart for his first few years. He then had the misfortune of suffering an ACL tear in 2016.
It wasn’t until 2017 when he earned the #2 WR spot that he actually got a chance to show what he could do. But even then, he actually didn’t do much, only producing a 31/477/4 stat line. In his defense, the Cardinals were a mess last year, and Drew Stanton, who took over for Carson Palmer, is no Russell Wilson (or Palmer for that matter.) Larry Fitzgerald soaked up the vast majority of targets, getting about 44% of the WR target share to Brown’s 20%. And his QBs only provided him a catchable target rate of 65.2%, ranking him 96th among wide receivers.
Despite his lack of production, he had enough physical talent and receiving skills for the Seahawks to take a chance on him and sign him to a 2-year deal. He’s got good size at 6’2” and 205 lbs. At his Pro Day in 2013 he ran a 4.40 (rule of thumb is to add at least .05 for a laser-timed Combine comp) and a 6.82 3-cone drill. He can pose a deep threat, and he has the lateral speed to break open on short and intermediate routes and run after the catch. As Palmer said about him in a 2016 AZCentral article, “He’s just one of those guys who makes plays. He’s one of those guys you don’t realize how fast he is until he runs past you.”
Given the fantasy potential of the Seahawks passing game, it should be borne in mind that there are a good number of targets up for grabs in 2018. With Paul Richardson and Jimmy Graham gone, there are at least 176 targets out of 526, or about 33%, available. And who does Brown have to beat out to get a sizeable chunk of those targets?
He’s competing with the likes of Amara Darboh and Brandon Marshall. A 3rd round draft pick out of Michigan entering his sophmore season, Darboh profiles the same as Brown. He’s 6’2,” 214 lbs, and has about the same speed. But ESPN’s Brady Henderson sees Darboh competing for a roster spot. Of course, one beat writer’s opinion is not fact, but it’s the kind of chatter one does not hear about Brown.
Brandon Marshall is the 34 year old vet who last had a fantasy relevant season in 2015. When asked about Marshall, head coach Pete Carroll all but said he was competing for a roster spot too, saying, “We got to get him on our field with our guys and see how it goes.”
Tyler Lockett is penciled in as the #2 in Seattle. But ever since he was projected to break out two years ago, he really hasn’t lived up to expectations. He’s got the speed to be a deep threat, but Brown is a taller deep threat and a bigger target in the red zone.
Now Brown probably isn’t going to surpass Lockett as the #2 on the depth chart, but he could end up as the #2 if Baldwin misses time. Fantasy owners are already concerned about Baldwin with the recent news that he’s going to miss the entire preseason with a sore knee. Expectations for Baldwin have tempered in the wake of this news, and a “sore knee” can be a benign way of covering up something more serious. At a minimum, it sounds like something that can flare up over the course of the season.
While Brown at this point is just potential and dependent on injury for his optimal opportunity, the upside is there in a Russell Wilson-led offense.
Kendrick Bourne (WR, San Francisco 49ers)
With a DLF ADP of 245, Bourne has already shown up on the radar of savvy dynasty owners. But in both of my leagues, he was available on the waiver wire. What is it about Bourne that intrigues the DLF experts and deserves attention from dynasty owners?
First a little background. Bourne went to Eastern Washington University, the same school as Cooper Kupp. Over their careers, they combined for 639 receptions and 9,594 yards receiving, making them the top WR duo in FCS history. A large chunk of those stats came in their senior seasons, with Kupp going off for 117/1700/17 line and Bourne not doing too badly either with a 79/1201/7 line.
But in the 2017 draft, Kupp was drafted by the L.A. Rams in the third round and Bourne went undrafted. At first glance, they weren’t too far apart in physical talent and skill level. Kupp was known as a surgical route runner with amazing hands. Bourne was also a decent route runner with good hands. In terms of physicality, Kupp showed tenacity in runs after the catch with a vicious stiff-arm and Bourne wasn’t afraid to catch the ball in heavy traffic. They both had dismal speed, however, with Kupp clocking in at 4.62 in the 40 at the Combine and Bourne at 4.68.
But Kupp was viewed as the greater NFL prospect because of his college production and superior route running. Even though they weren’t far apart in stature, Kupp just looked a little more solid in pads whereas Bourne seemed a little thin. And Kupp was profiled as a slot receiver and Bourne an outside one. Whereas Kupp could create separation in zones with his route-running, Bourne wasn’t exactly going to blow by press corners with his speed.
Bourne was able to catch on with the 49ers, and he made the most of his opportunity. Despite his lack of long speed, Bourne brought great lateral speed to camp, having put up a 6.73 3-cone drill at the Combine, the third best among WRs. He was able to show off this speed on short and intermediate routes and displayed run after the catch ability. Combined with his solid route running and hands, he made the roster.
He got his big chance to show what he could do on the football field when Pierre Garcon went down with an injury in Week 8. Already thin at WR, the 49ers pressed Bourne into action in Week 9 in which he recorded 2 receptions for 39 yards with CJ Beathard under center. Jimmy Garropolo took over in Week 12, and Bourne ended the season with a 16/257/0 line.
Although he didn’t set the world on fire, he flashed with a couple of decent plays. He showed off his run after the catch ability with a 54-yard scamper in Week 15 against Tennessee, catching a short pass then splitting the zone for extra yards.
His 16.1 yard/catch average put him second on the team for the season, but with such a small sample size you shouldn’t give that too much credence. Bourne profiles as a possession receiver who isn’t afraid to go across the middle.
Bourne isn’t going to displace Garcon and Marquise Goodwin as a starter. Trent Taylor is marked for the slot as the #3. He’s primarily competing with Dante Pettis out of Washington, a player drafted this year in the third round and someone who the 49ers moved up in the draft to get.
While I don‘t believe Bourne is a better fantasy prospect than Pettis, there’s always the chance that a similar injury situation allows a WR or two lower on the depth chart to be pressed into action. Garcon is coming off a neck injury, and he‘s 31 years old, so he isn’t long for the roster. Taylor is all of 5’9” and 174 lbs, and he spent some time on the PUP list over the summer after back surgery. Bourne is at least worth a deep stash to see if he can once again make something of an opportunity that may present itself in Kyle Shanahan’s revered offense.
Mack Hollins (WR, Philadelphia Eagles)
A wide receiver out of the University of North Carolina who was drafted by the Eagles in the 4th round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Hollins has a DLF ADP of 247. In my 12-team, 1QB league, he was picked up off the waiver wire by a diehard Eagles fan last year. In my 14-team superflex league, he was drafted in the startup draft at pick 237. He’s by no means flying under the radar, but there’s still a chance he’s available on your league’s waiver wire.
At UNC, where he played with two different QBs, one of whom was Mitch Trubisky, Hollins put up modest numbers. He had 35 receptions and 613 receiving yards as a sophomore, 30 receptions and 745 yards as a junior, and in his injury-shortened senior season in which he broke his collarbone he had 16 receptions and 309 yards.
But what stood out about his college career was his big play potential. According to Pro Football Focus, over 60% of his career receiving yards came on passes over 20 yards downfield. He also averaged 20.1 yards per reception. Even more eye-catching, he caught 20 TDs over his career. With 81 total career receptions, he scored about once every 4 receptions, or about 20% of the time he caught the ball.
The main reason for his deep ball prowess was his size and deceptive speed. At 6’4” and 221 lbs and with at least 4.53 speed (tested at the NFL Combine), he had the long strides to get on top of defensive backs before they could adjust and then blow past them. It’s important to note that at the Combine he pulled up lame at the end of his first 40 yard dash attempt. According to Eagles beat writer Jimmy Kempski, some scouts thought his true speed was in the 4.4 range.
As Lance Zierlien put it in his NFL scouting report, he “[c]homps up cushion and glides past corners and safeties before they know what hit them.” PFF pretty much said the same thing in their report: “Hollins can and will run right by defenders with a long stride and once he’s at full speed it’s hard for anyone to catch him.” But PFF went further in its praise by claiming that he tracked the ball well and could adjust to underthrown balls.
But the big knock scouts had on Hollins was his limited route tree. Other than go and post routes, he didn’t profile as a complete receiver. They thought he might make a career as a deep threat who took the top off of defenses, much like Mike Wallace, or better yet as I compare him to, Tyrell Williams. But both Wallace and Williams improved their route running when they got to the NFL, so maybe Hollins can as well.
While he didn’t see much action in the Philadelphia offense in his rookie season (he played a lot on special teams though), he had a couple of spectacular plays, which caught the attention of dynasty owners and partially explains his higher ADP than one would expect given his college production and skill set. In the first game of the 2017 preseason, he scored a spectacular 38-yard TD on a pass from Carson Wentz, which involved an impressive run after the catch with two vicious stiff-arms. And in Week 7 of the regular season, he scored a 64-yard TD on a bomb from Wentz on Monday Night Football against the division rival Washington Redskins.
As a dynasty stash, Hollins won’t have to wait long to get his opportunity to shine. Right now, he’s behind Alshon Jeffrey, Nelson Agholor, and none other than Mike Wallace. With Jeffrey a little injury prone and Wallace 32 years old, his opportunity should come sooner rather than later in the high-flying Eagles offense.
Clearly this list of possible veteran dynasty waiver wire additions is exclusively wide receivers. Given the abundance of wide receivers compared to the scarcity of running backs, it’s not hard to explain this exclusiveness. There are some rookie running backs that may be floating around some dynasty league waiver wires and worthy of a dynasty roster stash, but that’s an article for another time.