Waiver Wire Dumpster Diving takes you beyond the obvious plays and helps you find undervalued gems for deep leagues.
It is that time of the year again. Many of you savvy RotoViz subscribers are enjoying first round bye’s. And no matter how well you prepared, a few of you had bad breaks and are plotting for next season and playing in the dreaded “consolation bracket”.
This week’s column is specifically for those of you planning for 2019. Every year, my final column of the season I stretch the ownership parameters and focus on players who have solid keeper or dynasty league value for next season. So let’s dive in (pun intended).1
Jerick McKinnon, RB (San Francisco 49ers) Owned 16% MFL Leagues
In the summer of 2018 McKinnon was being drafted by fantasy GMs as the 15th running back off the board. Now he is available in the vast majority of leagues. A torn ACL 2 and a strong 2018 season by fellow back Matt Breida has since cooled the hype on McKinnon. But being available in 84 percent of leagues is outrageous!
Let us take a moment to walk down memory lane. In 2017 McKinnon garnered 201 total touches, 150 carries and 51 receptions for 991 total yards and 5 touchdowns. All of this was done in really only 12 games, considering Dalvin Cook dominated playing time until his injury that year. What is the most impressive about these numbers is when you realize he was targeted in the passing game only 68 times, meaning he caught 75 percent of all of his targets that year. As of this point in the season, running backs in San Francisco have been targeted 88 times — on pace for 108 to the position.
Granted, Breida turning out to be really good does lower McKinnon’s likelihood of gaining “bell cow” status. But that doesn’t mean McKinnon and Breida can’t both be fantasy relevant. In 2016, while Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator in Atlanta both Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman were Top 20 running backs in fantasy and scored 24 touchdowns between the two of them. Shanahan’s offenses have always been very running back friendly. Even if McKinnon were to split time with Breida, he should still be a solid flex value in the worst case scenario, and a top 10 play if he were to get the lions share of the workload.
Will McKinnon get the top billing over Breida next season? If you follow the money, it would look like it. McKinnon signed a four-year contract with the 49ers and won’t be a free agent until 2022. More importantly, the cap hit they would take to cut him is massive 3. Breida however, only has next season before he hits free agency. If they got wild and decided to cut him after this season, he would only cost $1,668.00 in dead cap. The team has a much heavier investment in McKinnon, and will want to get some level of return on investment. They may thus be willing to give him every chance next season to show he was worth that contract.
McKinnon’s athleticism4 has always made him a tantalizing option for fantasy and real life GMs alike. If he can stay on the field in 2019, in a running back friendly scheme, in a competitive high-scoring divison, McKinnon will pay big dividends to whoever scoops him up and stashes him now.
Antonio Callaway, WR (Cleveland Browns) Owned 49% of MFL Leagues
This past Sunday was a perfect example of Callaway’s season in a nutshell. First, he has a 76-yard touchdown called back due to offensive holding, then a play or two later he has a catch and run for 71 yards that would have ended in a score, had he not fumbled the ball away at the five-yard line. But all of that said, this kind of bad luck and rookie mistakes can’t follow him into his sophomore season (right?).
Callaway has shown enough, that he is worth a stash spot in every keeper and dynasty league. Over the past four weeks, Callaway is averaging 19.7 yards per catch. Fellow rookie, Baker Mayfield, seems to be making impressive strides under center, and the Browns as a whole finally dumped Hue Jackson, showing they might be serious about the franchise themselves.
But a talented deep ball artist doesn’t mean much in the NFL if he doesn’t have a competent quarterback to get him the ball. When you look at Mayfield’s AYA heatmap though you can see why I have optimism for Callaway in 2019.
Mayfield is showing that one of his best zones is deep in the middle of the field with an impressive 21.19 AYA. His AYA when throwing to the right side is a respectable 10.29 as well. That favors Callaway’s skill set much more than fellow wideout Jarvis Landry. And with a strong 69 percent of the snap share, Callaway trails only Landry in the receiving corp. I expect in 2019 those two will be lining up opposite each other on the field full time again. With another offseason and camp to learn an NFL offense, more time to connect with Mayfield and an improving overall offense, I expect to see Callaway in the top 16 of all receivers in 2019. He can be snatched up in over half of MFL leagues right now, and quite possibly every keeper league out there. If he isn’t available on the waiver wire, he can likely be had in a cheap offseason trade. I don’t see why I wouldn’t roll the dice on a big-time talent like Callaway and what he can do next season.
DaeSean Hamilton, WR (Denver Broncos) Owned 21% MFL Leagues
At ownership levels below 5 percent in ESPN leagues as well, Hamilton is a big time add for me everywhere. Many assumed Hamilton was drafted to be the eventual heir to Emmanuel Sanders. Now that an extremely unfortunate injury has knocked Sanders out for the rest of the year, we get a preview of what is to come as The Denver Post expects Hamilton to “be featured in the slot” in Sanders’ absence. Due to the severity of the injury, we shouldn’t assume that Hamilton relinquishes that role in Week 1 of 2019 either. D’Onta Foreman had the same injury occur last year around a similar time in the season and is only now re-joining the team. And Foreman is 22 years old with a lot less NFL mileage on his body compared to the 31-year-old Sanders.
With only seven targets so far on the season, it is hard to really tell how Hamilton is going to transition to a full-time workload. But thus far, he has been one of the most productive targets for quarterback Case Keenum, with 8.71 adjusted yards per attempt — right below Sanders himself.
Looking at where Keenum excels passing the ball, you can make a logical connection to Hamilton being a PPR stud from this point forward. Fellow rookie Courtland Sutton is going to be the big name on the outside. But being a Keenum-led team’s primary slot receiver comes with a lot of upside, à la Adam Thielen in 2017. Snag this rookie now, before a strong year-end run starts driving up his price for next season.
The Injured Reserved Scrap Heap, Various
I shined the spotlight on McKinnon above, who would never be available for this column it it weren’t for an unfortunate injury. He isn’t the only forgotten injured player worth snagging this time of the year.
If you have the bench spots now, or just aren’t playing any meaningful fantasy games, this is the perfect time to go check all those players with “IR” next to their name and snag up all the players who excite you for 2019.
Hunter Henry, for example, is currently owned in only 13.87 percent of leagues and figures to be a huge factor in the Chargers offense in 2019.
Cameron Meredith was once a No.1 receiver and will be paired back up with Drew Brees. He is also only owned in 18 percent of leagues currently. If he can come back in 2019 healthy he could have a career year.
A brief list of other sidelined players with upside is in the following table.
If you like the column, please leave a comment below and let me know what has been most useful. And for more Fantasy nuggets like these, please give me a follow on Twitter @DumpsterDiveFF
- I typically use ESPN ownership percentages. But for this particular edition I use MyFantasyLeague.com, since they are more geared toward dynasty and keeper leagues. (back)
- I will highlight more IR folks down the road (back)
- $6 million next season, then $4 million followed by $2 million in 2021 (back)
- His SPARQ-x, 40-yard dash, burst score, and agility score are all above the 90th percentile. (back)