This season I’ll be focusing on waiver wire targets, specifically for our dedicated dynasty football readers here at dominatefantasy. Since we cannot yet wrack our brains over how much FAAB to drop on a player that’s due for a breakout in 2019, I’m starting a 4-part series on players that can pay off in the long-term for patient, invested owners. The majority of the players in this series are players you can trade for at a value, draft late in rookie drafts, or draft mid to late in start-up dynasty drafts.
Pittsburgh appears to be on the brink of a rebuild. It seems almost inevitable that Bell doesn’t suit up for the Steelers next season, and Roethlisberger seems closer to retirement every day. Pittsburgh invested their third-round pick in Rudolph, who will inherit a stacked receiving corps who compliment the gunslinger well. Rudolph faces little competition for the starting job against career second stringer Landry Jones and Josh Dobbs, who clearly didn’t stand out enough in his rookie season to make Pittsburgh think he could be their starter.
At Oklahoma State, 10% of Rudolph’s drop backs resulted in gains of 25 or more yards and he completed 63% of his 1,447 attempts for 13,618 yards. In addition to Antonio Brown (WR1 overall in PPR format the last 3 seasons) and Smith-Schuster (WR23 in his rookie season), Rudolph will have his Oklahoma State teammate James Washington as a weapon. In Stillwater, Washington caught 4,016 of Rudolph’s 12,765 passing yards between 2015-2017; accounting for 31% of Rudolph’s total passing yards.
Bridgewater finished as a QB2 in his first two seasons, despite only starting 12 games in his rookie campaign. He compiled 401 rushing yards and 4 rushing touchdowns in addition to his 3,075 passing yards per season in 2014 and 2015. Bridgewater also completed more than 64% of his passes in both of those seasons. Bridgewater’s career has only been limited by a crippling knee injury, but now he’s reported to be completely healthy and competing for the starting job in New York.
I don’t expect Bridgewater to be the Jets starting quarterback at any point this season, however, the 25-year-old quarterback still has plenty of opportunity to start in the NFL. I can name at least three teams at this point (Cincinnati, Miami, Tampa Bay) that could move on from their veteran quarterbacks after the 2018 season and look to a healthy Bridgewater as a gap year quarterback with franchise changing upside.
Jackson isn’t that deep of a stash, but he is by far the player I’m most excited about from the 2018 draft class. In just three seasons as a starter at Louisville Jackson compiled 9,043 passing yards, 4,132 rushing yards, and 119 total touchdowns. Notions of Jackson being injury prone are irresponsible; he’s played in 38 college games without suffering a major injury or missing any significant playing time.
Since 2015, 5 of the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks have rushed for at least 250 yards and in that same time span, only 8 quarterbacks have rushed for at least 300 yards without finishing as a QB1. This gives Jackson tremendous upside that surpasses the ceilings of fellow draft mates Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold.
I do not expect Jackson to play in 2018. I believe the Ravens have a playoff contending team that will require the experienced Joe Flacco to be under center. It’s clear, however, that this is Flacco’s last season in Baltimore, regardless of how well the Ravens play. Think of Flacco as this year’s Alex Smith; making Lamar Jackson a much more appealing version of Patrick Mahomes for savvy dynasty players.
Marcus Mariota has struggled to become the franchise quarterback that Tennessee hoped he’d be after he dazzled the college football world at the University of Oregon. In his three seasons, Mariota has never thrown for 3,500 yards and has thrown for less than 20 touchdowns twice, with 26 touchdowns in 2016 being his career high. His career touchdown to interception ratio is 58 to 34. The rushing upside that drove up his draft stock has been less than desired too, averaging 304 rushing yards per season with just 9 career rushing touchdowns. What’s more concerning is Mariota is trending down; in 2017 he threw more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (13). Mariota’s 13 touchdowns were the same as Brissett and less than Flacco (18) and Cutler (19). The Titans will have to choose whether to pay Mariota almost $21 million in 2019 or move on from him with zero dead cap penalty hit.
Falk is a deeper stash, but the 6th round pick out of Washington State has upside. Falk started three seasons in college and completed at least 66% of his passes in all three of them. Falk complied 14,481 passing yards (4,207 yards per season as a starter) in his time with the Cougars and had a touchdown to interception ratio above 3:1 (119 touchdowns, 39 interceptions). If the Titans choose to move on from Mariota after 2018, Falk would be the next man up; the potential of this reliable pocket passer provides much more upside than the undependable Blaine Gabbert, who is also on the Tennessee roster.