It’s that time of the fantasy season where keeper or dynasty league owners start to look toward the future.
Even if your teams are doing well, you should always be looking to see where you can add talent at skill positions—just as NFL teams do.
It was around this time last year that I said it was time to go get Bears WR Darnell Mooney (before he started going off) and if you listened and traded for him you’re now richly rewarded.
With that in mind here’s my initial list of non-obvious players (you won’t see Elijah Moore on here as he has come on too strong) to acquire and how their teams see their roles in the future (in no particular order) and I’ll add to this list as I get more information in the weeks ahead:
1) Rhamondre Stevenson/Patriots: He went from having no role for several weeks to now sharing a role with RB Damien Harris in a two-RB backfield. While there are no signs, as of now, that he’ll eventually take over the starting job, Stevenson gives their coaching staff badly needed speed and explosion in the backfield. At the very least, Stevenson should garner 10+ touches a game in future seasons, which fits him in nicely as a flex option or higher due to his upside and talent.
2) Tony Pollard/Cowboys: You might look at Pollard and wonder why he should be on here since he’s their #2 RB, but the Cowboys can move on from Ezekiel Elliott after the 2022 season and owe him nothing. So, it’s possible that Pollard, who has really good versatility, could wind up taking over down the road.
3) Kenny Gainwell/Eagles: For whatever reason, the rookie went from having a clearly defined role earlier this season to very little role in recent weeks. However, the Eagle coaching staff remains very high on Gainwell and with Miles Sanders heading into the last season on his contract next year, Gainwell still could see an increased role in the future. The coaches love his versatility and they saw him being able to handle a decent number of touches at the time he was drafted.
1) Dyami Brown/WFT: His rookie season has not provided much production mainly due to a lingering knee issue. However, Brown could wind up starting opposite WR Terry McLaurin as soon as next year with WR Curtis Samuel lining up mostly inside. And Brown gives their coaches badly needed size at WR and he has major big play ability based on his college production and game tape and I know from talking to their coaches they are very high on him.
2) Chase Claypool/Steelers: For whatever reason, the 2nd-year pro has not put up consistently high numbers this season even with WR JuJu Smith-Schuster out of the lineup. Claypool should take over the starting position full-time next year with Smith-Schuster unlikely to return and the Steelers continue to be very high on him. He just has to be more consistent in his approach each week in order for him to reach his potential, which is large.
3) Gabriel Davis/Bills: The Bill coaches love his versatility (can play inside or outside) and if the team does not re-sign veteran WR Emmanuel Sanders next year, Davis would be in line to start. What’s interesting about him is that they didn’t exactly envision him as a “shot play” WR (though his per catch average in college was over 16) when they drafted him, but he’s averaging over 17 yards per catch on 52 receptions in less than two years of play. What does a really good job is tracking the ball from QB Josh Allen on scramble plays and I can tell from talking to the team that they envision him having a bigger role down the road.
4) Rashod Bateman/Ravens: He suffered a significant groin injury in August, so his rookie season has not produced the kind of numbers that most expected this season and has yet to score a TD. However, the coaches are still very high on him and expect his role to grow in the passing game in the future and he has the ability to line up inside or outside, which is really important in today’s NFL.
5) Nico Collins/Texans: While their QB situation for the future is clouded, Collins has continued to see a lot of playing time lately after dealing with some nagging injuries earlier this season. What the team really likes about him is his size and his ability to make contested catches and separate from defenders. While he hasn’t scored yet this season or done much from a fantasy perspective, his upside still makes it worth you adding him to your roster for the future.
6) Donovan Peoples-Jones/Browns: Unfortunately, he continues to deal with a lingering groin issue which has curtailed his progress this season. However, the 2nd-year pass catcher has performed well when healthy and he has taken over as a starter after the departure of veteran WR Odell Beckham Jr. What the team likes about Peoples-Jones is his ability to win with leverage against smaller DBs and he runs well for his size.
7) Kadarius Toney/Giants: He wouldn’t be on this list after his two big games much earlier this season. However, Toney can’t seem to stay healthy and you might be able to get him on the cheap end from a fantasy GM who’s frustrated with his inability to stay on the field. He still is a WR who you’ll want for his huge upside and is worth trading for if the cost isn’t prohibitive.
8) Anthony Schwartz/Browns: When they drafted him, the word was that the Browns saw Schwartz as a vertical slot WR. And that likely will be the case. He’s raw, but very fast. If you have him or want to acquire Schwartz, you’ll need to be very patient as he has a lot of development to make, but the payoff down the line could be very good.
9) Michael Gallup/Cowboys: He’s scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season and it’s hard to see the Cowboys paying him because of Amari Cooper and Ceedee Lamb’s presence. Gallup has good size and is an explosive receiver who figures to be a full-time starter somewhere else and is worth adding as your #3 WR.
10) Amon-Ra St. Brown/Lions: A lot has gone against him this season; poor play calling, less than stellar QB play, and overall, a bad offense. So, St. Brown, who’s averaging about 3.5 receptions per game could certainly see an increased role next season if the team addresses these issues. He projects to start down the line and is worth targeting as your #3 WR.
11) Terrace Marshall/Panthers: He’s had a very quiet rookie season. Some of that is due to some minor injuries he suffered earlier this season and some of it can be attributed to the poor QB play. Still, the Panthers remain very high on him and Marshall has a bright future as your #4 WR once they get their QB situation straightened out.
1) Pat Freiermuth/Steelers: The Steelers came into the season with a lot of pass targets to work with, but Smith-Schuster’s 1-year deal will expire in March and it seems rather unlikely that veteran TE Eric Ebron will return for another season with the team.
So it’s very possible that Freiermuth, who has scored in three out of his last four games, could see an increased role next season and beyond.
2) Cole Kmet/Bears: He has taken over the starting role at this position with the team in his 2nd season. Kmet, while a little robotic in his movements, still has better than average athletic ability and has shown, at times this season, that he can be a high volume pass target and he has really good size. You can expect him to start to develop better timing and chemistry with QB Justin Fields by working with him more next off-season, so Kmet could wind up being a decent starting fantasy TE down the road.
3) Harrison Bryant/Browns: If the Browns cut or trade veteran TE Austin Hooper, Bryant essentially would move up to the #1 spot on the depth chart at this point and the coaches are very high on him. And keep in mind TE David Njoku will be a free agent in March, so Bryant could go from not having any value to quite a bit for the future. Stay tuned.
4) Donald Parham Jr/Chargers: He’s playing behind veteran TE Jared Cook, who is on a one-year deal. Parham Jr is extremely difficult to cover in the redzone area (legit 6-8) and from talking to the team about him over time, it’s clear they want his role to continue to grow. While he still has improvement to make, Parham Jr is the type of player to stash on your dynasty league roster and watch his progress over time.
Here’s my inside look at most of today’s matchup from an inside perspective…
Panthers: What we’re told on OC Joe Brady’s firing (reasons for it):
- Brady did not adjust to what the defenses were doing pre and post-snap and did not call enough plays to combat what they were doing against them.
- He failed to diversify game plans; did not do a good enough job to scheme WRs and TEs open, which is a major issue at the NFL level.
- Failed to get WRs Robby Anderson and rookie Terrace Marshall involved, which could change going forward with new OC Jeff Nixon, who was promoted from RBs coach. He called the plays under HC Matt Rhule at Baylor.
Browns: 2nd-year WR Donovan Peoples-Jones (groin), who has been starting at the “X” position after the release of veteran WR Odell-Beckham Jr, is off the injury report this week after dealing with his injury for several weeks.
Because the team is down two TEs (Harrison Bryant, David Njoku), it’s possible that they go with more “11” personnel today (3-WR sets). They play the most “13” personnel in the NFL, but could have a hard time doing that due to those guys being out and keep in mind the Ravens are down their top-2 outside CBs (Marcus Peters, Marlon Humphrey).
Seahawks: 4th-year RB Rashaad Penny (right hamstring) is finally off the injury report and should see at least 10+ touches in today’s game (barring injury setback again in the game).
Saints: Starting RB Alvin Kamara (MCL) took in his usual amount of starter reps for 3 practices this week for the first time since he got hurt and will be in the lineup. Veteran RB Mark Ingram remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list long with Ty Montgomery, so Tony Jones should back up Kamara today.
QB Taysom Hill (right middle finger) took in all of the first-team reps in practice this week, which is an indication that he’s ready to go and hopefully he has no setback in the game. BTW, he’s no longer listed with the previous left plantar fascia injury.
Jets: QB Zach Wilson (PCL sprain) was not listed on the injury report this week for the first time since Week 7.
With veteran RB Tevin Coleman (concussion) out and rookie Michael Carter (high ankle) still on IR, the coaches will go with Ty Johnson, Austin Walter, and Lamical Perine today. If you’re really dying for help at RB, my money would be on Johnson to lead them at this position against one of the NFL’s best run defenses.
At WR, with Eli Moore (quadriceps) being placed on IR, they’ll go with Keelan Cole, Denzel Mims, Jamison Crowder, and Braxton Berrios at the position today. Veteran WR Corey Davis (groin surgery) was placed on IR earlier this week.
Jaguars: If you’re really struggling for a #3 or #4 WR at this point, former Vikings first-round pick Laquon Treadwell might be worth a look. He has taken over as a starter on the outside opposite veteran Marvin Jones and has shown to have the trust of the coaches, unlike Laviska Shenault. Treadwell is playing for a job and has plenty of motivation.
Titans: We’re told veteran WR Julio Jones (hamstring) had a good week of practice without any issues, which is why he was activated from IR on Saturday. Jones’s hamstring issues, we’re told, go back to August with the Titans and last year with the Falcons.
RB D’Onta Foreman (triceps) was removed from the injury report this week and will see a role in their rushing attack again with Dontrell Hilliard and veteran RB Jeremy McNichols (concussion) was cleared to play and is expected to see his usual role on 3rd downs, as he’s the best pass protector at the position.
WFT: The team did not add a TE off their practice squad, which would be a good indication that they believe TE Ricky Seals-Jones (hip-questionable) will be able to play with his injury today. He has missed the past 3 games with his injury.
Giants: Unfortunately, RB Saquon Barkley (left ankle) was put back on the injury report this week and still has been on it all but one week (Week 13).
Veteran QB Mike Glennon (concussion) will start after being cleared to play. Glennon, who was once one of the better young QB prospects very earlier in his career, struggles badly with recognizing coverages and does not move very well and will get stuck in the pocket. While he does possess a strong arm, accuracy is still an issue with him.
Chargers: Starting WR Keenan Allen (reserve/COVID-19) will not be available, but WR Mike Williams was activated off the list and will play. He was a close contact to Allen, which is why he was placed on that list.
It’s not 100% clear who will start for Allen, but rookie WR Josh Palmer provides the coaches the ability to use him as a possession pass target (Allen’s role) whereas WR Jalen Guyton will be used more on vertical routes. I recall asking someone high up in their front office during training camp who would fill in for Allen if he couldn’t play, and that person said they would go with a WRBC, but it would seem that Palmer fits that role better than Guyton.
For IDP owners, star S Derwin James (hamstring) was added to the injury report on Saturday and his status will be decided after pregame warm-ups.
49ers: The sense we’re getting is that RB Jeff Wilson (knee) will handle over 50% of the carries in this game provided the team doesn’t fall far behind.
It should be noted that Wilson dealt with issues related to his surgically repaired knee in last week’s game, which is why he only saw two snaps on offense. However, he took in full practices this week on Thursday and Friday and is set to play. RB JaMychal Hasty (ankle), who was not available in Week 12 due to his lingering high ankle sprain, is no longer on their injury report and is expected to back up Wilson with former Falcons RB Brian Hill handling the #3 role after being added from the practice squad on Saturday.
Defensively, the team is in dire straits at CB with starter Emmanuel Moseley (ankle) being placed on IR on Saturday and veteran CB Dontae Johnson, who would have started for Moseley, is now out due to personal reasons. They’ll go with veteran Josh Norman and a combination of rookies Deommodore Lenoir and Ambry Thomas on the other side. This is great news if you have Joe Burrow or the Bengal WRs on your fantasy roster(s).
Bengals: The positive news on Joe Mixon (illness-questionable) is that he was allowed to view practice on Friday, which is an indication that he was feeling much better.
In fact, he’s dealing with just a cold, and while players who are dealing with an illness are typically not allowed around the players since the pandemic started, he surprisingly was allowed to attend practice. Veteran RB Samaje Perine is his backup and it’s worth noting that the team did not add one of their practice squad RBs by Saturday’s roster deadline (4p ET) and rookie RB Chris Evans (ankle) is out, so the indication is clearly that Mixon should be available or they would have added another RB for today’s game.