Based on one of my favorite ’80s movies, Police Academy 4- Citizens on Patrol, I give you January’s Dynasty Futures Report- Veterans on the Move. While usually these reports are filled with young players who are either on waivers or maybe on a taxi squad, these are players who we know and have been on people’s rosters. Every guy on this list will be a free agent and looking for a new contract and possibly a new team.
I lay out the top five guys I’m looking to acquire now and why. We look at the pathway to fantasy relevancy and what they can be for your fantasy team. Free agency opens up on March 15th. These players will cost you more than the usual guys on the list but they are worth it. The pathway to relevancy is there. You might have to pay up for these players but we have seen what they can do and the production arrow is pointing up and they will outproduce what you are paying for.
Continued on this list are five players that are going to be on the market that I’m out on. The guys who I don’t see a strong path for being relevant on a new team. Cutting them might be harsh but for sure look to trade them away if you can. I also give you five free agents that I’m holding on to and waiting to see where they land and what that looks like in training camp and preseason. They have a few things working in their favor but would either need the perfect situation or less competition in front of them to have upside but can still be flex plays most weeks.
Mike Gesicki: Tight End
Mike Gesicki is undervalued right now. Coming into this year he was coming off two years of being a top-ten PPR tight end. Most people knew that he wasn’t going to be a factor in the new Miami offense with the scheme that Mike McDaniel was going to implement and the addition of Tyreek Hill. The issue came down to usage. While Gesicki was used considerably less, he wasn’t bad when he was on the field. He was only out there 45.1% of the team’s total snaps which is down from him being out there 71.6% last season. Despite the drop in actual snaps, he saw an increase in other areas. In 2021 he ran a route on 65.1% of his snaps. In the new system, he ran a route on 74.2% of his snaps. What hurt his fantasy value is that he was only targeted on 14.6% of his routes which is down from being targeted 20.7% of the time last year. Let’s not forget on a team that we all considered to be a high-powered offense, Gesicki was third on the team in targets. This was also a team that played with three different quarterbacks throughout the year. Consistency wasn’t there at all from the quarterback position. The quarterbacks in Miami weren’t given much time either. Combined they were sacked 34 times which would be top 10 if it was one quarterback.
Gesicki’s yardage number took a nose dive as he was only able to get 362 years which is about half of what he had in previous years where he was up around 700. He was seventh among tight ends in average depth of target at 9.2 yards so there is hope that with more targets he can get back to close to his previous yardage total. He did have a great season with touchdowns with five. That is good enough to be tied for seventh in the league. He was tenth among tight ends with 12 red zone targets, catching nine of them. The issue for Gesicki on the Dolphins was that there were few designed plays for Gesicki and the tight ends. Not being the first or second read on plays hurt his opportunities. Despite his down year in receptions and yards he still finished as the TE23 in PPR leagues and 20 in non-PPR.
Gesicki now heads to free agency. He is still on the younger side coming off his fifth season and turning 28 next year. He is a monster of a man at 6’6” and 250 lbs. He has a chance to pick his team and find a system that will use him more and get him back to the type of production he had in 2020 and 2021. According to Playerprofiler.com, he was number 1 in true catch rate which divides total receptions by the total catchable targets. The tight end market is shallow this season and traditionally rookie tight ends do not make an impact on teams. Imagine Gesicki on a team like Detroit that had their combo of tight ends catch 8 touchdowns after they traded away T.J. Hockenson. Gesicki for sure needs more opportunities to be successful but he has shown he can be a top-ten tight end in fantasy.
Coming into the 2022 season Gesicki was being drafted as the TE14 and despite finishing outside of that he was also not taken until the 12th round. I suspect that he will be somewhere later that in the 2023 drafts. Often fantasy managers are beholden to last year’s stats to want a young unproven player who can be the next hall-of-fame player. Gesicki is the type of tight end you can get very late in drafts or free after the draft that can provide steady consistent production and could turn into a league winner. He has the skill and history to do that. One year of down production in a new system shouldn’t define a player.
Tony Pollard: Running Back
Tony Pollard is coming off the best season of his career that had a horrible ending with a broken leg in the playoffs. While it seems like Pollard has been languishing as the backup in Dallas forever he actually just finished his fourth season in the league. He will be just a few months over 26 years old when the 2023 season starts and during this offseason will be looking for a new team. The Cowboys have a lot of money wrapped up in Ezekiel Elliott. He is due to get paid 10 million in the next two years and if he remains on the Cowboys would be due 15 and then 16 million. Even worse is that his cap hit next season is just over 18 million with a 30 million dead cap hit if they were to move off of him. It’s been clear from owner Jerry Jones that the Cowboys go as Zeke goes. Spotrac.com has Pollard’s market value in free agency to be around 8.4 million which is a massive raise from his 800k current contract. It’s a much-deserved raise for Pollard who has continually produced when given the opportunity. Pollard’s recovery from the broken leg will be a focal point for teams looking to sign him. He should be fully recovered come training camp but this could put a damper on his ability to cash in this offseason. If the market doesn’t believe in Pollard’s ability to return to form a return to Dallas is much more feasible. The Cowboys are projected to be over the cap coming into the 2023 season and while the cap is a myth that GMs can work around it would take some Hudini-level trickery to get enough room to have two running backs under big contracts. There is a world in which the Cowboys decide to trade or cut Elliott and keep Pollard as their lead back and complement him with Malik Davis who was in December’s report.
Pollard has been nothing but efficient when given the ball. He only has one season in his career where his yards per carry were under 5. He also has only one season of under 7 yards per catch and the past two years have been 8.64 and 9.51. Pollard this season has a career-high with nine rushing touchdowns and three receiving touchdowns. That ties Zeke with 12 on the season. Not all touchdowns are created equal though. The total yardage for Zeke’s touchdowns is 43 yards. Ten of his touchdowns came on plays with under 10 yards. Pollard’s total yardage on his touchdowns is 301 yards! He has only three touchdowns on plays under 10 yards. When you start to dig into Pollard’s pass-catching numbers more it screams how good he is. He is third in yards per route run at 1.98. He only has 2 dropped passes and is second in yards per reception at 9.5. Don’t let those numbers fool you into thinking that he is just a pass-catching back. Pollard had a breakaway run rate of 9.1% which is fourth in the league. He is an elusive back who evades defenders and tacklers. He evaded a total of 58 tackles which is the 18th-best in the league and that is while splitting time in the backfield. Pollard is an explosive back. He was 3rd this season with 17 runs of 15 or more yards. Pollard also has very little wear and tear on his body for a back turning 26 years old and coming out of his 4th season. Compared to the other top backs in the free-agent class Pollard stands out.
|Games Played||Total Touches (Carries + Receptions|
Pollard does fail to compare with those backs who all have over 30 touchdowns except Sanders. Pollard only has only 22 touchdowns in his career. Pollard is the best receiving back out of the group. He has the best yards per reception all while playing considerably fewer snaps than the other. He has the skill set and history to be a very productive back for a new team.
|Targets||Receptions||Receiving yards||Yards Per Reception|
Pollard can easily land on a team that is just a running back away from being very competitive and have plenty of opportunity in that new offense. He has the running ability and the pass-catching ability that makes him a key free agent for a team looking for a running back to be the main guy in the backfield. He should be held if not acquired this offseason.
Miles Sanders: Running Back
The Philadelphia Eagles are a run-first team and have been since they hired Nick Sirianni and turned to Jalen Hurts at quarterback. They ran the ball 48.4% of the time in 2022 which is the sixth most in the league. A big part of that run game was Miles Sanders. Sanders had his best year compiling 1269 rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns and adding 20 receptions for 78 yards. He enters free agency at the age of 25 turning 26 and looking to be a lead back for possibly a new team. This was a huge bounce-back year for Sanders who, in 2021 had zero touchdowns and a career-low 137 carries. This year not only did his stats go up he made backups Boston Scott and Kenneth Gainwell nothing more than options to give Sanders a breather. We see from the stats above with Pollard that Sanders doesn’t have the pass-catching work that the other backs in the market have but he does have the third-fewest touches. What helps Sanders in the market is his efficiency with the ball. Sanders has been very good averaging right around five yards per carry not only this past year but his career. His worst year was his rookie season back in 2019 where he averaged only 4.6. Very few running backs average over 5.0 yards per carry on the season and Sanders’s 4.9 is tied for seventh best this past season. That consistency and efficiency are what teams will be looking for come March. I expect Sanders to be a lead back on his new team.
|2022 Yards Per Carry||Career yard per carry average|
The Eagles have a bunch of aging veterans hitting the free-agent market. They will have to decide what to do based on how this postseason goes. They are built to make a strong run now but how long can they continue to buy a defense to keep them in games? They have ten players either already over the age of 30 or will be 30 during the next season. Seven of them are on the defensive side of the ball. It could be an offseason where the eagles look to revamp the defense and focus on that in free agency and with their spending. Along with Sanders, Boston Scott is also a free agent so that would leave only Kenneth Gainwell and Trey Sermon on the active roster. The Eagles will try to get Sanders to sign a team-friendly deal but with the way they have used him, he may want to see what another team can offer him. He is projected, by Spotrac.com to make around 7.2 million a year which is in the realm of Leonard Fournette’s contract.
Sanders will probably be brought into a team with a young rusher or a team that will draft one but Sanders has proven that he can beat out others. He did it in Philly with Scott and Gainwell who both showed flashes of skill in their limited work. The downside for Sanders is the lack of pass-catching. It’s not as if he can’t do it more the Eagles just didn’t use him there. In his rookie season, Sanders had 63 targets which was fourteenth most by a running back that season. With all the running backs hitting the market it creates demand as well. The Giants, Eagles, Saints, Dolphins, and Panthers should all be looking for a new starting back while the Vikings, Chiefs, Browns, and Vegas will be looking for a rotational guy. The days of having a single back run the offense are long gone and only a few teams employ such a scheme. Sanders could find himself on a team that will employ a 60/40 split with Sanders having the larger side of that split and the skill to take even more. He is a smaller running back at only 5’11” and 211 lbs. He hasn’t gotten much goal-line work in Philadelphia and probably won’t see that on a new team either. Just remember even without the short-yardage work he still scored 11 touchdowns this season.
Darius Slayton: Wide Receiver
Darius Slayton has been a name much-maligned the past few years after his solid rookie season in 2019. In his rookie campaign, Slayton put up 48 receptions 740 yards, and 8 touchdowns in 14 games. He disappointed fantasy owners in his sophomore year by playing all 16 games and even though he caught 50 passes had only 751 yards and 3 touchdowns. It was a big drop in fantasy production of 30 points in that year. In his third year, he only played in 13 games and struggled to find his place on the Giant’s offense. It looked like that would continue this year with the Giants spending big on Kenny Golladay and adding Wan’dale Robinson in the draft to go with last year’s top draft pick Kadarius Toney. What transpired is the complete opposite. Toney was shipped out to the Chiefs. Golladay was either injured or uninterested in playing, and Robinson struggled with injuries eventually landing on the IR. Slayton came back to form and led the receiving core in targets with 70 which only trailed Saquon Barkley for the team lead at 73.
There wasn’t a stat line that stood out for Slayton. He had 46 receptions, 724 yards, and two touchdowns. He was a solid wide receiver for fantasy, finishing as the WR52, which puts him in flex consideration every week. When you dig deeper into Slayons stats you see where he can be better. Slayton was credited with 8 drops which is the seventh most. So if he can fix that issue he could add some more yards. Fewer drops also build connection and trust from your quarterback which translates into more targets. He had a 64.8% catch rate with a true catch rate of 73%. True catch rate factors in only catchable passes. He was tenth in yards per reception at 15.7. He has the potential to be a solid field stretcher who can also be a reliable WR2 on a team that needs that extra set of hands to keep drives going and take some pressure off their top receiver. Remember that all of his stats came this year on a team that threw the ball only 52.25% of the time which is the eighth least in the league. Slayton should find himself on a team that has a better passing offense and can find a role there. Slayton has the skill set to get closer to 80 targets catching 50 of them for 800 yards and 5 touchdowns.
The Giants could bring Slayton back. He is familiar with that system but would probably have to take a team-friendly deal as the Giants have to sign both Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones to new deals. On top of that, they have to make some decisions on their center John Feliciano and the other wide receivers on the roster Richie James and Sterling Shepard. Slayton took a pay cut previously to stay with the team but given that they seem to do everything they can not to use him he might want to explore other options. More than half the league could be either starting with a new quarterback to their team or having a guy with three or fewer years of experience. Teams will be looking to surround their passers with weapons and sure-handed guys who can be the safety valve when things get tough. Slayton has that. The market for wide receivers has boomed over the past two years and teams are willing to throw money at talent. Slayton lacks the true size to be a WR1 in the league. At only 6’1” and 194 lbs he doesn’t have the size to be a red zone threat or to muscle his way through tough bump and run coverage. He does run good routes and presents a solid target for his quarterback. If you compare him to Christian Kirk who got paid last off-season, Slayton is taller and has similar production. In Kirk’s first four seasons, he had 17 touchdowns and 2902 yards. In Slayton’s first four seasons (which includes 2022) he had 15 touchdowns and 2554 yards. What we saw was Kirk go to a new team on a big deal and have the best year of his career with over 1000 yards and 8 touchdowns. He finished as the WR11 even though the team had many other pass-catching options. The same could happen for Slayton. Slayton’s floor is a solid flex play week in and week out for fantasy and his upside is a WR2. He is projected to get a contract of around three million a year which is pretty cheap for a solid wide receiver. He could be a complimentary piece on a team like the Chiefs or Cardinals. He could be the WR1A/B on a team like the Ravens or back with the Giants. Scoop him up cheap now before the hype takes hold once he signs.
Irv Smith: Tight End
Irv Smith was a hot dynasty draft pick when he was drafted in the second round back in 2019. He had a productive college career at Alabama despite only playing two years. He had a slow start to his career only having 311 yards and two touchdowns. He played all the games but was splitting tight-end duties with Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Conklin. In 2020, his second season, Smith broke out. He still had to contend with the other tight ends but lead the team in routes run. He ended the season with five touchdowns but only 30 receptions and 365 yards. He was a name on almost everyone’s break-out list heading into the 2021 season and then the worst happened. Smith suffered a knee injury in the last preseason game and missed the whole 2021 season.
Dynasty players have been holding out hope that Smith would return to the Viking’s offense and be the number two after Justin Jefferson. He started the 2022 season with some clear rust but was able to compile two touchdowns through eight games while playing on over 50% of the team’s snaps. In week 8 he hurt his finger which put him on the IR and the Vikings went out and shocked the world and traded for T.J. Hockenson. With Hockenson in the fold, it looks like Smith is the odd man out and headed to free agency. Smith is 6’2” and 240 lbs. He is a big man who can break tackles yet still has the shiftiness to get open. He is also sure-handed. He has caught just shy of 70% of his passes in the past two seasons he has played and in his rookie season, his catch percentage was 76.6%. According to PlayerProfiler.com Smith’s Expected Points Added (EPA), this season was +4.4 which was 58th best. That is in only eight games. In his break-out season of 2020, his EPA was +26.3 which was the ninth most. It’s a sign that Smith can be productive when used in an offense.
There are seven teams I predict that will be looking for a tight end to be either the starter or a heavily rotated guy. The Dolphins, Raiders, Jaguars, Packers, Lions, Cowboys, and Bengals will all be looking to fill that gap in their lineup. The free agent market isn’t filled with a ton of top names. Outside of Evan Engram and Dalton Schultz, names like Gesicki, Smith, Austin Hooper, Hayden Hurst, and Foster Moreau fill out the top guys. Smith’s draft capital being a second-round pick and the pedigree of coming from Alabama will make him a guy that teams will go after. Smith is also the youngest tight end on the market. His injuries, while concerning, mean there is still plenty of room for him to grow. He will also be on the cheaper side. He is projected by Spotrac.com to get close to 10 million a year which is less than what David Njoku is currently making. The fact that two divisional foes in the Packers and Lions are probably looking for a tight end is compelling. They have familiarity with Smith and could see him as an advantage against the current division winners. Most dynasty owners are out on Irv Smith. He has let them down enough and with the tight end position usually being a one-off position there isn’t a lot of need to hold a ton of them. Smith should be added right now. He will go to a team that needs a guy to not block but be a pass-catching weapon. Out of the seven teams looking for a tight end five of them are high-powered passing offenses and the others have solid offenses that could use an upgrade.
5 Cut Candidates
Marvin Jones: Wide Reciever
33-year-old wideout who is now two years removed from a good season.
Mecole Hardman: Wide receiver
His game is built on speed but couldn’t produce on a team that uses players just like him. Boom or bust who mainly bust.
DeAndre Carter: Wide receiver
Soon to be 30 years old. Couldn’t produce despite ample opportunities on a good passing team.
Robert Tonyan: Tight End
A soon-to-be 30-year-old tight end who has 17 touchdowns in five years. Eleven of them came in one year.
Kareem Hunt: Running Back
Soon to be 28 and his production fell off this year and last year. Would only be a passing down back on a new team.
5 Hold Candidates
Jakobi Meyers: Wide Receiver
Coming off his best year. Only 27 at the start of the season. Good at everything you need a receiver to do.
Mack Hollins: Wide Receiver
Will be 30 but has two straight years of four touchdowns and is 6’4′. Huge red zone threat.
Foster Moreau: Tight End
Only 25 years old and has been productive on limited work. Good route runner and blocker.
Alexander Mattison: Running Back
Turning 25. Could end up as the main back on a team. Shown flashes of being a quality player.
Devin Singletary: Running back
Two years of solid production on a pass-heavy team. Can be a good rotational guy in a committee and a starter if called upon.
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Nick Wosika & Doug Murray / Icon Sportswire