This marks the 13th edition of the Dynasty Futures Report. Given the time of year with re-draft leagues prepping for drafts and even the most absent of dynasty managers tuning back in, I wanted to look back at five players who I highlighted before. I’ve been revisiting one player a month for a while now, but these five need to be revisited before the season gets into full swing; they provide even more upside now. Again, these players are not the stars of your team nor are they the every-week lineup staples. They are bye-week fill-ins or players who can provide value over their current cost. They could become weekly flex plays if things break right for them. I lay out the pathway to opportunity as well as a look into their production and skill level both in their limited time in the NFL as well as college.
Malik Davis – RB, Dallas Cowboys
Below is from December 2022. I was wrong about which running back would no longer have the star on their helmet, but the pathway to fantasy relevancy is still the same. The Dallas Cowboys choose to cut Ezekiel Elliot despite the massive cap hit and are looking to roll with Tony Pollard as the main guy. The issue with Pollard is that he has never been a number-one rusher for a team. In his four-year career, he has yet to surpass 200 carries or 250 total touches. Both career highs in those categories came last season. Pollard was also franchise tagged and failed to reach an agreement. However, he didn’t threaten to hold out like star running backs Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs, the latter of whom won’t be reporting to camp anytime soon.
There is a ton of hype for Bijan Robinson because of how much the Atlanta Falcons grind it out on the ground, but the Cowboys ran the ball 28 fewer times than the Falcons last year. They are poised to be a run-heavy team, and that points to significant work for another rusher beyond Pollard. On a related note, head coach Mike McCarthy said one of the reasons they replaced Kellen Moore with Brian Schottenhiemer was because the Cowboys were scoring too fast and the defense wasn’t rested enough. Guess how you slow the game down on offense? You run the ball! So if the Cowboys compiled 531 rushing attempts last year, how many will they have this year? The answer involves more opportunity for a rusher behind Pollard.
Enter Malik Davis, currently the top backup heading into training camp. He will have to fend off much-maligned veteran Ronald Jones and diminutive rookie Deuce Vaughn. Rojo is now on his 3rd team in as many years and logged only 17 carries last season with the Chiefs. While it was a great draft moment to see his dad make the selection call, Deuce Vaughn doesn’t project as an NFL rusher. At 5’6 and 177 lbs he is vastly undersized. Davis is a slightly bigger back with a size and build very similar to Tony Pollard, yet another sign pointing to a productive season for Davis.
If and when Pollard comes out of the game, Davis can slide in and the offense remains unchanged. Yes, the Cowboys could still bring in a back but most likely that will be a bigger back who would vulture goal line work from both Davis and Pollard. Regardless, Davis should be looked at as one of the top handcuffs this year who offers possible stand-alone value.
We still don’t know what Davis can be on the field: he averaged 4.24 yards per carry on just 38 carries last year. Those aren’t earth-shattering numbers but they offer hope that he can be very effective. If Davis were to maintain that efficiency while approaching 150 rushing attempts (Pollard had 193 as the team’s RB2 last season), he would accumulate just under 750 yards. If he can manage to hit pay dirt a few times he could easily sneak into the top 36 at the position and become a solid flex play.
After this year, with Pollard on the franchise tag, the Cowboys will be looking to find their next franchise running back. If Davis plays well they could offer him a decent contract. He is set to be an exclusive rights free agent so he probably wouldn’t be going anywhere. Even if the Cowboys brought in a top free agent or drafted a starter Davis should still be the backup moving forward. He currently isn’t being drafted and is probably on your waiver wire. If you are working on a trade you can probably get him thrown in as an add-in.
The Dallas Cowboys have been employing a two-running back rushing attack this season with Tony Pollard and Ezekiel Elliot. They are both having productive years
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They are both seeing plenty of opportunities and making the best of them both in yardage and touchdowns. They are benefiting from playing behind a solid offensive line that could get better with Tyron Smith returning in 2023. Who possibly won’t be returning is Tony Pollard. He is set to become a free agent after this season and is having a career year that will probably lead to him getting paid in the offseason. Currently, Spotrac.com has him estimated to get a contract worth close to 7.8 million, which would be in the same range as starters like Leonard Fournette, James Conner, and Austin Ekeler. If the Cowboys were to sign Pollard to a contract in that range, they would have over 17 million a year tied up in their running backs between Pollard and Elliot. The cap hit would be somewhere north of 24 million. Pollard will be 26 at the time he signs. Behind Pollard is rookie Malik Davis, who could be poised to step into that role. The Cowboys do have some tough decisions to make, as they also are looking at starting TE Dalton Schultz and center Connor McGovern hitting free agency as well. With one of the lowest teams in terms of available cap space, the front office will have to get creative with the contract or let some players leave to field what should be a Super Bowl-contending team.
Davis is 5’11” 202lbs., compared to Pollard who is 6’0” 209 lbs. Davis was an undrafted rookie coming out of Florida but impressed scouts at his pro day with his vertical jump and SPARQ rating. He did not show very well in his 40 times, with an unofficial number of 4.57. He was a 5-year player for the Gators. He played in a total of 45 games in his college career and amassed 1470 yards, 8 touchdowns, and added 70 receptions for 726 yards and 2 touchdowns. It’s a rather low-scoring volume, which is probably why he fell in drafts but was also behind Dameon Pierce for most of his career there. It’s the pass-catching work that will be needed if Pollard were to be in another city come September. Davis averaged 9.4 yards per reception his senior year after averaging 12.2 his junior year. He has great vision and excellent hands and uses patience to set up blocks and allow himself more space to make up for his lack of top-end speed. This is the first year that Dallas has run a true two-back set, so they could revert back to Zeke being the main back in 2023, but given his age and the amount of wear he has had it would behoove the Cowboys to limit his touches for the next few years. If they do that, Davis could be the main handcuff and possibly find stand-alone value if he inherits the Pollard role going forward. We have already seen Davis get some work this season averaging 4.48 yards per carry on limited work of 23 carries.
Bailey Zappe – QB, New England Patriots
Let’s look back at what I wrote just 6 months ago. The Patriots have certainly been in a state of change since then. They finally brought in a true offensive coordinator in the form of Bill O’Brien. They added Juju Smith-Schuster to their wide receiver room and brought in a massive talent in Mike Gesicki at tight end. Mac Jones remains as the starter, which certainly puts a damper on Bailey Zappe‘s current value. However, there are still reasons to hold or acquire Zappe.
First, Mac Jones doesn’t have a firm grasp on the job. For me, the quarterback position is equal parts skills, coaching, mental approach, and the surrounding team. I fully believe that Mac Jones has each of these skills, but Zappe does as well. We now have a coach in place to better fit the players to the offense, which helps both quarterbacks. The team is the team. They don’t have stud wide receivers but they have guys who are reliable. Then we get to the mental piece. That’s where I think Zappe can overtake Jones. There have been plenty of reports about Jones not clicking with the coaches and team as well as instances in which he publicly showed frustration with how things went last year.
Jones had four games with either the same number of touchdowns-to-interceptions or worse; he also put up no passing touchdowns in five games. He could get frustrated sooner rather than later, and if the Patriots falter out of the gate, we could see them make the switch to Zappe to spark the team. The Patriots start the season against the Eagles, Dolphins, Jets, and Cowboys. Those are four of the best defenses and secondaries in the game.
If I’m looking to add a quarterback either via free agency or late in the draft, Bailey Zappe might be worth the flier. Let’s not forget: in his four games played (two full games and two partials), he threw 5 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. If given more playing time, we could see that efficiency continue. Even if he doesn’t take over fully for Mac Jones, backup quarterbacks are worth rostering in superflex leagues and monitoring in 1QB leagues. Last year, 69 total quarterbacks played, but only ten started every game for their team. If you are streaming in a 1QB league, you might eventually find Zappe to be a viable option.
This may seem like an odd name here. Bailey Zappe has a second-year quarterback in front of him on the Patriots in Mac Jones, and while Zappe played well in his relief of Jones, the Patriots went back to Jones when he was fully healthy. One of my key focal points for this article is laying out the pathway for a player to get to significant playing time, and that is even harder when it comes to the quarterback position, as usually, only one plays at a time for a team. The Patriots seem to be set on Mac Jones being their future. Jones has played in 28 games so far in his career and has amassed 29 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He has only averaged 214 yards per game. It’s not the type of stats that jump off the page at you. He is by no means a high-end quarterback. What does that mean for the future? There have been some reports that Mac Jones has lost the locker room and that some of the team prefers Zappe. The Patriots could be headed for a true quarterback controversy next off-season. The Patriots have a strong history of building up quarterback value and then trading one away. Think about Jimmy Garrapollo, Jacoby Brissett, Drew Bledsoe, Ryan Mallett, and Matt Cassell. The Patriots could find themselves answering the phone a lot come the spring from teams looking for a new signal caller. It’s a hot market with possibly a third of the league looking for a new man under center or at least an heir apparent. There are also a large number of Belichick proteges coaching in the league who want to build the dynasty that the Patriots once had.
Zappe is 23 while Jones is 24, so either could be a viable option for a team looking to add someone who has slightly more experience than an incoming rookie and has had at least a year under the tutelage of Bill Belichick. Zappe has already shown his NFL ability. In his 4 games as a pro, he has five touchdowns and only three interceptions. He averaged 248 yards in his two full games as a starter. Even if you factor in all of his passing, he still averages 195 yards per game. In college, Zappe went to small Houston Baptist Univesity before transferring to Western Kentucky for his senior year. In that senior year, Zappe was electric. He threw for an NCAA single-season record 5967 yards and 62 touchdowns. Just for reference, in his three years at Alabama, Mac Jones threw for 56 touchdowns. Joe Burrow had 60 touchdowns in his senior year at LSU. It’s astounding production that can’t just be overlooked. The fact that it was only one year and at a smaller conference is what hurt his draft stock. He doesn’t overly impress anyone with measurable stats. He is only six feet tall and 215 lbs. He might lack the arm strength to make the massive throws that we have come to love in the NFL, but he is very accurate with his deep balls and can adjust to throwing away from coverage. He is a solid quarterback from a mechanics standpoint and would need a system around him that is built to his strengths. That system could be in New England and they ship out Jones or it could be elsewhere if the Pats decide to stay with Jones. Even if both remain in New England Zappe still has value in a dynasty, especially in two QB leagues. He has the same skill set as Jones so if he does have to come in he won’t have to learn or the team won’t have to change to fit him. Jones isn’t known as a real mobile passer so will probably be taking more sacks than escaping them with the scramble adding the extra risk of injury.
Pierre Strong – RB, New England Patriots
In October 2022, I told you to acquire Pierre Strong. Since then, Damien Harris did not resign and is now a Buffalo Bill. The Patriots signed James Robinson in the offseason but then released him (he subsequently landed with the Giants). The Patriots have brought in a few veteran running backs for workouts, but have yet to sign one. They are among the betting favorites to sign Dalvin Cook, but the fact that they have yet to sign any of the multiple free agent running backs on the market is a good sign for Strong.
While Rhamondre Stevenson is the workhorse, there will be plenty of opportunities to go around. I’m not scared of Ty Montgomery. His signing has been a fiasco for the Patriots, who have gotten little out of him. Kevin Harris is there, but hasn’t done much with his opportunities, either. Strong’s pass-catching ability leads me to like what he can be in that offense: fantasy football targets are ultimately worth more than carries, making pass-catching running backs like Pierre Strong comparatively valuable.
Strong was productive in college and has impressive speed and vision. With running back being such a volatile position, you need to have depth and lottery tickets on your dynasty roster. The misconception that bad NFL teams don’t produce fantasy-relevant players needs to be thrown out: solid players from bad offenses regularly produce. There is a ton of love and hype for Rhamondre and rightfully so after his 1,000-yard season, but that was with Damien Harris missing 6 games. Bill Belichick is known for mixing in multiple running backs and rarely utilizes a bell cow type. There’s a better-than-non-zero chance that last year’s production was fluky due to Harris’s injury, so I’m looking to add Strong to my rosters and reap the benefits when he becomes a flex play with RB2 upside.
The New England backfield has always been a minefield for fantasy managers. While I wish that were coming to an end It looks as if it will just continue. The good news is we have seen it capable of producing two solid fantasy-relevant running backs. The 2022 season has parred the backfield down to just two relevant players. Damien Harris and Rhamondre Stevenson. Looking ahead to the 2023 camping there will probably be a shift. Harris is a free agent and the Patriots are notorious for not signing their own free agents and not spending much in free agency either. This would leave Rhamondre as the starter and Pierre Strong as the number two. He has a very similar size to Harris who is 5’11 213 lbs. Strong comes in at 5’11 207 lbs. Compared to Stevenson who is 6’0 230 lbs. Harris will be 25 and hitting free agency which can be a turn-off to teams but he should still get a shot at a starting job. He’s projected to get a contract of around 6.5 million a year. That’s a significant contract for a team that will also be deciding if they want to keep wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, tackle Isaiah Wynn as well as 18 other free agents on the team. It’s possible the Patriots let most of their big names leave and continue to build a youth movement behind Mac Jones or Bailey Zappe and Stevenson. When New England does open its tightly held wallet it is usually on the defensive side of the ball.
Strong was a 4th round draft pick in 2022. He came out of South Dakota State. A very small school in the Missouri Valley football conference. He was a four-year player for the Jackrabbits. He played in 48 games and had 631 rushing attempts and 4527 yards. He had three seasons of over 1000 yards. He also amassed 40 rushing touchdowns. He added to that three receiving touchdowns on 62 receptions for 581 yards. He also had SIX passing touchdowns in his college career. This a wrinkle I’m sure Bill Belichick has noted for future gadget plays. Strong is a very fast rusher. His 4.37 40 times at the combine jumped off the page for scouts who weren’t informed of the FCS star. On top of his speed and quickness, he has great vision. He uses that vision and quickness to make cuts and find open holes and areas. The ability to find space will translate well to the NFL where he can be used in multiple ways. He can make guys miss in the open field and use his massive legs to gain yards after contact. He probably needs work in the passing game but something that he can learn from the experienced coaching staff in New England.
Cole Turner: TE, Washington Commanders
Cole Turner first showed up in the November 2022 Dynasty Futures Report. Back then, as you can see below, I was talking about how the Commanders were in a state of flux and things were changing. A lot has indeed changed since then. Head coach Ron Rivera is still there but they brought in highly-touted offensive coordinator Eric Beinemy. They moved on from quarterback Carson Wentz and appear to be handing the reins to second-year passer, Sam Howell. Cole Turner is still worth rostering and acquiring. He hasn’t done much in his NFL career to date due to very limited opportunities but was solid in college. Tight end is a position in fantasy that is often either highly emphasized in tight end premium leagues or punted in more standard formats. Finding the “diamond in the rough” tight ends helps you win because you can focus on more coveted and higher-ranked players at other positions earlier in your draft.
The challenge for Turner will be opportunity. He shares a huddle with wide receivers Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, and Curtis Samuel. The Commanders (or whatever they will be called soon) also have two good running backs in Brian Robinson and Antonio Gibson the latter of whom can factor into the passing game. On top of that, he has to beat out veteran Logan Thomas and fellow youngster John Bates.
Thomas has received mixed reports this offseason. He was talked about as a possible cut candidate since the team could save almost $7 million this year if they release or trade him. The team’s new ownership is the same group that owns the New Jersey Devils (NHL) and the Philadelphia 76ers (NBA). Both of those teams under this ownership have gone through “the process” and have shed veteran talent and contracts to acquire picks to get better in the long-term. The Commanders could conceivably do the same, which would open things up for lesser-known players on the roster like Turner and Bates.
Bates played more games than Turner but, both averaged approximately 8 routes run per game. I don’t expect Turner to take the leap into the top 10 at the position in his second year but I expect him to start being more involved in the offense, making him a great flyer in deep leagues. As the top tight ends in the league like Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, and George Kittle start to age out, having a guy who could become a solid tight end as soon as this year could pay dividends. If Turner gets the role, whether by talent or by roster position, he should outperform his ADP, which is quite low since he often goes undrafted.
The Washington Commanders are in flux. They hired Ron Rivera to be the coach back in 2020 and despite not having a season with a winning record he did win the NFC East division in his first year. He now has a team with some young talent and a ton of potential. They seemed to have missed with signing quarterback Carson Wentz but things are working out for rookie wideout Jahan Dotson and oft-injured receiver Curtis Samuel. The team’s ownership is now in question as Dan Snyder is looking at options for possibly selling the team. The turnover on the team could mean that some other changes are coming. One of them could be at the tight end position.
Veteran Logan Thomas has played well over his tenure with the Commanders but has missed a bunch of games due to injuries. He has a contract through the 2024 season but there is an opt-out after this season that would save the team 12 million over two years and only be a 3.5 million dead cap hit. It would seem that the Commanders could move on from him and allow current rookie Cole Turner to step into the starting job. The Commanders don’t have a lot of priority free agents currently on the team so they could spend and the tight end could be an area they address but Turner should be enough for them or at least see the field even with another man on the roster.
Turner would compete with John Bates in this scenario. The two young tight ends are both capable of being the starter but there are a lot of reasons to see Turner being the lead dog.
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It’s clear that Turner was the better college athlete. Both he and Bates are 6’6” while Bates weighed in at 260 lbs and Turner at 240 lbs. Bates ran a 4.80 40 time while Turner came in at 4.76. Neither of them has blazing speed but you wouldn’t expect that from such big men. The college production disparity just stands out. What’s even more telling is that 19 of Turner’s touchdowns came in his final two years. In his first two seasons, he only played six games for Nevada. He was originally a wide receiver so he projects as someone who can split outside and will probably need to work on his blocking or be in the right scheme. He has good ball tracking and contested-catch skills. He could stand to bulk up and become a player who can use his strength as well as his skills and size to make plays.
Being currently third on the depth chart he has gotten a lot of practice time with the second team which is run by fellow rookie Sam Howell, who projects to be the starter in 2023 and was featured in October’s report. That chemistry and opportunity combined with his skill level as a receiver is a recipe for a good tight end. In fantasy, there are only a few top-tier ones. I don’t expect Turner to reach that level but could separate himself and rise to the top of the tier two group.
Charlie Kolar – TE, Baltimore Ravens
The Ravens’ offense is a hot topic of discussion this offseason. Lamar Jackson and his contract loomed large during the free agency period, but that is now settled. The Ravens brought in Todd Monken to be the offensive coordinator and install his high-powered and fast-paced offense, one that led the Georgia Bulldogs to back-to-back national championships while scoring 40.7 points per game. That was an offense helmed by Stetson Bennett, a 4th round pick of the Los Angeles Rams.
With Lamar Jackson implementing that offense, it should be even more potent than it was in Georgia, albeit on a bigger stage against NFL defenses. A big part of the success of that offense hinges on who will be catching passes from the former NFL MVP. Tight end Mark Andrews is the clear top-receiving option. After that, it’s anyone’s guess who will emerge as the secondary option.
Rashod Bateman is still dealing with the after-effects of a prior injury. The Ravens brought in Odell Beckham Jr and drafted Zay Flowers to give the offense more firepower. Last year the fantasy community got very excited about Isaiah Likely, and rightfully so: he finished the year with 60 targets, 36 receptions for 373 yards, and 3 touchdowns. While those numbers aren’t amazing, two of his biggest games came when Mark Andrews missed time. The Ravens continued to run two tight end sets with either Likely or Andrews lining up in the slot.
With so much uncertainty surrounding the pecking order in the passing game, we should be on the lookout for other pass catchers from Baltimore. I still believe Charlie Kolar is a name to watch. As outlined below he was just as good as Likely in college, if not better. However, his rookie season was hampered by injury, so Kolar only saw playing time in the last week of the season. In that game, he saw 6 targets and caught four of them for 49 yards. Andrews didn’t play, and Likely saw 13 targets, but it was Kolar’s first real NFL action, so it was exciting to see him fare well. Kolar could see increased work this year as the Ravens look to keep the tempo up and spread the ball around. As a player that no one is really mentioning, he can be scooped up cheaply and could be a nice deep sleeper.
The Baltimore Ravens appear to be a run-first team. They haven’t invested a ton into the wide receiver position over the years. Baltimore ran two tight end sets on 25% of their snaps in 2021 and 2020 with the combo of Mark Andrews and Nick Boyle. In 2019 they ran it 41% of the time with Boyle and Hayden Hurst. 2019 is also the year that Lamar Jackson won the NFL MVP. It seems the Ravens are going back to that system with Andrews and Isaiah Likely in 2021. While Likely has a lot of buzz coming out of the preseason and some minor early season flashes most fantasy owners are forgetting that the Ravens drafted Charlie Kolar a few picks before Likely.
Kolar missed most of the preseason and was placed on short-term IR after having surgery for a sports hernia. He will be back eventually this season and will probably take some time to get up to NFL speed. When he does he could start seeing playing time in the offense. Currently Likely has played on 36% of the Ravens snaps. He is running routes on 84% of his passing snaps. If Kolar can start to eat into that role he could return value on a stash now. Athletically Likely and Kolar have very similar profiles.
College production was also very similar for the two tight ends. Kolar played in the Big 12 for Iowa State while Likely played in the Sun Belt for Coastal Carolina. So the level of competition for Kolar was much higher. While college production isn’t amazing for either, at the tight end position it’s often not a clear indicator of future success.
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In terms of future opportunity, Devin Duvernay, who is currently the number three passing option after Andrews and Rashod Bateman, is a free agent in 2024. While there will always be wide receivers besides Bateman, there is potential for Kolar to have a role. If you are buying the potential for Likely in this offense, you can stash Kolar now for way cheaper. It will be interesting to see what happens in 2022 when Kolar comes back. I don’t expect a massive upside right away. A sports hernia is not the easiest thing to come back from and then he needs to get used to the speed and dynamic of the NFL over college. He can be a stash, especially in tight-end premium leagues.
Isaiah Spiller – RB, Los Angeles Chargers
Ekeler is unhappy; Spiller is the backup offering the most upside
Tyler Allgeier – RB, Atlanta Falcons
Falcons are a run-first team that has rotated backs to date under the current regime
Romeo Doubs – WR, Green Bay Packers
Packers have a new quarterback; could emerge from an unproven wide receiver room
K. J. Hamler – WR, Denver Broncos
Career has been slowed by injuries, but now plays with a HOF quarterback and coach
Clyde Edwards-Helaire- RB, Kansas City Chiefs
There are questions in front of him on the depth chart; still relatively young
Jacob Eason – QB
Flamed out on four teams already
La’Michael Perine – RB, Kansas City Chiefs
Third team in 3 years; can barely see him on the depth chart
Hasaan Haskins – RB, Tennessee Titans
Legal trouble looming; displaced by newly-drafted RB
Montrell Washington – WR, Denver Broncos
Special team player, buried on the depth chart
Andy Isabella – WR, Buffalo Bills
Currently the fourth slot receiver on the depth chart, not including Dalton Kincaid