It’s the time of year when dynasty managers are adjusting their rosters, making cuts, and making trades. We take a look at five new players and re-visit a past player to give you some dynasty diamonds in the rough. We lay out the pathway to success both this year and down the road. We look at what they can do when given the opportunity. While dynasty managers are excited about the incoming rookies this is the time you can add value to your team from previous years draftees who don’t hold the same shine.
These aren’t the players that will cost you a ton. They will probably be hitting waivers or on the cusp of making some teams and could provide some roster-clearing opportunities for your league mates.
Shi Smith: WR, Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers are in a state of offensive rebranding. They started by changing coaches early in the offseason. They hired the franchise’s first quarterback Frank Reich. They then went out and traded for the first overall pick in the 2023 draft. Moving up from 9th overall to 1st overall cost them plenty but one of the biggest pieces was wide receiver D.J. Moore. It left the Panthers with a depleted wide receiver corp. Free agency came around and the Panthers signed veterans Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark as well as tight end Hayden Hurst. They also brought in quarterback Andy Dalton and running back Miles Sanders. It’s a total re-brand from the 2022 offense. One of the few holdovers from 2022 is wide receiver, Shi Smith. He finished the 2022 season as the WR3 behind Moore and Terrace Marshall. The NFL draft was not overly kind to Smith. The Panthers with the first overall pick selected quarterback Bryce Young and then selected wide receiver Jonathan Mingo in the second round. It’s a blow to the depth chart position of Smith who could slide down the depth chart further. Smith is still worth holding on to though. Adam Theilen is 32 years old and while has produced that was on another offense. 32 is the age that we start to see receivers’ production dip. D.J. Chark hasn’t played a full season at all in his five-year career. He hasn’t been fantasy relevant in 3 years. Terrace Marshall has been a bust since joining the Panthers the same year Smith did in 2021. Even if Smith is behind Theilen, Cark, and Mingo on the depth chart he should be ahead of Marshall. First off Smith was the primary slot receiver for the Panthers in 2021. All the other receivers are bigger wideouts who play mostly on the outside. Smith ran 321 routes last year and 78.7% of them came from the slot position. He out-snapped Lavishka Shenault. Under Reich the Colts were running 3 wide receiver sets 69.5% of the time. The Panthers ran 3 wide sets 71% of the time. So slot receiver production should remain the same heading into 2023. While you might be concerned that under a new coaching staff, Shi Smith might fall out of favor as he isn’t one of their guys. Reich has been around the league long enough to recognize talent and use the players in front of him. The fact that the Panthers didn’t draft a slot receiver in a draft that was full of slot receivers is a sign that Smith will be the one filling that role this season. With Bryce Young prepared to take over under center he could be looking for a sure-handed receiver like Smith running shorter routes over the middle.
Shi Smith comes in at 5’10 190 lbs. He was drafted by the Panthers in the 6th round of the 2021 draft. He was able to make the team and find himself a role. In his rookie season, he only saw 11 targets over the course of six games. In his sophomore season, he ended up with 41 targets. He only ended with just under 300 yards and 3 touchdowns. He was 4th on the team in targets behind both D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffery who are no longer on the team. Smith was a four-year player for South Carolina where he lead the team in receiving in 2020. The three years before that he was behind the likes of Deebo Samuel and Bryan Edwards. He did play both inside and outside in college so he can fill in on the outside. Most of his production will come from the slot. in 2021 for the Colts Parris Campbell saw 85 targets which was second on the team. Smith could be in line for similar numbers. Currently, the excitement around the Panthers offense is around Young, Mingo, and Thielen but Smith should have a solid role this season. He lacks the home run threat that other receivers may have but he can be a target monster and see games where he spikes. Weeks 6 and 7 last year Campbell saw double-digit targets. Smith might be more of the best ball play this year but he is still only 24 years old entering his third season. He is worth a dart throw if you have a roster spot. Going into his third year he probably isn’t eligible for your taxi squad but should be able to have some weeks as a flex play and an increased role if he moves up the depth chart.
Jerome Ford: RB, Cleveland Browns
Jerome Ford is a curious case study as a prospect coming out of Cincinnati back in 2021. He played two years at Alabama but then transferred to the Bearcats for the 2020 season. His first three years of college he struggled to find the field and a role on his teams but broke out in his final year. He finished the 2021 season with 1319 yards and 19 touchdowns. He was top 10 in rushing touchdowns in all of the NCAA and top 20 in yards. He averaged 6.1 yards per carry. In his first year at Cincy, he rushed for eight touchdowns in only ten games. He measured in at 5’10 and 210 lbs at the combine and ran a 4.46 40 time. Compare that to the 2022 draftee Bijan Robinson who measured in at 6’0 215 lbs and had 1580 yards and 18 touchdowns his final year. Ford ended up slipping to the 5th round where the Cleveland Browns selected him. He ended up on a team that already had Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and D’Ernest Johnson on the roster. He failed to see the field much only getting 8 carries over two games and producing only 12 yards. He has speed and size but seems to lack the passion and vision to hit holes quickly. He is an athletic freak who needs to understand how to utilize that in his rushing especially early. He is great in the open field and is hard to bring down because of his size and speed. Pass protection is another area he needed to improve coming out of college. After one season on the Browns roster hopefully, he has improved.
The Browns have turned over their running back room this offseason. They have let both Hunt and Johnson explore free agency. The Browns came into the draft with Chubb, Ford, and Demetric Felton as their running backs on the roster. In a very deep draft class at the running back position, the Browns did not take one despite having 4 picks combined in the 3rd and 4th rounds. The Browns ran the ball 47.67% of the time in 2022. That was the 8th most in the NFL. Overall they ran the ball on average 31.3 times per game which is the 5th most. While Chubb is the main rusher for the Browns there is plenty of volume for the change-of-pace guy. The Browns letting Hunt leave opens up 123 rushing attempts for Ford and Felton to step into. While Hunt struggled later in the season that was partly due to the overall lack of offense once Deshaun Watson came back from nearly two years off. Hunt was also 27 and saw his yards per carry drop from the 4.5 range to the 3.8 range. Chubb is now 27 and has a ton of wear on the tires. He is coming off a season where he had over 300 carries. It was his first full season in the past three years. While I wouldn’t call him injury prone he has missed time before giving opportunity for someone else to step up. Ford is the clear handcuff to Chubb. While I like Felton as a possible pass catcher he hasn’t gotten the opportunities and Ford was drafted after him. They are both players selected by this coaching staff and the lack of running back addition this offseasons shows me they are comfortable with them moving forward. Hunt played on just shy of 42% of the team’s total snaps. Ford should be in line for that role. He will have to prove he can be a better pass catcher than Felton but he is a clear better rusher. As a handcuff, he is someone who needs to be on your radar for this year. After this year he could be in store for a larger role. Chubb’s 2024 contract carries a 16.2 million dollar cap hit but also only $4 million dead cap space. The Browns have a ton of money tied up in Watson and will need to focus on other team needs. With both Felton and Ford on rookie contracts, it saves the team money and they could bring in a cheap veteran to supplement. He reminds me of James Conner back when he was Le’veon Bell‘s backup just waiting for his opportunity and then turning it into not only a good career but a fantasy-relevant career.
Jack Stoll & Grant Calcatera: TE, Philadelphia Eagles
When we talk about high-powered, high-scoring offenses in the NFL the Philadelphia Eagles are always at the top of the list. They host a devy of pass catchers including wide receivers A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith and tight end Dallas Goedert. With Jalen Hurts under center, the Eagles were second in points scored at 477 trailing only the Chiefs at 496. While the two-star receivers are the main focal points of the passing game Goedert was a crucial point of the offense. Goedert averaged just under 6 targets and 58.5 yards per game. He finished the season with 141.20 points good enough to be the fantasy TE12. He caught 79.7% of his targets. All these stats were through 12 games. Had Goedert played all 17 he would have finished with a stat line of 99 targets, 79 receptions for 994.5 yards. Those stats alone would move him into the top 5 in tight ends and doesn’t even take into account the three times he scored or the potential another touchdown he would have added. When you factor those in he would have had 202 fantasy points moving him into the top 3 of the position. While Goedert is a very solid option he did miss those five games. While he was out the Eagles filled his role with both Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra. Both are solid options and were pretty evenly matched in targets over that span (8 to 9). Stoll had the better metric in terms of being a receiver. First off Stoll was playing before Geodert went out. He played a ton of snaps blocking but was still on the field. Calcaterra didn’t start seeing targets until Goedert went out. When the starting tight end position was open both Stoll and Calceterra had games where they failed to run a route. Stoll ran almost double the routes over that span, 106 to Calcaterra’s 56. They finished with similar yards per target numbers, Stoll at 8.79 and Calcaterra at 9. Neither of them has a touchdown in their NFL career yet. The Eagles only had 11 res zone targets to their tight ends which was near the bottom of the league. Even with the Eagles bringing in six-year veteran Dan Arnold this offseason both Stoll and Calcaterra have an upside if they get the opportunity.
Neither of the tight ends has a ton of draft capital or college production to stand on. Calcaterra was a sixth-round draft pick back in 2022 while Stoll was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2021.
Jack Stoll was a four-year player at Nebraska where he started out hot scoring two touchdowns his freshman year on only eight receptions. He then went on to score only four more touchdowns over the next three years. He managed to have 10.8 yards per target but He only played three games his senior year which didn’t help his case come draft day. At 6’4 247 lbs, he ran well in college but didn’t get invited to the NFL combine. His college tape showed him not using his size well in both blocking and pass-catching. He did have a reputation of being a leader on the team which seems to have translated to the NFL. He has hustle which shows in his getting playing time for the Eagles.
Grant Calcaterra measures in at 6’4 240 lbs. He had a breakout year in 2018 at Oklahoma. He had six touchdowns and looked to be an up-and-coming player. He then went on to only play in three games the following year and then transferred to SMU. He had his best statistical year there catching 38 passes for 465 yards and four touchdowns. He had even more issues with blocking and not playing to his size. At times he was pushed around by defenders both in pass blocking and on routes. Not being utilized except when Goedert went out is a red flag but as a dart throw, he is worth the add.
Both tight ends need an injury to get more opportunity. Head coach Nick Sirianai is leading the team even more so now that 2021 offensive coordinator Shane Steichen is coaching in Indianapolis. Brian Johnson moves up from quarterbacks coach to the OC position. It’s his first stint in the pros as a coordinator after three stints in the college ranks at Utah (’12-13), Houston (’17), and Florida (’20). None of those teams produced a high-value tight end let alone two. The scheme in Philly probably won’t be viable without a change. Goedert is under contract till 2025 so they will be the backups but if they get games as the starter they can produce. They are both worth a flier right now. If I had to choose one it would be Stoll who has been on the field more than the Calcaterra.
Skylar Thompson: QB, Miami Dolphins
The Miami Dolphins are a team that has been looking for their franchise quarterback since Dan Marino retired. They may have found one now with Tua Tagovailoa but the organization doesn’t seem sold on him just yet. They have given him weapons to help him mature and develop. They drafted Jaylen Waddle back in 2021 and then traded for super start Tyreek Hill. Tua had a good year despite missing games due to concussions. He threw for 25 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions in 13 games. He had four games with three or more touchdowns including a game where he had six! Even with that, the team has yet to lock him up past his rookie deal including his 5th-year option. It’s no secret that ownership isn’t fully sold on Tua as the franchise’s long-term signal caller. They were docked a first-round pick in this year’s draft for tampering and trying to sign reportedly Tom Brady. Perhaps it’s the seven games in 2022 where Tua had one or fewer touchdowns. Perhaps it’s the concussion history that had Tua pondering retirement. It could just be overall injury history as he has yet to play more than 13 games in his career. For whatever reason Tua isn’t locked in yet to be the guy for the Dolphins long-term. They could look to Skylar Thompson to fill in for Tua when he isn’t healthy or even long-term. The Dolphins have 32 players slated for free agency after this year. While most of them are role players it’s a daunting list that will require general manager Chris Gier to get creative in cap management, trades, and long-term planning. If Tua doesn’t play well this year or is hampered by injuries again the Dolphins could look to Thompson as a younger and cheaper option as they evaluate college players in 2025 and beyond. Tyreek Hill has come out and said he plans on retiring in two years so the Dolphins will be looking to replace his production and have to pay Waddle at some point. The Dolphins did bring in 28-year-old Mike White to compete for the backup job, Thompson’s familiarity with the system gives him the advantage heading into training camp.
Skylar Thompson has very limited NFL experience. He did start two games last season. They were both against the New York Jets who had a good defense. He was unable to throw a touchdown in either outing but did see some movement in the right direction in his development at the end of the year. In the last two games of the season where Thompson played he finished with a 71.35 completion percentage which is way above his season average of 57.14. He had an abysmal performance in the playoffs facing the tough Bills defense where he only completed 40% of his passes and had one touchdown but two interceptions. It was a tough year with playing time being limited and sporadic. Thompson was a 7th-round pick by the Dolphins back in 2022 after playing five years for Kansas State. He didn’t have the best college career. His last two years as well as his freshman year he was splitting time. If you look at his sophomore and junior years he completed 59% of his passes and combined for 21 touchdowns. It’s not huge numbers when looking around the country at other college quarterbacks. What is exciting is looking at his rushing numbers. On top of his 21 passing touchdowns, he added in another 16 rushing over those two years. he put up just under 800 yards combined. He has rushing production across his college career averaging a rushing touchdown every 1.73 games. At 6’2 223 lbs, he can move. He isn’t fast. He ran a meager 4.91 40 times at the combine with a 1.62 split time. He doesn’t need or use the speed that often but can be effective. He is on the older side turning 26 this year and heading into his second professional season. That isn’t a huge concern for a quarterback. What you get with that is maturity and experience. Thompson was very protective of the football and did not make unnecessary mistakes. He only had 16 interceptions through five years of college. He is good at going through his reads and can deliver an accurate deep ball. Those skills play into the style the Dolphins are running with wideouts Hill and Waddle. Thompson did miss time due to injuries so will need to stay healthy much like the man in front of him on the depth chart.
Kylen Granson: TE, Indianapolis Colts (Re-Visit)
Below is the write-up on Kylen Granson from November 2021. While some of the players on the team have changed the situation remains the same. The Colts still have a bevy of tight ends and they have changed quarterbacks multiple times. Heading into the 2023 season it looks as if 4th overall pick Anthony Richardson will be under center. While at Flordia, Richardson didn’t favor his tight end in the passing game the NFL is a different story. Rookie quarterbacks often struggle to adjust to the speed of the game and have to make short, quick passes. Often that is the tight ends role. Combine that with new head coach Shane Steichen’s offense you have a winner. Steichen is coming from Philadelphia where the Eagles had two excellent wide receivers in A.J. Brown and Devonta Smith yet tight end Dallas Goedert has seen enough volume to be a top 12 tightened three out of his five years.
The question is which tight end for the Colts will be the guy? Most people will be out on Mo Allie-Cox. After playing six seasons he has never finished better than TE28. What we liked about him in previous years was his size at 6’5 267 lbs. He now has Jelani Woods to contend with in the size departments. Woods comes in at 6’7 253 lbs. With only one year under his belt Woods will be the tight end most people will be buying this offseason as the potential breakout from Indy. While I think he can be good there is a case to be made for Kylen Granson. Comparing their stats we see that Granson might be more skilled and was more utilized in that offense.
|’22 Games Played||Targets||Yards Per Target||Total Routes Run||Non-In Line Routes||Red Zone targets|
Interesting that Granson had very similar if not better stats than Woods despite playing two fewer games in 2022. While everyone is getting excited about what this offense could be and I have been a believer in rookie Josh Downs there is a case that Granson could be the guy. There is a lot of talk this offseason about tight ends lining up in the slot position across the NFL and we could see the leader in that be the Colts. Out of the 160 non-inline routes that Granson ran 133 of them came from the slot position. If that role is important to the Colts offense we could see Granson get plenty of volume. Granson finished as the TE39 last year and didn’t have any touchdowns. If he can score even two times he will jump up. If his targets jump up from 40 to around the 70 mark he will continue to rise up the list. Granson caught 77.5% of his targets last year so he has very sure hands. That’s another selling point for a rookie quarterback looking to make an impact on his new team.
Kylen Granson could take over at tight end in Indy sooner rather than later. Mo Allie-Cox is set to be a free agent after this season and Jack Doyle in ’22. Granson comes out of SMU as a 4th round pick and is getting limited work in the offense right now. What we do know is that Wentz loves the tight end position. He and Zach Ertz put up record-setting numbers in Philadelphia so the tight end in a Wentz-led offense is going to be worth something.
Granson does lack some of the sizes that you want from a tight end. He is only 6’2” 235, and the average NFL tight end is 6’3” 254. He won’t be the blocking tight end which may limit his snaps going forward but he should be running plenty of routes on the snaps he does play. Route running is one of the things that scouts pointed to in his draft profile, and with the other tight ends possibly leaving in the next few years, it gives time for Granson to develop and the opportunity to see more snaps. In a fantasy landscape where everyone is trying to find the next big thing, Granson could be a viable fantasy starter in the future.
Ty Chandler: RB, Minnesota Vikings
Knows the system more than rookie DeWayne Mcbride
Davis Mills: QB, Houston Texans
Could start if Stroud doesn’t overly impress or they want to protect him more. Backups always play
Ben Skowronek: WR, Los Angles Rams
Massive hole after Kupp for targets. Tall with great hands
Charlie Kolar: TE, Baltimore Ravens
New high-powered offense. Lamar Jackson loves throwing to his tight end.
Ko Keift: TE, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Back up who could see an increase in targets with a new QB
Tresten Ebner: RB, Chicago Bears
two new RBs brought in. not enough opportunity
Matt Corral: QB, Carolina Panthers
New coaching team who drafted a Qb 1st overall
Jaylen Nailor: WR, Minnesota Vikings
Falling on the depth chart and target share.
Albert Okwuegbunan: TE, Denver Broncos
A new coach who brought in one of his favorite tight ends