Back with the first dynasty future report of the 2022 season. Here are September’s five players who are basically free right now. Even if they are on a roster they are players you can get added into as a throw-in on a trade. These players probably won’t pay off this year but we lay out what the future looks like for them and the pathway for them to be fantasy relevant. These are going to be the deep-cut players. I think most people are holding underperforming rookies like James Cook and Alec Pierce and probably handcuffs like Sam Howell and Malik Willis.
Bonus content this year is 5 players who are droppable in dynasty. They just don’t have a clear path to dynasty value. As well as five players who are dynasty holds. They still have value but it’s a wait-and-see how things shake out this year before we make any future moves for them. You were once high on them but it might be longer than you were expecting for them to produce.
Erik Ezukanma – WR, Miami Dolphins
Erik Ezukanma was drafted in the fourth round by the Miami Dolphins after they had traded all their top picks to get Tyreek Hill. Ezukanma (pronounced (ez-ZOO-comma) currently is slated as the 4th wide out on the team behind Hill, Jaylen Waddle, and Cedrick Wilson. He is a fast wide receiver who has a similar skill set to that of Hill and Waddle in that he can win on manufactured touches and is good after the catch. He isn’t as fast as those two, running a 4.53 at the Texas tech pro day. Ezukanma is a taller receiver than Hill and Waddle, who come in at 5’10” compared to his 6’2 frame. He is not overly tall but a bigger receiving option much like Wilson. His height could be an advantage in that offense.
He has shown some great toughness and blocking skills which is a key component of new coach Mike McDaniel’s offense. He showed in the preseason to be tough to tackle and doesn’t avoid contact. Watching the limited tape he reminds me a lot of Deebo Samuel in that he is hard to take down and is always striving for those extra few years. He also seems to find space in zone defenses and gets open when the quarterback is scrambling. He didn’t have great numbers in college posting a career 15 touchdowns over 4 years and 34 games. He did see a carousel of quarterbacks and was never able to build solid chemistry. He was an early declaration coming out after his junior year, which is a good indicator to some. He did get 10 carries his last year at Texas Tech and averaged 13.8 yards per carry. Where the rookie fits in the Dolphin’s offense going forward remains to be seen.
Both Hill and Waddle are under contract till the 2026 season. The Dolphins previously haven’t run a ton of three-wide sets but looking at what the 49ers did in 2021 we can see a big uptick in those types of sets. The Dolphins only ran 335 plays with three or more wideouts on the field, while the 49ers, where McDaniel comes from, ran 602 plays with three or more receivers. If the Dolphins employ a similar system Ezukanma could start earning more snaps as the season progresses. He has been a healthy scratch so far this season so he will need to find a way to get into games and then capitalize on those opportunities. Hill is 28, Wilson and Trent Shefield are both 26, so at 22 he could be a larger part of the offense in 2023 and going forward if age catches up to those guys. We have seen River Cracraft catch two touchdowns so far this season on only 2 total targets so there is a role in the offense for a third option to step up.
Charlie Kolar – TE, Baltimore Ravens
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.
Kene Nwangwu – RB, Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings are headed for a crisis of personality after the 2022 season. Dalvin Cook has three years left on his contract but there is an opt-out option before 2023. The Vikings can save almost 8 million in cap space by moving on from Cook. He will be 28 entering that season with a long injury history. Cook has played very well but there may just be too many needs on that team and not enough money to go around. Superstar wide receiver Justin Jefferson will be due a contract after the 2023 season so the Viking’s front office might prioritize him and the passing game over the aging running back.
The Vikings have some serious cap space issues that they need to deal with. They also have a very solid backup right now in Alexander Mattison who will be 25 entering the 2023 season but is also a free agent. Mattison has played very well when given the opportunity so he will probably see a lot of interest from teams and will probably get a contract over what the Vikings can afford. This could open the door for Kene Nwangwu. It’s pronounced (ken-A wanh-goo). He is under contract till 2025 and has a cap hit of just over one million each year. Nwangwu was a fourth-round pick in the 2021 draft. He had moderate college production. He played for Iowa State where he was behind Breece Hall most of his career. He only managed four touchdowns in his senior season after failing to score at all his previous three seasons. He has primarily played kick returns for the Vikings in 2022 and had very limited offensive snaps in 2021. He did post a career average of 5.2 yards per carry in college when he got the ball and, in his very limited pro work, has averaged 4.69 on 13 total rushes in the NFL.
Nwangwu measures at 6’1” 210 lbs and posted an eye-catching 4.31 40 time at his pro day. With Mattison probably out the door after this season, Kene could end up being the primary backup in 2023. If it is still Cook as the start, the injury history will produce more opportunities. If the Vikings do decide to move on from Cook it will either be a rookie or a free agent coming in. An open competition in camp could easily swing to Kene’s favor. There are also some rumblings that there could be a change under center which would open up a change in the offense overall. The Vikings are only running the ball on 25% of their plays in 2022. If they somehow can get out from under Kirk Cousins‘s massive contract it would free up a ton of cap space so that might lean towards keeping Cook.
Either way, it looks like Nwangwu is headed towards a primary backup role. He will get opportunities and will need to show what he can do before he enters the discussion of top handcuffs like Mattison has been in the past two years. He is worth more of a stash in leagues where you get kick return yardage. In a world where he somehow retains his current role then those points are something.
Tyler Huntley – QB, Baltimore Ravens
Tyler Huntley needs to be on your roster right now! Lamar Jackson is playing for his next contract after reportedly turning down a massive contract. It’s reported that he turned down a contract that would have paid him more than what Russell Wilson and Kyler Murray are getting. Reports are he wants a fully guaranteed deal similar to DeShaun Watson. It seems that the Ravens are very hesitant to do that right now. Lamar has been great but takes a lot of hits due to his rushing, and he missed four games last season as a result. In those four games and the week 17 resting, we saw what Huntley can be. In those five games, he threw over 200 yards three times and in the other two games, he was at 197 and 141. He had three touchdowns and four interceptions. He completed 64.8% of his passes over that stretch. On top of his passing, he rushed for 284 yards and two touchdowns. With only seven games played and only five started Huntley still managed to be QB37 on the year. He looked very similar to Lamar in that offense.
If Lamar and the Ravens can’t come to a deal then Huntley is primed and ready to take over. That is if they can sign Huntley. He is also slated to be a free agent after the 2022 season. Carolina, Tampa Bay, Seattle, and the Giants all have quarterbacks hitting free agency and have either not performed well or are getting up there in age. You add to that the Colts who look underwhelming with 37-year-old, 14-year vet Matt Ryan under center it could be a hot quarterback market. Both Huntley and Jackson could end up as starters for other teams. The Ravens also have to think strategically with their money and future salary cap space as running back J.K. Dobbins will be coming up for a contract at the end of 2024. There are other pieces on both sides of the ball that need to be addressed especially on a super bowl caliber roster and a team that sees anything less than that as a failure.
Huntley wasn’t drafted coming out of Utah in 2019 but posted some encouraging numbers in college. He played in 37 games for the Utes playing against college powerhouses in USC, UCLA, and Oregon. He threw for 46 total touchdowns and only 20 interceptions. Ten of those interceptions came during his sophomore season in 2017 when he finally took over as the full-time starter. In his final year at Utah, Huntley had 19 touchdowns and only four interceptions with a passer rating of 177.6. On top of that, he added 104 rushing attempts adding 290 yards on the ground to his 3092 through the air. He got five rushing touchdowns that year bringing his career rushing total to 1146 yards and 16 touchdowns. The rushing upside for Huntley makes him very attractive for fantasy. Coming in at 6’1” 204 lbs. puts him at average size for an NFL starter and right around the same size as rushers like Jalen Hurts. The ability to pick up a high-probability starting quarterback now can pay huge dividends in the future. Since Huntley isn’t a rookie he will probably be forgotten by most fantasy managers.
Gary Brightwell – RB, New York Giants
Saquon Barkley is a monster. He should be the franchise player for the Giants. Even with that and how great Barkley has looked so far in the 2022 season, there is a lot of belief that this is Barkley’s last season in the Big Apple. Barkley is a free agent after this season and his injury history leaves the door open. The Giants have a new coaching staff this year with Brian Daboll. They are looking to change the culture of the Giants and get back to being a contender. They have a lot of holes to fill, from the quarterback position to the wide receivers to the rest of the offense. All those positions may make Barkley a necessary castaway so they can bring younger players in. There was even a rumor that the G-Men could ship Barkley off before the November 30th trade deadline. Buffalo is the one mentioned by Boomer Esiason. It’s the most likely landing spot since both the coach and GM have strong ties to the Bills organization. I doubt the Giants trade him considering their record and their being in the playoff hunt.
Behind Barkley are veterans Matt Breida (27 yrs. old) and Gary Brightwell (23 yrs. old). Breida is also a free agent after this season and has not been a significant contributor to any team since 2018. Brightwell is a second-year player who was drafted by the Giants in the 6th round. Coming out of Arizona he was a 4-year player who racked up 1305 yards and nine touchdowns on only 245 carries. That’s an average of 5.3 yards per carry. He didn’t have any real passing production only having 19 receptions over those four years with 13 coming in his final year. He is an average-sized back coming in at 5’11” and 218 lbs. He only ran a 4.62 40-yard dash which isn’t elite-level speed. He will need to show he can pick up pass protection to continue to get snaps in a pass-first offense considering he doesn’t project as a high-volume pass catcher.
Brightwell doesn’t have any real competition behind him, however. Antonio Williams came over with Daboll from Buffalo but barely made it onto the practice squad for 2022. No matter if the Giants keep Saquon or let him go there is huge potential for Brightwell. If Barkley is no longer calling Metlife stadium home in 2023 then Brightwell will have the inside track to be the starter over whomever they bring in via free agency or the draft. If Barkley stays with the team, his injury history gives Brightwell handcuff value. Barkley has missed 20 of the possible 64 games in his first four years in the league.
5 Cut Candidates
Ke’Shawn Vaughn- RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Dyami Brown- WR, Washington Commanders
Kellen Mond- QB, Cleveland Browns
Anthony McFarland- RB, Pittsburgh Steelers
Denzel Mims- WR, New York Jets
5 Hold candidates
Laviska Shenault- WR, Carolina Panthers
Hunter Long- TE, Miami Dolphins
Kyle Trask- QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Amari Rodgers- WR, Green Bay Packers
Chris Evans- RB, Cincinnati Bengals
Feature image by Michael Packard (@CollectingPack on Twitter) / Photography by Randy Litzinger / Icon Sportswire