Fantasy GMs that lean heavily on draft capital and recent production for their roster decisions are playing the odds. This is an important part of managing a fantasy football roster because it gives you a macro-level understanding of the ebb and flow of talent.
It limits avoiding errors rooted in ignorance. When leaned on exclusively, it also limits fantasy GMs from being ahead of the curve on players that can help you win games at a minimal cost.
The more homework you do to understand the factors that can lead to a player's emergence, the better you get at finding players who can help you before your peers recognize their value. The most important lesson that most people know but don't embrace: Every player who has earned consideration from an NFL team is talented.
For example, on the Audible's live podcast of the first round of the NFL Draft a few years ago, I stated that Daniel Jones was a fraud. The implication is that Jones was a fraud as a potential franchise starter worthy of a first-round selection, not that he lacked the talent to be in the league.
However, like most entertainment professions, fans have been conditioned to view talents from an all-or-nothing lens. They are great or they aren't worthy of the league. Another package of disposable commodities of pop culture. If the corporate machine isn't touting them, they are worthless.
This week, I'm sharing an exercise I undertake at least 2-3 times a year and that's generating players who may not be in the collective consciousness of the fantasy community who are worth monitoring. When you operate on the presumption that every player who has earned consideration from an NFL team is talented, you are poised to embrace a second important lesson: player fit can have a huge role in elevating or diminishing the viability of talent.
Here's a list of 25 players near (or below the margins of) the collective fantasy radar. I'm listing them in ascending order of my level of interest over the next 6-12 months.
Monitor But Don't Add
25. WR Daylen Baldwin, Cleveland
Baldwin worked his way from Morgan State to Jackson State to Michigan during the course of his college career. This is a testament to Baldwin's talent and work ethic. He's a well-built receiver who lacked Combine-approved speed, but there's potential for additional athletic development because when a player begins his career at HBCUs, which prior to the change in NCAA rules, lacked the resources to generate elite strength and conditioning programs, they often don't develop to their maximum athletic potential as early as players with 2-3 years in a Power Five program.
Baldwin had one year at Michigan. He has the hand-eye coordination, body control, and play strength to play at the NFL level. If he can become a starter-caliber athlete on the perimeter, he could find his way onto the active roster in Cleveland.
24. WR Allen Trammel, L.A. Rams
Blessed with speed, quickness, and a versatile game, Trammel starred at Rice, a school that lacked a capable starting quarterback. Trammel played with more quarterbacks during his college career than most receivers play with during a high school, college, and pro career combined. Atlanta signed Trammel two years ago as a UDFA and he impressed in training camp in 2021 and 2022. Injuries and the lack of demand for another slot receiver cost Trammel a chance to grow with the Falcons.
Cooper Kupp reduces the chances for Trammel to earn playing time in L.A. but if he can impress this summer and Kupp gets hurt, Trammel could be a shocking development for those who cover the NFL and fantasy football that didn't know his name. Trammel is tough, a good route runner, and skilled after the catch. He has the raw tools to fill Kupp's role. If he shows the refined skills to play mistake-free football, look out.
23. TE Sammis Reyes, Chicago
Tight ends take 2-3 years to develop when they've played the position in college. When they are basketball players from Chile, we might want to give them at least 4-5 seasons. After all, Logan Thomas needed at least that long as a former quarterback. The Commanders saw enough good work from rookies Curtis Hodges and Cole Turner to let Reyes go after an injury-plagued training camp.
Reyes has rare athletic ability that could make him an eventual starter of note, but he needs to learn the game and the position. The Bears might not be his final stop, but it's worth monitoring Reyes' camp to see if he can stay healthy and show progress with his development.
22. RB Ty Chandler, Minnesota
A return specialist with good hands, Chandler had solid moments during his rookie preseason. If he can build on last summer in 2023's camp, he could earn an active roster spot, a contributing role, and potentially become the substitute starter with an injury. I don't think Chandler does anything at a high enough level to become a consistent starter in the NFL but if his game matures, he might prove otherwise.
21. RB Ty'Son Williams, Arizona
Williams was Baltimore's UDFA darling of 2021 training campy only for the Cinderalla story to turn back to a pumpkin during the second half of his regular-season debut. Williams lost his confidence after looking like a potential starter. He went from running with confidence to playing tentatively and protecting the ball in a way that hindered the rest of his game.
It was as if a veteran running back hoping to keep his job warned Williams after a great first half that he better hang onto the ball in the second half or he could get cut immediately. I've been told veterans will use this format of gamesmanship with young players in the guise of appearing helpful. And when you consider that Latavius Murray had just been signed to the roster as insurance for Williams and Williams just had a good first half, you do the math.
Melvin Gordon III had some fumbling problems and guess who benefitted from Gordon fumbling his way off the Broncos roster?
If Williams can regain his confidence and play with the confidence he displayed in Baltimore, he could emerge as a contributor for the Cardinals. He's versatile, powerful, and fast enough to flip the field.
Deep Dynasty Rosters Only
20. Jerrion Ealy, Kansas City
This leaves Isiah Pacheco as the only back who has youth, talent, potential versatility, and health on his side. Unless you count Ealy, who is an excellent receiver and underrated runner. He was suspended this year for using a banned substance, but he had some moments this summer as a rookie that led the Chiefs to keep him.
I've kept Ealy in deep dynasty formats where I had a health-sized practice squad because he fits the profile of a receiving back who could emerge as a fantasy PPR value if he can stick in 2023.
19. Kevin Harris, New England
Kevin Harris is a banger with good burst and skill in the passing game. Damien Harris will likely be elsewhere soon enough. Pierre Strong Jr has the higher draft capital from last year compared to Harris, but he was also drafted to match up with an outside zone running game that the Patriots planned to use but ditched early in the season. I doubt they will return to it in 2023.
Strong's speed could make him an asset for the gap-style runs the Patriots use, but I think they saw more from Kevin Harris this year and I'm banking on Kevin Harris improving his game to the point that he might become the backup or contributor behind Rhamondre Stevenson.
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