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While I spent my entire childhood living in apartments, the complex where my mom and I lived from ages 11-18 was part of an idyllic neighborhood. On the high end, the housing could have passed for the setting for John Hughes' movies about suburban white kids in high school. On the low end of the range, they were a decent replica of the kids' neighborhoods in Stranger Things.
It's to say that while I didn't come from the means of most of my classmates and friends, I wasn't deprived in that respect. I never had any delusions that I was. Hell, I began college at the University of Miami, a school where a lot of kids who were raised in the high-end of the John Hughes lifestyle went there to continue the party.
Don't get me wrong; this wasn't the case for all. It wasn't the case for me. Miami had (and still has) some top-notch programs, but it was still on the tail end of its reputation as a party school when I enrolled. For a significant portion of the alumni, a degree seemed secondary.
I cared about getting a degree even if I ultimately learned the journey for knowledge was worth a lot more than the paper symbolizing a less meaningful destination. Some students seemed to understand this better than others, and many of them were my classmates in the studio music and jazz performance program. One of them was my friend, Aldo, who taught me the value of dumpster diving.
Aldo was a friendly, funny, and optimistic guy from Colombia who also happened to be an excellent percussionist. I thought he was a little crazy, but I spent my childhood learning how to please and complete tasks rather than to think independently and create. I was better at the latter, but I spent a lot of emotional and intellectual bandwidth checking those impulses at every turn with the ferocity of Scott Stevens on the boards.
By the time I got to Miami, I had already spent one summer of high school emptying the trash I collected from the apartment complex into dumpsters for a paycheck. I never considered there was value in the trash. People didn't throw away things of value. If they did, how would it look if people knew I might covet what was there much less root around for it?
The "What would people think?" was strong on me. Like a well-meaning protection mechanism implanted into me that grew out of control like a secret government experiment gone awry.
Aldo didn't care about any of that. America is a country filled with riches; he was a student on his dime, and money was tight. Walking back from a rehearsal, he suggested we drop by the Burger King across from my dorm. I was thinking we were going inside. Aldo had other ideas.
He made his way directly to the blue dumpster parked behind the drive-thru menu and climbed in. Three minutes later, he emerged with several boxes of food.
"You're taking home half-eaten food?" I asked with my ignorant presumptions rooted in my John Hughes childhood.
"Nah, man, they throw away cooked food it didn't serve or that wasn't prepared correctly for the customer's order," Aldo said, opening a couple of boxes to show me perfectly intact Whoppers, BK Jr.s, and Fish Filets. "They have perfectly cooked food thrown away at the end of shifts that's only been sitting in this dumpster for maybe an hour. They can't sell it, but it's wasted in the trash."
"So you do this a lot?"
"Yeah, at a few places. I hit their dumpsters every 3-4 days; I practically eat for free. Grocery stores are the best if they don't lock the dumpster."
While I never had to dumpster dive for food, I had gotten to know Aldo well enough to realize how my background and standard of living biased my perspective of what could be a logical resource of value.
Fast-forward to today. As a content producer of one of the most comprehensive analyses of rookie prospects in the industry, I see a lot of perfectly talented values prematurely thrown in the fantasy industry dumpster. While finding consumable value for your team isn't as easy as it is behind the grocery store within an hour of its closing, I have no stigma about dumpster diving for fantasy values, and neither should you.
Here is a list of 21 players at the ends of rosters I'm monitoring. They may not have fantasy value today, but they are worth monitoring during the next 2-3 years. Many are players with only 1-2 years of experience. Ty Chandler and Parker Washington are good examples.
Several were coveted dynasty rookie picks who will be dumped in favor of the next draft class. Kyren Williams fits that description.
Others will bounce around the league until they find a foothold and an opportunity. Raheem Mostert is a great example.
I've listed them in reverse order of how I value them (lowest to highest).
21. RB Kevin Harris, Patriots
A well-built runner from South Carolina, Harris has good contact balance and the burst to do effective work between the tackles. An underrated receiver, Harris has value as a check-down option in the middle of the field.
New England cut Harris after signing Ezekiel Elliott and kept him on the practice squad ahead of speedster, Pierre Strong Jr, who the Patriots took earlier in the same draft. Harris is also ahead of JaMycal Hasty on the depth chart and earned playing time last week with Rhamondre Stevenson out, scoring a touchdown on a 4-touch, 25-yard performance against the Chiefs.
Harris may have more short-term value this year if you're desperate for a running back while Stevenson is out. Last week's touchdown isn't the first time the Patriots have used Harris in the red zone and had success.
Although Ezekiel Elliott is open to returning to the Patriots next year to team again with Stevenson, there's no guarantee this will be the case. Harris could make a case for the No.2 spot on the depth chart and be one touch away from a lead role.
Because the Patriots are a mess this year, that may not seem appealing, but we've learned not to judge these situations too hastily, haven't we? Right? I hope so.
20. WR Ronnie Bell, 49ers
A special teams maven with legitimate promise as a receiver, Bell made a strong impression in training camp and the preseason. Enough to earn at least 5-7 snaps in all but three games this year. He has caught 4 of 6 targets for 51 yards and a score.
Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk aren't going anywhere from this roster loaded with skill talent. Jauan Jennings might, however. A skilled blocker with the skill to win contested plays and get open in shallow zones, Jennings is at the end of his deal.
The 49ers might like Jennings enough to re-sign him because of his versatility as a role-player. If they don't, it could be a sign they are confident in Bell filling that niche and also being a play away from earning a significant passing-down role that translates to fantasy value.
19. TE/WR Elijah Higgins, Cardinals
The former Stanford receiver embraced learning the tight end position at last year's Senior Bowl and began his NFL career with the Dolphins. Miami cut Higgins to keep the impressive Chris Brooks (see below) and quarterback Skyler Thompson (yes, keep monitoring his whereabouts) on the depth chart. The Cardinals were among eight teams who placed bids for Higgins.
Think of Higgins as a more athletic Juwan Johnson. With Zach Ertz and Geoff Swaim hurt at various points this year, Higgins has been active, earning 8 catches on 12 targets for 93 yards and a touchdown. Tre McBride will remain a significant part of the passing game, but there's a possibility Higgins could have more of a hybrid role next year.
It's a remote possibility but one worth monitoring.
18. WR Justin Shorter, Bills
Gabe Davis will be moving on, and the Bills could be seeking a replacement if Sean McDermott remains the head coach. That "if" is one of two reasons why Shorter isn't higher on this list.
Firing McDermott could lead to significant changes to the offense and its personnel, thanks to a new head coach who might take a look at a lot of players on the back half of the depth chart and decide they aren't his guys. The other reason is Dalton Kincaid, who will likely be any coach's "guy" and could earn more of Davis' role as a downfield threat — something sadly missing from the Bills' plans this year that could have made the offense even better.
If Shorter's situation proves favorable, he has the physicality and length to deliver in the Davis role. He's not as fast, but he's more physical and reliable at the catch point.
17. TE Cole Turner, Commanders
Turner made this list last year. Once again in training camp, Turner looked good and earned significant playing time early in the season while Logan Thomas recovered from injury. He's a receiving tight end with excellent length who adjusts well to the ball.
Mike Gesicki is an example of a tight end who tested great, but that athleticism doesn't show up as well on the field. Turner is the inverse of Gesicki in the sense that he wasn't an elite athlete in workouts, but he's more fluid and skilled at using his athletic ability on the field.
The third year could be the charm for Turner if Logan Thomas, who turns 33 next year, can't hold up. This offseason could also see Washington draft a tight end like Brock Bowers, and Turner's value remains in the dumpster.
16. TE Josh Whyle, Titans
An athletic option with the physical skills to be an all-around tight end with more upside in line than Chigoziem Okonkwo, Whyle earned playing time this year before an injury forced him to IR. Whyle has the skills to develop into a starter and could compete with Okonkwo for that role as soon as 2024. Okonkwo was supposed to become a significant part of the passing game, but dropped passes and the instability of the unit as a whole curtailed that promise.
Okonkwo is built like a player without a position, and the different ways Tennessee has used him indicate that. Rarely does a player in this situation transcend that gadget role and become a high-end producer. It's worth monitoring Whyle's 2024 camp for this reason alone.
15. WR Jalen Nailor, Vikings
K.J. Osborn's contract expires at year's end, and Nailor has performed well enough each of his two summers in Minnesota to earn a shot at the No.3 spot if he can stay healthy. He's explosive enough to work the intermediate and vertical ranges of the field from the slot, and he's a skilled runner after the catch.
Kevin O'Connell did a strong job with this team, considering the injuries to key talents on offense and a makeshift defense is hanging in there on the strength of an aggressive Brian Flores scheme. Look for the offense to remain the same in 2024 and Nailor to get a shot at significant playing time.
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