Dynasty Free Agent Fliers
With the 2022 fantasy regular season in rearview, it is wise for dynasty managers to begin attacking waivers early. There are a handful of possible offseason risers worthy of stashing, particularly among the rookie ranks.
Why enter a FAAB bidding war later when being ahead of the curve is an option now? Here is a list of flier-worthy players available in 50% or more of Sleeper leagues you should immediately stash.
Check out our dynasty rankings here
Matt Corral, Panthers (35% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty QB37)
Right off the bat, it is worth mentioning that the Panthers are in line for a top-10 selection in the 2023 NFL Draft. As such, if the franchise chooses to pull the trigger on someone like Kentucky’s Will Levis or Florida’s Anthony Richardson, this whole section will be moot. That said, the Panthers’ recent track record of decision-making at the QB position is, to put it diplomatically, well… interesting.
Corral is someone whose execution of RPOs and ability to scamper around as a runner intrigued me in the pre-draft process. While 3rd-round draft capital is suboptimal, the former Ole Miss product’s developmental value is hard to overlook. Unfortunately, a Lisfranc injury brought a premature end to his inaugural professional campaign; had it not been for the ailment, it stands to reason that we would have seen Corral under center following the firing of former HC Matt Rhule in lieu of P.J. Walker.
Corral stands to potentially compete for the starting job in camp next season should the franchise forgo investing in an early-draft pick QB. Though it is unlikely that he will ever develop into a game-breaking superstar, Corral’s ceiling of being a passable QB2 with a decent rushing floor in superflex formats is fascinating.
Any QB with a pulse that sees the field eventually carries a potential return on investment that can net additional rookie draft capital in trades. From a strategic standpoint, whether you believe in Corral or not, it makes sense to at least park him on your bench and see what occurs on this front.
Pierre Strong Jr., Patriots (39% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty RB51)
Strong Jr. is an interesting candidate. An FCS-level standout at South Dakota State, the rookie displayed such good versatility in both the running and receiving game (in addition to special teams prowess) in college that the Patriots invested 4th-round draft capital in him. Strong Jr. is a speedy brick house perfect for the Patriots’ zone blocking scheme, standing at 5’11, 207 lbs. with a 4.37 40 time.
While early opportunity has been scarce, we talked recently about HC Bill Belichick’s penchant for churning RBs on their rookie contract(s), which makes Strong Jr. a particularly intriguing case. After Rhamondre Stevenson exited Week 14 action with an ankle injury, fellow rookie Kevin Harris and Strong Jr. carried the bulk of backfield work against the Cardinals.
Strong Jr. ended the contest with 90 total scrimmage yards and a TD on 9 touches, displaying flashes of his über-athletic profile. Should Stevenson and Damien Harris, an impending free agent, continue to miss time, the home stretch of the 2022 season could be a window for the rookie back to prove his worth and earn elevated responsibility and status on the depth chart ahead of 2023. Imagine a James White-type role. It’s not so far fetched if Strong Jr. steps up from here on out.
Jaylen Warren, Steelers (47% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty RB58)
Considering Warren is someone who has already tallied 3 games of double-digit PPR production as a complementary piece in the Steelers’ backfield, it is puzzling that the UDFA is this broadly available.
What makes this entry all the more puzzling is that it is evident that Warren carries clear handcuff status/value should Najee Harris miss significant time. While RB Benny Snell Jr.’s presence looms for the remainder of 2022, Warren is the only back aside from Harris who is seemingly locked into a roster spot moving forward, as Snell Jr. is set to reach free agency in 2023.
A fair retort against Warren would be his slight 5’8 frame and lack of prototypical fit as a pseudo-1-for-1 in a true “handcuff” situation if the starter goes down. Even so, any RB that can find a way to see 20.4 snaps and 5.2 touches per game in a backfield that historically boasts a bonafide bellcow is worth keeping an eye on, especially considering he won a roster spot as an undrafted player.
Should Warren continue his flashy production as a pass-catcher with solid ability to operate in open space, there is a real possibility here. He could be viable moving forward, particularly should the Steelers move on from OC Matt Canada and hire a coordinator that could install a system that maximizes Warren’s skill set.
Jerome Ford, Browns (23% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty RB89)
Buried beneath Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and D’Ernest Johnson on the Browns’ depth chart is a player whose size/speed combination earned him a title of being a sleeper prospect ahead of the 2022 NFL Draft. Though Ford’s landing spot did not afford him much immediate opportunity, it is not an unfamiliar situation for someone who did not break out in college until transferring to Cincinnati after being stuck behind Josh Jacobs, Damien Harris and Najee Harris at Alabama.
His lack of backfield vision gives me pause, but it is clear that Ford is a skilled athlete who is unafraid to seek contact and play bigger than his actual frame suggests. With Hunt likely departing ahead of the 2023 season, it will be interesting to see if Ford’s time with the Browns to date has helped him refine the more RB-specific skills he needs to succeed at the NFL level, possibly translating to a greater role moving forward.
A Kevin Stefanski-coached offense feels like a fairly suitable fit for someone of Ford’s raw skill set. The Browns are very much a smashmouth, battering ram-type of rushing offense. It’s not like dynasty managers are taking on a massive risk by waiting to see what happens should the Browns opt to add depth to their RB room via free agency or again in the draft. Worst case scenario, you hold Ford for a few months and cut him at no loss. Best case, he’s a potential Chubb handcuff.
Khalil Shakir, Bills (40% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty WR67)
The slot receiving role on the Bills is a role I want a piece of in fantasy football. Cole Beasley is the poster child for this role, averaging 11.99 points per game on 325 total targets from 2019 to 2021. While it is imperative to note that past productive roles do not simply carry over or even necessarily exist in a vacuum, this precedent led many to be intrigued by Isaiah McKenzie, who won this job outright in training camp, ahead of the 2022 season.
Dynasty managers got a chance to see Shakir showcase his ability in one game against the Steelers in Week 5. The 5’11 rookie tallied 3 receptions on 5 targets for 75 yards and a TD in somewhat of a foreshadowing of what could be in store for the future.
As a senior at Boise State in 2021, Shakir ranked as PFF’s 12th-highest graded receiver, running 76.7% of his routes from the slot position. Despite a respectable showing at the NFL combine and plenty of Senior Bowl buzz, the 5th-round draft capital invested in Shakir was somewhat surprising. Fortunately, draft capital is not a death knell in a young player’s proverbial coffin, particularly when there is such a natural correlation between archetype and landing spot.
Considering the glove-like fit he carries as a member of the high-powered Bills offense, it stands to reason that there is potential for him to eventually serve a similar schematic purpose as Beasley in future seasons. Stash Shakir now.
Calvin Austin III, Steelers (28% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty WR86)
Unfortunately, injury derailed Austin III’s season before it ever got started. The first-year wideout was placed on season-ending IR in October following a foot injury that caused him to miss the entire preseason, As disappointing as that is, the fact that Austin III didn’t appear in any live action caused the multi-faceted speedster off the radar, a good outcome for our purposes in this exercise.
Early camp reports raving about Austin III’s explosiveness are not hard to come by if you go back and look. Had it not been for the injury, there is a greater-than-non-zero chance that he would have eventually seized the starting slot role and gradually grown into relevancy in 2022.
If nothing else, stashing a player who boasted back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons at Memphis before turning pro with the 5th-fastest 40 time at the 2022 NFL combine on your taxi squad feels like a good idea. There is no telling if OC Matt Canada will return to the Steelers’ coaching staff in 2023 and beyond, thus making any sort of long-term outlook difficult to project at this moment.
Still, it doesn’t hurt to take a stab on obvious explosiveness. Worst case, he becomes a return specialist you cut from your roster, no harm no foul. The risk vs. reward in this case is at an optimal level for dynasty purposes, particularly for managers who opt to strategically roster churn frequently.
Justyn Ross, Chiefs (33% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty WR120)
Ross is a player who is seemingly the epitome of an all-or-nothing investment. Despite dominant, high-profile production at Clemson, serving as Trevor Lawrence’s favorite target from 2018 to 2019, Ross missed the entirety of his junior season in 2020 due to a congenital fusion condition in his neck and spine.
He eventually returned to the field, playing in 10 games in 2021 before declaring for the NFL Draft, though his medical concerns caused him to be taken off some NFL teams’ draft boards entirely. As such, Ross settled for a UDFA deal with the Chiefs before subsequently being placed on season-ending IR as a result of foot surgery stemming from an injury sustained in college.
It is clear that Ross’ body is an absolute wreck, but the 6’4 wideout possesses an impressive catch radius, and given the early flashes he displayed in college, he would likely have been a higher-end draft pick had it not been for the spinal concerns. Should Ross ever find the field, he carries potential to be an effective contributor in a Patrick Mahomes-led offense. You have nothing to lose by stashing a prime “what could have been” candidate If medical concerns force him to retire as soon as this coming spring.
Rashid Shaheed, Saints (19% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty WR105)
Once upon a time, WR Marquez Callaway was a special teams contributor, who by way of injury to others, elevated his status on the Saints’ depth chart and cashed in flashes of production that led to earning opportunity the following year. Though Callaway did not amount to much, his efforts in 2020 rewarded him a role in 2021. Dynasty managers who picked up on this and flipped Callaway in a timely fashion secured a W in the trade market, even if the W came in the form of 3rd-round rookie picks or otherwise.
Rashid Shaheed fits this bill to a T as someone turning a 10.6% target share and 17.5% air yards share into WR58 overall production and 7.1 PPR points per game from Week 11 to Week 13 prior to the Saints’ bye. While this output is not particularly inspiring when it comes to starting lineup consideration, this level of production on a mere 9 targets warrants the raising of an eyebrow if nothing else.
The undrafted rookie from Weber State holds the FCS all-time kickoff return TD record with 7 career scores, and like Callaway, is someone rising to the occasion of his team’s circumstance with bubbling intrigue. Unlike the others mentioned above, the stashing of Shaheed may require a quick-trade turnaround to see a quality ROI. But even if you end up “stuck with him” on the end of your bench, there are worse circumstances to be wrapped up in.
Chigoziem Okonkwo, Titans (45% rostered, Draft Sharks Dynasty TE24)
Frankly, it is shocking that Okonkwo meets the threshold for this report. Since Week 12, the rookie is the TE3 overall in PPR scoring, averaging a total of 11.9 points per game that, for context, bests both Travis Kelce and T.J. Hockenson.
Tied for the Titans’ lead in target share (17.5%) with a 45.7% route participation rate (17.7 routes per game) over the last 3 weeks, it is rather impressive to see Okonkwo produce at this level relative to his usage. Though the comparison is somewhat lazy, it is difficult to avoid Jonnu Smith’s name coming to mind when thinking of the former Maryland product. Okonkwo is an athletic marvel showing early flashes of an intriguing ceiling.
It is rare that rookie TEs produce for fantasy purposes, and while Okonkwo’s breakout corresponds with WR Treylon Burks missing time with injury, it generally takes time for TEs to develop and these early results are good to see regardless of surrounding circumstances. There is no reason why he should only be 45% rostered.