Dynasty Watch: Ten Fringe Prospects

Dynasty Watch: Ten Fringe Prospects

This article is part of our Dynasty Watch series.

With a strange and unprecedented training camp season ahead of us, teams might have their roster depth tested in ways that we never saw previously. If player absences increase for whatever reason – COVID, increased injury due to the layoff, or whatever else – then the backups might be more relevant than ever.

This article means to identify players who don't currently project for much playing time but whose prospect profiles indicate upside in the event that they do find playing time. Nothing is assured with these players – some might not even make their teams – but even in those cases we might see them called up from the practice squad later. They're not worth drafting in the vast majority of redraft formats, but they're arguably worth holding in dynasty leagues and are at the very least players to keep in mind for FAAB or waiver purposes.

Listed in no order...

Isaiah Ford, WR, MIA

Ford will need to show well in Dolphins training camp, where he'll compete with Jakeem Grant and Chester Rogers for the lead slot receiver role in Miami. There's reason to believe Ford will do just that, though, because at 5-6, 165 Grant isn't a great candidate for more than a gadget role, and Rogers lacks the traits to provide any outside receiver snaps, which Ford can do in a pinch at the very least.

Ford would ideally get his snaps in the slot all the same, because from that position his below average athleticism should prove inconsequential for his ability to produce. At 6-1, 194, Ford ran just a 4.61-second 40 at the combine out of Virginia Tech, which isn't good on a frame as skinny as his. Ford's skill set variable is quite encouraging, though, because his age-adjusted production as a prospect is uniquely good. He caught 56 receptions for 709 yards and six touchdowns as a true freshman in 2014, then over the next 26 games he caught 154 receptions for 2,258 yards and 18 touchdowns. Generally speaking, receivers who accumulate nearly 3,000 receiving yards before turning 21 have more skill than most other receivers.

Ford's lack of flashiness made him a forgettable player in the eyes of Dolphins coaches since the team selected him in the seventh round of the 2017 draft, but he had a productive four-game stint last year and heads into his fourth NFL season still just 24 years old. He drew 29 targets on 177 snaps from Weeks 14 to 17 last year, snagging 21 for 235 yards. That's a 72.4 percent catch rate at 8.1 yards per target in a stretch where Ryan Fitzpatrick completed 60.2 percent of his passes at 7.4 yards per attempt.

 
Olamide Zaccheaus, WR, ATL

To briefly but aggressively editorialize: Zaccheaus is pretty clearly a better wide receiver than incumbent Atlanta slot receiver Russell Gage. Perhaps the Falcons realize this, perhaps not. It would be egregiously incompetent of them to not see it, though.

Whereas Gage never produced in college or the NFL, Zaccheaus was one of the most prolific producers of recent college football memory during his Virginia career. Initially a running back as a freshman, when he ran for 262 yards (7.9 YPC) while catching 21 receptions for 216 yards, Zaccheaus moved to receiver afterward and posted big volume. Even while remaining active on the ground with 46 carries for 289 yards over the subsequent 38 games, Zaccheaus was a workhorse receiver with 229 receptions for 2,537 yards and 21 touchdowns.

Zaccheaus is short (5-8) but well built (188 pounds), and his athletic testing was adequate if not good (4.49 40, 35.5-inch vertical, 125-inch broad jump, 11.19 agility score). Having just turned 23 in late July, Zaccheaus' game should continue improving with time, but it's hard to say the same of the persistently unproductive Gage, who's also a worse size-adjusted athlete than Zaccheaus. Not just Zaccheaus, but Gage needs to worry about undrafted rookies Jalen McCleskey (Tulane/Oklahoma State) and Chris Rowland (Tennessee State).

 
Jason Huntley, RB, DET

Readers of RotoWire's dynasty football content are likely already aware of Huntley, Detroit's fifth-round pick out of New Mexico State. The press chatter around the Detroit backfield has been almost singularly focused on D'Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson to this point, but we shouldn't be surprised if Huntley has a few nice games in PPR scoring this year.

As much as Huntley is likely too small (5-8, 190) to take up a workload that would make him viable in standard scoring, Huntley offers enough pass-catching upside and explosiveness to provide notable upside in the event that Swift or/and Johnson miss time. Huntley was uniquely explosive in college, turning 154 carries into 1,090 yards (7.1 YPC) and nine touchdowns last year and scoring five kick return touchdowns on 59 career return attempts. Crucially, Huntley was a standout pass catcher in college, collecting 126 receptions for 1,084 yards and seven touchdowns on 170 targets in his final three years. That's a 74.1 percent catch rate at 6.4 yards per target in an offense that completed 59.5 percent of its passes at 6.3 yards per attempt. Detroit's wideout depth is thin to the point that Huntley could earn snaps there in addition to whatever might be up for grabs in the backfield.

In addition to the excellent production, which bodes well for Huntley's skill set variable, he posted strong athletic testing at the New Mexico pro day. Along with a 4.4-second 40-yard dash, Huntley logged a 39.5-inch vertical and 131-inch broad jump. But don't take the stopwatch's word for it, just watch Huntley run.
 

 
Pharoh Cooper, WR, CAR

Signed to a one-year, $1.21 million deal this offseason, Cooper isn't a lock to make the Carolina roster but stands a very good chance of doing so. In the event that Cooper does make the team, he'd likely function as the backup slot receiver and primary kick returner. Cooper is restricted to the slot due to a lack of athleticism – at 5-11, 203 he posted rather awful pro day numbers, including a 4.65 40, 30.5-inch vertical, 118-inch broad jump, and 11.41 agility score. His skill set variable is somewhat convincing, though, because Cooper's age-adjusted collegiate production was top-shelf stuff, catching 135 receptions for 2,109 yards and 17 touchdowns in 25 games over his age-19 and age-20 seasons.

Going into his fifth NFL season, Cooper is still only 25 years old, so he could still be growing as a player. He was effective as a slot specialist for the Cardinals last year, drawing 33 targets on 231 snaps and catching 25 for 243 yards (75.8 percent catch rate, 7.4 YPT). The numbers imply Cooper was really doing a good job of getting open – his 9.1-yard ADOT (27th percentile) disconnects with his per-snap air yardage (1.3 yards, 61st percentile), indicating he was generating air yardage at a rate disproportionate to his route depth.

 
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, GB

St. Brown is perhaps on the outside looking in after missing last year with a high-ankle sprain that landed him on IR in August, but the former top Notre Dame prospect could gain ground quickly in a Green Bay receiver rotation thinned by the opt-out of Devin Funchess.

While Allen Lazard is all but locked in as Green Bay's WR2, St. Brown could begin the year as the WR3 and gain ground on Lazard from there. Lazard (6-5, 227) and St. Brown (6-5, 214) actually have similar traits, with Lazard just slightly heavier and slower (4.55 40) than St. Brown (4.48 40). Both were productive college players. Given their respective build/athleticism traits, it would make sense for Green Bay to emphasize Lazard in the slot and St. Brown outside when in three-wide sets.

 
Corey Coleman, WR, NYG

Coleman's career has been nothing less than star-crossed, plagued by multiple broken hands, some slight off-field turbulence, and then a torn ACL last year. Despite the immense disappointment of his NFL career to this point, the former first-round pick of Baylor still just turned 26 and could make the Giants roster as the team's primary backup receiver. Coleman is an objectively elite athlete, as at 5-11, 194 he registered a 4.37-second pro day 40 to go with 40.5-inch vertical and 129-inch broad jump. Not to invite a direct comparison, but that's basically Odell Beckham-type athleticism.

 
Taywan Taylor, WR, CLE

A similar category of prospect as Coleman, Taylor is an explosive receiver who was highly productive in college but heads into this year mostly forgotten. On a Cleveland roster badly lacking wide receiver depth, though, it might be too soon to count him out, especially since Taylor has produced with the few opportunities he's been given in the NFL.

Taylor's age-adjusted production from Western Kentucky was elite, and he confirmed above average athleticism at the combine by logging a 4.50-second 40, 132-inch broad jump, and 10.78 agility score at 5-11, 203. The Titans were hellbent on getting rid of him last year, but it's puzzling given that Taylor was productive in his two seasons with Tennessee, playing playing 690 snaps over his age-22 and 23 seasons, catching 53 of 84 targets for 697 yards (63.1 percent catch rate, 8.3 YPT). There's a non-zero chance that Taylor emerges as Cleveland's WR3 this year – he was a much better prospect than any of Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, or KhaDarel Hodge were.

 
Joe Reed and Jalen Guyton, WR, LAC

Jalen Guyton made some noise with Dallas last preseason but they let him go at final cuts, after which he joined the Chargers practice squad in October. The Chargers called him up to the live roster in November. At 6-1, 212 with a 4.39-second pro day 40 time out of North Texas, Guyton has field-stretching speed that could prove useful in the Chargers offense with Keenan Allen locked into the slot and Mike Williams locked in outside. When the Chargers go three-wide, an outside receiver rep is generally what's up for grabs. Guyton's traits project better there than the more popular rookie seventh-round pick K.J. Hill out of Ohio State. For Hill to play, Allen likely needs to leave the field, which will basically never happen when he's healthy.

Rather than Hill, the better candidate to compete against Guyton for the WR3 role previously held by Andre Patton is probably rookie fifth-round pick Joe Reed out of Virginia. Reed (6-0, 224) is one of the most densely-built receivers league-wide yet posted well above-average numbers in the 40 (4.47), vertical (38 inches) and broad jump (123 inches). Reed at the very least showed standout open-field running ability at Virginia, where he returned five kickoffs for touchdowns on 106 attempts (28.7 yards per return). At receiver he was used as an underneath specialist in 2019, catching 77 of 116 targets for 679 yards and seven touchdowns (66.4 percent catch rate, 5.9 YPT) in an offense that completed 65 percent of its passes at 7.3 yards per attempt. That's well below the team baseline and concerning as a result, but Reed was much more efficient as a deep-route specialist in 2018, when he turned 37 targets into 25 receptions for 465 yards and seven touchdowns (67.6 percent catch rate, 12.6 YPT) in an offense that completed 63.7 percent of its attempts at 7.7 yards per pass.

Guyton's production was a bit more consistent at North Texas than Reed's was at Virginia, albeit at a lower level of competition. In his 26 games after transferring from the JUCO ranks, Guyton caught 103 receptions for 1,580 yards and 15 touchdowns on 176 targets (58.5 percent catch rate, 9.0 YPT) in an offense that completed 63.2 percent of its passes at 7.9 yards per attempt. Considering those were his age-20 and 21 seasons, Guyton's age-adjusted production in Denton is safely above average. As a former undrafted free agent Guyton is less likely to make the Chargers roster than Reed is as a fifth-round pick, but if Guyton can clear that initial hurdle then he might prove competitive for snaps along with Reed.

 
James Robinson, RB, JAC

Robinson went undrafted out of Illinois State this year, but if he sticks on the Jacksonville final roster then he could prove productive if he sees snaps. Leonard Fournette was only middling in effectiveness with last year's big workload, and 2019 fifth-round pick Ryquell Armstead might be more toolsy than skilled. Robinson's collegiate production is convincing on the skill question, and his athletic testing at the combine was good enough to imply NFL viability.

Robinson (5-9, 219) registered at a dense, low build, and offset a poor 40 time at the combine (4.64 seconds) with elite explosiveness testing (40-inch vertical, 125-inch broad jump). Robinson's 11.22 agility score was also above average by running back standards, according to Mockdraftable.com.

To quote a previous article:

Robinson took on an enormous burden in the Illinois State offense, running for 1,917 yards (5.3 YPC) and 18 touchdowns in 15 games while the Redbirds passing game produced just 1,767 yards and 10 touchdowns. That's insane! Not only that, but the second-leading runner for Illinois State was clearly nowhere near Robinson's level, providing measly volume (476 yards) on a weak 4.3 yards per carry. Robinson took on an incredible burden in 2019 yet still left his teammates far behind in terms of per-play explosiveness.

Chris Thompson is locked in as Jacksonville's third-down back, so Robinson's immediate application is unlikely to extend beyond a rushing specialty consideration, but in that capacity he really might be able to match or exceed Fournette and Armstead. The problem is that he's a very long shot in the meantime otherwise, and as an undrafted player signed with a modest $5,000 signing bonus he generally projects more for the practice squad than the active roster. Devine Ozibgo is probably Robinson's primary competition for a final roster spot.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mario Puig
Mario is a Senior Writer at RotoWire who primarily writes and projects for the NFL and college football sections.
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