When I say potential, I mean potential people. I don’t want yinz writing me 7 weeks into the season angry that you snagged a guy on this list demanding answers. For most of these guys to be relevant, some things will have to fall their way but I wanted to take a look at the NFL Players who really do have a clear-cut path to fantasy relevancy this season. Let me know your thoughts at @DekeWhiten and at @ThoughtsFromTheBench on most social platforms.
– Rondale Moore, WR.
DeAndre Hopkins will miss the first six games of the NFL season for the Cardinals, opening up targets for the rest of this roster. Zach Ertz looks to be an obvious option to handle Hopkins’s red zone work but someone will need to step up in the receiver position. Hollywood Brown was added at the NFL Draft and AJ Green is still kicking but Moore has a nice opportunity to really cement himself into this lineup.
– Tyler Allgeier, RB
Cordarrelle Patterson was a phenom for the Falcons last year but it’s reasonable to ask how long that type of workload can be expected of the 31-year-old. Allgeier was taken in the fifth round so the expectations for him need to be reasonable but there’s a direct line to a starting role for the BYU grad. I’ll admit I’ve been burnt by Atlanta running backs in the past so don’t sell the farm for Allgeier, but if the talent is there the opportunity is present.
– James Proche II, WR
The Baltimore Ravens sent Marquise Hollywood Brown to the Arizona Cardinals leaving a few targets on the table from MVP QB Lamar Jackson. There’s a reasonable expectation that Rashod Bateman will take a step up in targets this year cementing him right next to Mark Andrews as fantasy relevant. Still, there’s production all around this team. Devin Duvernay has the opportunity to have a solid workload, but James Proche from SMU will also get his chance in this lineup. Proche was a sixth-round selection but remained a constant name during his draft that Fantasy Managers were interested in based on his landing spot.
– James Cook, RB
There are a few guys that I could easily have selected here but since Dynasty Rookie drafts are starting up I figured James Cook was expected. Jamison Crowder and Gabriel Davis are both breakout candidates due to Josh Allen’s massive arm and the Bills playstyle, but a true RB1 may be on the horizon with James Cook. Be wary in redraft however as Cook’s workload in college was minimal but the lack of true RB numbers keeps this addition interesting. Singletary and Moss have both had a solid shot at the job and neither seems to want it so the lane is wide open for the Georiga back to take the reigns.
– Chuba Hubbard, RB
Although I still believe in CMC’s redraft value, his recent injuries have been abysmal for Fantasy owners. Chuba left a lot to be desired last year as the starter but in year two we can expect some growth. Hubbard would have been arguably the top back taken off the board if he went into the draft after his 2k season at Oklahoma State but fell after going back to school and again, underperforming. Rhule seems to have some understanding of what he has talent-wise with this roster and I think they run the ball a ton with their current QB room.
– Cole Kmet, TE
The Chicago Bears are wild to me. You trade up for your future QB1 in Justin Fields and then let Allen Robinson walk, adding virtually no new names to the receiving core to help the kid succeed. Add in that Tarik Cohen ruptured his Achilles yesterday, the pass-catching targets are limited after Mooney. Kmet has amazing upside to finish higher than last season coming in at TE21 on ESPN’s Ranking. Look for Kmet to be Fields go-to, especially in the RedZone. (I love you Scott Hansen).
– Hayden Hurst, TE
With the departure of C.J. Ozumah to the Jets the Bengals needed to add a security blanket for Jeaux BRRRRReaux and Hayden Hurst provides some quality reps. Hurst was a first-round selection for the Baltimore Ravens before being traded to the Atlanta Falcons who then selected Kyle Pitts in the first round of the NFL Draft. Hurst has had some opportunities as the starter when he was in Baltimore, but the Bengals offer him time in a passing offense that rewards hard workers like Hurst. I love his touchdown upside in the RedZone and although Hurst may be a wash for redraft, he’s a nice snag in deeper leagues.
– Harrison Bryant, TE
If I’ve told Cleveland Browns fans once, I’ve told them a THOUSAND TIMES. I am a BIG Harrison Bryant fan and this will be the year that he finally cements himself as the TE1 in Cleveland even with Njoku on the roster still. Deshaun Watson doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to TE Fantasy Relevance but Bryant has slowly been earning his reps for the Browns and is a terrific blocker, something that Stefanski will use this season with their massive rushing attack.
– Jalen Tolbert, WR
Amari Cooper has left for the Land, leaving CeeDee Lamb with what we all expect to be a clear path to stardom. The question is, will Michael Gallup be enough as the WR2 to make the McCarthy run offense happy? Tolbert played his college ball at South Alabama and although he wasn’t one of the “blue chip” receivers in the class, he’s a quality option with a ton of room to grow in this offense. The Cowboys did recently sign James Washington, but Tolbert still has the skills to become a viable option for Dak.
– KJ Hamler, WR
Can we talk about how if I hadn’t been taking my time with this article I would have had K.J. Hamler as a breakout star BEFORE this tweet surfaced? I love Hamler’s upside with Russ as he projects to somewhat fit perfectly into a Tyler Lockett-type role. Jerry Jeudy has hit some off-the-field issues lately and although Sutton is most likely to be the big body receiver Russ needs, Hamler has a ton of upside with the deep ball.
– Amon-Ra St. Brown, WR
This one’s an absolute no-brainer for a few reasons, the first being that St. Brown finished last season as impressive as we could hope for. The Lions did just spend a first-round pick on Alabama WR Jamison Williams who will seamlessly slide into a WR1 position which should allow St. Brown to see some of the easier coverage. His only real problem is quarterback Jared Goff who just feels like one of the lowest options at QB in the league this season.
– Tyler Davis, TE
The Packers signed Davis from the Colts practice squad last season and he saw action in every game after. His snap count increased each week ending the season with five targets and four catches for 35 yards. I understand the risk here and I wouldn’t touch Davis with a ten-foot pole in redraft, but with the departure of Davante Adams, there are some targets to go around here. I’m not in love with Tonyan like many are, so Davis earning the teams trust is notable.
– Dameon Pierce, RB
Pierce was drafted this season out of Florida and was an absolute name to watch in terms of their fantasy landing spot. The Texan’s current RB room consists of Marlon Mack, Rex Burkhead and Dare Ogunbowale leaving Pierce a nice chance at a starting role this season. The Texans have doubled down under new head coach Lovie Smith that they are trusting Davis Mills as their starting QB so depending on how that experiment works out there’s a chance for a run-heavy offense. Again, not completely sold in re-draft but a nice fantasy bet.
– Alec Pierce, WR
The Colts have had five straight seasons with a different starting QB and Matt Ryan is the latest name added to the list. Personally, I think Matt Ryan is their best starter since Andrew Luck and can recharge this offense in a somewhat weak division. Michael Pittman is the logical choice for WR1 which opens a ton of holes for Cincy WR Alec Pierce to shine. After Pierce, the depth chart falls off with Parris Campbell as the only other notable name here.
– Travis Etienne Jr., RB
Etienne said what we all were thinking this offseason saying “If I was going to miss a season, it was last year” poking a jab at former head coach Urban Meyer and one of the wildest experiments in NFL History. I adore Etienne and absolutely loved his tape from Clemson. James Robinson is a certified stud who has made me eat my words (when he gets the ball 10+ times) but Etienne should shine in this offense this year under new head coach Dougie Fresh.
– Mecole Hardman, WR
Tyreek Hill no longer being a Chief is one of the more league-altering moves this past off-season but it does open doors for one of the most pass-happy organizations in the NFL. Hardman was originally drafted when Hill was concerned about a suspension and is a complete burner on the field. The Chiefs did take Skyy Moore in the draft who may also slide in as a clear breakout candidate, but Hardman knows this offense and will be trusted with a larger role. JuJu provides some security and the team will be led by Travis Kelce, but I like Hardman heading into 2022.
– Zamir White, RB
When the Raiders decided to not pick up Josh Jacobs’s fifth-year option they made a statement regardless if they meant to or now that the RB room is uncertain moving forward. Don’t get me wrong, Jacobs will absolutely be the lead back this year but Zamir White has the skillset to replace Jacobs moving forward. “Zeus” may not be a “must have” guy right now, but as I’ve said a million times in this blog the path to usage is clearly there. A lot would have to go his way for him to be the guy this season.
– Isaiah Spiller, RB
If I would have told you a year ago that Isaiah Spiller wasn’t the first RB taken in the draft you would have said “second isn’t bad” which goes to show how far he fell compared to his potential. Spiller’s last year at A&M left a lot to be desired but he’s a terrific talent no matter the college stats. The Chargers love them some Austin Ekeler and even with his recent injuries none of the backs behind him really stepped up and took ownership of that opportunity.
– Brycen Hopkins, TE
This isn’t an Anti-Tyler Higbee stance, but this IS a “Brycen Hopkins is awesome” stance. I’m an absolute sucker for potential in tight ends and Hopkins just has a quality situation with two years remaining on his contract. He will NOT be a top 10 tight end but I do see him passing Kendall Blanton on the depth chart to start the season. Higbee is still the main guy in LA but Hopkins is a name to watch as the season progresses.
– Chase Edmonds, RB
Did you know Sony Michel went to Miami? Man. Chase Edmonds looks to lead a backfield that consists of Sony Michel (Seriously wtf), Raheem Mostert, and Myles Gaskin in a Mike McDaniel’s run-heavy offense. I do think that if there’s a risk to Edmonds’s touches it’s two part – Raheem Mostert’s familiarity with the 49er’s offense and Jayle Waddle’s freak speed on end-arounds.
– Irv Smith Jr., TE
It has to happen eventually, right? I’ve been singing Smith Jr.’s praises for a few seasons now and this has to be the year that the man steps up. Naturally, JJ and Theilen will lead the team in targets but Smith provided some redzone-worthy performances last year with Cousins at the helm. He wasn’t able to slide into that Kyle Rudolph role just yet, but it HAS to happen…right?
– Tyquan Thornton, WR
I’m not quite sure what to make of the Patriots receiver room at the current moment but if there’s one thing that’s certain, someone will have a nice season. That person will most likely be last years WR1 Jakobi Meyers, opening some reps for rookie Tyquan Thornton. Thornton was taken in the second round and at 6’3″ is a wonderful target next to Meyers and Parker for Mac Jones.
– Adam Trautman, TE
The Trout Man HAS to breakout eventually otherwise I’m an absolute fraud when it comes to drafting tight ends, something my Dynasty League knows all to well. In all seriousness Trautman had massive upside when he was drafted by the Saints and is a terrific blocker, something I had hoped would turn into quality reps and fantasy relevance. Sadly up till now he’s been more of an extension of their O-Line than a producing tight end but that should end this season.
– Kadarius Toney, WR
Rumors swirled all off-season that Toney was a potential moving piece on Draft Day but the Giants stuck by their 2021 first-round selection, at least up till now. Toney is a special player when healthy and if this Giants team wants to see what they have in Danny Dimes they’ll throw the ball a ton. The Giants do have an awkwardly impressive yet bad wide receiver room, but Toney adds a level of explosivness the others simply don’t.
– Elijah Moore, WR
The Jets just drafted arguably the top receiver in the entire class in Garrett Wilson but Elijah Moore is a name that all fantasy managers know. Moore had a good first season with Zach Wilson as the starter in New York and shouldn’t miss a beat heading into this year. Naturally, Wilson should be the one after training camp opening up receptions for Elijah Moore. His only true reservation is the offense he’s on but with the adds on the o-line and Breece Hall their lead back, Zach Wilson should have no problem getting the ball to his receivers.
– Kenneth Gainwell, RB
I’m notoriously an anti-Miles Sanders guy due to the Eagle’s run attack and Kenneth Gainwell has a chance at some meaningful touches this year. Gainwell will have to compete with Boston Scott for starting time but the Memphis product has some tremendous potential, especially in a Hurts-led offense. I’m not sure just yet about his redraft value, but his dynasty value should be fairly high heading into the season.
– George Pickens, WR
Let the record show I LOVE Pickens to the Steelers. In a loaded WR class Pickens started the year as arguably the top talent before being riddled with injuries and some off-the-field concerns. Pickens is a bigger receiver at 6’3″ and is an interesting hybrid between Chase Claypool and DJ for the Steelers current roster. Pickens has some off-the-field concerns as well as lingering injury concerns, but I love this selection. Pittsburgh’s second-round receivers often with Smith-Schuster, Claypool, Johnson and Washington all selected in recent memory.
– Brandon Aiyuk, WR
With the massive cloud of doubt surrounding Deebo Samuels, Aiyuk is in the envious position of a BUTT LOAD of touches if the team does more the Gamecock. In his rookie year Aiyuk was a starting WR in fantasy and since then has fallen down the pecking order. The 49ers use a run-first approach and I think they stick to that even with Trey Lance as the presumed starter heading into this season. Aiyuk needs a few things to fall his way for fantasy stardom but he’s talented and has proven he can handle the workload.
– Dee Eskridge, WR
Despite having no real clue who the Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback is going to be, it’s safe to say they will have a fairly run-heavy attack with Kenneth Walker III on the roster. Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are still in Seattle but the Seahawks used a second-round pick on Eskridge and there’s a reasonable expectation that this offense will look drastically different with Russell Wilson’s departure. Eskridge isn’t a guy to draft today, but he is a name to monitor moving forward.
– Rachaad White, RB
The Tampa Bay Bucs are bringing back Tom Brady which means a number of elderly NFL stars will also return, including Playoff Lenny. I love Lenny on this team and I don’t believe Rachaad White takes too much away from him, but the passing down backs are still up for grabs despite Bernard and Vaughn still on the roster. White is a wonderful receiving option, something Brady loved in New England with James White. I love his upside and see him being used from day one in the passing game.
– Treylon Burks, WR
When your comp is the guy that you were just traded for, it’s a tough look on everyone other than the two receivers. Trey Burks is the only reason Arkansas Football was relevant this past year with a do-it-all playstyle that the Titans desperately need. I love A.J. Brown but he needs to find a team that can use a wide receiver and the Titans need to find themselves what some passionately call a “Wide-Back” (S/O Deebo). Burks instantly becomes the starter with Robert Woods also in Tennessee but remember that this is King Henry’s team.
– Brian Robinson Jr., RB
I liked Robinson a lot heading into this draft and don’t think there’s a better landing spot in terms of immediate impact for him. Robinson has a more up and down run style which should complement Antonio Gibson, the presumed starter for Washington. Robinson has a vulture ability that fantasy owners love, especially when it comes to goal line carries. Robinson should be a late flyer in keeper leagues this season.