Sophomore Players with Points to Prove In Fantasy

The Dynasty fantasy football community has been in rookie mode ever since the final snap of the Super Bowl in February and we’ve all probably spent the majority of the last six weeks in one rookie draft or another. It’s ok for us to admit that we are a little tired of talking and reading about the 2023 class by now. 

With training camps well under way, it might be a good time for us to take a break from this year’s rookies and refresh our memories of those who were drafted in 2022, in particular those who have a point to prove heading into their second year in the NFL. Each of the following players have work to do to show their teams that they are the long term answer and could either be features of our Dynasty rosters this time next year or clogging up our benches. 

Sam Howell

Head coach Ron Rivera announced in February that Howell would be given the opportunity to be the team’s starter in 2023 and the team’s offseason activity seems to indicate that will be the case. They didn’t make any major moves in free agency or the draft as some may have predicted and instead just added Jacoby Brissett as veteran competition for the job. However, the jury is still out on how much this team truly believes in their 2022 fifth round pick. 

Howell didn’t get a start as a rookie until a meaningless Week 18 game against the Cowboys, while a clearly past it Carson Wentz got seven starts and an underwhelming Taylor Heinicke had nine ahead of him. There is every chance that the lack of any big moves in the offseason was nothing more than hesitancy to make a move with the looming change of ownership in DC. Howell may well be given his chance early in the season but it would not be a surprise to see Rivera make a switch to the veteran Brissett as soon as the opportunity presents itself. Brissett looked more than competent in Cleveland last year and Rivera knows he will be out of a job if the Commanders miss the playoffs again. 

From a fantasy perspective Howell could have a nice floor if he is able to nail down the job permanently. In that Week 18 start he posted 20 fantasy points, boosted by his work on the ground where he had seven carries for 35 yards and a touchdown. He was underwhelming through the air with just 169 yards plus a touchdown and an interception but it was a comfortable win and he did pull off a few big plays with the help of Terry McLaurin and Jahan Dotson. 

At cost (QB30 on KeepTradeCut), Howell is worth the gamble because of the rushing floor. But in a superflex league we probably want two or three more guaranteed options on our rosters ahead of him until we know he’s earned the job long term. 

James Cook

Cook was the third running back taken in the 2022 draft and there was more than a little hype around him given he landed on one of the best offenses in the league in Buffalo. But he was unable to earn a significant role in the backfield as a rookie with Devin Singletary dominating the touches. Despite Cook looking the more efficient back, averaging over a yard per carry and reception more than Singletary, the veteran had 178 carries and 38 receptions to the rookie’s 91 and 21. Cook only totalled more than five carries on four occasions and more than two receptions twice. 

However, Singletary left the team in free agency with Damien Harris signing as his replacement and Latavius Murray also being added to the mix. This is likely to be both good and bad news for Cook, it means he should soak up the majority of Singletary’s work in the receiving game but is unlikely to see a lot of the goal line work with two bigger backs being added to the roster. 

Fantasy managers will likely be drawing comparisons with Harris’ former backfield teammate on the Patriots, Rhamondre Stevenson as a best case scenario of someone who was able to make a major leap as a receiving back in his second year. Stevenson went from 14 receptions as a rookie to 69 as a sophomore and also racked up 210 carries, after 133 in his first season. Cook has some way to go to prove he can handle that kind of workload but is clearly the most explosive of the Bills backfield options and so figures to have the best chance of being fantasy relevant. 

The reality is likely to be that this is not a backfield to target for fantasy purposes with Josh Allen leading the team in rushing touchdowns again and using his legs to take off and scramble rather than dump the ball off to his running back. Cook is currently valued as an RB3 by most sites and experts which is probably about right, there is a path for him to break into the top 20 but he needs a lot to go his way. 

Jameson Williams

Williams was a top 12 pick in the 2022 draft but didn’t make his NFL debut until week 13 due to the ACL injury he suffered in college. Any Dynasty manager that drafted him likely knew he wasn’t going to be a major contributor in his rookie season but they wouldn’t have anticipated him having just a single reception and carry across his six appearances. He did tease his explosiveness on those two touches though, taking the carry for 40 yards and the reception for a 41 yard touchdown. 

The Lions would have been hoping that a healthy Williams could help take their offense to the next level, only for him to be suspended for the first six games of the season for violating the league’s gambling policy. They aren’t exactly blessed at wide receiver with the exception of Amon-Ra St Brown so there will almost certainly still be a role waiting for him once his suspension is over. But the pressure on him to deliver is going to be huge given he will be 18 months into his NFL career with just one reception to his name.  

The suspension is only in place during the regular season so he will be able to use training camp and the pre-season games to at least build some rapport with quarterback Jared Goff. But there have to be serious concerns about him hitting the ground running and seeing significant enough opportunities to be fantasy relevant in his second year, likely leaving managers waiting until year three to see if they have actually got the player they thought they drafted. 

While now is probably not the best time to be selling Williams with his value at an all time low, he is valued around the same as proven players such as Terry McLaurin and Brandon Aiyuk according to KeepTradeCut. He is going to have to show a lot when he finally takes the field to prove he belongs in that sort of company. 

Trey McBride

McBride was taken in the second round as the first tight end off the board in 2022 and accordingly was ranked as the top rookie tight end for fantasy. But since then he has seen both Chig Okonkwo and Greg Dulcich from his draft class outproduce him and subsequently overtake him in the marketplace (he is the 17th ranked tight end on KeepTradeCut compared to 11 for Okonkwo and 14 for Dulcich). 

As with all rookie tight ends, it took McBride a while to see significant playing time but he logged 70% or more of the snaps from Week 10 onwards after Zach Ertz tore his ACL. After the Cardinals Week 13 bye he had at least three catches per game and saw his best performance of the season in Week 17 against the Falcons. Recently released DeAndre Hopkins missed that game through injury and the hope will be that the 10 targets McBride converted into seven receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown will be a sign of what is to come in 2023. 

While the Cardinals look set to be one of the worst teams in the NFL, things might be aligning for McBride individually. Ertz will likely miss at least the first half of the season and star quarterback Kyler Murray is also going to miss significant time. Along with the release of Hopkins this leaves plenty of opportunity for McBride to see targets from below average quarterbacks who will struggle to get the ball downfield in a team that will spend most of its time behind in games. While this wouldn’t normally sound like a recipe for success, McBride could establish himself as his quarterback’s best friend if he proves to be reliable when called upon. 

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