In 1975, the inaugural season of a little program called Saturday Night Live, debuted on NBC to middling ratings and critical reception. Over the 46 year history of the now beloved Saturday night staple, there have been over 150 featured cast members, with such notable names as Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, Chris Farley and Will Ferrell. But, it was the original cast of unknown improvists or The Not Ready for Primetime Players, as they were dubbed, that set the stage and ultimately the measuring stick for all future cast members.
It may seem unlikely that the nobodies of this initial group would turn into such household names as Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Chevy Chase and even more so unconscionable that these stars would eventually turn over to cast after cast of star studded seasons with names like Adam Sandler, Tina Fey and Chris Rock. However, that is exactly what SNL has become. Each year we watch the season premiere and think, “Who the hell is that guy…” or “I’ve never seen her before in my life…”. Then that next year, we certainly know the Kate McKinnon’s and Andy Samberg’s and the brilliant careers they go on to have.
Yeah, dynasty fantasy football is exactly that. It becomes our job, like fledgling Lorne Michaels’, to find the jewels hidden in the vast expanse that is college football, for the next Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader or Jason Sudeikis. Sure there will be plenty of Horatio Sanzs’, Julia Sweeneys’ and Charles Rockets’ that find their way on to our rosters, but here are seven players that can certainly go from Not Ready for Primetime, to household names in just a year or two.
QB – Minnesota Vikings
In what has become one of my favorite NFL backfires, Viking and NFL fans alike took over the team driven Tik Tok challenge that—in earnest—asked fans to duet themselves catching passes from professional QB Kirk Cousins. True to the internet age we live in—it didn’t go well.
Now, Kirk Cousins has been a fine fantasy QB. He’s been a QB1 every year he’s started, with the exception of a QB15 finish in 2019 and even has a couple of top 5 finishes sprinkled in. The problem with Cousins, is that as shown in the viral video above and a 51-51-2 career record, he hasn’t endeared himself to the Minnesota faithful or fantasy fans as anything other than a place holder—and place holders get replaced. His counting stats in Minnesota have been borderline stellar (91TD/29INT/12,166 yards) in his three seasons, but on a team poised to win now, his brand of football isn’t going to get it done.
Enter Kellen Mond. Mond wasn’t spectacular in his own rite in College Station, but he brings to the table something that NFL teams are starting to value heavily again—mobility and athleticism inside and outside the pocket. Mond isn’t likely to beat out the 32 year old Cousins this season or even next, but with the vets massive guaranteed deal set to expire after the 2022 season, Mond has the opportunity to understudy the efficient and consummately professional Cousins.
Mond profiles most similarly to Deshaun Watson in Houston and with young playmakers like Justin Jefferson and Irv Smith Jr. still likely in place, should he take the helm in 2023, the few years of tutelage coupled with immense athletic potential could be a recipe for success for a fairly low upfront cost now.
QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
More Marc Bulger than Aaron Rodgers, Kyle Trask is another QB that has some waiting to do before his time comes. Tom Brady, who will be 44 this upcoming season, has notoriously defied age and Dorian Greyed his way to yet another Super Bowl, but there will come a day when Mr. Bundchen does have to walk away and luckily for Trask, it likely won’t be with bare cupboards.
Trask was quietly efficient in his junior season at Florida and then Joe Burrow-esque in a Heisman finalist worthy senior season. Take away his abysmal performance against Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl (five interceptions) and his numbers put him in rarified historic SEC QB air.
While Trask isn’t the most gifted athlete to play the position, he is a highly efficient passer that has shown an ability to make every throw against the toughest defenses in the nation. His 88.5 College QBR is well north of elite and playing for “The Quarterback Whisperer”, Bruce Arians, while getting to watch the greatest of all time, lends itself to pristine conditions for that to translate to above average success when his number is called. If you miss the Lawrence’s and Field’s in your rookie drafts–target Trask as a worthy stash.
RB – Carolina Panthers
According to the metrics of Mike Braude with Apex Fantasy Money Leagues, peak age for Fantasy RB’s is 25.68 going as far back as 2000. . Christian McCaffrey is 24.9 and will be on the wrong side of 25 when the 2021 season kicks off. Now, CMC is a special talent and outside of continued injuries or significant injury, he is likely to remain fantasy relevant for several more seasons. That said with a collection of lower body injuries (4 games missed due to Thigh injury, 3 games missed due to AC joint sprain and 6 games missed due to high ankle sprain), there is logical thought that supports the need to compliment McCaffrey now, so there is mitigation of wear and tear to elongate his peak past the average.
There were a number of people that were disappointed in Chuba Hubbard’s landing spot and for immediate return on value, it isn’t necessarily ideal. However, if Matt Rhule does move CMC to a more quality over quantity workload, Hubbard fits perfectly as a between the tackles back that can mold well to the type of back that can also imitate the top fantasy back, when needed. Due to a lackluster 2020, we forget how spectacular his 2019 season was. With over 2000 yards rushing and 21 total touchdowns, he was the lynchpin of one of the most dynamic offenses in college football at Oklahoma State.
Even with disappointing workout metrics in a non-combine year, with a year or two as a complimentary back and the likelihood of increasing muscle to his lean frame, Hubbard profiles as a fast riser by year three in the NFL. Add to that his immediate potential impact should CMC go down, as well as the workload he should still receive in year one behind McCaffrey and he can quietly end up as a top three back from this years class, without the capital it’ll take to grab a Najee Harris or Travis Etienne.
RB – Arizona Cardinals
I’m cheating here, but without a snap in the 2020 season, Benjamin effectively qualifies as a rookie for this exercise. With Kenyan Drake on to Las Vegas and the only significant addition to the RB room being James Conner, there is reason to be excited for Eno as early as this year. He’s even been a popular sleeper pick among the fantasy community, but there will still be hesitation in grabbing the perceived third option in an offense that utilizes the pass at a 56% clip.
It’s also true that Chase Edmonds and Eno Benjamin are much the same back. Similar size. Similar metrics. Profile best as satellite backs. Where the Benjamin love comes in for me, is that after the 2021 season, both Edmonds and Conner are slated to become free agents and the Cardinals offensive philosophy precludes itself from heavily investing in running back money. That potentially provides Benjamin two years as the guy in Arizona, in an emergent offense.
As a former star at Arizona State, the hometown story and immense capabilities as a pass catcher should translate into fantasy gold over the coming years, so sign me up for that type of built in potential while everyone else chases (pun intended) Edmonds as the lead back this year.
WR – Miami Dolphins
Another player that is a year removed from amateur status, Kirk Merritt was a workout darling coming out of Arkansas State in 2019. With only a futures contract in hand, the former UDFA has his work cut out for him to even make a roster, but one look at his athletic metrics (https://www.playerprofiler.com/nfl/kirk-merritt/) makes the idea of him lining up in anyone’s slot, all too tantalizing.
Merritt is your deep dynasty dart throw this year and there likely won’t be anyone else looking for him, so get a taxi spot ready for him to emerge somewhere as a big time playmaker with 4.33 speed.
WR – Dallas Cowboys
Lost in the noise of the Cowboys trying to revamp one the worst defense in team history, was the fifth round selection of Simi Fehoko. The Stanford Cardinal didn’t pass the ball with regularity, so his counting stats aren’t eye popping, but at 6’4″ 222 lbs., with a 4.44 40 time and 95th percentile speed scores, Fehoko should line up nicely opposite CeeDee Lamb as early as 2022, if Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup become cap casualties.
There are certainly knocks on Fehoko’s catching abilities, which likely precipitated his fall down teams boards, but with an offense that promises to be among the leagues best for the next several years, even the WR3 for the Cowboys warrants consideration. Given that the Cowboys have lacked that big bodies red zone presence for several years now, Fehoko looks to be an answer to Mike McCarthy’s typically cheeseburger-centric prayers.
TE – New York Jets
With all of the hype surrounding Kyle Pitts as potentially the best offensive prospect in the 2021 draft, based largely on athleticism, a hybrid TE/WR style and his success against SEC opponents; it’s somewhat surprising that the former WR turned TE, who torched Alabama for 181 yards and two TDs on seven catches, didn’t hear his name called this past draft. The Jets astutely made him one of their top UDFA signings and with only the disappointing Chris Herndon a legitimate threat to keep him off the field a young signal caller now holding the reins at QB, Yeboah can factor in by 2022 as a legitimate Darren Waller-type target for Zach Wilson and the new look Jets.
Where he may get bogged down early as a below average inline blocker, he could be called upon for goal line “tall” packages with the like of Denzel Mims, Corey Davis and Herndon to form a formidable challenge to undersized DBs. Either way, keep Yeboah in your back pocket and look for a 2022/2023 launch for a cheat code type tight end.
I’ll leave you with this. As you’re building the back end of your benches and into your taxi squads, there isn’t much advantage in stockpiling retreads and vets at the end of their careers. Hitting on just one or two back of the draft guys can transform a dynasty roster, so dig deep and don’t be afraid to draft talent and potential over stability and name value and maybe your roster runs consecutively for 46 years!
Jared Clifton – Host of The Rule of 3 Podcast, Editor, Writer
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