As exciting a spectacle as the NFL Draft has become, looking over your dynasty rosters as the day three selections wind down can feel like the ultimate Debbie Downer. Some of those assets you’ve been burning a roster spot on for a couple of seasons aren’t looking so hot anymore. On the flip side, you may have a few not-so-shiny-anymore assets that have new appeal.
The AFC is up first in this two-part series digging into the biggest dynasty IDP winners and losers following the NFL Draft.
Alex Highsmith, Edge PIT
An off-season extension for Highsmith always seemed likely, but with it still not done in the days leading up to the draft, any decent draft capital spent at the position would have raised an eyebrow about Highsmith’s future in the Steel City. Other than spending a fourth-round selection on potential off-ball conversion Nick Herbig, Pittsburgh passed on the important position altogether. And despite bringing in veteran Markus Golden to provide depth, the team is now openly discussing its progress toward a Highsmith extension. Uncertainty is rarely a good thing for IDP value, and Highsmith is now all-but-certain to retain his role as Robin to TJ Watt’s Batman.
Arden Key, Edge TEN
Tennessee is in the middle of what looks like an awkward time of transition, with aging leaders Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry nearing the end. On defense, it’s been a messy off-season with stalwart safety Kevin Byard skipping voluntary off-season activities after the team reportedly asked him to take a pay cut. At least Jeffery Simmons got paid.
From a fantasy perspective, there’s plenty of work to be had working over and outside the offensive tackles. Harold Landry returns from a 2022 pre-season torn ACL, and veteran Denico Autry is coming off a productive age-32 season. Otherwise DeMarcus Walker left for Chicago, Bud Dupree found work in Arizona, and Mario Edwards landed in Seattle. There’s Rashad Weaver, whose play didn’t warrant the 640 defensive snaps he played in 2022.
The bendy Key, who was effective at generating pressures (48, per Pro Football Focus) if not sacks (just four-and-a-half), is positioned to see a big rise over his 475 snaps played as a Jaguar last season. With Tennessee otherwise not addressing the position in any meaningful way, the Titans of all teams may finally be ready to unlock Key’s IDP potential.
The Colts’ 2021 second-round pick, Odeyingbo enters year three with a prime opportunity to break out from a production standpoint. Now more than two years removed from a January 2021 torn Achilles, Odeyingo said recently that he’s “probably put on like 11 pounds of muscle” to get to 285 pounds. Indianapolis drafted a whopping 12 rookies, but didn’t address edge until the sixth round with Wagner’s Titus Leo, leaving Odeyingbo, Kwity Paye and off-season addition Samson Ebukam to rotate as the top three edge rushers.
Azeez Al-Shaair and Monty Rice, LB TEN
As mentioned earlier, Tennessee has had a noisy off-season, but for the most part it was quiet at linebacker. The team brought in former 49er Al-Shaair, who shined from a production aspect when filling in for Dre Greenlaw in 2021. He’s playing on a one-year deal, but it should be a productive year given the lack of proven and high-investment pedigree on the depth chart. Rice looked downright terrible at times during an extended look in 2022, but he’s currently in line to get another opportunity at a major role.
If Rice isn’t fully cooked yet, put Jack Gibbens on your waiver wire radar. The undrafted rookie wore the green dot at times as the defensive signal caller late in 2022.
Divine Deablo and Robert Spillane, LB LV
Successful IDP rosters often rely on cheap production at linebacker, and Deablo and Spillane both have the look of low-cost assets. Other than Luke Masterson, the linebacker shelf looks barren in Las Vegas. Deablo, in particular, is going to see fantasy starter-level snaps if he can manage to stay healthy – something that has so far eluded him during his two-year career.
Zaire Franklin and Shaquille Leonard, LB IND
Again, the Colts drafted a dozen rookies, but an off-ball linebacker was not among them. So if you were wondering if the team truly saw Franklin as an every-down linebacker – and not just out of necessity – you now know he’s again lined up for serious snaps on a unit that lost Bobby Okereke this off-season. And the team is obviously counting on Leonard to be at full health after the star linebacker missed almost all of 2022 following a second back surgery to relieve a pinched nerve. Leonard still seems a bit iffy from a recovery standpoint, so be sure third linebacker E.J. Speed is rostered in your IDP leagues.
Logan Wilson, LB CIN
Wilson has a single year remaining on his rookie contract, but the Bengals have expressed interest in a long-term extension. That the team did not address off-ball linebacker in the draft speaks to the likelihood that a deal gets done. Germaine Pratt is obviously back to serve as the No. 2, but top backups Akeem Davis-Gaither, Markus Bailey and Joe Bachie are also entering contract years. Expect Cincinnati to commit to Wilson long-term before he hits free agency.
Nick Cross, S IND
The Indianapolis safety room bears watching without veteran Rodney McLeod. The oft-injured Julian Blackmon returns as a back-end free safety and slot option. Rodney Thomas II had some nice moments filling in for Blackmon in 2022 but was unremarkable for the most part. And the team drafted the athletic Daniel Scott in the fifth round. But Cross, an unmitigated disaster in his brief look as the box safety in Gus Bradley’s high-low scheme, seems to again have the inside track on the role in 2023. If you held on to your Cross shares after his benching last season, you can hold and hope again this year.
Keanu Neal and Damonte Kazee, S PIT
Pittsburgh has gaping talent gaps at slot defender and the safety spot opposite Minkah Fitzpatrick. That’s good news for both Neal and Kazee, both of whom project to play roles worth watching. Kazee is better as a nickel safety projection, so Neal could really return zero-cost production should he play a box safety role – a position he excelled in early in his career before injuries sapped him of his above-average abilities. A return to 2020 snap numbers, when Neal provided back-end S1 fantasy production, is a long shot but isn’t totally out of the question.
John Franklin-Myers, Edge NYJ
DLF’s Tom Kislingbury doesn’t speak well of many players, but he once literally sang the praises of Franklin-Myers. So his inclusion here may put me on the outs with my DLF-mate, but there’s no way to see Franklin-Myers as anything more than waiver wire fodder following Gang Green’s selection of Will McDonald IV with the 15th overall pick. With Carl Lawson sticking around on a reworked deal and Jermaine Johnson back for year two, there just aren’t going to be enough snaps available for JFM to cause a blip on the fantasy radar.
Trey Hendrickson, Sam Hubbard and Joseph Ossai, Edge CIN
Snaps are the most predictable path to fantasy points, and by adding first-rounder Myles Murphy to the edge mix, the Bengals dinged their three returning contributors. Hendrickson, in particular, will likely in short order lose early down work to Murphy, and Hubbard could see a drop in snaps on passing downs. Ossai, who was already an iffy IDP asset at best due to lower snap volume (334 snaps, 32.2 percent in 2022) lost any short- or intermediate-term appeal. It’s also not a great landing spot for Murphy, with Hendrickson (two years) and Hubbard (three years) in the way of high snap volume for the next couple of seasons.
Charles Omenihu, Edge KC
Omenihu is a good edge – perhaps a lot better than we think – but he was unlucky in the sack department in 2022. His underlying metrics were strong – on 573 snaps he had 59 pressures, per Pro Football Focus – yet he managed just four-and-a-half sacks. As a Chief, I was fairly bullish on him as a low-key fantasy starter. That changed when Kansas City used its first-round pick on Felix Anudike-Uzomah, who will likely play enough as a rookie to keep Omenihu to a sub-60 percent snap share. He should still be rostered in most IDP leagues, but Omenihu’s appeal as a potential every-week useful asset is no longer there.
I love Leal’s quicks off the snap, but the reality is he’s a bit of a tweener size-wise (listed on the Steelers website at 290) in Pittsburgh. As a rookie, Leal played 71 percent of his snaps either over or outside the offensive tackle. That may have been more due to necessity than anything, with T.J. Watt missing games with a torn pectoral muscle and pre-season acquisition Malik Reed disappointing.
No matter, there’s no clear path for fantasy-relevant snaps for Leal after an off-season that saw Pittsburgh re-sign Larry Ogunjobi for three years, draft Keeanu Benton in the second round, and bring in veteran Markus Golden as the third edge rusher. In addition, the club is working on an extension for Alex Highsmith, and say they want to give rookie Nick Herbig a look at edge before committing to him as an off-ball.
Terrel Bernard, LB BUF
I’m in the minority on Bernard, who quite a few IDP analysts still like better than rookie third-rounder Dorian Williams. But Bernard did nothing to impress as a rookie and is a better fit to play the Matt Milano role in Buffalo’s defense. I’m not totally writing him off, as coaches have said there will be a three-way competition to replace Tremaine Edmunds, however I’m anticipating Williams to eventually take the starting job even if Tyrel Dodson or Bernard start the season in the Bills’ lineup.
Josey Jewell, LB DEN
Rookie Drew Sanders gives the Broncos a three-down weapon who can line up at off-ball and edge, and be an effective blitzer, a la Demario Davis. Jewell, while solid, is a holdover from a previous coaching regime and is best suited in a two-down role. He’s also on the final year of his contract, and nearing the end of his fantasy usefulness. Alex Singleton, in my opinion, is a better linebacker than Jewell, and just received a contract that keeps him in Denver for the next two seasons.
Kenneth Murray, LB LAC
There’s not a ton to say here, as Murray’s been a massive bust since many (myself included) were expecting that second-year breakout way back in 2021. So despite letting Drue Tranquill walk as a free agent, the Bolts added veteran Eric Kendricks and exciting prospect Daiyan Henley, and as expected declined Murray’s fifth-year option. We’ll likely see Murray on the field in two-linebacker sets to start the season, but eventually Los Angeles is going to want to get a look at Henley. Murray isn’t likely to find a strong market next off-season either.
Patrick Queen, LB BAL
Honestly I’m somewhat stumped on Queen’s value at the moment, but following Baltimore’s selection of Trenton Simpson, Queen has to be considered an IDP loser. The Ravens, of course, bagged Roquan Smith in a Halloween-day trade, then gave him the bag with a new contract that will keep him in Baltimore for the next three to four seasons. And a few days after taking Simpson in the third round, the Ravens officially declined Queen’s fifth-year option. The writing on the wall, at first glance, told everyone that Queen would be shopping for a new home next off-season.
But the fifth-year option would have cost a reported $12.7 million in 2024 – an untenable number given Baltimore’s investment in Smith. And General Manager Eric DeCosta has now said twice the team would still like to sign Queen to an extension, and went as far as to say he considers Queen to be a Pro Bowl-level linebacker. I can chalk up the Pro Bowl hype to “front office speak,” but to speak – not once, but twice – about the desire to work out a new contract tells me we shouldn’t be as down on Queen as the draft told us we should be.
Jabrill Peppers and Adrian Phillips, S NE
The Patriots love their hybrid linebacker-safety types, and third-rounder Marte Mapu is the latest addition to New England’s collection. Mapu is a lot like current standout Kyle Dugger: Both are Day Two Bill Belichick selections, both hail from small schools (Dugger from Lenoir-Rhyne; Mapu from Sacramento State), and both are older than their draft classmates (Dugger came into the league as a 24-year-old rookie; Mapu is 23).
Regardless, Mapu adds another body to the rotation. From a fantasy perspective, Peppers was fairly useless to begin with, and Mapu’s addition probably dings Phillips’ usage enough that you can’t consider him as a bye-week fill-in. So if you’re rostering Peppers and/or Phillips for safety depth purposes, you’re likely not going to ever want to roll them into your lineup, making them roster cloggers.
Nick Scott, S CIN
Scott’s stock hit its proverbial high as free agency shook its way out. Cincinnati watched Jessie Bates and Vonn Bell cash in on the open market, then inked Scott to seemingly pair with 2022 first-rounder Dax HIll. But when the Bengals selected Alabama’s Jordan Battle near the tail end of Day Two of the NFL Draft, Scott fell from safety sleeper to snooze. Battle may not have the highest ceiling, but he has oodles of experience (44 starts) at the highest of collegiate levels. Even if Scott draws starts to start the season, it likely won’t be long before Battle’s on the field.
Caden Sterns, S DEN
If you’ve stashed Sterns for a couple of seasons awaiting his eventual rise to the starting role opposite Justin Simmons, you may need to keep stashing him. After hitting injured reserve in late October with a hip injury that necessitated surgery, Sterns saw Denver swap out the coaching staff, draft J.L. Skinner, and re-sign his old (not as old as me, but old for an NFL safety) roadblock, Kareem Jackson. None of this rings the death knell for Sterns, who has played at a nice level against the pass when he’s been on the field, but the short- (Jackson) and long-term (Skinner) competition is a downer.