It’s officially the Dog Days of the fantasy football season, where words from coaches and players are all we can cling to until things pick up again for training camp in July and August. We hear about rookies and new faces in new places having great or less-than-inspiring OTAs, but what about the guys that have yet to land on an NFL roster? A few big-name free agents remain, including former NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott and star WR DeAndre Hopkins. I hand-pick landing spots for them that maximize their fantasy value in this article.
Ezekiel Elliott – Los Angeles Rams
The Rams might have Sony Michel back for a second stint in LA, but he wouldn’t be anywhere close to what Zeke would offer to the team in the early down role – and that’s saying a lot. Zeke got a lot of flak for his almost comical role as a touchdown vulture on the Cowboys offense the past two seasons, but what goes unnoticed is the fact that he’s played at less than 100% in those two seasons, dealing with injuries to his PCL and MCL. Cam Akers seems primed to break out, but it’s hard to imagine Sony Michel being a true RB2 complement to him at this point in his career. There could be opportunity for two running backs to be relevant in the Rams backfield, especially if the wheels come off in the passing game (i.e. Matthew Stafford is hurt), so Zeke landing in LA wouldn’t be the worst thing to happen in the world.
DeAndre Hopkins – Kansas City Chiefs
The Chiefs say they view Kadarius Toney as a true WR1, but he would have to take quite the leap from last year’s production to become that. With DeAndre Hopkins running opposite of him, though? That’s an ideal scenario for both Toney and Hopkins – for Toney because he won’t draw the top defender every play, and for Hopkins because he’ll have the opportunity to play with the best QB in the NFL. Hopkins is still a dominant receiver even at 30 years old; his 93 targets and 64 receptions ranked 3rd and 4th in the NFL among all receivers between weeks 7 and 16.
Dalvin Cook – New York Jets 😳
The Jets are going to ease Breece Hall back into action in 2023 regardless of who’s in the backfield with him, so why not make it one of the best RBs in the NFL in the past five years? Not only can Hall learn from a veteran like Cook, but Cook can also produce at a very high level on a Jets offense that figures to be the best they’ve had in New York in years. His 51 missed tackles forced (8th) and 30 runs of 10 yards or more (7th) suggest that there’s plenty left in the tank for Cook to be fantasy relevant, and with him now past the age apex for fantasy production among RBs, a shared backfield where he can stay fresh and produce on a comfortable amount of touches might be just what the doctor ordered.
Leonard Fournette – New York Giants
With the drama currently unfolding between Big Blue and Saquon Barkley regarding a potential contract extension, the Giants could sign Fournette as an inexpensive insurance policy to help ride out the storm until a resolution is reached. Matt Breida is the only other ball carrier in the Giants backfield with any relevant NFL experience, but he hasn’t seen a season with more than 65 carries since 2019. Fournette has certainly seen his level of play regress in the past few years, posting the 2nd-lowest yards per attempt and missed tackles forced in his career in 2022, but he would lock up the early down role in New York on Day 1. He’d likely be limited to exclusively that role, but he could enter weekly flex consideration with the Giants should Barkley hold out or otherwise not start Week 1 in 2023. He wouldn’t be a plug-and-play handcuff to Barkley, but earning a few weeks of opportunity could be in the cards for him if the Giants would go this route.
Kareem Hunt – Las Vegas Raiders
Josh Jacobs was an absolute workhorse last year for the Raiders, earning 400 total opportunities (339 rush attempts, 61 targets). That kind of wear and tear will bring him down very quickly if it’s maintained over a long period of time, and bringing in a dynamic receiver in Kareem Hunt will allow Jacobs to stay fresh and maintain his RB1 status while also Hunt capitalizes in the receiving game to provide flex value. Hunt’s efficiency plummeted in 2022, with the former Brown posting career lows in yards per carry (3.8) and yards per route run (0.83), but it’s fair to wonder if his dissatisfaction with playing for the Browns contributed to his poor performance. Nonetheless, Hunt will only be playing a change of pace role on any offense at this point in his career and will need to rely on receiving work to be relevant.