By Mikey Ostrowski

Free agency is set to begin this week and we’ll inevitably see shake ups across the board. While exciting for real life, free agency can tell a different story for fans of fantasy football. This week is one of the riskiest weeks of the year to acquire assets in fantasy, as it becomes anyone’s guess as to who will be affected by new signings.

With that being said, there are a handful of players that may offer a fair amount of upside after this week that you should be able to acquire for pennies on the dollar right now. Be warned that making a trade for one of these players could backfire, but the risk could be well worth the reward given how cheap they should be.

Ke’Shawn Vaughn (TB)

With the news of Tom Brady returning to the Bucs in 2022, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Leonard Fournette come crawling back to Tampa Bay. With that being said, he likely would be able to tag a bigger contract working for a different team so it’s tough to say exactly what he’ll pick. One thing is for certain though: as of this moment in time, Vaughn is the only noteworthy running back that is signed to the Buccaneers. While I’m not insanely impressed with his play, he might have the opportunity to carve out a consistent role for himself next season. I can’t imagine any scenarios where they make him “the guy”, but he could easily become the “1B” of the future committee. According to KTC, Vaughn is only going for an early 3rd round pick right now on the trade market. I’d rather take a shot in the dark on him than a random dart throw at the rookie class this year in the 3rd. Low cost, medium reward… could be worth a shot.

Eno Benjamin (ARI)

Benjamin has a similar price point to Vaughn, though the current price is a late 3rd rounder rather than an early one. James Conner and Chase Edmonds are set to be free agents. While the team has expressed interest in bringing them both back, I think they’ll only be able to afford one of them (or maybe they’ll draft a rookie on day two). Drafted in the 7th round of the 2020 NFL Draft, there was never a high chance that Benjamin would see any sort of significant role on offense, but the door is as open as it’ll ever be. On the odd chance that Arizona re-signs Conner and lets Edmonds walk, Benjamin could slot into a similar role as Edmonds had. A little known fact: Eno Benjamin was a hell of a receiver in college. Over the course of 34 games, he caught 82 balls for 625 yards and 4 touchdowns. I wouldn’t go as far as to say he’s as good of a receiver out of the backfield as Edmonds is, but he’s serviceable enough to where I think they’d give him a shot at being the 3rd down back in 2022.

JD McKissic (FA)

McKissic seems to be a forgotten man in the fantasy football community these days, but let’s take a walk down memory lane. Just two seasons ago, McKissic finished as the overall RB17 in PPR leagues. His rushing stats didn’t bring much to the table, but as a receiver, he was stellar. McKissic had 80 receptions for 589 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2020… okay, so maybe saying he was “stellar” is a bit of an exaggeration, but you’ll never hear me complaining about a running back catching 80 balls. Free agency will play a big part in his role moving forward, but if he lands back in Washington or goes to a place that needs a legitimate 3rd down running back, he could be in luck. No matter where he lands, 80 receptions seems a bit optimistic, but he could make for one hell of a depth piece on your roster. McKissic’s current price tag sits as a very late 3rd round pick. Again, I’d rather have any of the running backs on this list than a dart throw 3rd in the weak 2022 draft class. Buyer beware: McKissic is NOT a young running back. He’s not the type of guy you should go after if you’re in a rebuild.

Khalil Herbert (CHI)

Chicago quietly parted ways with Tarik Cohen this off-season which will cement Herbert as the RB2 on the offense moving forward. He had a very solid rookie season playing behind David Montgomery, as he totaled over 520 scrimmage yards, 14 catches and 2 touchdowns. There was a four game span in which he did most of his damage (when Monty was out on injury). Believe it or not, between those four weeks (week 5 through 8), Herbert was the overall RB18. He’ll be hard pressed to find any legitimate playing time behind Montgomery, but Monty’s style of play could leave him sidelined here and there, which makes Herbert one of the better handcuffs to own in 2022. His price tag is a little on the higher side for what you’ll be getting from him (Late 2nd round rookie pick), but his ceiling could be the highest on this list. If you’re the Montgomery owner in your league, I would highly recommend trying to grab Herbert before the upcoming season (just don’t overpay).

D’Ernest Johnson (CLE)

The Browns are big fans of Johnson, and for good reason. In 2021, Johnson carried the ball 100 times for 534 yards and 3 scores. He also added 19 receptions for 137 yards. I know those numbers don’t exactly “wow” anyone, but they’re pretty solid when you know the context. Johnson was the RB3, behind Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt and would only ever fill-in if one of them was injured. In the 3 games where they had to rely on Johnson, he absolutely balled out. In those 3 games, he had 66 carries for 368 yards and two touchdowns. As a pass-catcher, he leaves a bit to be desired, but there is a very real possibility that Cleveland could opt to move on from Kareem Hunt, launching Johnson into an RB2 role on a very run-heavy offense. He’ll immediately slot in with some standalone value and would become a top-15 option if Chubb were to miss any time. It’s also worth noting that Cleveland had tendered Johnson, meaning that they’ll have the right to match any offer he receives in free agency. They definitely have their reasons as to why they want to make sure he doesn’t go anywhere this off-season and I think you’d be wise to inquire about him in your dynasty league. I’d be more than happy to send over a mid (or even early) 3rd round pick to grab him for my roster.

Sony Michel (FA)

Sony put together a nice little year in LA as he filled in for the injured Cam Akers and oft-injured Darrell Henderson. Michel saw 208 carries and 33 targets and managed to produce 973 scrimmage yards and 5 touchdowns. It’s tough to say what will happen to him in free agency, but he did have a solid enough year to earn himself a nice pay day in the off-season. I can’t imagine him going anywhere to be a workhorse, but he should have no trouble with finding an early-down/goal-line role somewhere. Maybe he goes to Arizona to potentially replace James Conner? Maybe Tampa to replace Fournette? What about Buffalo to split carries with Devin Singletary? The possibilities are virtually endless, but one thing is for certain: he’s earned himself a starting role somewhere in 2022. He’s another player that is only going for a 3rd round pick right now. Buyer beware: Michel is already 27. He’s not the type of guy you should go after if you’re in a rebuild, but can offer upside and depth on those contending rosters.

D’onta Foreman (FA)
Foreman is a free agent, but I’d say there’s a half-decent chance he re-signs in Tennessee. Filling in for Derrick Henry, Foreman turned a lot of heads in the 2nd half of the season. While he did split carries with a handful of other running backs in Tennessee during that period, he was undoubtedly their best back while Henry was sidelined. In a matter of 9 games, he carried the ball 133 times for 566 yards and 3 scores while adding 9 receptions for 123 more yards. Henry is getting older, and he’s signed for the next two seasons in Tennessee. The Titans would be wise to reduce his workload a bit so that he can stay as effective down the stretch, and Foreman is a hell of a guy to slot in when The King needs a breather. Standing at 6’1” and 236 pounds, Foreman is the punishing type of runner that can pick up (mostly) where Henry leaves off. Admittedly, if he doesn’t land in Tennessee he may struggle to carve out a role on offense, but if he does re-sign, he’d become one of the league’s best handcuffs to own (and maybe even a bit of standalone value if the Titans play it smart).

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