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Second-Year Scouting Report: Zonovan Knight

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Every year, rookie fever emerges, and the previous class gets pushed aside by the shiny new NFL toys. This usually results in a rookie surge of ADP, which opens up pockets of value, especially with players from the previous class who may not be as established as long-time veterans in the league. This happens even though most fantasy analysts (and players) understand the largest leap occurs from year 1 to year 2.

 

Throughout the summer, FTN will be releasing second-year scouting reports to keep these players fresh in fantasy managers’ minds. The series shifts today to Zonovan Knight, the second-year running back with the New York Jets. This article is a breakdown of Knight’s first season and what fantasy managers can expect from him in 2023 and beyond.

Zonovan Knight, RB, New York Jets

Zonovan Knight entered the NFL after three successful seasons as the primary running back for NC State. Knight started 36 games in his college career, carrying the ball 419 times for 2,286 yards (5.5 yards per carry) and 18 total touchdowns (10 during the 2020 season). He was also a competent receiver during his time with NC State, catching 48 passes for 337 yards.

Knight’s career as a grinder running back didn’t endear him to the NFL community during the 2022 draft. The rookie running back went undrafted, eventually landing with the New York Jets to serve as a backup to fellow rookie Breece Hall and veteran running back Michael Carter.

What Went Right

Unlike most UDFAs, Knight got an opportunity to see the field during his rookie season. And he looked good during parts of it. An ACL tear to Breece Hall and the ineffectiveness of midseason trade acquisition James Robinson gave Knight a chance to play meaningful snaps for the Jets. In his first three games, he made the most of that opportunity. His biggest high point came in a Week 13 matchup against the Vikings that Michael Carter missed due to injury. Knight posted 15 carries for 90 yards while adding five receptions for 28 yards in a five-point loss. 

From Week 12 to Week 14, Knight had 46 carries for 230 yards and one rushing touchdown while catching all 10 of his targets for 68 yards. The rookie just couldn’t keep that pace. 

What Went Wrong

Knight just couldn’t keep up the 5.0 yards per carry he hit over the first three games of his season. In Weeks 15-18, the UDFA logged 39 carries for 70 yards (1.7 yards per carry) and caught three of four targets for 32 yards. He saw his snap share gradually decrease during that time as well, as Michael Carter got healthy and the team fed touches to veteran change-of-pace back Ty Johnson. By the end of the season, the Jets were fully immersed in a three-man rotation of running backs with 30% snap shares with Knight getting the low-value between-the-20s touches.

 

2023 Outlook

Things aren’t looking great for Knight heading into his second season. For one, Breece Hall is trending toward a Week 1 return from his ACL injury. Even if he isn’t 100% healthy, the team still has Carter to function as a pass-catching back and drafted Pittsburgh’s Israel Abanikanda in the fifth round of the 2023 NFL Draft. Abanikanda is a highly explosive north/south runner coming off a collegiate season with 1,431 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns.

All three of those options will likely see snaps before Knight, so he will need another wave of injuries to be relevant in 2023.

Dynasty Outlook

There is a small glimmer of hope for Zonovan Knight in dynasty formats, although he is admittedly more of a “taxi stash” than a player you can roster with confidence in his future production. Knight did find his way onto the field as a rookie despite being a UDFA and he did produce a three-game sample size where he totaled 5.0 yards per carry. That at least shows he can have some level of success in the NFL.

Unfortunately, those numbers weren’t sustainable, and the Jets had no problem dipping into the NFL draft to grab another more explosive running back in 2023. That tells us a lot about their feelings for Knight as a potential backup and makes it difficult to trust him long-term.

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