Rookie Watch - Week 15
By Steve Uetz
Week 15 was the ever-crucial semi-final matchup for the fantasy playoffs. A common theme this season has been the unique dependence and usability of the 2020 rookies throughout the fantasy season, despite the limited off-season program and no pre-season games. The playoffs shouldn’t be any different in your approach of starting the best players on your roster, but when you are in must-win scenarios we tend to and should look at every aspect of the game under a microscope to make the best decisions possible. Understanding where some of the rookies are trending in their development should help make those decisions a little easier. Some of our beloved rookies were obvious must-starts, risky starts, or upside dart throws…this left us with plenty of mixed results… Let us look to see how the great 2020 Rookie class performed in week 15!
Rookie Stud of the week: QB Jalen Hurts
QB Jalen Hurts: Hurts is easily the fantasy Rookie stud of the week for week 15 because he finished as the QB1! Hurts completed 24 of 44 pass attempts for 338 yards and 3 TDs (!) while rushing 11 times for 63 yards and 1 TD! If you started him in your semi-final matchup, it is highly likely that you won; congrats! He did commit an intentional grounding penalty from the end zone which resulted in a safety and was also sacked 6 times. The outing wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but overall, he looked incredible and has completely revitalized the Eagles offense. You love to see it!
New names to the series: RB Darrynton Evans, WR KJ Hill Jr., WR Quez Watkins, and TE Hunter Bryant
RB Darrynton Evans: Evans has only played in 3 games this season including week 15. In week 15 he had his best statistical showing where he handled 8 carries for 30 yards and caught both of his targets for 27 yards and 1 TD! Good to see him get some work in, but he will remain in the backseat behind certified Wrecker of Worlds: Derrick Henry.
WR KJ Hill Jr.: The Thursday night showdown between the Chargers and Raider was extremely memorable especially in the hours leading up to the kick-off as questions lingered of what type of performance stud WR Keenan Allen was going to have despite battling injuries during the short week of practice. Sadly, Keenan Allen greatly disappointed which played into the important strategy of risk-management in a semi-final playoff matchup. With Allen’s lack of playing time as his injury lingered, it opened the opportunity for some of the supporting cast to step in his place. KJ Hill had his best outing of the season in the Thursday night contest. He caught all 3 of his targets for 39 yards; which now gives him a total of 7 catches for 73 yards on the season.
WR Quez Watkins: Watkins was one of the 3 drafted WRs from the Eagles 2020 draft. The Eagles offense has struggled most the season but has recently been coming on more as Rookie QB sensation Jalen Hurts was named the starter. Watkins only has 4 receptions for 43 yards and 1 TD on the season. In week 15 against Arizona, Watkins caught 3 of 4 targets for 40 yards and 1 TD which was a nice “yards after catch” TD for 32 yards!
TE Hunter Bryant: Bryant only received 2 targets, but he caught 1 of them for a 44-yard gain. This was his first two targets and 1st reception on the season (and his career). Bryant has been battling injuries and has been inactive for most of the games this season. Perhaps he can come on a little bit more here as the season ends despite his fellow TE teammate TJ Hockenson continuing his wonderful breakout season.
Minor Rookie Notes…
TE Cole Kmet: Kmet disappointed in this week 15 contest as he only received 2 targets but caught both of them for 12 yards…
WR Lynn Bowden Jr: Bowden remained highly involved in the Miami offense as the Dolphins continue to miss out on major skill position player availability. Without Mike Gesicki, WRs DeVante Parker or Preston Williams, Bowden led the team in targets with 7 as he caught 6 of them for 37 yards and handled one rushing attempt for 9 yards! He has become a real PPR darling as of late!
WR Quintez Cephus: Cephus caught 1 of his 3 targets for 36 yards, continuing to put his big play ability on display…
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones: DPJ caught all 3 of his targets for 55 yards; in OBJ’s absence DPJ continues to be an efficient weapon in the piping-hot Cleveland offense…
WR KJ Hamler: No big-time TDs for Hamler this week; Hamler only caught 1 of his 4 targets for just 4 yards in the lopsided loss to Buffalo. I estimate that he will be a popular target in 2021 best ball drafts.
WR Gabriel Davis: for the second week in a row disappoints in the catch to target ratio as he only caught 2 of his 5 targets for just 18 yards…
WR Darnell Mooney: Mooney tied for the team lead in targets with 5, he caught 4 of them for 49 yards and 1 TD! He also gained 16 yards on his lone rushing attempt…
WR Collin Johnson: Johnson only received 1 target which he caught for 8 yards. This to me was a little bizarre considering that game-flow was in the Jags favor passing game garbage time. It just did not happen as the Ravens contained the Jacksonville offense all game.
RB AJ Dillon: We had an AJ Dillon sighting during the Saturday night contest against Carolina as he handled one rush for 18 yards…
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn: Vaughn only handled 2 rushes gaining 4 yards in Ronald Jones’ absence, this was disappointing as he was commonly drafted relatively high (late 1st round-early 2nd round) in 2020 dynasty rookie drafts. If there was ever an opportunity to show what you got it might as well have been when the starter doesn’t suit up…hopefully we can see more out him by season’s end. Add him to the list with Bryan Edwards, Eno Benjamin, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene, and Devin Duvernay among others…
Major Rookies Notes…
QB Justin Herbert: Herbert had an excellent outing against the Raiders! He was in early consideration for Rookie stud of the week until Jalen Hurts did his thing… but nevertheless, Herbert did a lot right in this game! He didn’t commit any turnovers, only took 1 sack, and most importantly got a Win, on the road and in thrilling overtime fashion! He completed 22 of 32 passes for 314 yards and 2 TDs while rushing for 14 yards and another TD! Young stud on the remains on the rise!
QB Tua Tagovailoa: Tua was conservative as a thrower but did enough to get a win against the tough division rival New England Patriots. Tua completed 20 of 26 passes for only 145 yards with an INT and took 2 sacks. He was able to fill out a decent fantasy day on the ground as he scored 2 rushing TDs and while gaining 9 yards! It does not always have to be pretty, but he led his team to a win which ultimately matters the most!
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire: CEH handled 14 carries and produced efficient numbers as he gained 79 yards for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. He also caught 1 of his 2 targets for 4 yards. Unfortunately, CEH got injured and is unlikely to play in week 16. The Chiefs now turn to recently acquired Le’Veon Bell but we are now focusing on 2021 for CEH! Get well soon!
RB Jonathon Taylor: The Jonathon Taylor show rolls on as he produces another 20-touch performance! He handled 16 carries for 83 yards and 1 TD and caught 4 of his 5 targets for 12 yards! He remains a must start RB1 to help you bring that fantasy championship home!
RB James Robinson: Robinson disappointed a little bit in this lob-sided loss to the Ravens. Robinson still touched the ball 19 times but was one of his least efficient performances of the year. He handled 16 carries for 35 yards and caught all 3 of his targets for 18 yards and a TD, which was a 17 yarder! The TD saved his day for fantasy but as long as he is active for week 16 I would not hesitate to start him!
RB J.K. Dobbins: Dobbins continues to produce in a big way with the opportunities he is given! He totaled 15 touches which really could have been much more with the way this game played out as the Ravens completely dominated the Jaguars. He handled 14 carries and gained 64 yards and a TD and caught his only target for 17 yards! He is an absolute stud!
RB D’Andre Swift: Starting swift in week 15 was no easy decision…but if you did start him you were surely rewarded as he simply got it done. Swift handled 15 carries gaining 67 yards while scoring 2 TDs and caught 4 of 5 targets for 15 yards! He continues to churn out an impressive season as he is the clear future of the Detroit running game!
RB Cam Akers: In the surprising and bizarre losing effort to the oft embarrassing NY Jets; but “Any Given Sunday”. Akers led the way for the Rams RBs with 15 carries where he gained 63 yards. He also only caught 1 of 3 targets for -1 yards. This outcome was supremely disappointing as the previous week he completely dominated as a runner, I mean he was fine, but I just had WAY higher expectations considering his last couple games and the opponent. What made matters worse was that he injured his ankle and will likely miss week 16. It is just a shame to have all this positive professional momentum going and then have it be pulled out from underneath your feet like a rug. Get well soon!
RB Salvon Ahmed: Ahmed returned to action this week (while Myles Gaskin remained Out) and was given an elite workload while displaying supreme efficiency and productivity. He handled 23 (!!) carries for 122 yards and 1 TD (with a 2nd TD called back and then subsequently snuck in by Tua) and caught 1 of 3 targets for 5 yards. Really incredible stuff by the undrafted rookie! All an UDFA wants is an opportunity to show their ability, and he has done that and some! You really love to see it!
RB Zack Moss: Moss out-carried and out-gained Devin Singletary in the dominant win over the Denver Broncos. Moss gained 81 yards on 13 carries, an average of 6.2 yards per carry! You’ll take it, and that is ultimately encouraging but at this point it would be difficult to get Moss into your starting lineup unless you are in the deepest of leagues.
WR Justin Jefferson: Jefferson continues to make his case for being the WR1 of this elite WR class! He led the Vikings in targets with 11 (!) catching 8 of them for 104 yards! That chip on his shoulder from feeling disrespected in the draft coming in handy for his future outlook and of course the Vikings organization!
WR CeeDee Lamb: Lamb was 2nd on the team in targets with 7 which was good enough to be the most among Dallas WRs. He caught 5 of his 7 targets for 85 yards and also scored a TD on a 47-yard kick return. The young stud, soon to be flat-out superstar can really do it all!
WR Brandon Aiyuk: Aiyuk comes through again with another monster target share! He caught 9 (!) of 13 (!!) targets for 73 yards and a TD! I still consider Aiyuk and Deebo Samuel as a 1A and 1B situation but if Samuel continues to struggle with injuries Aiyuk will easily be the 49ers’ flat-out WR1. Aiyuk is looking to be in the top 3 of this already impressive WR class!
WR Michael Pittman Jr.: Pittman caught 2 of 3 targets 19 yards. This continues to be a disappointing trend with TY Hilton resurging in an epic way over the last 4 weeks (and then Zach Pascal having a monster game seemingly out of nowhere in week 15) which has poured cold water on the hot streak he was having after his return from IR. For dynasty, if you have Pittman you know what he is capable of and it is only a matter of time before he is able to flash that ability once again!
WR Denzel Mims: Mims disappointed in his return back to action as he caught 3 of 4 targets for only 18 yards in the wild and truly bizarre Jets victory over the LA Rams, which was the head-scratcher of the season. Mims is a massive dynasty buy or hold right now, the future of the team has nowhere to go but up despite potentially losing some NFL draft capital in the victory over the Rams.
WR Jerry Jeudy: Jeudy’s downward spiral unfortunately continued in this big-time loss against Buffalo. Jeudy only caught 1 of 5 targets for 19 yards. We are looking forward to next year already for Jeudy. I believe he could be a tremendous value in redraft leagues next season and for dynasty it is best to understand that he is incredibly talented and that he has nowhere to go but up!
WR Lavishka Shenault: Shenault led Jacksonville in targets with 6 as he caught 5 of them for 43 yards. He also handled two rushing attempts but only gained 1 yard on them. I love that he is continually utilized in creative ways in this offense and is a clear focal point; it is incredibly encouraging for his dynasty upside, especially now that the Jaguars are in position to get the #1 pick in the 2021 draft.
WR Jalen Reagor: Reagor was tied for team lead in targets with 8, while catching 5 of them gaining 49 yards. He also handled one rushing in which he lost 10 yards. Earning 9 total touches is nice, that is the number that I’m going to focus on here. It means that the team wants him involved and they see his potential. I am looking forward to seeing how Reagor and Hurts start to gel in the last two weeks.
WR Chase Claypool: Claypool and the Steelers in general have now lost 3 games in a row and their offense all of a sudden looks lost. Claypool unfortunately only caught 3 of his 8 targets (2nd on the team) for 54 yards. One of those catches went for 37 yards as he was marching down the sideline as the Steelers were bizarrely in a deep deficit to the struggling Cincinnati Bengals. Claypool has flashed tremendous ability and I consider him a unique dynasty buying opportunity as the Pittsburgh offense is currently struggling. Better days ahead!
WR Tee Higgins: Speaking of struggling offenses, the Cincinnati Bengals were able to get the job against the division rival Steelers as their defense stepped up in a massive way. Higgins led the Bengals in targets with 6 and had 3 catches for 31 yards. Higgins has immense career upside especially when Joe Burrow returns but for now he enters unusable territory for your championship matchup. We are very much looking forward to next year for Higgins!
Steve Uetz has over 15 years of experience in fantasy football. He enjoys writing fantasy football content and articles. He is very passionate about Auction Leagues. Other than his own fantasy football teams, Steve is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Eagles & Penn State! Steve (@FantasyLadder on Twitter) is very accessible and involved in the Fantasy Football Twitter community! Reach out to him anytime for questions or advice! His primary goal is to help you win your leagues.