ROOKIE WATCH – WEEK 17 and Wild Card Weekend
By Steve Uetz
Week 17 is the end of the NFL regular season and the end of the line for some of our favorite rookies’ seasons as well. Some of our favorite rookies have their blurbs doubled up to account for their performances in the Wild Card weekend matchups. Week 17/Wild Card blurbs include but not limited to: Jonathon Taylor, Michael Pittman, Zack Moss, Gabriel Davis, Cam Akers, Antonio Gibson, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, JK Dobbins, and Chase Claypool! We are already looking forward to the start of the 2021 season so we can see more of RB James Robinson and WR Brandon Aiyuk who both did not suit up in week 17. Let’s take a look at the rookies performed in Week 17 and in the Wild Card round of the playoffs…
Week 17 Rookie Studs of the Week:
RB Jonathon Taylor (once again), RB JK Dobbins, and WR Lavishka Shenault
RB Jonathon Taylor: Just when you thought Taylor reached his ceiling with an impressive month to close out the regular season and fantasy playoffs, Taylor literally blew the roof off in week 17! Taylor erupted for 253 rushing yards with 2 TDs. Yards Per Carry can be a fickle stat but I think it can be useful here as he was given 30 carries (!!) and averaged 8.4 ypc (!!). He also caught 1 of 2 targets for 1 yard. In the Wild Card round loss to the Bills, Taylor still looked good as he handled 21 carries and gained 78 yards with 1 TD! He also caught 2 of his 4 targets for 6 yards; The elite offensive workshare continues, as it should. Taylor will now enter the 2021 season as a sure-fire 1st round pick for redraft and dynasty start-up leagues!
RB JK Dobbins: In the dominant defeat of the Bengals, Dobbins just barely led the Ravens in rushing attempts with 13 and showed to be the most efficient of an already highly efficient bunch (RB Edwards 12 carries – 60 yards, QB Jackson 11 carries – 97 yards, RB Ingram 9 carries – 39 yards). With his 13 rushing attempts Dobbins totaled 160 yards and scored 2 TDs! In the Wild Card round win against the Titans Dobbins just barely out-rushed teammate Gus Edwards (Dobbins 9 carries and Edwards 8 carries). Dobbins gained 43 yards and scored a TD with his 9 rushing attempts and also lost 6 yards as he caught his only target. This is encouraging for his future prospects because he is still involved when everything is on the line, and I believe this should continue through the remainder of their playoff run and into next season.
WR Lavishka Shenault: With fellow rookie Colin Johnson and young star DJ Chark ruled out as the season ended, Shenault made the most of his opportunity! He was tied for the team lead with 9 targets; he caught 6 of them for 68 yards and 2 TDs! He will be going into the 2021 season as the clear-cut number 2 WR in Jacksonville. Jacksonville is on the verge on a new head coach and the #1 pick in the draft. Exciting days ahead for the Jags and Shenault!
Unexpected but welcome TD scorers:
TE Devin Asiasi and WR Bryan Edwards
TE Devin Asiasi: In the regular season finale, Asiasi hauled in 2 of his 3 targets for 39 yards and a TD! This was actually his first receptions of the season. We will take it, but we were expecting more from him and fellow rookie TE Dalton Keene.
WR Bryan Edwards: Edwards ended his rookie season on a high note as he caught his 1st touchdown as he hauled in both of his targets for 51 yards! I hope he can carry that momentum with him through the off-season.
Minor Rookie Notes…
TE Cole Kmet: Kmet ended the regular season with a solid 7 catches on 8 targets for 41 yards line, but then in the Wild Card round matchup he disappeared (with the rest of the Chicago offense) with a 3 catches on 4 targets for 16 yard stat line. He is the Bears TE of the future, he could very well have a breakout season in 2021!
TE Adam Trautman: Trautman only caught 1 pass in both week 17 and the Wild Card playoff matchup as veteran TE Jared Cook found his way back into the Saints offensive plans.
RB Salvon Ahmed: Ahmed and the Dolphins unfortunately missed out on the playoffs despite closing the season with a 10-6 record, but Ahmed still churned out another solid performance in week 17. He handled 6 carries as he gained 29 yards and scored a TD and caught all three of his targets for 19 yards. As the Miami backfield has talent and is a bit crowded, Ahmed’s value for 2021 is a little up in the air.
RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn: Vaughn did not suit up in the regular season finale as the Buccaneers crushed their division rival Atlanta Falcons to secure their spot in the playoffs. Although in the Wild Card round victory, Vaughn played as the backup and change of pace RB since typical starter Ronald Jones was hurt. With that backup role, Vaughn gained 21 yards on 5 carries as veteran Leonard Fournette handled the main workload which should continue if Jones continues to miss time in the playoffs.
WR Lynn Bowden Jr: Bowden ends his rookie season campaign in highly versatile style. In week 17 he ended up being 2nd on the team in receiving targets catching 8 of 12 (!!) targets for 44 yards and completed his only pass attempt for 32 yards.
WR Quintez Cephus: Cephus ended his rookie season campaign on a high note as he caught 2 of his 3 targets for 51 and a TD which was a 20-yard score.
WR Marquez Callaway: In week 17 Callaway caught 3 of his 4 targets for 51 yards but did not contribute at all in the Wild Card matchup as Saints top receiving threat Michael Thomas returned to the field.
WR Henry Ruggs: Ruggs ended his season with a 3 catch game totaling 38 yards… his first year was a let-down considering he was the first WR selected in the 2020 NFL Draft. He still has tremendous upside being a unique talent with blazing speed.
WR Devin Duvernay: In week 17 Duvernay gained 22 yards on his only rushing attempt and did not catch his only target and in the Wild Card weekend he was only involved in the kick return game.
WR Van Jefferson: Jefferson caught 4 of 8 targets for 50 yards in the regular season finale but did not register a target in the Wild Card round victory over the Seahawks…We shall see if he gets more involvement as the Rams continue their playoff run against Green Bay...
WR Gabriel Davis: In the regular season finale, Davis led the Bills in receiving as he hauled in 2 (out of 5 targets) big yardage receptions for 107 yards, including a TD that went for 56 yards! Then in the Wild Card round victory, Davis was 2nd on the Bills in receiving yards! He caught all four of his targets for 85 yards. Davis is making the case to become the Bills WR2 for the 2021 season. I’m excited to see what else Davis and Bills are capable of getting accomplished as the playoffs continue.
WR Darnell Mooney: Mooney concluded his season in week 17 since he was unfortunately unable to suit up for the Wild Card playoff contest against the Saints. In week 17 Mooney ended his sneaky productive rookie season leading the Bears in targets, receptions, and yards! He caught 11 of 13 (!!) targets for 93 yards, including one reception for 53 yards!
WR Denzel Mims: Mims closed out the season catching 1 of 2 targets for 15 yards… As we look forward to the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets currently sit at the #2 overall pick which could be a new QB which may be the best course of action for Mims’ future prospects.
Major Rookies Notes…
QB Justin Herbert: Herbert ended his impressive rookie season on an extremely high note with a win (against KC backups) and strong individual performance. He completed 22 of 31 pass attempts for 302 yards and 3 TDs and rushed for 9 yards with a TD! He took 3 sacks but didn’t commit any turnovers. The young stud will be the single biggest QB value riser for the 2021 season!
QB Jalen Hurts: Jalen Hurts struggled in his rookie season finale which led to his eventual and controversial benching as the Eagles had nothing to play for but were playing against a division rival fighting for a playoff spot. Hurts did all of his offensive damage on the ground as he gained 34 yards on 8 carries and scored 2 TDs (!) but struggled mightily in the passing game. Hurts completed 7 of 20 passes for 72 yards and 1 INT while taking 1 sack. His benching was warranted but the greater circumstances led to the national controversy and debate. The Eagles are at a crossroads as they are currently searching for a new head coach and may have a QB competition on their hands going into the 2021 season. All Eagles players (with the exception of Miles Sanders) have their dynasty value hanging in a strange balance…
QB Tua Tagovailoa: Tua struggled a bit in his regular season finale as the Dolphins got demolished by the Bills. Tua completed 35 of 58 pass attempts for 361 yards with 1 TD and 3 INTs and gained 28 yards rushing while taking 1 sack. The Dolphins were on the cusp of getting into the playoffs but couldn’t quite get in after finishing the season with a 10-6 record. An impressive season turnaround from how the Dolphins finished the season before. Tua and the Dolphins are trending in the right direction and have excellent 2021 draft capital to keep it going up.
RB Cam Akers: Akers continues to handle an elite workload in the Rams offense which is supremely encouraging! In the week 17 victory he was inefficient as he handled 21 carries but only gained 34 yards. However, he did lead the Rams in receiving as he caught all four of his targets for 52 yards. His elite workload continued in the Wild Card victory against the Seahawks as he handled a robust 28 carries (!!) for 131 yards and 1 TD while he caught both of his targets for 45 yards! 30 touches in a playoff game! You love to see it! I’m excited to see what else he is able to showcase for the remainder of their playoff run.
RB D’Andre Swift: Swift ends his rookie season on a strong note as he finds the end-zone and leads the Detroit backfield in rushing attempts and receiving targets. Swift caught all 3 of his targets for 16 yards and gained 54 with a TD on 12 carries. Swift will go into next season as a solid RB2 option!
RB Antonio Gibson: Gibson and WFT prevailed against Philadelphia granting them the playoff spot for the dreadful NFC East. Gibson totaled 20 touches in the winning as he gained 75 yards on 19 carries and caught his only target for 6 yards. He unfortunately didn’t fare as well against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the Wild Card round playoff loss. In the WC loss, Gibson struggled with efficiency as he continued to practice through injuries. Gibson gained 31 yards on 14 carries and caught 2 of his 3 targets for 4 yards. An unfortunate outing for the young stud but a taste of the playoffs is good for a young players’ appetite for future success.
RB Zack Moss: Moss had a disappointing end to the season. In the regular season finale, the Bills obliterated the Dolphins; Moss only handled 3 carries as he gained 8 yards and caught his only target for 13 yards. Then in the Wild Card round playoff victory Moss handled 7 carries for 21 yards and caught all four of his passes for 26 yards before he exited the contest early due to an injury. Early injury reports suggested that he may be out for the remainder of the playoffs.
WR Justin Jefferson: Jefferson ends his rookie season with an incredible dominant performance as he led the Vikings in targets, catches, and yards. In week 17 he totaled 9 catches on 12 targets with 133 yards! He has established himself as the single biggest value riser of the impressive 2020 rookie class!
WR CeeDee Lamb: Lamb finished his impressive rookie season on a bit of a down note as he caught 5 of 7 targets for 43 yards and gained 3 yards on his lone rushing attempt. If Dak Prescott is back with the Cowboys in 2021, Lamb is a player I will be aggressively targeting in all draft formats!
WR Michael Pittman Jr.: Pittman didn’t need to do much in the week 17 regular season finale against the Jaguars since the Jonathon Taylor show was at full steam. Pittman caught both of his targets for 28 yards and gained 2 yards on one rushing attempt. In the Wild Card round loss to the Bills, Pittman led the Colts in targets and receiving yards. He caught 5 of his 10 targets for 90 yards and also gained 11 yards on one rushing attempt.
WR Jerry Jeudy: Jeudy ended his somewhat disappointing rookie season (not fully his fault) on an extremely high note which is very encouraging for his future prospects. In week 17 Jeudy led the Broncos in receptions, targets, and yards as he caught 5 of 7 targets for 140 yards and 1 TD! His TD reception was an incredible 92 yarder! My hope for Jeudy and the Broncos for 2021 is more consistent and better QB play.
WR Jalen Reagor: Reagor ended his disappointing rookie season on a very low note (as did the Eagles overall). Reagor caught his only target for 15 yards…this may have been in large part because the Eagles had nothing to play for and were left with little reason to play their 1st round pick in a meaningless game. The Eagles are now facing a tricky QB situation and are in search of a new head coach while having an attractive draft position to perhaps grab another WR early in the 1st round…
WR Chase Claypool: Claypool ended his up and own rookie season on an extremely high note! In week 17 (with QB Mason Rudolph starting) Claypool led Pittsburgh in targets and receiving yards! He caught 5 of 11 (!!) targets for 101 yards and 1 TD! Then in the next week's Wild Card contest against the Browns (for the second week in a row), Claypool caught 5 of 7 targets for 59 yards and 2 TDs! The Steelers lost both contests and were playing from behind in the Wild Card round but Claypool still produced in a massive way.
WR Tee Higgins: Higgins and Bengals ended the season on an incredibly low note. Higgins unfortunately got banged up early in the contest and didn’t catch his only target. We look forward to the start of the 2021 season with our eyes set back on the Burrow-Higgins connection that blossomed early on.
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.