THE ROOKIE WATCH – WEEK 1
By Steve Uetz
This season arrived in unprecedented fashion for many reasons, but the unique off-season primarily raised questions and concerns with the incoming rookies. The 2020 rookie class was stacked with WR and RB talent and hopeful future franchise QBs. Despite the fantasy upside, this rookie class entered into the fantasy radar with greater than normal levels of uncertainty due to missing out on pre-season games and limited training camp experience. This is significant because there is less opportunity for coaches to gauge their development and understanding of offensive schemes and lingo, which can make rookies difficult to rely on. Fantasy GMs like to use the pre-season as an opportunity to see the rookies’ potential roles in the offense, depth chart position, and get a glimpse of the players’ skills at the pro level. Without that opportunity, conventional wisdom could have suggested to temper expectations of this rookie class at least early in the season. Week 1 is now in the books, thank goodness! Let’s take a look at how this rookie class looked in Week 1…
QB Joe Burrow: Burrow is human. This wasn’t exactly clear considering how he broke college football in 2019, but indeed he will have some growing pains in the NFL. Burrow struggled a bit when throwing the ball but what is extremely encouraging is that his rushing ability was put on display early with 46 yards and 1 TD. If the rushing is implemented consistently, it should help his passing efficiency. He is at the center of a very good offensive core!
RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire: The pre-season hype delivered! All the hype made sense, draft capital, KC offense, skill-set, Andy Reid’s RB history; it was a beautiful thing to see! CEH had excellent usage, showed very good burst and vision, but struggled at the goal-line. Although it is still extremely encouraging he is getting those looks in that elite offense. He handled a stout 25 carries and got 2 targets, love to see it! It is looking as if he will be well worth that first pick in redraft, as he remains an RB1 rest of season!
RB Jonathon Taylor: Slow start to the game as he received his first touch in the 2nd quarter. He ended up leading the Colts in rush attempts with 9 rushes for 22 yards and nearly led the colts in receiving with 6 catches for 67 yards. His stat line alone looked promising considering the Colts had a crowded backfield, but with Marlon Mack getting hurt (which I hate to see) Jonathon Taylor becomes an automatic RB1 rest of season.
RB JK Dobbins: The Ravens selected Dobbins in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft, the clear future RB star to compliment the Lamar Jackson led top tier offense. It was never a question of if he would take over this backfield, but when? Dobbins had 7 carries for 22 yards and 2 TDs! I was estimating that Dobbins would have more fantasy upside in late October, maybe November, but was worth aggressively targeting him in drafts with his skill set and being part of the high scoring upside offense. Looks like he will be tempting for our starting lineups sooner than I thought.
RB Cam Akers: Another high draft capital (2nd round) rookie RB lands in a good situation yet crowded backfield. Pretty good usage, although not very efficient, 14 rushes for 39 yards and 1 catch for 4 yards, this became a bit ignorable over the performance of veteran Malcolm Brown stealing the show for the Rams. The usage is encouraging but may need to temper expectations. Based on week 1 alone; he looks more like an ideal bye week FLEX play.
RB James Robinson: With Fournette departure from Jacksonville; James Robinson, the UDFA became a hot riser late in draft season. The buzz was mightily building especially after Devine Ozigbo landed on short-term IR; Robinson was an intriguing player with opportunity knocking but lingering questions remained of actual usage and offense quality. He was the perfect late round stash or free agency grab post-draft before week 1. Then week 1 happened… he received 100% of Jacksonville’s RB carries; absolutely LOVE that. 16 carries for 62 with 1 catch for 28 yards. Extremely encouraging debut for UDFA who can now be viewed as FLEX option.
RB D’Andre Swift: Mirrored comments with Cam Akers but with some added legitimate risk prior to week 1 because he missed some time in training camp with an injury. An injury on top of limited training camp opportunity isn’t a good combination. He ended up playing Week 1 with 3 carries for 8 yards and 1 TD and 3 catches on 5 targets for 15 yards. Biggest takeaway with Swift was that he DROPPED a potentially game winning TD (facepalm). I imagine this will put him in dog house but after a real humbling teachable moment for the talented RB he is worth rostering as a bench stash for now.
RB Zack Moss: Moss had very encouraging usage in Week 1; he virtually split the total RB work with Devin Singletary. He looks to be the better draft value based on Week 1 results. He wasn’t efficient when rushing with 9 carries for 11 yards but was encouraging as a pass catcher with 3 catches on 4 targets for 16 yards and 1 TD. The Bills played the hapless Jets, and play Miami Week 2, Moss should get FLEX play consideration.
RB Antonio Gibson: Gibson was perhaps one of the single biggest risers throughout the fantasy draft process, encouraging comments from the coaching staff, with unique skill set, and then stock peaked with the crescendo of Adrian Peterson’s release. In week 1 he totaled 9 carriers for 36 yards and 2 catches for 8 yards. This game was a little bit bizarre in terms of game flow, but I was extremely interested in how his usage will progress throughout the course of the season. He should be considered a deep FLEX play or an upside bench stash. The time to buy is now, would have been likely too pricey before week 1.
RB Joshua Kelley: Kelley entered into Week 1 with a big opportunity in store. With Justin Jackson being at less than 100%, Kelley has the chance to fill the Melvin Gordon sized hole in the Chargers offense. Kelley produced a very efficient 12 carries for 60 yards and 1 TD. No targets in week 1, seems as if the receiving work will stay with Ekeler. Overall very encouraging performance, upside bench stash with bye week FLEX play upside. He has league winning potential if he can keep this up.
WR Jerry Jeudy: Jeudy’s debut game came without the presence of Courtland Sutton but on the national stage we were all reminded of why he was an obvious first round pick in the NFL draft. 4 catches for 56 yards on 8 targets. His incredible route running was on full display as he led the Broncos in targets. Target share should drop once Sutton is back in the lineup but he had some stellar moments. He should be considered a deep FLEX option or bye week FLEX play.
WR Henry Ruggs: Ruggs was the first WR drafted in the 2020 NFL draft, his unique speed and playmaking ability in college was the difference for Las Vegas passing up the opportunity for Jeudy or Lamb. Week 1 Ruggs faced the Panthers and totaled 3 catches for 55 yards on 5 targets. 1 of the catches went for 45 yards, love that! He was also involved in the rushing game with 2 carries for 11 yards. Ruggs had a promising start and believe Las Vegas will continue to find unique ways of getting Ruggs involved.
WR CeeDee Lamb: Lamb joined the Cowboys as a luxury pick to their already heavy arsenal of an offensive core. Week 1 Lamb quickly got involved with 5 catches for 59 yards on 6 targets, including a 33 yarder. Lamb looks really good, as advertised, but Dallas has a lot of mouths to feed. I would consider Lamb a bye week FLEX play at the moment.
WR Jalen Reagor: Reagor landed on an Eagles squad that needed a versatile pass catching weapon; a perfect fit. He got hurt in training camp making his chances for playing in week 1 very slim. However, shockingly Reagor played in Week 1! He was inefficient but flashed with 1 catch for 55 yards on 4 targets. I don’t want him in my lineups anytime soon but he is an excellent bench stash and a good buy low candidate.
WR Michael Pittman Jr: Pittman is an intriguing prospect and landed in a great spot in Indianapolis. Week 1 he was more of an afterthought catching both targets for 10 yards. It may take a fellow Indy pass catcher to miss time to get Pittman in your lineup, he is a borderline drop candidate for redraft but my eyes are set for him for the future.
WR Tee Higgins: Higgins has the benefit of being drafted high in the same Cincinnati rookie class as Joe Burrow. Higgins should continue the tradition of prolific Clemson WRS but I have my sights set on hm for the future. Week 1 Higgins didn’t receive a target, only playing 15 snaps. If may take a fellow Cincy pass catcher to miss time for Higgins to blip on the fantasy radar for this season but his future is as bright as they get.
WR Devin Duvernay: Duvernay is in the mix of the young, talented, and crowded pass catching group in Baltimore. Week 1 he caught his only target for 12 yards. We want players in elite offenses on our rosters and radars. For now, looking for the future with Duvernay is the best option.
WR Bryan Edwards: Bryan Edwards is an extremely intriguing prospect looking to fill the role as the X receiver in Las Vegas, opportunity knocks with Tyrell Williams sidelined! Week 1 was a bit of a disappointment, although he did catch his only target for 9 yards. It was a high scoring game against the Panthers, and the Raiders really spread the ball around. Future looks bright, very bright!
WR Justin Jefferson: Jefferson exited the 2020 NFL draft with a massive chip on his shoulder feeling disrespected for the being the 5th WR selected. It was a deep and talented class, but the Vikings got a real steal as an immediate replacement for Stefon Diggs. Week 1 Packers/Vikings matchup turned out to be the highest scoring contest of the week, with Minnesota in their losing effort scored 24 of their 34 points in the 4th quarter. Jefferson caught 2 of his 3 targets for 26 yards, the WR2 spot remains open as it continues to be the Adam Thielen show. Patience should be exercised with Jefferson.
WR Brandon Aiyuk: Aiyuk was the sixth WR selected in the 2020 NFL draft. The first round selection lands in an excellent spot playing opposite Deebo Samuel. Samuel and Aiyuk were unable to suit up for Week 1. Aiyuk is still nursing a hamstring injury, his status week 2 is up in the air, but the distant future looks bright, and the immediate future does as well but the injury woes puts damper on it. The golden opportunity has to wait another week.
WR Laviska Shenault: The Jaguars needed a 2nd pass catching option behind DJ Chark in a bad way. With an door open, Lavishka Shenault enters! An extremely intriguing prospect lands in a great spot for opportunity in Jacksonville. Week 1 was an extremely promising start to the athletic WRs’ career. Shenault caught 3 of his 4 targets for 37 yards and 1 TD *and* 2 rushing attempts for 10 yards. He should have been drafted in redraft leagues but if he wasn’t he becomes a priority free agent target with bye week FLEX appeal!
WR Chase Claypool: Claypool enters a crowded, young, and talented WR group in Pittsburgh. The big bodied receiver made a highlight reel catch for his first career reception on the national stage. He caught both of his targets for 39 yards and had 8 yards on 1 rush attempt. For now he is bench stash with upside.
Overall I am highly encouraged by what the rookies were able to show in Week 1; let’s hope it keeps up and the other rising stars get their chance to shine soon! Bring on week 2!
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.