The Rookie Report: The Age of the Rookie
Not too long ago, rookies in the NFL were widely considered an afterthought in many fantasy football drafts. Sure, you’d get lucky and take a late round flyer on an Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 1,341 yards and 12 touchdowns his rookie year. Or maybe you drafted Randy Moss in ’98 when he grabbed 69 balls for 1,313 yards and an incredible 17 touchdowns. Whether you were lucky enough to draft one of these guys, or you stay away from rooks all together, the age of the rookie is now upon us.
Now, more than ever, we’ve seen so many rookies impact NFL games and even become featured members of their teams. This has changed the way many of us view rookies in the fantasy world. Most of us are aware of stud rookies like Kareem Hunt, Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook (pre-injury), and Deshaun Watson, but what about the rookies who sit second or third on the depth chart, or the ones who haven’t quite gotten the chance to shine?
For those of you looking for late season rookie performers, I’ve complied a list of names to watch or pick up before they explode, even though some are in the process of exploding. (Other rookies excluded from this list due to high ownership: Alvin Kamara, Aaron Jones, Evan Engram, Christian McCaffrey, and Joe Mixon).
All ownerships provided for these rookies will be based off of ESPN leagues.
Rookies Worth an Add Now
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, Pittsburgh Steelers (53.6%)
Undoubtedly one of the hottest wavier pickups of the week, Smith-Schuster gave us a taste of his big play ability, catching seven balls to the tune of 193 yards and two touchdowns. With Martavis Bryant falling out of coach Mike Tomlin’s favor, look for JuJu to remain the number two option in the passing game.
WR Cooper Kupp, Los Angeles Rams (40.1%)
Although often overlooked by fellow receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods, Kupp is tied for the team lead in targets and touchdowns. He remains one of Jared Goff’s favorite targets and is worth a look in PPR leagues.
RB Marlon Mack, Indianapolis Colts (32.9%)
Currently sitting behind old man Frank Gore, Mack has continued to show big play ability in a limited role. Sure, Gore is as steady as they come and will probably play until he’s 40, but there’s no doubt Mack is the Colts future. If you have a spot on your bench, stash Mack and hope that the Colts bag up their season and go all in on Mack.
WR Corey Davis, Tennessee Titans (26.4%)
After being selected fifth overall in the 2017 draft, many expected Davis to have a productive fantasy season. He did have a respectable debut with 6 catches for 69 yards, but suffered a significant hamstring injury and has missed much of the season. Now healthy and the Titans receiving core struggling mightily, Davis could jump in as the number one option.
WR Kenny Golladay, Detroit Lions (17.3%)
Golladay became a hot wavier wire pickup after his week one performance of 4 catches for 69 yards and 2 touchdowns. Since then however, Golladay has only seen action in two games because of a hamstring injury he suffered in week three. He now appears to be healthy and could provide a spark to the struggling Lions offense.
Rookies to Watch the Next Few Weeks
TE O.J. Howard, Tampa Bay Bucs (19.9%)
Howard had a breakout game in week seven, with six catches for 98 yards and two touchdowns. While this is encouraging, Cameron Brate is still Jamis Winston’s preferred tight end target. If Brate misses any time Howard, is worth a look.
RB Matt Breida, San Francisco 49ers (15.1%)
In an increasing role behind Carlos Hyde, the undrafted rookie looks to be gaining steam weekly. It’s only a matter of time before oft-injured Hyde goes down and Breida gets a shot at the lead back duties.
RB Samaje Perine, Washington Redskins (13.6%)
Perine has had plenty of opportunities to over take the Redskins backfield due to the many injuries of Rob Kelley. However, with his abysmal 3.0 yards per carry and the emergence of Chris Thompson, Perine has failed to gain any ground and has fallen to third on the depth chart. Perine is still worth a look if Kelley misses significant time again.
RB D’Onta Foreman, Houston Texans (12.6%)
Foreman is a mere change-of-pace back to Lamar Miller, with around 8-10 touches per week, but has looked serviceable in limited action. With the injury history of Miller, Foreman should at least be on your watch list.
WR Mike Williams, Los Angeles Chargers (7.4%)
After suffering a neck injury in the offseason, it was unknown if Williams would play at all this season. Williams, who was selected with the seventh overall pick, has all the physical tools to become a stud fantasy receiver. Thus far, Williams has been brought along very slowly, but is expected to see an increased workload as the season goes on. Keep Williams on your watch list.
Very Deep Rookie Sleepers (Remainder of Season)
TE David Njoku, Cleveland Browns (4.9%)
Njoku actually ranks as the 16th scoring tight end in standard scoring leagues. Njoku ultimately suffers from playing for the Browns and their terrible quarterback play. So far, he’s been totally touchdown dependent and should only be considered in very deep fantasy leagues.
RB James Conner, Pittsburgh Steelers (4.9%)
Conner understandably hasn’t seen much playing time behind fantasy superstar Le’Veon Bell. However, he remains the only viable handcuff for Bell, who has had a few season-ending injuries in his career. If Bell misses any sort of time, Conner will be the main benefactor and should be watched. A must-own for Bell owners as we head down the stretch this season.
WR John Ross, Cincinnati Bengals (3.6%)
Speedster John Ross, much like Mike Williams, has been injured much of the season and has been brought along very slowly. He appears to be healthy now and may be given a few looks in the coming weeks. It’s only a matter of time before the Bengals unleash the 9th overall pick.
WR Curtis Samuel, Carolina Panthers (1.6%)
After the trade of Kelvin Benjamin to the Buffalo Bills and with Greg Olsen still sidelined, a lot of targets have opened up in Carolina. Samuel, who was taken in the second round, figures to get more opportunities and could be a potential deep sleeper.
Rookies to Stay Away From
These are a few rookies that are likely to have low impact for the rest of this year and should be avoided.
QB Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
All the Bears do is run, run, run. Stay away from Trubisky because he doesn’t have any receivers.
QB Deshone Kizer, Cleveland Browns
He’s struggled mightily and he plays for the Browns, enough said.
WR Zay Jones, Buffalo Bills
New acquired Kelvin Benjamin will assuredly take the struggling rookie’s starting spot.