Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Often times, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.
Last week, we saw Jonathan Taylor pile up yards in his first game as a lead back, and we witnessed Joshua Kelley tally over 100 scrimmage yards with the Chargers. Both of these standout performances illustrate the value that these rookies can have to fantasy managers.
For dynasty leagues, this column should help identify ideal trade targets and prized stashes. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge necessary for a championship run. All of the players in this article were high draft picks, but as the season progresses, more diamonds in the rough will be highlighted.Editor's Note: Get any full-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Exclusive access to our Premium articles, rankings, projections, 15 lineup tools and daily Premium DFS research/tools including our Lineup Optimizer, Research Station and so much more! Sign Up Now!
The Sudden Starter
Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)
Tyrod Taylor was supposed to be the starting quarterback for the Chargers last Sunday, but things did not go as planned. A pre-game injection punctured his lung and sidelined him, opening the door for Herbert. Herbert reportedly did not know that he would be starting until seconds before kickoff, and yet, he took the defending champions to the brink. Throwing for 311 yards and totaling two touchdowns, Herbert had quite the debut. His poise and toughness were on display all game.
Justin Herbert frozen rope🎯
— PFF (@PFF) September 20, 2020
With a full week of preparation, Herbert could perform even better than he did against the Chiefs. How viable he will be in redraft leagues remains to be seen, but his dynasty outlook is very bright. Herbert faces a Carolina defense this week that has allowed 30+ points in both of their games thus far.
The Top Talent
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, KC)
The consensus in the preseason was that CEH was the top fantasy rookie for 2020. After seeing a significant amount of hype, Edwards-Helaire dominated in the season opener against the Houston Texans. His second game was a little quieter, but he made six catches that showed his receiving ability. CEH will play during prime time for the second time in his young career this week, facing the Baltimore Ravens. With both the Chiefs and the Ravens at 2-0, all eyes will be on this matchup. If Edwards-Helaire can tear through a talented Ravens Defense, his place among the NFL's most promising tailbacks will be established.
The Last Man Standing
Brandon Aiyuk (WR, SF)
The San Francisco 49ers have been ravaged by injuries this season. With offensive starters going down left and right, Aiyuk will be looking to solidify his position in the receiving corps. Aiyuk made his debut last week against the Jets and made just two catches. With quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo out this week with an ankle injury, the passing attack might be hampered a bit. However, tight end George Kittle will also be absent, meaning that Aiyuk could be the team's top target. If backup passer Nick Mullens finds a rhythm against the New York Giants, Aiyuk would be the main beneficiary. How the rookie plays with a larger role will be very intriguing.
The Speedy Striker
Chase Claypool (WR, PIT)
Claypool has not been a huge part of the Pittsburgh offense so far this season. However, he has certainly made the most of the few targets that he has gotten. Catching all five of his targets for 127 yards, including an 84-yard score against the Broncos, Claypool has made a great case to be used more often.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) September 20, 2020
The rookie from Notre Dame has the athleticism to make huge plays for the Steelers. Claypool faces the reeling Houston Texans on Sunday, and it will be interesting to see if his big play last week gets him any more looks. Even if it does not, a few more, and he could start to eat into his teammates' target shares.
The Rising Receiver
Michael Pittman Jr. (WR, IND)
Colts receiver Parris Campbell has been placed on IR, so they will be looking for someone to step up. That player could be Pittman. His snap share went from 53 percent in Week 1 to 92 percent last week, one of the largest increases among rookies. His target share also improved, going from 4 percent to 24 percent. Indianapolis is clearly trying to get Pittman more involved, which bodes well for his chances against the Jets this week. If Pittman sees more targets than teammate T.Y. Hilton, his viability in redraft leagues would rise significantly. The Colts are large favorites though, so do not expect much garbage time usage.