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, Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson topped 100 yards for the second consecutive game. The rookie is amazingly the highest-rated wideout according to PFF through four weeks. Jefferson was a first-round pick, so his dominance has not been completely out of the blue. However, it just goes to show that these players can make big impacts in their first seasons.
I have previously written about most of the players in this article. Analyzing how these rookies have performed thus far will help establish their outlooks for this week's slate of games. Both dynasty and redraft leagues can benefit from high-flying rookies, so let's get to it.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 Electric Tailback
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (RB, KC)
I was a bit skeptical in the preseason about the hype surrounding Edwards-Helaire. He has proven me wrong so far, and there is little reason to expect a drop-off going forward. CEH has piled up 433 total yards in four games this season as part of the explosive Kansas City offense, flummoxing defenses both on the ground and through the air. His 71 carries rank fifth in the NFL, and six of those attempts have come near the goal-line. Edwards-Helaire's seventeen targets are seventh among tailbacks as well, so the Chiefs have been getting him involved a lot.
His success has not been an individual effort, though. Kansas City is averaging the sixth-most yards per carry before contact, indicating that the offensive line is doing its part and then some. CEH has a pretty favorable matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders this week, so he should be able to rack up fantasy points yet again. Look for him to be a top-five fantasy running back on Sunday.
The Versatile Weapon
Laviska Shenault Jr. (WR, JAX)
Shenault entered the season without much fanfare, but managers have quickly realized what kind of value he provides. The Jaguars have lined him up all over the field to get him the ball, and he has not wasted those opportunities. His versatility and athleticism were on full display against Cincinnati last week.
Laviska Shenault with the ball in his hands is something else pic.twitter.com/FGadKtey6R
— Davis Mattek (@DavisMattek) October 6, 2020
The former Colorado Buffalo has caught 80 percent of his targets and gained 83 yards after the catch, a solid combination for fantasy purposes. His nine rushing attempts rank second among all receivers, so even when the Jaguars passing game stalls, he can still pick up a few points. Shenault's primary defender this week will likely be Texans CB Vernon Hargreaves III, who has a miserable 41.5 PFF grade on the season. The rookie will have an excellent opportunity to produce once again.
The Dynamic Threat
CeeDee Lamb (WR, DAL)
Lamb, like the rest of the Dallas offense, has posted some pretty gaudy statistics this season. Through four games, he has 21 receptions, 309 yards, and two touchdowns. Lamb is clearly on pace to outperform his preseason expectations, and it is easy to see why. First of all, the Cowboys are averaging a ridiculous 53 passing attempts per game. Second, Lamb is averaging an impressive 2.07 yards of target separation, ensuring that those passes go his way. Finally, he has put his YAC talents to good use, with 103 of his yards coming after the catch. The Cowboys play a weak Giants Defense on Sunday, but the game script could benefit the Dallas ground game more than the air attack. Nonetheless, Lamb has established himself as a quality fantasy option going forward.
The Official Starter
Justin Herbert (QB, LAC)
After a few weeks of filling in for veteran Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert has officially been named the starting quarterback by head coach Anthony Lynn. The announcement was no surprise, as Herbert has shown loads of talent in his three starts. The young passer has averaged 8.7 yards per attempt, the fourth-highest in the NFL. His production premium ranks fourth as well, illustrating his incredible efficiency. Herbert carried a perfect passer rating into the fourth quarter last week, thanks in large part to his deep ball.
Justin Herbert threw this deep ball perfectly 🎯 pic.twitter.com/g2g1l6sugL
— NFLonCBS (@NFLonCBS) October 4, 2020
His success has come despite his offensive line allowing the highest pressure rate in the league. Herbert has a tough matchup against the New Orleans Saints on Monday Night Football this week. If he can display the same kind of poise and precision that he had last week, he could have a statement performance on national television.
The Franchise Passer
Joe Burrow (QB, CIN)
The first overall pick in this year's draft, Burrow has been quite productive for a rookie. Burrow has thrown the third-most passes in the NFL, which is quite valuable for fantasy managers. His 1,121 passing yards rank 10th in the league, and his three 300-yard games are tied for first. He has been surprisingly efficient as well, as his 79.4 PFF passing grade ranks eighth among all quarterbacks.
The Bengals play the Ravens on Sunday, and the Ravens are heavy favorites to win. It is quite possible that Burrow could have some garbage time opportunities to accumulate yardage and touchdowns. Of course, if Burrow pulls off the upset, he would cement himself as one of the most promising young quarterbacks in the league, if he hasn't already. To have a chance though, he will have to take fewer sacks; his total of 15 ranks second behind Houston's Deshaun Watson.
The Bonus Rookie
Zack Moss (RB, BUF)
I typically write about five rookies per week in this column, but I decided to add a sixth this time. Moss is dealing with a toe injury, and it is possible that he will miss this week's game against the Titans. The Bills tailback has struggled in his two appearances, averaging just 2.8 yards per carry.
If he ends up playing against Tennessee, he could have a breakout performance. The Titans have been unable to practice for multiple weeks now due to the coronavirus, so they could be at a competitive disadvantage. Moss has a stout, 223-pound frame, which could allow him to power through an underprepared Tennessee defense. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that this game will be played on a Tuesday. If Moss has a good outing, he could make a name for himself nationally.