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 Clyde Edwards-Helaire dominate the season opener and Joe Burrow come close to leading a comeback. Neither performance should come as a great surprise, but it just goes to show how quickly these players can make an impact.
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. Many of the players highlighted this week are fairly well-known, but as the season progresses, deeper sleepers will be described.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 Undrafted Up-and-Comer
James Robinson (RB, JAX)
In August, it looked like the Jacksonville Jaguars were going to use Leonard Fournette as their lead back. After the team surprisingly released him, it was unclear how the squad would allocate touches to its running backs. Entering Week 2, it appears that James Robinson has taken control. In fact, Robinson was the only player to receive all of his team's RB carries on Sunday, totaling 16 attempts for 62 yards. This usage is surprising considering Robinson is an undrafted rookie from the FCS program Illinois State. If he again garners a large role in the Jacksonville offense this week, his fantasy stock would continue to skyrocket. The Jaguars do face a solid Tennessee defense, so expectations should be tempered somewhat, but Robinson has had an excellent start to his NFL career.
The Hometown Hero
Joshua Kelley (RB, LAC)
Kelley became a fan favorite at UCLA after putting up 289 yards against rival USC in 2018. Now, he is doing his work professionally in Los Angeles for the Chargers. Austin Ekeler is the primary ball-carrier for the team, but Kelley had 12 carries for 60 yards against the Bengals. Achieving 5.0 YPC, his debut was certainly impressive. Should Kelley continue to receive 10-15 touches per game, he will be a very valuable asset for fantasy managers. The Chargers seem to be a run-first offense with quarterback Tyrod Taylor at the helm, which bodes well for both Kelley and Ekeler. Keep an eye on how the rookie is used this week against the formidable Kansas City Chiefs.
The Flying Eagle
Jalen Reagor (WR, PHI)
Coming off of a shoulder injury, Reagor managed just one reception against Washington last Sunday. The good news is that his one catch went for 55 yards. Reagor was drafted in the first round out of TCU, so clearly the Eagles will like to get him more involved in the offense. If quarterback Carson Wentz looks to Reagor more often on long bombs, the rookie could begin to assume DeSean Jackson's role as a deep threat. Philadelphia's offensive line was manhandled last week and will face a tough test against Aaron Donald and the Rams this weekend. When Wentz has a chance to throw, though, watch to see how frequently he targets Reagor.
📺: FOX pic.twitter.com/7RMEGjwIPT
— Philadelphia Eagles (@Eagles) September 13, 2020
The Rising Understudy
J.K. Dobbins (RB, BAL)
The Baltimore backfield is very interesting. The team loves to run the ball, but no tailback was able to find much success against the Cleveland Browns in the opener. Veteran Mark Ingram had the most carries, but second-round rookie J.K. Dobbins was not far behind. With seven rushes to Ingram's 10, Dobbins ran for a mere 22 yards. This YPC was not encouraging, but his two rushing touchdowns were. Dobbins will have an opportunity to become the team's goal-line back, and he may be used more in other situations as well. The Ravens rushing attack set records last season, so an increase in touches could be massive for Dobbins. How he performs against the Houston Texans this week could be crucial.
The Overlooked Talent
Quintez Cephus (WR, DET)
Cephus did not generate much buzz in the offseason, but perhaps he should have. Two fellow rookies, corners Jeff Okudah and Damon Arnette, said that Cephus was the best receiver that they faced in college. While the former Wisconsin Badger may have had just three catches for 43 yards last week, he actually led the Lions in targets. With Detroit's top receiver, Kenny Golladay, still dealing with a hamstring injury, Cephus could see a large target share once again. He will face the Green Bay Packers this week, which means that the Lions may be passing a lot at the end of the game. Cephus will have a chance to exceed expectations once again.