Each week, this column will highlight first-year players who are ripe for an exceptional performance. Often times, rookies can offer some of the more interesting options as options under the radar.
Last week we saw Arizona’s extended rookie Rondale Moore score seven receptions, 114 yards and one touchdown. Moore joined fellow rookies Ja’Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle and DeVonta Smith having a very impressive start to their careers. Moore’s performance demonstrates that rookies, even those outside of the first round, can be valuable contributors immediately.
For Dynasty Leagues, this column should help identify ideal business targets and popular hiding places. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge needed for a championship race. Most of the players in this article were high draft picks, but as the season progresses more rough diamonds will be highlighted.
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The prepared ferryman
Justin Fields (QB, CHI)
After veteran quarterback Andy Dalton suffered a knee injury last week against Cincinnati, rookie Justin Fields entered the game and completed six of 13 passes for 60 yards and one interception. Now Fields will start this Sunday against Cleveland. While his stats were fragile last Sunday, Fields made a through pass abandoned by star player Allen Robinson. Still, Fields will need to perform better against a Browns defense that ceded a solid day to Houston’s Tyrod Taylor in the final game before he too got injured. It’s also interesting that Fields is returning to Ohio, the state where he dominated in college, to take his first steps. Pitches aren’t expected to start this week in fantasy outside of the two-QB leagues, but the way he plays will be indicative of his value for the remainder of the season. Be sure to witness the debut of this talented recruit.
The elusive weapon
Michael Carter (RB, NYJ)
A fourth-round pick from North Carolina, Carter had a quiet week against Carolina, totaling just five touches and 20 yards scrimmage. The rookie had a heavier workload last week, however, with 11 carries for 59 yards and two receptions for 29 more yards. Carter’s agility in the 98th percentile was in the spotlight, as he dodged a number of New England defensemen in a shrewd passing play in the third quarter.
Michael Carter breaking all tackles. #TakeFlight
– NFL (@NFL) September 19, 2021
This Sunday, Carter will face a strong run defense from Denver which has yielded just 87 rushing yards to the RB in two weeks. While the game may be unfavorable, his increased workload against New England was encouraging. Last week, Carter hit teammate Ty Johnson 13 times. Watch this weekend’s game to see if Carter’s volume continues to grow relative to Johnson’s.
Elijah Moore (WR, NYJ)
Like Carter, Elijah Moore is a rookie trying to play for a woefully poor Jets team. In Game 1 of the season, Moore only managed one reception for less than three yards on four targets. Last week, however, Moore received four receptions for 47 yards on eight targets, a noticeable improvement. While the Jets can be miserable, Ole Miss’s second-round pick is someone to watch for fantastic ends. This week will be difficult for him; PFF gives their match advantage just 10.6 out of 100, enough for a “bad” rating. Either way, his increase in goals last week suggests Moore is in the mix with Braxton Berrios and Corey Davis to be the main target for quarterback Zach Wilson. With New York likely to lag behind this season, it could be a lucrative role for Moore. Check out Moore’s use this Sunday to get a better read on the situation.
The impressive jumper
Dyami Brown (WR, WAS)
Brown, a third-round pick from North Carolina, got off to a slow start to his NFL career. The rookie has caught just four passes for 32 yards in two weeks. On the bright side, however, his best game of the two was last Thursday against the Giants. Collecting three passes for 34 yards, Brown also put in an excellent midfield jump hold that was featured in the highlight reel.
GET UP Dyami Brown 🔥@UNCFootball
– PFF College (@PFF_College) September 17, 2021
Brown is unlikely to have his breakout performance this week, given Buffalo’s pass defense has been among the best in the league so far this season. A continued increase in the target volume would, however, hold promise for the future. Additionally, Washington is likely to be left behind for a good part of this game, so Brown could get some extra work given a favorable play script. Brown’s spotting would be a useful exercise before he becomes a hot commodity on the renunciation thread.
The slit sleeper
Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR, DET)
Typically, you don’t expect much from fourth-round rookies like St. Brown. However, when the rookie is on a team without a clear top receiver, there is an opportunity to seize a solid role and surprise the audience. Detroit’s best receiving options so far have been running backs Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams and tight end TJ Hockenson. St. Brown, who has played 75 percent of his snaps from the slot machine, is however tied for second target among the Lions wide receivers. While the USC rookie only has five catches in two weeks, there’s no denying that surpassing Quintez Cephus in the pecking order is possible for him. If he plays well against Baltimore on Sunday, he would be on track to achieve it, opening the door to underrated volume in a heavy passing attack; Detroit threw an average of 46.5 assists per game at the top of the league.
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