Nearly three-quarters of the NFL’s 2020 regular season schedule has been played, and rookies making a major impact is no longer surprising, but expected. With no preseason games to get acclimated to the game speed of professional football, the first several weeks of the regular season served as a pseudo-preseason for the incoming class. Now, we’re rolling toward the playoff push, and every game, every performance, every rookie matters.
Each Wednesday, The Draft Network, in conjunction with Panini, will be taking a close look at three rookies whose stock is on the rise in fantasy football. After Week 12, the spotlight shines brightly on a running back who feasted on Thanksgiving, another who is challenging for fantasy MVP, and a receiver who stepped up when his counterpart went down.
RB Antonio Gibson, Washington Football Team
Fun Fact: Gibson had more carries in a five-day stretch between Weeks 11-12 than he had in his entire college career at Memphis. That’s what makes this season even more remarkable than it already was. Many expected Gibson to have a heavy pass-catching role while being used situationally on the ground. Maybe that would’ve been the plan if Derrius Guice was still on the roster, but the exact opposite has turned out to be true. Washington’s offensive line has been bullying defensive fronts and Gibson is taking full advantage of the holes he’s been given on the ground.
Gibson gashed the Cowboys, again, to the tune of 115 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries. He also tied a season high with five catches on a season-high seven targets. He was Washington’s offense for large portions of its Thanksgiving game and finished as a top-three fantasy running back. He must be considered a weekly RB1 moving forward.
RB James Robinson, Jacksonville Jaguars
Another rookie running back cracked the top five in Week 12, but it feels almost expected at this point with Robinson. The UDFA is having a magical season for someone who wasn’t even remotely on the fantasy radar when most leagues drafted. Facing two top-10 rushing defenses over the last couple weeks, Robinson had nearly 100 total yards against Pittsburgh in Week 11, then had 159 total yards and a score with Mike Glennon starting at quarterback this week. He deserves even more love than he’s already gotten and I expect a high percentage of fantasy playoff rosters will have him as a starting running back.
WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
With Adam Thielen out for Week 12, Jefferson stepped up to fill the void. He received a career-high 13 targets and had his second multi-touchdown game of the season. Jefferson finished as a WR1 this week with a stat line of 7/70/2 and should be in consideration for WR1 territory again next week against Jacksonville if Thielen misses a second game. Jefferson is already the highest-scoring rookie wide receiver in fantasy, but his stock is going way up for as long as Thielen is out.