The 2020 NFL rookie class is starting to make some serious noise. With no preseason games to get acclimated to the game speed of professional football, the first couple weeks of the regular season served as a pseudo-preseason for the incoming class. Now, three weeks in, rookies are making an impact across the NFL.
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 3, the spotlight shines brightly on three wide receivers who made a huge impact last weekend.
WR: Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
No rookie made a bigger impact in Week 3 than the former star LSU wide receiver. Jefferson broke out in a huge way with seven catches for 175 yards and a score, leading the Vikings in all categories. He was quarterback Kirk Cousins’ most-targeted player on Sunday and will be a key cog in the Vikings’ attempt to turn around a disastrous 0-3 start to the season.
Fantasy football managers are rejoicing after two nothing-special weeks from Jefferson to begin the season. Honestly, this was all about him getting an opportunity (and the targets) to succeed. This performance should raise Cousins’ confidence in the rookie and Jefferson should be a major part of the game plan moving forward. Jefferson’s fantasy stock is skyrocketing with a date with the Houston Texans ahead. Consider him a WR3/flex play this coming week. He shouldn’t disappoint.
WR: Brandon Aiyuk, San Francisco 49ers
Like Jefferson, Aiyuk got off to a slow start this season. He missed Week 1 due to injury and had just two touches against the New York Jets in his NFL debut. However, head coach Kyle Shanahan had a significant role for the former Arizona State Sun Devil on Sunday against the Giants. Aiyuk had eight touches (five receptions and three rushing attempts) for 101 total yards and a rushing touchdown. And that was all with back-up quarterback Nick Mullens calling the shots.
Aiyuk can benefit in the short-term from the litany of injuries the 49ers are dealing with right now. It remains to be seen how productive the rookie will be when both wide receiver Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle are healthy, but take advantage of his expanded role right now. In the immediate future, his stock is spiking. He should be in flex consideration on Sunday Night Football against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4.
WR: Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
Higgins found the end zone twice in the Bengals’ tie against the Eagles on Sunday, but it wasn’t just a flash in the pan. Higgins is finding the field more and more as we get deeper into the season and he was the second-most targeted Cincinnati wide receiver (9) in Week 3, behind only Tyler Boyd (13). His role is growing every week and he’s developing chemistry with fellow rookie Joe Burrow.
While Higgins isn’t an every-week starter yet, he should be a hot waiver wire pickup. The Bengals are going to throw the ball a ton and there’s room for a high level of production from more than just Boyd. Given A.J. Green’s early struggles and expiring contract, Higgins’ role should only continue to expand.