About 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 13, the spotlight shines brightly on a receiver in contention for Offensive Rookie of the Year, the reemergence of a highly sought-after running back in fantasy drafts, and a Rams rookie that’s finally getting enough workload to thrive.
WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
We’re running out of superlatives to describe how great Jefferson’s rookie season has been. Each and every week, with or without Adam Thielen, Jefferson continues to produce. His most recent effort was a nine-catch, 121-yard, one-touchdown performance against the Jaguars—his fifth 20-plus-point fantasy performance of the season. Jefferson is averaging 17.9 fantasy points per game in 2020, ranking as the WR9. He’s a weekly must-start that should continue to thrive during the fantasy playoffs.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
Workload and a brief stint on the COVID-19 list have been the two biggest barriers to Taylor’s fantasy production this season. But we’re now seeing a multi-week trend of him being the preferred running back in Indianapolis. Taylor had 22.5 fantasy points in Week 13, but more importantly, he got 50% of the total running back touches for the Colts. If Indianapolis continues to lean on the rookie down the stretch, he can be a very valuable piece for fantasy managers—and that starts against the Raiders this week, where Taylor could flirt with RB1 territory. It hasn’t quite been the season fantasy managers were hoping for when they drafted Taylor back in August, but the running back’s arrow is pointing in the right direction.
RB Cam Akers, Los Angeles Rams
No rookie has seen a bigger jump in their overall stock in the last couple of weeks than Akers. He looked explosive in Week 12 and had nine carries for 84 yards and a score. But this past week is when his stock really shot up, getting a season-high 21 carries. He had 72 rushing yards and another touchdown, but it’s the workload that’s most encouraging. Akers drew the short straw in the Rams’ three-headed backfield monster for the most part this season. But it looks like things may finally be turning in his favor.