More than half 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 10, the spotlight shines brightly on a running back who finally broke out with a bigger workload, a receiver making his first major impact since returning from injury, and a Cincinnati Bengal who remains a pillar of consistency.
RB D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions
The Lions simply don’t beat Washington and some fantasy managers simply don’t earn a Week 10 win without Swift—his impact was massive this week. He set a new career high with 149 total yards, scored his sixth touchdown of the season, and maybe most importantly for his long-term fantasy outlook, dominated the backfield workload. He received 16 carries to Adrian Peterson’s four and his 21 touches overall were 16 more than any other running back on the roster. We thought we saw the breakout game in Week 5 against Jacksonville, but Swift’s usage and success have been a bit up and down since then. Hopefully this is a sign that the Lions are fully ready to commit to Swift as their lead back for the stretch run, solidifying the rookie as a weekly RB2 in fantasy.
WR Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts
After missing the entire month of October with a calf injury, it took a couple games for Pittman to get re-acclimated. He showed some flashes in Week 9 against the Ravens, but his career day against the Titans on Thursday Night Football really stole the show. The former USC star set career highs across the board in primetime, catching seven of his eight targets for 101 yards. All of those stats were career bests, which also included the longest catch of his career (40 yards). He was an integral piece of the Colts’ offense and could be a player quarterback Philip Rivers relies on more often in the latter portion of the season. Once Pittman was drafted to Indianapolis he was frequently comped to Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams. The Rivers-to-Williams combination was fruitful fairly often for fantasy managers in the past and it looks like the Rivers-to-Pittman combination could be as well heading into the 2020 playoff push.
WR Tee Higgins, Cincinnati Bengals
We’re running out of nice things to say about Higgins and we’re not even two-thirds of the way through the NFL regular season yet. Despite the recent successes of the last two wide receiver draft classes, it’s historically quite difficult to make a major impact as a rookie wide receiver. Higgins, a second-round pick who did not have a ton of fantasy hype coming into the season, has been the best of the bunch. Maybe more importantly than that, he’s been the most consistent rookie in fantasy football. Since Week 3, Higgins ranks as the WR10 in total points and WR13 in average fantasy points per game. He hasn’t had a game below 10.2 points in that stretch, with peaks as high as the 22.5-point game against the Steelers this week. To go 7/115/1 against that defense in unideal weather conditions? “Stud” is the only word that can be used to describe him. Outside of Jaguars running back James Robinson, Higgins may be the fantasy football rookie of the year.