The end of the 2020 regular season is here. Rookies across the NFL made a major impact all season long. Despite having no preseason games to get acclimated to the game speed of professional football, and the first several weeks of the regular season serving as a pseudo-preseason for the incoming class, the best of the best emerged to be true difference-makers in 2020.
Each Wednesday, The Draft Network, in conjunction with Panini, took a close look at three rookies whose stock was on the rise in fantasy football. After Week 17, we’ll look ahead to the fantasy landscape of 2021, shining the spotlight brightly on three players who finished strong and have their stock on the rise heading into next season.
RB Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
There was no better running back to roster over the final five weeks of the season than Taylor. From Weeks 13-17, the rookie was not only the top first-year running back, but was the best RB period. Taylor averaged 26.1 fantasy points per game (second to only Alvin Kamara), racking up 130.3 total points (No. 1 in the NFL among RBs, WRs, and TEs) in that timeframe. He capped things off with his best performance of the season in Week 17, finishing with 253 rushing yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars to help the Colts clinch a playoff spot. Indianapolis leaned on their rookie RB heavily down the stretch and it’s hard not to consider Taylor a first-rounder next season given his skill set, situation, and potential workload.
WR Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings
Let’s start out with some fun facts to illustrate how sensational Jefferson’s rookie season was. With his nine-catch, 133-yard performance in Week 17, Jefferson set a new NFL record for most receiving yards by a rookie in NFL history. He also finished as a WR1 in fantasy, with the sixth-most total points (274.2) and ninth-highest average weekly total (17.1 points) among wide receivers. Jefferson had six games with more than 20 points and two games with more than 30 points this season, showing he had just as much matchup-winning potential as any other true fantasy WR1. Jefferson should be ranked as a top-10 wide receiver in fantasy drafts next season, as he looked every bit as good (maybe even better) in the NFL as he did at LSU.
RB J.K. Dobbins, Baltimore Ravens
Although things were a bit shaky over the first two months of the season as Dobbins found himself as just a piece of a committee puzzle, the rookie really turned things around starting in Week 11. As the Ravens’ coaching staff trusted Dobbins more and started to sit Mark Ingram, the former Ohio State running back began to thrive. From Weeks 11-17, Dobbins finished as the RB10 in both total and average fantasy points per game (minimum four games played). He had his best game of the season—and his first 20-plus point fantasy outing—in the season finale, rushing for 160 yards and two touchdowns (28.0 fantasy points). I expect Dobbins to be drafted as a high-end RB2 next season, somewhere around RB15.