The first week of the 2020 NFL season is in the books and we got our first glimpse at scores of rookies from the 2020 NFL Draft class in their professional debuts. Some, like first-round pick Clyde Edwards-Helaire, made a major impact right out of the gate. Others had more subtle starts to their career, and even more are still looking for their first taste of significant NFL action.
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 1, the spotlight shines brightly on a trio of running backs, starting with the aforementioned Edwards-Helaire.
RB: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Kansas City Chiefs
Debuting in prime time for the defending Super Bowl champions, Edwards-Helaire not only didn’t look out of place, he looked like a star. He wasn’t used as often in the passing game as many expected—he had just two targets and no catches—but absolutely dominated the Houston Texans on the ground to the tune of 138 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries. He’s the first non-Damien Williams Kansas City running back to get more than 14 carries in a game since Kareem Hunt.
Edwards-Helaire’s gaudy stat line doesn’t even truly do him justice. Getting stopped just short of the goal line a couple of times, Week 1 could’ve easily been a multi-touchdown performance. If he continues to be this effective on the ground, he’ll return value on his first-round ADP. He was the 11th-highest scoring running back in Week 1 and is a top-five play in Week 2 against the Los Angeles Chargers.
RB: Jonathan Taylor, Indianapolis Colts
You never like to see anyone get injured, especially to the extent of what happened to Marlon Mack on Sunday, but the Colts need a new lead back and Taylor is going to be the man. Nyheim Hines will get a good amount of work as well, but I expect the Colts to begin leaning heavily on the rookie Taylor starting in Week 2 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Taylor caught all six of his targets for 67 yards and also had nine carries for 22 yards. While we expect those rushing numbers to improve dramatically over time, his early heavy usage in the passing game is music to fantasy managers’ ears. Quarterback Philip Rivers has helped Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon become first-round fantasy talents with their passing-game usage and Taylor has a chance to spike into the category now that he’ll assume the lead role in Week 2 instead of midseason. Stock WAY up.
RB: Joshua Kelley, Los Angeles Chargers
Kelley flew a bit under the radar in Week 1, but we want to make sure he’s not ignored in this column. The Chargers have had plenty of success utilizing two primary backs over the last couple of seasons (Gordon and Ekeler). Ekeler got a shiny new deal before the season while Gordon left for a divisional foe. As fantasy managers were waiting to see who would be the No. 2 behind Ekeler, it appears we got our answer in Week 1.
Kelley rushed for 60 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and had only eight fewer touches than Ekeler. While Kelley won’t be an every-week starter (even as a flex) without an Ekler injury or bye weeks, he ran heavy and with purpose in Week 1 and could really start to be a major factor when fellow rookie Justin Herbert takes over the offense. Don’t be surprised to see plenty of weeks with a 60-40 workload for Ekeler-Kelley, which makes the rookie out of UCLA rosterable in 12- and 14-team leagues going forward.