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Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch - Darius Slayton, Jakobi Meyers, Josh Oliver


Week 7 is here RotoBallers, which means we're smack dab in the middle of the regular fantasy season!

In case you are new to this column, each week we'll highlight a few first-year players who are worth keeping your eye on. Not all of the players listed below are must-starts, but all of them are in a position to be viable fantasy options.

If any of these names are sitting out on your waiver wire, you should keep a close watch on them. Ideally, some of these names will help fantasy players get some roster depth which can minimize the negative impact of injuries and bye weeks.

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The Silent Killer

Darius Slayton (WR, NYG)

The pass-catching unit in New York hasn't been the most star-studded as of late. With Saquon Barkley and Sterling Shepard sidelined, the offense has been primarily funneled through Evan Engram and Golden Tate. One overlooked aspect of the receiving corp is Slayton, however, who saw his first official start last week against an extremely tough New England defense. Slayton notched season highs with eight targets and 98% of offensive snaps played but posted a meager three receptions for 32 yards.

Barkley should return to action this Sunday in the Giants' matchup with the Cardinals, though Shepard will remain out with a concussion. That should leave plenty of opportunities for Slayton, who is neck and neck with Tate for total targets and snaps these last two weeks. It will be interesting to see which of them draws coverage from the newly reinstated Patrick Peterson. Whoever does will face some tough sledding in this one. Regardless, I like the rookie as a flex play for those dealing with a tough bye week.

 

The Slow Burner

Miles Sanders (RB, PHI)

Here we are with six games of data to work with, and only now can Miles Sanders be considered a somewhat reliable fantasy option. Doug Pederson's history of splitting backfields remains as frustrating as it was inevitable. But at least now Sanders' usage in the receiving game makes him a worthwhile play this week against the Cowboys. The Dallas defense has allowed the 5th-most receptions and 7th-most receiving yards to opposing running backs.

Jordan Howard has been nonexistent in the passing game lately, posting his last reception in Week 4. Even stranger, the supposedly resurgent Darren Sproles hasn't had a catch since Week 2 in Atlanta. Granted, Sanders hasn't topped 49% of offensive snap's in any game this season, which makes it hard to trust he'll outperform his RB29 season ranking this week. Hopefully, his utilization as the designated pass-catching back will provide a nice floor from here on out.

 

The Broken Record

Keesean Johnson (WR, ARI)

The law of averages says that so long as Johnson continues seeing consistent target volume in this high-powered offense, he'll eventually have a breakout game. He's had good matchups to do so in the past but hasn't yet delivered. Damiere Byrd will be returning for this game and Christian Kirk has a good chance to suit up as well, though David Johnson is a game-time decision.

None of that really matters for KeeSean. His production has remained stagnant regardless of the personnel around him on the field. Johnson will continue to be utilized in four-wide receiver sets, which the Cardinals use 45% of the time according to PFF. It will be interesting to see how often Kyler Murray turns to Johnson now that he has more weapons available to him.

 

The Long-Awaited Debut

Josh Oliver (TE, JAC)

Coming into the season, the rookie out of San Jose State appeared primed for a key role in Nick Foles-led Jacksonville offense. A lot has changed since Oliver suffered a serious hamstring injury back in August. Fellow rookie Gardner Minshew took over at quarterback, DJ Chark became the only fantasy relevant Jaguars receiver, and most importantly for Oliver's fantasy value, Geoff Swaim and James O'Shaughnessy have been sidelined.

That leaves plenty of work open for Oliver. Swaim and O'Shaughnessy had so far combined for 27 catches, 218 yards, and two touchdowns. Neither of them has quite the athletic profile that Oliver has, so the rookie's ceiling could be higher than what they've shown.

 

The Next Man Up

Jakobi Meyers (WR, NE)

The Patriots are looking mighty disheveled at the wide receiver position going into Monday's matchup with the Jets. Josh Gordon has officially been ruled out and Phillip Dorsett has been limited all week with a hamstring injury. If either can't go, Meyers should see an uptick in looks from Tom Brady. Meyers played a season-high 69% of snaps against the Giants last week and notched season-highs in targets, receptions, and yards in the process.

Of course, New England can be an incredibly frustrating offense to figure out for fantasy purposes so Meyers is by no means a lock for significant usage. It could end up being a James White and Gunner Olszewski game for all we know. But it's still reasonable to assume Meyers has a mini-breakout this week.

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