Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch - Diontae Johnson, Mecole Hardman, Preston Williams

It's Week 8 of the 2019 fantasy football season, Rotoballers. And what a ride it's been. We've watched some rookies blossom right before our very eyes, while others have remained trapped in their cocoons. And that's okay. Some players catch on and adjust to NFL game speed faster than others. Just because they haven't broken out yet, that doesn't mean they're doomed to be busts. That said, today we're going to focus on the rookies that have already emerged from their cocoons or are on the verge of transforming into the triumphant fantasy butterflies we know they can be.

In case you are new to this column, each week we 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.

Editor's Note: Get any rest-of-season NFL Premium Pass for 50% off. Our exclusive DFS Tools, Lineup Optimizer and Premium DFS Research through the Super Bowl. Sign Up Now!


The Quarterback Boost

Diontae Johnson (WR, PIT)

Mason Rudolph will be returning to the fold after suffering a brutal concussion in Week 5 against the Ravens. That's great news for Diontae Johnson, who thrived with the sophomore quarterback under center. It's a small sample size, but in the two games Rudolph both started and finished, Johnson finished with a combined stat line of 9-of-12 for 129 yards and two touchdowns. It's worth noting one of those contests was against San Francisco, who are allowing the fewest passing yards and third-fewest passing touchdowns on the season.

And now he gets to face a defense on the exact opposite end of the spectrum in the Miami Dolphins. They're allowing the second-most touchdowns and are middle of the pack in terms of yards allowed, but only because teams have been blowing them out in the first half and reverting to the run game in the second half. I expect Johnson to continue seeing a good chunk of targets, which automatically equates to fantasy points against Miami.


The Positional Advantage

Miles Sanders (RB, PHI)

If there's one thing we know about the Bills Defense thus far, it's that they don't get beat through the air very often. Carson Wentz should figure to have tough sledding against Bufallo's hyper-stingy pass defense, and will likely be required to lean on his running backs early and often. While this primarily projects to be a Jordan Howard game, there should be no doubt Sanders will be utilized frequently.

Sanders hit a fantasy speed bump against Dallas last week, carrying the ball fewer than 10 times for the third straight week. His involvement as a pass-catcher has been refreshing to see, however, as the rookie has seen 11 targets over that same three-week stretch. Howard has seen just two in that period. Even if Philadelphia's corners can't manage to keep this game somewhat close -- because, well, that's not exactly their forte -- Sanders may be game script-proof enough to put together a nice game.


The Big Play Question Mark

Mecole Hardman (WR, KC)

With Tyreek Hill sidelined, Kansas City called upon their rookie Hill clone to step up and deliver his best impersonation. And he performed well. In Weeks 2-5, he amassed 22 targets and delivered 12 receptions for 246 yards and two touchdowns. But with the real Hill back on the field, Hardman's target share has dipped along with his fantasy production, as we all expected it would.

This week's matchup with Green Bay is interesting because the Packers' defense has been incredibly susceptible to giving up big plays to wide receivers. They'll likely put their fastest corner Jaire Alexander on Hill in hopes of limiting his home run receptions, perhaps leaving Hardman to sneak a couple of chunk gains. This should be the type of game where having two similarly explosive players really pays off for the Chiefs, particularly since they won't have Patrick Mahomes to make magic out of thin air.


The Late Bloomer

Noah Fant (TE, DEN)

Things haven't worked out for Fant in his rookie season the way many expected. While most people understand that rookie tight ends rarely produce for fantasy purposes in their first year, Fant seemed like he had an opportunity to break the mold. Fant profiled as more of an outright receiving tight end than fellow Hawkeye alum T.J. Hockenson, and he was going to an offense led by Joe Flacco, who notoriously hyper-targets his tight ends. That's relatively simple math that suggested Fant would be worth rostering even in redraft leagues.

So far, he simply hasn't produced. Fant's exceeded 35 yards just once all season, which is the same number of times he's found the end zone. And yet, there's now a glimmer of hope for the rookie tight end. Emmanuel Sanders was just traded to the 49ers, and while Daesean Hamilton is the most obvious beneficiary, this could also open up more opportunities for Fant. Keep an eye on him this week against Indianapolis, who is allowing the third-most fantasy points to the tight end position.


The Model of Consistency

Preston Williams (WR, MIA)

Despite being a part of such a historically terrible offense, Williams has managed to keep his head above water and put together consistently respectable stat lines. No matter which quarterback has been under center for the Dolphins, Williams has seen no fewer than five targets, has averaged 13.7 yards per reception, and leads the team in catches and receiving yards. It hasn't really mattered how strong the opposing defense is either, as he put up four receptions for 63 yards against the dominant Patriots. So a matchup with Pittsburgh should have little bearing on Williams' production. The guy just finds a way.

Of course, all of that still only makes him the WR55 on the season because there's only so much you can do when you're stuck wearing orange and teal.

More Fantasy Football Analysis

More Recent Articles


ADP Cost Analysis – Robbie Ray vs Trevor Bauer

With fantasy baseball draft season in full swing, those of us who partake in this joyous game are now looking through as much draft data as possible in a bid to find players we love who have lower average draft positions (ADP) than we believe they should. All this to eke out as much draft... Read More

2020 Keeper Value Rankings - Second Base

Keeper Value Rankings are intended for Keeper Leagues in which a fantasy owner must forfeit a designated draft pick in order to keep a player into the upcoming season. These rankings are based on Keeper "Values". In the marketing world, Value can be defined as "the extent to which a good or service (player) is... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Sleepers – C.J. Cron

As another fantasy baseball season approaches, we once again have the chance to discuss C.J. Cron as a fantasy sleeper. Cron will be playing for his third team in three seasons. It is tough to wrap one's head around the idea that a player of Cron's talent continues to be undervalued by professional and fantasy... Read More

2020 Starting Pitcher Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

Points leagues may seem like a slight variation from traditional 5x5 category scoring leagues but you must approach draft day with a very different strategy if you wish to truly compete. All preseason long, RotoBaller has you covered with the latest rankings for all fantasy baseball league types. Here we present our points league rankings... Read More

Second-Half Improvements: Buy Into These Starting Pitchers

The second half of the season is always put under a microscope for starting pitchers. Fantasy players have a love for the second half of the season, as the belief is that pitchers who take a step forward could carry over that success the next season and perhaps even build upon it. But, as we... Read More

How to Attack RP in SV+HLD Leagues

No position has seen as much evolution in recent seasons as the relief pitcher. Gone are the days where starters were expected to go seven innings as most teams have embraced the idea of "super-bullpening" and try to fit as many pitchers that can throw 95+ MPH into their bullpen as they can. Many fantasy... Read More

Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: Pitch Info

One of the most fundamental questions in fantasy sports is if a player's current performance is sustainable. More than any other sport, baseball has a slew of statistical measures that can be dissected in numerous ways to analyze player performance. Pitch Info is a publicly-available pitch tracking system that provides a lot of different data to... Read More

2020 Fantasy Baseball Staff Rankings

Below you will find RotoBaller's 2020 fantasy baseball rankings, tiers and auction dollar values for the 2020 MLB season. Our Ranking Wizard displays our staff's rankings for various league formats, all in one easy place. Here's what you'll find: Mixed, Head-to-Head, Points, AL/NL Only, Two-Catcher Top 2020 prospects, Dynasty leagues, Keeper values Export the rankings easily... Read More

Mock Draft Review: Best Late-Round Targets

Last week, some members of the RotoBaller staff completed a 12-team mock draft for standard 5x5 format. After the draft, we each broke down our strategy and some of our favorite picks, which can be found here. However, I want to take a closer look at one portion of the draft in particular. Since we know that... Read More

Faster and Furious: Pitchers with Rising Velocity/Performance

Welcome fantasy baseball players! I’m sure that you, like me, are anxiously counting down the days until your drafts and Opening Day. While the fantasy season may not start for several weeks, there are plenty of things we can do to start preparing for a successful season. One of those things is to take a good... Read More

James Karinchak Is A Relief Pitcher To Know in 2020

One of the lesser-known players that intrigues me for the 2020 MLB season is Indians relief pitcher James Karinchak. The former Bryant Bulldog was drafted by Cleveland in the ninth round in the 2017 draft and went on to have one of the most outrageous statistical seasons in minor league baseball history. As someone who... Read More

2020 Relief Pitcher Rankings - H2H Points Leagues

Often regarded as an inferior fantasy baseball format, points leagues offer a different style of boasting over your friends or coworkers similar to that of fantasy football. These setups are typically head-to-head formats for a one-week stretch where the player with the most points gets a win. Easy right? While it's true that roster construction... Read More

2019 Barrel Breakouts: Who's For Real and Who's Next?

As pitchers and catchers get even closer to reporting and most fantasy leagues prepare for their drafts, everybody is looking for a leg up on the competition - a way to get in on a guy before everybody else does. In this article, we're going to look for a way to identify hitters who improved... Read More

Using Sabermetrics for Fantasy Baseball: Pitcher BABIP

While FIP is a useful tool to predict a pitcher's future ERA performance, fantasy owners should remember that ERA, not FIP, is what really matters in most formats. This means that we are interested in the "luck" that separates the two statistics. While some of this luck is unpredictable, we can and should predict some... Read More

Second Year Player Preview: Fantasy Baseball 2020 ADP Analysis

Host Anthony Aniano of RotoBaller Radio discuss the 2020 fantasy baseball season and keeps you updated with all the latest news and analysis Be sure to tune into RotoBaller Radio on SiriusXM (channel Sirius 210, XM 87) - every weekday morning between 6-7 AM ET, every weekday afternoon from 1-2 PM ET, Saturday nights from 9-11 PM ET... Read More