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NFL Rookies to Watch in Week 1: Fantasy Football Dynasty and Redraft Leagues

Dameon Pierce - Fantasy Football Rankings, NFL Rookies, Draft Sleepers

Regular season NFL football has finally returned! The 2022 campaign opened with an excellent game on Thursday night. The Buffalo Bills flexed their muscles against the defending champion Los Angeles Rams, winning 31-10. The fantasy football rookie class of 2022 got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Buffalo's first-year tailback James Cook fumbled on his first NFL carry and did not touch the ball again all game. We will see if Cook remains in the doghouse moving forward.

With the first NFL Sunday of the year approaching, a whole new batch of first-year players will be making their debuts as professionals. It is certain that some of these players will make immediate impacts in the league for their franchises, but will they also make immediate impacts on your fantasy squads?

Whether you're a redraft manager or a dynasty manager, being ahead of the curve with rookie players is vital to your team's success. For more rookies like Cook to watch this week, continue reading! This column will be split into two parts: one pertaining to players most relevant in redraft leagues, and the other for rookies particularly worth watching in dynasty formats.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!


NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Redraft Leagues

Dameon Pierce (RB, HOU)

In many respects, Dameon Pierce seems like an unlikely early contributor. With just a 41st percentile college dominator percentage, he didn't stand out with the Florida Gators; indeed, he never reached 600 rushing yards in a season as a collegiate player. His athletic profile is also middling. With a 4.59 40-yard dash and a 46th percentile SPARQ-X score, Pierce isn't as elite of an athlete as you'd expect from a top rookie running back.

With all of that said, Pierce is poised for more success in Houston than any other rookie RB is this week. This is because he has an astonishingly clear path to a large workload. The Texans released Marlon Mack in late August, making Pierce the presumptive starter in the backfield. Head coach Lovie Smith then confirmed that Pierce would be starting the opener this week.

The fourth-round pick impressed in his two preseason appearances, rushing for 86 yards on just 11 carries. While he will have to contend with Rex Burkhead for touches, Pierce looks to be the clear number one tailback for Houston. He does get a tough matchup against the Indianapolis defense this week, but how he performs will be of major interest to fantasy managers.

Drake London (WR, ATL)

Drake London was taken eighth overall out of USC by the Atlanta Falcons this past April. That large investment of draft capital was not without merit. Standing at 6'4" and weighing in at 213 pounds, London has a large frame that makes him a force to be reckoned with on jump balls. London is widely considered the best possession receiver prospect in this year's draft class.

London isn't just a raw athletic specimen though; he can put his traits to good use. His statistical production with the Trojans was incredible, as he compiled 1,084 receiving yards last season in just eight games. Those totals came off of 88 receptions and 124 targets, which are absurd figures for his small number of appearances. He managed to receive attention for the Biletnikoff Award, which is awarded each season to the most outstanding receiver in college football, despite his time missed due to injury.

The rookie will have an opportunity to produce early with the Atlanta Falcons. Atlanta is short on weapons for quarterback Marcus Mariota to throw to, with the only other exciting option he has being tight end Kyle Pitts. London has a chance to emerge as the team's number one wideout as early as this week versus New Orleans. If he does, his redraft value will rise quickly.

Chris Olave (WR, NO)

Three picks after the Falcons took London, the New Orleans Saints selected a receiver of their own: Chris Olave. Olave used his tremendous speed to his benefit at Ohio State. His 4.39-second 40-yard dash illustrates the speed he used to score 35 touchdowns as a Buckeye. Despite operating alongside a multitude of other talented receivers in college, Olave managed to impress fans and scouts alike.

Olave is joining a Saints team that has some major questions at the receiver position. 2019 Offensive Player of the Year Michael Thomas is present, but he has not played a game since December 2020 due to an ankle injury. The team also added Jarvis Landry in free agency, but it's yet to be seen how the team plans to use him. Olave has a chance to make a statement this season with his target competition being hazy.

The Saints open the season against the Atlanta Falcons. Assuming Thomas, who is listed as questionable for the contest, plays, Falcons star CB A.J. Terrell would likely shadow him. This would open up the defense for the deep threat Olave, who should be a good fit with quarterback Jameis Winston. In his last full season as a starter in 2019, Winston posted the second-highest air yards per attempt in the league. Olave's speed will make him a big asset on those deep targets, which we could see as early as Sunday.


NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Tyrion Davis-Price (RB, SF)

In the third round of this year's NFL Draft, the San Francisco 49ers picked up Tyrion Davis-Price from LSU. The young running back wasn't used heavily in college until 2021 when he had 211 carries for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns in 12 games. At 6'0" and 219 pounds, Davis-Price is largely known for his physicality. His prowess as a pass-blocker will make him a desirable part of San Francisco's rotation in the backfield.

Davis-Price has some speed to him as well. His 4.48 40-yard dash at his size earned him a 90th percentile speed score. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to turn that speed into many long runs, as his average of 4.8 yards per carry last season at LSU was lackluster. Still, we can see that he has NFL speed and should be able to develop his game to further utilize it.

The San Francisco backfield is currently led by second-year back Elijah Mitchell. Mitchell came out of nowhere as a sixth-round rookie last season and will be the team's starter when healthy this year. Davis-Price has a strong bid for the backup role though. Last year's third-round pick Trey Sermon was released in the preseason, opening the door for Davis-Price to move up in the pecking order. Watching his development will be key for dynasty managers, and that process begins this week in his matchup against Chicago.

David Bell (WR, CLE)

Another third-round draft choice this year was Purdue's David Bell. Bell was extremely productive with the Boilermakers, averaging over 100 yards per game in both 2020 and 2021. His 28.7% target share ranked at the 87th percentile for receivers, and his good catching ability ensured he didn't drop many of the throws that came his way.

The main drawback to Bell's profile is his lack of explosion. His 35th percentile speed score and 20th percentile burst score are uninspiring. Moreover, his agility score is at just the eighth percentile, and his catch radius is at the 13th. Clearly, Bell's physical abilities are not his strong suit. He is technically sound and displays physicality, but he lacks the athletic traits that most top receivers possess.

Bell will open the season as Cleveland's number three wideout behind Amari Cooper and Donovan Peoples-Jones. He shouldn't be relevant for redraft managers this season, but dynasty managers should be interested in getting an extended look at Bell against Carolina on Sunday. Seeing how his physical limitations impact his performance will be key in assessing his value moving forward.

Trey McBride (TE, ARI)

A second-round pick out of Colorado State, Trey McBride was the first tight end drafted this April. Given his elite stat line of 90 receptions for 1,121 yards in 2021, this should come as no surprise. His college dominator percentage of 46.3% was at the 99th percentile. McBride has extensive experience as a receiver, which is certainly a big plus when it comes to his evaluation as a fantasy prospect.

Another positive aspect of his profile is his athleticism. His 4.61-second 40-yard dash at 6'4" and 245 pounds is quite strong, amounting to an 86th percentile speed score. Scouts also lauded his acceleration and route running ability, making him a formidable weapon in the passing game. Blocking is not his strong suit though, which could impact his snap shares throughout his career.

McBride enters the season as veteran tight end Zach Ertz's backup for the Cardinals. With Ertz questionable for this week's game versus Kansas City with a calf injury, dynasty managers may get a glimpse of McBride's future as a starter. Such an experience would enlighten viewers about how the skills he demonstrated in college will translate to the pro level.

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