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Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 12: Mac Jones, Javonte Williams, and more

Javonte Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Every week, this column will spotlight the first-year players who are ripe for a breakout performance. Oftentimes, rookies can provide some of the most value as under-the-radar options.

Week 11 featured several solid fantasy performances from rookies. The most impressive showing came from Jets receiver Elijah Moore, who posted eight receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown. Dolphins wideout Jaylen Waddle also had himself a day, making eight catches for 65 yards and scoring a rushing touchdown. Each week's slate of games sees a slew of rookies continue to develop and produce solid stat lines, and Week 12 will be no different.

For dynasty leagues, this column should help identify ideal trade targets and prized stashes. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge necessary for a championship run. Most of the players in this week's article are well-known, but a few are sneaky sleepers.

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The Class Leader

Mac Jones (QB, NE)

First-round rookie Mac Jones made the most of his dropbacks against Atlanta last week, completing 22 of 26 passes. This efficiency was hardly a fluke; with an 86.9 PFF grade on the season, Jones is the second-highest graded rookie in the league behind just Kansas City center Creed Humphrey. Unfortunately, this success has not always translated to fantasy production. Jones has finished as a top-10 QB just twice in 11 starts, making him a poor option outside of 2QB or Superflex leagues.

Still, Jones is clearly talented. His accuracy rating is the second-highest in the entire NFL, and his pressured completion percentage is the best. Jones has also thrown just the 23rd-most interceptable passes despite having the 12th-most pass attempts. Eventually, Jones will turn his accuracy into impressive stats. The question is if that happens this week or even this season. The Patriots will take on the Titans this week; Tennessee has surrendered the sixth-most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs in 2021.

 

The Frustrating Asset

Javonte Williams (RB, DEN)

Javonte Williams brings a lot to the table for the Broncos. The rookie from North Carolina is averaging just a shade under 5.0 yards per carry, and his breakaway run rate of 6.8 percent is the eighth-highest among all running backs. The problem is that his teammate, Melvin Gordon, has been productive in his own right. Gordon's production premium, a measure of efficiency, is actually higher than Williams', and Gordon is also averaging more fantasy points per opportunity.

Thus, the Broncos use Gordon and Williams at approximately equal rates, and that likely won't change soon. Just when we all thought Williams had broken out in Week 9 with 111 rushing yards, he follows that up with a game with just 10 touches. One would assume that Williams would have to put together a truly monstrous performance to finally move past Gordon, but he may have a chance to do so this week. The Broncos face the Chargers on Sunday, and Los Angeles has yielded the third-most half-PPR fantasy points to RBs this season.

 

The Banged-Up Back

Elijah Mitchell (RB, SF)

The last time we saw rookie Elijah Mitchell on the field, he carried the ball an incredible 27 times but accumulated just 91 yards. Strangely, this workload came despite him having his lowest snap share of the season at 52 percent. Now Mitchell is questionable to play this Sunday with rib and finger injuries after missing Week 11. San Francisco sorely missed him against Jacksonville, as Jeff Wilson Jr. and Trey Sermon were inadequate replacements despite the team's big win. Indeed, the team gave receiver Deebo Samuel, the eventual leading rusher, eight carries.

Should Mitchell be able to return versus Minnesota, he would have a good fantasy performance in store. The Vikings are below-average at defending running backs, allowing the 12th-most fantasy points to RBs. Moreover, the 49ers are one of the most run-heavy teams in the league, averaging 29 runs per game, the sixth-most. While Mitchell may not catch many passes with his fractured middle finger, he doesn't do much of that even when healthy, and he doesn't need to. A sixth-round pick in the NFL draft, Mitchell has been a massive steal for both the 49ers and fantasy owners.

 

The Intriguing Opportunity

Dez Fitzpatrick (WR, TEN)

The Titans will be at less-than-full strength when they face a surging Patriots squad this week. Future Hall-of-Fame wide receiver Julio Jones remains on injured reserve, and on Friday wideout A.J. Brown was ruled out for the game with a chest injury. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill will need someone to pass to, especially with star running back Derrick Henry out for the season. That someone may end up being fourth-round rookie Dez Fitzpatrick out of Louisville.

Fitzpatrick made his professional debut in Week 10, catching just one pass for zero yards with only three routes run. Last week, though, he played 75.9 percent of the team's snaps, ran 44 routes, and caught three of six targets for 35 yards with one touchdown. That drastic increase in usage makes Fitzpatrick an interesting sleeper for this Sunday's game; even this year's prized rookie WR, Ja'Marr Chase, has only run 44 or more routes once. The New England defense is very tough against receivers, but even so, Fitzpatrick is absolutely worth watching out for.

 

The Deep Sleeper

Joshua Palmer (WR, LAC)

This past April, the Chargers chose Josh Palmer, a receiver from Tennessee, in the third round of the draft. Since then, Palmer has been very quiet, amounting to just the WR110 in PPR so far. However, there are some encouraging signs to consider with regards to the rookie. Since his bye week, Palmer has finished as a top-70 WR in all four games; before the bye week, he failed to do that at all in four appearances. Palmer is also hovering around a 30 percent snap share over his last three games after only crossing that threshold once previously.

While these are very low bars to clear, Palmer is definitely being integrated into the offense slowly but surely. The current WR3 on the Chargers, Jalen Guyton, has been unimpressive; his production premium, QB rating when targeted, and fantasy points per target are all outside the top-100 receivers. Moreover, Guyton has failed to reach a 50 percent snap share in two of his last three contests after passing it in each of his first seven this season. If/when Palmer ascends beyond Guyton in the pecking order, he would see an increased role in the fourth-most pass-happy offense. Watch if Palmer sees the field more this week versus Denver.

 

The Slumping Stud

Kyle Pitts (TE, ATL)

In a two-game span between Weeks 5 and 7, Falcons rookie Kyle Pitts put up an amazing combined stat line of 16 catches for 282 yards. Since then, though, the former Florida Gator is just the TE17 in standard leagues and TE16 in PPR. Much of this decline can be attributed to the floundering Atlanta offense, but still, Pitts has yet to truly crack the top-tier of tight ends as we thought. Even with receiver Calvin Ridley taking a leave of absence, Pitts has been unable to take advantage of the vacancy in the target distribution.

Despite this slump, it remains true that Pitts has the tools and situation necessary to reach the level of George Kittle or Darren Waller. His 29.2 percent share of his team's air yards is the highest such figure for any tight end, and his 14.8 yards per reception put him at second place at the position. Really all that is keeping him from putting up absurd numbers is his lack of touchdowns, having scored just once. His 10 red zone targets suggest that he could improve in that area shortly. See if Pitts can get back on track against a struggling Jacksonville team on Sunday.

 



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