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Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 13: Jaylen Waddle, Rondale Moore, and more

jaylen waddle fantasy football rankings news NFL DFS lineup picks

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 12 saw many rookies step up and show out for their teams. Miami wide receiver Jaylen Waddle posted nine receptions for a career-high 137 yards, plus a score. San Francisco running back Elijah Mitchell returned from injury in a big way, tallying 168 scrimmage yards and a touchdown, good for the RB3 finish in PPR leagues. Finally, New England quarterback Mac Jones continued his strong first season by passing for a personal-best 310 yards and finishing as the QB7 for the week. From this discussion, it's clear that rookies can be valuable sources of fantasy points.

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. This week's article boasts a solid mix of well-known assets and sneaky sleepers.

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The Face of the Franchise

Trevor Lawrence (QB, JAX)

When Jacksonville took former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence with the first overall pick this past April, they probably envisioned a more successful rookie season from their prized passer. Lawrence has thrown just nine touchdowns, a mark that seems even worse when compared to his 32 interceptable passes, second-most in the NFL. Moreover, despite having thrown the eighth-most passes, Lawrence has gained just the 22nd-most yards among all QBs. The first-year gunslinger has been extremely inefficient.

However, Lawrence has also been the victim of some bad luck and poor support. His top wideout, D.J. Chark, suffered a season-ending ankle injury early in Week 4. Moreover, Lawrence has had more of his passes dropped than any other QB except Justin Herbert, a situation likely exacerbated by Chark's absence. Ultimately, his supporting cast efficiency ranks just 29th among qualifying passers. While Lawrence has had his struggles, it is definitely too early to cast judgment here. Lawrence should not be considered in starting lineups outside of two-QB or Superflex leagues, but he remains a strong dynasty asset. Check out his game Sunday against a Rams squad that is now on a three-game losing streak.

 

The Eager Beaver

Jermar Jefferson (RB, DET)

A seventh-round pick from Oregon State, this former Beaver was largely an afterthought in fantasy circles this preseason. However, Jermar Jefferson suddenly finds himself in an interesting situation this week with Detroit's starting RB, D'Andre Swift, out with a shoulder injury.

Jamaal Williams should serve as the lead back in Swift's absence, especially considering Jefferson had no touches even after Swift's early exit on Thanksgiving. However, a few factors make Jefferson worth a brief look in this article. The first is that in Week 10, the most recent game in which he touched the ball, the rookie gained 41 yards on just three carries, including a 28-yard score. Secondly, on Sunday Detroit will have had 10 days since their last game to bring Jefferson up to speed with an increased role. Finally, Jefferson will at the very least be a tantalizing insurance option should Williams get banged up also; the Lions target their tailbacks at a higher rate than any other team except the Saints. Jefferson's game this weekend against Minnesota could be his breakout.

 

The Rocket Returner

Kene Nwangwu (RB, MIN)

Speaking of Minnesota, the Vikings have an interesting sleeper at running back as well. Kene Nwangwu, a fourth-round rookie from Iowa State, has already gotten some recognition this season for his performance as a kick returner. Nwangwu has scored two touchdowns off of kickoffs this season, whereas the rest of the league has managed to combine for just four. The rookie has displayed his exciting skillset on these opportunities, of which he has had only eight. That's right, Nwangwu has scored on two of his eight kickoff returns this year.

Granted, Nwangwu has just two touches on offense through 12 weeks. However, his flashes as a return man, coupled with star running back Dalvin Cook's shoulder injury, will lead to more involvement offensively against Detroit on Sunday, as confirmed by coach Mike Zimmer. While Alexander Mattison figures to handle most of the duties in the backfield, Nwangwu will finally have a real chance to shine as a running back. That makes him more than interesting enough to be included in this article.

 

The Record Chaser

Jaylen Waddle (WR, MIA)

In the introduction to this article, I mentioned that Dolphins rookie Jaylen Waddle had an outstanding game last weekend. His 28.7 PPR points made him the WR1 for Week 12. Although this was undoubtedly Waddle's best professional outing to date, it should have come as no surprise given the remarkable season he has been having. The Alabama product has 77 receptions through 12 games, a pace that puts him on track to break Anquan Boldin's record for receptions in a rookie season.

With at least four receptions and six targets in each of Miami's past seven matchups, Waddle has firmly entrenched himself as an integral part of the offense. In fact, he has run the most routes of any receiver in the NFL. Moreover, he has been extremely dependable when targeted, as his 102.7 percent true catch rate means he has caught more of his targets than were deemed catchable. That figure remains very impressive even though his average target distance is just 6.2 yards. Watch if Waddle can continue his strong play against the Giants this week.

 

The Small Speedster

Rondale Moore (WR, ARI)

Arizona's Rondale Moore had a very strong performance in Week 2, catching seven passes for 114 yards and a touchdown. Since that WR6 finish, though, he had not finished in the top-25 receivers in any week in PPR leagues. Emphasis on "had," as in Week 11 Moore fittingly had 11 catches on 11 targets, both career highs. It is important to note that he gained just 51 yards on those catches, but those numbers were still enough for him to finish as the WR21 in PPR formats.

At just 5'7", 181 pounds, Moore will never be Calvin Johnson, but his 4.32 40-yard-dash demonstrates his deadly speed, and his impressive shiftiness can make defenders pay. His average target distance is a paltry 3.5 yards, but that figure is not too worrisome considering 250 of his 413 receiving yards have come after the catch. With six red zone catches but just one total touchdown, we can also expect some positive regression in the scoring department. Moore has a favorable matchup on deck against the Chicago Bears, who have yielded the seventh-most half-PPR points to receivers this season.

 

The Long-Term Stash

Kylen Granson (TE, IND)

While Atlanta's Kyle Pitts and Pittsburgh's Pat Freiermuth have garnered most of the attention among this year's crop of rookie tight ends, it is important to show some love to the other members of the group as well. This week, that means taking a look at Colts rookie Kylen Granson. Granson has caught just nine passes for 94 yards in 2021, so as the TE67 in PPR formats he should be nowhere near redraft rosters at the moment. First-year tight ends rarely are fantasy-relevant though, so this lack of production is not a dealbreaker for his dynasty value.

In two seasons at SMU, Granson made 78 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns, so it's clear that he is a competent pass-catcher rather than a mere blocking tight end. Indianapolis QB Carson Wentz also loved targeting his tight ends in Philadelphia, so if Wentz remains the starter in future seasons, admittedly a big if, then Granson would have an opportunity to establish an excellent rapport with him over time. The fourth-round rookie has seen little usage thus far, but perhaps that changes against Houston on Sunday. The Texans have been the ninth-most forgiving defense to tight ends in fantasy in 2021.



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