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Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 15: Zach Wilson, Brevin Jordan, and more

Zach Wilson - Fantasy Football Rankings, 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 15 is already shaping up to be a chaotic one. Many teams across the league have experienced COVID-19 outbreaks, forcing players like Tyler Lockett and Jaylen Waddle into the appropriate protocols. Some teams have so many players unavailable that their games have been postponed; three games have already been pushed back to Monday or Tuesday. On top of all of this, the Jaguars finally fired coach Urban Meyer on Wednesday night after yet another worrisome story surfaced about his behavior. All in all, this weekend could be one of the most unpredictable in a while. The players who are eligible to play, including many rookies, will have a great opportunity to stand out.

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 includes both prominent fantasy options and those that are less well-known. 

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The Struggling Gunslinger

Zach Wilson (QB, NYJ)

Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones praised Jets quarterback Zach Wilson this week, saying that he is "impressive" and "a gunslinger." While Wilson does have the potential to become a good NFL quarterback, his play so far probably doesn't merit such compliments. His true passer rating ranks 28th in the league, and his 6.1 yards per attempt come in at just 34th. Particularly damaging is the fact that both his pressured completion percentage and clean pocket completion percentage are the 36th best among qualifying quarterbacks. That means he's worse than some backups.

Wilson was the second overall selection in this year's draft, so it's far too soon to completely write him off at this point, especially considering he has suffered from the most dropped passes of any QB this season. However, coming off of a game in which he completed fewer than half of his attempts and had no touchdown throws, Wilson is in desperate need of a rebound performance this week against Miami. His game against Philadelphia two weeks ago is his lone top-10 QB finish in fantasy so far this year; tune in to his game on Sunday to see if he can regain his footing. The Dolphins have surrendered the ninth-most fantasy points per game to opposing QBs in 2021.


The Consistent Star

Najee Harris (RB, PIT)

Any fantasy manager who selected Najee Harris in their fantasy draft must be quite pleased with the results. The rookie from Alabama has finished as a top-20 running back in PPR in 11 of his 13 games, with one of the exceptions being his debut. Pittsburgh has gotten him so involved that it is difficult for him to put up a dud. He is first among running backs in snap share, third in carries, first in route participation, second in targets, and second in receptions. With that kind of workload, Harris is as reliable of a fantasy option as they come.

A first-round pick this year, Harris is coming off of an RB4 finish in PPR formats. His two-TD showing last week against Minnesota was the first time in his career that he has found paydirt more than once, and it was the seventh time that he has gained over 100 scrimmage yards. This week he will take on a tough Tennessee Titans defense. The Titans have yielded the second-fewest half-PPR points to backfields this season, but Harris remains a must-start despite the matchup.


The Potent Tailback

Kenneth Gainwell (RB, PHI)

The last time that Philadelphia played, Kenneth Gainwell was a pretty big part of the offense. With fellow running backs Jordan Howard and Boston Scott hampered by injury and illness, respectively, Gainwell saw 17 touches for 87 yards and a touchdown. His 19.7 PPR points were the second-most that he has had this season. Howard and Scott will be competing with Gainwell for touches behind Miles Sanders this week, but Gainwell's performances have been solid enough to warrant further analysis.

The rookie from Memphis has 3.76 yards created per touch on the year, fifth-most among all RBs. He also has scored 1.07 fantasy points per opportunity, the sixth-highest figure at his position. While his backfield has been crowded, his efficiency is quite notable and bodes well for his long-term dynasty value. His game against the Washington Football Team on Tuesday will be a great opportunity to see where he stands within Philly's backfield after their bye week.


The Needed Weapon

Rashod Bateman (WR, BAL)

First-round rookie Rashod Bateman's production has been all over the place since his midseason debut. In Week 13, Bateman received just one target and made no catches. Last week we saw the good version of Bateman though, as he had seven receptions for 103 yards on eight targets. Both his catch and yardage totals were new career highs, and his target load matched his previous best. Bateman even managed to post these numbers despite an early injury to starting QB Lamar Jackson, making his breakout even more impressive.

Entering Week 15, Baltimore will be counting on Bateman to replicate his showing from last weekend. Jackson is questionable with an ankle injury, so Bateman's success with Tyler Huntley under center last week could be a key factor in the game plan against Green Bay. Moreover, the team's top receiver, Marquise Brown, is questionable with a non-COVID illness; any limitation or absence for him would further necessitate Bateman's continued ascension. Bateman could be in line for another strong stat line versus the Packers.


The Improving Option

Nico Collins (WR, HOU)

A third-round rookie from Michigan, wide receiver Nico Collins just had the best game of his young career last week. By making five grabs on 10 targets for 69 yards, Collins set career highs in all three categories, demonstrating nice progress. Like Bateman, Collins has struggled with consistency, but it's clear that Houston wants to utilize him when possible. Indeed, in addition to the aforementioned stats, Collins also had his highest snap share and most routes run against Seattle this past Sunday.

The rookie hasn't really stood out in any advanced stat this season, but if last week was a sign of a breakthrough it doesn't really matter. A steady flow of targets would allow him to truly display his skillset, and it's possible he could get that opportunity. It certainly appears as though Collins is the team's second option at wide receiver behind Brandin Cooks, making him worth a look on a team that frequently trails. It will be important for Collins to avoid a clunker and continue rolling against a Jacksonville squad that's in turmoil this week.


The Strong Closer

Brevin Jordan (TE, HOU)

Houston's rookie tight end Brevin Jordan spoke this week about how he wants to "finish out the year strong" and focus on daily improvement. He is already doing an excellent job on both fronts. Evidence of progression has been visible; Jordan has scored in two of his past three outings and had a career-high seven targets versus Seattle last week. In addition, his three best games in terms of routes run and snap share have been his last three games.

Jordan, a fifth-round pick from Miami, was a non-factor early in the season but has since emerged as a player worth discussing. He is questionable for this week's bout with the Jaguars due to a hand injury, but it will be interesting if he can maintain his rise if he plays. He remains touchdown-dependent, so he should be avoided as a fantasy starter if possible. However, he does have three top-12 TE finishes to his name in just six appearances. He and Collins will both be worth watching as the Texans take on the Jags.


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