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Fantasy Football Rookies to Watch in Week 16: Demetric Felton, Ian Book, and more

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.

With the fantasy playoffs underway, each week is crucial for every manager still in the hunt for a championship. Unfortunately, last week saw low offensive output across the entire league, leaving fantasy managers desperate for points wherever they could find them. This made players like rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who finished as the WR6 in PPR last week, all the more valuable. St. Brown has been a hot waiver wire target lately, so anyone who pounced on him early reaped the benefits.

The goal of this article is to find these rising young stars like St. Brown. For dynasty leagues, this column should help identify ideal trade targets and prized stashes. For redraft managers, this column could provide the edge necessary to dominate your fantasy playoffs. This week's article includes both prominent fantasy options and those that are less well-known. 

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The Fresh Face

Ian Book (QB, NO)

This Monday, Saints rookie quarterback Ian Book is set to become the seventh member of the 2021 QB class to start a regular season game. Book, a fourth-round pick this past spring, had a successful career at Notre Dame. In three years as the starter for the Fighting Irish, he led his school to two College Football Playoff berths and finished ninth in 2020's Heisman voting. In his collegiate career, he completed 63.8 percent of his passes for 8,948 yards and 72 touchdowns with just 20 interceptions. He used his legs a lot too, running 361 times for 1,517 yards and 17 touchdowns. Keep in mind that college rushing stats subtract yardage lost on sacks.

The key question is whether or not Book can be productive at the NFL level. Despite less-than-stellar passing numbers, another Saints QB, Taysom Hill, managed to have two QB4 finishes in just three starts. The New Orleans offense can be conducive to nice fantasy performances, especially for quarterbacks who can run like Hill and Book. It would be ill-advised to start Book this week because he's such an unknown, but a solid performance is quite possible. His debut will be worth checking out on Monday against Miami.


The Return to Form

Michael Carter (RB, NYJ)

Jets rookie running back Michael Carter had gained a significant amount of momentum by midseason. From Week 7 through Week 10, Carter was the RB3 in PPR leagues. This was powered by his 444 scrimmage yards, 22 catches, and two touchdowns during that span. However, a Week 11 injury sidelined the North Carolina product until last week, when he had just nine touches and 20 scrimmage yards while splitting time with veteran Tevin Coleman.

It remains to be seen whether or not Carter can regain control of the backfield by the end of the season, but it is a strong bet that he will. Despite just coming off of a sprained ankle, Carter still out-snapped Coleman by a margin of 31 to 21 last week. Moreover, in Week 10, Carter's last game pre-injury, he out-snapped Coleman 40 to 17. Regardless, the Jets take on a woeful Jacksonville squad this week in a rare opportunity for New York to lead late in the game. A favorable game script and a return to his midseason workload would result in excellent fantasy production from Carter.


The Versatile Backup

Demetric Felton (RB, CLE)

Last week, Browns rookie running back Demetric Felton saw much more playing time than he was accustomed to with both running back Kareem Hunt and receiver Jarvis Landry unavailable. Felton had a career-high 61.1 percent snap share and ran 20 routes, nine more than he had run in any other game. Moreover, his snap count exceeded that of D'Ernest Johnson, the tailback who had filled in for both Hunt and Nick Chubb earlier in the season.

Landry is returning for this Saturday's game against Green Bay, but Hunt remains sidelined. While Felton's measurables are uninspiring, the sixth-round rookie from UCLA could have another chance to demonstrate his receiving abilities. He has the potential to settle into a change-of-pace role for Cleveland behind Chubb, which would make him worth eyeing in PPR leagues. Of course, this is contingent on him retaining the same amount of playtime as he had last week, so make sure to take some time to see if he can.


The Late-Season Stud

Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR, DET)

Fourth-round rookie Amon-Ra St. Brown has had himself a remarkable stretch of games lately. Since Week 13, St. Brown is the WR3 in PPR leagues, behind just Cooper Kupp and Justin Jefferson. In that span, he has had at least 8 catches and 11 targets all three weeks, and he has totaled 256 yards and two touchdowns. He also has finished as a top-6 WR in two of the last three weeks. His performances have helped both the Lions and his fantasy managers win games, and his consistency bodes well for the remainder of his season.

It is worth noting that the USC product has an average target distance of a mere 6.5 yards. However, that is a lot less of a concern considering the steady stream of looks he has been getting. St. Brown will ride this wave into Atlanta this Sunday and take on a poor Falcons defense. Atlanta has surrendered the seventh-most half-PPR fantasy points per game to wideouts this season. The rookie will have to deal with the likely absence of his quarterback Jared Goff though, adding uncertainty into an otherwise solid projection. Producing at a high level again would strengthen his rest of season outlook.


The One-Week Outlier

Kadarius Toney (WR, NYG)

Rookie wideout Kadarius Toney has missed each of the Giants' last four games, and he is now questionable for this Sunday's game against Philadelphia with an oblique injury. Should he play, Toney will become one of the most interesting rookies to watch in the league this week. He had one dominant performance against Dallas back in Week 5 but has been unable to recapture that magic since. Still, a 10-reception, 189-yard game turns a lot of heads, so Toney needs to be on fantasy managers' radars against the Eagles.

Toney does have two other decent showings this year. In Week 4 he had six catches for 78 yards, and in Week 11 he caught seven balls on 12 targets for 40 yards. With teammate Sterling Shepard out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, Toney will have an opportunity for 10 or more targets once again. His explosiveness after the catch makes him a valuable fantasy asset, and we know he is capable of putting up massive numbers. He faces a tough matchup on Sunday, but if he plays he is a major sleeper option given Shepard's injury.


The Unknown Fill-In

Noah Gray (TE, KC)

It's unlikely that many fantasy managers are familiar with Noah Gray, but the fifth-round pick from Duke may find himself in an ideal position on Sunday. With COVID-19 wreaking havoc across the league recently, many teams have been forced to be without key players. Indeed, it's for this reason that the Chiefs may have neither tight end Travis Kelce nor wide receiver Tyreek Hill at their disposal this Sunday. This would open the door for either Gray or Blake Bell to fill Kelce's void in the team's lineup and garner a notable amount of targets.

If Kelce is in fact unable to suit up, Gray is more likely than Bell to benefit. The two have had comparable snap counts in recent weeks, but Gray has run many more routes (33 to 12 since Week 10). Kelce and Hill account for over half of Kansas City's passing yards on the year, so a massive amount of fantasy points would be up for grabs in the Patrick Mahomes-led offense. This is a situation worth monitoring throughout the weekend.


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