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Sizing Up NFL Rookies That Flopped

Trevor Lawrence - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Now that the NFL regular season is behind us, it's time to look back and reflect on some of the things that happened.

This was a weird year for rookies in the NFL, with some poor play from all the non-Mac Jones quarterbacks and some uneven play at other positions.

Let's take a look at some of the rookies who struggled and try to figure out a) what went wrong and b) if things will get better.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!


Trevor Lawrence - QB, Jacksonville Jaguars

We're only going to talk about one quarterback and that quarterback is Trevor Lawrence, because of all the disappointments at QB, he was the most disappointing relative to expectations.

Lawrence was...well, bad. Let's not sugarcoat this. 2021 was a disaster for Lawrence, one of the most hyped QB prospects in years.

For example, there was an eight-game span where Lawrence threw one touchdown. Not averaged one touchdown. He threw a TOTAL of one touchdown. ONE. Between Week 9 and Week 16, Trevor Lawrence had one touchdown pass, which came in Week 12 against the Falcons.

The Jaguars being a complete disaster because of Urban Meyer is a big part of this, but even that doesn't fully account for some of Lawrence's numbers. Per PlayerProfiler, he ranked:

  • 33rd in yards per attempt
  • 29th in accuracy rating
  • 1st in interceptable passes
  • 33rd in true completion percentage
  • 35th in true passer rating

It was not good. Blame playcalling and the offensive line and the situations, sure, but also blame Lawrence at least a little. There were a couple of good games mixed in and he ended the year with a strong showing in an upset win over the Colts, but it was a disappointing year overall. He missed throws. He couldn't keep drives alive. It didn't go well.

Will 2022 Go Better? If you still believe that Trevor Lawrence is a great prospect, then you have to believe he starts to show that next year. The situation in Jacksonville is unlikely to be objectively good, but it should be better simply by it not being the 2021 Jags anymore. I think he'll have some better games, will throw actual touchdowns sometime, and be a decent fantasy QB2, but I don't see him making a huge leap yet. Maybe in 2023, the Jags will have something good built around him that'll let Lawrence show his talent.


Kadarius Toney - WR, New York Giants

Toney had some really good games, but injuries limited him to 10 games. He had two really good showings, with six catches for 78 yards against the Saints and then 10 catches for 189 against Dallas.

He wouldn't break 40 yards again after that, though.

Toney seems like someone who could be really effective in a role where he's the diet version of Deebo Samuel. Of course, we don't know what the Giants are going to look like in terms of coaching and if the new system would use him like that, but the talent is definitely there.

Will 2022 Go Better? Assuming he's healthy, I'd say so. Toney is probably the second-most talented receiver on this team. If he plays most of the season, he'll be someone who'll usually deliver some really solid results in fantasy, with occasional big games.


Terrace Marshall Jr. - WR, Carolina Panthers

Marshall was targeted six times in Week 1. He never saw that many looks again.

Even factoring in that Marshall missed time with a foot injury, 2021 was extremely disappointing. A big part of that is the Panthers were just completely inept when it came to the passing game, as just three teams threw for fewer yards than Carolina did.

Will 2022 Go Better: Betting on Marshall to make a leap next year is betting on the Panthers' passing game as a whole to make a leap and...well, at this moment, I can't trust that to happen. Maybe the team will find a quarterback that can utilize Marshall (and D.J. Moore), but I'm not prepared to bet on any receivers on this team at this point.


Rondale Moore - WR, Arizona Cardinals

Rondale Moore played 14 regular-season games. He had four games with more than 50 receiving yards, and two of those games happened to be his first two NFL games. A popular sleeper pick, he opened the year looking like someone who was going to fulfill that destiny.

But he only played 29 percent of the snaps in Week 1 and 46 percent in Week 2. He was getting chances, but he was still playing less than half the snaps on a contending team. Contending teams don't really trust rookie wideouts much, and factoring in the mid-season trade for Zach Ertz, it makes sense why Arizona didn't look to Moore as much as people wanted.

Will 2022 Go Better: It definitely should.

A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, and Antoine Wesley are all free agents. I'd be a little surprised to see both Green and Kirk back, which would move Moore up a bit in the pecking order. He's either the No. 2 or No. 3 receiver on this team next year, something that boosts his value a ton. Green, for instance, had 92 targets this year. Some of that was because DeAndre Hopkins missed seven games, but even if we estimate that the No. 3 guy gets targeted 80ish times, that's a jump over what Moore saw this year. He'll be viewed as a preseason sleeper again next year, but I think it'll actually pan out in 2022.


Dee Eskridge - WR, Seattle Seahawks

Eskridge missed a whole bunch of games, landing on the IR with a concussion. He ended up returning in Week 10, but never had more than four targets in any game. His best showing was in Week 13 when he was targeted three times, catching all three for 35 yards and a score.

It's easy to diagnose what went wrong for Eskridge: he was hurt for the early part of the season and by the time he returned, there just wasn't a lot available for him.

Will 2022 Go Better? It has to, but I don't really have high hopes. The Seahawks have never thrown the ball enough to justify a fantasy investment in the No. 3 wideout, and unless the team moves on from Tyler Lockett or D.K. Metcalf, Eskridge won't have much value, though I expect his real-life value will rise.


Tutu Atwell - WR, Los Angeles Rams

With Josh Reynolds gone, there was theoretically room for Atwell to make an impact as the third receiver with Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. But Van Jefferson took on that role, and when Woods got hurt, the team brought in Odell Beckham Jr. Atwell never really had a chance, with his season ending after eight games with a shoulder injury. When healthy, he had 10 offensive snaps and no targets and worked exclusively as a return man.

Beckham is a free agent, but even if he leaves, Atwell likely enters 2022 as the No. 4 wideout, assuming Woods is good to go next year.

Will 2022 Go Better: Well, one reception would mean things technically went better, so...yes? But Atwell felt like a one-dimensional project when he was drafted in the second round and he still feels like that after one season, especially when that season was essentially lost.

These rookies were flops in 2021 but some have a chance to bounce back in their second season. Stay tuned to RotoBaller all offseason to get the best draft prep for 2022 fantasy football.

Ed. note: Thanks to Justin for not including Trey Sermon as a reminder of how much I drafted him this season.

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