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NFL Rookies to Watch for Fantasy Football Week 12 Including Christian Watson, Treylon Burks, Kenny Pickett, Skyy Moore

Christian Watson - Fantasy Football Rankings, Waiver Wire Pickups, Draft Sleepers

Every year, players emerge late in the season and rise to major fantasy relevance. Two such players in 2021 were Lions receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown and Seahawks running back Rashaad Penny. Both elevated their play to such an extent that they won many fantasy managers their leagues. Anyone who made the call to add them fared quite well in the second half of the year.

One notable thing about St. Brown was that he was a rookie. Just a fourth-round pick last year out of USC, St. Brown became an elite fantasy option with little warning. He has carried that success over into this season, ensuring that he has returned dynasty managers a lot of value as well. He was a true sleeper who massively panned out.

Clearly, whether you're a redraft manager or a dynasty manager, being ahead of the curve with rookie players is vital to your team's success. For that reason, each week I am breaking down which rookies you should be watching out for. This column is split into two parts: one pertaining to players most relevant in redraft leagues, and the other for rookies particularly worth watching in dynasty formats.

 

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Redraft Leagues

Rachaad White (RB, TB)

Since joining Tampa Bay in 2020, Leonard Fournette has made a strong fantasy impact. Fournette finished as the RB6 in PPR formats in 2021, totaling 249 touches, 1,266 scrimmage yards, and 10 touchdowns in 14 games. He's been finding less success this season, though. He's averaging just 15.6 PPR points per game compared to 18.3 last season, and he is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry, down from 4.5 last year. Now he is dealing with a hip injury and is officially listed as doubtful for Sunday's contest against the Cleveland Browns.

In steps rookie Rachaad White. White had already been getting increasingly worked into Tampa Bay's offense in previous weeks, including a 22-carry, 105-yard outburst against Seattle in Germany in Week 10. Now he will likely have an opportunity to lead the backfield without Fournette's presence limiting his volume. A third-round pick out of Arizona State, White hasn't impressed with his efficiency so far this season, averaging just 3.6 true yards per carry and just 4.5 yards per touch. He will have a chance to change that in a big way this week.

White could steal the team's starting running back job away from Fournette with a strong performance. He has a real path to major volume throughout the fantasy playoffs. This extends into the passing game; White is a capable receiver, amassing a 98th-percentile target share among RBs in college. White's role this week is enough to make him a solid starting option in fantasy leagues, but it also gives him a chance to earn that status for subsequent games. Cleveland poses a favorable matchup on Sunday.

Treylon Burks (WR, TEN)

Like White, Titans receiver Treylon Burks achieved his first 100-yard outing as a professional in his most recent game. In Week 11 against the Packers, Burks caught seven passes on eight targets for 111 yards, all career highs. It also marked his second game with over 100 air yards and his fourth consecutive with a snap share above 50 percent. Burks capped off his breakout performance with a game-clinching 51-yard reception.

Burks was a first-round pick this offseason. Indeed, the Arkansas product was chosen 18th overall with the selection Tennessee acquired from Philadelphia in exchange for wide receiver A.J. Brown. While Burks still has some improvement to do to meet his lofty expectations as a replacement for Brown, he certainly has the tools to accomplish this. He is 6'2" and 224 pounds, possessing an impressive frame for his position. He also has the speed to burn defenders when necessary, even if that doesn't necessarily come across in his measurables.

The former Razorback will hope to keep the momentum rolling this week versus Cincinnati. He is expected to be matched up against Eli Apple and Cam Taylor-Britt, both of whom pose about average matchups, for most of his snaps. A key thing to watch for from Burks is if he runs more routes. He is currently 23rd among WRs in target rate but just 76th in route participation. For him to truly take off, he will need to have more chances to see targets.

Christian Watson (WR, GB)

Burks was not the only rookie wide receiver to have a strong game in last week's Thursday night matchup. The Green Bay Packers saw their second-round pick this year, Christian Watson, catch four passes on six targets for 48 yards and two touchdowns. This came just four days after Watson made four grabs for 108 yards and three scores against the Dallas Cowboys. Watson suddenly leads all rookies with five receiving touchdowns on the season.

Watson's explosion was very abrupt, as is often the case with rookies. He had made just 10 catches for 88 yards and no receiving touchdowns in his first six games combined. As a second-round draft choice, though, he was likely to get an opportunity eventually. That came when teammate and fellow rookie Romeo Doubs went down with an ankle injury in Week 9. Watson immediately took advantage. His snap share, which had been below 35 percent in his previous five appearances, has exceeded 80 percent in each of the last two weeks.

Doubs will miss his third straight game this week as the Packers face the 9-1 Philadelphia Eagles. While this will leave Watson with another chance at a quality stat line, he will face difficult matchups against Darius Slay, James Bradberry, and Josiah Scott. If Watson overcomes these skilled corners and plays well again, it will be difficult to deny that he's a great fantasy option moving forward. If he struggles, questions will remain.

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Kenny Pickett (QB, PIT)

The 2022 quarterback draft class was considered arguably the weakest in recent memory. No quarterback was drafted until the 20th overall pick, the longest wait before a QB has come off the board since 1997. The passer who finally was selected was former Pittsburgh Panther Kenny Pickett. Pickett was taken by the Steelers and backed up Mitchell Trubisky before seeing the field for the first time in Week 4 against the Jets. In that game, Pickett completed 10 of 13 passes for 120 yards and ran for two touchdowns but also tossed three interceptions.

Since then, the rookie has been disappointing, frankly. He has not been able to match that mark of two total touchdowns in any of his six starts. He has also failed to surpass 200 passing yards three times, has just three touchdown passes, and is second in the NFL in interceptable passes with 24. His 4.4 adjusted yards per attempt and 47.3 true passer rating are abysmal, and he is just 37th among QBs in production premium.

There are some okay signs for Pickett, though. His accuracy was a positive part of his draft profile, and that fact has shown through. Pickett is first in pressured completion percentage, 12th in deep ball accuracy rating, and 15th in play-action completion percentage. If he can settle down in the red zone, as he's 36th in accuracy rating inside the 20, his production will surely improve. That's an important factor to watch for this week on Monday Night Football as the Steelers take on the Colts in a nice matchup for Pickett.

Keaontay Ingram (RB, ARI)

On November 14, the Arizona Cardinals made the surprising move to release running back Eno Benjamin. Benjamin had found some success with Arizona this season, including in a 16-touch, 113-yard outing against New Orleans that also saw him score a touchdown. Rumors have circulated about why Benjamin was cut, but regardless, the role as James Conner's backup suddenly became up for grabs. It seems as though rookie Keaontay Ingram has seized it.

Ingram, a sixth-round pick from USC, had five carries for 19 yards last week in Arizona's first game since Benjamin's release. Those numbers both ranked second on the team in a 38-10 blowout loss to San Francisco. His 25.0 percent snap share was his second-highest of the season, and his seven routes run matched his top mark of the year. His usage is certainly trending upward, and with Conner often injured, Ingram may find it increasing much more soon.

Ingram's higher volume will allow dynasty managers to scout the sleeper more thoroughly. He has good speed with a 4.53-second 40-yard dash, and he displayed his strength when he reached 23 bench press reps (76th percentile) at the Scouting Combine. Make sure to check out what Ingram can do this week versus the Chargers. Last week, Los Angeles allowed Chiefs rookie RB Isiah Pacheco to reach 100 yards for the first time in his career; can Ingram find some running room as well?

Skyy Moore (WR, KC)

Chiefs rookie wide receiver Skyy Moore was extremely hyped in the preseason. With superstar WR Tyreek Hill leaving Kansas City for Miami via trade, Chiefs fans were clamoring for a replacement in the draft. Moore, who was taken in the second round, was to be quarterback Patrick Mahomes's new weapon. Because of his landing spot and speed (4.41-second 40-yard dash), Moore was commonly cited as a sleeper entering fantasy drafts.

Moore struggled to start his career, though. In his first nine games, the Western Michigan product made just seven catches on 14 targets for 106 yards. Many redraft managers cut ties with Moore, and dynasty managers were getting antsy while watching other rookie wideouts find their stride. Last week against the Chargers, though, Moore nearly matched his season totals with five catches for 63 yards. The absences of teammates Mecole Hardman and JuJu Smith-Schuster proved to be enough for him to have a small breakout.

Moore, who set career-highs in snap share and routes run last week, will look to keep improving on Sunday versus the struggling Los Angeles Rams. With Smith-Schuster ready to return to action, it will be interesting to see if Moore can maintain the level of involvement that he saw last week. If he is unable to, prepare for the skeptics to regain their grip on the discussion surrounding Moore's dynasty outlook. The Rams are an average matchup for receivers this season.



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