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NFL Rookies to Watch for Fantasy Football Week 13 Including Zonovan Knight, Isiah Pacheco, George Pickens, Jelani Woods

Zonovan Knight - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Last week, quite a few rookies put forth excellent performances for fantasy managers. Jets rookie wideout Garrett Wilson scored 26.4 PPR points by putting up five catches for 95 yards and two touchdowns en route to a WR5 finish. The Packers had a rookie WR go off as well, as Christian Watson made four catches for 110 yards and a touchdown in a 40-33 loss to Philadelphia.

Rookie running backs had good times too. Tampa Bay's Rachaad White scored 19.9 PPR points, and the Commanders' Brian Robinson surpassed 100 rushing yards for the first time in his career. Moreover, Kenneth Walker III scored two touchdowns for Seattle in a tough overtime loss to Las Vegas.

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.

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NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Redraft Leagues

Isiah Pacheco (RB, KC)

Seventh-round rookie running back Isiah Pacheco was considered a major fantasy sleeper in the preseason. It took until the second half of the year, but Pacheco is now justifying the hype. Over his past three games, Pacheco has toted the ball 53 times for 258 yards and a score. He also achieved his first 100-yard performance in Week 11, gaining 107 yards against the Chargers. He has clearly taken control of the backfield in Kansas City; the previous starter, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, has just 10 total opportunities in the last three weeks.

Pacheco's statistical production is due in part to his incredible athleticism. With a 4.37-second 40-yard dash time at the Scouting Combine, Pacheco's speed score ranks at the 98th percentile among RBs. He also managed to reach 27 bench press reps at the Combine, a 93rd-percentile performance. Between his strength-speed combination and quick ascension to a major role, Pacheco appears to have been a great late-round find by the Chiefs.

Pacheco will look to keep the momentum going this weekend against the Bengals. He had 22 carries last week versus the Rams, but he has not gotten much work in the passing game. Indeed, he has seen just four targets all season. It will be important to watch to see if Pacheco gets similar volume on the ground as he's been getting, but PPR managers would certainly like him to be making more catches. That's something to keep an eye on this Sunday.

Kyren Williams (RB, LAR)

Like Pacheco, Rams rookie running back Kyren Williams was a late-round pick this past April. Also like Pacheco, Williams is now gaining steam as he acclimates to the NFL. After suffering an ankle injury in the season opener against the Bills, Williams did not play again until Week 10. In Week 12, he had 14 touches for 60 yards in a loss to the Chiefs. His snap share, carries, and total yards have increased each week since his return.

Williams, a fifth-rounder out of Notre Dame, has taken advantage of a tumultuous situation with the Rams' backfield. Third-year player Cam Akers failed to break out this season and seems to have fallen out of favor with the coaching staff. Darrell Henderson had a decent role earlier this year, but he was later released by the squad. Malcolm Brown has alternated between being injured and ineffective, and rookie Ronnie Rivers couldn't make the most of his brief moment to shine. Williams has a real chance to emerge as the clear top dog in this backfield.

The main thing to watch with Williams on Sunday as he takes on the Seahawks is if his involvement continues to grow as it has in recent weeks. His snap share reached 71.7 percent last week; can he manage to exceed that? If so, he will become an even more desirable waiver wire addition than he already is. Williams is worth stashing as the fantasy playoffs approach, but he may very well be a must-add after this weekend.

Zonovan Knight (RB, NYJ)

Jets rookie running back Zonovan "Bam" Knight rose from obscurity to fantasy relevance with just one game. James Robinson, who the Jets traded for in October, was a healthy scratch and starting RB Michael Carter exited last week's matchup with Chicago with an ankle sprain. Knight was active for the first time in his career in place of Robinson, and Carter's injury opened the door to immediate production. Knight had 14 touches for 103 total yards, finishing as the week's RB23 in PPR formats.

Knight posted consistent but unremarkable numbers in college at NC State. He finished each of his three collegiate seasons with 12 games played and between 700 and 800 rushing yards, although he did score 10 of his 18 touchdowns in 2020. His college dominator of 16.9 percent was at just the 25th percentile among RBs. Despite his lack of standout production, though, Knight achieved an 89th-percentile agility score entering the league, and he showed strong athleticism against the Bears last Sunday.

Carter's ankle sprain has left him doubtful for this weekend's contest with the Vikings, meaning Knight will be a factor once again. Robinson will likely be active, but his exclusion from the game plan last week does not bode well for his outlook. Knight will likely compete with Ty Johnson to be the leader in the backfield. Watch to see if Knight can establish a lasting role for the remainder of the season with a strong performance.

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Brian Robinsonย (RB, WAS)

The fourth and final rookie running back to watch this week is Brian Robinson of the Commanders. Robinson gained a lot of attention for his rise from Weeks 5 through 7 as he gradually took control of Washington's backfield. His production started to stagnate after that, though, due in large part to his poor efficiency. Before last week, Robinson averaged under four yards per carry in each of his seven appearances. His teammate, Antonio Gibson, was challenging for a return to his lead role.

That situation changed last week when Robinson had the best game of his young career so far. The Alabama product gained 105 yards on the ground on 18 carries, and he also added three receptions for 20 yards and a touchdown through the air. His finish as the week's RB5 in PPR formats is his best such finish to date. His snap share also rebounded to 51.7 percent after dipping to 34.3 percent the week before. Importantly, he also out-touched Gibson 21 to 12.

In addition to watching for how the team splits carries between Robinson and Gibson this week, pay attention to Robinson's efficiency. His 5.8 yards per carry last week provided encouragement to dynasty managers who had been growing concerned. He will have an excellent opportunity to replicate last week's numbers on Sunday; the Giants' defense is allowing 5.2 yards per carry this year, the third-most in the league. Robinson should find room to run in New York.

George Pickens (WR, PIT)

Steelers rookie receiver George Pickens is in the midst of a solid stretch of performances. In three of his past five games, Pickens has finished as a top-30 WR in PPR formats, including two weeks in the top 15. In a fourth, he had three catches on six targets for 57 yards and a two-point conversion, which is still a decent showing. In the fifth, though, he posted a zero-catch disappointment against the Eagles in Week 8. Still, it's promising that he has been scoring 10-plus PPR points with relative consistency.

Another development has been Pickens's emergence as a deep threat. The former Georgia Bulldog has 19 deep targets on the season, the sixth-highest figure in the league among WRs. Moreover, his average depth of target (aDOT) of 15.1 yards is fifth at his position. Compare those numbers to his teammate Diontae Johnson's; just 14.9 percent of Johnson's targets have been deep, compared to Pickens's mark of 31.7 percent, and Johnson's aDOT is merely 9.9 yards. Pickens has certainly solidified his role in the offense.

The main thing to watch for with Pickens on Sunday is if his target numbers increase. He had seven-plus targets in three consecutive games from Weeks 3 through 5, but he has not surpassed six in a game since then despite the team trading Chase Claypool to Chicago. Pickens has been successful, but quarterback Kenny Pickett needs to throw him the ball more. How Pickens finishes the season will impact his dynasty outlook compared to his peers like Garrett Wilson and Treylon Burks.

Jelani Woods (TE, IND)

Indianapolis Colts rookie tight end Jelani Woods turned in a superb performance on Monday Night Football last week. Woods caught eight passes on nine targets for 98 yards; all of those stats were easily career highs for him. He also set personal bests in snap share (61.3 percent), routes run (24), route participation (64.9 percent), air yards (72), and fantasy points (17.8 PPR points). Needless to say, it was a night to remember for Woods.

Woods, a third-round pick from Virginia, was taken by the Colts in large part because of his physical abilities. At 6'7" and 252 pounds, Woods runs a 4.61-second 40-yard dash, providing incredible athleticism. He possesses a 95th-percentile burst score and 98th-percentile catch radius, making for an elite combination. With this context, it is easy to look at Woods's performance against the Steelers and get excited about his prospects in dynasty leagues.

Woods will be hoping to build on his work last week with another strong outing against the Cowboys on Sunday. As it stands right now, his output from Monday looks like a fluke compared to his earlier games, but he will have a shot to dispel that notion this weekend. Should he even come close to his numbers from Week 12, Woods' dynasty stock will rise quite a bit. At a time when the tight end position is relatively barren, Woods has shown promise.



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