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NFL Rookies to Watch for Fantasy Football Week 14 Including James Cook, Greg Dulcich, Brock Purdy, Isaiah Likely

James Cook - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Last week, quite a few rookies put forth excellent performances for fantasy managers. Christian Watson, a rookie wideout for the Packers, made three catches for 48 yards and a touchdown through the air while also adding a 46-yard touchdown on the ground. Not far behind Watson was the Jets' rookie WR Garrett Wilson, who totaled 24.2 PPR points in a 27-22 loss to the Vikings.

Eight other rookies reached 15 PPR points in Week 13: Alec Pierce, Rachaad White, Zonovan Knight, James Cook, Jahan Dotson, Isiah Pacheco, Drake London, and Brock Purdy. Some of these performances were more expected than others, but fantasy lineups that featured any of these players received valuable contributions from rising young stars.

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.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association including Baseball Writer of the Year, Football Writers of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year and many more! Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Redraft Leagues

James Cook (RB, BUF)

Bills rookie running back James Cook may have just had his breakout game. Against the Patriots on Thursday Night Football last week, Cook totaled 20 touches for 105 scrimmage yards, both the highest totals he's achieved thus far. Cook also had a 45.6 percent snap share, marking the first game he's even reached 30 percent. For the first time since Week 2, Cook saw more touches than his backfield-mate Devin Singletary, and he nearly closed the snap share gap between them.

Cook was taken in the second round this past April out of Georgia. His speed was a big reason why, as his 4.42-second 40-yard dash reached the 94th percentile among running backs. He also averaged over six yards per carry in each of his four seasons as a Bulldog, although he only carried the ball 230 times in college. Cook's quickness has led to him having the number one breakaway run rate in the NFL this year (11.7 percent), although that is on a sample of just 60 carries.

The younger brother of Vikings star RB Dalvin Cook, James will be looking to continue building on his performance from last week with another strong showing on Sunday. He should be considered a FLEX option against the Jets this week, but with another game exceeding Singletary's usage, he could rise further up the RB rankings for subsequent weeks. Cook may be peaking at the right time for fantasy managers, and paying attention to his showing this week will be key for future planning.

Greg Dulcich (TE, DEN)

Denver tight end Greg Dulcich didn't play until Week 6 this season, but he has made the most of his seven appearances since his absence. In those seven weeks, Dulcich has finished as a top-10 tight end three times, and he has two additional finishes in the top 16. This is all despite having just one touchdown on the year. He has the second-most deep targets and second-highest aDOT of all TEs, and his route participation is the eighth-highest. Arguably his best game so far was his six-catch, 85-yard outing last week against Baltimore.

Dulcich was a major factor in the passing game at UCLA during his time there, so his early-career production shouldn't be too surprising. In his final year as a Bruin, Dulcich made 42 catches for 725 yards and five touchdowns in 11 games, resulting in an impressive 17.3 yards per catch average. In just seven games the year before, he nearly topped 20 yards per reception by averaging 19.9. Clearly, his dynamic ability as a receiver is not a recent development, and it's a big reason why the Broncos selected him in the third round.

Dulcich is a top-10 tight end in fantasy for the remainder of the season, and he has been the biggest riser at the position. He will hope to have another strong game this weekend versus Kansas City. With receiver Courtland Sutton out with an injury, Dulcich figures to be heavily involved in the passing game once again. Make sure to watch Dulcich and the Broncos to see how the team uses the young tight end in a game that could get out of hand. The Chiefs are the clear favorites on the road in Denver.

Chigoziem Okonkwo (TE, TEN)

Titans rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo has entered the fantasy discussion in recent weeks. He had a string of three consecutive games with a big play from Week 9 through Week 11; in each game, he made exactly one catch, but all three of those catches went for at least 30 yards. That stretch earned him more of a role because in each of the last two weeks he's had five targets. He turned that into three catches for 35 yards in Week 12, and last week he gained 68 yards on four catches, including a 41-yarder.

Importantly, the Titans have a shortage at receiver due to injuries. They have just two healthy WRs on their active roster. Starting wideout Treylon Burks was injured early in last week's game with a concussion and will not play in Sunday's contest. C.J. Board and Cody Hollister are also unavailable. Although Okonkwo's 52.8 percent snap share last week was a career-high, that figure could rise further due to the circumstances. The coaching staff has said they are cooking up ways to get him even more involved.

Okonkwo and the Titans will face the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. With Tennessee's receiving room decimated, Okonkwo is a valuable streaming option and potentially more moving forward. Watch to see how creatively the team uses him, and also take note of how many targets he sees. He has still not exceeded five targets in a game, so clearing that benchmark will be essential in allowing him to escalate his production to the next level.

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Brock Purdy (QB, SF)

When the San Francisco 49ers selected quarterback Brock Purdy from Iowa State with the final pick of the draft this offseason, they probably didn't expect him to see the field this year. After all, they had Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo as their top two passers, so unless the injury bug struck, Purdy wouldn't get an opportunity to play. Well, Lance fractured his ankle in Week 2, and Garoppolo broke his foot last Sunday against Miami. Purdy came in and completed 25 of 37 passes for 210 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception.

Now, Purdy will need to play well enough to keep San Francisco's Super Bowl aspirations afloat until Garoppolo returns, if Jimmy G even can come back this year. Dynasty managers will have this stretch to check out how Purdy can acclimate to the NFL. Purdy started for four years at Iowa State, but he actually had his best season as a freshman according to passer rating. It was noted that he did not develop as well as observers had hoped after his first season or two.

Can Purdy work his first-year magic in the NFL too? Despite the win he helped earn last week, he will have some improvements to make. His accuracy rating this year has been 6.1 on a scale of 1-10; 7.0 is considered inaccurate. His true passer rating is just 68.4 as well. However, these numbers are from just 46 pass attempts, and they could increase with simply more action. More action is what he will get this weekend versus Tampa Bay.

Brandon Johnson (WR, DEN)

The Denver Broncos have had injury issues at the receiver position all year, even stretching back into August when Tim Patrick tore his ACL.  Continuing this trend, the team's number one wide receiver, Courtland Sutton, will not play this week due to a hamstring injury. While Jerry Jeudy will be the one ascending to the top role in the passing game during Sutton's absence, other receivers can see expanded volume too. Undrafted rookie Brandon Johnson is one such receiver.

Last week, in the game where Sutton sustained his injury, Johnson saw a 44.2 percent snap share. In the two weeks before that, when Jeudy was inactive, Johnson's snap shares were 45.2 percent and 68.4 percent. In Week 12, his game with the most involvement, he ran 31 routes for an 81.6 percent participation rate and caught two of four targets for 10 yards. He also scored the team's only touchdown in that game. Johnson has seen some decent action within the past few weeks.

Dynasty managers know the importance of leaving no stone unturned, and Johnson will have an opportunity to rise from an unknown quantity to a known sleeper this week. Seeing participation numbers similar to what he had in Week 12 would go a long way toward that development. This will be an excellent week for managers to scout the rookie from UCF, and it may be the best opportunity to do so for the rest of the season depending on Sutton's recovery.

Isaiah Likely (TE, BAL)

When Baltimore's star tight end Mark Andrews went down with an injury in Week 8, rookie Isaiah Likely filled in admirably. In that matchup with the Buccaneers, Likely caught six passes for 77 yards and a touchdown. The following week, with Andrews still out, Likely saw five targets but caught just one for 24 yards. That one catch was a touchdown, however, and it earned him the TE9 finish for the week in PPR formats. In both weeks, Likely's snap share was above 65 percent and his route participation was above 70 percent.

Likely's success made observers wonder if he'd remain a sizable part of the offense moving forward even with Andrews returning to take back his role as the team's TE1. Unfortunately, the Coastal Carolina product has fallen back to his early-season levels of involvement. In his two games since Andrews came back, Likely has yet to exceed either a 35 percent snap share or a 40 percent route participation rate. He did, however, catch all four of his targets for 30 yards last week against Denver.

This week Likely will look to continue to maximize his limited opportunities behind the formidable Andrews. Two weeks ago, we witnessed the Colts use their big rookie tight end Jelani Woods effectively against Pittsburgh; Woods caught eight passes for 98 yards in that matchup. It's possible the Ravens use Likely in a larger role against the Steelers in a similar way to how the Colts increased Woods's volume. Regardless, dynasty managers should continue to scout Likely this Sunday.



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