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NFL Rookies to Watch for Fantasy Football Week 16 Including George Pickens, Malik Willis, Daniel Bellinger, Jaylen Warren

George Pickens - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

As we progress through the fantasy playoffs, several rookies have achieved impressive stat lines. Last week, Falcons rookie running back Tyler Allgeier carried the ball 17 times for 139 yards and earned 22.6 PPR points. Commanders first-year wideout Jahan Dotson also played well, catching four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

Other top rookie performers in Week 15 included 49ers QB Brock Purdy, Saints WR Rashid Shaheed, Jets WR Garrett Wilson, and Falcons WR Drake London. While Wilson and London were expected to be productive this year, Purdy and Shaheed have been late risers. Anyone who was prepared for their performances reaped the rewards.

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

Jaylen Warren (RB, PIT)

Undrafted rookie running back Jaylen Warren has quietly been productive in his recent outings. Last week, Warren set a new career high with 11.5 PPR points. He also saw 11 carries, another career high, and scored his first professional touchdown. Warren has been a top-30 RB in three of the past six weeks he's been active for. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy has been a quality backup behind starter Najee Harris over the second half of the season.

Warren has found success all season efficiency-wise as well. He is currently 19th among running backs with 0.90 fantasy points per opportunity, and he is 22nd with 4.5 true yards per carry. Moreover, his production premium is 16th, and he is second in expected points added. Warren has not gotten the necessary volume to be a major fantasy factor, as he is just 63rd among RBs in snap share and 55th in weighted opportunities. However, his usage last week may indicate an upward trend in that regard.

Warren and the Steelers will face the Las Vegas Raiders this weekend. The Raiders have been the fifth-weakest defense against opposing running backs this season, so perhaps Warren will find himself putting together another solid performance. It will be important to see if Warren's touches continue to increase. Keep a particular eye on his work in the passing game; the Raiders have allowed the fourth-most receptions to opposing RBs.

George Pickens (WR, PIT)

Pittsburgh rookie WR George Pickens has been inconsistent for much of this season, but over the past four weeks he has put forth only unremarkable stat lines. In that stretch, Pickens is merely the WR59 in PPR formats, and he did not have a week where he finished inside the top 35 wideouts. A big reason for that is a lack of targets; Pickens only saw 16 passes come his way in those four weeks. Four targets per game will not be enough to support a reliable fantasy option.

Frankly, Pickens has not been receiving enough targets all season. He averages just 5.0 per game, and he has not gotten more than six since Week 5. He's been involved in the offense, considering his 433 routes run on the year put him at 20th among all receivers. Quarterback Kenny Pickett just hasn't gotten the ball to him enough. Pickens also ranks 64th at his position in target accuracy, although his aDOT is fourth-highest.

Pickens will need to see higher volume for the final three weeks of the season to be truly valuable for fantasy managers. This week, he faces the Las Vegas Raiders. While the Raiders have been weak against RBs this year, they are roughly average at defending wideouts. Pickens is a strong player, but he cannot be started with confidence at the moment. A good game this weekend would improve his outlook moving forward.

Daniel Bellinger (TE, NYG)

In his first five games this year, rookie tight end Daniel Bellinger made plays for both the New York Giants and his fantasy managers. From Week 2 through Week 6, Bellinger was the TE11 in PPR leagues and had two weekly finishes inside the top 12 TEs. This was despite being a fourth-round rookie from San Diego State who had garnered little attention in the preseason. Bellinger quickly became a sleeper on many leagues' waiver wires.

Unfortunately, Bellinger's impressive start to his career was derailed by an eye injury in Week 7. He did not play again until the Giants took on the Washington Commanders in Week 13. Bellinger matched his career highs in that game with five catches and five targets. He had a lackluster one-catch showing last week, but he is consistently on the field for the Giants. In each of his last three full games, Bellinger has had a snap share of at least 96 percent. He has established himself as the Giants' TE1.

The Giants are on the road in Minneapolis this weekend for their contest with the Vikings. Watch if Bellinger's high snap shares turn into more routes and targets. We already started to see that happen last week; his 29 routes and 90.6 percent route participation rate were both career highs. It will be key to see if he can sustain an upward trajectory in those two statistical columns. If he can, he could be a key contributor for TE-needy teams as a championship week addition.

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Malik Willis (QB, TEN)

Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis will have another opportunity to start this week after starter Ryan Tannehill went down with an ankle injury last Sunday. Willis left a lot to be desired as a passer in the two starts he's already made this season. In those two games combined, Willis completed 11 of 26 passes for 135 yards and an interception. He was also sacked six times. These stats do not inspire confidence, to say the least.

Passing is not the only way that Willis can hurt defenses, though. He can be a weapon on the ground, too; Willis carried the ball eight times for 40 yards in a Week 9 loss to Kansas City. In his two seasons at Liberty in college, Willis had 1,822 rushing yards and 27 rushing touchdowns in 23 games. This rushing potential gives him a higher fantasy floor than his suboptimal passing numbers would suggest, so if he can show growth as a passer, dynasty managers would start to get excited.

The Titans will face the Houston Texans this week. One of Willis's two starts earlier this year was against Houston. That week, the team's gameplan was a steady dose of running back Derrick Henry, as Willis attempted just 10 passes. Expect to see a similar philosophy this weekend. However, watch to see if Willis's efficiency improves and, importantly, if he can avoid sacks. While he may have few dropbacks, the game will still be a chance for dynasty managers to see how the rookie is progressing.

Velus Jones Jr. (WR, CHI)

Chicago Bears rookie wideout Velus Jones Jr. has had a brutal start to his NFL career. The third-rounder from Tennessee has four catches and three fumbles lost. However, he has started to become a bigger part of the team's offense lately. Last week, Jones had a snap share of 75.9 percent, greatly surpassing his previous career high of 22.0 percent the week before. Of course, that increase only amounted to one catch on two targets for three yards and one carry for no gain, but it is a noteworthy development nonetheless.

Jones has great speed, as he ran a 4.31-second 40-yard dash at the Scouting Combine. That time put him at the 99th percentile among receivers. Pairing that with his 6'0", 204-pound frame, Jones possesses a 97th-percentile speed score for his position. This speed led to him being taken on day two of the draft despite the fact that he was one of the oldest players in the class, now 25 years old. He also made just 120 catches in 59 appearances in college.

Dynasty managers with Jones on their rosters would like to see something promising before the end of the year. With teammates and fellow WRs Chase Claypool and Equanimeous St. Brown doubtful and out, respectively, for this week's contest with the Bills, Jones may see another high snap share. With his fumbling issues, though, that is no guarantee. Watch to see if Jones can salvage his rookie year with a respectable showing on Saturday.

Skyy Moore (WR, KC)

By joining the Kansas City Chiefs in the same offseason that elite wideout Tyreek Hill departed the team, second-round rookie receiver Skyy Moore was the subject of a lot of hype as a potential replacement. In such a high-powered offense led by superstar quarterback Patrick Mahomes, Moore was believed to have a path to significant fantasy production in his first year in the league. Unfortunately, that path never materialized in what has become a thoroughly disappointing campaign for Moore.

Moore has not reached a 50 percent snap share in any game this year, nor has he surpassed 15 routes run or a 40 percent route participation rate. He has made just 18 catches for 212 yards and has scored no touchdowns, and 10 of those catches came in a two-week stretch that he is now three games removed from. With just one week where he finished as a top-60 PPR wideout, Moore's rookie season clearly did not live up to expectations.

Dynasty managers still have hope, though. Kansas City invested a fairly high draft pick in him, so they will give him every opportunity to succeed. Moore has strong speed with a 4.41-second 40-yard dash, and he was immensely productive in his final year at Western Michigan with a 99th-percentile target share. Moore has three more games to try to end the year on a high note; the first of these matchups takes place this weekend versus Seattle.

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