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NFL Rookies to Watch for Fantasy Football Week 6 Including Breece Hall, Kenneth Walker III, Alec Pierce, Wan'Dale Robinson

Alec Pierce - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

Quite a few first-year players have already made strong impacts as professionals. Last week was strong evidence of that. Jets running back Breece Hall totaled 197 scrimmage yards and a score in a big win over Miami, and Houston's Dameon Pierce channeled his inner Marshawn Lynch on a jaw-dropping touchdown run.

Brian Robinson has already left his mark on Week 6 by scoring his first professional touchdown less than two months after being shot twice in the leg. Robinson totaled 17 carries for 60 yards and that score in his first start with the Commanders. Which rookies will join him in making some noise this week?

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 will be breaking down which rookies you should be watching out for. This column will be 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

Alec Pierce (WR, IND)

One of the early risers of the 2022 fantasy football season has been Alec Pierce. The rookie out of Cincinnati was a deep sleeper in the preseason, but anyone that took a gamble on him then is laughing now. Pierce saw just two targets in Week 1 and missed Week 2 while in concussion protocol, but since then his targets, receptions, and yards have increased each game. Most recently, he put up an eight-catch, 81-yard performance against Denver in a Thursday night snoozefest.

In hindsight, Pierce's strong start should've been more predictable. He was a second-round pick in the draft this year; while draft capital isn't everything, it tends to be correlated with rookie-year production. Nine out of 28 second-round wideouts taken since 2017 have finished their rookie campaigns as top-50 WRs in fantasy. Pierce, with his 6'3", 208-pound frame, 4.41-second 40-yard dash time, 94th-percentile burst score, and 96th-percentile catch radius, should have been considered a contender for that group more than he was.

Pierce will hope to again increase his output this week, now versus Jacksonville. The Colts were shut down 24-0 by the Jaguars in Week 2, but both Pierce and Michael Pittman Jr. were absent that weekend due to injuries. Pierce, who has been the 16th-best WR this year by expected points added, will further bolster his case moving forward with another strong showing. The rookie is entering FLEX territory and can be considered startable both for this week and in the future.

Wan'Dale Robinson (WR, NYG)

Few receiving rooms have been as bereft of statistical production this season as the Giants'. New York's top scorer at the WR position in PPR formats is Sterling Shepard; Shepard is the WR67 on the year and suffered a season-ending injury in Week 3. Kadarius Toney and Kenny Golladay have been hampered by both injuries and struggles. Fourth-year wideout Darius Slayton had a good game last week with six grabs for 79 yards, but that was the first such showing for him of the year.

The point of this is that there is a clear path to targets for Wan'Dale Robinson when he returns from his own injury. Robinson is reportedly on track to make that return against Baltimore on Sunday. Robinson made just one catch for five yards in the season opener before being sidelined with a knee issue. With Toney and Golladay being ruled out yet again, Robinson would be a key weapon for quarterback Daniel Jones.

Robinson is small at just 5'8" and 179 pounds. Moreover, he lacks elite athleticism; his 4.44-second 40-yard dash is less impressive when you take into account his slight frame. Additionally, his 36th-percentile burst score is mediocre. What he brings to the table are versatility (141 carries in three college seasons), dependability (99th-percentile college target share), and elusiveness.

How the second-round rookie plays against the Ravens, assuming he's active, will go a long way in determining his fantasy viability for the rest of the season.

Cade Otton (TE, TB)

Cade Otton was on no one's fantasy radar this season except for the most prepared of managers. Rookie tight ends rarely make an impact right away, and they especially don't if they were drafted on Day Three. Otton does not care about such trends, though. Like Pierce, he has improved his targets, receptions, and yards each game in 2022. His best game so far was last week against Atlanta; he caught six of seven targets for 43 yards.

The fourth-round pick from Washington benefited in that contest from the absence of starting TE Cameron Brate. However, Otton's strong play versus the Falcons may have earned him more playing time even when Brate returns. With Brate having been cleared to play against Pittsburgh, this return should occur this Sunday. This will be a situation to watch. Otton won't repeat the 96% snap share that he got last week, but what will be his new baseline with Brate back?

The tight end position is looking grim this year for fantasy managers. Only nine TEs have scored more than 50 PPR points through five weeks.  Acquiring one that's above replacement level can be a big boost to squads. Otton has that potential should he surpass Brate on the depth chart, given that Tampa Bay's offense is starting to re-gather some steam. It may be premature to add him to your team now, but keeping a watchful eye on Otton would be wise.


NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Breece Hall (RB, NYJ)

Unlike the three rookies who were written about above, Breece Hall was expected to be a major fantasy contributor from the get-go. He had no standout showings in the first four weeks, but he was consistent, scoring between 10 and 16 PPR points each game. The former Iowa State Cyclone had his first great outing last week though in a 40-17 win over Miami. Hall not only ran the ball 18 times for 97 yards and a touchdown, but he also caught two passes for 100 yards.

Hall was the top selection in a lot of rookie drafts this year, so this kind of performance was no surprise. He is quite fast, having run a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and having posted a 98th-percentile speed score. Hall also is difficult to bring down, as we saw in the above highlight. Additionally, his burst is elite, ranking at the 94th percentile among running backs. This athleticism made him a candidate to go in the first round of the NFL Draft, although he ultimately fell to 36th overall.

The rookie is used to being a workhorse, having totaled 3,526 scrimmage yards and 46 touchdowns in his last two years in college. He now has to split touches with Michael Carter, though. Regardless, Hall's dynasty outlook rose after his excellent display last Sunday. Where it ultimately settles remains to be seen, but he looks to already be a top-five dynasty RB. Now may be the time to trade for Hall before his stock rises even higher, which could happen after this week's game against Green Bay.

Kenneth Walker III (RB, SEA)

The Seattle Seahawks will be without running back Rashaad Penny for the remainder of the season after he broke his fibula last Sunday against New Orleans. This is a big blow for Penny, the Seahawks, and fantasy managers who had Penny on their rosters. The managers with Kenneth Walker III, however, are salivating at the situation their back now sees himself in. In a possible sign of things to come, Walker rushed for 88 yards on just eight carries last week; one of his attempts went for a long 69-yard touchdown.

Like the aforementioned Hall, Walker possesses great speed. In case the video wasn't enough to demonstrate that, here are some of his numbers: a 4.39-second 40-yard dash and a speed score of 114.7 (96th percentile). Walker also served as essentially Michigan State's entire offense during his time there. His 50.2 percent college dominator is outright absurd, and he accumulated 1,725 scrimmage yards and 19 total touchdowns last season in just 12 games.

The main drawback to Walker's game is his lack of pass-catching experience. His 5.4 percent college target share was lackluster, and he's seen just seven targets in his four games played this year. This shortcoming is part of why Hall is the better asset in dynasty leagues. Regardless, dynasty managers will have the rest of the season to scout Walker in a starting role. His matchup against Arizona this week is favorable, so he may get out to a hot start here.

Khalil Shakir (WR, BUF)

At the time when Khalil Shakir was featured in this column three weeks ago, he had not yet made a catch in the NFL. He has made good progress since then. Shakir gained his first two NFL receptions in Week 4 against the Ravens, and last week he made three grabs for 75 yards and his first professional touchdown. This step up in production came at a time when the Bills were without receiver Isaiah McKenzie; Shakir has made the most of his opportunity.

McKenzie has cleared concussion protocol now and is set to play this Sunday against Kansas City. What will be interesting to see is if Shakir's snap share sees a bounce compared to what it was before last week. The rookie from Boise State played 29.2 percent of snaps against Pittsburgh in Week 2 and 25.8 percent against Baltimore in Week 4 before seeing a big jump to 71.7 percent last week. We'll see if Shakir's efficient game was enough to earn him more snaps.

Dynasty managers should be particularly interested. His value is higher than a typical fifth-round rookie's because he is a potential long-term weapon for prolific quarterback Josh Allen. With snap shares and targets in mind, Shakir's usage in the coming weeks could indicate how large the Bills' plans are for him in the future. His profile has already risen thanks to last week's result. Further ascension may be in the near future.

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