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NFL Rookies to Watch for Fantasy Football Week 7 Including Dameon Pierce, Kenny Pickett, Tyquan Thornton, Greg Dulcich

kenny pickett NFL draft fantasy football rankings draft sleepers

Rookie running backs had a great week last week. Breece Hall led the pack with 121 scrimmage yards and a touchdown to help the Jets earn a 27-10 victory over Green Bay. Kenneth Walker III put up 110 scrimmage yards and a score for Seattle in his first game as a starter. Moreover, Commanders rookie Brian Robinson earned 60 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries in a hard-fought Washington victory.

Rookie receivers may have their turn in the spotlight this week, given Chris Olave's performance for the Saints on Thursday night. The first-round rookie from Ohio State caught seven of 14 targets for 106 yards in a 42-34 defeat at the hands of the Cardinals. Olave, along with Hall, Walker, and Dameon Pierce, is considered among the top contenders to be named the Offensive Rookie of the Year.

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.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers won two writing awards and received 12 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. A big congrats to our very own Byron Lindeque (Golf) and Jordan McAbee (NASCAR) for both winning Writer Of The Year awards! Be sure to follow RotoBaller's analysis and advice all year long, and win more. Win More With RotoBaller!

 

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Redraft Leagues

Kenny Pickett (QB, PIT)

The 2022 rookie quarterback class has widely been considered weak, with only one member of the group being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft. That member is Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett. Pickett took over for Mitchell Trubisky in Week 4 in a relief effort and was named the starter before Week 5. On the season, he has collected 514 passing yards and three total touchdowns. His highest passing output so far was in Week 5 with 327 yards in a 38-3 loss to Buffalo, but that came on 52 pass attempts.

Although Pickett has been up and down in his small number of appearances thus far, one extremely promising aspect of his performances has been his accuracy. While his overall accuracy rating of 7.3 is unremarkable, his deep ball completion percentage and play action completion percentage both rank in the top five in the league. His catchable pass rate of 88.0 percent is number one in the league, as is his deep ball catchable pass rate. Finally, his pressured catchable pass rate of 75.0 percent is fourth among his peers. This is all on a small sample size, but even so, such numbers are impressive.

Pickett isn't likely to be a consistent fantasy option soon, but for managers in trouble at the quarterback position, he is worth keeping an eye on. Pittsburgh has a decent stable of weapons at his disposal with Diontae Johnson, George Pickens, Chase Claypool, Najee Harris, Pat Freiermuth, and more. Coupling that fact with his precise passing, plus his respectable mobility (41 rushing yards and two scores on the ground), he is just one or two strong games away from being a viable waiver-wire addition.

Dameon Pierce (RB, HOU)

Houston Texans rookie running back Dameon Pierce has had an extremely impressive beginning to his professional career. After two decent outings to begin the season, Pierce really started to ramp up his production in Week 3. From Weeks 3 through 5, Pierce finished as a top-12 RB each week. In that three-week span, the Florida product accumulated 310 rushing yards, 11 receptions, 43 receiving yards, and three total touchdowns. He was the RB5 over that timeframe.

His advanced stats are largely flattering as well. Some metrics, such as evaded tackles, bolster claims of his excellence; he is seventh in the league in that stat. His 34.0 percent dominator rating is sixth in the league, speaking to his command of Houston's backfield.

Few figures suggest that he is overrated. His 0.77 fantasy points per opportunity are just 48th among RBs, but that is really the only case you can make against him; his production premium, yards created per touch, breakaway run rate, target share, and more all paint a nice picture.

Pierce was widely hyped in the preseason after the Texans cleared out their backfield for him; managers who drafted him have seen their moves pay off. His matchup with Las Vegas this week may be difficult, though. The Raiders have yielded the seventh-fewest rushing yards per game to opposing running backs this season. A poor showing from Pierce may provide an opportunity to trade for him in your league. This is a situation to keep an eye on.

Brian Robinson (RB, WAS)

On August 28th, Washington Commanders rookie running back Brian Robinson was the victim of an attempted carjacking. The incident saw him get shot twice in the right leg; while the wounds were thankfully non-life-threatening, they did force him to miss practices and games for a substantial period of time. In Week 5, he made his triumphant return to the field, rushing for 22 yards on nine carries. Last Thursday, he compiled 60 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries against the Bears.

While Robinson's comeback has been extremely impressive, it's important not to overlook the fact that he's emerged as a legitimate, startable fantasy option. His 17 opportunities last week easily exceeded the total (nine) of his primary competition in the backfield, Antonio Gibson. His snap share also increased from 27.6 percent to 48.1 percent between Weeks 5 and 6. Robinson is still on the rise as he regains his momentum as a player, and he's already the starting tailback on his team.

Robinson, a third-round pick from this year's NFL Draft, faces a weak run defense this week. The Green Bay Packers have surrendered the fourth-most rushing yards per game to opposing running backs, and they've allowed the eighth-most yards per carry on the year. Things are shaping up for Robinson to further build upon his output from last week. If he fails to grasp the opportunity, his rise in the rest-of-season rankings will halt; if he pounces on it, he will only continue to ascend. This week will provide fantasy managers with lots of information.

 

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Tyquan Thornton (WR, NE)

In a season where many rookie wide receivers made immediate impacts for their teams, first-year New England Patriots wideout Tyquan Thornton was unable to do the same due to the clavicle fracture he suffered in the preseason. After a quiet return to action in Week 5, Thornton managed to attract attention last week. The former Baylor Bear made four catches, picked up 53 scrimmage yards, and scored twice. He displayed his versatility by making plays both through the air and on the ground.

Thornton, who was a second-round pick this past April, possesses elite speed. His 4.28-second 40-yard dash time places him among the fastest receivers in the league. His height of 6'2" and arm length of 33 3/8 inches give him a large catch radius as well. His physical profile is difficult to match, although his 12th-percentile agility score may be a cause for concern. Nonetheless, Thornton inarguably has some top-tier athletic traits that demonstrate his potential moving forward.

Thornton has the measurables to be an extremely intriguing prospect in the long term. With New England's other current weapons (Jakobi Meyers, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, etc.) all being less impressive athletes to various extents, the rookie has a chance to occupy a role that no one else on the roster can fill. That separates him from other bench players in both dynasty and redraft formats. New England's Monday Night Football matchup with Chicago will further reveal how the Patriots plan to utilize Thornton.

Greg Dulcich (TE, DEN)

Denver Broncos rookie tight end Greg Dulcich, like Thornton, spent the first few weeks of his NFL career on the sidelines due to an injury. A hamstring injury kept Dulcich on injured reserve until his activation prior to Week 6. In last week's Monday game, the former UCLA Bruin made two catches on three targets for 44 yards. 39 of those yards came in the first quarter on his first NFL touchdown reception, with his production being limited after that.

A third-round pick, Dulcich's reputation is that he is a capable receiver. Those are exciting words for fantasy managers. Dulcich caught 42 passes for 725 yards and five touchdowns in 2021 for Los Angeles's premier football program. His 18.6 college yards per reception ranked at the 98th percentile for tight ends, and his college dominator of 27.3 percent was impressive as well. Dulcich has an excellent chance to emerge as a real weapon in the passing game in Denver if his college days are any indication.

In the preseason, Albert Okwuegbunam was considered the clear starter at tight end for the Broncos. That has since changed significantly, to the point where Okwuegbunam was a healthy scratch last week against the Chargers. With trade rumors swirling around Okwuegbunam, Dulcich should earn an even larger role in Denver's admittedly poor offense. A contest with the Jets this week will give dynasty managers their second look at Dulcich.

Daniel Bellinger (TE, NYG)

Daniel Bellinger has been a surprising factor early in the 2022 fantasy football season. A fourth-round rookie out of San Diego State, Bellinger currently ranks as the TE16 in PPR leagues, higher than household names such as Kyle Pitts and George Kittle. Against the Ravens in Week 6, he made a career-high five catches for 38 yards and a touchdown, his third score of the season. The former Aztec finished the week as the TE7.

Bellinger never dominated as a receiver in college; his best season with San Diego State was in 2021 when he made 31 catches for 357 yards and two TDs. His measurables are impressive, though. By running a 4.63-second 40-yard dash at 6'5" and 250 pounds, Bellinger earned himself an 89th-percentile speed score. His burst is also strong; his burst score of 123.8 is at the 82nd percentile for tight ends. Bellinger's profile makes him a sneakily enticing option for dynasty managers.

There are a few things to watch this week for the rookie during his game in Jacksonville. The first is if he can replicate the 96.8 percent snap share he received last week against Baltimore. The other is if he can become less touchdown-dependent fantasy-wise by making more catches on more targets. Right now he has the fourth-most total touchdowns among TEs despite being outside the top 15 at the position overall.



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