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NFL Rookies to Watch in Week 13: Fantasy Football Dynasty and Redraft Leagues

Jonathan Mingo - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, Waiver Wire Pickups

As we begin December, we should be prepared to see some breakout stretches from rookies across the NFL. One of the most notable late-season developments last year was the emergence of quarterback Brock Purdy, who was the league's QB9 over the final six weeks. In 2021, a first-year Amon-Ra St. Brown dominated defenses on his way to becoming the WR2 in PPR from Week 13 onward. Which rookie will join these players with a dominant conclusion to 2023?

Of course, it is important not to lose sight of the rising first-year stars who have already made significant contributions to fantasy teams. Houston quarterback C.J. Stroud is the QB7 of the year due to his prolific passing. Puka Nacua, Tank Dell, and Jordan Addison represent the rookie class as top-15 wideouts in PPR formats. Running backs Bijan Robinson and Jahmyr Gibbs have had excellent seasons, and Sam LaPorta has been an elite option at tight end.

Whether you are 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 have been breaking down which rookies you should be watching out for. This column is split into two parts: one about 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

Tyjae Spears (RB, TEN)

Tyjae Spears began his NFL career by making plays early. In his debut, he gained 27 rushing yards on just three attempts. The following week, Spears gained 55 total yards on 10 touches. The Tulane product scored his first touchdown in Week 5 on a reverse and set a career-high with 69 total yards, finishing as the week's RB9 in PPR leagues. Versus Tennessee in Week 6, Spears took a screen pass 48 yards after some impressive open-field maneuvering.

Outside of a 60-yard performance in Week 10, though, Spears has not put forth much production since Tennessee's Week 7 bye. The rookie has been unable to increase his workload throughout the season, as he remains definitively second to Derrick Henry on the depth chart. It is a shame; Spears leads all running backs with a 40.8 percent juke rate and a 10.4 percent breakaway run rate. Spears is also fourth at his position with 4.58 yards created per touch. He has demonstrated his talent to be certain.

At this point in the season, it seems likely that Spears will remain a mere insurance policy behind Henry. However, if Spears should assume a larger role in any circumstances, he would be a late-season breakout candidate like those mentioned in the introduction to this article. Watch the Titans face the Colts on Sunday to monitor Spears's situation and rest-of-season outlook; Indianapolis has yielded the eighth-most rushing yards and fifth-most rushing TDs to running backs this year.

Jonathan Mingo (WR, CAR)

Sitting at 1-10, the Carolina Panthers have been a trainwreck this season. Among the disappointing players thus far has been second-round rookie receiver Jonathan Mingo. Mingo has played in 10 games this season, yet he has only 286 yards and no touchdowns. He is 102nd among wideouts with 0.99 fantasy points per target, and his EPA of -12.2 puts him at a horrific 226th. Mingo's 5.7 fantasy points per game fall well short of his 11.0 expected fantasy points per game.

There are some positive signs for Mingo moving forward, though. For one, he is coming off of one of his strongest performances of the season last week, as he compiled four catches for 60 yards versus the Titans. Mingo has had six-plus targets in his past three games, and he has topped a 90-percent snap share in each of his last six outings. If Carolina's offense can become more efficient, Mingo should regress upward to his expected fantasy points number.

With the Panthers firing head coach Frank Reich, quarterbacks coach Josh McCown, and running backs coach Duce Staley this week, their offensive unit has been shaken up greatly. It is time to see if the bold moves effect positive change. If so, Mingo would be one of the key beneficiaries. The Panthers play the Buccaneers this week; Tampa Bay has allowed the most receiving yards per game to opposing wide receivers this year.

Marvin Mims Jr. (WR, DEN)

Marvin Mims Jr. quickly proved his dangerousness as a big-play threat for Denver this year. In Week 2, Mims had just two targets but caught both for 113 yards and a touchdown. The following week, he made three grabs for 73 yards and returned a kickoff 99 yards for a score. The week after that, Mims had a 48-yard reception versus Chicago. Entering Week 5, he was the top WR in many metrics, including yards per route run, yards per target, fantasy points per route run, and fantasy points per target.

Since then, though, Mims has had some catastrophic performances. Between Weeks 5 and 10, Mims had more games with negative PPR points (three) than positive (one). Any excitement that fantasy managers felt following his early-season flashes rapidly dissipated. Mims has started to get back on track in the past two weeks though to some extent. In Week 11 he gained positive receiving yards for the first time in six weeks, and last Sunday he totaled his most scrimmage yards since Week 4.

Mims will be looking to regain his September form starting with his game this week against Houston. From Week 2 through Week 4, Mims had a play of at least 38 yards in each appearance, but he has not had one longer than 16 yards since. The Texans have been getting shredded lately, though, giving Mims a great opportunity to do some damage. Four different Jaguars had catches of 40 yards or more last week in Houston. Rondale Moore had a 48-yard TD against the Texans two weeks ago, and two Bengals had 64-yard receptions versus them in Week 10.

 

NFL Rookies to Watch in Fantasy Football Dynasty Leagues

Trey Palmer (WR, TB)

Former LSU Tiger and Nebraska Cornhusker Trey Palmer entered the NFL with an interesting profile. Palmer led all receivers at the Scouting Combine with a 4.33-second 40-yard dash, earning him an 88th-percentile speed score. He totaled 1,118 yards in Lincoln in 2022, gaining 237 in an absurd showing at Purdue. His route-running needed work, though, and his ball skills were sometimes suspect. Palmer wound up going in the sixth round to Tampa Bay.

So far as a rookie, Palmer has made an impact. He scored a touchdown in his debut versus Minnesota, and three weeks later he scored again versus New Orleans on a goal-line fade. He achieved his career-high yardage output against Houston in Week 9 with 51 yards. Palmer is coming off two consecutive four-catch games, his two highest reception totals of the season. He has been a solid weapon for quarterback Baker Mayfield alongside Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

Palmer's efficiency has been uninspiring though, as he is merely 91st among wideouts in fantasy points per route run. He should be able to improve that ranking by gaining more yards after the catch; despite his elite speed and acceleration, he has just 58 YAC on 25 receptions this year. Look for Palmer to continue his improvement this weekend against Carolina, although the Panthers have given up the third-fewest receiving yards per game to WRs in 2023.

Dontayvion Wicks (WR, GB)

Dontayvion Wicks had a record-setting season for Virginia in 2021, catching 57 passes for 1,203 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games. After a less-productive injury- and tragedy-shortened 2022 campaign, Wicks entered the NFL Draft. He possesses quickness and elusiveness and has a 90th-percentile burst score. However, his 4.62-second 40-yard dash was unimpressive, and his issues with drops gave teams concerns. Wicks slipped to the fifth round before being drafted by Green Bay.

Despite being a day-three draft choice, Wicks has been rather involved as a rookie. He has posted five games with at least 40 receiving yards, including his last three appearances. In Week 11, Wicks led the team in receiving yards for the second time this year with a career-high 91. He is sixth among receivers with 16.6 yards per reception, and his 10.3 yards per target place him at 12th. Wicks has been a quality contributor despite averaging just 3.2 targets per game.

Wicks missed last week's matchup with Detroit due to a concussion and a knee injury. His knee did limit him in practice this week, leaving him questionable for Sunday's bout versus Kansas City. Should he suit up, another standout performance may be in store with teammate Jayden Reed also listed as questionable. Watch to see if Wicks can continue to build upon his recent string of successful showings.

Tucker Kraft (TE, GB)

Packers tight end Luke Musgrave has had a solid rookie season for his team this year. Sadly, a lacerated kidney forced Musgrave to injured reserve after Week 11, and it is unclear if he will return this season. This means another rookie tight end, Tucker Kraft from South Dakota State, is stepping up. Kraft scored his first career touchdown on Thanksgiving in a game where he set career-highs in snap share (98.2 percent) and routes run (30).

However, Kraft did not have the target volume to match those numbers. He had just two passes come his way, although both were in the red zone. Kraft also gained just 15 yards. Part of the reason for the low stats is simply Green Bay's offensive structure; tight ends get just 18.1 percent of the team's targets, the 10th-lowest mark in the NFL. Still, Kraft should be a larger part of the passing game as Musgrave recovers.

Check out Green Bay's matchup versus Kansas City on Sunday to view Kraft's efforts to develop further as a receiver. Kraft has been impressive as a blocker with a 76.9 PFF pass-blocking grade, but he has only seven receptions for the year. The Chiefs are not the ideal matchup for Kraft to make progress on this front; they allow just 36.8 receiving yards to tight ends per game, the third-fewest in the NFL.



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