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Trade For These Rookies Before They Break Out

Javonte Williams - Fantasy Football Rankings, Draft Sleepers, NFL Injury News

Sometimes, rookies come out of the gate with a bang, putting up big numbers like Ja'Marr Chase is doing in Cincy.

Other times, they take some time to get going. That's where a good fantasy football manager can pounce, taking advantage of managers who are ready to give up on slow-developing rookies. That's our goal today: to identify some rookie NFL players who you can target right now.

Below are some rookies to trade for before they break out.

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Javonte Williams (RB, Denver Broncos)

Some of us RotoBallers have a group chat and there was a spirited debate in it about Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon the other day, led –of course – by resident RotoBaller arguer Kev Mahserejian.

I don't want to get into that argument now, but in the risk of reigniting some flames, I have to say this: I think Javonte Williams has a ton of upside going forward this season.

To show this, I decided to turn to one of my favorite resources: AddMoreFunds.

Looking strictly at rushing first, here is the full season comparison of Denver's backs:

From those numbers, the argument that Gordon is the back you want to roster is a pretty good argument. He has a higher snap rate. He has more of the positional attempts. While they've split red zone work, he's been more efficient down there. As for receiving numbers, Gordon has one more target and one less reception, but more yards before he's been better after the catch.

But in the words of  Lee Corso, "not so fast, my friend."

Recency matters here. Over the last three games, Gordon is still getting the most work, but those red zone numbers have flipped, with Williams getting 60 percent of the red zone work. The overall workload is 28-26 in Gordon's favor in terms of carries, but Wiliams has seen his yards per carry jump to 6.23 over that span, while Gordon is at 5.00, which is still good.

Williams was struggling to get positive plays early on, but he isn't now. Factor in the red zone usage and he's someone I really want on my roster going forward, even if he'll still be splitting work with Gordon and getting the short end of the stick when it comes to total touches.


Justin Fields (QB, Chicago Bears)

Bears quarterback Justin Fields has not been very good this year. A quick glance at his metrics on PlayerProfiler can confirm that:

  • 31st in adjusted yards per attempt
  • 32nd in accuracy rating
  • 27th in fantasy points per dropback
  • 49th in Expected Points Added

Yeah, not great!

However, there are some encouraging signs. The Bears are just 31st in team pass plays per game, but Fields leads all quarterbacks in air yards per attempt at 10.3, and he's 15th in deep-ball completion percentage. There's upside here, especially if he can start to hit those short and medium routes more often, and if Matt Nagy can just learn to trust his young quarterback. Please, Matt? I was way too invested in Fields for this to not work.

Fields gets Tampa this week, which has struggled this season in pass defense. If there's ever a perfect time for a breakout game to occur, this is it. He also has meetings with Pittsburgh, Detroit, Seattle, and the Giants upcoming. Fields has a shot to be a great QB2 in two-quarterback leagues and can be had for next to nothing right now.


Rashod Bateman (WR, Baltimore Ravens)

Is it finally time for Rashod Bateman?

After missing the first part of his rookie season with a groin injury, the No. 27 pick in this year's draft made his NFL debut against the Chargers. He was targeted six times, catching four passes for 29 yards. Not the best numbers from a player everyone was high on, but let's dig a bit deeper.

Bateman played 65 percent of the offensive snaps, which was more than every Ravens wideout not named Marquise Brown. Not that many Ravens receivers played. Devin Duvernay was the only other receiver to play more than five snaps, as he played 34 for a 49 percent snap share.

Bateman instantly being the No. 2 receiver here is a good sign. Sure, we can go down the whole "will Lamar Jackson throw to another wideout who isn't Hollywood?" rabbit hole, but Sammy Watkins averaged 7.3 targets per game in that role over the first four weeks.

Now, Watkins having a hamstring issue is opening up chances for Bateman, but there's an obvious concern about Watkins returning and forcing Bateman into a smaller role.

My response to that: c'mon y'all, we're talking about Sammy Watkins.

Bateman is the No. 2 wideout now in Baltimore. You can get him for cheap right now from people who were disappointed by his numbers in his debut game.


Michael Carter (RB, New York Jets)

Yes, I am about to write positive things about a Jets running back. No, I am not currently being held hostage by a Jets fans. This is not one of those "tweet something that would make your followers realize you are in danger" things. This is just me thinking Michael Carter might be Good At Football™.

Over the past two games, Carter has played 51.28 percent of the Jets offensive snaps, while Ty Johnson has played 35.9 percent. However, Carter has 62.16 percent of the running back carries over that two-game sample, with Johnson and Tevin Coleman trailing at 18.92 percent each.

Over that same span, Carter has been targeted six times, while Johnson is at five and Coleman is at three.

It's becoming clear that Carter is the lead back in New York. And while that might not mean a ton, anyone getting 60-plus percent of a team's backfield touches is notable, especially when he's got four red zone attempts and two red zone touchdowns over the past two games.

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