Which 2020 rookies will dominate this season?
By: Brady Akins
One of the central appeals to fantasy football is finding the next big thing. Maybe you yourself don’t have what it takes to be a real NFL scout, but by gosh, you can grind highlight reels and find impressive rookies for your fantasy football roster.
And while the initial hype train might have already left the station for 2020’s most impressive rookies, it’s not to late to buy stock in those players now, and plant your flag firmly in the camp of believing that they can continue their great play in the 2021 season.
And if you’re lost on which rookies to put your faith in, well, we have you covered.
The Justin’s (Herbert and Jefferson)
Let’s start off with the obvious.
You don’t need anyone to tell you that the two rookies coming off of historically great seasons are probably going to be pretty good next year. Chargers’ quarterback Justin Herbert broke the league record for most passing touchdowns from a rookie last season with 31, while Vikings’ wide receiver Justin Jefferson finished with the most receiving yards in a year in the Super Bowl era with 1,400.
In Week 1 against a very stingy Washington defense, Herbert tossed 337 passing yards, 1 TD, and 1 INT. It may not of been a sexy stat line, but he was efficient against one of the best pass rushes in the league, plus it was a great comeback victory.
Herbert finished as the overall QB9 last year, despite sitting out in Week 1, while Jefferson closed out his rookie campaign as the WR6 in PPR scoring.
Jefferson notched 5 catches for 71 yards in last Sunday’s performance. If his modest stat line means anything, it means you should break the bank for him now. It’s only a matter of time before he gets in sync with Captain Kirk. He has many divisional games where he will feast this season. Did you witness the Lions (41 pts allowed), Packers (38 pts allowed), and Bears pass defense (34 pts allowed) this past week?
Both players had elite numbers in their rookie seasons, and if they can avoid sophomore slumps, those numbers could be even stronger as they head into Year 2 is more experience.
Jalen Hurts, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts is a guy you want on your fantasy football team.
I don’t care if he’s never had a game completing over 60% of his passes. I don’t care if he’s playing on an Eagles’ offense that finished 26th in points per game last season. None of it matters.
What does matter is that Hurts was the overall QB7 from the time he took over as the starter in Philadelphia in Week 14 to the end of the 2020 season, despite being benched halfway through his Week 17 game for what some people might consider… dubious purposes.
He got there through easily repeatable means, as well, relying on his running ability in order to rack up 357 yards in only four starts (that’s nearly 100 rushing yards per start!). Now, imagine what Hurts could do with an entire offseason dedicated to tailoring the offense around his skillset.
Imagine what Hurts could do with the addition of Devonta Smith, the Heisman-winning receiver out of Alabama, in the passing game. Imagine what he could do with a full 17-game schedule at his disposal.
Well, Hurts proved just how far he came in his Week 1 performance. The second-year QB balled out with 264 passing yards and 3 passing touchdowns. The Bama Heisman winner is already a factor as he garnered 71 yards and his first receiving touchdowns.
Did I mention Hurts plays in the worst division in the league? NFC Least.
Chase Claypool, WR, Pittsburgh Steelers
Here’s a riddle for your reading pleasure. What do you get when you take a football player with the size of a tight end and give him 4.4 speed?
What you get is Chase Claypool– WR1. Not just on the Steelers, but maybe for your fantasy football team as well.
Claypool’s physical gifts are hard to question. He’s the perfect combination of size, speed and strength to entice NFL teams and fantasy managers alike. The real question comes down to whether or not he can separate himself from the pack of Steelers wide receivers, a group that includes Juju Smith-Schuster and Dionte Johnson.
And the answer is, well, yeah. He definitely can.
Claypool already put up impressive numbers in his rookie season. Despite some inconsistent play, the overall box score tells an encouraging story. Claypool got the number of targets you would like to see from a wide receiver in the process of developing a connection with his quarterback with 109. He managed 11 touchdowns as well, including two on the ground, showing off his versatility in the Steelers’ offense.
Only two players through the ball more in 2020 than Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and if that volume maintains, a large chunk of it has a good chance to go to Claypool as he continues to grow into his role as an NFL wide receiver, continues to establish a rapport with his quarterback and continues to stand out as the most physically gifted player on the roster.
Claypool only grabbed 4 catches for 45 yards in last week’s victory, but he that should be the absolute floor in 90% of his matchups. Dionate Johnson only mustered out 3 catches for 35 yards, so the explosion was just not there in Week 1. Expect the Steelers second-year monster to be competing the top production in 2021. There will be plenty of shootouts against the Bengals rebuilding defense, Browns, and Ravens this calendar year.
Watch out for Claypool to add some consistency to his performances, and shine as a surprise superstar in the Steelers’ offense.