2020 Rookie Fantasy Tracker Season Recap
The leap from college football to the NFL is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. While some positions like running back have easier transitions, all rookies have to adjust to facing bigger, faster, and stronger opponents. On top of that, they also have to learn a new playbook and system that is likely different from the one they were used to in college.
The preseason is typically their chance to adapt and get used to the next level of play before the real season begins. Needless to say, an offseason with no field time until August, and no preseason, will cut significantly into the much needed experience these rookies will acquire. Expect the rookies, even the so called “can’t miss” guys, to start off slower than their fantasy managers are hoping for.
The 2020 Fantasy Rookie Tracker follows the fantasy production of the 2020 Rookie class and compares their results to the RotoHeat team’s consensus Dynasty Rookie Rankings. In the initial installment of this season long series, I took a look at the Top-20 ranked rookies, list their projections, and give you my thoughts on their match-up.
As the season progresses, the rookies will be re-ranked based on their year-to-date performance. We then review their previous week and take a look at the week to come as we follow this draft class that comes with so much hype and promise.
Top 20 Rookies
Justin Herbert – QB Los Angeles Chargers
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 18
Final Rank: 1
Season Total: 342.80
Weekly Average: 22.90
Justin Herbert finishes his rookie season atop the leaderboard with his 342.80 fantasy points. Herbert started the season on the bench in Los Angeles and exceeded everyone’s expectations once assuming the starting role in Week 2. Herbert finished his inaugural campaign with a stat line of 396 completions on 595 attempts for 4336 yards. He tossed 31 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions.
With the 300-yard day against the Chiefs’ in week 17, Herbert ended up setting six rookie records, including: Total touchdowns (36), passing touchdowns (31), completions (396), 300-yard passing efforts (eight), multi-touchdown passing games (10) and three-score days (six). Herbert did fall 39 yards shy of the rookie passing yardage record. If I was handing out a Fantasy Rookie of the Year Award, I would be giving it to Justin Herbert.
Justin Jefferson – WR Minnesota Vikings
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 6
Final Rank: 2
Season Total: 274.20
Weekly Average: 17.10
Justin Jefferson had a fantastic rookie season. He finished the season with 88 receptions on 125 targets for 1400 yards and 7 touchdowns. His 1,400 receiving yards were the most all-time among rookie receivers, surpassing Anquan Boldin and former Viking Randy Moss, his 88 catches were also a team record. Jefferson has established himself as the top target in the Vikings offense, surpassing Adam Thielen. Fantasy managers will be quick to move Jefferson into their top-5 at the WR position in their Dynasty rankings.
My concern is that this team still wants to be a run first and often team. Kirk Cousins was forced to throw as often as his did due to the Vikings weak defense. If Minnesota improves the defense (it would be hard not to), I expect the passing attempts to come down which will limit JJ. Add to that he is now going to see the opponents top corner on a weekly basis. I really like the talent and he will be a very productive WR, I just feel its premature to label him as a stud or rank him in your top-5. He has top-12 WR potential in 2021, and I will likely rank him as a low WR1 or high WR2 in 2021.
Jonathan Taylor – RB Indianapolis Colt
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 1
Final Rank: 3
Season Total: 252.80
Weekly Average: 16.90
After the conclusion of Week 10, Jonathan Taylor sat as the 12th highest scoring rookie and at RB19 overall with a 11.90 PPR point per game average. He was struggling for consistent workload often sharing that backfield with Nyheim Hines and to a lesser extent Jordan Wilkins. There were rumblings that JT was a bust. To be clear, Taylor entered the season as my top rookie RB, and he leaves it in the same spot.
From weeks 11-16 he averaged 21.46 points and was sitting at RB6 overall (in 5 games). He concluded his season in Week 17 with a 31 touch 254 yard two score explosion against Jacksonville. The 38.4 PPR point performance was tops on the week, and catapulted JT to RB6 on the season with 252.80 points. After missing week 12 due to Covid, he totaled 130.3 PPR points tops of all RBs. Taylor averaged 17.87 touches a game this season, in those final 5 weeks he averaged 21.40. He has emerged as the top back in Indy and his value is sky high. He will be ranked as a top-12 back entering 2021 in all formats and that is where I will have him ranked as well.
James Robinson – RB Jacksonville Jaguars
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 29
Final Rank: 4
Season Total: 250.40
Weekly Average: 17.89
James Robinson was relatively unknown until Leonard Fournette was released and Ryquell Armstead landed on Covid-IR. Those two roster moves by Jacksonville thrust Robinson an UDFA RB out of Illinois State into the starting role. Once he got his hands on the No.1 role in the Jags backfield it was his to keep. Robinson concluded his 2020 season after a high ankle sprain in Week 15. He totaled 1070 rushing yards and 7 scores on 240 carries, and added in 344 more yards and 3 additional touchdowns on 49 receptions. His 250.40 PPR points ranked him at RB7 on the season. His 17.89 points per game ranked 5th.
During the season he became just the 4th UDFA rookie RB to start week one since 1970, in the process he set the record for most rushing yards for an undrafted rookie in Week 1 with 62. On the season he became just the third UDFA rookie RB to top 1000 rushing yards and the fastest to do so. Robinson’s future is bright with the likely addition of Clemson QB Trevor Lawrence, it is also uncertain with new management in 2021 and the fact that in addition to the first pick in the draft, the Jaguars have a boatload of extra picks acquired in trades, plus more salary cap space than any other team in 2021. Robinson doesn’t have draft capital working for him and there is a good chance that Jacksonville adds at least one back in this draft. If I possessed a share of James Robinson I would be looking to sell that asset prior to the NFL entry draft.
CeeDee Lamb – WR Dallas Cowboys
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 2
Final Rank: 5
Season Total: 217.70
Weekly Average: 13.60
CeeDee Lamb finished up his rookie season with a 5 catch 43 yard outing in Week 17 versus the New York Giants. Lamb ends his impressive first season 65 yards short of 1,000 yards, finishing with a 74-935-5 line on 111 targets. The targets were second on the Cowboys to Amari Cooper’s 130 for the team lead and were six more than Michael Gallup.
Lamb worked mostly out of the slot in 2020 and he caught at least five passes in every game with Dak Prescott in weeks 1-5 with two 100-yard games in that span. The remainder of the season once Dak was injured he failed to top 85 yards in any game. Lamb entered the season as my WR1 in this class and if not for the impressive play of Justin Jefferson he would remain there. The sky is the limit with better quarterback play. As long as Prescott is back in 2021, Lamb should be viewed as an upside WR2 in a much healthier offense.
Chase Claypool – WR Pittsburgh Steelers
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 20
Final Rank: 6
Season Total: 214.90
Weekly Average: 13.40
Week 17 was a really strong week for this rookie class as whole, and Chase Claypool was a big part of it. He caught 5-of-11 targets for 101 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ Week 17 loss to the Browns. Claypool exceeded expectations in his rookie season and wrapped it up with a stat line of 109 targets, 62 receptions, 873 yards and 9 touchdowns. He also added 4 scores on the ground on 10 carries. Claypool became the first rookie in NFL history to score 10 touchdowns across his first 10 games but hadn’t scored since until Week 17. He played reduced snaps and posting disappointing target totals, until seeing a spike in snaps and targets in Week 17.
Claypool, as I have been stated for weeks now is a boom/bust fantasy WR. He will be hard pressed to duplicate his 11 touchdown 2020 in 2021, and he will need to improve on his 56.9% reception percentage to remain in the WR2 conversation. I have my doubts that he will as it appears Ben Roethlisberger is planning on returning in 2021 and his play has noticeably declined. Simply put, I put the low catch rate more on Ben than Claypool. He is likely a hold this offseason but he is an asset I would shop around to gauge his value.
Tee Higgins – WR Cincinnati Bengals
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 9
Final Rank: 7
Season Total: 194.60
Weekly Average: 12.20
Higgins suffered a hamstring injury in the first quarter in Week 17 during a long catch and run. The injury concluded his 2020 season. A season that totaled 68 catches on 108 targets. His six receiving scores led the Bengals and his 19 percent target share was second on the team behind Tyler Boyd.
In the first 11 weeks with Joe Burrow as his QB, Higgins averaged 13.1 PPR points a game, and from week 12-17 he saw that average dip to 10.7 points a game. The Bengals should improve the offensive line, and will get Burrow back at some point in the 2021 season. Higgins will be a high-upside WR2 in my dynasty rankings in 2021 with Joe Burrow expected back from his knee injury. Higgins is a hold and if you can buy for a late first round pick, jump on that opportunity.
Antonio Gibson – RB Washington Football Team
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 17
Final Rank: 8
Season Total: 202.20
Weekly Average: 14.40
Antonio Gibson rushed 19 times for 75 yards and caught one pass for six yards in Washington’s Week 17 win over the Eagles. Gibson was noticeably limited by the toe injury he’s been dealing with since Week 13. If this was week 6 I don’t think he would have been active. With it being week 17 with a division title on the line, his presence in the offense made sense. Despite missing two games with the injury he finsihed the season as RB13 with 202.2 PPR points
I was skeptical of Gibson entering the season, and he blew my expectations out of the water. My concern was his ability to carry the football at the pro level, his pass catching abilty wasn’t a concern for me. I was also concerned with how much work he would get. The Football Team has a very crowded running back room entering the season. Adrian Peterson was released, as was Darrius Guice and Bryce Love landed on IR yet again. Gibson shared work with Peyton Barber and J.D. McKissic in the early stages of the season and started to take over in Week 7. Gibson finished his season with 1,042 total yards and 11 touchdowns in 14 games. He will hold top-20 RB value entering 2021, a season in which he enters as his team’s top back.
D’Andre Swift – RB Detroit Lions
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 4
Final Rank: 9
Season Total: 189.90
Weekly Average: 14.60
D’Andre Swift is a good running back, and clearly the best back the Lions have on their roster. Swift struggled with injury to open the season and found himself in a three-back committee in September with Adrian Peterson and Kerryon Johnson. Swift rightfully earned more work in November and December. He averaged 10.0 PPR points/game before the Lions bye (week 5), and 16.2 PPR points afterwards.
The second-rounder profiles as a three-down back with plenty of pass-catching ability. He caught 46 passes for 357 yards and two touchdowns in addition to his 521 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns on 114 carries across 13 games. He missed three games with a concussion. Swift likely gets the backfield to himself in 2021, but it’s currently unknown who his coach and quarterback will be. If used correctly by the new staff, D’Andre Swift has the abilty to be the best running back in this strong 2020 draft class. He belongs on the RB1/2 border depending on how the Lions handle the offseason.
Brandon Aiyuk – WR San Francisco 49ers
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 12
Final Rank: 10
Season Total: 184.50
Weekly Average: 15.40
Brandon Aiyuk sat out Week 17 with an ankle injury a week after disappointing his fantasy managers with a 4.10 PPR point effort. Aiyuk at times looked like a WR1 talent in his rookie season, and he struggled with Covid and injury that ultimately limited him to just 12 games. His final stat line ended up being 60 catches for 748 yards and 5 touchdowns on 96 targets. He added 6 carries for 77 yards and a pair of scores.
I have mixed feelings when it comes to Aiyuk. Like I said at times he looked like a WR1 talent, but on the other hand he played the majority of the season without George Kittle and Deebo Samuel. If all are healthy in 2021 Aiyuk likely falls to third in target share. He is an asset if I had on my roster I would hold. He is also not a WR that I would be looking to add, unless I can acquire for less than his perceived value of a mid 2021 first round rookie pick.
Joe Burrow – QB Cincinnati Bengals
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 11
Final Rank: 11
Season Total: 178.60
Weekly Average: 17.90
We last saw Joe Burrow on the back of the cart heading to the locker room in Week 11. It was announced during the following week that Burrow suffered a torn ACL in addition to his MCL in his left knee. The injury ended his season. Included Week 11, in 10 games Joe Burrow averaged 17.87 points per game. Burrow the consensus top overall pick in 2020 impressed in less than ideal conditions in Cincinnati in his interrupted rookie season.
In the 10 games he played Burrow passed for nearly 2,700 yards, had a 65% Completion Percentage, 13 Passing Touchdowns, and only 5 Interceptions. The one thing that makes Joe Burrow extremely special is his poise in the pocket, mainly because he knows that he’s going to get destroyed every time he drops back to pass. He has an above average abilty to stay calm and deliver the ball that is amazing. I was very high on Burrow coming out and I remain equally as high. The Bengals have to upgrade the offensive line or they are going to get Burrow killed. I listed his player comp as Andrew Luck last offseaon and I am sticking to it. Hold Burrow and if you can find an owner that will sell I am looking to buy all day long.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – RB Kansas City Chiefs
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 3
Final Rank: 12
Season Total: 176.00
Weekly Average: 13.54
Clyde Edwards-Helaire was injured during the Chiefs Week 15 win over the New Orleans Saints. Edwards-Helaire sustained hip and ankle injuries and missed the remainder of the regular season as a result. His rookie season ends with 803 rushing yards, 297 receiving yards and 5 total touchdowns on 217 touches. Entering Week 15 CEH was sitting as the 4th highest scoring rookie back, and the RB13 overall. The reality is that CEH was overdrafted this season, injury or no injury.
CEH carried a consensus RB10 Dynasty ADP prior to the season. There was very little wiggle room in terms of a return on investment drafting him at that spot. If he hit and was indeed a top-10 RB, you met what you invested, but the odds of him doing that however were not in his favor. Bettering a RB10 finish that would provide you a positive return simply wasn’t going to happen. RotoHeat warned against this value and in an article I wrote prior to the season I cautioned drafters as well. CEH is a great example to drafters overreacting to landing spot. Prior to his injury, he displayed a lot of the player that was advertised. He is a shifty runner with good hands out of the backfield. Where he struggled was the red zone, and specifically his abilty to punch it in at the goal line. If you have a share of this player he’s a hold, you will not get the top-12 value you paid for him. You have to hope he comes back and excels in 2021. I will rank CEH as a top-20 back in 2021, if you can buy him at that value its worth pursuing.
J.K. Dobbins – RB Baltimore Ravens
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 5
Final Rank: 13
Season Total: 168.80
Weekly Average: 11.20
J.K Dobbins finished his rookie season with 13 rushes for 160 yards and two touchdowns in the Ravens’ Week 17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. It took a while this season but Dobbins finally emerged as the lead back in the Ravens backfield. During the the first ten weeks of the season, Dobbins saw double digit carries twice, in his final 6 games he reached that total in each of them. Those first 9 games he averaged 8 touches and 44.2 yards per game. In his final 6 games Dobbins averaged 14 touches and 87.8 yards.
Mark Ingram has almost certainly played his final regular season game as a Baltimore Raven. Gus Edwards will be a free agent at the conclusion of the Ravens season. As a result the road to increased carries and increased production is there for Dobbins. He turned his 152 touches in 2020 into 925 total yards and 9 total scores. In 2021 in what I believe will remain a shared backfield, Dobbins will have the potential for 250+ touches and a RB1 type season. I will rank Dobbins as a top-15 back entering 2021 and his ceiling is the top-10.
Jerry Jeudy – WR Denver Broncos
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 8
Final Rank: 14
Season Total: 157.60
Weekly Average: 9.90
Jerry Jeudy did not have the 2020 season I expected him to have. He finished the season with 113 targets, 52 receptions, 856 yards and 3 touchdowns. The targets exceeded my expectations and the receptions fell short of expectation. The loss of WR Courtland Sutton early in the season led to the increase in targets, and the play of both Jeudy and QB Drew Lock led to the disappointing catch total. Entering 2021 I expect Jeudy to improve on his 2020 season.
The Broncos have a young offense. Jeudy, Noah Fant, K.J. Hamler, Lock, and Sutton are all 24 years of age or younger. Jeudy himself is 21. The offense will improve, simply adding Sutton back into it will elevate the productivity of the offense and the players within it. Jerry Jeudy is a great route runner and will be a productive WR in this league, but at 21 in his rookie season he was not prepared to be the alfa in this offense. Add to this the fact that Drew Lock struggled and did not take the next step many myself included expected. I had Jeudy as my WR2 in my rookie rankings preseason and he falls to WR4 at the end of the season. I will regardless of the slide have him in my top 24 in my dynasty rankings entering 2021. I would hold if I have him and seek to buy if I don’t.
Laviska Shenault Jr. – WR Jacksonville Jaguars
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 15
Final Rank: 15
Season Total: 157.10
Weekly Average: 11.20
Laviska Shenault finished off his rookie campaign with a bang. His week 17 6 catch 68 yard two touchdown game was his best fantasy day of the season. His 24.60 PPR outing was his lone appearance in the top 12 this season and his best result by nearly 10 fantasy points.
Laviska entered the season after an injury-plagued 2019 season at Colorado, Shenault showed plenty of athleticism as a rookie but he needs to be used as more than a gadget player to truly realize the potential he possesses. The Jaguars only managed to get him 18 carries and 79 targets, most of which came near the line of scrimmage this season. Shenault will benefit from much better quarterback play next season with Trevor Lawrence likely coming to town and the possible departure of both Chris Conley and Keelan Cole via free agency. Laviska is a top 100 dynasty asset with a much higher ceiling. He needs to stay healthy which is always a question mark for him. He will benefit greatly from a normal offseaon program should the pandemic permit one.
Darnell Mooney – WR Chicago Bears
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 50
Final Rank: 16
Season Total: 152.10
Weekly Average: 9.50
Darnell Mooney finished the 2020 season with 61 receptions on 98 targets for 631 yards and 4 touchdowns. He finished as the 7th highest scoring rookie WR and at WR50 overall. In the process he leapt over WR Anthony Miller into the No.2 role in Chicago.
Mooney was a pleasant surprise for the Bears and his fantasy managers. I didn’t have Mooney ranked entering the season and I wasn’t buying into him being a legit fantasy asset. That has changed. Darnell Mooney has a lot of upside entering 2021 especially if Allen Robinson leaves via free agency.
Tua Tagovailoa – QB Miami Dolphins
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 21
Final Rank: 17
Season Total: 140.40
Weekly Average: 14.00
Tua wrapped up his rookie season by completed 35-of-58 attempts for 361 yards a touchdown and three interceptions in the Dolphins’ 56-26 Week 17 loss to the Bills. His 2020 season consisted of 10 games in which he threw for 1814 yards, 11 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. Once named the starter he was relieved by Ryan Fitzpatrick on two occasions and it would have been a third in Week 17 had Fitzpatrick been active. Tua came off most fantasy draft boards as the second QB after consensus top pick Joe Burrow. He had to wait until Week 6 to see some action, and made his first pro start in Week 7. from what I see he should have waited even longer.
Tua struggled at the pro level. He averaged just over 200 yards passing in his 9 starts and his average of 1.2/.6 touchdown/interception ratio on a weekly basis certainly doesn’t cut it. It did not help Tua’s fantasy value that both Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert seemed to transition to the NFL without much difficulty in their rookie seasons. If I have Tagovailoa on my roster I am holding him unless I get in return what I paid for him. In super-flex leagues that is likely a top-4 selection. Miami is not drafting a QB to replace him. They have a wealth of draft picks that will enable them to add pieces that will in turn allow Tua to improve. He needs WRs to get open and an Offensive Linemen to give him time. In turn Tua needs to stop holding the ball as long as he did in 2020 and make better decisions with the football. It is far to early to give up on this quarterback.
Gabriel Davis – WR Buffalo Bills
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 35
Final Rank: 18
Season Total: 136.90
Weekly Average: 8.60
The Buffalo Bills selected Gabriel Davis out of Central Florida University in the fourth round with the 128th overall pick. As a result my expectations for him in 2020 were low. The Bills added Stefon Diggs in trade from Minnesota, and John Brown and Cole Beasley were coming back as well. Davis didn’t get a lot of work in his rookie season but he made the most of his opportunities. He concluded the year with 35 catches for 599 yards and 7 touchdowns on only 62 targets. A WR56 finish has to been seen as encouraging.
Davis exceled in games that John Brown missed due to injury, he slid into the WR3 role behind Diggs and Beasley and was effective. Brown is scheduled to be back in Buffalo in 2021 but there is an relatively low 1.6 million dollar dead cap hit should they decide to cut him loose. Without Brown in the lineup, Davis’ value will elevate. He is a WR that you should seek to add at an affordable price this offseason.
Jalen Hurts – QB Philadelphia Eagles
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 37
Final Rank: 19
Season Total: 113.50
Weekly Average: 7.60
Jalen Hurts started 4 games for the Philadelphia Eagles in 2020 and appeared in parts of 15 contests. His four starts were four more than expected. Carson Wentz struggled this season opening the door for Hurts. He looked good at times and others he struggled. In his four starts he was 69 of 133 for 919 yards, 5 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He brought fantasy value with this legs. He rushed 46 times for 272 yards and scored three times running the football in his starts.
Clearly the passing numbers from Hurts are not going to wow anyone. His 51.88 completion percentage and his TD/Interception ratio is not good. His legs however could be a game changer. This is a QB that landed in the starting role on a bad team with a horrible offensive line and faired fairly well all things considered. Expect the Eagles to improve the offensive line, and add yet another a pass catcher in the draft or free agency this offseason. All indications currently are that Jalen is going to be the Eagles starting QB in 2021. I sold my one share of Hurts during 2020, and I would have preferred that I didn’t. This is a QB that should see his value increase in the coming years.
Cam Akers – RB Los Angeles Rams
RotoHeat Rookie Ranking: 7
Final Rank: 20
Season Total: 101.80
Weekly Average: 8.60
Cam Akers entered 2020 as part of a three headed monster of a backfield in Los Angeles. He dealt with injury entering the season, mid season and towards the end of the season. During all of this, he managed to grab hold of the lead back role in the Rams offense. His potential was on full display in Weeks 13 and 14. In those two weeks he turned 53 touches into 288 total yards and scored once.
Akers is another running back with the potential to be the best in this class. What interests me the most with Akers is his pass catching abilities have yet to tapped into to. He received only 14 targets this past season and hauled in 11 of them for 123 yards. If the targets increase combined with the expected increased role on the ground in the offense in 2021 Akers brings RB1 potential.
Thank you for reading 2020 Rookie Fantasy Tracker Season Recap. I hope you all enjoyed this weekly recap of the 2020 Rookie Draft Class.
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