2020 Rookie Fantasy Tracker
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 offseason 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 a slower than their fantasy mangers are hoping for.
The 2020 Fantasy Rookie Tracker follows the fantasy production of the RotoHeat team’s consensus Top-20 Dynasty Rookie Rankings. In the initial installment of this season long series, I take a look at the Top-20, list their week one projection 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 will 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.
Jonathan Taylor – RB Indianapolis Colts
Pre-Season Rank: 1
Week 1 Projection: 11.1
Taylor enters his rookie season in a somewhat crowed backfield in Indianapolis. Marlon Mack is currently listed as the starter and Head Coach Frank Reich has also stated he will go with the hot hand. A week one match-up against the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars is a great match-up to get his career started. I expect Taylor to surpass his 11.1 projected week one total, and prove that he is on his way to taking over the Indianapolis backfield.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire – RB Kansas City Chiefs
Pre-Season Rank: 2
Week 1 Projection: 16.3
The first running back selected in the 85th NFL Draft could not have asked for a better landing spot. When RB Damien Williams opted out of the 2020 season due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, CEH’s stock rose to elite status. I do believe that he has a good rookie season, but I see him struggling to be a top-12 RB and I see him falling short of his week one 16.3 point projection.
J.K. Dobbins – RB Baltimore Ravens
Pre-Season Rank: 3
Week 1 Projection: 9.7
Similar to Jonathan Taylor, J.K. Dobbins kicks off his career with lots of company in the running back room. Dobbins will line up behind Mark Ingram on the depth chart at least to start the season. Week one the Ravens face a challenge from divisional rival Cleveland. It doesn’t take a lot for a RB to hit 10 points in PPR scoring and I do believe that Dobbins will get you just about that in the season opener.
CeeDee Lamb – WR Dallas Cowboys
Pre-Season Rank: 4
Week 1 Projection: 10.4
CeeDee Lamb enters the season as my top rated WR and my fourth overall ranked rookie. I am a fan of his landing spot as he assumes the Randall Cobb role in the Dallas offense. Amari Cooper is banged up and the Chargers are a little thin in the secondary with FS Derwin James lost for the season. Look for the Cowboys to get Lamb the ball in space to maximize his yards after the catch abilities. I expect Lamb to exceed his projections and delver a top-24WR result in his debut contest.
Jerry Jeudy – WR Denver Broncos
Pre-Season Rank: 5
Week 1 Projection: 10.3
Next up in the RotoHeat consensus Dynasty Rookie Rankings is Denver Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy. Jeudy comes in slightly behind CeeDee Lamb. Jeudy figures to be a key member of a revamped Broncos offense. In addition to Jeudy the Broncos drafted Penn State WR K.J. Hamler and signed former Chargers RB Melvin Gordon. I expect Jeudy to have a solid rookie season, but I expect week one to be an uphill battle for him and the Broncos. Jeudy is going to be dependent on his QB Drew Lock. I expect Lock to struggle vs. the Titans and as a result I have Jeudy coming in below his week one projection.
Cam Akers – RB Los Angeles Rams
Pre-Season Rank: 6
Week 1 Projection: 8.9
When Cam Akers was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the second round, Akers went from a bad offense line at Florida State, to a bad offense line in Los Angeles. Nothing like three years of on the job training. Akers can break tackles as well as anyone in this draft perhaps better than anyone. He is currently listed behind RB Malcolm Brown on the Rams depth Chart but I believe its just a matter of time until this job is his. Week one Akers will catch enough passes and do enough on the ground to eclipse the 8.9 PPR point projection.
D’Andre Swift – RB Detroit Lions
Pre-Season Rank: 7
Week 1 Projection: 6.8
D’Andre Swift has been injured throughout training camp and now has Adrian Peterson to contend with in addition to Kerryon Johnson. The addition of Peterson has more to do with Swift in my opinion than it does Johnson. No matter how you slice it this backfield is a fantasy mess and one I would avoid in week one if at all possible. Swift could leverage his pass catching ability to beat his projection in week one, I however am betting against it.
Justin Jefferson – WR Minnesota Vikings
Pre-Season Rank: 8
Week 1 Projection: 8.8
Justin Jefferson was selected by the Minnesota Vikings with the first round pick they acquired from Buffalo in the Stefon Diggs trade. Jefferson was drafted to fill the role vacated by Diggs. JJ is a versatile receiver, that has the skills to win from the slot and outside and should be able to get open all over the field. He is a good fit for this offense and I see him blowing past his week 1 projections on route to a solid rookie season.
Jalen Reagor – WR Philadelphia Eagles
Pre-Season Rank: 9
Week 1 Projection: 0
We will have to wait at least a week to get a look at Eagles rookie WR Jalen Reagor. Reagor, suffered an injury to his left arm during practice and is currently listed as week to week. Fortunately he has manged to avoid surgery and the PUP list. Hopefully the wait to see the former TCU standout is only a few weeks at the most.
Henry Ruggs III – WR Las Vegas Raiders
Pre-Season Rank: 10
Week 1 Projection: 10.1
Henry Ruggs III was the first WR off the board when the Las Vegas Raiders selected him with the 12th overall selection. Ruggs has been used in the slot and the outside during training camp, and looks to start outside after the season ending injury to WR Tyrell Williams. Expect the Raiders to target Ruggs early and often in week one. Its a great match-up for all Raiders and Ruggs is no different. Ruggs should exceed the projected 10.1 PPR points against the weak Panthers defense.
Tee Higgins – WR Cincinnati Bengals
Pre-Season Rank: 11
Week 1 Projection: 5.6
Injuries and an overall poor training camp seem to be the reasons that Tee Higgins has been passed on the depth chart by WR Auden Tate. The Bengals selected their eventual A.J. Green replacement in Higgins, with the 32nd overall pick in the draft. He’s not the most physically gifted or athletic receiver, but Higgins continually makes plays look easy. Should Green miss time, Higgins would likely get the nod on the outside over John Ross, across from Tate. At this point it appears Higgins was overdrafted in rookie drafts and I do not expect him to see much work let alone meet his week one projection.
Michael Pittman Jr. – WR Indianapolis Colts
Pre-Season Rank: 12
Week 1 Projection: 8.6
Michael Pittman currently lists as WR4 behind T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, and Parris Campbell. With Hilton missing time in camp, Pittman has had his fair share of time running with the one’s and new quarterback Philip Rivers. It’s only a matter of time before Pittman passes Pascal on the depth chart and it may even take place in week 1. I’ll take Pittman to come up short compared to his projection as against Jacksonville, I do not expect the Colts to have throw very much to defeat the Jaguars.
Ke’Shawn Vaughn – RB Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pre-Season Rank: 13
Week 1 Projection: 2.0
If your rookie draft took place in late April or early May, Ke’Shawn Vaughn was a late first round selection. If you drafted recently he was an early third round selection. Currently sitting 4th on the Bucs depth chart, I would expect Vaughn barring injury to see a touch here and there and spend most of his time on special teams. Exceeding his week 1 projection seems simple enough, I mean two points isn’t a whole lot. With that said I don’t expect him to get the touches to have a chance.
Brandon Aiyuk – WR San Francisco 49ers
Pre-Season Rank: 14
Week 1 Projection: 8.1
One by one in Niners camp, WR’s were injured and Aiyuk became more and more attractive as a fantasy asset. The hype cooled considerably when Aiyuk himself was injured. Aiyuk did not practice on Monday and his status for Sunday remains up in the air. If Aiyuk is a go, expect his snaps to be limited. The Niners run first offense will lean on their, running backs, all-world TE George Kittle, and WRs Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor to deal with Arizona. As a result I don’t see a scenario barring a TD that Aiyuk hits his projection.
Denzel Mims – WR New York Jets
Pre-Season Rank: 15
Week 1 Projection: 5.8
Second round selection Denzel Mims returned to practice last week. It was the first time Mims has practiced since training camp started after he pulled his hamstring the day before camp. Mims has a long way to go before getting into the starting mix, but the good news is he doesn’t have a whole lot of talent ahead of him, making a quick rise possible. If you are counting on Mims in week one, I suggest you seek alternatives. Exceeding his projection is unlikely.
Joe Burrow – QB Cincinnati Bengals
Pre-Season Rank: 16
Week 1 Projection: 15.6
Joe Burrow starts what I believe to be a long and prosperous career against the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday. Its shaping up to be quite the test facing Joey Bosa, Melvin Ingram, and rest of the Chargers front four. Reality is that Burrow will likely struggle. In time, Joe Burrow will be a solid starting QB, with his ability and the weapons in his offense. Bengals’ fans and Burrow’s fantasy managers are going to need to be patient is all.
Laviska Shenault Jr. – WR Jacksonville Jaguars
Pre-Season Rank: 17
Week 1 Projection: 5.7
Laviska Shenault is the type of swiss army knife that Offensive Coordinator Jay Gruden is going to love utilizing in 2020. His ability to win on the outside based off of his athleticism, coupled with his mindset that he can score whenever he touches the ball, offers a truly distinctive skill set. Jacksonville is a good landing spot for Shenault, provided Gruden and the Jaguars line him up in various spots on offense. I expect him to be heavily involved as the Jags trail the Colts. Garbage time points count and as a result I expect Laviska to exceed his projections in week one.
Tua Tagovailoa – QB Miami Dolphins
Pre-Season Rank: 18
Week 1 Projection: 0
The Dolphins drafted their franchise quarterback of the future with the virtual selection of Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa, 5th overall. The future however, is going to wait a while as the Dolphins rightfully named veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick the starter. The Dolphins have a tough schedule to start the season, and I would expect the future in Miami to come around week 6 or 7.
Bryan Edwards – WR Las Vegas Raiders
Pre-Season Rank: 19
Week 1 Projection: 8.3
There is a lot of hype surrounding rookie WR Bryan Edwards, and the hype train has gained momentum since the season ending shoulder injury to Tyrell Williams. Edwards is listed as a starter on the Raiders’ first unofficial depth chart. Edwards will join fellow rookie Henry Ruggs III and second-year WR Hunter Renfrow to compose one of the youngest wide receiver corps in the league. In week one vs. Carolina I expect the Raiders to lean on second-year RB Josh Jacobs and TE Darren Waller. The WR trio will get some looks, (led by Henry Ruggs III), but Edwards barring a touchdown will struggle to meet his projection.
Anthony McFarland Jr. – RB Pittsburgh Steelers
Pre-Season Rank: 20
Week 1 Projection: 2.9
Anthony McFarland Jr. breaks camp listed behind James Conner and Benny Snell Jr. on the Steelers depth chart. As long as James Conner stays healthy this backfield is going to be his. McFarland is a fun back to watch with his explosive acceleration and dynamic moves. McFarland thrives in space, wide zone and cutback runs. While he presents a number of challenges to opposing defenses, McFarland does have limitations in pass protection and winning in short yardage situations. He may get some work late as I see the Steelers winning big in week one, and I do expect him to get just enough work to exceed his week one projection.