Fantasy Football Rookie Report: Week 8
Dynasty fantasy football might not be for everyone, but the rookie performances this week must have piqued interest in the format for some of you that don’t already play. Two of the top four fantasy performances in Week 8 came from rookies, including one of the best performances by a wide receiver all year.
Rookies are making splashes across all formats right now. Remember, these aren’t just bit-players. These rookies could be the stars of the future.
Monitoring the production of young players as they enter the league and tracking their development as they progress through it can help you understand what stars look like in chrysalis. And it looks like we have a few of those on our hands this year.
Can we just take a moment to appreciate the Texans game from this past Sunday? Their match against the Seahawks was one of the most exciting games we’ve seen in the past few years, and much of that stemmed directly from Deshaun Watson.
Watson scored the second-most fantasy points in the league in Week 8. He was second only to Russell Wilson, who deftly guided the Seahawks to victory in the 41-38 shootout.
Watson looked like magic for much of the game. His deep throws were on point, and the threat of those deep strikes to DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller kept the defense honest. That threat opened up the run game for Lamar Miller and, as importantly, for Watson himself.
Watson was able to rush eight times for 67 yards during the game and frequently had wide-open space in front of him. The threat of Hopkins and Fuller cleared plenty of space for Watson to run as he helped the team pick up multiple first downs with his legs.
He at times made the Seahawks defense look helpless, something few have ever been able to accomplish at Century-Link Field.
Watson proved something to the doubters on Sunday. True, his schedule leading up to the Texans’ bye had been easy on him. But on Sunday he showed that he’s capable of elite production against even the toughest defenses.
It looks like Watson is the truth. He is currently on pace to smash Peyton Manning’s rookie passing touchdown record of 26 and is just one touchdown behind Dan Marino’s third-place rookie season of 19. That’s some nice company.
Watson, the current QB1 in fantasy football, has established himself as an every-week starter for those who took a shot on him earlier this season.
When I took a look at JuJu after Week 5, I was impressed at how efficient the young rookie was. His opportunity share was limited, but he was making the most of every ball thrown his way. At that point, he was still sitting behind Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant on the target totem pole.
Then opportunity knocked and JuJu came out to play. He lit up the Lions defense for 193 yards and a touchdown on seven receptions. Even with a significant volume of targets he was able to maintain the top-end efficiency that stood out earlier in the season.
Even if you take out his 97-yard touchdown from Sunday, he averaged a solid 16 yards per reception. His season average of 17.7 yards per reception is the second highest rate among all receivers this season with 20 or more receptions and trails only T.Y. Hilton’s 18.2 clip.
With his performance this past weekend, Smith-Schuster was able to seize first place in the rookie receiving yards race from Cooper Kupp. In fact, his 193 yards on Sunday were actually more than any rookie receiver (other than Kupp) has so far this season. Trent Taylor, currently third in the race, has 182 yards.
Unfortunately, Smith-Schuster might take more of a backseat role in the offense if Martavis Bryant is worked back into the offense in Week 10. It’ll be a shame, but that’s football. JuJu has shown a ton of promise and looks like a future star in the NFL.
But let’s be honest. All we really want from JuJu are more of those creative touchdown celebrations.
Kamara didn’t quite have the same game-breaking performances JuJu Smith-Schuster and Deshaun Watson had, but he did finish as the RB9 in 0.5 PPR leagues this week. His 15.1 fantasy points even topped his teammate Mark Ingram’s 14.9!
Kamara has been playing some great football this year, especially after Adrian Peterson’s departure. Since Week 6, Kamara has carried the rock 10, nine and eight times respectively and has averaged 5.9 yards per carry on those touches. He’s producing efficiently with a steady share of passing targets in one of the league’s top offenses.
Strangely though, Kamara has seen his targets decline in the weeks since the Peterson trade. He averaged seven targets per game before New Orleans’ bye but is now averaging just over four per game. It’s a weird phenomenon for a back that was expected to fill the role that Reggie Bush occupied.
But a lot of that has to do with how effective his competition has been this season. Mark Ingram is playing some of the best football of his career, so it makes sense for Kamara to take on a smaller role. Kamara has been too good to relegate to the sidelines, but Ingram is playing too well to give Kamara more opportunity.
That could change after Week 8 though. Ingram fumbled twice in the Saints’ close victory on Sunday, and we’ve seen head coach Sean Payton bench Ingram for similar offenses in the past (remember Week 8 last season?). That benching last season led to more of a split backfield between Ingram and Tim Hightower and could lead to a similar result with Kamara.
In case you didn’t know, Kamara isn’t just a pass-catching back. His 61st-percentile BMI indicates that he could sustain a heavier workload at the NFL level. Ingram’s 83rd-percentile BMI is another factor leaning in his favor for early-down work, but the two backs are actually just about the same weight at around 215 pounds.
The Saints seem aware of this, too, giving Kamara five red zone carries since the Week 5 bye. The Saints have even given Kamara four carries in the red zone compared to Ingram’s two over the past two games.
Kamara is a rookie whose current situation should satisfy us in fantasy and whose ceiling should make us salivate. There are more weeks like Week 8 coming in Kamara’s future.
In case you couldn’t tell, this is a really exciting rookie class. Some of this year’s top producers are rookies, and even some of the more under-the-radar rookies are succeeding.
That’s it for this week’s Rookie Report. I’ll be back next week with more on the Week 9 rookie performances. Until then, good luck in your games this weekend.