Fantasy Football Rookie Report: Lamar Jackson, Gus Edwards, Tre’Quan Smith
Seriously, rookies have to stop playing so well. Sometimes it’s fun to rag on players for poor fantasy performances, but there are too many first-year guys who are excelling (especially this week). The waiver wire can be pretty thin this time of year, and there are several guys out there who you can pick up for cheap as they emerge into roles on their respective offenses.
As I did last week, I’m going to run down some rookies whose stocks rose this week. And maybe next week, we’ll finally get back to stock down.
Lamar Jackson (QB – BAL) | Gus Edwards (RB – BAL)
I’m throwing in these two guys together because one’s success wouldn’t be the same without the other. In Jackson’s first career start, the Ravens showed they were finally willing to get creative – and exciting – by running the ball a ton and finding creative ways to get their rookie quarterback in space. With Jackson ripping off huge runs, Edwards (who was owned in literally 0 percent of ESPN leagues heading into Sunday) emerged as Baltimore’s lead back and found himself in space constantly with the defense focused on Jackson.
The Ravens came into this game ranked 31st in the league in rushing yards per attempt (3.6), but finished the game against the Bengals with 265 yards in the ground, about double their previous season high. Edwards finished the game with 115 yards on his own on just 17 carries.
It’s unlikely that Jackson will get 24 carries (excluding kneel-downs) every game because it’s just not viable and defenses will eventually give up on trying to defend the pass. But Jackson showed he can escape pressure and make throws downfield (he did win the Heisman trophy for being a quarterback, after all). Jackson is a viable bye week fill-in this week against the Raiders, especially with Jared Goff and Patrick Mahomes out, and Edwards should be picked up by any Alex Collins owner.
Tre’Quan Smith (WR – NO)
It seemed like Smith was going to take a back seat in the offense once it was announced that the Saints were signing Dez Bryant. But obviously, that never materialized, and Smith is now solidly the No. 2 receiver in New Orleans.
Smith has now scored in two out of his past three games and absolutely went off on the Eagles (who admittedly have no relevant corners), catching 10 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown. He has an incredibly advantageous matchup this week too against the Falcons, who are giving up about 300 passing yards per game this season.
Unfortunately, his involvement in the offense has been pretty inconsistent. He wasn’t targeted once in Week 10 against the Bengals, a game in which the Saints scored 51 points. Still, he’s owned in less than 30 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, and should be considered a high-ceiling flex option with future games against the Falcons and Bucs.
Kerryon Johnson (RB – DET)
Johnson once again showed this week that he’s the franchise running back Detroit’s been looking for all these years. Prior to being forced out with an injury, he carried the ball 15 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, and also caught two passes for 10 yards.
Unfortunately, he’s now considered week-to-week with a knee injury that doesn’t seem to be serious. But owners should be starting him on a weekly basis at this point. He does play the Bears once more this season, but he does have fantasy playoff matchups against the Cardinals, who have given up the third-most fantasy points this season, according to our rankings, and the Bills, who have given up the 12th most.
Josh Adams (RB – PHI)
Here’s a fantasy prediction I can actually pat myself on the back for – Adams was the leading rusher for the Eagles this week. I said last week that Adams was going to be due for more touches, and in a blowout loss, he still managed to break 50 yards rushing and also caught three passes for 19 yards. Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood, the two other main running backs in Philadelphia, combined for only three carries.
Adams could have gotten much more work too, but the Eagles were so far out of their game against the Saints that Carson Wentz was constantly throwing. Adams is owned in about 30 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, so move on him now while you still can.
D.J. Moore (WR – CAR)
I’ve counted out Moore several times this season, but he just put up the best game of his career Sunday. He hauled in seven of his eight targets for 157 yards and a touchdown, including an 82-yard bomb that nearly resulted in a touchdown, had it not been for Darius Slay’s out-of-nowhere speed.
Moore’s now been targeted at least five times in six out of his last seven games after a very slow start to the season. But over the past few weeks, his route running has really improved and he’s getting more separation. He had an average cushion of 7.2 yards last week against the Lions prior to the snap, tied for sixth-most among all receivers, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. This means that defenders are starting to play off of him, knowing that he’s going to go deep on a lot of his snaps. Moore’s ownership is slowly rising, but I think he should be owned in most leagues and is a flex option when the Panthers have advantageous matchups.