Fantasy Football Rookie Report: Jaylen Samuels, Baker Mayfield, Tre’Quan Smith
If you’re still reading this column at this point in the season – congratulations! Because it likely means you’re in the fantasy playoffs.
Usually at this time of year, the waiver wire slows down because fewer owners are active, and generally, the teams in the playoffs are comfortable with their roster. However, thanks to some injuries in Week 13 and a push from teams to get their younger players in the mix, there are still some rookies out there who are worth keeping an eye on that you may want to use in your league. Here are four first-year players whose stock rose over the past, and two whose stock fell.
Jaylen Samuels (RB – PIT)
Any James Conner owners out there need to rush to make Samuels their No. 1 waiver claim this week, and in FAAB leagues, owners should be emptying whatever they have left to grab him. The fifth-round pick out of North Carolina State was suddenly thrust into the fantasy spotlight this week due to Conner being ruled out with an ankle sprain.
In very limited work last week, Samuels carried the ball twice for five yards, but did manage to gain 30 receiving yards and he scored a touchdown against the Chargers. Head coach Mike Tomlin says that the Steelers are going to go with a running back-by-committee approach, but there’s no doubt that Samuels is the more intriguing player and is more explosive than Stevan Ridley.
And, as an added bonus, Samuels is eligible as a running back and tight end in Yahoo! And CBS leagues. I would certainly be looking to play any tight end who was in line to get 12 – 15 carries.
Baker Mayfield (QB – CLE)
Mayfield has slowly become a top-12 fantasy quarterback with new offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens calling plays. Most of Mayfield’s production came in garbage time (after he had thrown three picks), but he still almost hit 400 yards for the first time in his career and averaged more than nine yards per completion for his third game in a row.
The No. 1 overall pick also has an incredibly easy schedule during the fantasy playoffs. This week, he goes up against the Panthers, who are allowing an average of more than 20 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, and two weeks from now, plays the Bengals again, who he just torched and who have given up the most fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks this year. If you’re someone who’s been streaming quarterbacks all year, or who is still playing daily, Mayfield is an intriguing option going forward.
Dante Pettis (WR – SF) and Jeff Wilson (RB – SF)
Between Pettis and Wilson, the 49ers are stacked with potential waiver wire pickups this week. I’m grouping these two together because they are young players who head coach Kyle Shanahan will likely want to get a better look at as the season winds down and he starts to think about the 2019 roster.
Pettis has shined with Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin out, catching five passes for 129 yards and two touchdowns Sunday against the Seahawks. That performance came on the heels on 77 yards and a touchdown the game prior. Goodwin could come back this week, but Garcon could be out again. Pettis is great waiver wire target, especially considering the 49ers have the 13th-easiest remaining schedule for receivers, according to our rankings.
Meanwhile, Wilson appears to be in line for some serious touches this week with Matt Breida already ruled out. Wilson ran for 61 yards and caught eight passes for 83 yards while filling in for Breida on Sunday and playing in 72 percent of the 49ers’ offensive snaps, according to FootballGuys.com.
Tre’Quan Smith (WR – NO)
There was a time when it seemed like Smith would emerge as the Saints’ No. 2 receiver. But it seems like Drew Brees is just fine throwing to Michael Thomas and whoever else he happens to feel like at the time.
Smith has failed to catch a pass in three out of his past four games. He was only targeted once in the Saints’ game against the Cowboys, despite playing 85 percent of their offensive snaps, according to FootballGuys.com.
Besides Thomas and Alvin Kamara (the obvious top options in New Orleans), nine players have at least 10 targets this year. 13 players have caught a touchdown pass this season. It seems like no one is really going to emerge from this group, so I don’t have any alternatives to give you to Smith, but it seems like he’s not going to be a viable fantasy option this year.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (WR – GB)
It remains to be seen what Green Bay’s offense will even look like now that Mike McCarthy’s been fired, but I have little reason to believe Valdes-Scantling is going to see a resurgence. In the Packers’ shocking loss to the Cardinals at home, the rookie out of South Florida was targeted seven times, but only caught two passes for 19 yards. Over his past three games, he’s hauled in just 33.3 percent of his targets, and he hasn’t scored since October.
Some thought that the return of Randall Cobb would mean MVS would be put in some favorable matchups, but that still didn’t help. I could end up looking silly if this week, Green Bay’s offense totally opens up without McCarthy there, but there’s no reason to hang onto any receiver there besides Davante Adams at this point.