Rookies have been known to hit the proverbial “Rookie Wall” in a NFL season, usually between November and early December. It’s a phrase used to describe how physically and mentally worn down first-year players may be from the rigors of a lengthy professional schedule.
Last season, Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt was victimized by said “Rookie Wall” when his stats dipped significantly in November (zero TDs & 100 yd games from scrimmage).
Conversely, eventual OROY (offensive rookie of the year) Alvin Kamara was used sparingly in September and exploded statistically October thru December. He registered seven 100-plus yards from scrimmage and 12 TDs from Week 4 until the end of the regular season. Speculatively, he was fresher late in the year due to limited use in September and a shared workload with starting RB Mark Ingram.
A fresher Alvin Kamara certainly helped fantasy owners during their playoff runs last season. So, which under-utilized rookie is waiting to scale that late, seasonal “Rookie Wall” for owners? Trust me, you’ll WANT that rookie on your wall, you’ll NEED him on top that wall!
Below is a list of a “few good men” that’ll help your team down the stretch:
Nick Chubb, RB, CLE
Chubb greatly benefits from having RB1 status since the trade of former Browns starting RB, Carlos Hyde. To his credit, Chubb has taken his opportunity and run with it. His 6.1 yds per carry average sits atop NFL RBs with at least 50+ rush attempts. He has as many rushing TDs as Ezekiel Elliott, Jordan Howard and Joe Mixon - each Week 1 starters for their team.
Several factors increase Chubb’s use down the stretch for fantasy owners fortunate to have his services. Limited use early in the season means he has fresh legs. Secondly, his 5-foot-11, 227-pound frame is built for rugged running and goal line opportunities. Lastly, he has a quality rookie QB that spreads the ball to competent receivers, keeping safeties from crowding the line of scrimmage which provides better running lanes. Chubb is invisible in the passing game, but his goal line chances and rushing touches should compensate for his lack of receptions.
Christian Kirk, WR, ARI
The Cardinals' top two picks of 2018 - QB Josh Rosen and Kirk - are starters and statistical leaders for their team. Kirk’s emerging rapport with Rosen has him leading Arizona in receiving yards ( 410 ) and second in receptions (31). In fact, Kirk’s 31 receptions leads all rookie wideouts and his 410 yards are second only to RB Saquon Barkley’s 497 yards. In 4 starts with Rosen at the helm, Kirk has amassed 261 rec/yds and been targeted 24 times. Kirk is catching 67.4% percent of the passes coming his way. More importantly for fantasy owners, four of his last six games were double digit point totals in most PPR leagues.
Looking ahead, Kirk and the Cardinals will face only two Top 10 passing defenses in their final seven games. Four of those teams are ranked 20th, 23rd, 31st and 32nd! If Kirk is available, stash him now for your stretch run.
D.J. Moore, WR, CAR
Carolina’s first round pick and 24th overall selection, Moore is beginning to assert himself on the gridiron. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound slot receiver with 4.42 speed is 3rd on the team with 281 receiving yards.
Over the last 4 games, Moore was targeted 20 times catching 80 percent of the passes thrown his way. Secure Moore now because Weeks 13 thru 16 the Panthers face these ranked defenses vs the pass: Bucs (30th), Browns (28th), Saints (23rd), Falcons (26th).
Courtland Sutton, WR, DEN
Even before Demaryius Thomas’ trade to the Texans, Sutton was averaging a little over 4 targets a game. Guess who’s in line to receive Thomas’ 7 targets per game…Sutton!
Already a Red Zone target at 6-foot-3, 218 lbs, Sutton’s role will increase as evidenced by his season high 78 receiving yards vs the Chiefs. The Broncos believe in their youth movement, so should you and he’s available in more than 50 percent of leagues.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling, WR, GB
What happens when a 6-foot-4, 206-pound athlete with large hands and 4.3 speed is paired with future hall of famer Aaron Rodgers? How about a yards per reception average of 19.5 over the last 4 games? Scantling has been targeted 24 times during this 4-game stretch, accumulating 2 TD in the process.
While teammates Cobb and Allison were sidelined with injuries, Scantling maximized opportunities with Rodgers developing a growing rapport and trust. Trust that this athletically, freakish athlete will grow statistically for your fantasy team.
Anthony Miller, WR, CHI
If QB Mitch Trubisky could actually hit his intended target, Miller would be one of 2018’s top rookie receivers. During the last 3 games, Miller averaged 6 targets but only totaled 6 receptions. Normally a 37.5 percent catch rate might indicate a receiver isn’t very reliable and possesses poor hand/eye coordination. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Miller is a solid route runner with abnormally large hands for his size (10 ⅝ inches). He gets open, as evidenced by his 18 targets the last 3 games. More importantly Miller, despite Trubisky’s inaccuracies still managed to haul in 2 TDs the past 3 contests. A slow burgeoning connection is growing in Chicago between these two emerging players. It's almost Miller time!
Josh Adams, RB, PHI
In case you hadn’t noticed, the Eagles are desperate for a lead running back. If you’re desperate too, you might want to do what they did and acquire Adams. In the last two weeks, Adams has rushed for a combined 78 yards on just 13 carries, for a 6.0 yard per attempt average.
Remember last year when the Eagles traded for Jay Ajayi mid season and how it improved their ground attack. Ajayi finished the regular season with 408 rushing yards on 70 attempts, for a 5.8 per rush average. Time to get ahead of history repeating itself, grab Adams now if it’s not too late.