Week one of the NFL season is finally here! Fantasy drafts are done, and teams are compiled, but that does not mean they are complete. The true champs are constantly scouring the waiver wires. They are watching games and highlight reels religiously so that they will be the first to pounce on those free agents as soon as they breakout. One year it was Odell Beckham Jr. for the latter part of the season. Another it was Thomas Rawls after Marshawn Lynch went down. Who will it be this year? Follow this weekly Fantasy Football watch list column to find out who that hidden gem is that will win you your fantasy draft.
Week One NFL Fantasy Football Watch List – Rookies
This week is all about rookies. No one really knows how their skills will translate to the pro game. Many coaches are still figuring out how to fit them into their game plans. However, there are some that are simply in better positions than others, and have breakout written all over them.
This isn’t saying to go pick them up off of waivers right away, but it is saying to put a star next to their name and keep them in mind when a player on the squad just isn’t performing up to par, or when you need someone serviceable to throw in during a bye week.
This week’s wide receiver to focus on is the Los Angeles Rams Cooper Kupp.
Kupp is a player that has been getting buzz since training camp. He’s been praised for his crisp route running and quick acclimation to the Los Angeles Rams offense. Teammate Trumaine Johnson even set a lofty goal for Kupp saying “I told him a week ago: Rookie of the Year. That should be his goal in my mind.”
Now obviously it is a little too soon to go that far, but Kupp has performed well in the preseason, seeing time with the first team as the slot receiver. He caught eight of ten targets for 105 yards and a one touchdown. This not only led all rookies, but Jared Goff had a 143.8 passer rating when throwing to Kupp.
No doubt, this shows that Goff and his teammates already trust Kupp, and are ready to make him a big part of their offense this year. Keep an eye on his performance in the first few weeks. He might be someone to pick up sooner, rather than later.
While it is very rare to see rookie tight ends have success in NFL, David Njoku of the Cleveland Browns is a tight end that is set up perfectly to be an exception to this rule. He was a converted receiver, so he knows how to run routes and catch the ball.
In his last year at the University of Miami, he amassed 698 yards and scored eight touchdowns in his first actual season playing tight end. Pro Football Focus’s scouting report noted that he has exceptional body control, very strong hands. This will translate well for him as a red-zone threat, giving him a nice ceiling for a rookie tight end.
The biggest concern that will hold Njoku back right now is his drops. He had seven drops on 71 targets, giving him just under a 10% drop rate. Such a high percentage of drops will not be acceptable in the NFL.
Still, Njoku has all of the athletic tools to succeed as a pass catching tight end, and could be a good play in fantasy with the right match up. Take a look at Njoku if tight end becomes a position of need for your fantasy team.
Mack begins the year as the third running back, behind the ageless Frank Gore, and journeyman Robert Turbin. We all know that age is undefeated and eventually catches up with even the best of them, so this backfield could change at any moment.
Turbin may be listed as the next man up, but he hasn’t inspired a lot of faith as a lead back. He’s constantly bounced around the league from year to year. Unable to establish himself above others in the past, he is unlikely to do so on the Colts this year either.
On the other hand, Chuck Pagano has praised Mack as an all-around back during training camp, saying “He jumps off the tape. He’s popping out here. He’s picking things up and if he can master all three phases of being a good running back (running, catching, blocking), he’s going to be a special player.”
If Gore goes down, it’d be a good idea to quickly jump on Mack. He will likely make full use of his touches until he finally takes over as the lead back. He has the skillset to excel in this lead, and just needs to wait for his shot.
Football and fantasy are finally back! Rejoice.