Some key items are below:
- All references to fantasy points assume DraftKings scoring rules unless otherwise specified.
- All stats reference the full 2021 season unless otherwise specified.
- All fantasy points rankings are on a per-game basis to account for bye weeks unless otherwise specified.
This week, we'll discuss the following topics:
- Tweets of the Week
- Rookie Season Volatility
Be sure to follow me on Twitter to stay up-to-date regarding updates to all articles I write here at FootballGuys. Feel free to reach out at any time with questions, comments, and concerns about this article or anything else fantasy football-related.
Tweets of the Week
WR Leaders by Total Fantasy Points (Since Week 9)— Scott Barrett (@ScottBarrettDFB) December 7, 2021
1. Justin Jefferson (126.0)
2. Elijah Moore (100.3)*
3. Keenan Allen (98.3)
4. Diontae Johnson (97.1)
5. Jaylen Waddle (93.7)
6. Stefon Diggs (92.5)
7. Cooper Kupp (89.2)
* QBs: Mike White, Josh Johnson, Joe Flacco, Zach Wilson
Commentary and Action Items:
- A strong case can be made that Justin Jefferson is the best young wide receiver in the NFL right now. Since Week 9, Jefferson has strengthened that case by scoring over 25 more fantasy points than the 2nd-most productive wide receiver during that span. After a brief lull where he saw just nine total passes thrown his way across a pair of games in early November, Minnesota's offensive coordinator Klint Kubiak indicated that he would address the issue and get Jefferson more targets. When asked about it, the second-year receiver from LSU simply stated that he was "All for it... Whenever my name is called, I'm going out there and making a play." Since these comments, Jefferson has commanded 11 targets per game, converting them into an average of 8 receptions for 144.25 yards, 0.75 touchdowns, and 29.49 DraftKings points per game. Additionally, Adam Thielen went down last weekend with an ankle injury that will keep him sidelined for Thursday night's clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Thielen's absence should funnel an even higher percentage of Minnesota's targets Jefferson's way. Overall, Justin Jefferson is an obvious every-week starter in season-long leagues throughout the playoffs. Next, he is arguably the most valuable wide receiver in dynasty formats-- as Dan Hindery's Dynasty Trade Value Chart pointed out here at FootballGuys earlier this week. Lastly, in DFS, he grades as the number-one option at wide receiver on the Thursday-through-Monday slate of games on DraftKings this week.
- Elijah Moore may have had a slow start to his rookie campaign, but his recent performances have surpassed all expectations, as Scott Barrett pointed out on Twitter this week. Elijah Moore was one of the most efficient collegiate receivers in recent memory at Ole Miss last season, where he primarily worked out of the slot as an undersized pass-catcher. Moore was expected to play a significant role in the Jets' aerial attack from day one, given his absurd per-game production and efficiency in the SEC last season. However, Jamison Crowder, one of the only established pass-catchers on the roster, stands atop the depth chart at slot receiver for Robert Saleh's side. Crowder's presence forced Elijah Moore to move outside, where he struggled out of the gate with just two double-digit fantasy performances through Week 8. Unsurprisingly, the talented youngster found his sea legs on the outside. Since Week 9, he has scored the 2nd-most fantasy points of any wide receiver in the NFL despite playing with three of the worst quarterbacks to throw a regular-season pass this season. The sky is the limit for Elijah Moore, and he has quickly ascended to "no-brainer" status in season-long. Do not think twice about whether or not to start him in season-long fantasy football; he should be locked into starting lineups for the remainder of the season, health permitting. On DraftKings, at the modest price of $5,900, Moore also grades as an elite option at wide receiver. He has scored over 20 DraftKings points in 3 out of his last 5 outings, and if he does it again this weekend, he will be one of the strongest point-per-dollar producers at his position. Lastly, in dynasty leagues without a trade deadline, Elijah Moore has all the makings of a top-end producer for years to come. Moore's value should continue to climb in the coming seasons, especially as his quarterback play improves and the aging and inefficient receivers around him are phased out of the offense over time, allowing the 5'9" speedster to play wherever he is most comfortable and productive.
Target per route run leaders over the past month:— Jacob Gibbs (@jagibbs_23) December 6, 2021
30% — Stefon Diggs, Diontae Johnson, Justin Jefferson, Elijah Moore ðŸš€ðŸš€ðŸš€
28% — CeeDee Lamb, George Kittle, Cooper Kupp, Josh Jacobs ðŸ¤¯
27% — Leonard Fournette, Saquon Barkley, Jaylen Waddle
26% — Darnell Mooney, Keenan Allen
Commentary and Action Items:
- Earlier this week, Jacob Gibbs took to Twitter to note the NFL's leaders in targets-per-route-run over the last month of the season. At the top of the list, this list looks eerily similar to Scott Barrett's list from the first Tweet of the Week, with Justin Jefferson and Elijah Moore standing out as two of the co-league-leaders in this metric.
- However, one name from this list stands out as an unusual suspect to command targets at such a high rate: Josh Jacobs. Across the first two seasons of Jacobs's career, he only saw approximately 2.6 passes thrown his way each game while being targeted on just under 18-percent of his total routes run. Now, over the last four weeks, Jacobs's target-per-route-run rate has risen to an astonishing 28-percent. Three of his four most-targeted games of his career have come within the last month, and there is reason to believe that his increased receiving volume is sustainable. Josh Jacobs's primary competition for playing time, Kenyan Drake, will miss the remainder of the season due to a broken ankle he sustained last weekend. The Raiders brought Drake into town this offseason with the explicit purpose of having him shoulder the load as the team's passing-down running back. Through Week 13, Drake ran a route on approximately 61-percent of his total snaps, while Jacobs ran a route on just over 50-percent of his total snaps. Now, with Kenyan Drake sidelined, Josh Jacobs will assume a larger role in the Raiders' offense as a near-every-down running back. This increased receiving volume will be exceptionally valuable for Jacobs down the stretch this season because, as Ryan Weisse noted this offseason, running backs typically score approximately 1.56 fantasy points per target. All in all, Josh Jacobs has the potential to be a league-winning running back down the stretch this season in season-long formats if he fills the vacant role as the passing-down running back for the Raiders, in addition to his typical standard-down work. This weekend, Josh Jacobs is priced at $6,200 on DraftKings against the Kansas City Chiefs. Consider prioritizing him in all formats thanks to the soft matchup against the Chiefs' 26th-ranked run defense, according to DVOA allowed, which should bolster Jacobs's rushing efficiency. Additionally, if the Raiders end up playing from behind, as expected, his newfound floor of receiving production should buoy his overall fantasy numbers if Las Vegas needs to abandon the running game early to keep pace with Kansas City's high octane offense.
Rookie Season Volatility
Players rarely find immediate success in their first NFL season, and this season has been a masterclass in what can go wrong when a fantasy manager writes off a talented youngster after some early-season struggles. Getting into the weeds and contextualizing in-season results for highly-touted rookies can help us zero in on a handful of rookies that are poised to finish their first NFL campaigns on a high note while also learning helpful lessons that can lead to sharper decision-making processes down the line in seasons to come.
Ja'Marr Chase: The Exception to the Rule
As always, there are exceptions to this rule, and some rookies find their footing in the NFL right away. Odell Beckham Jr's rookie season comes to mind when he led the NFL with 108.8 receiving yards per game for the New York Giants during his rookie season. This season, the most notable exception to this rule was Ja'Marr Chase. Despite struggling with drops throughout the preseason, Chase burst onto the scene with 456 receiving yards and 5 touchdowns across his first 5 NFL games. Chase wasted no time silencing the doubters that speculated he would sputter out of the gates after he opted out of the 2020 season at LSU in favor of focusing on preparing for the NFL.
- Ja'Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 season after helping lead LSU to a national championship one year prior. In 2019, Chase's age 19 season, he led college football in receiving yards (1,780) and receiving touchdowns (20) while ranking 4th in the country in yards-per-reception (21.2). After adjusting for player age, this season grades as one of the most impressive seasons by any wide receiver in recent college football history. Betting against Ja'Marr Chase was an ill-advised bet against a phenom that proved unstoppable in the toughest conference in college football at the ripe young age of 19.
- In addition to this concrete evidence that Ja'Marr Chase was one of the most talented pass-catchers to enter the NFL in recent memory, he joined an offense around his college quarterback, Joe Burrow. The established chemistry between the young quarterback and receiver helped to expedite the process of getting Chase up to speed with his new team. Instead of spending his early days in Cincinnati developing a connection with the team's franchise quarterback, Chase could focus his efforts elsewhere to prevent first-year growing pains. Ja'Marr Chase and Joe Burrow teaming back up in the NFL under Zac Taylor, an offensive-minded head coach, was a match made in heaven for the rookie wide receiver.
- Ja'Marr Chase's undeniable talent combined with the ideal landing spot made him a great candidate to hit the ground running as a highly productive player from day one.
Elijah Moore: Finding His Footing in a New Role
In the opening section of this article, we analyzed the driving forces behind Elijah Moore's recent surge as one of the NFL's most productive wide receivers since Week 9. The most important piece of context regarding Moore's first-half struggles and his second-half eruption is how the Jets have deployed him within the framework of their offense.
- In 2020, his final season at Ole Miss, Elijah Moore led college football in both receptions per game (10.75) and receiving yards per game (149.13) while hauling in eight touchdowns in eight outings. Moore played in the slot nearly 80-percent of the time during his last season of college football, a position that perfectly suits his 5'9" frame. Ultimately, the New York Jets drafted Elijah Moore with the 34th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, and they clearly wanted him to play a significant role in their offense immediately. However, the team's leading receiver in 2019 and 2020, Jamison Crowder, typically plays in the slot about 75-percent of the time, which forced Elijah Moore into a new role. This season, Moore has been in the slot on just 28-percent of his snaps, while playing on the outside nearly 70-percent of the time. Unsurprisingly, there was a steep learning curve for the small rookie receiver in this new role, and his early-season production suffered because of it.
- Playing on the outside in a role typically filled by bigger and more physically imposing wide receivers, Moore has faced an uphill battle in his quest to make a difference throughout his rookie campaign. However, talent typically shines through, and high-end players find a way to excel outside of their respective comfort zones. Elijah Moore is no different in this regard. It should come as no surprise that a player who graded so well coming out of college has grown into such a prominent role in a passing attack lacking quality receiving options elsewhere.
- Remain confident in highly-talented players like Elijah Moore despite lackluster results halfway through a season, especially when they play a vastly different role compared to what they primarily did in college. In Bayesian terms, continue to root in-season projections for young players without a large sample of NFL data in the preseason priors or projections that were established at the outset of the season. Elijah Moore's tape and production metrics from college showed that he is a highly-talented player with an incredible ceiling at the next level. Trusting that his talent would shine through and eventually help him excel in his new role with the Jets has paid massive dividends throughout his rookie campaign.
- As mentioned in the Tweets of the Week section of this article, Elijah Moore is an elite fantasy asset across season-long, dynasty, and DFS formats.
Jaylen Waddle: a Tale of Two Seasons
Much like Ja'Marr Chase, Jaylen Waddle reunited with his college quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, in the NFL this season. Surprisingly, the Miami Dolphins traded up to acquire the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft to select Waddle ahead of numerous noteworthy prospects. The most notable of the bunch was DeVonta Smith, who won the 2020 Heisman Trophy while playing the same position in the same offense as Jaylen Waddle. Waddle missed time with an ankle injury last year, so it is not an apples-to-apples comparison between the two using just their 2020 production numbers. Still, it is worth acknowledging that Miami opted to reunite Tua Tagovailoa with Waddle instead of Smith, likely after consulting with the second-year quarterback and asking his preference betwixt the two receivers.
Overall, Jaylen Waddle's rookie campaign has been quite impressive. Waddle has scored the 10th-most points of any wide receiver through 13 weeks this season. However, his upside is much higher than his 15.2 points-per-game might suggest at first glance.
- First, let's contextualize Jaylen Waddle's collegiate career. The quality of his play on tape and the production metrics helped to set expectations for his rookie season and beyond. Interestingly, Jaylen Waddle was never Alabama's number-one receiver in any of his three seasons in Tuscaloosa. Typically, when a player goes through his entire college career without ranking atop his team's receiving corps, that is an extremely bearish signal for his NFL projections. However, this three-year stint at Alabama may have featured the most crowded wide receivers room in college football history. In 2018 and 2019, Waddle had to compete with Jerry Jeudy, DeVonta Smith, and Henry Ruggs III for targets and playing time while Tua Tagovailoa was at quarterback. Then, in 2020, when just he and DeVonta Smith remained from that original quartet, Waddle averaged 6.25 receptions for 139.25 yards and 1.0 touchdown per game across 4 outings before he broke his ankle early in Week 5 against Tennessee. When setting expectations for Waddle as a rookie, it was critical to first account for the quality of competition he faced at his position across his first two years at Alabama. Then, it is important to measure his standing in his team's pecking order at wide receiver based on his per-game metrics before he suffered a near-season-ending injury. After adjusting for the extenuating circumstances surrounding Waddle's career at Alabama, he projected to be a player with massive upside in the long-term future and a player with an impressive ability to get open on short and intermediate routes in the short-term future. This assessment was solidified by the Miami Dolphins when they traded two first-round picks to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for the 6th overall selection that the Dolphins ultimately used on Jaylen Waddle.
- Now, looking at Jaylen Waddle's 2021 production, one thing jumps off the page immediately: his splits with each quarterback. As mentioned earlier, Waddle played with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in college at Alabama, and now they are back together in Miami. While Waddle has remained healthy this year, Tagovailoa has missed 4 out of the team's 13 games thus far in 2021. Waddle's production this season is directly linked to whether or not Tua Tagovailoa is under-center. Across the 9 games with Tagovailoa at the helm this season, Waddle has averaged 16.9 fantasy points per game, and he has scored double-digit fantasy points in 8 out of 9 outings. On the other hand, Waddle averages just 11.4 fantasy points per game, and he has scored double-digit fantasy points in 2 out of 4 games without Tagovailoa at quarterback.
- Jaylen Waddle is another rookie wide receiver reaping the rewards of entering the NFL with an established connection to the quarterback throwing him the football. In a copy-cat league, this could be a new and emerging trend that fantasy managers can use to their advantage when setting expectations for rookie pass-catchers.
- Jaylen Waddle's season effectively splits into two parts: the eight games with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback and the four games with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback. With Tagovailoa at quarterback, Waddle's 16.9 fantasy points per game tally would rival the likes of Stefon Diggs, Keenan Allen, and CeeDee Lamb. Look for Waddle to pay massive dividends throughout the playoffs in season-long formats. In dynasty formats, his value is rapidly increasing to the point that he could be a top-10 player at his position. Lastly, in DFS, he offers a strong and stable floor of production that is perfectly suited for cash games once the Miami Dolphins return to action after their Week 14 bye.