Fantasy Football Rankings, Updates: 5 Rookie Risers, Including Brian Robinson, Dameon Pierce, Chris Olave, More

Fantasy Football Rankings, Updates: 5 Rookie Risers, Including Brian Robinson, Dameon Pierce, Chris Olave, More article feature image

Getty Images. Pictured: Brian Robinson Jr. (left) and Chris Olave.

The preseason is largely meaningless, but there were quite a few developments in Week 2 that fantasy players should be paying attention to. Here are five observations on first-year players with stock on the rise.Fantasy Football CTA for PRO

Brian Robinson Jr. Was Washington's RB1

In Washington’s second preseason game, Antonio Gibson fielded the opening kickoff – never a good sign for a RB’s workhorse prospects. Sure enough, Robinson, a third-round pick out of Alabama, proceeded to take the first three handoffs of the game before Gibson finally got a tote. With starting QB Carson Wentz in the game, Robinson carried eight times while Gibson carried once.

At this point, it’s tough to project Robinson for anything less than a 50/50 split with Gibson. The coaching staff loves the way the hard-nosed Robinson runs – he has backed that up by averaging 3.00 yards after contact per attempt this preseason, per PFF, which is in the 77th percentile among RBs with 10 or more carries. Gibson has now run 29 pass routes while carrying the ball only six times this preseason, so we’re likely to see a shift to a more pass-game-centric role for the former WR, which hurts his fantasy stock.

Robinson profiles as a poor man’s AJ Dillon. It’s very possible that he splits carries with Gibson or even leads the team, and he has high-end RB2/low-end RB1 upside if Gibson goes down. The difference between Robinson and Dillon is that J.D. McKissic is there to eat into both he and Gibson’s value. With that said, Robinson is still a steal at his RB48 ADP, as you may be drafting Washington’s RB1 at that price. I have Robinson projected at 171 touches for 783 yards with 5.3 TDs (RB40).

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George Pickens Played Over Chase Claypool

Pickens started at WR in the Steelers’ Week 2 preseason game, running as many routes as Diontae Johnson (20) and playing over Chase Claypool (12) in two-wide sets. Claypool was a starter on the outside last season for the Steelers, but he lined up in the slot 83.3% of the time in his preseason debut alongside Pickens. This deployment suggests Pickens will be an every-down player for Pittsburgh from the jump, and he should have a good chance to finish second on the team in targets behind Johnson. I have Pickens projected for 54/728/4.4 (WR47), which clocks in well above his ADP of WR54.

Dameon Pierce Got Starter Treatment

After flourishing in Week 1 of the preseason with five carries for 49 yards, Pierce didn’t play in Week 2. Considering Marlon Mack and Rex Burkhead suited up and played 29 combined snaps, it sure looks like Pierce got the starter treatment along with WR Brandin Cooks.

Texans are looking for someone to step up at running back beyond Dameon Pierce. Pierce didn't do any reps at walkthrough. Team loved what he did last week. When you get the evaluation you want, you don't necessarily have to double down in preseason.

— Aaron Wilson (@AaronWilson_NFL) August 20, 2022

Expectations have to be kept in check for Pierce even if he is the lead back, as he still looks to be part of a three-way running back by committee on a bad team, but this is probably the most encouraging development we could have gotten for his early season prospects.  Pierce offers nice upside at his RB44 ADP.

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Chris Olave Scored, While Michael Thomas Remains in Question

After a quiet preseason debut against Houston in which he caught one pass for 4 yards, Olave made more noise in Week 2, catching 2-of-3 targets for 28 yards and a TD against the Packers on Friday.

A couple of days later, we got word that the Michael Thomas injury saga rages on, as he missed practice due to a hamstring issue. Thomas missed all of last season due to an ankle injury and played only seven regular season games in 2020, so the fact that he is already dealing with a soft-tissue injury is a major red flag. But as questions about Thomas’ durability persist, so do Olave’s chances of being fantasy-relevant in Year 1.

Olave is a good bet to start in Week 1, but his biggest obstacle to fantasy relevance is Thomas, who averages a target rate of 26.5% per route for his career, per data from PFF. While Matt Harmon of Reception Perception called Olave “the best route-runner and separator in the class,” there simply wouldn’t be enough of a piece of the pie left for Olave to be a consistent fantasy producer if Thomas and Jarvis Landry (24.6%) are both on the field – especially with an Alvin Kamara (28.8%) suspension looking less likely. But remove Thomas from the equation and the math changes in Olave’s favor, as he’d likely lead the team in routes run.

As it stands, I still have Thomas projected for 15 games (Kamara for 12), and Olave clocks in with a 50/726/4.3 projection in my model (WR49 in half PPR). Olave is worth an upside pick based on his talent, but he’ll likely need a Thomas injury to beat his WR47 ADP.

Romeo Doubs Keeps Making Case for Starting Role

Doubs caught a TD for the second straight week and is now up to a 6/69/2 line on 12 targets with three drops. While the drops aren’t ideal, Doubs has now been targeted 12 times on 29 routes, an absurd 41.6% target rate. Given the lackluster trio in front of him on the depth chart (Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins and Randall Cobb), Doubs’ play continues to leave open the door for him to end up as high as WR1 on the depth chart sooner than later. Doubs offers massive upside as a flier at his WR69 ADP.

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