This article is part of our Run 'N' Shoot series.
Remember when rookie receivers were useless, both in real-life and fantasy terms? The days of waiting until Year Three for young receivers are over. In fact, Week 7 brought us an all-time NFL record for receiving yards by rookie receivers in a single NFL weekend. Everyone is joining the party. Sammy Watkins. Kelvin Benjamin. Brandin Cooks. Donte Moncrief. Martavis Bryant. Davante Adams. John Brown. Mike Evans. Jordan Matthews. About 7 Jaguars. Taylor Gabriel. Next year, we all need to ensure we don't discount rookie receivers too much in our fake game simply because they're rookies.
If you're trying to understand the Steelers explosion on offense, a rookie receiver is where I'd start - Martavis Bryant. In the two games since he's been active for the first time, the Steelers went from scoring 27 total points against the Browns and Jaguars in successive weeks to scoring 81 points over two games, with Bryant finding the end zone three times. Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le'Veon Bell deserve a lot of credit, too, of course, but the variable that changed here was Bryant.
Donte Moncrief sure made the Colts offense look better, too. Why did it take a Reggie Wayne injury for him to get more targets (12) than he had all season up to that point (11)? Everyone loves to criticize the Colts coaching (Coby Fleener splitting time with Dwayne Allen is maddening), but after 7-113-1, I can't imagine Moncrief isn't a fixture in the lineup for years to come. Even with Wayne sidelined, it's safe to cut Hakeem Nicks in most formats.
John Brown is short, but lightning fast and takes advantage of defenses concentrating on the Cardinals name-brand wideouts on the outside. He reminds me a bit of Az-Zahir Hakim in that regard, the slot receiver for the Rams during their "Greatest Show on Turf" years. I mention Hakim because that was the first time one NFL team ever had three fantasy-relevant wideouts at the same time. My how times have changed.
Sammy Watkins is on pace for 76-1,180-10, and that's with E.J. Manuel and Kyle Orton as his quarterbacks. Forget Offensive Rookie of the Year, at this rate, you'd be hard-pressed to keep Watkins out of the AFC Pro Bowl (Demaryius Thomas, Antonio Brown, and T.Y. Hilton are 1, 2, and 3, but after them, who you putting in before Watkins? Okay, Steve Smith Sr., I hear you - but even that I'd call a push).
Kelvin Benjamin has something to say about Offensive Rookie of the Year, as his stats are eerily similar to Watkins (just 19 yards separate the two), and he's doing it with Cam Newton as his QB. I've been arguing with Scott Pianowski about Cam's real-life value in our last two Breakfast Tables, and I've been taking Cam's side, but there's something to be said for how both of Cam's starting receivers last year, Steve Smith Sr. and Brandon LaFell, are playing so well on other teams. If Benjamin can do what he's doing with Cam, maybe he is on Watkins' level.
Did you notice how the Packers threw to Davante Adams on the first play of the game again? It was scripted last time, and I suspect it was scripted that way again. Green Bay realizes Randall Cobb is going to price himself out of town this offseason (it's absurd how the 5' 10" Cobb has 9 TDs already this year), and the Packers will be content heading into 2015 with Jordy Nelson and Adams at wideout. And I still think Adams will have a breakout game in 2014.
Sacks just don't mean what they used to. Just look at the teams leading the league in sacks: Bills, Jaguars, Vikings, Chiefs, Jets. The Jets 24 sacks look particularly odd next to their 22:1 TD:INT ratio and 113.5 QB rating.
If I knew the formula for winning the Millionaire contest on DraftKings, let's be honest - I wouldn't disclose it here. That said, it seems almost mandatory to start receivers against the Jets and defenses against Michael Vick. Yes, Dwayne Bowe (he of the zero TDs in 2014) will be in plenty of my lineups this week.
If the Bears had it to do over, would they have extended Josh McCown instead of Jay Cutler? Mike Salfino compared Cutler to Jeff George on Twitter, and as much as I like that comparison, it might be unfair to George.
The Patriots are the only NFL team not to have allowed a 40-yard pass. (By comparison, the Falcons and Texans have each allowed 10, and every other team has given up at least 2.) I'll be fascinated to see if that streak can continue against the Broncos. If you're looking for a key to that game, look for whether the Patriots can make open-field tackles on the short, underneath throws that their soft coverages are sure to give up.
I've been defending Cam Newton in my Breakfast Table debates with Scott Pianowski, but it sure is alarming to see both Steve Smith Sr. and Brandon LaFell doing so well on their new teams. LaFell is a top-20 fantasy receiver, while Julian Edelman went from the Patriots only decent player (at this time last year) to a total afterthought in the offense. I'd rather own LaFell than Vincent Jackson, Terrance Williams, and Pierre Garcon.