While rookies are the hot topic at this time of year, there are always plenty of sophomore NFL players ready to break out or continue the hot start of their pro careers. Let’s take a look at notable sophomore fantasy football players, including player rankings and ratings for each.
Player rankings based on our revamp of expert consensus rankings for semi-PPR leagues.
11 dormant second-year players to target
Justin Fields (CHI): QB17
Justin Fields closed the season with a promising stretch as a fantastic top-ten quarterback in each of his last four full starts. Fields has shown growth in this quartet of games, completing 62.5% of his passes with 7.6 yards per attempt. Rushing is what we covet with the Windy City signalman, and we’ve looked at that as well, as he’s averaging 64.2 yards per game rushing. Losing Allen Robinson hurts even more with the team replacing him with Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, David Moore and Velus Jones. The huge weekly upside is still in the cards for Fields with his ability to play, but anything other than a QB2 or match play is hard to trust given the cast of characters around him.
Zach Wilson (NYJ): QB24
Everything about Wilson’s situation has improved over the past year. The Jets have stacked up their offense with WR Garrett Wilson, OG Laken Tomlinson, RB Breece Hall and a plethora of tight ends to give their young quarterback a shot at a successful sophomore season. If New York’s offensive line can withstand pass protection, Wilson has a chance to deliver fantastic value.
Davis Mills (HOU): QB28
Houston Texans quarterback Davis Mills is one of my biggest lifters this offseason. He ranked outside of my top 40 Dynasty quarterbacks as a rookie after being selected by the Texans in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. Mills was extremely shaky to start the year, sitting with the 31st league PFF in its first nine games. The Stanford product turned it on in the final five weeks of the 2021 season, finishing with a 9-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio while averaging a respectable 17.4 fantasy points per game. With a full offseason ahead as a presumed starter, Mills is shaping up to be a powerful, fantastic QB2 with room for growth in 2022.
Rhamond Stevenson (NE): RB37
Rhamondre Stevenson had a very successful rookie season that should not be overlooked. After completely escaping Bill Belichick’s doghouse in Week 9, Stevenson earned top marks across the board. He was the third highest ranked running back in PFF (84.2). Stevenson also ranked 13th in rushing yards and rushing yards (1.41). For fantasy, the rookie running back was the RB25 in total runs scored, eight spots behind backfield teammate Harris. There’s a high ceiling for Stevenson, especially if you ask former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich. The ESPN analyst went so far as to say that Stevenson “…will be one of the best, if not one of the top three running backs in the league based on what I’ve seen with his strength , his explosion and his ability to catch and run. ”
Kenneth Gainwell (PHI): RB46
Kenneth Gainwell was in the backfield throughout the season, but he wasn’t given a starring role. The most we saw from Gainwell was 53% of snaps played in Week 18, where he turned his 16 touches into 87 total yards. With Jordan Howard not returning, he is in contention with Boston Scott and Kennedy Brooks to mingle behind Miles Sanders. Gainwell finished sixth in yards per haul last season, which isn’t shocking given his receiving chops coming from Memphis. His pass-receiving ability might be his easiest route to earning more playing time this season.
Khalil Herbert (CHI): RB52
Khalil Herbert is one of my favorite low cost targets. David Montgomery is in the final year of his rookie contract, and the new coaching regime will have no loyalty to him. It could open the door for Herbert to earn a bigger role, which he richly deserves after the way he played in 2021.
Herbert was PFF’s fourth-highest-ranked rusher (84.6) in Weeks 5-8 with Montgomery sidelined. The rookie has rushed for at least 72 yards in all four games. Montgomery rushed for 72 yards four times all season.
Kadarius Toney (NYG): WR45
Kadarius Toney is a joker. With off-season rumbles he could face and off-season knee surgery to pile on, Toney is a boom-or-bust proposition for 2022. When Toney was on the court last year, there’s no denying he has showed a huge advantage. In 2021, of all wide receivers with 100 or more routes, only Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, AJ Brown, Antonio Brown and Toney finished with a 29% target per route run rate (or more) and at less than 2.20 meters per route run.
Rondale Moore (ARI): WR58
Target waters for Rondale Moore are muddy at the start of her sophomore season. The bull case for Arizona’s Mighty Mouse slot is that he picked up targets at a high rate when he was on the court in 2021, and he was able to play with them. Moore was third among all wide receivers in yards after catch per reception (minimum 50 targets, per PFF). He also ranked 28th in road win rate and 30th in snap targets. This is the perfect time to buy the dip of a talented second-year catcher.
Nico Collins (HOU): WR69
Nico Collins commanded end zone targets and high air throws in 2021 but ultimately never put together a true breakout game. He finished behind Brandin Cooks in the airyards and all other receiving categories. Still, he should open the 2022 season at worst as the de facto No. 2 option — if John Metchie hasn’t fully recovered from his torn ACL — for promising second-year quarterback Davis Mills.
Josh Palmer (ALC): WR74
Mike Williams’ return to the Chargers in free agency puts a slight damper on Josh Palmer’s second breakout. But, there’s still fantastic appeal to enrolling the No. 3 option in a Justin Herbert-led offense. As a rookie, Palmer averaged over seven targets per game and scored one touchdown in his three games with a 60% share. He was also extremely effective in the end zone, catching three of his five total end zone targets for touchdowns.
Brevin Jordan (HOU): TE26
The Miami product had a decent rookie season, finishing with a 19% per run target rate and four weekly top-12 finishes over his last nine games. Jordan also dominated reception usage over the team’s last two games, running 40 routes to Pharaoh Brown’s 18 and Anthony Auclair’s five. It’s a good sign that Jordan should lock down the main receiver role in Houston, especially with Jordan Akins signing with the New York Giants this offseason. It’s easy to imagine Jordan carving out a solid receiving role in a lackluster/unproven receiving corps behind Cooks. He’s an athletic tight end with YAC ability that I’d be happy to sign as my second or third tight end on any team.