We’re right in that sweet spot of the NFL season. Six games in, we’re starting to separate the contenders from the pretenders. We’re seeing which rookies are going to make a first-year splash, and we’re watching all-timers build on their legacy. (Hello, Tom Brady.)
It’s a fascinating place in terms of evaluating potential because we have enough of a sample size to know things probably aren’t a statistical aberration for most guys, but there’s a long enough road ahead that they still have a lot to prove.
We’ve going to look at five players who have certainly impressed thus far. Their stock is rising, and, if they can keep up their performances, is only going to go higher.
Russell Wilson (Seattle Seahawks, QB)
Let’s start with the guy who might be simultaneously the most and least surprising entry on this list. Russell Wilson is having an absolute monster of a year. It’s MVP caliber by anyone’s metrics (although Patrick Mahomes is nipping at his heels).
The reason Russ’ stock is going up is because this feels like the season that he’s cementing as a Hall of Fame probable rather than merely an elite quarterback. (And I use the word “merely” as flippantly as possible.) He has carried this Seahawks team and its paper-thin defense to a perfect record. Thanks to Russ, Seattle is a Super Bowl contender and they only play well on one side of the ball. It’s transcendent stuff.
No, this isn’t a crazy sleeper pick because Russell Wilson was already very highly regarded. This is like when Microsoft or Google or Apple’s stock suddenly jumps. The rich get richer, the juggernaut gets stronger, the legend grows.
Justin Jefferson (Minnesota Vikings, WR)
There is one and only one bright spot in the putrid season Minnesota is having. Justin Jefferson has immediately proved that he is an absolute stud. It took a few games before he started regularly finding the field, but it has been magic ever since.
Let me heap some gaudy stats on you. Jefferson currently has the highest grade at his position according to PFF. He joins the likes of Amari Cooper and Julio Jones as the fourth player ever to record three 100-yard receiving games in their first six career games. Jefferson’s three 100-yard games are one behind Randy Moss’ entire outstanding rookie campaign where he logged four such games. In fact, Jefferson is on pace to break Anquan Boldin’s NFL rookie record of 1,377 receiving yards.
Jefferson has everything. He’s fast, he’s a sharp route runner, he can make contested catches, and he can rack up yards after the catch. It’s so much that people are already eager to declare the Vikings the winners in the Stefon Diggs trade with Buffalo. And it’s all lost on a team that’s playing for nothing. It’s starting to feel like nothing can stop Justin Jefferson, except for possibly Kirk Cousins.
Clyde Edwards-Helaire (Kansas City Chiefs, RB)
There’s not a pick on this list that’s more feast-or-famine than Clyde Edwards-Helaire. That’s not an indictment of Edwards-Helaire’s performance. It’s entirely because you never know whether the Chiefs are going to run 25 or 15 designed rushing plays. Kansas City loves to chuck the ball all over the field. That’s not an awful gameplan when you have Patrick Mahomes under center.
When Edwards-Helaire has gotten his carries, he’s performed. He only has 1 TD on the year, but he has two games where he’s gone well over 100 yards. He’s only a rookie, but he’s number one on the depth chart — even now that Le’Veon Bell has joined the team.
Edwards-Helaire will continue to produce, and you have to think that’s he’s going to start finding the endzone more often. The Chiefs can run and throw the ball whenever they want. That’s bad news for the rest of the league. As Las Vegas proved a few weeks ago, the best (and maybe only) formula for beating Kansas City is praying you can put up a ton of points. Because they’re definitely going to do the same.
Chase Claypool (Pittsburgh Steelers, WR)
Chase Claypool is red hot right now. He’s the highest scoring fantasy football player over the course of the last two weeks, helped largely by a 116-yard and 4 TD day in Week 5.
There aren’t a whole lot of people who saw this coming. Claypool was drafted in the second round out of Notre Dame. He wasn’t really in the conversation as one of the wideouts to keep an eye on going into the NFL season. This is taking most people by surprise, and it left a ton of fantasy owners scrambling to pick him up from the free agent pool.
Should we expect this to continue? It’s so tough to say. JuJu Smith-Schuster is definitely the number one wideout in Pittsburgh, but it’s kind of a mess after that. Claypool, James Washington, and Eric Ebron all split a bunch of targets (and Diontae Johnson will return soon too). Ben Roethlisberger is going to throw the ball to whoever can establish themselves as a playmaker. Claypool isn’t an elite rookie yet, but his stock is certainly way up from where it started. If he keeps putting up these big numbers, he’ll end up as an elite rookie.
Let’s finish this by coming full circle. Russell Wilson is having a tremendous year in part because he has two wideouts that he can fully depend on in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. However, where Lockett is a proven commodity in his sixth year in the league, Metcalf is just now proving what he can do in his sophomore season.
DK Metcalf is tall, strong, and young. He’s going to be an absolute force in the NFL for years to come. He had a fine rookie season (900 yards receiving, 7 TDs), but didn’t get a lot of attention compared to guys like Kyler Murray and Josh Jacobs.
He’s getting attention now. Metcalf is going to gobble up yards and touchdowns. He’s a top 10 WR in the NFL and he has one of the league’s best throwing to him. This is just the beginning for DK Metcalf.