Welcome back to the Rookie Report! It’s been a long offseason, but we’re finally ready to rock and roll with the regular season kickoff tonight! As usual, I’ll be back every week this season to give you the rundown of what to do with the fantasy rookies in your life. There are plenty of rookies to keep an eye on that could help you win each week. This year looks like it could be a big one for rookie running backs, with 2 of them picked in the draft’s top-10 picks for the first time since 2005, when Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams and Cedric Benson all went in the top-5. Several of the non-1st rounders should play significant roles as well, as Dalvin Cook and Kareem Hunt already have earned their team’s starting jobs. Rookie WRs were also a priority in the ’17 draft, with 3 of them selected in the top-10 for the first time since ’05. Unfortunately, two of those top 3 WRs this year are going to miss week one, and the other might not be 100%. At any rate, the rookie crop is inevitably going to play a big role in your fantasy season at some point. They always do. The hard part is figuring out when. Without any sort of track record of success, the rookies are always the hardest to project, but I’ll be taking a stab at it each week.
Week one is always the hardest to figure out, so the best strategy in season-long leagues is usually to exercise some caution. With no bye weeks (save Miami & Tampa Bay), week 1 is usually the time to start your studs that you drafted early, not take a shot on a late round rookie who impressed you in the preseason. There’s DFS tournaments for that. With that in mind, there won’t be too many players that I recommend as starters this week, but there will be a few that I mention as DFS sleepers. One word of caution I want to throw in…I did use some team defensive stats from last year to make the case for a good or poor matchup for a couple of players listed here. Those numbers have meaning, but shouldn’t be treated as automatic that they will repeat that performance this year. I mostly used them because we don’t have a lot else to go on to determine matchup quality. If you see any fantasy points allowed numbers, they are based on ESPN standard scoring, and any DFS price tags will be from DraftKings. Alright, that’s enough housekeeping for this week, let’s dive in…
Rookies to Start:
RB Dalvin Cook, MIN (Wk. 1: vs. NO): Cook is the unquestioned lead back in Minnesota, and he gets to face a Saints defense that coughed up the 3rd-most running back fantasy points last year. New Orleans has made some improvements to their defense with Marshon Lattimore, Manti Te’o and AJ Klein, but they still have a long way to go. The Vikings enter the game as a 3.5-point favorite, so they should be able to lean on the run a bit, and Cook will also be vital in the passing game. Bradford targeted the running backs more than 100 times last year, and Cook posted nearly 500 receiving yards as a junior at Florida State last year (488). Cook should be an RB2 easily this week and has upside for more.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 1: @Hou): It could be tough sledding for Fournette against a Texans defense that ranked 12th vs running backs last year and now has a healthy JJ Watt, but the Jaguars have made it no secret that this offense will revolve around Fournette. I’d be surprised if he touches the ball fewer than 20 times this week, and that volume alone should make him an RB2. If you went heavy at running back and have 2 studs to start over him, go ahead, but odds are you took Fournette as a starter. You should use him as such this week.
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 1: @NE): Hunt rolls into week 1 as the Chiefs starting running back, but he gets a tough matchup on opening night. The Patriots allowed the 8th fewest RB fantasy points a year ago, and the game script should have KC throwing late as a 9.5-point underdog. Hunt’s season-long outlook is bright, but he might not shine as bright week 1. In 18 years as a head coach, Andy Reid has had a running back clear 1,200 scrimmage yards in 13 of them, clear 1,500 yards in 5 of them, and clear 1,900 in 3 of them. He knows how to scheme the ball to RBs. The tough week one matchup should make him a low-end RB2 or flex option, but there are better weeks ahead.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 1: @SF): I’m not sure I fully buy into the hype on Christian McCaffrey. I’m convinced he’s an explosive athlete who will be fun to watch…I’m just not sure what his usage will look like this year. He’s been talked up as if he will be a focal point of the offense, but that would run counter to how the Panthers’ offense has operated under Cam Newton. In his 6 seasons in Carolina, only one RB has reached 30 receptions in a season (D’Angelo Williams in Cam’s rookie year). I still expect Jonathan Stewart to be a factor on early downs and at the goal line, so McCaffrey needs to have the receiving usage to live up to the hype and be worth his draft price. The Panthers have claimed that this will be a totally different offense, but I need to see it to believe it. Luckily for McCaffrey, this week is as good as any for them to prove me wrong. The 49ers young defense should be improved, but they were easily the worst unit against RBs in the NFL last year. If the Panthers do utilize McCaffrey, I don’t think SF will be up to the challenge of slowing him down. He’s a boom-or-bust RB2/flex option this week.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 1: vs. NYJ): Jones should be the Bills de-facto WR1 this week with Jordan Matthews battling back from a sternum injury and Anquan Boldin retired. The game plan should be run-heavy with the Bills a 9-point favorite, but I still think Zay has a better than 50/50 shot to catch 5+ balls. He did catch 158 balls last year at ECU, so 5 should be manageable against the hapless Jets. He’s an intriguing option in deeper PPR leagues this week.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 1: vs. Ind.): Kupp’s outlook is similar to Zay, but he has Sammy Watkins ahead of him on the depth chart. The Rams will pound the rock much like Buffalo, but Kupp has shown a great connection with Jared Goff so far and should be involved. I said I like Zay for 5+ catches, but I like Kupp for 5+ targets. If Goff struggles to connect with Watkins, it could mean extra looks for Kupp.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 1: vs. Oak.): Davis is likely going to be limited in the opener after playing exactly zero preseason snaps, but he was listed as a starter on the Titans’ depth chart ahead of Sunday’s tilt with the Raiders. I would probably consider Davis more of a deep league sleeper for this week, but it would feel weird to call the draft’s #5 pick a sleeper in his first game. While Delanie Walker is probably the best fantasy play of any Titan pass catcher this week, I think it’s very possible that Mularkey gives Davis more run than expected. 60+ yards and a TD aren’t out of the question for the WMU product’s debut.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 1: @Dal.): Rookie TEs rarely produce in fantasy football, but Evan Engram has a chance to be the exception to that rule. Giants beat reporter Jordan Ranaan expects him to play 60%+ of the snaps this year, and he’s a matchup nightmare as more of a WR/TE hybrid. He could get off to a fast start facing a Cowboys defense that allowed the most catches and yards to TEs in the NFL a year ago. There’s also a chance that Odell Beckham misses this game, which would certainly increase how much opportunity Engram sees. He’s a cheap DFS option at just $2,900 on DraftKings, and he’s an intriguing low-end starting option in deep leagues.
Rookies to Sit:
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 1: vs. Pit.): The Steelers are not an ideal opponent to face in your first NFL start. The average point total for a top-12 weekly fantasy QB last season was 21.5. The Steelers didn’t allow that many in a game all season. The most they allowed was 21.0 to Carson Wentz early in the year. There will be good weeks for Kizer this season, but I don’t like the chances that this is one of them. He’s probably left benched even in 2QB leagues.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 1: vs. Bal.): I like Mixon’s season-long outlook, but week 1 looks dicey for him. The Bengals have stubbornly kept Jeremy Hill atop the depth chart, and the Ravens’ run defense is typically solid. While I doubt Hill keeps the job for long, he’ll limit Mixon’s opportunity as long as he does. I would expect only 10-12 touches for Mixon this week, which just isn’t enough to trust him in most leagues.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 1: @Mia.): You have to take a wait-and-see approach with Kamara. He could have a significant passing game role as Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet have had in New Orleans in the past, but I have no clue how much he will play with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson around. Ingram has openly talked about working to improve as a receiver, so it’s best to give this a week to get a better idea of how the usage will shake out.
RB Jamaal Williams, GB (Wk. 1: vs. Sea.): Williams remains behind Ty Montgomery on the depth chart. He’s listed as the number 2 back, and Montgomery has a career-high of just 16 carries in a game, so Williams should at least see some work, but probably not enough to be a fantasy factor. It doesn’t help that the matchup isn’t a good one. The Seahawks added Sheldon Richardson to a defense that allowed the 3rd-fewest RB fantasy points last year.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 1: vs. Atl.): If Mack gets the 3rd down work for Indy, the game script might actually work in his favor this week. The Colts are a 3.5-point underdog. There is, however, no guarantee that he gets the 3rd down work. Frank Gore just refuses to go quietly into the night. The Matt Jones signing also muddies the backup picture behind Gore a little bit, and Scott Tolzien will be starting at QB this week. This is a situation to avoid.
RB Semaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 1: vs. Phi.): For now, the Washington starting job belongs to Rob Kelley with Chris Thompson handling the passing down work. Perine might have value later in the season, but he is going to have to earn a role.
WR Taywan Taylor, TEN (Wk. 1: vs. Oak.): The return of Corey Davis for week 1 saps a lot of upside that Taywan might have had for the opener. He may play some snaps spelling Davis and Eric Decker, who also battled injury in the latter part of the training camp, but I don’t expect him to play enough to warrant fantasy consideration this week despite his strong preseason.
WR Dede Westbrook, JAX (Wk. 1: @Hou.): Dede surprisingly passed Allen Hurns on the Jaguars depth chart and earned a starting spot with a strong camp, but I’d expect a run-heavy game plan and the majority of the passing targets peppered to Allen Robinson and Marquise Lee. There likely won’t be enough passing volume left over to make Westbrook a viable play. In 3 career starts in Houston, Blake Bortles has averaged just 149 passing yards per start, and is coming off an abysmal preseason.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 1: vs. Ari.): Fantasy players were excited for Golladay after his 2-TD preseason debut, but he hasn’t done a whole lot since then. It was reported this week that he will split the WR3 role with TJ Jones, at least to open the season. The Lions will continue to play their keep-away style of offense which will sap some of the passing volume, and Golladay currently sits behind Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Eric Ebron in line for targets. He’ll have some good weeks later this season, but week 1 isn’t the time to play him.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 1: @SF): Samuel may be involved at least a little this week, but he’s basically the 6th guy in line for touches behind KB, Olsen, McCaffrey, Funchess, and Jonathan Stewart. I wouldn’t expect much this week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 1: vs. Pit.): Njoku was limited for much of the preseason, and will likely need a few weeks to get his legs under him. Rookie TEs are notorious for not producing much in fantasy, so I’d be hard pressed to trust a guy who caught 4 passes in the preseason as a starter in week 1. If he has any productive weeks this year, they will likely come later in the season.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 1: vs. Car.): Kittle has been a camp surprise in San Francisco. He’s played well enough that the 49ers traded away Vance McDonald and named him the starter. Unfortunately, he’s battling a hamstring injury that he aggravated at practice on Wednesday. If he does play, I’d expect him to share a lot of snaps with Logan Paulsen and Garrett Celek, which will make Kittle irrelevant for fantasy purposes this week.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Chris Carson, SEA (Wk. 1: @GB): Thomas Rawls is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Packers, and with Rawls out in the team’s 3rd preseason game (the dress rehearsal for the regular season), Carson split first team work with Eddie Lacy. If Rawls sits the opener, there is a non-zero chance that Carson develops the hot hand and sees a much larger chunk of the work than Lacy, and Green Bay was inconsistent against the run last year. I’m not saying it’s a huge chance, but Carson will cost the minimum in DraftKings. If Rawls plays, this is a moot point. The backfield situation will be too crowded to roll the dice on Carson in that scenario.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 1: vs. Atl.): Like Carson, Cohen is a cheap DFS punt play in GPP tournaments. Most fantasy players have come into the season assuming Jordan Howard will have a 3-down role, and he was drafted as a top-8 RB. There are plenty of red flags though. Before last season, he never really displayed any receiving chops, and he posted just a 58% catch rate as a rookie. The Bears are expected to play from behind a lot this year, with Vegas odds putting their win total at 5.5, and local beat writers expect Cohen to have a role right out of the gate. If Howard cedes some passing down work to the quicker, shiftier Cohen, it could put a damper on his season. It could also result in some nice weeks for Cohen. The week 1 matchup for Cohen is juicy. The Falcons allowed a league high 141 targets and 109 receptions to opposing RBs. Cohen has looked explosive this preseason, and will cost just the minimum on DraftKings ($3,000). There is also a chance that it’s Benny Cunningham who takes that passing work, so he’s also an intriguing option at $3,600 in DK.
WR ArDarius Stewart, NYJ (Wk. 1: @Buf.): ArDarius seemed like an obvious starter on this team and possibly their leading receiver until they acquired Jermaine Kearse and signed Jeremy Kerley in the last week. Important note: ArDarius is a better WR than Kerley or Kearse. He unfortunately costs more than the minimum in DraftKings this week ($3,700), but he still likely starts in the slot on a team that will be playing from behind. Kerley was just signed Tuesday, and played under a different coach the last time he was a Jet, so I wouldn’t expect him to be able to jump right in as the slot receiver in week 1. ArDarius is a risky dart throw, but one worth considering against a shaky Bills defense that ranked 21st in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA last year.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 1: vs. Car.): The reason Jeremy Kerley signed with Jets this offseason is that Trent Taylor beat him out for the starting slot WR role in San Francisco. He also led the NCAA in receiving yards last season. Kyle Shanahan’s offense employs 3-WR sets less often than most teams, but the Falcons last year still ran 45% of their snaps from 11-personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE) with Shanahan as the coordinator. Taylor should be on the field for most of those snaps if not all. He’ll cost the minimum in DraftKings and has a chance to surprise against a suspect Carolina secondary.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 1: vs. Ind.): The Colts were one of 7 teams last year to allow 1,000 receiving yards to TEs, and new Rams head coach Sean McVay uses the TE position a lot (10 targets/gm last year in Washington). Everett is a TD dart throw with the upside for more and he will cost the minimum on DraftKings ($2,500). Tyler Higbee is listed as the starter, but Everett should play a bunch.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you win your week one matchups or strike DFS gold. Keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week to avoid any obvious goose eggs in your lineup, but other than that, sit back and enjoy the first meaningful NFL football of the year. It should be a fun few months. Hit me up on twitter if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything above (@Shawn_Foss), and as always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.
Rookie Report Special: WR Success Rate Based on Draft Round & College Competition
If you play fantasy football, you’re probably well aware of how important the WR position is to fielding a quality team. While top running backs typically are more consistent week-to-week, the top WRs tend to be more consistent year-to-year, especially as NFL offenses have become more pass-heavy in recent years. In redraft leagues, this gives us a pretty good picture of who the top WR options are because of their track records of production. Sure, there are other factors that come into it, but we have a pretty good base to start from when projecting them. The question I looked at today: How do I evaluate & project the young wide receivers that don’t have a track record yet for dynasty leagues?
There are a lot of people more skilled than I at talent evaluation that have done exhaustive work to try to answer this question on a player-by-player basis. They watch film, study 40 times, hand size, height, SPARQ scores, etc., and try to quantify the talent level of each individual prospect. While that approach is certainly thorough, it still isn’t an exact science. There are still big misses. What I set out to do was take a step back to look at the big picture, and see if there are some bigger trends we can draw from based on draft round and the competition level of their college that can provide context to those individual player evaluations.
To do this, I researched every wide receiver drafted from 2000-2016. I categorized each by their draft round (1,2,3 or 4+), and whether or not they went to a power-5 school (or BCS at the time). I included Notre Dame as a power-5 school. To determine success rate, I classified every WR who posted an 800-yard receiving season as a ‘hit’, and any WR who failed to do so as a ‘miss’. If the player posted 3 or more 800-yard seasons, or 2 or more 1,000-yard seasons, I classified them as a ‘big hit’. I also looked into what % of each group posted a season in which they were targeted 100 or more times. I didn’t know what the results would look like going in, but here are the results I found:
1st Round Picks
Some of these numbers are pretty much what you’d expect. Not surprisingly, 1st round picks tend to be the most likely to be a ‘hit’, and are most likely to see 100 targets in a season (a whopping 75% of all 1st rounders from 2000-2014 have). The 1st round picks also have the highest ‘big hit’ rate among both, P5 and non-P5 schools. There were 10 wide receivers drafted in the 1st round in 2015 and’16, all from power conferences, and so far only one has seen 100+ targets and/or topped 800 yards (Amari Cooper). Based on the numbers, we should see another 5 of them ‘hit’ at some point, and another 3 of them be a ‘big hit’. Obviously these numbers are percentages over time, so there isn’t any guarantee of how many will step up and hit the marks, but I’m confident at least a few will. Here is the full list of WRs who are yet to hit the 800-yard mark from that group:
Nelson Agholor, Kevin White, Breshad Perriman, DeVante Parker, Phillip Dorsett, Corey Coleman, Will Fuller, Josh Doctson, and Laquon Treadwell.
Guys I’m buying:
DeVante Parker: Parker was targeted 87 times last year. His target total went up by 37 from his rookie season even as the Dolphins’ number of pass attempts went down by 111. His catch rate increased by 12.4% from year one to year two also, and Jarvis Landry is an impending free agent. I think Parker is the most likely of this group to hit the 800-yard mark this season, and has the talent to be a fantasy asset for years to come.
Breshad Perriman: Perriman is probably not a name that excites you after missing his whole rookie season with injury, and posting just a 50% catch rate and 7.56 yards per target on his way to a WR73 finish last year (standard scoring). The reason I’m excited about Perriman is that the Ravens lost a whopping 352 targets from last year’s team and have only added Jeremy Maclin in the offseason. Perriman can be had for a reasonable price, and should get plenty of opportunities. If Perriman can deliver on the promise that made him a 1st round draft pick, he should have a bright future with Maclin pushing 30 and Mike Wallace already on the wrong side of it. Wallace is a free agent after this season, and Maclin after next. Acquire Perriman where you can.
Corey Coleman: Coleman has had several soft tissue injuries that have slowed his progress, and still has an unsettled quarterback situation, but I’m a fan of what the Browns are building and Coleman has a great shot to be the lead WR there. He was targeted 73 times as a rookie, and he missed 6 games. 100 targets is likely just a matter of health at this point, but his efficiency will have to get better to be a true fantasy asset. He had a catch rate of just 45.2% and just 12.5 yards per catch. Normally a low catch rate comes because of a lot of downfield passes…but that ypc number doesn’t back that up. Hopefully the efficiency metrics will improve with improved quarterback play. If he’s healthy and doesn’t top the 800-yard mark this year, it would be a surprise.
Guys I’m interested in if the price is right:
Josh Doctson: I’m not extremely bullish on Doctson for 2017, but I still like his long-term outlook. I do believe he’s more talented than Jamison Crowder, but after taking 2016 as pretty much a redshirt year, he’ll have a bit of a learning curve to become a featured weapon in Washington. The signing of Terrelle Pryor certainly hurt Doctson’s upside for this year as well. Pryor signed just a one-year deal, and may bolt for bigger money if he has a breakout season, and Jordan Reed is always one bad concussion away from his career being in jeopardy. There is a real opportunity for Doctson to be the WR1 in DC by 2018.
Nelson Agholor: Agholor has been a big disappointment for the most part thus far. He was drafted to a team where he would have the chance to play right away, but he’s managed to put up just 648 yards total in the past 2 seasons. He has an unproven quarterback in Carson Wentz, posted just a 52% catch rate in each of his first two years, and the team just went out and signed Alshon Jeffrey and Torrey Smith in the offseason. If early camp returns are any indication, the additional competition has lit a fire under Agholor. He’s been drawing rave reviews from anyone who has seen him practice, and former Eagles’ WR Mike Quick said Nelson is the most talented WR on the roster. Rumors have started swirling that the team is shopping slot WR Jordan Matthews. Obviously it’s tough to buy into Nelson given the track record, but if the owner isn’t factoring the camp hype into his asking price, it might be worth it to take a flier on that camp hype being real.
Will Fuller: I mention Fuller here because you may be able to get him at a discount after his broken collarbone. I’m not a huge fan of his game, but the Texans like what he can do as a field-stretcher. He was targeted 92 times as a rookie, and his efficiency will hopefully get better with Brock Osweiler gone. I don’t expect that he will be a perennial WR2 or better, but his speed will make him an asset in best-ball leagues. I don’t know that he’ll ever reach ‘big hit’ status in the chart above, but I’d be willing to bet he’s at least a ‘hit’.
Guys I’m avoiding:
Laquon Treadwell: Treadwell was active for 9 games last season, and managed just one catch on 3 targets. He battled through nagging injuries, and already has a leg injury in training camp again this year. He was criticized for his clocked speed at the combine (4.64 40-yard dash) by the draftnik crowd, and he’s failed to make much of an impact as a pro. It doesn’t bode well for Laquon that Jarius Wright is getting higher praise that he is in camp. Treadwell may eventually make good on his draft slot, but it’s not a bet I want to make at this point.
Kevin White: After missing his entire rookie season with nagging foot issues, White came back last year and turned 9 targets per game into 9.65 PPR fantasy points per game in the first 4 weeks before being lost to injury yet again. White ranked 13th in the league in targets per game, but finished outside of the top 60 WRs in terms of points per game despite that volume. He finished behind players like Brandon LaFell, Eddie Royal, Tavon Austin, and Eli Rogers. While White is listed as a starter entering this preseason, the team did bring in veterans Kendall Wright, Victor Cruz, Markus Wheaton, and Rueben Randle to challenge for playing time. Cameron Meredith is locked in at the other starting spot. Even if White manages to stay healthy, I don’t think he ever realizes the potential that got him drafted in the first round.
Phillip Dorsett: Dorsett’s career seems likely to have a similar arc to Darrius Heyward-Bey’s. He was over-drafted due to his blazing speed, but didn’t have the nuance of the position down. He may become a better route runner with years of experience, but his real chance to become a fantasy stud will have passed him by before that happens. He saw his opportunities regress as the season went on last year. He was targeted just once in 3 of the final 5 games last year after seeing at least 3 in every other game of the season, and he has no clear path to get above TY Hilton or Donte Moncrief on the depth chart. I would have a hard time holding Dorsett as anything more than an end of the roster flier at this point.
2nd Round Picks
There isn’t any noticeable trend in the second round that is easy to exploit. Second round WRs from power-5 schools have been a little worse than a 50-50 bet to find their way to 800 yards in a season. There isn’t much you can do with that to make a strong determination on Curtis Samuel or JuJu Smith-Schuster. Typically, non-power-5 WRs selected in the second round have been a bad bet, with just 3 of 12 reaching the 800-yard mark. Twelve is a pretty small sample size to work with, so that doesn’t necessarily mean Zay Jones and Tyler Boyd are doomed. The signing of Anquan Boldin won’t help Zay’s year one outlook though, just as the John Ross pick won’t help Boyd. The one recommendation I would make with a wide receiver drafted in the second round is this:
Buy Davante Adams: As I mentioned above, there are just 3 small school receivers drafted in the 2nd round since 2000 that have eclipsed 800 receiving yards in a season. The first two to do it were Greg Jennings and Vincent Jackson. Those two receivers have put together seven WR1 seasons and another three WR2 seasons between them. The third to do it was Adams. Typically, when a smaller school receiver picked in the 2nd round shows he belongs in the NFL, he goes on to do big things. Here are the players that haven’t hit 800 yards: Aaron Dobson, Brian Quick, Titus Young, Donnie Avery, Jerome Simpson, Dexter Jackson, Darius Watts, Tyrone Calico, and Todd Pinkston. Any of those jump out at you as productive fantasy assets? Davante has already shown that he belongs after posting a WR1 season last year, and he has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Rodgers has been a top-2 fantasy quarterback in 7 of his 9 seasons as the Packers’ starter. If you have an Adams owner in your league that thinks his breakout 2016 was a fluke (or is just a Jeff Janis truther), you should be making him or her an offer.
3rd Round Picks
The 3rd round is definitely the one that had the most interesting trend that I found in this research. Just 16% of the power-5 conference receivers selected in the 3rd round have managed to put up 800 yards in a season. There have been fewer WRs from those power conferences to hit that mark (9) than guys from non-P5 schools to do so (10), despite having 2.3X as many WRs selected (55 to 24). The most rational reason I can come up for this trend is that NFL scouting departments do a better job of evaluating players from the power conferences. They have a clearer picture of which receivers are the best among that group, and they tend to be off the board before the 3rd round. They aren’t as successful at evaluating the non-P5 receivers. They haven’t seen them against elite competition as regularly, and have to do more projecting. As a result, those receivers from smaller conferences are more likely to fall through the cracks and slip into the 3rd round. While this doesn’t mean that a power conference WR selected in the 3rd round can’t be a fantasy asset, it’s not a bet I want to make unless I’m pretty sure on that player. Here are a few notable WRs that fall into this category from the past three years:
Braxton Miller, Leonte Carroo, Tyler Lockett, Jaelen Strong, Chris Conley, Sammie Coates, Ty Montgomery, ArDarius Stewart, Chris Godwin, and Amara Darboh
If we throw out Ty Montgomery (switched to running back and is unlikely to ever hit 800 receiving yards), that leaves 9 players in this group. None have reached 800 yards in a season yet, and based on the trends, only 1 or 2 are likely to ever get to that number. There are some names on that list that I like. I think ArDarius Stewart can have a big impact with Enunwa injured in New York. Chris Godwin has been flashing in Bucs camp. Tyler Lockett has been incredibly efficient in his first 2 seasons, and Chris Conley is part of a pretty wide open depth chart behind Tyreek Hill. If you’re going to take a shot on any of this list, I would go with one of those 4, but it hasn’t been a high percentage bet since 2000. It might be worth dealing them if any of your league mates are high on one of these guys.
The small school players have been much more successful when picked in the 3rd. 41.7% of them have put up 800 yards in a season, and over 45% have been targeted 100+ times in a season. Those are pretty high odds of success when you’re likely talking about a late 2nd round rookie pick or later. There haven’t been many of these guys picked in the 3rd round in the past few years (just TY Hilton, John Brown and Dri Archer from 2012-2016), but there are 5 of them that were drafted in 2017. Here are the non-P5 receivers drafted in the 3rd round this year:
Cooper Kupp, Taywan Taylor, Carlos Henderson, Kenny Golladay, and Chad Williams
With this group, it’s basically a choose-your-flavor kind of situation…
Kupp is a possession receiver who is slotted to start in LA as of now. His QB is a concern, but they brought in an offensive-minded head coach who will hopefully bring out the best of Jared Goff.
Taylor has flashed in training camp, but he’s going to be about 5th in the pecking order for targets at best this year, and will likely never pass Corey Davis to become the team’s WR1. He’s a guy you would have to stash with hopes that his role increases as veterans like Delanie Walker, Eric Decker and Rishard Matthews move on.
Carlos Henderson is set to be the slot receiver in Denver this year, but Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have been consistent target hogs. Since Sanders joined the team in 2014, he and Thomas have combined for 325, 313, and 281 targets in each season. Meanwhile, only one other teammate in that span has seen more than 65 targets in a season (Owen Daniels with 77 in 2015). With Sanders already at 30 years old, and Demaryius turning 30 in December, Henderson likely won’t have as long of a wait for relevance as Taywan Taylor, but he’ll still have to wait his turn.
Kenny Golladay probably has the best chance to contribute right away among the group. Kupp may be slated to start, but he’s unlikely to be used a ton in the red zone. The Rams are also going to lean on Todd Gurley quite a bit and will have less passing volume overall than Detroit. Anquan Boldin and his 95 targets & 8 TDs from a year ago have moved on to Buffalo, so Golladay should step in to that spot in the lineup right away. Eric Ebron may absorb some of those targets, but 75-80 is very possible for Golladay, and he has been a red zone weapon so far in camp. Golladay appears to have a bright future, and he has a chance to make a splash as a rookie.
Chad Williams may have the best long-term upside among this group of WRs. He’s certainly going to start off behind Larry Fitzgerald and John Brown on the depth chart this year, and possibly behind JJ Nelson and Jaron Brown as well. The 33-year old Fitzgerald has said that he would like to retire while still playing at a high level. That could be as soon as the end of this season. None of the other receivers on this team profile as a #1 wide receiver, so there will be a void if Fitz retires. Williams has the size and athleticism to develop into that role, and will have the opportunity to be mentored by one of the bests to ever do it in Fitzgerald. If Fitz hangs it up after this year, Williams could have big upside as early as year 2.
4th round – 7th round picks
There isn’t much to say about the late round picks. Fewer than 10% of WRs selected after the 3rd round have managed to record an 800-yard season, regardless of college conference. Luckily, these guys won’t cost you much in a rookie draft, so there isn’t much risk, but the rewards are also limited. Here are some of the more productive guys to come from those rounds in the last several years: Stefon Diggs, Marvin Jones, Rishard Matthews, Martavis Bryant, Cecil Shorts, Mike Williams (Syracuse), Brian Hartline, and Jeremy Kerley. The best advice I can give on these guys is to take your shots on the guys that seem to have the easiest path to early opportunity, and to be vigilant on the waiver wire if a player in this range puts a couple of nice games together. Diggs and Jones could have easily been had for free in most leagues.
That’s all I’ve got for now. Hopefully this information will help you as you try to determine which young wide receivers you should be targeting in dynasty leagues and which are better left alone. Obviously every player is different, and these trends aren’t black-and-white, but they should at least give you another piece of information to consider as you evaluate the young wide receivers. Be sure to check back all season to read the Rookie Report each week for recommendations of what to do with the rookies on your fantasy squad. I’ll sign off the way I do every article: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! More than likely, your fantasy season is over at this point, but there are still some leagues out there with playoffs that run through week 17, or have a 2-week championship matchup, and there are certainly still DFS games this week. Week 17 is always a tricky one because several teams have nothing to gain by playing their starters, and automatically playing your studs might not always make sense. With that in mind, this week's report will have a little bit of a different layout. I'll take a detailed look at what to do with the rookies who should have their normal role this week, I'll touch quickly on some rookies who should be avoided due to rest and some who should just be avoided in general, and then I'll look at a few less heralded rooks who could make good cheap DFS options this week. Let's take a look...
Rookies Worth Considering:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 17: vs. Dal.): Wentz has been a pretty poor fantasy option for much of the season, putting up a pretty weak 8-14 TD-INT ratio over the past 12 games. Still, he won't have much of a running game to work with since Ryan Mathews and Kenjon Barner were just added to IR this week, so he should be throwing plenty. The Cowboys rank just 19th in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA stat, which measures efficiency, and they are likely to be sitting many of their starters. Wentz has a chance at a nice day and could be a pretty good QB2 if you are desperate to replace Dak, Eli, or Big Ben.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 17: @Min.): Howard's put up 99 scrimmage yards or more in 8 straight contests, and he's run for a robust 6.15 yards per carry over the past 3 weeks. There is no reason the Bears won't lean on him again this week, and he should have success. The Vikings rank a middling 15th in run defense DVOA and let Howard go off for 202 scrimmage yards and a TD in the first meeting. Howard should be trusted once again.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 17: vs. NYG): This is a must-win game for Washington and the Giants will be sitting a lot of their starters. New York ranks a daunting 4th in run defense DVOA this year, but I would throw that out the window this week. Kelley will almost certainly see at least 15 carries and is a good bet for a TD. It also helps that he's been more involved in the passing game lately, with twice as many catches in the past 3 weeks (8) as he had in the rest of the season prior. With several stud backs resting, Kelley could be close to an RB1 this week.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 17: @Cin.): Dixon's outlook this week is about the same as it's been for much of the past month or 2. He's likely to end up in the 6-8 point range barring an unexpected touchdown (all point totals are in ESPN standard scoring) That range is usable, but probably not what you would hope for. He's been running pretty well lately, but he's still splitting work with Terrance West and the Bengals have allowed the 4th-fewest RB points per game over the past 5 weeks. He’s in play as a flex option, but not much more.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 17: vs. Oak.): Booker did finally get back to over 50% of the snaps played last week and saw 10 targets in the passing game, but he's totaled just 115 scrimmage yards in 3 games since the team signed Justin Forsett. The biggest reason Devontae received so many targets last week was because the team played from multiple scores down. I wouldn't expect that to happen against the Matt McGloin-led Raiders, and Oakland has allowed just 10 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs in the past 3 weeks. Booker is just too hard to trust in anything but really deep leagues while he’s splitting work with Forsett in one of the least effective rushing attacks in the league.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 17: @Atl): There is no reason for the Saints to hold back this week. Thomas has seen at least 5 targets and at least 40 receiving yards in every game he’s played this year, and he gets a plus matchup with Atlanta. The Falcons rank 24th in pass defense DVOA and haven’t faced a competent passing attack in a month (Last 3 opponents: LA, SF, Carolina). Thomas should be a strong option this week and a high-floor WR2.
WR Tyreek Hill, KC (Wk. 17: @SD): Hill should be a boom-or-bust option again this week thanks to limited volume, but he’s boomed in 4 of his last 5 games, including the last two in which he didn’t catch a single pass. SD isn’t a great matchup for him…they allow the 8th-fewest WR fantasy points and have allowed just 7 pass plays of 40+ yards and just one run of 40+ on the year. Hill has thrived on long TDs. More than half of his rushing and receiving scores have gone for 34 yards or more, but he’s also had two strong performances against the Broncos, who are the #1 defense in the league vs. WRs. The Chiefs need to win and Hill is their best playmaker, so he could be worth a roll of the dice yet again. Just know there is some risk as always.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 17: @Was.): Shepard could be a little dicey this week with the Giants locked into the 5-seed in the NFC, but they typically only dress 5 or 6 WRs, and they play more 3-WR sets than any team in the league. I think the Giants are more likely to rest OBJ and Victor Cruz than Shepard. I can’t imagine that the Giants would spend the majority of the game with Tavarres King, Dwayne Harris and Roger Lewis as their receivers in 3-wide sets. Sterling has found the end zone in 6 of the last 8 games and put up his highest yardage total since week 3 in his last one. He’s right on the WR3 borderline for me this week.
WR Corey Coleman, CLE (Wk. 17: @Pit.): I’d probably avoid Coleman this week, but I mention him here because he should still see some volume. His two biggest yardage totals of the season were in weeks 1 & 2, and he’s averaged just 28.6 yards per game since returning from a broken hand in week 9. Still, he’s seen at least 4 targets in each game since his return (with an average of 7.3 per game), so he remains in play as a blindfolded dart throw in DFS.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 17: vs. KC): Henry’s dynasty outlook may have taken a hit this week when Antonio Gates hinted that he’s likely to return next season, but his outlook for week 17 might have gotten a little better. Gates needs just 2 TDs to set the NFL record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end, and the Chargers were likely to try to get him those scores if this was going to be his last game. Since it likely isn’t, there is a chance Henry gets some of the targets in the red zone. He’s still not much more than a TD dart throw against a defense that has allowed just 2 TE scores all year, but crazy things happen in week 17.
Rookies to Avoid Because They've Clinched:
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 17: @Phi.): The Cowboys have nothing to play for this week with the top seed in the NFC sewn up. Dak will likely play a few series to keep fresh, but with the news that Mark Sanchez will be active, I would expect the Sanchize to play more than half of the game.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 17: @Phi.): Like Dak, Zeke should also have a short day. If you have Zeke, pick up Darren McFadden if he's available. He should play the majority of the snaps.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 17: @Was.): Perkins has become a pretty big part of the Giants' offense of late with 41 carries in the past 3 games. I'm not sure how the G-Men will divvy up the backfield touches this week, but my best guess is they will use a ton of Bobby Rainey to keep Perkins and Rashad Jennings healthy.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 17: @Ten.): You could argue that the Texans will want their receivers to work on their rapport and timing with new starting QB Tom Savage, but I think they will want to make sure Fuller is healthy. Bill O'Brien on Thursday called Fuller one of the team's best route runners, and he mentioned that injuries are what sapped his productivity. With that in mind and nothing to gain with a win this week, I'd expect a limited amount of Fuller to ensure he's at full strength for the Wild Card weekend.
Other Rookies to Avoid:
QB Jared Goff, LA (Wk. 17: vs. Ari.): You know better than to play Goff.
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 17: @Pit.): It was looking as though Kessler would get the nod, but RG3 was cleared from the concussion he suffered last weekend and will get the start.
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN (Wk. 17: vs. Oak.): The Broncos announced that both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch would see some action in week 17, which makes both useless in DFS or any other formats.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 17: vs. GB): It looks like Theo Riddick is likely to sit again this week, but Dwayne has had just one useful week since scoring a TD in week one. It's ugly out there at RB this week, but there are better risks to take than expecting Washington to put up his best game of the year.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 17: vs. Hou.): With Matt Cassel under center, the Texans should stack the box to stop the run, and there is no telling if Henry will see extra work now that the Titans are out of the playoff hunt. He played just 24% of the snaps last week and saw just 4 carries, and he also carries a price tag of $4,900 in DraftKings this week, which just isn't worth the risk.
RB Kenyan Drake, MIA (Wk. 17: vs. NE): Drake put up 56 yards and a TD last weekend, but he did so on just 4 touches, and the Dolphins still have the ability to move up to the 5-seed in the AFC. That would mean they’d draw the Texans rather than the Steelers, so they should be trying to win. That also means they’ll use a lot of Jay Ajayi. Don't chase last week's points, despite the OC’s comments that Drake “warrants more in the gameplan.”
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 17: vs. Bal.): Boyd’s production has dropped off precipitously after a quick spike when AJ Green got hurt. He averaged a line of 5-60.7-0.3 on 7.7 targets per game in the first 3 games that Green was out, but that has dropped to 3.3-29-0 on 4.3 targets in the 3 games since. There's been no sign that his target share will suddenly go back up this week.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 17: vs. Hou.): Matt Cassel should sap any upside that Sharpe has in week 17. He did see 8 targets last week and still posted just a 3-43 line. You should probably steer clear.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 17: @Mia.): Mitchell has yet to practice yet this week after banging up his knee against the Jets last weekend. Even if he is able to suit up I'd expect him to play limited snaps. Look for Michael Floyd to get his first extended look as a Patriot. As of Friday, Mitchell is listed as doubtful.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 17: vs. Buf.): With Bryce Petty on IR, Anderson is pretty much unusable. A huge portion of his production came with Petty at the helm. Charone Peake may have some extra upside this week, but the Jets' passing attack is one to avoid in general in week 17.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL (Wk. 17: vs. NO): Hooper is banged up this week and not practicing as of Thursday. It's a plus matchup, but I'd be surprised if Hooper does much this week. The Falcons signed an extra tight end off their practice squad this week, which doesn't bode well for Hooper's status.
TE Tyler Higbee, LA (Wk. 17: vs. Ari.): Higbee scored a TD last week, but he's put up just 85 yards on 29 targets for the season. Over the past few weeks, his role has been increasing, but it's led to 6 catches for 44 yards and a TD on 11 targets in the past 4 games.
Cheap DFS Sleepers:
RBs DeAndre Washingon & Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 17: @Den.): The best way to attack the Broncos’ defense is with the rushing attack, and Latavius Murray has seen his workload shrink quickly in the past couple of weeks with Washington active again. Denver ranks first in pass defense DVOA, but 26th in run defense DVOA. In week 16, Murray played just 41% of the offensive snaps and handled 17 touches while Washington (33%, 13) and Richard (20%, 9) split the rest and both of them turned in a productive day. The pair of backups combined for 196 scrimmage yards and 3 touchdowns. Each will cost less than $4,000 in DraftKings while Murray will cost $5,200. I’d rather take my chances with one of the backups than try Latavius in DFS this week. I’d lean toward Washington with Richard limited at practice this week with a shoulder injury.
RB Alex Collins, SEA (Wk. 17: @SF): It looks like Thomas Rawls will play this week, but I’d be surprised if he gets more carries than Collins as he fights through a shoulder injury. The Seahawks will need a healthy Rawls if they want to win in the playoffs, and they should be able to beat the 49ers and still limit his workload. The 49ers rank a miserable 29th in run defense DVOA, and have allowed 4 more RB fantasy points per game than any other team this year. Collins should see a nice share of the workload, and costs a reasonable $4,600 on DraftKings. He should be a popular play in GPP tournaments, and for good reason.
WR Cody Core, CIN (Wk. 17: vs. Bal.): Core costs the minimum in DraftKings this week, and he was targeted a whopping 14 times last week with AJ Green and Tyler Eifert out. He’s also started in each of the past 3 games. The final stat line wasn’t great last week with 8-39-0 on those 14 targets, but the PPR scoring format of DraftKings makes all those targets valuable. He should be heavily targeted again this week, and the Ravens allow the 9th-most WR fantasy points per game. He’s an enticing punt option this week.
WR Roger Lewis, NYG (Wk. 17: @Was.): Like Core, Lewis costs the minimum in DraftKings, and as mentioned above, the Giants should be resting their starters quite a bit. Josh Johnson will likely play some at QB, and he and Lewis should show a 2nd team connection. Washington is a 7.5-point favorite, so the Giants should be throwing a lot. Washington also ranks just 25th in pass defense DVOA. The volume is less certain with Lewis than it is with Core, but his targets should be farther downfield as well. Both are interesting options in GPP contests.
WR Geronimo Allison, GB (Wk. 17: @Det.): This will undoubtedly feel like chasing last week’s production after Allison put up 4-66 on 7 targets, but Allison will have an opportunity again if Randall Cobb is out Sunday night. The Lions are best attacked through the air, and they rank dead last in pass defense DVOA on throws to WRs other than the number 1 & 2 on the opposing team. Darius Slay should return and would be matched up with Jordy Nelson, which could create additional looks for Davante Adams and Allison. Adams has been more productive this year, but he costs $5,700 in DraftKings while Allison costs just $3,000. You can avoid Geronimo if Randall Cobb plays, but he’ll have great upside for a minimum priced option if Cobb sits again.
That's all I've got for this season. Hopefully the breakdowns I've posted weekly have helped you get through some tough rookie decisions throughout the year and helped you to victory more often than not. Feel free to give me a hard time about anything written above via twitter (@Shawn_Foss). Week 17 is always wacky, so I expect to be wrong about more than I get right. Thanks for reading, and as always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We're finally here: fantasy championship week (as long as your league isn't one of those weird ones that goes through week 17). Hopefully you've still got a championship to play for. If you played Sammy Watkins, Stefon Diggs, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, or Toddy Gurley last week, it's likely 'Better luck next year' (I had two of them in), but if you're still alive & kicking you've got some decisions to make this week. Let's jump right into what to expect from the rookies in week 16...
Rookies to Start:
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 16: vs. Was.): Howard's hot streak continued last week even as the Bears' comeback effort fell short. Sunday's game was Howard's 7th straight with at least 99 yards from scrimmage, and Washington has surrendered plenty of points to running backs all season, allowing the 4th-most fantasy points per game to the position. They've also allowed 24 or more fantasy points to opposing backs in 3 of their past 4 (all point totals are in ESPN standard scoring). Howard should be a solid RB1 this week.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 16: vs. Det.): Let's be honest, you're not going to sit Zeke for your championship game if you've got him, but I would probably fade him in DFS if the Giants somehow lose to the Eagles on Thursday. That would clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the Cowboys, and there is a chance that could mean less Zeke and more Darren McFadden. If the Giants win, as is expected, Elliott should be a fine play in any format. The Lions have been stingy in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs, but they rank just 20th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA stat, which measures efficiency.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 16: @Chi.): Kelley is coming off possibly his worst rushing game of the year with 9 carries for just 8 yards on Monday. Luckily, he was able to salvage his fantasy day with a touchdown and some receiving yardage. The receiving work is rare for him, and isn't something I'd expect him to repeat, but I still think he'll have a bounce-back game this week. The Bears have been struggling against the run lately, allowing 100+ rushing yards to the opposing backs in 5 straight games, and they allowed Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael to run wild last Sunday with 3 scores and over 200 yards combined. Kelley should have some success running the ball, and should be a solid RB2 as a result.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 16: vs. TB): Thomas returned from a surprising 1-week absence and dropped a 7-52-1 line on the Saints last weekend. He now has at least 40 receiving yards in all 13 games he's played in and is a top-10 WR in standard scoring for the season. He provides a relatively safe floor (especially playing indoors while other teams brave the December elements), and he provides WR1 upside this week against a beatable Tampa Bay secondary. There's no reason not to trust him as at least a WR3 this week.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 16: vs. NYJ): Mitchell should get back on track this week after a 1-target, 1-catch outing against the stifling Broncos' secondary last weekend. The Jets rank dead last in pass defense DVOA, and Mitchell put up 5-42-2 in the previous meeting with these Jets. He's only become a more established part of the offense since then. Look for him to easily return WR3 value this week.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 16: vs. Det.): The Lions have done a really nice job of limiting opposing QBs over the past 7 games, coughing up just under 11 QB fantasy points per game in that stretch, but there are some factors working against them this week. Darius Slay, the team's number one CB is likely to miss the game with a hamstring injury, and their recent hot streak has actually been aided a bit by the schedule. They were truly impressive in shutting down Drew Brees in New Orleans, but the QBs they faced in the other 6 games were Brock Osweiler, Matt Barkley, Sam Bradford (twice), Blake Bortles, and Eli Manning. The Lions still rank just 30th in pass defense DVOA and allow the 2nd-highest passer rating against, behind only the Browns. Dak is right on the QB1 borderline this week, and I'd lean towards starting him unless you have a surefire top-10 QB to play over him.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 16: @Pit.): The Ravens continue to keep fantasy players guessing as to how the backfield work will be split between Dixon and Terrance West. Dixon played a season-high 60% of the snaps in week 14, but that number plummeted to 29% in week 15 without a clear reason why. Dixon still has at least 7 points in 5 of the past 6 games and a touchdown in each of the past 2, and I still like the rookie's outlook this week. The Steelers have been playing improved defense against RBs lately...they allowed 33+ fantasy points to opposing RBs 4 times in the first 9 games, but have given up an average of just 12 points per game to them in the 5 games since. Despite the recent improvement, receiving backs like Dixon have given them some issues. They've allowed the 3rd-most running back receiving yards and and are tied for the most RB receiving touchdowns allowed. Dixon's got real upside again as a PPR flex play.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 16: @Jax.): Henry has clearly carved out a role as a change-of-pace back for DeMarco Murray, amassing 30 touches and 3 TDs in the past 3 games while averaging a robust 5.5 yards per carry. Murray is still the clear lead dog, but the Jaguars are just playing out the string at this point and the Titans backs combined for 33 fantasy points in the first go-round with Jacksonville, including 15 from Henry. He'll need a TD to be a big help, but Henry could be a nice flex option this week in leagues with 12 teams or more.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 16: @NE): If Bryce Petty ends up missing this game with injury, Anderson will probably be best left on the bench. He doesn't see nearly the same volume from Fitzpatrick, and I don't know how much he would see from (gulp) Christian Hackenburg. It was a little concerning that Anderson was out-targeted by both Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa while Petty was still in the game last week, but he's still scored in double-figures in 3 straight games with Petty and the Patriots rank just 25th in pass defense DVOA. Anderson should be a fine WR3 option if Petty gets the start.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 16: @Phi.): As usual, Shepard will be a TD-dependent WR3 option this week. If he scores a TD you'll be happy he's in, and if not you probably won't. The 56 yards he put up last week is his high-water mark since week 3, but he's scored a touchdown in 5 of his last 7 games. The Eagles have allowed 7 TDs to opposing wide receivers in the past 4 games, so the upside is there, but you're probably not getting more than 5 points in standard leagues if he doesn't get in the end zone (8 or 9 in PPR).
WR Tyreek Hill, KC (Wk. 16: vs. Den.): Let me just start off by saying what Tyreek Hill did last week isn't sustainable on a weekly basis. He had one rushing attempt and ZERO catches and still managed to get to 12 fantasy points. Hill had his coming out party on Monday Night Football against these Broncos in week 12 with a 3-TD outburst, but this is still the best defense against WRs in the league. I can't imagine he's going to catch Denver off guard this week. I'd expect him to get a little more volume than last week, and he's explosive enough to score from anywhere on the field, but he'll be a true boom-or-bust option. It's up to you if you want to roll the dice.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 16: @Cle.): Henry is in play as a streaming option if you don't like your tight end or he's out this week. Hunter has been no more than a TD dart throw each week, but he's found the end zone in 4 of the past 5 games, and the Browns allow the most points to opposing tight ends in the league. With the team out of the playoff hunt, they may start to slide more snaps away from Antonio Gates and over to Henry.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 16: vs. NYG): The Giants' defense has really been coming on strong of late. They're up to 3rd in pass defense DVOA for the season, and they've allowed 13 fantasy points total in back-to-back games against NFL MVP candidates (Dak & Stafford). Wentz has topped 12 fantasy points just twice in his past 11 games, and I really don't like his chances to make it 3-of-12. He's a bottom-of-the-barrel QB2 option this week.
QB Jared Goff, LA (Wk. 16: vs. SF): Goff suffered a concussion last Thursday on a vicious hit from Richard Sherman, but he's practicing in full Tuesday and seems likely to play. Even if he does, he hasn't shown enough to warrant consideration this week even in 2QB leagues despite the excellent matchup. In 5 starts, Goff has totaled 42 fantasy points, and 18 of them were scored in one half against the Saints. That's certainly not a track record you want to trust in the championship, and you should aim for more upside from a cheap DFS play.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 16: @KC): Kansas City has been gashed on the ground in their past 4 games, giving up 488 rushing yards and 5 TDs to opposing backs, but Booker's role has mostly evaporated since the team signed Justin Forsett due to Booker's inefficiency as the starter. He was out-snapped and out-touched by Forsett last week, and he's totaled just 83 scrimmage yards and 1 TD in the last 3 games combined. I wouldn't feel comfortable running him out there in a championship this week.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 16: @Dal.): This is a pretty easy call this week. Theo Riddick should be back, and Washington hasn't really produced the way you'd hope with an increased workload while Riddick was out (114 scrimmage yards and no TDs on 33 touches over the past 2 games). Also, the Cowboys allow the fewest rushing attempts in the league. No thanks on Washington this week.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 16: vs. Ind.): The Colts are actually a favorable matchup for Richard, and Latavius Murray did fumble twice last week, but Jalen's upside is suddenly capped again by the re-appearance of DeAndre Washington. Washington was a healthy scratch for the previous 3 games, but got back out there in week 15. Richard still tallied 10 touches to Washington's 6, but as we saw in the early part of the year the duo pretty much cancel each other out. You're pretty much hoping for a fluky touchdown to play either.
WR Corey Coleman, CLE (Wk. 16: vs. SD): I love Coleman's talent, and I keep waiting patiently for his breakout game, but the Browns' quarterback play has killed his upside. He's scored more than 4 fantasy points just once in 6 games since returning from his hand injury, and the Chargers allow the 10th-fewest points to opposing WRs. Hopefully the Browns are able to find someone this offseason that can get the ball in Coleman's hands more effectively.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 16: @Jax.): Tajae has just 4 catches for 21 yards total over his past 3 games, and the Jaguars allow the 6th-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing WRs. Look elsewhere this week.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 16: @Hou.): It sounds like AJ Green will be back this week, and Boyd proved to be a low-ceiling option even while Green was out. The team went with a much more run-heavy attack, and the volume just wasn't there for him. I'd expect even less opportunity for him with AJ back out there. Anything over 40 yards against the stingy Texans' defense should be considered a win for Boyd.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL (Wk. 16: @Car.): Of course you probably weren't considering Hooper for your fantasy championship game this week, but I just wanted to point out that I don't like him as a DFS punt option either. I pushed him as a sleeper a week ago, and he did find the end zone, but left the game with a knee injury after that one 9-yard scoring catch. He may play this week, but expecting a TD 2 weeks in a row from Hooper is playing with fire, even though the Panthers allow the 2nd-most TE points in the league.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Kenneth Farrow, SD (Wk. 16: @Cle.): Farrow showed that he wasn't yet ready for prime time last week against the Raiders, but the Browns have just about packed it in for the season. Cleveland has allowed 140+ rushing yards to opposing backs in 6 of their past 8 games, and mulitple TDs in 4 of them. Melvin Gordon still isn't practicing as of Tuesday. If he sits, Farrow would be an intriguing flex option in deeper leagues and a decent DFS tournament play, even if he splits the work with Ronnie Hillman a little more evenly.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 16: @Phi.): Perkins has been running more effectively than Jennings lately, and he's starting to get more work as a result. Jennings hasn't really been losing carries, but Perkins has been gaining some. Here are the carry totals Jennings has seen in the past 4 weeks: 15, 6, 15, 18, and here are his yards per carry in those 4 games: 3.7, 3.1, 3.0, 2.1. Here are those same numbers for Perkins: 9, 7, 15, 11 and 3.2, 5.4, 3.0, 5.1. I'd expect the trend to continue, and there is an opportunity for some success against the Eagles. Philly ranks 15th in run defense DVOA and has allowed 6 rushing scores to opposing backs in the past 5 games. Perkins and Jennings are likely to have close to an even split of the work, and Perkins is running better than Jennings and costs $1,200 less than him in Draft Kings ($3,200 to $4,400). At that price, I really like him as a steal in GPP tournaments.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 16: vs. Cin.): Fuller has probably killed you at some point this year if you owned him. His season fell apart quickly after a strong first 4 weeks. Since the end of week 4, he hasn't scored a single touchdown or topped 60 receiving yards. Tom Savage may be coming to the rescue. The Bengals allow the 4th-fewest WR points, but they rank just 23rd in pass defense DVOA on throws to number 2 wide receivers. If Savage is able to give Fuller new life and get the ball to him more effectively than the Brockweiler, he'll be a steal at his $3,900 Draft Kings price tag.
That's all I've got for this week. I'll be back with a quick rundown for week 17 for anyone who has games left next week. Week 17 is always a crapshoot as you try and figure out which players are going to be rested, but I'll do my best. Keep a close eye on the injury report to see what happens with guys like Melvin Gordon, AJ Green and Bryce Petty since it will make a difference on the outlooks of the guys above. Feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have any specific questions or you want to yell at me about anything written this week (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.