Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Hopefully, the bye weeks didn’t hit you too hard last week. If you’re lucky you had Deshaun Watson or one of his two WRs to help you get through. The Texans may have come up short against Seattle, but Watson shredded one of the league’s better defenses. He just might be matchup-proof going forward. A few other rookies had stellar performances as well. JuJu Smith-Schuster has cemented himself as the #1 rookie WR for 2017 after posting 32.3 PPR points in prime time Sunday night with Martavis Bryant sitting. Josh Malone grabbed his first career catches and scored his first TD on Sunday for Cincinnati. I wouldn’t expect him to have a big role moving forward though. It was a lower scoring week for RBs, but Alvin Kamara, Matt Breida, and Marlon Mack all turned in quality performances. Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon and Kareem Hunt were less impressive this week but still posted respectable days as well. There are another 6 teams on bye in week 9, so this could be another one where your lineup is a patchwork that could be pieced together by a couple rookies. With that in mind, let’s dive in and see what’s in store for the rookie crop this week…
(A couple notes: All point totals or points per game stats are based on PPR scoring, and players within the same position and same header are listed in order that I would play them):
Rookies to Start:
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 9: vs. Ind.): The matchup is a juicy one for Watson this week. The Colts have allowed 300+ passing yards in 5 of their 8 games (and 295 in one of the other 3), and they’ve allowed at least one passing TD each week as well. Watson has been the QB1 or QB2 overall in each of his past 4 starts. Indy has allowed 10 more passes of 20+ yards than any other team in the league, and the Texans are tied for the 5th-most 20+ yard pass plays on offense. Watson is an easy top-5 option this week (probably higher). He’s really pricey in DFS this week, checking in at $800 more than any other QB in DraftKings and $1,100 more than any other in FanDuel. At those prices, I might look at other options in GPP tournaments, but if he hits his ceiling once again you’ll regret not having him in there. He should be chalk in cash games.
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 9: @Dal.): Hunt is a great bet to get back on track this week. The Denver defense was a daunting matchup on Monday night, and it resulted in Hunt’s worst game to-date. The Cowboys aren’t nearly as daunting. Dallas allows the 13th-most RB points per game and ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat before facing Washington’s hapless rushing attack in week 8. It’ll be hard to trust Hunt at his price tag in DFS tournaments after he failed to return value in plus matchups with Pittsburgh & Oakland, but he should be a great option in cash games and locked in as your RB1 in regular lineups. He’s overdue for a big game.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 9: vs. Cin.): He’s had two weeks off with the bye to recover from his ankle injury, so he should be ready to roll this week. The Bengals have allowed 24+ PPR points to opposing RBs in 3 of their last 4 games, and when healthy Fournette handles the vast majority of the backfield touches. He should return to RB1 status this week. He might even have less competition for goal-line work if the Jaguars decide to make TJ Yeldon active instead of Chris Ivory this week. Yeldon flashed in a big way during Fournette’s week 7 absence. Prior to week 7, Fournette had handled 16 red zone carries, and Ivory had handled 4. Regardless of who suits up as LF’s number 2, he should be in your lineup this week.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 9: vs. TB): Tampa Bay has allowed the 10th-most RB points per game this season, and Kamara has been the RB22, RB12, and RB9 in the 3 games since Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona. He’s been outscored by Mark Ingram each week, but he’s closed the gap in the snap count in each of the last 3 weeks and topped 50% of the snaps in week 8 for the first time since week 1. He actually played the same number of offensive snaps as Ingram against the Bears. We’ve seen there’s clearly enough volume in this offense to support two starting fantasy backs, but Kamara’s role continues to grow. The matchup this week isn’t a scary one, so Kamara should be fired up once again as a solid RB2 with upside for more.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 9: @Jax.): Mixon’s game was salvaged by a long screen pass last week but was otherwise a lackluster showing. He put up just 18 yards on 11 carries on the ground. I’d still go back to the well with Mixon this week. The Jaguars rank 32nd in run defense DVOA, and still allow the most rushing yards per game (138.6) and highest yards per carry average in the league (5.2). Things may get better up front for Jacksonville with the acquisition on Marcell Dareus, but I doubt he has that big of an impact this week. Mixon hasn’t really shown the ceiling yet, but I’m in on him as an RB2 for week 9. He’s still underpriced on DraftKings at $5,100 this week.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 9: vs. Atl.): With the surprising trade of Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills there are more passing targets to go around for Carolina. Atlanta has allowed the most RB receptions per game through the first 8 weeks, and McCaffrey has 6 more catches than any other RB thus far. Even without much rushing production, McCaffrey should be a safe RB2 in PPR formats, and a dicey flex in standard leagues. The Falcons don’t give up a ton of yards on all of those RB catches, so I’d probably shy away in DFS lineups.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 9: vs. Det.): The matchup doesn’t really qualify as good or bad this week for Jones. The Lions have allowed the 7th-fewest rushing yards per game, but also the 12th-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Jones seems to have a firm grasp on the lead back role after playing 80% of the snaps against the Saints before the week 8 bye, and the game plan figures to be run-heavy with Brett Hundley at the helm. Volume alone should get Jones into RB2 range, but you always worry about Ty Montgomery lurking over his shoulder.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 9: vs. LAR): The Rams have been tough on tight ends so far this season, allowing the 4th-fewest TE points per game, but Engram has been the focal point of the Giants’ passing attack since the receiver group was decimated by injuries. He’s seen at least 7 targets in 5 of 7 games, and has seen 19 total in the past 2 games since Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard were all injured against the Chargers. He’s made good on that volume, finishing as the TE3 and TE4 in those contests. He’s a top-5 option again this week despite a tougher draw and the likely return of Shepard.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 9: @Hou.): Mack out-snapped and outscored Frank Gore for the 2nd time in as many weeks last Sunday. The Colts are huge underdogs again this weekend, and Mack has been targeted 11 times in the past 2 games. I’d expect more of the same usage this week. The Texans have been stingy to opposing backs, allowing the 2nd fewest fantasy points per game to the position, but they have given up 3 receiving TDs to RBs. Mack is a sneaky flex play in PPR and half-PPR leagues, and a better option than Gore again this week.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 9: @NYG): The suspension of Janoris Jenkins could be a good thing for Kupp this week. While on the surface, it seems to be a plus for Sammy Watkins, who Jenkins would likely be covering all day, the suspension also gets Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of the slot where Kupp lines up most often. DRC has allowed an average of just 2.5 catches and 29.5 yards per game into his coverage, and has coughed up just one TD. It will benefit Kupp to not have to face him. I wouldn’t expect a huge bump in targets for Kupp, but he should be fairly efficient with them, and he’s the best bet to score a TD among the Rams WRs. Goff trusts him in the red zone. That keeps him in play as a PPR flex or WR3 option.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 9: vs. Bal.): Obviously, Jonnu shouldn’t be in your lineup if Delanie Walker plays, but it sounds like Walker’s status is in doubt as he deals with a bone bruise on his ankle. He may very well play, but he was spotted in a walking boot just last week and isn’t practicing as of Wednesday. The Ravens have allowed 6 TDs to opposing tight ends in 8 games, and Walker is averaging 7 targets per game. If Delanie is held out, Jonnu is a fine streaming option for deeper leagues. He wouldn’t automatically see the same target share Delanie has been seeing, but 4-6 targets would be a reasonable expectation.
Rookies to Sit:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): Despite the Cardinals allowing the 3rd-most QB points per game, Beathard has shown that you shouldn’t really trust him even in great matchups. It’s a messy week in 2-QB leagues this week with the 6 byes, so you might be forced to go with Beathard. There is some solace to be had in the fact that he’s topped 10 points each week, but not much. He’s no more than a desperation QB2 if you have just about no other options. I wouldn’t go near him in DFS lineups.
RB Matt Breida, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): The Cardinals are allowing the 10th-fewest RB points per game, and despite his TD last week, Breida has still averaged just 6 touches per game in the past 3 weeks. The 32% of the snaps he played last week was the highest he saw in those 3 games, but the matchup this week is too tough to expect Breida to make hay on that limited of a snap count.
RB Corey Clement, PHI (Wk. 9: vs. Den.): Although the Eagles are again a comfortable favorite, I don’t see Clement piling up 10 garbage time carries again this week. Even if he does, I’d be stunned if he manages to top 50 yards again. He goes from facing the defense that allows the most RB points per game last week to the one that allows the fewest this week. It’s not a recipe for success for a part-time player like Clement.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 9: vs. Bal.): Davis should return this week from the ankle injury that’s sidelined him since week 2, but I’m not quite ready to throw him into the fire in fantasy lineups. He may be eased back in, and he gets a gauntlet the first few weeks back. The Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers all rank in the top-5 in the league at limiting WR fantasy points. If you have the space to stash him, his schedule opens up a ton after that. The following 4 opponents after the AFC North stretch all rank in the bottom 13, including the dumpster fires that are the Colts and 49ers. There are better days ahead for Davis, but you should exercise caution with him for now.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 9: @GB): Golladay does return to a good matchup if he’s able to get back on the field this week, but he’ll be little more than a TD dart throw. He may struggle to keep up with the Joneses (Marvin and TJ), who have both played well while Kenny was sidelined. TJ has likely earned a split of the WR3 reps with Golladay, so it would be best to take a wait-and-see approach before putting Babytron back into lineups.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 9: @NYJ): Zay finally had a reasonably efficient game last weekend with 3 catches on 5 targets for 32 yards. It’s not a week you can use for fantasy purposes, as he was just the WR46 for the week in PPR scoring, but it’s something for him to build on. At least, it would have been if the Bills didn’t go out and trade for Kelvin Benjamin. He may get one more chance to showcase what he can do this week since KB was acquired 2 days before this week’s tilt with the Jets, but there’s no reason to try him in your lineup. He’s droppable even in deep redraft leagues since his targets will likely be cut in half the rest of the way.
WR Dede Westbrook, JAX (Wk. 9: vs. Cin.): Dede might be worth stashing in deeper leagues, and should certainly be owned in dynasty formats, but this is probably not the best week to use him. The Bengals allow the 5th-fewest WR points per game, and the Jaguars attempt the 3rd-fewest passes per game. Since Jacksonville is a 4-point favorite this week, I don’t see them having to deviate much from their run-heavy game plan in this one. Keep an eye on Westbrook’s usage, but keep him out of the lineup.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): Kittle has shown pretty clearly in the past 2 weeks that the Iowa connection hasn’t carried over to the NFL level. Arizona is a tougher matchup on tight ends than the Eagles were, and Philly held Kittle to 2-22 on 4 targets. Kittle has seen just 6 targets in 2 games with Beathard as the starter after getting 7 targets from him in week 6 when CJ relieved Hoyer. I don’t expect a spike in targets this week. There are likely better streaming options available.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 9: @NO): After posting a career game in week 7, Howard came back down to Earth last Sunday with 2-16 on 2 targets. He remains behind Cameron Brate as a pass-catching TE for Tampa. Howard’s athleticism will allow him to post a big game here or there if the defense doesn’t account for him, but it’s hard to predict when those games will come. You could use Howard in DFS tournaments as a shoot-the-moon option, but he’s a volatile play.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 9: vs. LAR): The Rams allow the 2nd-most RB points per game, and Gallman hasn’t totally disappeared from the offense despite Orleans Darkwa’s breakout 100-yard game. Gallman actually played 1 more snap than Darkwa the week after that game. His production has been minimal, but if he manages to play 35% or more of the snaps again in this plus matchup, he could be in play as a DFS tournament punt option, or as a desperation flex in the deepest of leagues with so many byes on tap.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 9: vs. Ind.): Foreman’s usage pattern has been pretty easy to get a read on in hindsight, and this week, it may be pretty easy to guess how he’ll be used beforehand. In the Texans’ 4 losses, Foreman has averaged 4 touches and 33 scrimmage yards per game. He’s averaged 12 touches and 48 yards in their wins. The Texans are 13-point favorites this week. I’d expect there to be ample garbage time against a Colts’ team that has allowed the 3rd-most RB points per game. If he gets his typical usage for wins and manages to find the end zone, he likely winds up a top-30 RB for the week. You could do worse if looking for a fill in for deeper leagues. He’s a better option in standard formats rather than PPR.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): Pierre Garcon is likely to be shadowed by Patrick Peterson once again this week, and the last time the 49ers faced the Cardinals that resulted in 10 targets for Trent. He posted 5 catches and 47 yards in that game, out-producing Garcon in the process. The Cardinals have proven to be vulnerable to all wide receivers that Peterson doesn’t shadow, They’ve allowed the 4th-most WR points per game despite Pat Pete allowing just 5 catches and 60 yards on balls thrown into his coverage all year according to RotoWorld’s Targets & Touches. Even with Beathard at QB, Taylor is an intriguing punt option for GPP tournaments and costs the minimum on DraftKings.
WR Ryan Switzer, DAL (Wk. 9: vs. KC): Cole Beasley suffered a concussion and is likely to miss this game. It appears it’ll be Switzer who gets the nod in the slot in a nice matchup against the Chiefs. KC allows the 2nd-most WR points per game. Beasley hasn’t been a consistent option with just under 4.5 targets per game, but the looming Ezekiel Elliott suspension could change the calculus of the Cowboys’ short passing game. Dallas is likely to be less effective running the ball without him, and they also lose the best receiver they have out of the backfield. Switzer may soak up several more targets than expected this week. With a minimum DFS price tag, he could surprise as a DFS punt play. I would disregard this if Zeke manages to avoid a suspension this week.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 9: vs. Atl.): After the Kelvin Benjamin trade, Samuel is likely to be elevated to the WR2 in Carolina behind Devin Funchess. He offers a much different skill set than Funch & KB, and should be a better complement to Funchess. Russell Shepard will likely man the slot in the new-look passing attack. I don’t think this is the best opportunity to use Samuel, but I do believe he’s worth a stash in deeper leagues. Atlanta doesn’t allow many big plays in the passing game (just 1 completion against them for 40+ yards), and Samuel’s speed is his best asset. He’s only been targeted 14 times on the season, but KB’s departure frees up 6.5 targets per game and the Panthers have found ways to use Samuel in the running game as well. Keep an eye on what the rookie does this week.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 9: @NYG): If you’re really desperate at tight end, the Giants have allowed at least 45 receiving yards and a touchdown to the tight end position in every game this year. Tyler Higbee is the starter and probably seems like the better play, but Everett has the only TD between the two and averages more than 5 more yards per target than Higbee. Of course, Higbee has more targets, but Everett has been the better downfield threat.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you with some of those more difficult lineup decisions and helps you get through another week that’s heavy with byes. Keep a close eye on the injury report this week. A lot can change as the week goes on with guys like Delanie Walker, Jordan Reed, Sterling Shepard, Emmanuel Sanders and anyone else that might affect your lineups. Make sure to check before kickoff on Sunday (or Thursday) to see who’s active. Feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Shawn_Foss) if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything included above. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’ve now passed the halfway point of the regular season. Hopefully your teams are doing pretty well, because things are about to get a little dicey in the next 2 weeks. There are 6 teams off each week, the most we’ll see in any weeks this year. It’s going to create some holes in your lineups, and finding the right guys to fill those gaps will be critical. At least a few rookies may be peaking at the right time to help out. OJ Howard was the TE1 last weekend. David Njoku had the longest catch of his career so far. Aaron Jones clearly took over as the lead back in Green Bay, and Marlon Mack out-snapped Frank Gore for the first time this year. There are plenty of other rookies who are poised to play bigger roles as the season wears on like Corey Davis (pick him up this week if you have the roster spot to do it), Kenny Golladay, Austin Ekeler and John Ross among others. Let’s dive in and discuss what to expect for week 8…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 8: vs. Den.): Denver has allowed the 2nd-fewest RB points per game (all scoring stats in PPR scoring unless otherwise noted) and ranks 1st in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat, and Hunt hasn’t finished higher than the RB10 in the past 4 weeks despite a couple of good matchups. You still have to start him. He’s been at least an RB2 every week, and the daunting matchup isn’t enough to make me act crazy and bench him. He’s a contrarian play for DFS tournaments this week.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 8: vs. Ind.): The Colts were stingy against the run to start the year, allowing just 67 RB rush yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry in the first 3 weeks. They’ve allowed 136.5 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry since. Mixon voiced some displeasure after last week’s game about getting zero carries in the 2nd half after piling up 48 yards on 7 first half carries. Head Coach Marvin Lewis called the comments immature, but I think he got the message. Even if he didn’t, with the Bengals a 10-point favorite in this game, they might not have any choice but to run in the 2nd half. The Colts have coughed up the 2nd-most RB points per game so far, and I expect Mixon to still be the lead back despite the Lewis’s comments. Mixon has RB1 upside this week and should be a staple in DFS lineups at just $4,700 in DraftKings.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 8: vs. Chi.): While the biggest beneficiary of the Saints’ Adrian Peterson trade has been Mark Ingram, it’s also given a boost to Kamara. He’s played 42% and 49% of the snaps in the two games since Peterson was jettisoned, the highest rates since he cracked 50% in week 1. He’s put up 87 scrimmage yards on 13 touches and 107 scrimmage yards on 14 touches in those two games. Kamara has now scored double-digit points in PPR formats in 4 straight games, and what’s been most impressive is the ability he’s shown as a runner. His receiving upside could be somewhat limited by the Bears, who have allowed the 6th-fewest RB receiving yards in the league, but I don’t expect that to hold him back. The Bears rank 16th in run defense DVOA, have been banged up at linebacker (Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman on IR), and the Saints are a 9-point favorite this week. The positive game script and decent matchup should make Kamara a solid RB2 this weekend.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 8: @TB): Another NFL week, another week where McCaffrey looks to be a solid RB2, but he may have some upside for more this week. The Bucs have really been scuffling against RBs in the past 3 weeks. They’ve allowed 28.9 points per game to running backs in the past 3, which would be 3rd-most in the league if they averaged that for the year. Tampa Bay has been more vulnerable in the red zone to running backs running the ball rather than catching it out of the backfield, allowing 5 rushing TDs to backs compared to just 1 receiving score, but they’ve still allowed 6 catches and 45.5 receiving yards per game to them. Tampa ranks in the bottom half of the league in receiving points allowed to RBs per game. That’s should suit McCaffrey just fine. CMC has established himself as the lead back for the Panthers after playing 74% of the offensive snaps last week compared to 39% for J-Stew, and he may finally hit that ceiling we’ve all been waiting for. It should be a great week to fire up McCaffrey, and he’ll be could be a nice piece in DFS lineups if he makes good on his potential in this plus matchup.
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 8: @Sea.): Watson has been a tremendous fantasy QB so far, but this week he gets his toughest test to-date. If you are in a 1-QB league, I would certainly be considering other options if decent ones are available. No quarterback has scored 20 points against the Seahawks this year, and only Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Mariota have topped 10. Seattle allows the 4th-fewest QB points per game, ranks 5th in pass defense DVOA, and has allowed the 2nd-lowest QB rating against. Watson’s rushing ability adds a little bit of a boost to his floor, but this isn’t a great spot to trot him out there. Watson is averaging nearly 23 fantasy points per game, so it isn’t like he’s going to suddenly be held to 5 points. He’s still a fine play in 2-QB formats. I’m just pointing out that he’s far from an automatic start in 1-QB formats thanks to the difficult matchup.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 8: @NO): With so many running backs on bye this week, Cohen is worth considering, especially if Benny Cunningham sits again. Cohen only played 18% of the snaps last weekend and handled just 1 touch (a 70-yard reception), but the game script worked against him. The Bears were ahead for much of that game. I’d expect a reversal of fortunes this week against the red-hot Saints. New Orleans has allowed the most RB catches per game and most RB receiving yards per game, and that’s where Cohen’s bread is buttered. The Bears will still likely try and limit Trubisky’s passing volume, but there might not be any way to avoid throwing when they fall behind. Cohen is back in play as a PPR flex option.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 8: @Cin.): It was exciting for Mack owners to see him out-snap Frank Gore for the first time last weekend, but much of that had to do with game script. The Colts trailed 14-0 in the first quarter, and never got themselves into the game. The good news for Mack: This week’s game script is likely to set up the same way. The Bengals haven’t played great so far, but even they are a 10-point favorite this week. Gore will still factor in here and the Bengals have allowed the 12th-fewest RB points per game, so it isn’t all roses for Mack, but Cincy also allows 6.5 receptions per game to running backs. With the limited slate of games, Mack is certainly in play as a flex option, and an enticing DFS tournament play at just $4,000 in DraftKings.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 8: @Det.): I can’t imagine all of the Martavis drama results in more playing time from Bryant, and at least for week 8 it’s got him benched completely. JuJu was already an intriguing option this week before the announcement came about Martavis. There was some worry about JuJu being in the concussion protocol, but he practiced in full Wednesday. With Bryant out, JJSS may get to move to the outside a bit and will likely avoid both Quandre Diggs and Darius Slay, who have been Detroit’s two best corners. The Lions allow the 11th-most WR points per game. Smith-Schuster has a great opportunity to post a WR3 game this week.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 8: vs. Pit.): Golladay is back at practice this week and should be good to go for Sunday night. Golden Tate is expected to miss this game (monitor the situation, Tate got in a limited practice Wed.), and the Lions are going to need someone to pick up the slack of the 8 targets per game that he averages. The Steelers have allowed the fewest WR points per game, but among the teams they’ve played, only Cleveland throws the ball nearly as much as Detroit does, and the Browns don’t really have a QB or WRs. The Browns throw it on 63.97% of their offensive plays, while the Lions throw on 63.43%. No other Pittsburgh opponent throws even 59% of the time. If Tate does sit, the volume should be there for Golladay to be an upside flex option in a week with so many byes. He’s worth grabbing as a fallback if you’re waiting on the status of another WR who’s questionable to suit up.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Kittle was targeted just twice in a 30-point loss to the Cowboys last week in which CJ Beathard threw 38 times. I believed in the Iowa connection, but those results weren’t promising. I still might be willing to go back to the well this week. The Eagles aren’t exactly a great matchup for TEs, or at least they weren’t. With the injury to Jordan Hicks, that may change. Hicks had a 90.0 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus last year and was at 71.5 so far this season. The Eagles were shredded by Jordan Reed after the injury occurred on Monday. Of course Kittle isn’t Reed, but I like his chances at a bounce back in another game where the 49ers should be throwing a ton. He’s a decent streamer option or bye week filler for deeper leagues.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 8: @NO): The Bears have been running the ball on 68.9% of their offensive snaps with Trubisky as starter (per PFF’s Scott Barrett), and he’s attempted 23 passes in the past 2 weeks combined. They’re likely to have to throw a bit more to keep pace with New Orleans, but the Saints have actually been pretty stingy to opposing QBs during their 4-game win streak. They’ve allowed just 10.2 fantasy points per game and 187 passing yards per game to opposing QBs in that 4-game span. Couple that with the fact the Bears will still try to limit his volume, and it’s easy to see Trubisky should be avoided this week.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. Min.): The Browns have decided to go back to Kizer once again this week, but the in-game benchings can’t be good for this kid’s development. He gets a brutal matchup this week across the pond against a Viking defense that has allowed the 5th-fewest QB points per game. I’d expect more of the same from Kizer in this one – turnovers. He’s failed to reach 4 fantasy points in each of his last 3 starts, and I wouldn’t be stunned if that happens again Sunday.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 8: @Sea.): Foreman has 3 games this season with 12 or more carries, but all 3 were wins, and 2 were blowouts. He has 13 carries combined in the Texans’ 3 losses. Seattle is a 6-point favorite and allows the 4th-fewest running back points per game. You have to pick your spots with a lower volume player like Foreman, and this isn’t a good spot to use him.
RB Matt Brieda, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Brieda has played just 32 offensive snaps and handled 9 touches total in the past 2 weeks after Kyle Shanahan proclaimed that he is on equal footing with Carlos Hyde. They may be showcasing Hyde for a trade, but as long as Carlos is on the roster it’ll be hard to trust Brieda. His limited role certainly isn’t a recipe for fantasy success against an Eagles team that allows the 8th-fewest running back points per game.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 8: vs. Atl.): With Bilal Powell and Matt Forte both healthy last weekend, McGuire played just 7 offensive snaps and saw just 3 touches. He’ll go back into obscurity for now until one of those top 2 backs comes down with another ailment or the Jets nosedive out of playoff contention. We know they aren’t going to the playoffs, but at the moment they are just a game and a half out of the last wild card spot.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 8: vs. Dal.): Perine played zero offensive snaps last week, yet somehow has a higher price tag in DraftKings than teammate Rob Kelley, who starts. That is absurd to me. Avoid Perine in all formats.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Taylor showed a connection with QB CJ Beathard last week with 5 catches, and the Eagles have been torched by slot WRs Sterling Shepard and Keenan Allen (runs about 55% of snaps from slot), but those guys were outliers. Outside of those two weeks, the Eagles have actually defended the slot pretty well, and Taylor is nowhere near as good as Shep or Allen. Taylor probably shouldn’t be a consideration for your lineup.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 8: @NE): Williams draws a great matchup with the Pats allowing the 3rd-most WR points per game, but Williams played just 24% of the snaps last week and was targeted only twice. He’s essentially splitting WR3 reps with Travis Benjamin, which puts a pretty big damper on his upside. Hopefully that will change in the coming weeks, but I can’t make a compelling argument for why you should expect it to change this week. There’s upside here, but also a floor of zero points that seems more likely than him making good on that upside.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 8: vs. Oak.): Zay was targeted a season-high 9 times last Sunday, and he caught just 2 of them for 17 yards. He now had 7 catches for 83 yards on the season on 32 targets. His inefficiency and 22% catch rate are quickly becoming the stuff of legend. I wonder how much longer the Bills can keep forcing that kind of volume his way. There’s no reason to expect a positive change this week.
WR John Ross, CIN (Wk. 8: vs. Ind.): It’s really disappointing that Ross didn’t manage to get healthy for last week’s game and get some reps in. You can’t throw him into lineups without seeing what his usage is going to look like first, but this would’ve been a great spot for him. Ross has exceptional deep speed and the Colts have allowed 40 passes of 20 or more yards this season. While it’s a bummer for Ross that he won’t be up to speed for this one, AJ Green may be the premiere WR play of the week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. Min.): I would actually like Njoku as a sleeper this week if Cody Kessler had gotten the starting nod. Njoku’s snap rates are still troubling, as he played under 40% of the offensive snaps last week, but Kessler seemed to seek him out. 4 of Kessler’s 19 pass attempts went in Njoku’s direction, and he hauled in 2 of them for 31- and 27-yard gains. They were the two longest catches of his young career. Minnesota is right square in the middle of the pack when it comes to defending tight ends (16th-most points allowed per game), but they rank just 26th in pass defense DVOA on throws to the position. There would be a case to be made for Njoku in deep enough leagues if Kessler were back under center.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 8: vs. Car.): Don’t chase last week’s points with Howard. Hopefully the increased targets are a sign of things to come for him, but Cameron Brate still ran more pass routes and was targeted more often last Sunday. 47% of Howard’s PPR production has come on 2 TDs against broken coverages where the defense let him get wide open. It’s hard to bank on that happening again this week, especially with the Panthers allowing the 7th-fewest tight end points per game.
Rookies on Byes: RB Leonard Fournette, JAX, RB Aaron Jones, GB, RB Wayne Gallman, NYG, WR Corey Davis, TEN, WR Taywan Taylor, TEN, WR Cooper Kupp, LAR, TE Evan Engram, NYG, TE Jonnu Smith, TEN
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Beathard didn’t exactly set the world on fire in a favorable matchup last week, but he did manage to tally 14.4 fantasy points thanks to a garbage time rushing TD, and he gets a favorable draw again this week. Philly has been allowing a lot of garbage time passing stats this year. They’ve been ahead entering the 4th quarter in all 6 games they’ve won, and had a 2-score advantage in 3 of them. I’d expect them to be up double-digits entering the 4th this week. There should be plenty of time for Beathard to pad stats. Philly allows the 4th-most passing yards and 9th-most QB fantasy points per game. CJ is an intriguing streamer in 2-QB formats thanks to the byes.
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC (Wk. 8: @NE): Ekeler found his way to a surprising 11 touches last week and was pretty effective with them, finishing as the PPR RB13 for the week. This may be point chasing, but he might be in play for you if you’re scrambling for a running back in deep PPR leagues. The Patriots have allowed the 5th-most RB points per game and the 2nd-most receptions and receiving yards to backs. The bulk of that will go to Melvin Gordon, but Ekeler clearly has established a role.
RB Corey Clement, PHI (Wk. 8: vs. SF): Clement may get a chance to pile up garbage time carries in a game where the Iggles are 13-point favorites. The 49ers allow the most running back points per game in the league, and they just let Rod Smith find his way to be the RB35 last week without even finding the end zone. That was with just 2 teams on bye. There are 6 this week. Clement’s usage makes him no more than a DFS tournament punt play this week. He was on the field for just 12 offensive snaps on Monday night.
WR Mack Hollins, PHI (Wk. 8: vs. SF): Hollins is a guy worth stashing in dynasty leagues. The Eagles have been raving about him since training camp, and for the season he’s been targeted 6 times, and has a 6-134-1 line to show for it. It’s only a matter of time before he overtakes Torrey Smith and starts to get more playing time. Smith signed a 3-year contract with Philly last offseason, but the last 2 years are both club options. Also worth noting: Alshon Jeffrey signed just a 1-year deal with Philadelphia. Hollins should be a prominent part of the passing game next year, one way or another.
WR Tanner Gentry, CHI (Wk. 8: @NO): The Bears passing volume has been a bit of a joke the past couple weeks, but Gentry has been on the field for 109 out of a possible 118 offensive snaps in the past 2 weeks. He only has one catch to show for all of that playing time, but that’s due to there being just 12 passing completions in those games. I’d expect quite a bit more volume against the high-powered Saints. New Orleans allows the 9th-most WR points per game. Gentry has displayed big play ability (had a 45-yard TD catch in preseason), and the Saints have allowed the 4th-most pass plays of 20 or more yards. Gentry could surprise this week as a DFS punt option. The Bears did just acquire Dontrelle Inman on Wednesday, so the snap share could be a bit in jeopardy for Tanner, but I don’t expect Dontrelle to be fully up to speed by Sunday.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps with your tough lineup decisions. If you see two players at the same position with the same designation, the one listed first is the one I like better this week. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury reports throughout the week and always do a final check before kickoff to make sure your guys are active. If you want to yell at me about anything above or have any questions, feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Week 6 was another wild one in the NFL. One of the most exciting things about the league is how unpredictable it can be. 7 underdogs came away victorious, including two that were double-digit underdogs in the Giants and Dolphins. Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending broken collarbone and opened up the NFC North race in the process. The Bears managed to top the Ravens by running the ball an astounding 54 times, and the Jets took a 14-0 lead on the defending champs before falling by 10. It was another week of top rookie performances, as Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette turned in top-10 running back weeks. Deshaun Watson maintained his spot as fantasy’s top scoring QB with a 3-touchdown day, and Evan Engram made the most of the lack of other receiving options for the Giants and finished as the TE3 for the week. There were let downs too, like Aaron Jones and Elijah McGuire, but all in all it was a decent week for the rookies. We also got to see another rookie QB take over as Brian Hoyer was benched in favor CJ Beathard in the bay. There’s plenty more on tap for week 7, so let’s dive in and discuss what to expect…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 7: @Oak.): Last week didn’t go quite according to plan for Hunt or the Chiefs, but the matchup is strong again this week. Hunt is still an obvious start in season-long leagues. He topped 100 scrimmage yards again last week and finished as the RB15 even in a down week. He should be a solid DFS option this week as well. The Raiders have allowed 85.9 PPR points to opposing backs in the past 3 weeks. That’s 28.7 per game, which would be the 4th-most in the league. Hunt is safe as usual.
RB Leonard Fournette, Jax. (Wk. 7: @Ind.): As long as the twisted ankle Leonard suffered last week doesn’t keep him sidelined, you have to play him. He came up big for you again last week, and the Colts allow the 4th-most RB fantasy points per game in the league. The volume for Leonard is unlikely to change despite him tweaking the ankle. He should be worth the price tag in DFS lineups this week as well.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 7: @GB): If their week 1 matchup with the Seahawks were removed from the equation, the Packers would go from allowing the 14th-most RB points per game all the way up to 4th-most. Kamara is still taking a back seat to Mark Ingram in the wake of the Adrian Peterson trade. He was out-snapped by Ingram 47-30 last week, but in the past 2 games Kamara has seen at least 14 touches and 85 yards in each, and I’d expect that usage to continue again this week. He’s got a high volume role in a plus matchup. He should return RB2 value in PPR leagues with no problem.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 7: vs. Sea.): The matchup with the Seahawks isn’t as daunting as you might expect this week. Seattle is in the middle of the pack when it comes to limiting tight end points. They have allowed the 15th-most TE points per game, and have given up 11+ PPR points to the position in 4 of their 5 games. Engram became the focal point of the Giants’ passing attack last weekend with their decimated WR group, so his target share should be strong again this week even if Sterling Shepard is able to play. The Seahawks are good enough to shut the Giants down as a whole, so I would probably fade Engram in DFS lineups, but he should be a low-end top-10 TE in PPR leagues this week.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 7: @Chi.): McCaffrey is a guy you should be starting every week in PPR leagues, but he’s much less of a sure thing in standard formats. He’s been held under 50 scrimmage yards in 3 out of the 6 games he’s played this season, but he’s kept up his PPR floor with at least 4 catches each week. It would be nice to see CMC’s rushing usage go up, but there’s no way to bank on it this week. The Bears are a middling run defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs, but they’ve given up a rushing score in 5 of 6 games and 90+ rushing yards to opposing backs in 4 of 6. If McCaffrey gets an increased rushing load, he might finally start to hit that ceiling we’ve been waiting on. In the meantime, the floor is working out just fine. He’s the overall RB10 in PPR leagues despite just 2 top-10 weekly finishes.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 7: @Pit.): I’m not quite sure what to make of Pittsburgh’s run defense so far this year. On the surface, they’re pretty bad. They’re in the bottom-10 in the league in terms of yards per carry, yards per game, and rushing TDs allowed, and they’ve allowed the 6th-most RB fantasy points per game, but they also rank a respectable 12th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat and just held all-world rookie Kareem Hunt to 21 yards on 9 carries. Hunt did save his day with receiving yardage, but it was the first time all year he was held under 80 rushing yards. The Bengals had the bye week to gameplan for this one, and the Steelers would qualify as a plus matchup for running backs, but I see Mixon as no more than an RB2 this week. He’s cracked the top-20 PPR backs just once in 5 games on the season.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 7: vs. NO): Splitting reps with Ty Montgomery likely saps the value for both backs going forward. Green Bay may try to run a bit more this week with Aaron Rodgers sidelined with a broken collarbone and Brett Hundley under center, but the Saints have been improved against running backs in their last 2 games. There is still upside to be had here, as the Saints’ defense still ranks just 24th in run defense DVOA and has allowed the 3rd-most running back receiving yards despite their recent improved play. Jones may still wind up being a fine flex play in a pinch this week, but I’d lean on more reliable options if I have them.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 7: vs. Car.): Cohen’s usage had taken a nosedive recently, but it should rebound with Benny Cunningham back on the shelf with another hamstring injury. Assuming Benny doesn’t play, Cohen should see significant snaps as he did in week 6. Cohen handled 15 touches in week 6 after seeing just 17 of them in weeks 4 & 5 combined. He also threw a TD pass, but that was a fluke trick play. Don’t expect it again. There is some warranted concern that only one of Cohen’s 15 touches was a reception, but I’d expect the game script to be a bit more negative this week, and only 2 teams have allowed more running back receptions than the Panthers. Cohen is back in play as a PPR flex option this week despite the Panthers allowing the 11th-fewest RB points per game.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 7: vs. Ari.): Any WR that doesn’t draw Patrick Peterson has a chance to burn the Arizona defense, but slot wide receivers have been especially effective. Golden Tate lit them up for 10-107 in week 1, and in the past 3 weeks they’ve allowed 5-47 to Trent Taylor, 4-93-1 to Nelson Agholor, and 6-51 to Adam Humphries. Kupp is as good a bet as any Ram to lead the team in catches this week, and the best bet to catch a TD pass. Despite Patrick Peterson being one of the premiere corners in the game, allowing just 7-82-1 total in 6 games on throws into his coverage, the Cardinals still allow the 5th-most WR fantasy points per game. Pat Pete should be on Watkins in this one, making Kupp a sneaky DFS play and decent flex/WR3 option.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 7: vs. Dal.): Kittle has seen his target share take off in a big way in the past 2 weeks, and the installation of his college QB CJ Beathard as the 49ers new starter should only help. The Cowboys have allowed 50+ receiving yards to the opposing tights end in 4 of 5 games this year, and gave up a TD in the other. While they usually split that yardage allowed between multiple opposing TEs, the 49ers don’t really have much else at the position. The 49ers have targeted the tight end position 38 times on the year, and 31 of those targets went to Kittle, including 17 of 20 in the last 2 weeks. As long as that target volume continues this week, Kittle should be a solid streaming option in PPR leagues.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 7: vs. Car.): The Panthers’ pass defense has shown some holes this season. They rank 15th in pass defense DVOA, they allow the 7th-highest QB rating to opposing QBs, and they’ve allowed multiple passing scores in 4 straight contests. With that said, they also rank 2nd in the league in quarterback sacks and allow the 7th-fewest passing yards per game. The Bears showed us what their gameplan is with Trubisky last week. Run, run, and run some more. They piled up a ridiculous 54 rushing attempts against Baltimore, compared with 16 pass attempts for Mitchell. If the Panthers don’t run out to a big lead, the Bears will lean on the run again. If Carolina does get out in front, Mitch lacks the weapons to put up a big game in garbage time. He’s a lackluster QB2 option against the Panthers on Sunday.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 7: vs. Ten.): The Browns have made the decision to go back to Kizer this week at QB, and he may even have a decent game, but I’d be hard pressed to use him in any lineups. The Titans have allowed the 6th-most QB fantasy points per game, but they allowed 33+ points each to Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, which has skewed their overall average. In their other 4 games, facing Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Jay Cutler and Jacoby Brissett, they’ve allowed just 12.25 points per game which would rank 7th fewest in the league. I’d argue Kizer seems to fit better into that second group of signal-callers than the first in terms of where you’d rank them as a fantasy QB. I hope he plays better in his second stint as the starter, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
RB Matt Brieda, SF (Wk. 7: vs. Dal.): It pains me to say you should bench Brieda against a Cowboys’ team that ranks dead last in run defense DVOA, but I’d expect the 49ers to be showcasing Carlos Hyde for any potential trade suitors in this plus matchup. Brieda’s playing time is already on the decline of late. The 17 snaps he played in week 6 were the fewest he’s seen in the past 3 contests. I’d expect similar usage for Brieda this week, and that kind of snap count doesn’t bode well for his fantasy prospects. You should still hold on to him on your bench if you can.
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 7: vs. Sea.): Gallman’s run as New York’s lead back was shorter than expected. Orleans Darkwa appears to have stolen the job from him after racking up 117 rushing yards against a Denver defense that had allowed just 165 rushing yards to RBs in the previous 4 games combined. Gallman saw just 11 touches in that game, and that kind of usage isn’t going to get it done against Seattle. The Seahawks allow the 4th-fewest RB fantasy points per game.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 7: @Mia.): It was a disappointing week for McGuire as Matt Forte returned from injury and took away his opportunity to play as the Jets’ lead back. I expected the Jets to ease Forte back in, but they didn’t hold him back much. Forte didn’t exactly dazzle as a runner with just 22 yards on 9 carries (McGuire had 22 on 10), but Forte received 8 passing game targets compared to zero for Eli. What was even more disappointing was seeing Travaris Cadet get 3 targets. The Dolphins aren’t nearly as giving to RBs as the Patriots, and the lack of receiving usage makes McGuire basically unstartable this week regardless of whether or not Bilal Powell returns.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 7: @Phi.): It seems very likely that Rob Kelley will be able to play this week, which would send Perine back to a bench role. He scored a TD last weekend, but he still hasn’t really capitalized on the opportunities he’s been given. Even with the TD, Perine was outscored by receiving back Chris Thompson in non-PPR scoring. The Eagles allow the 6th-fewest RB points per game and have allowed just 40 rushing yards to opposing backs per week. There’s no way Perine posts a usable week with Kelley back.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 7: vs. Cin.): JuJu continues to see more usage than Martavis Bryant in this offense, but the matchup isn’t a great one this week. The Bengals allow the 3rd-fewest WR PPR points per game, allowing only Green Bay’s receiver group to eclipse 20 total points against them. As I mentioned, JJSS is still playing more snaps than Martavis Bryant, but he hasn’t had quite enough volume to be a trustworthy flex play. His matchup is tougher than it was last week, and yet his DraftKings price is $200 higher. I’d avoid him in all formats this week.
WR Taywan Taylor, TEN (Wk. 7: @Cle.): Jon Gruden referred to Taylor as a ‘gadget receiver’ during Monday Night Football this week, but I think Taywan had the last laugh after catching a 53-yard TD in the 4th quarter of the game. He’s shown some serious ability when given the chance with two 40+-yard catches on the season, but even with Corey Davis sidelined the volume just hasn’t been there. He has just 7 receptions in total. Here’s a weird stat for the Browns that will work against Taylor this week: The Browns have allowed 2 wide receivers to reach 40 yards in the same game just once this season (TY Hilton & Donte Moncrief). With Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker around, it’s hard to believe the guy to get to 40 yards will be Taylor if the Titans only get one.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 7: vs. Ari.): Everett scored his first career TD last week, but has hauled in just 3 catches for 20 yards on 9 targets in the past 4 games. The Cardinals were shredded by Brate & Ertz in the past 2 weeks, but there’s no reason to expect that from Everett. Tyler Higbee is the play if you want to attack the Cardinals’ TE defense.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 7: vs. Ten.): With Kevin Hogan under center last Sunday, Njoku saw a season-high 5 targets, but he caught just 2 of them for zero yards. Njoku has scored 3 TDs in 6 games, but he’s no more than a low-volume TD dart throw this week. The Titans allow the 12th-fewest TE points per game.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 7: @Buf.): Howard has been almost a non-factor in the passing game. He’s averaged just 2.4 targets per game, and the Bills have allowed the 8th-fewest TE points per game. It’s an easy call to avoid OJ this week.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 7: vs. Dal.): It’ll be Beathard’s first NFL start, but he acquitted himself well in mop-up duty against Washington last week and he gets a nice matchup in week 7. The Cowboys have allowed multiple passing TDs and at least 18 fantasy points to each QB they’ve faced in the past 4 games. The bye might have helped them get their heads on straight, but it’s hard to know. This will be Dallas’s first game since Jerry Jones issued his anthem ultimatum, and Ezekiel Elliott was only legally cleared to play on Tuesday. There could be some distractions affecting the team. Even if the Cowboys play well, Beathard should be playing from behind and have increased passing volume. He’s an interesting 2QB streamer option and upside DFS tournament play.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 7: vs. Jax.): Marlon Mack has a chance to explode this week. Robert Turbin has played at least 28% of the offensive snaps in every single game Mack has been active for. Turbin was lost for the season with an elbow injury at the end of the MNF game this week. The Jaguars have allowed an NFL-worst 5.2 yards per carry and 2nd-worst 145.7 rushing yards per game. Both Gore and Mack have brighter outlooks with Turbin out of the picture, but Mack is the more explosive back. Pat Thorman of Pro Football Focus noted this week that the Jaguars have allowed 21 carries of 10 or more yards this season, 4th-most in the league, and Marlon Mack has 5 such carries in just 27 attempts. As long as Mack picks up some of the slack left behind by Turbin, he should be a great cheap DFS option and a fun sleeper for deeper leagues.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 7: vs. TB): Jordan Matthews’s status is still up in the air for this week, and Charles Clay is definitely out. If there was ever a spot for Zay Jones to get his rookie year on track, this is it. The Buccaneers allow the most WR PPR points per game by an incredible 8.7-point margin over the 2nd-worst unit (Eagles). That point gap is the same as the one between the Eagles and the Dolphins. The Dolphins allow the 17th-most WR points. Tampa has been absolutely shredded by wide receivers. I know Zay has just 5 catches on 23 targets for the year, but if Matthews sits out again he could see 8+ targets in this game against that Buccaneer defense. You can’t trust him in season-long leagues, but he could be a great value in DFS tournaments at just $3,600 on DraftKings.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 7: vs. Den.): The Broncos are never an ideal matchup to play a wide receiver, so this is about reminding you that Williams is still a solid stash for deeper leagues. He had just 1 catch in his debut, and will likely be eased in slowly, but the Chargers could use some wide receiver help. Only 16 of Philip Rivers’s 46 completions in the past 2 weeks went to wide receivers, and only 7 to receivers who weren’t Keenan Allen. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin aren’t getting it done. Among waiver wire WRs, I like Corey Davis’s upside more in terms of the rest of the season, but Davis has already been ruled out for this week. You can wait a week in most places to pick him up. You might not have that luxury with Williams.
WR John Ross, CIN (Wk. 7: @Pit.): Ross is just a stash at this point. You can’t put him in the lineup this week, but with Tyler Boyd out, Ross might actually make an impact against Pittsburgh. You could beat the rush and pick him up this week in really deep leagues. Monitor Ross’s usage this week. Cincinnati gets the Colts, Browns and Titans in three of their next 5 games. There could be a couple big games for him if he manages to carve out a role.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps with some of your tough lineup decisions. I always try to include every fantasy relevant rookie, and if you see two guys at the same position under the same header, I try to rank them in the order I would play them this week. Keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week, and always check for any surprise inactives on game day. If you have any questions, or want to yell at me about anything above, feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Hopefully the fantasy gods have smiled upon your teams for the first 5 weeks of the season. Now that we’re this deep into the season, we’re starting to get a better picture of which teams are legit, which teams are not, and which teams are the Giants. Sorry Giants fans, it’s going to be a long few months, but you should get to see a bunch of Evan Engram! As far as the rookies go, week 5 featured the debut of one heralded rookie QB, and the benching of another. Mitch-a-palooza didn’t quite go according to plan for the Bears on Monday night, but Trubisky did show some flashes that will give Bears fans hope. DeShone Kizer, on the other hand, needs a few weeks off to get his head clear. He may eventually get the starting job back from Kevin Hogan, but the turnovers were just getting to be too much. Both Kizer and Trubisky have nothing on Deshaun Watson at this point. Aside from the QBs, we also got breakout games from Aaron Jones and George Kittle, Christian McCaffrey’s first TD, and ho-hum RB1 days out of Kareem Hunt and Leonard Fournette. Let’s check in on what to expect from week 6:
Rookies to Start:
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 6: vs. Cle.): Watson has been throwing straight fire the past few weeks even if the Texans aren’t putting up a ton of wins as a result. In his 4 starts this year, Deshaun has been the QB7, QB15, QB1, and QB1. The Cleveland Browns allow the 4th-most QB points per game (all ranks and point totals listed are in PPR scoring), so the good times should keep rolling this week. I’m not sure there’s another 4 or 5 TD game in the offing this week, but Watson might be worth his price tag in DFS lineups. It would be hard to sit Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees for the rookie, but I would rank only Tom Brady higher than him for this week.
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 6: vs. Pit.): Obviously you weren’t considering sitting Hunt this week, but this is a week you should consider paying up for him in DFS lineups. The Steelers’ run defense has been shredded by Leonard Fournette, Jordan Howard and Dalvin Cook in the past 4 weeks. They gave up over 200 rushing yards and 2 TDs to both the Jaguars and Bears RBs. Hunt has been held scoreless in each of the past 2 games, but I expect him to find the end zone at least once in this one. He is the premier running back play of the week.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 6: vs. LAR): Just like Hunt, Fournette is a weekly RB1 who you wouldn’t think of sitting in season long leagues, but also someone you should be getting into your DFS lineups this week. I’d have Hunt as the top RB play this week, but Fournette isn’t far behind. The Rams had allowed a top-6 RB performance in 3 straight contests before facing the Seahawks’ mess of a backfield last weekend, and even after that game still allow the 2nd-most fantasy points per game to RBs. Fournette has seen 20+ touches in 4 of the past 5 games, so his volume is pretty much a given. Leonard could put up a monster game this week.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 6: vs. NE): The stars have aligned for McGuire this week. Bilal Powell and Matt Forte should both miss this game, and the Patriots allow the most running back fantasy points per game and rank 27th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat. There is a little hesitation from the fact that the Jets are 10-point underdogs at home, and will face a negative game script all day, but that shouldn’t be too big a worry. McGuire has shown receiving ability at the NFL level so far, and he caught 130 passes in his college career. Also, the Patriots have allowed the 3rd most receptions, most receiving yards and most receiving TDs to opposing RBs. If the Jets get blown out, McGuire’s receiving usage should still get him through to an RB2 day. He’s a great value in DFS at just $4,600 on DraftKings.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 6: @Min.): Jones’s status hinges largely on whether or not Ty Montgomery is able to play this week. Updates on Thursday were that TyMo took some hits in practice and that his ribs ‘felt fine’ afterward. He’s been wearing a flak jacket in practice and has said it isn’t uncomfortable. There has been some speculation that Jones will take over as the lead back on early downs from local beat writers given the success he’s had the past couple weeks and the struggles Montgomery had running between the tackles early on. I’m not sure I buy this. I think this is still TyMo’s backfield for now. If both guys play, I’d consider each guy a flex option, but the matchup is a tough one. The Vikings have allowed the 2nd-fewest RB points per game so far. If Montgomery sits again, consider Jones a solid RB2 option. This offense has been too good to run from this matchup if there’s a clear lead back.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 6: vs. Phi.): McCaffrey has been pretty much an RB2/flex performer each week, with weekly finishes ranging anywhere from RB10 to RB36. We haven’t seen much of ceiling here yet, but the floor has been fairly steady. The matchup this week is somewhat favorable for CMC. The Eagles have allowed just the 7th-fewest RB points per game so far, but they’ve also allowed nearly as many RB receiving yards as they have RB rushing yards (239 rushing, 228 receiving). McCaffrey remains a PPR flex play.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 6: vs. Det.): I’d lean toward playing Kamara in PPR formats this week. The Adrian Peterson trade doesn’t have a huge impact on Alvin, but it may get him a small uptick in snaps and gives the backfield more clarity in general. The Lions allow the 17th-most RB points per game, but 58.5% of the PPR points they’ve allowed have come from receiving numbers. Kamara should be a solid flex play in PPR leagues.
RB Semaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 6: vs. SF): With Rob Kelley likely out this week, Perine should get the bulk of the early down work in a plus matchup. The 49ers have allowed the 3rd-most points per game to opposing backs, but I’d still only view Perine as a low-end RB2 or flex option. He’s struggled when given extended opportunities this year. In weeks 2 & 3, he totaled 116 rushing yards on 40 carries (2.9 ypc), and both of those games were against teams in the bottom half of the league in run defense DVOA. The 49ers rank 14th. Chris Thompson is the Washington running back who should benefit the most from the matchup.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 6: @Den.): Engram unexpectedly put up a goose egg last week, but he should be peppered with targets this week with Brandon Marshall, Odell Beckham Jr., and Sterling Shepard all sidelined. The Broncos will probably pay him some extra defensive attention this week as New York’s de-facto number 1 target in the passing game, but tight end has been where the Broncos’ defense has been most vulnerable. They have allowed the 6th-most tight end point per game, and rank 26st in pass defense DVOA on throws that target the tight end. Engram should rebound and post a low-end TE1 game, even if he doesn’t find the end zone.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 6: @Was.): Kittle played only about half as many snaps in week 5 as he did in week 4, but he still managed to post a breakout game with 7-83-1 on 9 targets. It’s hard to imagine the 49ers wouldn’t give him more looks going forward. I wouldn’t expect that kind of game every week, but he should be able to flirt with TE1 numbers in PPR formats again this week. The 49ers face off with a Washington team that allows the 3rd-most TE points per game and ranks 31st on pass defense DVOA on throws to the tight end. He’s a decent streaming option if you’re without Charles Clay, Jimmy Graham or Jason Witten this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 6: @Bal.): Trubisky looked impressive at times during his Monday Night Football debut, but ultimately he didn’t have enough weapons to finish off a win and made a bad rookie mistake on a late interception. He should clean up some of the mistakes as he gains more experience, but the weapons issue isn’t going anywhere this season. Mitch gets an awful matchup this week. The Ravens at home have been tough on QBs, allowing only 2 of the past 10 QBs they’ve faced in Baltimore to top 12 fantasy points dating back to the beginning of last season. I don’t think Mitch makes it 3 of 11.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 6: @Ten.): Mack put up a strong performance last week in his first game back from injury against the 49ers, scoring a TD and setting up the game-winning field goal. It should lead to more work going forward, but that doesn’t mean you should start plugging him into lineups this week. He should be rostered in most leagues, but I still expect Frank Gore to lead the way in snaps and touches, especially after the comments from Chuck Pagano today that Mack is still a ‘work in progress.’ The Titans are also not a great matchup for RBs, allowing the 13th-fewest RB fantasy points per game.
RB Matt Brieda, SF (Wk. 6: @Was.): Like Mack above, Brieda should be rostered in most leagues, but not plugged into lineups just yet. The 49ers announced they’ll be employing a ‘hot hand’ approach at RB going forward, but I would expect Hyde to still be the better option on a weekly basis. There might not be enough production to make Brieda useful this week even if he does get the hot hand. Washington allows the 12th-fewest RB points per game and ranks 8th in run defense DVOA. They are also a 10-point favorite in this game. Brieda’s got an uncertain workload, a tough matchup, and likely a negative game script. That’s not a recipe for fantasy success.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 6: @Bal.): With a fully healthy Benny Cunningham around, Cohen’s snap share has slipped to under 30% the past 2 weeks, and he hasn’t been making the most of the opportunities he’s been getting. He looked indecisive with the ball on Monday night, dancing around too much and causing negative plays for the offense. I would like to see his snap count start to go back up before considering him in lineups for season long leagues again. His game-breaking ability still gives him a ceiling as a DFS tournament play, but at $5,100 in DraftKings, that’s a lot of cost with that risk. The Ravens aren’t a great matchup for him either. They’ve allowed the 3rd-fewest RB receptions so far this season.
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 6: @Den.): The Broncos’ defense has been dominant so far, and the Giants’ offense is falling apart with injuries. The Broncos allow the fewest RB fantasy points per game, and Gallman will have to split RB snaps with Orleans Darkwa and Shane Vereen. He’s been the most effective rusher the Giants have had so far, but that doesn’t mean much in a game where the team’s implied total is 13.5 points (and I would actually bet the Giants end up under that).
RB Corey Clement, PHI (Wk. 6: @Car.): Clement’s snap percentage has increased each week this season from 0 in week 1 to 1%, 9%, 24%, and 34% since, but his touch totals haven’t really spiked and Philly seems content with a 3-man timeshare. Even with Wendell Smallwood out in week 5, the Eagles found a new 3rd guy getting Kenjon Barner 17 offensive snaps. Until we see an increase in usage, it’s hard to trust Clement anywhere.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 6: @Jax.): Only 4 wide receivers all year have made it 50 yards in a game against Jacksonville, and only Antonio Brown last week has made it to 60. The only one who got to 50 yards as primarily a slot receiver was JuJu Smith-Schuster last weekend. Jacksonville has also allowed just 1 TD to opposing WRs. I doubt Kupp breaks those trends. The volume will likely be low enough that he needs a TD for a productive day, and the odds of that TD aren’t great.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 6: vs. Phi.): His role clearly hasn’t increased as a result of the injury to Greg Olsen. The Eagles allow the 2nd-most WR fantasy points per game, but Samuel has just 4 catches on the season, and I don’t expect that number to go up much this week.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 6: @Was.): This might have actually been a nice spot to use Taylor in DFS tournaments if Josh Norman were healthy. Taylor has seen increased usage when Garcon faces a shutdown corner. He was peppered with 10 targets a couple weeks ago when Pierre was shadowed by Patrick Peterson, but he hasn’t topped 4 in any other game. I don’t expect that to change this week, and with the short distance targets he gets, you need volume for him to be useful.
WR Travis Rudolph, NYG (Wk. 6: @Den.): The Giants just signed this Florida State product off the street this week and may already be inserting him into 3-WR sets as soon as this Sunday assuming Sterling Shepard can’t go. He’s worth keeping an eye on over the next couple weeks with the Giants’ pass catching group decimated by injuries, but there is no New York WR who should be anywhere near your lineups this week with a daunting matchup with the Broncos on tap.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 6: @Hou.): The switch from DeShone Kizer to Kevin Hogan may lead to better results for Njoku, but I would take a wait & see approach here. He’s still splitting snaps fairly evenly with Seth DeValve, and is yet to top 3 catches in a game. You’re basically counting on a TD for him to be useful to you. This week’s matchup isn’t great for that. The Texans have allowed just 1 tight end score this season, and have been tough on the TEs they’ve faced that aren’t Rob Gronkowski or Travis Kelce.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 6: vs. Ind.): Jonnu had a season-high 5 targets come his way last Sunday and he caught all of them, but he totaled just 21 yards. Marcus Mariota is expected to return this week and that should help the Titans’ offense, but I doubt it helps Jonnu all that much. The Colts have been a good matchup for opposing TEs, but it should be Delanie Walker who benefits from that this week. Jonnu is still a name to know in dynasty formats.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 6: vs. Ari.): If Howard can put up a goose egg against the Patriots, I’m not sure there is any matchup you can use him in as long as Brate is healthy. It was nice to see OJ get targeted in the end zone on the game’s final play last Thursday, but it was his only target of the night. This is essentially a redshirt year for Howard in dynasty leagues, but no reason to own him anywhere else right now.
Rookies on Byes: RB Joe Mixon, CIN, WR Zay Jones, BUF, WR John Ross, CIN
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 6: vs. Cle.): Foreman has some upside as a DFS tournament punt option. Houston is a 10-point favorite, and if Deshaun Watson goes supernova again, Foreman should see some extra work in a blowout. The Browns don’t have the offensive firepower to keep pace the way the Chiefs do. Foreman saw 13 carries in the blowout win over Tennessee a couple weeks ago, and something similar could be in the offing this week.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 6: @KC): JJSS is a screaming value in DFS formats this week in my opinion. He’ll cost just $3,600 on DraftKings. The Chiefs have been roasted by WRs this year, allowing the 5th-most WR points per game, and the Steelers were talking about giving Martavis Bryant ‘a break’ this week. I doubt they would sit him completely, but even if they scale him back it should mean more work for JuJu. Smith-Schuster has averaged nearly 6 targets a game in the past 3 weeks, and his yardage has increased each week. I like JuJu a lot as a cheap DFS tournament option.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 6: @NO): Golladay has missed the last 2 games, but if he’s able to suit up this week, this is a matchup where he can come up big. The Lions have desperately needed a vertical receiver the past couple weeks to open up the offense, and the Saints have allowed the 3rd-most pass plays of 20+ yards. I wouldn’t thrust Kenny G back into lineups in season long leagues just yet, but he’s an intriguing DFS tournament option.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 6: @Oak.): Mike should finally get on the field this week, but he likely won’t see a ton of targets in his first go-round after missing all of the preseason and the first 5 weeks. He’s still worth a stash in deeper leagues to see how his role develops. Chargers may wind up with the two Williamses on the outside (Mike and Tyrell), and Keenan Allen in the slot in 3-wide sets. Mike projects as a matchup nightmare in the red zone at 6’4”, 218.
WR Kasen Williams, CLE (Wk. 6: @Hou.): Ok, so Williams isn’t technically a rookie, but I wanted to mention her here as a guy to potentially stash in really deep leagues and dynasty formats. The Browns want nothing to do with Kenny Britt at this point, Ricardo Louis is one of Pro Football Focus’s lowest graded WRs (ranks 100th in the league), and Kevin Hogan showed the ability to move the team down the field last week. Williams has a little bit of appeal as a DFS punt play since the Texans’ secondary has been pretty burnable. Kasen flashed in training camp with the Seahawks before becoming a casualty of roster limits. He played 45% of the offensive snaps last week for Cleveland, and posted 4-33 on 5 targets. I expect him to get more involved going forward, and he has a chance to develop into the Browns’ number 1 target until Corey Coleman returns.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with some of your tougher lineup decisions this week. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury reports throughout the week. Plenty of situations are still fluid: Mariota, TyMo, Derek Carr, etc, that can have huge impacts on fantasy, and you don’t want to get stuck with a goose egg because you weren’t paying attention. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.