Welcome back to the Rookie Report and Happy Turkey Day! Things get a little wild this week with 3 Thursday games, so make sure to get your lineups set ahead of time. The Thanksgiving holiday also brings us the end of the bye weeks. It’ll be full 16 game slates from here on out, so some of those fringe guys you have been willing to try in recent weeks should be shelved for safer options. Oddly enough, in a lot of cases the safer options right now are rookies, especially at the running back position. 4 of the top-12 running backs and 6 of the top-25 in PPR scoring are rookies. Compare that with 2016: only 2 of the top-25 backs were rookies (Zeke and Jordan Howard) and you had to go all the way to RB43 to find the 6th-best rookie contributor. Just imagine how good this rookie crop would be if Dalvin Cook had stayed healthy. There hasn’t been as much success at the other positions, but that may change with Corey Davis’s schedule opening up, a possible TE changing of the guard in Tampa, and a certain turnover-prone QB getting some of his weapons back in Cleveland. Let’s jump in and see what to expect for week 12…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 12: vs. Buf.): With each passing week, it’s getting harder and harder to rely on Hunt as an RB1. He has zero TDs since week 3, and 3 straight games with fewer than 100 scrimmage yards after hitting that mark in each of his first 7 games. The Bills are an ideal get-right spot for him. Buffalo has coughed up 212.7 rushing yards per game and 11 rushing TDs in the 3 games since they dealt Marcell Dareus, and Hunt has accounted for nearly three-quarters of the Chiefs rushing yards on the year (73.7%). This is a chance for Hunt to find his ceiling again. A 20-point PPR day could be in the offing.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 12: @LAR): You already know that Kamara is pretty much an auto-start at this point. The Rams are improving against opposing running backs and have held 3 of their last 4 opponents below 17 PPR points (the best RB defense in the league, Houston, allows 17.2 points per game), but the Rams played from ahead in most of those games and still have allowed the 4th-most running back points on the year. You can’t bet against Kamara’s hot streak here. He’s been an RB1 for 5 straight weeks, and THE RB1 in 2 of the past 3. He’s well worth the cost in DFS formats and a locked in RB1 again.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 12: @Ari.): Fournette got back on track with 111 rushing yards last Sunday against the Browns. He’s still battling an ankle injury, but he played 67% of the offensive snaps and produced a solid fantasy day. The Cardinals have been decent at stopping the ground game, ranking 9th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat, but Fournette’s volume has kept him pretty much matchup-proof, and Arizona is coming off their worst game against RBs all year. I’d prefer Kamara or Hunt as a top flight option in DFS, but LF should be locked in to season-long lineups as usual.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 12: @NYJ): The Jets defense has been pretty formidable against running backs this year, holding opposing backs to the 10th-fewest PPR points per game and ranking 13th in run defense DVOA, but I’m not betting against McCaffrey. He’s posted back-to-back top-6 weeks since the Kelvin Benjamin trade. He’s more of an RB2 this week than RB1 given the matchup, but with KB gone he’s finally finding his ceiling, and it isn’t something you want to leave on the bench.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 12: vs. NYG): I’d be a little nervous if I’m relying on Perine as an RB1 this week but Chris Thompson suffered a season-ending injury, Perine is coming off a breakout game, and the Giants have allowed the 3rd-most rushing yards in the league. Washington also enters the game as a touchdown favorite, so game script should work in Perine’s favor as well. I don’t know if he’ll repeat the performance he had last week, but Samaje should be a solid RB2 based on volume and matchup. He’s a better option in non-PPR formats since he provides almost no receiving production.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 12: vs. GB): Make sure the hamstring isn’t a problem before pulling the trigger here. JuJu has averaged 8.3 targets per game in the past 3 contests, and Green Bay has allowed the 7th-most WR points per game. There is probably some worry after Antonio Brown exploded Thursday night and JJSS scored in single-digits, but the Packers have let 2 WRs finish in the top-24 in the same game 4 times (nearly 5, but Josh Bellamy of the Bears was the WR26 against them). Make sure to keep an eye on the hamstring updates. JuJu isn’t practicing as of Wednesday, and the Steelers play Sunday night. Make sure you have a fallback option if he can’t play (Martavis, Bruce Ellington and Mike Wallace are all options that may be available on your waiver wire), but if he’s able to go he should be a borderline WR2.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 12: @Ind.): I am here for the Corey Davis breakout game this week. The snaps and targets have been there for Davis since he returned from his hamstring injury, and now he gets a matchup that will allow him to really get going. The Colts rank 27th in pass defense DVOA and have allowed the 8th-most WR points per game. It would be a ballsy move to thrust Davis into lineups this week given how he’s produced so far, but I love Davis as a WR3 this week. He could drastically outplay his $4,900 price tag in DraftKings this week.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 12: @Was.): Don’t be scared off by his clunker last week. The wind was howling, and he was facing a tough matchup. Remember that Engram put up a goose egg in week 5 and then followed it with 4 straight top-5 performances before last Sunday’s dud. EE draws Washington this week, a defense much more giving to opposing TEs than the Chiefs. Washington has allowed the most yards per game to opposing TEs and the 4th-most fantasy points per game to them. The Chiefs have allowed the 3rd-fewest TE points. Engram is a strong bet to get back on track on Thursday night.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 12: vs. Cle.): Mixon has continued to show a lack of a ceiling all year in this Bengals’ offense. He hasn’t reached 14 PPR points in any game this year, and he has the fewest yards per carry of any back with at least 55 carries on the year (2.9). He’ll need receiving usage to find his floor this week, as the Browns actually rank 1st in run defense DVOA. Gio Bernard is still stealing some of the passing down work. The Bengals are a heavy favorite, so game script could boost his volume, but he’s looking like no more than a flex play in this one.
RB Jamaal Williams, GB (Wk. 12: @Pit.): Williams had a usable day in his first start, finishing as the RB20 in a blowout loss to Baltimore on Sunday. He should see enough volume to push for fantasy viability again this week since the biggest threat to his carries, Devante Mays, fumbled twice in two attempts Sunday. If Ty Montgomery manages to return this week, Williams is off the table, but TyMo isn’t practicing as of Wednesday. The Steelers’ run defense has been stingy and ranks 4th in run defense DVOA and has allowed the 7th-fewest RB points per game so far. Game script should also work against Williams with the Steelers a 14-point favorite. If he continues to see some receiving work, there should still be enough volume for Jamaal to be in play as a flex option in deeper leagues, but there isn’t a ton of upside.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 12: vs. Car.): If Forte is out again, and it appears he will be, Elijah is worth some consideration as a flex option. Carolina is a tough matchup, allowing the 3rd fewest rushing yards and 2nd-fewest rushing TDs in the league, so McGuire will need some receiving usage to show his value. The Jets will likely be playing from behind and McGuire saw 7 targets last week to Bilal Powell’s 2 with the Jets in comeback mode against Tampa. Elijah also played more snaps than Powell in that game. If that usage continues, McGuire could surprise this week in deeper PPR leagues.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 12: vs. NO): At this point you pretty much know what you’re getting with Kupp. He’s probably overdue for a TD but his volume has been steady with 7+ targets in 3 of the last 4 games. Robert Woods’s absence should also give his target number a boost. The Saints have been decent defensively, but Kupp’s volume makes him a safe floor WR3… I mean, what are they going to do, start featuring Sammy Watkins? Sammy Watkins owners know the answer to that question.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 12: @KC): This is a good spot for Zay this week with Tyrod re-inserted at QB. Jones has finally started to play at a solid level in the past few weeks, and with KB expected out in this one Tyrod should lean on Zay in the passing game. Charles Clay hasn’t looked right since returning from injury a couple weeks ago and Jordan Matthews will likely play limited snaps in his first game back. The Chiefs allow the 2nd-most points per game to opposing WRs, and Zay has been averaging 7 targets a game in his last 4 played. He should be a PPR WR4 this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 12: @Phi.): The Eagles’ defense has been playing inspired football of late. They haven’t exactly been facing elite offenses (49ers, Broncos, Cowboys without Tyron Smith & Zeke), but the Bears and Mitch Trubisky don’t qualify as one either. Chicago ranks 26th in offensive yards per game and 27th in points per game. The Eagles have allowed 17.8 fantasy points to the opposing QBs in total in their past 3 contests. Mitch will be hard pressed to be a QB2 this week.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 12: @Phi.): Cohen’s usage bounced back in a big way against Detroit on Sunday, but Philly allows the 3rd-fewest RB points per game and Benny Cunningham is still mixing in during the 2-minute drill . You could try and plug Cohen in as your flex if you’re feeling lucky, but I’d like to see his usage repeat before I start considering him for the lineup again.
RB Corey Clement, PHI (Wk. 12: vs. Chi.): You could throw CC in as a DFS tournament dart throw if you want to, but at some point the garbage time bonanza is going to dry up. Clement’s usage hasn’t been reliable enough to put him in season-long lineups with fantasy playoff spots at stake. He’s topped 50 rushing yards in 3 straight games and scored 4 TDs in the past 2, but he’s done so on just 28 carries and 1 reception in those 3 games, most with the games long decided. There is a legitimate chance that the script repeats itself for Clement with Philly a 2-touchdown favorite, but at some point the Eagles are going to have a letdown game. It’s hard to bank on a 4th consecutive blowout. Even if it is a blowout, you’d still need a TD from Clement for him to return real value.
RB Matt Breida, SF (Wk. 12: vs. Sea.): Breida posted a productive game against the Giants heading into the bye, but that was with the 49ers playing from out in front all day. I’d expect mostly Hyde this week with the Seahawks being a much tougher opponent. Seattle ranks 11th in run defense DVOA and allows the 4th-fewest RB points per game. This isn’t a matchup to target with a rotational back like Breida.
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 12: @Was.): Gallman has just 10 touches in the last 2 games, and with Darkwa playing well there’s no reason to expect that number to go up on Thanksgiving.
WR Keelan Cole, JAX (Wk. 12: @Ari.): With the return of Dede Westbrook, Cole’s role will diminish quite a bit over the next couple weeks. I’d expect Westbrook and Marqise Lee to be on the field in most 2-wide sets, and Cole in the slot when they go to 3 WRs. Few teams employ fewer 3-WR formations than Jacksonville. The matchup isn’t terrible with the Cardinals allowing the 9th-most WR points per game, but I don’t expect Cole to find enough volume for a useful day.
WR Alex Erickson, CIN (Wk. 12: vs. Cle.): Don’t take his TD in week 11 to mean anything, and don’t read into the matchup this week with the lowly Browns. Erickson isn’t usable in fantasy at the moment, nor are his rookie teammates John Ross and Josh Malone.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 12: vs. Sea.): This matchup looks a lot better than it did a couple weeks ago, but even if Taylor is able to play he managed to post just 2 catches for 6 yards in the first meeting with Seattle, and his role in the offense already kept him away from Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman’s coverage. He’s scored 10+ PPR points just once on the year. If Taylor is out again, fellow rookie Kendrick Bourne will continue to see increased playing time, but he’s also not worth consideration as he battles Louis Murphy for WR3 snaps.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 12: @Atl.): OJ made good on my ‘sleeper’ call last week with a 3-52-1 line while playing 70% of the snaps, but I’m not ready to double-down on him this week. It does appear that he’s slightly edged out Cam Brate for the lead TE spot, but they still share enough work that it hurts the fantasy upside for both guys. Howard out-targeted Brate 4-3 in week 11. While those few targets are enough to be productive in a great matchup like the one they faced last week, Atlanta isn’t a great matchup. The Falcons are right in the middle of the pack vs. TEs, allowing the 16th-most TE points per game.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 12: vs. Sea.): I’d like Kittle as a sleeper if I were sure he’s healthy, but I’m not. TE gets pretty ugly after the top handful of options and the Seahawks have given up 11.9 or more PPR points to the position in 7 of their past 8 games. 10 PPR points is basically a borderline TE1 this year. With Kittle banged up though, I’d look elsewhere for TE streamers.
TE Adam Shaheen, CHI (Wk. 12: @Phi.): Shaheen has finally become part of the Bears’ game plan with injuries to Zach Miller and Dion Sims, but the Eagles have allowed 10+ points to the opposing TEs just 3 times all year, and only once in the last 6 games. This isn’t a good spot for Shaheen.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 12: @Cin.): With Corey Coleman back, Njoku was limited to just one target last weekend. It’s now been 5 games since Njoku’s last TD and 3 games since he reached 20 receiving yards. ‘Because he’s due’ isn’t a good reason to use him in lineups.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 12: vs. Sea.): The 49ers have announced that Beathard will get another start this week, and there actually is some upside in what is typically a demoralizing matchup. Seattle still has some defensive firepower to be reckoned with, but losing Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor is a huge blow to their secondary. Seattle is a 7-point favorite this week, so the 49ers should have to throw plenty, and CJ’s found some success of late with 17.4 and 25 fantasy points in his last 2 starts respectively. If you are playing a streamer in a 2-QB league, I like Beathard better than a lot of the other options at the bottom of the QB barrel.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 12: @Cin.): Cincinnati has been one of the better QB defenses in the league this year, allowing the 11th fewest QB points per game, but they have shown some cracks of late. They’ve allowed at least 14.6 points to the opposing QB in each of the 5 games since their bye week, and all 5 QBs faced finished between the QB10 and QB17 for the week. That range might not be exciting, but it’s usable in 2-QB formats. It’ll be easy to point to Kizer’s 4 turnovers and 5.4 fantasy points last week, and his poor performance in the first meeting with Cincy and write him off as an option, but he actually posted the 5th-highest point total any QB has against Jacksonville. He also scored 38 points combined in the two games before that against pretty formidable QB defenses (DET & MIN). The Bengals are one of 5 teams that have allowed 200 QB rushing yards on the year, so Kizer should create some extra points with his legs. He showed an immediate connection with Corey Coleman last week, and gets Josh Gordon back in week 13. I think DeShone will surprise some people down the stretch. We’ve seen flashes of his skills at times, and he’s getting weapons to work with. Now he just has to cut down on the turnovers and play more consistent football. He’s a high-risk, high-reward streamer for 2-QB leagues this week.
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC (Wk. 12: @Dal.): The Cowboys’ run defense has suffered whenever Sean Lee is out, and he will miss this game. Dallas has allowed 120+ rushing yards in all 3 games that Lee has missed, and another 120 in the final 3 quarters against Atlanta after Lee left with injury. They’ve given up 64 rushing yards per game with him in the lineup (not including that Atlanta game). The question with Ekeler will be his volume. He was effective on limited touches last week, but he didn’t play at all until the game was well in hand. Melvin Gordon should have a great game this week, but if Ekeler sees another 8-10 touches spelling him, he could post another flex-worthy game as well.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 12: vs. Ten.): Mack is likely becoming a forgotten man amongst the crowded rookie RB crop. He failed to score even 5 PPR points in week 9 or 10, and then was on bye in week 11. People likely are forgetting that the Colts played mostly from ahead in those two games. In positive game scripts, they are going to rely more heavily on Frank Gore. Despite playing with leads in those games, Mack still played over 40% of the snaps in each and handled 8.5 touches per game. I expect his usage to go up if Indy plays from behind, and the Titans allow the 5th-most RB catches and 4th-most RB receiving yards in the league. Mack is an upside play for DFS tournaments and the deepest of PPR leagues.
WR Dede Westbrook, JAX (Wk. 12: @Ari.): As I mentioned above with Keelan Cole, the Cardinals allow the 9th-most WR points per game and I expect Westbrook’s playing time to increase a bit this week. With Keelan Cole playing as the slot WR, that keeps Marqise Lee on the outside and will allow Patrick Peterson to cover him. That could open things up for Westbrook, who put up 3-35 on 6 targets last week. There’s upside for Westbrook to have a breakout game, and might reward you as a DFS punt option.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 12: vs. Min.): Minnesota’s top corner Xavier Rhodes is likely to spend most of the day covering Marvin Jones, and while Trae Waynes has improved of late, he’s still the guy to go after if you’re going to attack the Vikings on the outside. Golden Tate will be the Lions’ best WR play this week, but there’s room for Golladay to have a game as well. Kenny’s snap count tripled from 11 to 33 in his second game back, and there’s something about Lions’ Thanksgiving games that brings out the best in their QB. Matt Stafford has thrown for 330+ yards in 4 of the last five Turkey Day tilts he’s played in. While the one game he didn’t hit that mark was last year against these Vikings, I still like his chances at a better than expected day. If Golladay’s targets climb from the three he saw last week, he’s got some real upside as a boom-or-bust WR4.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 12: @Dal.): It’s likely that Williams’ 8 targets last week were more a result of the game being out of hand than part of the original plan, but it’s still an encouraging sign. His usage has been too inconsistent to use him in season-long leagues this week, but he could be a tournament winner for the Thanksgiving DFS slate. He costs just $100 more than the minimum in DraftKings, and faces a Cowboys’ defense that allows the 6th-most fantasy points per game to opposing WRs.
WR Chad Williams, ARI (Wk. 12: vs. Jax.): Don’t play Williams this week against the ferocious Jaguars’ defense, but keep an eye on his usage and production. John Brown is likely to miss this game with a toe injury, and head coach Bruce Arians said Williams has impressed in practice and “is going to get his shot.” The Jaguars allow the fewest WR points per game by a wide margin, so if Williams has an even remotely productive game he’s likely worth a flier in deep leagues and dynasty formats.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI (Wk. 12: vs. Jax.): Like his teammate Chad Williams, Seals-Jones is just a stash at this point, and for Ricky it’s specifically for dynasty leagues. He’s played just 9 offensive snaps all year (only one before week 11), and managed to see 6 targets and put up 3-54-2 with them. He finished as the TE2 in week 11. That kind of production isn’t sustainable on that snap count…still, starting TE Jermaine Gresham has just 2 TDs all year. Ricky is a converted WR who can be a matchup nightmare at 6’5”, 243, but I’d need to see his playing time increase to consider rostering him in season-long leagues. At the very least, his performance last weekend has made him a rookie to keep an eye on.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with some of the critical lineup decisions you have to make this week. If you see two players listed at the same position under the same header above, they are listed in the order that I like them for this week. Keep a close eye on the injury report this week, and make sure you don’t miss any players playing on Thanksgiving. Feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything above (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.