Welcome back to the Rookie Report! It’s been a long offseason, but we’re finally ready to rock and roll with the regular season kickoff tonight! As usual, I’ll be back every week this season to give you the rundown of what to do with the fantasy rookies in your life. There are plenty of rookies to keep an eye on that could help you win each week. This year looks like it could be a big one for rookie running backs, with 2 of them picked in the draft’s top-10 picks for the first time since 2005, when Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams and Cedric Benson all went in the top-5. Several of the non-1st rounders should play significant roles as well, as Dalvin Cook and Kareem Hunt already have earned their team’s starting jobs. Rookie WRs were also a priority in the ’17 draft, with 3 of them selected in the top-10 for the first time since ’05. Unfortunately, two of those top 3 WRs this year are going to miss week one, and the other might not be 100%. At any rate, the rookie crop is inevitably going to play a big role in your fantasy season at some point. They always do. The hard part is figuring out when. Without any sort of track record of success, the rookies are always the hardest to project, but I’ll be taking a stab at it each week.
Week one is always the hardest to figure out, so the best strategy in season-long leagues is usually to exercise some caution. With no bye weeks (save Miami & Tampa Bay), week 1 is usually the time to start your studs that you drafted early, not take a shot on a late round rookie who impressed you in the preseason. There’s DFS tournaments for that. With that in mind, there won’t be too many players that I recommend as starters this week, but there will be a few that I mention as DFS sleepers. One word of caution I want to throw in…I did use some team defensive stats from last year to make the case for a good or poor matchup for a couple of players listed here. Those numbers have meaning, but shouldn’t be treated as automatic that they will repeat that performance this year. I mostly used them because we don’t have a lot else to go on to determine matchup quality. If you see any fantasy points allowed numbers, they are based on ESPN standard scoring, and any DFS price tags will be from DraftKings. Alright, that’s enough housekeeping for this week, let’s dive in…
Rookies to Start:
RB Dalvin Cook, MIN (Wk. 1: vs. NO): Cook is the unquestioned lead back in Minnesota, and he gets to face a Saints defense that coughed up the 3rd-most running back fantasy points last year. New Orleans has made some improvements to their defense with Marshon Lattimore, Manti Te’o and AJ Klein, but they still have a long way to go. The Vikings enter the game as a 3.5-point favorite, so they should be able to lean on the run a bit, and Cook will also be vital in the passing game. Bradford targeted the running backs more than 100 times last year, and Cook posted nearly 500 receiving yards as a junior at Florida State last year (488). Cook should be an RB2 easily this week and has upside for more.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 1: @Hou): It could be tough sledding for Fournette against a Texans defense that ranked 12th vs running backs last year and now has a healthy JJ Watt, but the Jaguars have made it no secret that this offense will revolve around Fournette. I’d be surprised if he touches the ball fewer than 20 times this week, and that volume alone should make him an RB2. If you went heavy at running back and have 2 studs to start over him, go ahead, but odds are you took Fournette as a starter. You should use him as such this week.
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 1: @NE): Hunt rolls into week 1 as the Chiefs starting running back, but he gets a tough matchup on opening night. The Patriots allowed the 8th fewest RB fantasy points a year ago, and the game script should have KC throwing late as a 9.5-point underdog. Hunt’s season-long outlook is bright, but he might not shine as bright week 1. In 18 years as a head coach, Andy Reid has had a running back clear 1,200 scrimmage yards in 13 of them, clear 1,500 yards in 5 of them, and clear 1,900 in 3 of them. He knows how to scheme the ball to RBs. The tough week one matchup should make him a low-end RB2 or flex option, but there are better weeks ahead.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 1: @SF): I’m not sure I fully buy into the hype on Christian McCaffrey. I’m convinced he’s an explosive athlete who will be fun to watch…I’m just not sure what his usage will look like this year. He’s been talked up as if he will be a focal point of the offense, but that would run counter to how the Panthers’ offense has operated under Cam Newton. In his 6 seasons in Carolina, only one RB has reached 30 receptions in a season (D’Angelo Williams in Cam’s rookie year). I still expect Jonathan Stewart to be a factor on early downs and at the goal line, so McCaffrey needs to have the receiving usage to live up to the hype and be worth his draft price. The Panthers have claimed that this will be a totally different offense, but I need to see it to believe it. Luckily for McCaffrey, this week is as good as any for them to prove me wrong. The 49ers young defense should be improved, but they were easily the worst unit against RBs in the NFL last year. If the Panthers do utilize McCaffrey, I don’t think SF will be up to the challenge of slowing him down. He’s a boom-or-bust RB2/flex option this week.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 1: vs. NYJ): Jones should be the Bills de-facto WR1 this week with Jordan Matthews battling back from a sternum injury and Anquan Boldin retired. The game plan should be run-heavy with the Bills a 9-point favorite, but I still think Zay has a better than 50/50 shot to catch 5+ balls. He did catch 158 balls last year at ECU, so 5 should be manageable against the hapless Jets. He’s an intriguing option in deeper PPR leagues this week.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 1: vs. Ind.): Kupp’s outlook is similar to Zay, but he has Sammy Watkins ahead of him on the depth chart. The Rams will pound the rock much like Buffalo, but Kupp has shown a great connection with Jared Goff so far and should be involved. I said I like Zay for 5+ catches, but I like Kupp for 5+ targets. If Goff struggles to connect with Watkins, it could mean extra looks for Kupp.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 1: vs. Oak.): Davis is likely going to be limited in the opener after playing exactly zero preseason snaps, but he was listed as a starter on the Titans’ depth chart ahead of Sunday’s tilt with the Raiders. I would probably consider Davis more of a deep league sleeper for this week, but it would feel weird to call the draft’s #5 pick a sleeper in his first game. While Delanie Walker is probably the best fantasy play of any Titan pass catcher this week, I think it’s very possible that Mularkey gives Davis more run than expected. 60+ yards and a TD aren’t out of the question for the WMU product’s debut.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 1: @Dal.): Rookie TEs rarely produce in fantasy football, but Evan Engram has a chance to be the exception to that rule. Giants beat reporter Jordan Ranaan expects him to play 60%+ of the snaps this year, and he’s a matchup nightmare as more of a WR/TE hybrid. He could get off to a fast start facing a Cowboys defense that allowed the most catches and yards to TEs in the NFL a year ago. There’s also a chance that Odell Beckham misses this game, which would certainly increase how much opportunity Engram sees. He’s a cheap DFS option at just $2,900 on DraftKings, and he’s an intriguing low-end starting option in deep leagues.
Rookies to Sit:
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 1: vs. Pit.): The Steelers are not an ideal opponent to face in your first NFL start. The average point total for a top-12 weekly fantasy QB last season was 21.5. The Steelers didn’t allow that many in a game all season. The most they allowed was 21.0 to Carson Wentz early in the year. There will be good weeks for Kizer this season, but I don’t like the chances that this is one of them. He’s probably left benched even in 2QB leagues.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 1: vs. Bal.): I like Mixon’s season-long outlook, but week 1 looks dicey for him. The Bengals have stubbornly kept Jeremy Hill atop the depth chart, and the Ravens’ run defense is typically solid. While I doubt Hill keeps the job for long, he’ll limit Mixon’s opportunity as long as he does. I would expect only 10-12 touches for Mixon this week, which just isn’t enough to trust him in most leagues.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 1: @Mia.): You have to take a wait-and-see approach with Kamara. He could have a significant passing game role as Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet have had in New Orleans in the past, but I have no clue how much he will play with Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson around. Ingram has openly talked about working to improve as a receiver, so it’s best to give this a week to get a better idea of how the usage will shake out.
RB Jamaal Williams, GB (Wk. 1: vs. Sea.): Williams remains behind Ty Montgomery on the depth chart. He’s listed as the number 2 back, and Montgomery has a career-high of just 16 carries in a game, so Williams should at least see some work, but probably not enough to be a fantasy factor. It doesn’t help that the matchup isn’t a good one. The Seahawks added Sheldon Richardson to a defense that allowed the 3rd-fewest RB fantasy points last year.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 1: vs. Atl.): If Mack gets the 3rd down work for Indy, the game script might actually work in his favor this week. The Colts are a 3.5-point underdog. There is, however, no guarantee that he gets the 3rd down work. Frank Gore just refuses to go quietly into the night. The Matt Jones signing also muddies the backup picture behind Gore a little bit, and Scott Tolzien will be starting at QB this week. This is a situation to avoid.
RB Semaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 1: vs. Phi.): For now, the Washington starting job belongs to Rob Kelley with Chris Thompson handling the passing down work. Perine might have value later in the season, but he is going to have to earn a role.
WR Taywan Taylor, TEN (Wk. 1: vs. Oak.): The return of Corey Davis for week 1 saps a lot of upside that Taywan might have had for the opener. He may play some snaps spelling Davis and Eric Decker, who also battled injury in the latter part of the training camp, but I don’t expect him to play enough to warrant fantasy consideration this week despite his strong preseason.
WR Dede Westbrook, JAX (Wk. 1: @Hou.): Dede surprisingly passed Allen Hurns on the Jaguars depth chart and earned a starting spot with a strong camp, but I’d expect a run-heavy game plan and the majority of the passing targets peppered to Allen Robinson and Marquise Lee. There likely won’t be enough passing volume left over to make Westbrook a viable play. In 3 career starts in Houston, Blake Bortles has averaged just 149 passing yards per start, and is coming off an abysmal preseason.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 1: vs. Ari.): Fantasy players were excited for Golladay after his 2-TD preseason debut, but he hasn’t done a whole lot since then. It was reported this week that he will split the WR3 role with TJ Jones, at least to open the season. The Lions will continue to play their keep-away style of offense which will sap some of the passing volume, and Golladay currently sits behind Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah, and Eric Ebron in line for targets. He’ll have some good weeks later this season, but week 1 isn’t the time to play him.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 1: @SF): Samuel may be involved at least a little this week, but he’s basically the 6th guy in line for touches behind KB, Olsen, McCaffrey, Funchess, and Jonathan Stewart. I wouldn’t expect much this week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 1: vs. Pit.): Njoku was limited for much of the preseason, and will likely need a few weeks to get his legs under him. Rookie TEs are notorious for not producing much in fantasy, so I’d be hard pressed to trust a guy who caught 4 passes in the preseason as a starter in week 1. If he has any productive weeks this year, they will likely come later in the season.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 1: vs. Car.): Kittle has been a camp surprise in San Francisco. He’s played well enough that the 49ers traded away Vance McDonald and named him the starter. Unfortunately, he’s battling a hamstring injury that he aggravated at practice on Wednesday. If he does play, I’d expect him to share a lot of snaps with Logan Paulsen and Garrett Celek, which will make Kittle irrelevant for fantasy purposes this week.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Chris Carson, SEA (Wk. 1: @GB): Thomas Rawls is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with the Packers, and with Rawls out in the team’s 3rd preseason game (the dress rehearsal for the regular season), Carson split first team work with Eddie Lacy. If Rawls sits the opener, there is a non-zero chance that Carson develops the hot hand and sees a much larger chunk of the work than Lacy, and Green Bay was inconsistent against the run last year. I’m not saying it’s a huge chance, but Carson will cost the minimum in DraftKings. If Rawls plays, this is a moot point. The backfield situation will be too crowded to roll the dice on Carson in that scenario.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 1: vs. Atl.): Like Carson, Cohen is a cheap DFS punt play in GPP tournaments. Most fantasy players have come into the season assuming Jordan Howard will have a 3-down role, and he was drafted as a top-8 RB. There are plenty of red flags though. Before last season, he never really displayed any receiving chops, and he posted just a 58% catch rate as a rookie. The Bears are expected to play from behind a lot this year, with Vegas odds putting their win total at 5.5, and local beat writers expect Cohen to have a role right out of the gate. If Howard cedes some passing down work to the quicker, shiftier Cohen, it could put a damper on his season. It could also result in some nice weeks for Cohen. The week 1 matchup for Cohen is juicy. The Falcons allowed a league high 141 targets and 109 receptions to opposing RBs. Cohen has looked explosive this preseason, and will cost just the minimum on DraftKings ($3,000). There is also a chance that it’s Benny Cunningham who takes that passing work, so he’s also an intriguing option at $3,600 in DK.
WR ArDarius Stewart, NYJ (Wk. 1: @Buf.): ArDarius seemed like an obvious starter on this team and possibly their leading receiver until they acquired Jermaine Kearse and signed Jeremy Kerley in the last week. Important note: ArDarius is a better WR than Kerley or Kearse. He unfortunately costs more than the minimum in DraftKings this week ($3,700), but he still likely starts in the slot on a team that will be playing from behind. Kerley was just signed Tuesday, and played under a different coach the last time he was a Jet, so I wouldn’t expect him to be able to jump right in as the slot receiver in week 1. ArDarius is a risky dart throw, but one worth considering against a shaky Bills defense that ranked 21st in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA last year.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 1: vs. Car.): The reason Jeremy Kerley signed with Jets this offseason is that Trent Taylor beat him out for the starting slot WR role in San Francisco. He also led the NCAA in receiving yards last season. Kyle Shanahan’s offense employs 3-WR sets less often than most teams, but the Falcons last year still ran 45% of their snaps from 11-personnel (3 WR, 1 RB, 1 TE) with Shanahan as the coordinator. Taylor should be on the field for most of those snaps if not all. He’ll cost the minimum in DraftKings and has a chance to surprise against a suspect Carolina secondary.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 1: vs. Ind.): The Colts were one of 7 teams last year to allow 1,000 receiving yards to TEs, and new Rams head coach Sean McVay uses the TE position a lot (10 targets/gm last year in Washington). Everett is a TD dart throw with the upside for more and he will cost the minimum on DraftKings ($2,500). Tyler Higbee is listed as the starter, but Everett should play a bunch.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you win your week one matchups or strike DFS gold. Keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week to avoid any obvious goose eggs in your lineup, but other than that, sit back and enjoy the first meaningful NFL football of the year. It should be a fun few months. Hit me up on twitter if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything above (@Shawn_Foss), and as always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’ve finally been able to watch meaningful pro football again, unless you, like Jim Carrey, believe nothing has any meaning. It was an exciting first week, with several strong rookie performances. There were hits and misses from me on what to do in the opening week with those rookies, but that’ll be the case every week, and overall I’ll take last week’s results.
I was spot on with the top-5 picks of most rookie drafts (Corey Davis, Dalvin, Fournette, McCaffrey and Mixon), but I was off on Kenny Golladay and was way too tepid with my expectations for Kareem Hunt who wound up the top scoring fantasy player. I had Tarik Cohen pegged as a sleeper for week 1, but not even I expected the outburst he put up against Atlanta. My biggest miss of the week was probably Zay Jones, who I had pegged for 5+ catches, and he wound up with just 1-for-21 on 4 targets. I should get a clearer picture of who these guys are as the year progresses, but I’d chalk up week one as a success. Let’s dive in to what to expect in week 2…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 2: vs. Phi.): I liked Hunt as a season-long option, but was unsure about how he would do last week. I was wrong to be unsure. After fumbling on his first touch of the game, he was fantastic and dismantled the Patriots’ defense. He might never duplicate the point total he put up on opening night, but there is no way you can sit him after what he did in New England. You should temper expectations a little bit with his matchup against Philly. The Eagles allowed the 12th fewest RB points last year, but Hunt should have no problem returning RB2 value this week.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 2: vs. Ten.): The Jaguars are going to run Fournette until the wheels fall off. He handled 29 touches last week (20 in the first half!), and had success against a stout Texans defensive front. The Titans gave up 76 yards to Marshawn Lynch in week one, and Lynch hadn’t played in an NFL game since January of 2016. If Leonard approaches the kind of volume he saw in week one, he’s got a solid shot of ending as an RB1 again.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 2: vs. Was.): The Rams will likely have to throw a bit more this week if Todd Gurley continues to be as ineffective as he was on Sunday, and Kupp was targeted a team-high 6 times in the opener. Sammy Watkins will likely be shadowed by Josh Norman in this matchup, and Washington ranked 29th in Football Outsiders’ pass defense DVOA stat on throws to #2 receivers last season. They also just gave up 6-86-1 to Nelson Agholor last weekend. I like Kupp more than I did in week 1, when he posted 4-76-1. He should be targeted early and often, and he could easily wind up as a WR2 this week, especially in PPR leagues.
RB Dalvin Cook, MIN (Wk. 2: @Pit.): Cook was impressive in the opener, but it was against a bad Saints defense that ranked 23rd in run defense DVOA a season ago. The Steelers ranked 11th in that same stat, and they held Isaiah Crowell to a 17-33 rushing line on Sunday. Cook should still be involved in the passing game, but I’d be surprised if he approached the 137 scrimmage yards he posted on Monday night. Volume will keep him in play as a RB2/Flex option, and you’re probably starting him, but there some reason for pause this week.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 2: vs. Buf.): Week one was both good and bad for McCaffrey. On the one hand, he was given 18 touches and was an integral part of the offense as promised. On the other hand, Jonathan Stewart remained the goal line back and saw more touches than CMC, and the game script won’t always be positive enough for them to combine for 38 touches. Head coach Ron Rivera has already talked about not wanting to “wear his batteries out,” so I’m not sure I’d expect the volume to continue at that level. This week CMC gets to face the Bills, who were really bad against RBs last year (allowed 5th most points), but they did hold the Jets’ backs to 13-38 on the ground and 8-37 through the air on 11 targets in week one. Granted, it’s the Jets, who are terrible. At the end of the day, McCaffrey’s outlook in week 2 is similar to what it was in week one. He’s an upside RB2/Flex option with a plus matchup. His speed and playmaking ability gives him week-winning potential, but he could just put up another 80 scoreless yards.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 2: @TB): Cohen was a shock to even most Bears fans last weekend, and while his results may have been due to a sweet matchup with the Falcons, he’s clearly going to be a featured part of the offense going forward. The Bears are desperate for playmakers in the passing game, especially with Kevin White done for the season yet again, and Jordan Howard demonstrated once again that it won’t be him after dropping a game-tying touchdown in the closing seconds. Enter Tarik Cohen, who turned a ridiculous 12 targets into 8-47-1, while also rushing for 66 yards. He isn’t going to put up those numbers every single week, but his skill set and the way the Bears will deploy him reminds me a bit of Dion Lewis from two years ago with the Patriots. Before getting hurt that year, Lewis averaged 5 catches and 89 scrimmage yards per game, and he scored 4 TDs in 7 games. If Cohen continues to be used like this and stays healthy, he has legitimate top-15 RB upside in PPR leagues. He gets another favorable matchup this week against Tampa Bay. We haven’t seen the Bucs yet this season, but last year they allowed the 11th most fantasy points to RBs, and ranked 26th in run defense DVOA and 26th in pass defense DVOA on throws to running backs. I doubt he sees another 12 targets, but Cohen is on the RB2 map in PPR leagues and a flex option in standard formats.
RB Chris Carson, SEA (Wk. 2: vs. SF): Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has already said that he expects Thomas Rawls to play this week, but I think it’s very possible that he’s eased in. If that’s the case, it’s Carson who would spell him on early downs, not Eddie Lacy. The Seahawks are a 2-touchdown favorite against the 49ers, so Carson would likely see extra work in the case of a blowout, and he impressed in limited opportunities against Green Bay. There is a very low floor here with Rawls back, but Carson is an upside flex option who could be a week-winner if things break his way. The 49ers allowed 3 more points per game to opposing RBs than any other team in the league last year, and allowed 27.8 to the Carolina backs in the opener. They also lost linebacker Rueben Foster to a high ankle sprain in that game. All Carson needs is the opportunity.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 2: @Jax.): Davis came out with a strong debut after missing the entire preseason, posting 6-69 on a team-high 10 targets, despite playing fewer snaps than Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker. Davis played 42 snaps while Decker played 60 and Matthews played 52. Another week removed from his return, I’d expect Davis to play a higher snap percentage. The matchup is tougher this week, and he may have to lock horns with standout corner Jalen Ramsey. Hopefully he’s able to avoid the shadow treatment. The Jaguars allowed the 7th fewest points to WRs in 2016. Given the tough scenario, a repeat of last week’s numbers would be a successful day, even with an increased snap count.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 2: @NYG): Golladay was a big-time performer in week one, with a 4-69-2 line while splitting WR3 snaps with TJ Jones. I’d expect that split to move even more in favor of Golladay going forward (Kenny outsnapped TJ 44-18 in week 1). Unfortunately for BabyTron (thanks @LateRoundQB), a repeat of Sunday’s performance will be hard to come by against the stingy Giants secondary. The Giants ranked 4th in pass defense DVOA last year, and despite struggling to defend the Cowboys last week, they allowed just 2-43 to Dez Bryant on 9 targets. Golladay is a boom-or-bust WR3 option this week.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 2: vs. Det.): Engram clearly has a prominent role in the Giants’ passing game, and he may actually get better with Odell Beckham back and drawing coverage away. Brandon Marshall struggled mightily in the opener, so Engram may get more red zone opportunities than expected. The Lions coughed up the 3rd most TE points last year, so Engram should make for a reasonable streaming option this week whether OBJ is back in the lineup or not.
Rookies to Sit:
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 2: @Bal.): Kizer had some good moments in an impressive debut vs. Pittsburgh, but this week he goes on the road to face a defense that forced 5 turnovers from Andy Dalton last Sunday. The best-case scenario for Kizer would be a repeat of last week, but I think it’s more likely that he takes a step back. He’s just a low-end QB2 option with upside this week.
QB DeShaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 2: @Cin.): No one was surprised that Watson was forced into action in week 1, but he didn’t look ready for prime time just yet. He posted just 4.44 yards per attempt and turned the ball over twice in a blowout loss. I don’t expect things to get much better this week. He’s battling an ankle injury, has a short week with a Thursday night game, and the Texans o-line should continue to struggle. The returns for Watson were mixed in week 1, but he should be avoided in week 2.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 2: vs. Hou.): The Texans struggled to contain Jacksonville’s rushing attack on Sunday, but they look like a tough run defense on paper and Mixon didn’t exactly impress in his limited week 1 role. He led the Bengals’ backfield with 11 touches, but totaled just 24 yards. The touches were split fairly evenly between Mixon, Gio Bernard and Jeremy Hill. Until Mixon is able to separate himself from the other 2, this looks like a situation to avoid.
RB Jamaal Williams, GB (Wk. 2: @Atl.): Ty Montgomery proved this is his backfield in week 1. TyMo played 90% of Green Bay’s offensive snaps, and after posting PFF’s highest pass protection grade among RBs for the week, I’d expect that workhorse role to continue for him going forward. Williams received just 2 carries in the opener, and at this point likely needs an injury to Montgomery to return value any time soon.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 2: vs. Ari.): The Colts offense was predictably a mess while helmed by Scott Tolzien last weekend, and although Mack scored a TD, he also had 9 carries for zero yards outside of his longest carry of the day (24 yards). He also only had 4 touches in the first 2 and a half quarters of the game, and didn’t see extended run until the Colts were being blown out. They may very well get blown out again this week and turn to Mack in garbage time, but it’s hard to bank on. The Cardinals didn’t play well as a team last week, but they did hold the Lions’ RBs to 58 yards on 25 carries. The Lions don’t boast a great run offense, but neither do the Colts. Mack should be left on the pine.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 2: @Car.): It was promising that Tyrod Taylor looked better in the opener than he did in the preseason, but disheartening that Zay was out-targeted by both Charles Clay and Shady McCoy. The Bills will be a low-volume passing attack all year, and 4 targets won’t cut it for fantasy purposes for Zay. There will be game scripts that call for more passing, but you’d like to see more of a connection between Zay and Tyrod before running Jones out there in fantasy lineups.
WR Taywan Taylor, TEN (Wk. 2: @Jax.): There may be even fewer snaps for Taylor this week than the 6 offensive snaps he played last week now that Davis is closer to 100%. He did manage 2-14 on those 6 snaps, which is nice efficiency, but he belongs firmly planted on the bench until his role increases.
WR ArDarius Stewart, NYJ (Wk. 2: @Oak.): It’ll be tough to consider any Jets pass catcher until the offense demonstrates they can throw the ball. Stewart may lose snaps to Jeremy Kerley this week, and was mostly a non-factor on Sunday while Kerley was a healthy scratch, posting 2-10 on 5 targets. It’s going to be an ugly season for the Jets.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 2: vs. Chi.): Howard should be used mostly as a blocker early in the year, with Cameron Brate serving more in the receiving TE role. The Bears allowed just the 22nd most points to opposing TEs a year ago, and didn’t allow a single target to Austin Hooper until a long TD on a broken play in the 4th quarter. Howard is a dynasty stash who might not do that much damage in redraft leagues this year.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 2: @Bal.): Njoku was targeted just twice in the opener, and this week faces off with a defense that allowed the 7th fewest TE points a season ago and held Tyler Eifert to 1-4 on 1 target on Sunday. You would be best off avoiding Njoku this week.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 2: @Sea.): The Iowa product showed he was over his hamstring injury with 5 catches in the opener, but the Panthers allowed the 2nd most TE points in the league last year. Seattle allowed the 4th fewest. Kittle will be targeted a handful of times this week, but I wouldn’t expect him to have much success with them.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 2: vs. NE): Although the Patriots allowed the fewest RB points in the league last year in standard scoring, only the Atlanta Falcons allowed more receptions to the position, and Kansas City’s backs just shredded them in week 1. Kamara led New Orleans RBs in snaps and touches in week 1, and he is likely going to be their primary receiving back. This game could turn into a shootout, so he may increase the 50% snap share he played a week ago. Kamara’s volume is probably too low to trust him as anything more than a flex option in deep PPR leagues, but he could be a great DFS tournament option at just $3,500 on DraftKings.
WR Chris Godwin, TB (Wk. 2: vs. Chi.): Godwin is strictly a boom-or-bust punt option for DFS tournaments. He’s at least behind Mike Evans and D-Jax on the depth chart, but he might also play fewer snaps than Adam Humphries. His floor for this week is zero points, but he has dazzled in every opportunity he’s been given. He’s been compared to Roddy White by his head coach this preseason, I expect them to try to get Godwin involved a handful of times on Sunday. I wouldn’t be surprised if he makes a couple of big plays.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 2: vs. Was.): Just like last week, the Rams face a defense that was below average against TEs last year (Washington allowed 10th most points to them), and McVay likes to use the position a lot. Everett turned his only target last week into a 39-yard gain. I’d expect him to see a few more targets this week, and is a nice TD dart throw that will cost the minimum in DraftKings.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with the tougher lineup decisions you have to make involving your rookies. Keep a close eye on the injury report through the week, and make sure to check for any surprise inactives on game day. If you have any questions, or want to yell at me about anything written 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! We’ve got another week of data on this rookie crop, so we’re starting to get a better idea of who these guys are. Hopefully all of your teams are off to 2-0 starts, but obviously not everyone’s is. The key if you’ve started 0-2 is not to panic (unless you’re the Bengals). Be patient with your stud players. I’m looking at you owners of OBJ, Le’Veon Bell, Isaiah Crowell, Kirk Cousins, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Eifert. Speaking of Tyler Eifert & the Bengals, they did in fact panic after an 0-2 start, and have replaced their offensive coordinator with former Dolphins’ OC Bill Lazor. Hopefully this can jump-start the offense and help Eifert and Joe Mixon get going. Of course Mixon needs to get on the field more for that to happen. Let’s dive in and take a look at what to expect in week 3…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 3: @LAC): You have to play Kareem Hunt. He’s the number one scoring running back so far by a wide margin, and this week he faces a defense that just allowed 122 yards rushing to Jay Ajayi last weekend. Hunt is decidedly a different style runner than Ajayi, but he should have success running in this matchup. TD regression is coming at some point for Hunt, but he should be a locked in RB1 in your lineups right now.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 3: vs. NO): McCaffrey hasn’t gotten off to the start that most fantasy owners had hoped he would, ranking as the RB27 in PPR leagues so far. His usage has been strong, but he hasn’t made any of the spectacular plays we were used to from him at Stanford. Things should get better this week. New Orleans hasn’t shown they can cover anyone. They’ve allowed 92.5 receiving yards per game to opposing RBs, and CMC should see extra passing game targets with Greg Olsen out. This game is a real opportunity for McCaffrey to blow up. He should be at least a solid RB2 with week-winning upside if things go his way.
RB Dalvin Cook, MIN (Wk. 3: vs. TB): Cook managed a surprisingly solid 5.3 yards per carry against a normally stout Steelers front despite having Case Keenum under center. The Steelers were without Stephon Tuitt on their defensive line, but it was impressive from Cook nonetheless. His fantasy totals weren’t inspiring since he saw just 12 carries in a lopsided loss and he was vultured at the goal line by CJ Ham, but his performance showed that he can succeed against good defenses. Tampa isn’t quite as stingy as Pittsburgh typically is, and it sounds like there is a good chance that Sam Bradford will return in this one. Even if Bradford is out, Cook should put up RB2 numbers.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 3: vs. Bal.): Fournette faces a tough matchup this week, so he’s more of a volume RB2, but with a score each week so far he should be in your lineup. The Ravens allowed the 6th-fewest RB fantasy points last year, and the 11th-fewest so far in 2017, but Fournette has seen 40 carries and 8 targets already. As long as the volume keeps up, and it should, Leonard should be able to post a respectable line again.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 3: @Ind.): Kizer is a borderline option in 2-QB leagues this week, and is an interesting DFS tournament play with a meager $5,000 cost on DraftKings. The Colts have allowed over 300 passing yards in each of their first two games with top corner Vontae Davis sidelined, to Jared Goff and Carson Palmer. If Davis is out again, Kizer makes for an interesting play now that he has found a trusted possession receiver in Rashard Higgins. The Colts have stifled the running game, allowing just 2.73 yards per carry and have forced teams to throw instead. The throwing has worked out pretty well for those teams. I don’t know that I’d expect 300 passing yards out of Kizer, but I think he’ll post his best yardage total to date, and his rushing skill gives him an added boost. He’s worth considering if you are struggling for a second QB this week.
RB Chris Carson, SEA (Wk. 3: @Ten.): Carson put the Seahawks on his back in week 2, and may have earned the starting RB job in the process. The Titans’ run defense isn’t an easy matchup this week. They allowed the 2nd-fewest RB points in the league last year, and although they are off to a slower start in 2017 they held the Jacksonville running backs to 3.3 yards per carry. In addition to the tough matchup, there is always the chance that Rawls plays more as he gets healthier, and Carson was barely used in the passing game with Prosise around to handle 3rd down work. I see Carson as a risky flex play this week, but one with big upside if the game script is in Seattle’s favor.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 3: vs. Pit.): As I mentioned with Dalvin Cook above, the Steelers’ defense has been pretty stout against opposing runners, but they have been susceptible to receiving yards out of the backfield. Pittsburgh allowed the 4th-most RB receiving yardage and the 13th-most receptions to the position a year ago. This is a matchup that already favors Cohen over his backfield mate Jordan Howard, and Howard is battling a shoulder injury that had him in a sling after their last game. The rookie’s usage has been outstanding through 2 weeks, with 12 rush attempts and 16 catches on 21 targets. He should be a strong PPR flex option once again.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 3: @SF): Kupp saw the same 6 targets in week 2 that he did in week 1, but he did quite a bit less with them. I got ahead of myself by calling him a ‘Rookie to Start’ last week. He gets another solid matchup this week, but I won’t make the mistake of going all in on him this time. The 49ers have been improved against WRs so far compared to 2016, but they’ve still been in the bottom half of the league against the position. Kupp should see another 6-7 targets, which puts him firmly on the flex radar again, especially in PPR leagues. Give him a slight bump up if both 49ers safties are out.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 3: vs. Atl.): Golladay is going to remain a boom-or-bust option for the time being, and he’s shown both extremes through 2 weeks. Atlanta has a talented secondary and has allowed just 4 completions of 20+ yards so far this season, but they did struggle to contain Green Bay’s wide receivers late in their win over the Packers. What you do with Golladay depends on what your other options are, but he’s a volatile flex play for deeper leagues.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 3: @Phi.): He’s in the concussion protocol at the moment, so there’s a chance he doesn’t play this week, but most updates I’ve seen are suggesting he’ll be able to go. He’ll likely need a TD to return real value as a streaming TE, and the Eagles had allowed just 4 TE touchdowns in their last 17 games before being shredded by Zeus last Sunday. Engram has some appeal as a streamer in deeper PPR leagues, as 4-40 seems like something he can keep putting up, especially if Brandon Marshall continues to struggle. The Giants’ protection issues are making it hard for Eli to throw anything down the field, so Engram will continue to make his living on shorter catches. Engram is a borderline top-15 option this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 3: @NE): Even against New England’s defense, which has allowed 362 passing yards per game so far, Watson would be a shaky QB2 option. He salvaged his fantasy day last week with a 50-yard TD run, but plays like that are pretty fluky, and Bill Belichick knows how to gamplan for rookie QBs. In the last 10 games the Patriots have played against a rookie QB, New England is 9-1 and has allowed just 8 total TDs to those rookie signal callers.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 3: @GB): While it was nice to see Mixon actually outperform Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard in week 2, the timeshare continues to hamper his upside. He could be worth a dart throw in GPP daily tournaments after seeing what Atlanta’s backs did to Green Bay (145 scrimmage yards and 3 TDs), but the Cincy offense hasn’t been anywhere near as effective as Atlanta’s. The Bengals did swap offensive coordinators this week, promoting QB coach Bill Lazor to the OC position. Hopefully Lazor will start to get Mixon more involved, but in his initial media session after getting the promotion, he didn’t really clarify what his plans were for the RB position. He said that he hadn’t done a 3-back committee before, “but that’s where we’ve been so far.” I’ll need to see Lazor actually increase Mixon’s role in a game before I trust him in season-long leagues.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 3: @NE): Foreman saw a decent workload last week, but week 3 may be a different story. Houston was able to pound the ball on the ground thanks to the stagnant Bengals’ offense keeping the game close. The Texans are likely to be playing from much further behind this week going to New England. If Houston is in catch-up mode, it should be mostly Lamar Miller and a little Tyler Ervin sprinkled in. Foreman offers nothing in the passing game. If you play D’Onta, you’re counting on a TD that is unlikely to come.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 3: vs. Oak.): This outlook could change if Rob Kelly has a setback or winds up missing the game Sunday, but if Kelley plays you’d have to expect ‘Fat Rob’ to start. The Raiders are vulnerable against the run, so Perine becomes a flex play option if Kelley sits. He’s a worse option in PPR leagues than in standard, since he offers little in the passing game. Oakland allowed the 9th-most RB points last season, and the 6th-most rushing yards, and they just allowed the lowly Jets’ running backs to post 95 yards on 21 carries (4.5 ypc). If Kelley is a go, Perine likely won’t see enough work to be started.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 3: vs. Cle.): The Browns may look like a good matchup on paper, but Mack is still working well behind Frank Gore, and a Brissett-led offense is unlikely to make this game a blowout win where he’ll get garbage time run. Gore out-touched Mack 14-7 last week and out-gained him 46-8. Outside of a 24-yard carry in week one, Mack has a total of 15 carries for negative-3 yards.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 3: vs. Mia.): You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but even though the Jets have claimed that this will be a 3-man committee going forward, Elijah McGuire is not someone you should be considering for your fantasy lineup. The offense is a mess for the Jets so far, and a 6th-round rookie RB isn’t going to be the guy to jump start it.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 3: vs. Sea.): This is an easy decision now that Davis has been ruled out with a hamstring issue. I likely would have recommended you to sit him against the Legion of Boom even if he were going to play.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 3: @Chi.): JJSS played 51% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps in week 2, but saw just 4 targets and gained only 16 yards. The TD was nice, but it’s not something to expect every week based on his usage up to this point. He has received 2-of-8 red zone targets that Ben has dished out so far, so he may find some stray TDs here or there, but the weekly chances aren’t great and he won’t put up enough yardage to buoy his point totals whether it’s in a season-long league or DFS. The Steelers are also likely to lean on the run game in this one as a 7.5-point road favorite. Steer clear.
WR John Ross, CIN (Wk. 3: @GB): Ross finally got on the field last week, but was given just one touch, a rushing attempt. Green Bay’s secondary is beatable, allowing the most WR points in the NFL a year ago, but Cincinnati’s offense just hasn’t gotten anything going on offense to make you think they’ll take full advantage here. Ross hasn’t been involved enough so far to use anywhere. Hopefully Lazor gets him more involved, but you should avoid Ross for now.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 3: vs. Den.): The last thing Zay Jones needed after opening the season with a 3-39 line on 10 targets in the first two weeks was a meeting with Denver’s corners. That’s exactly what he’ll get this week. There’s no reason to use Zay in any format against the best CB group in the league.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 3: @Ind.): The Colts have allowed 60+ yards per week to TEs so far, but have also allowed just 3 receptions per week to them. Njoku is still only playing about half of the offensive snaps and is splitting work with Seth DeValve, who seems the more likely Browns’ TE to get hit with a deep ball after posting a 49-yard catch last week. Njoku is a TD dart throw this week, and there are better options available. He won’t see enough volume to be a punt play in DFS tournaments either.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 3: @Min.): Howard ran just 11 pass routes last week despite playing more snaps than Cameron Brate, who ran 22 pass routes. He played more because the game script called for a lot of running, and Howard is the superior blocker. The volume simply isn’t going to be there for Howard early on this year if they are going to use him as blocker this much.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 3: @SF): Everett has made a big impact every time the ball is thrown his way, posting 4 catches for 134 yards on just 4 targets so far, but he’s still being more than doubled in snap count by teammate Tyler Higbee, and he’s battling through a thigh injury. To make matters worse for him, the 49ers have been much improved so far against tight ends this year, holding Greg Olsen to 2-18 and Jimmy Graham to 1-1. That’s right…3 catches for 19 yards between two of the best tight ends in the game. There will be better spots to take a shot on Everett.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 3: vs. LAR): Kittle rarely leaves the field, but he’s seen just 8 targets through 2 games and is dealing with a couple of injuries. He also faces a Rams’ defense that ranked 6th against tight ends last year, and hasn’t allowed a TD to the position yet this year. There’s not enough upside to try him in DFS, and too much downside to try him in season-long leagues.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 3: @Car.): Kamara is probably a better option for DFS tournaments than for season-long leagues this week. The Panthers ranked 7th last year in limiting RB fantasy points, and 5th so far this year, but they allowed the 3rd-most RB catches in ’16 and are tied for 4th-most allowed so far this year. Kamara is the best receiving back the Saints have, and they are a 5.5-point underdog on the road. I’d expect Alvin to get a lot of run, and likely catch 6+ passes. He’s been targeted 13 times in the first 2 weeks.
WR Taywan Taylor, TEN (Wk. 3: vs. Sea.): With Corey Davis sidelined by a hamstring issue, I’d expect Taywan Taylor to be the guy who benefits the most in terms of playing time. In week 2, it was Jonnu Smith who benefitted from Davis’s injury, playing 37 offensive snaps and scoring his first career TD, but the Titans were playing from ahead all day. I’d expect Taywan to play a bunch this week. Some are speculating that it will be Eric Decker in the slot and Taywan outside since Decker played there a lot in New York, but Taywan spent more time in the slot in camp while Davis was out. The reason this matters is because the Seahawks’ weak link in the secondary is slot corner Jeremy Lane. Whoever gets to face off with him will be the best matchup the Titans have in the passing game. If that guy is Taywan, he would be in line for a strong day. He’s a sneaky DFS tournament punt play.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 3: vs. NO): Samuel saw his first targets of the year in week 2, and with Olsen hurt, it’s likely he becomes a bigger part of the offense. The Saints’ pass defense has been abysmal, and Samuel has a trait that Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin lack…speed. There’s a real chance he gets behind the defense for a big play or two. With just 3 targets on the year, he’s probably not to be trusted as anything more than a DFS punt play, but he costs just the minimum in DraftKings and has some nice upside.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 3: vs. Sea.): As spelled out in the Taywan Taylor description above, I’m not really on Jonnu for this week. Sure, he could find another TD, but Seattle is stingy to tight ends. I list him here because I think he’s a great dynasty league stash at this point. Delanie Walker is 33 years old, and has just one more year left on his contract. Jonnu is quickly earning the coaching staff’s trust with offensive snap percentages of 38% and 54% in the first two weeks. He’s also looked every bit the part of Walker’s heir apparent. I think he has a chance to be a really good player, and is in an ascending offense with Mariota, Derrick Henry, Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor around. Stash him if you can.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with some of your tougher lineup decisions. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury report all week and check back before kickoffs to see if there are any surprise inactives. If you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything included 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! The chaos of week 3 seemed to spill over into week 4 as we were treated to another round of surprise results. The primetime games all seemed to go according to plan, but the morning and afternoon games on Sunday were chock full of surprises again. The Dolphins were shellacked again as Alvin Kamara piled up 10 catches. Buffalo stunned the Falcons. Deshaun Watson and the Texans dropped over 50 points on the Titans. The “tanking” Jets pulled off their second win in as many weeks, and the Rams upended the Cowboys as Cooper Kupp got into the end zone for the 2nd time this year. There were plenty of impressive rookie performances, from Watson to Kupp to Kamara to Elijah McGuire, and the rookies will get even more important as the bye weeks get started. This week will be a little trickier to set lineups with Washington, New Orleans, Denver and Atlanta taking the week off. Let’s take a look at what to do with the rookies on your rosters and see if any of them can help fill in for those starters on byes…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 5: @Hou.):The Texans allow just the 3rd-fewest fantasy points per game (all stats in PPR scoring unless otherwise noted), so this may not be the best week to fire up Hunt in DFS lineups, but he’s a must-start in season-long leagues. He had his worst fantasy game of the year on Monday night, and still topped 100 rushing yards and ended up the RB17 for the week. You simply can’t sit him regardless of matchup right now.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 5: @Pit.): Fournette has scored a TD and logged at least 16 touches and 61 scrimmage yards in every game so far, and the Steelers’ run defense has had some cracks this season. They’ve allowed 5.61 yards per carry to opposing backs over the past 3 weeks and have allowed the 9th-most RB points per game for the season. Fournette should be penciled in as an RB1 once again.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 5: @Dal.): This status only applies if Ty Montgomery sits as expected. Jamaal Williams is expected to miss this game as well, and that would mean Jones has the backfield pretty much to himself. The Cowboys allow the 7th-most RB points per game, and the 3rd-most RB receiving yards per game. While Jones hasn’t flashed much receiving ability at the NFL level, he did put up 646 receiving yards in his college career at UTEP. With the byes and injuries going on right now, Jones should be a solid RB2 if TyMo and Williams are both sidelined.
QB DeShaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 5: vs. KC):Watson has dazzled in his last two starts for the Texans. He gets a tougher matchup this week against a Chiefs team that has allowed just 7.1 QB points per game on the road (vs. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers). There is some reason for optimism though. Kansas City has allowed the 8th-most passing yards per game and the 2nd-most QB rushing yards per game so far. There’s certainly risk that Watson turns into a pumpkin this week, but he’s easily the highest-upside streamer that’s likely to be available in most leagues. He’s a borderline QB1 option this week.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. NYJ):Don’t overreact when you see Kizer and Watson listed in the same section. Watson is a borderline option in standard leagues this week…Kizer is more of a borderline option in 2-QB leagues. With 4 teams on bye (3 with a top-10 fantasy QB), almost all of the starting QBs are in play in the 2-QB format. Kizer has been up and down so far this year with 2 games at 18 points or more scored, and two games under 4 points. The Jets have looked pretty good over the past 2 weeks at home after scuffling in 2 road games to start the year. There is some hope that with this game in Cleveland that the Jets return to their struggling ways, but I doubt that happens. The floor for Kizer is helped by the fact that the Jets allowed both mobile QBs they’ve faced, Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor, to rush for over 35 yards, but it’s still pretty a pretty low floor For DeShone. There’s always the chance that Hue Jackson benches him mid-game for Kevin Hogan again. Kizer is a boom-or-bust streaming option for 2-QB leagues.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 5: vs. Buf.):Sub-par O-line play has made it hard for Mixon to really get going, but his usage has been promising. Mixon only played on 48% of the offensive snaps in week 4, but he touched the ball 21 times on 31 snaps played. The Bills’ run defense is tough, but it isn’t impenetrable. They were ranked 9th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat through week 3, and then they allowed the Falcons’ RBs to rush for over 5 yards per carry. The Falcons’ rushing attack has been much more efficient than the Bengals’ this year, but Mixon remains in play as an RB2/flex option that carries a bit of risk. If he sees 20+ touches again, he should return better value than he did a week ago.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 5: @Det.):McCaffrey was a big letdown in a good spot last weekend. He posted just 8.9 PPR points on 10 touches against a Patriots defense that had been bleeding receiving points to running backs. For the season, he’s just the RB20 in PPR scoring and has finished higher than the RB24 just once in an individual week. The Lions are just a middling running back defense, but it’s hard to trust CMC as more than a lower end PPR RB2/flex play, even with the byes this week. He’s always a threat to have a blow-up week with his talent, but he’s had just one play all year that went for more than 16 yards.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 5: vs. Min.):Cohen clings to the borderline this week in PPR formats due to byes/injuries, but this is probably not a great spot to use him. For starters, there’s the uncertainty of how much his role will change with Mitch Trubisky at QB. He’s averaged 7 targets a game with Glennon at QB, and there’s no guarantee that holds up with Mitch. There’s also the fact that the Vikings run defense has been excellent so far, even after allowing 94 yards and a TD to Ameer Abdullah last weekend. They’ve allowed the 3rd-fewest rushing yards, the 4th-fewest yards per carry, and the 2nd-fewest RB fantasy points per game. While Cohen thrives on passing game work as much as rushing, the Vikes have allowed the 5th-fewest RB catches per game as well. Cohen’s game-breaking ability could help him overcome the tough matchup, but everything seems stacked against him this week. I’d only play him if you have to.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 5: vs. Sea.):Kupp has seen 6 or 7 targets in 3 of the first 4 games of the year. The Seahawks are more susceptible to slot WRs than perimeter guys, especially with normal slot corner Jeremy Lane out. Kupp should see mostly New England castoff Justin Coleman’s coverage in this one. The Seahawks’ vaunted Legion of Boom secondary has struggled away from C-Link Field so far this year, allowing 39.6 PPR points per game to opposing WRs on the road. Kupp should be a reasonable WR3 option in PPR again despite the Seahawks’ defensive reputation.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 5: vs. LAC):The Chargers have allowed the 7th-fewest points per game to opposing TEs, and held Travis Kelce to 1 catch for 1 yard in week 3, but Engram just keeps putting up borderline TE1 weeks. Through 4 games, he’s ranked as the TE14, TE9, TE14, and TE8. If you need a streamer to replace Jordan Reed this week, Engram is probably the best option you’re going to find if available.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 5: vs. Min.):It was nice of the Bears to give Trubisky his first start in the friendly confines of Soldier Field, but with a matchup against the stingy Vikings’ defense, that crowd may turn much less friendly on Monday night. Through the first 4 weeks of the season, the average weekly QB12 has put up 18.75 fantasy points. The Vikings are allowing 14.67 points per game to the position, and have faced a gauntlet of Drew Brees (posted QB16 week vs. Vikings), Big Ben at home in Pittsburgh (QB8), JameisWiston (QB19), and Matt Stafford (QB22). To expect a rookie making his first career start to succeed where that group has mostly failed is not wise. Trubisky could be in for a long Monday night.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 5: @Cle.):While McGuire was impressive last week, I doubt we get an encore in week 5. He was out-snapped 46-19 and out-touched 25-12 by Bilal Powell in that game last Sunday, and he put up 12.9 of his 21.1 PPR points on one play. The Browns have allowed just 3.08 yards per carry and have allowed only 2 carries of 20 or more yards for the year. The odds that McGuire turns limited snaps into another big day aren’t high. Powell is the Jets’ back to play. McGuire should be left benched.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 5: vs. KC):Kansas City is allowing just 13.2 PPR points per game to opposing RBs over the past 3 weeks. The Broncos are the best RB defense in the league so far, and they allow 14.4 per game. Foreman only played 29% of the offensive snaps last week in Houston’s blowout win. He would need a Lamar Miller injury or a plus matchup where he can turn limited opportunity into production in order to be playable. He certainly doesn’t get the latter this week, and there’s no way to predict the former.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 5: vs. Car.):Even if Golladay suits up this week, the Panthers have been pretty good at limiting his bread and butter: the deep ball. They’ve allowed just 8 completions of 20 or more yards through 4 games. Golladay will be a TD-or-bust option this week, and he remains questionable to even play. I’d steer clear of Kenny.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 5: @Ind.):While it was nice to see Taylor get targeted 10 times last Sunday, he’s unlikely to see the same volume this week. Garcon isn’t going to be locked down by Patrick Peterson in this one, and the way to beat the Colts is to throw downfield. Taylor has made his living on short passes, with just 8.5 yards per catch. The Colts have allowed 26 completions of 20 or more yards in 4 games. Only the Patriots (19) and Saints (21) have allowed more than 15 other than Indy. Aldrick Robinson or Marquise Goodwin (if he plays) will be the better second option to Garcon in this one.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 5: @Cin.):The connection with Tyrod is still just not there despite Zay playing basically full-time snaps. Taylor completed 11-of-13 throws targeting anyone other than Jones last Sunday, but connected on just 1-of-5 when Zay was the target. That brings the season totals for Jones to 4 catches on 17 targets. Jordan Matthews is expected to miss about a month with an injury, so it’s worth watching to see if Zay’s role increases, but his efficiency has been so bad you can’t play him anywhere this week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. NYJ):The Jets have allowed just 3 catches for 16 yards to opposing tight ends in the past 2 games, and haven’t allowed a tight end TD since week 1. They held Marcedes Lewis without a catch a week ago after the Jags TE caught 3 TD passes in London the week before. Njoku is yet to top 3 catches or 27 yards in any game this season. There’s no reason to start him and hope for a TD.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 5: @Mia.):Smith is already a TD dart throw at best with Delanie Walker around, and now it sounds like Marcus Mariota will miss this game after the Titans signed Brandon Weeden. The odds Jonnu scores a TD definitely are lower with Matt Cassel under center.
Rookies on Byes: RB SemajePerine, WAS, RB Alvin Kamara, NO
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 5: vs. LAC):Gallman got on the field last week and scored his first career TD. He was also the Giants most effective runner, but he still put up just 3.8 yards per carry. There’s a chance the Giants don’t let Gallman continue to see the amount of work he did last week with Orleans Darkwa expected back, but I think he’s earned a bigger role. The Chargers have allowed over 100 RB rushing yards in all 4 games this year, and have coughed up over 30 RB PPR points in each of the last 2. Gallman is still really cheap in DFS ($3,900 on DrafKings), and could be a decent flex option in deep leagues this week. The Giants’ shaky run game makes him hard to trust as more than that.
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC (Wk. 5: @NYG):Melvin Gordon has been battling a knee injury and general ineffectiveness, and Ekeler has looked better in his limited touches than Branden Oliver has. Ekeler is only an option as a stash in really deep leagues as he’s played just 12 offensive snaps, but he’s made the most of those snaps. He’s put up 82 yards and a TD on just 6 touches. Oliver, meanwhile, has 78 yards and no scores on 22 touches. If something were to happen to Melvin Gordon, I think there’s a real chance Ekeler would play a really big role. Hopefully his recent play has been impressive enough to warrant a bigger role going forward anyway.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 5: vs. Jax.):No team allows fewer fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers than the Jaguars. Luckily for JJSS, he gets to avoid their top corners since Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant are around. Smith-Schuster has seen 14 targets in the past 3 weeks, and scored 2 TDs. It’s tough to trust him with just 34 yards per game in that stretch and a tough matchup this week, but he’s a stong TD dart throw once again. We all know how much better Big Ben is at home.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 5: @NYG):I mention Williams only as a stash at this point, and only for deeper leagues. The Chargers have gotten decent production out of Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams, but Mike is expected to return and be active this weekend. If he looks good, he could supplant Travis Benjamin as the WR3 before long. The Chargers face two very burnable pass defenses in the next few weeks (Oakland in week 6 and New England in week 8). It might make sense to scoop him up now before people see what he can do.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 5: vs. NE):Howard isn’t running nearly as many routes as teammate Cameron Brate, and he’s only seen 8 targets through 3 games, but there are several factors working in his favor this week. The 4 targets he received last weekend were a season-high, he’s still playing about two-thirds of the Bucs’ offensive snaps, and he gets a choice matchup with the Patriots this week. The Pats are allowing the 4th-most TE fantasy points per game so far, and they have a good enough offense to force Tampa to keep throwing to stay in the game. The floor is pretty low for season-long leagues, but OJ has great upside for DFS tournaments this week, and costs just $200 more than the minimum on DraftKings.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 5: @Ind.):Kittle has been playing almost full-time snaps, and is second on the 49ers in number of pass routes run. It’s only a matter of time before it starts to translate into more targets for the Iowa product. He’s had 14 targets through the first 4 games. The Colts allow the 8th-most receiving yards to TEs per game, so there is a chance his improvement starts this week. I like Kittle’s chances to post his best game of the season. I don’t know what that means for where you would play him, but a 50-yard game isn’t out of the question here.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with those tough lineup decisions and helps you fill in some of your bye spots. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week and do a final check before the games to make sure your guys are active. If you take issue with anything above or have any questions or general feedback, feel free to hit me up on twitter to discuss (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.
For Fantasy Football team managers, playing in week 15 is all about making the right starts to get to the championship. Whether you fought hard to get into the playoffs from the bottom of the league or coasted into a bye spot early on, everyone is on an even playing field and (in most cases) only has one shot.
We'll be paying special attention to the players that you should and shouldn't start in week 15 and what matchups to keep in mind should you make the championship game in Week 16. We're joined by regular guest and drinkfive.com contributor Mike Mocerino.
Welcome back! We're joined this week by fantasy football veteran Matt Ellis to discuss the best starts moving forward into Week 13. This is the last week of the regular season of most fantasy football leagues, so put your best foot forward!
Peterman completed 6-of-14 passes for 66 yards with five interceptions. Wow, Buffalo. Nice work. In this episode, we'll be touching on the Bills' and NFL fantasy players going forward as well as the other highs and lows of Week 11 and what they mean to your fantasy squad.