Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We're starting to get deep enough into the season to have a better idea of who most of these rookies are...at least the ones that have been starting the whole year. Zeke Elliott and Sterling Shepard have been weekly fantasy starters. Will Fuller has been good, but a boom-or-bust proposition, and Tajae Sharpe and Michael Thomas have been weekly borderline producers. Thomas is coming off his best game of the season, and Sharpe his worst, but both have been worthy of flex consideration each week. Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz have proven themselves as capable fantasy QB2s, and even streamer QB1s some weeks, but not all of the rookies have been as lucky. Several others have been biding their time and waiting for their opportunity. Will that opportunity come this week? Let's dive into the week 4 matchups and discuss...
Rookies to Start:
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 4: @SF): With the volume Elliott is getting right now, you can't sit him. He got 30 carries in an easy win against the Bears, and while it was frustrating to see him get vultured at the goal line by Dak, Alf, and Dunbar, that won't happen every week. There should be a correction there this week. I would actually fade Zeke in DFS this week though. The 49ers have some drastic home-road splits going back to last season. The Niners allowed 15.4 fantasy points per game at home to RBs in '15 (ESPN standard scoring), which would have been the 18th-most if they did that over the whole season, but they allowed 27.4 per game on the road. That number was 6 points per game worse than the WORST RB defense in the league. They allowed at least 18 in all 8 road games. That split has carried over to 2016. SF gave up just 4 points to the Rams' backs in week one at Levi's Stadium, and 19 per game in weeks 2 and 3 on the road. This game is in San Francisco, so expectations for Zeke should be tempered a little bit. He's still a safe starter in season-long leagues.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 4: vs. Det.): Despite the signing of Joique Bell this week, look for Jordan Howard to be the clear lead back for the Bears. The Lions have allowed just 12 points per game to opposing RBs, but that is mainly because they've kept running backs out of the end zone. They've ranked just 27th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA, which measures defensive efficiency. Howard really increased his value by showing what he could do as a receiver. Many people thought he would not be a factor as a pass catcher after recording just 11 catches last year at Indiana, but he has 6 catches in the past 2 games. The volume he should see combined with the plus matchup should make Howard a low-end RB2 this week.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 4: vs. NO): It was reported this week that Antonio Gates wasn't close to playing last week in Indy, which means there is a good chance he'll miss week 4 as well. If he sits, Henry should be a great option. Most people will only remember that he fumbled away the Chargers' last chance to win that game, but he was having a fantastic day before that happened. The Saints have actually limited tight ends so far believe it or not, but the list they've faced is hardly inspiring (Walford, Tye, Donnell, Tamme). I expect the Chargers to get Henry involved, and think he'll have a great shot at 60+ yards and a possible TD as long as Gates is out. He's a great streaming option if you're still waiting on Zach Ertz or Tyler Eifert.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 4: @SF): This looks like a juicy matchup on paper, but the 49ers home-road splits apply to quarterbacks as well. They allowed 12.9 points per game to QBs at home in '15 (would have been 4th-fewest), and 19.4 on the road (would have been 4th-most). They didn't allow more than 17 points to any QB they faced in San Francisco. Again, the splits have carried over to '16. Case Keenum put up just 2 points in week one. I don't expect Dak to be shut down quite that badly, but I'd think of him more as a mid-level QB2 rather than a QB1 streamer. There is still upside against a bad 49ers team.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 4: @Chi.): Dwayne should definitely see more work this week after Theo Riddick fell flat on his face in his chance at lead back duties. Riddick managed just 9 yards on 10 carries. Washington managed 38 yards on the same number of carries. Head coach Jim Caldwell blamed the o-line for Riddick's struggles, but Washington was clearly the better between-the-tackles runner. The Lions would be wise to give him more of an opportunity. Riddick should maintain his passing-back role. The Bears rank 26th in run defense DVOA, and allow 20 RB points per game. The increased workload against that machup should put Washington squarely on the flex radar. He'll be better in standard leagues than PPR, and Riddick will be the opposite, but Washington will be more likely to hit paydirt.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 4: @Min.): Shepard has been fantastic through the first 3 games, with a TD or 100 yards in each contest, but the Vikings are the best defense the Giants have faced yet...especially with Xavier Rhodes back in action. Expectations for this week should be a little lower with Shepard. On the plus side, Vikings' slot corner Captain Munnerlyn did struggle to contain Ted Ginn and Corey Brown in week 3, allowing 6 catches for 87 yards on 7 targets thrown his way. Shepard is a borderline WR3 this week.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 4: @SD): I would expect Willie Snead to return this week, and while this offense can support 3 pass catchers, the emergence of Coby Fleener in week 3 could hurt Thomas's upside. If Snead is back, Thomas is more of a flex option than a locked in starter. If Snead sits again, Thomas should be a solid WR3 play.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 4: vs. Ten.): The Titans' defense has been better than expected, and Fuller had a shaky week 3 performance against New England. Tennessee has allowed just 41 yards per game to WR2s despite 9.4 targets per game in their direction. There is still upside here, but this is just a reminder that there is some boom-or-bust to Fuller's weekly outlook.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 4: @Hou.): The reason that I have Sharpe listed as a borderline option this week is because you can't entirely write off any team's WR1, but I would lean towards sitting Sharpe this week. The Texans have allowed the 4th-fewest WR fantasy points through the first 3 weeks, and Sharpe has been inconsistent in his own right. He could go for 80 yards and a TD, or he could go for less than 40 yards. I'd feel better if I had a safer option.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 4: @ Was.): Kessler was surprisingly sharp last week, and this week he'll face a Washington team that is likely to be without their number 2 corner Bashaud Breeland and slot corner DeAngelo Hall. They will still have Josh Norman, however, and he will likely follow around Terrelle Pryor. If Pryor is taken away, it will severely limit what Kessler is able to do through the air. It would be really hard to trust Kessler as a QB2 unless you were desperate.
QB Jacoby Brissett, NE (Wk. 4: vs. Buf.): Jimmy Garoppolo should be back this week and would undoubtedly start if he is. If Brissett did get the nod, he would be a bottom-barrel QB2 option.
RBs DeAndre Washington & Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 4: @Bal.): Washington has been more effective than Richard in each of the past 2 weeks, but they're part of a full blown 3-way timeshare with Latavius Murray, and facing a tough matchup this week. The Ravens rank 3rd in run defense DVOA, and they've allowed just under 30 receiving yards per game to running backs. This is not the week to bet on either of these backs turning their limited touches into a productive day.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 4: @Hou.): The Texans have been just a middle of the road defense against running backs, but DeMarco Murray has cemented himself as the RB1 in Tennessee for the time being. Henry was out-touched 21-10 by Murray in week 3, and if that holds this week, I'd expect the Heisman winner to put up the typical 40 yards or so he's been putting up. It doesn't help that Murray is dominating the passing game work.
RB Josh Ferguson, IND (Wk. 4: @SD): Ferguson came up empty in a decent spot last week as Robert Turbin was a bigger part of the mix than expected. Turbin punched in a short TD, while Ferguson tallied just 4 touches and 31 yards. He's not involved enough to play at this point.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 4: vs. Mia.): Boyd is still playing behind Brandon LaFell, and he faces a defense this week that has allowed 104 receiving yards per game to WR1s, and just 87 receiving yards per game to all other wide receivers. AJ Green should be a great option this week. Tyler Boyd...not so much.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 4: vs. Buf.): Mitchell seemed to have a pretty decent rapport with Jimmy Garoppolo the first two weeks, but still put up just 3 catches for 48 yards in those games...and Gronk didn't play in either game. With Gronk back (and presumably not a decoy this time), there just won't be enough volume for Mitchell to be a fantasy factor this week.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL (Wk. 4: vs. Car.): The Panthers have given up 28 fantasy points to TEs over the past 2 weeks, but 13 of them came on one long TD pass to Vance McDonald. Also, it'll be Tamme and not Hooper who would have the best shot at producing. Hooper followed his 3-84 line from week 2 with a zero target game in week 3.
Rookies on Byes: QB Carson Wentz, PHI, RB Wendell Smallwood, PHI - Just a quick aside on Smallwood...although he's on a bye this week, he makes for an interesting waiver wire pickup in deeper leagues. He played great last week after Ryan Mathews left with an injury, and the team will continue to keep Smallwood involved even when Mathews is healthy. The committee will obviously make him tough to predict most weeks, but we've already seen the upside.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Kenyan Drake, MIA (Wk. 4: @Cin.): Arian Foster will be out again in week 4, and while the Dolphins insist they will stick with a 4-man rotation at RB, I like Drake's chances of the being the best performer of the group. He saw the most touches of the group in week 3 with 11 (the rest of the group totaled 16 touches), and he produced 48 yards with them. He's known as a passing game specialist, and the Bengals are 27th in pass defense DVOA on throws to running backs. There is an opportunity for Drake to make an impact despite the crowded backfield mix.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 4: @Min.): Perkins is mostly a stash for now. Rashad Jennings is still uncertain for this week, but so is the rest of the Giants' backfield. Orleans Darkwa is likely the guy who will get the early down work if Jennings sits, but the injury to Shane Vereen opens up the receiving back role. The only two realistic options to fill it are Bobby Rainey and Perkins. Most experts are expecting Rainey to take over in the short term, but Perkins was an effective receiver out of the backfield at UCLA, and head coach Bob McAdoo spoke this week about the rookie being 'ready to step up.' I expect him to get a shot to make an impact this week, and if he produces he'll earn a bigger role moving forward.
WR Josh Doctson, WAS (Wk. 4: vs. Cle.): Doctson sat out last week with an Achilles injury, but it sounded like it was up in the air whether or not he would play until the last minute. The Browns have given up 2 TDs to wide receivers each week this season, and Doctson was targeted in the end zone 3 times in week 2. If that happens again, I'd expect him to cash in at least one of them. He'll have a solid shot at his first career TD if he plays.
WR Ricardo Louis, CLE (Wk. 4: @Was.): Louis is a DFS punt play option this week. His speed makes him a big play waiting to happen, and Washington's banged up secondary will be focused on Terrelle Pryor. As I mentioned in the Cody Kessler breakdown, I'd expect Josh Norman to shadow Pryor whenever possible. Louis appears to have earned a role in 3-wide sets while Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon are out, and he caught 3 passes for 40 yards last week. Washington has allowed 14 pass plays of 20 or more yards this season, tied for 3rd-most in the league. With his big play ability, there will be an opportunity for Louis to have a big day out of nowhere.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps you make some tough calls with your lineups. Keep a close eye on the injury report and make sure you don't end up starting a guy who doesn't suit up, or benching a guy who starts because of an injury to a teammate. If you have any questions, praise, or complaints, hit me up on twitter and let me know (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We're a quarter of the way through the NFL season, and it's pretty clear that this season will be a wild one...like every NFL season. The Falcons managed to drop 500 passing yards on the defending NFC champs, the Rams (?!) topped the Cardinals to go to 3-1, and the Patriots finally proved to be beatable, much to the dismay of Ben Affleck. They get Tom Brady back this week, so their vulnerability may be short-lived. The Cowboys' rookies had a field day against the 49ers, Will Fuller found the end zone twice, and Jordan Howard showed that he was ready for a full workload. The rest of the rookies weren't quite as successful, but there were still some noteworthy performances like the debuts of Paxton Lynch and Paul Perkins. Week 4 is in the books, and the decisions don't get much easier this week with 4 teams and several productive fantasy players on byes. Let's take a look at which rookies could help get you through...
Rookies to Start:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 5: @Det.): I've been hesitant to buy into Wentz as a QB1, but it's hard not to consider him a top-10 play this week with Brees and Russ Wilson on byes. Wentz gets to square off with the Lions hapless pass defense. Through 4 weeks, the Lions have allowed a 12:1 TD:INT ratio, and a league-worst 120.2 QB rating to opposing signal-callers. The Lions also rank dead last in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA stat, which measures defensive efficiency. I think the Lions will play a little better at home than they have on the road, but it's hard to not see Wentz as at least a lower-end QB1 this week.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 5: vs. Cin.): I don't think you need me to tell you that you should be playing Zeke, but let me give you some numbers to support it. The Bengals have been decent against the run and are likely to stack the box against Elliott (especially if Dez is out), but for the season Elliott has put up a 28-128-2 line on carries against an 8-man box. He also likely put to bed the worries that he'd keep getting vultured at the goal line after scoring a short TD last week. He's got 12 carries in the red zone on the year, and the rest of the team has 7. His volume gives him a safe floor, and those stats I listed should make you feel comfortable starting him in a slightly tougher matchup.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 5: @Ind.): Howard is clearly established as the Bears' lead back after a strong performance against a weak Lions defense. The competition doesn't get that much tougher this week. The Colts rank 26th in run defense DVOA, and have allowed the 4th most RB fantasy points on the season. He should easily return RB2 value this week, and likely more if he's able to get in the end zone.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 5: @Oak.): Make sure that Antonio Gates is officially inactive before pulling the trigger here, but Henry has shown that he has a great connection with Philip Rivers thus far and has made good on most of his chances. The Raiders have allowed the 11th-most fantasy points to opposing TEs. Henry is a solid streaming option again this week, and a great pickup if your starter is on a bye this week.
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN (Wk. 5: vs. Atl.): Lynch acquitted himself well in his first regular season action, and there is a chance that Trevor Siemian could miss a game or 2 with a shoulder injury in his non-throwing shoulder. If Lynch does get the call, he's got a great chance at a top-15 week, which would make him a solid QB2 option and even a low-end QB1 play in really deep leagues. The Falcons allow the most QB points in the league and have allowed at least 3 passing TDs in each of their first 4 games. Lynch has shown that he can pick apart a bad defense last week against Tampa, and I'd like his chances to do it again if he gets the nod.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 5: vs. Cin.): The Bengals have allowed 10 passing TDs in 4 games, but they've been better versus the pass than that number would imply. They've ranked 10th in pass defense DVOA thus far, and the Cowboys may be without Dez Bryant again. WIth that said, Prescott has been a top-16 QB in each of the past 3 weeks. He's still a viable option as a low-end QB2, but I don't see a lot of upside for a top-10 performance.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 5: @Mia.): Sharpe has been inconsistent so far, but this is a plum matchup for him. The Dolphins have allowed at least 22 fantasy points to WRs each week, and have been absolutely shredded by WR1s to the tune of 117 yards per game. You're probably a little gun-shy with Sharpe after the way he's played over the past couple weeks, but he actually makes for a nice fill-in option if you have some byes to get through.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 5: @GB): Green Bay has been torched by opposing WRs, allowing the 2nd-most points to the position, but the Giants' offense hasn't exactly been on track and the Packers' secondary is getting healthier and had an extra week to prepare. Shepard has been fairly consistent despite a less than stellar outing against the stingy Vikings. He's in play as a WR3/Flex option again this week. I'd be surprised if he totaled less than 50 yards, but I wouldn't bank on this being a big game even though the Packers have been giving up so much to WRs.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 5: @Min.): Fuller's blazing speed has helped him to be a difference-maker for the Texans so far, and likely frustrated some DeAndre Hopkins owners. The Vikings have been excellent against WRs though. They've allowed the 2nd-fewest points to wide receivers so far and just one WR touchdown. Only 3 different teams have allowed fewer completions of 20+ yards than the 9 allowed by Minnesota. This week is more likely to be a bust than a boom for Fuller, but he's still a borderline option with several top wideouts on byes.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. NE): The return of Tom Brady could lead to the Patriots running up the score on Cleveland as they get out some frustration from last weekend's loss to Buffalo. As a result, there could be some garbage time stats for Kessler, but I wouldn't count on much here. The Patriots have allowed the 15th-fewest points per game to opposing QBs, and Kessler's previous two opponents had allowed the 14th- and 16th-fewest (Miami and Washington), and Kessler tallied just 9 and 10 points in those games. Expecting much more here would likely be a mistake.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 5: vs. Phi.): Washington's breakout was put on hold when he suffered an ankle injury early on against the Bears. He had put up 14 yards on 3 touches before the injury, but now he's questionable for week 5 at best and faces a much tougher defense. The Eagles allow the 2nd-fewest points to opposing RBs, and I'd expect Zach Zenner to see some work even if Washington is able to play. The Lions also continue to force a square peg into a round hole with Theo Riddick mixing in on early down work as well.
RBs DeAndre Washington & Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 5: vs. SD): The Raiders' backfield has quickly become a situation to avoid. Even Latavius Murray isn't a safe play at this point as things devolve into a full-blown 3-way split. Jack Del Rio talked up DeAndre Washington last week and mentioned that he would see more action, but he received just 8 touches on Sunday. He's averaged 7.25 per game. In the past 2 weeks, Latavius has handled 21 touches, Washington has had 15, and Richard 10. While San Diego is a great matchup, none of these guys are safe options. Even if you play Latavius, you're hoping he finds the end zone.
RB Josh Ferguson, IND (Wk. 5: vs. Chi.): Ferguson had his best opportunity yet in week 4, but failed to take full advantage of it as the Colts tried to battle back from behind in London. The rookie did pull in 7 receptions, which is nice in PPR leagues, but he totaled just 31 yards from scrimmage on 10 touches. Chicago is hardly an imposing matchup, but I would have to be really desperate in a really deep PPR league to even consider playing Ferguson this week.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 5: vs. Atl.): Booker remains just a handcuff for CJ Anderson. He's a really talented handcuff, but the volume just isn't there for him to have stand-alone value. He's seen just 25 touches for 114 yards through 4 games (6.25 for 28.5 per game).
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 5: @Mia.): You probably aren't playing Henry this week anyway, but if you were considering him as a bye week fill-in, just be aware that he played only 9 snaps in week 4 and the Dolphins have allowed just one rushing TD. His snap share has been steadily declining as DeMarco Murray's strong play has continued. The volume won't be there for Henry to be a viable option this week.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 5: @GB): Perkins may still be worth a stash, but for now he's best left on the bench. He managed to put up 80 yards in week 4, but he did so on just 4 touches. Bobby Rainey saw 11 touches and seems to have the receiving back role for now. Rashad Jennings should also be back before long.
WR Ricardo Louis, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. NE): Louis has been playing a lot of snaps over the past 2 weeks with Corey Coleman out, but he hasn't turned it into much production with just 6 catches. He's a burner and is capable of beating the defense for a deep ball, but Cody Kessler has the shortest average target depth in the league thus far, and the Patriots are one of just 2 teams that haven't allowed a pass play of 40 or more yards. There isn't much upside here. Louis likely winds up with 30-40 yards on 2-3 catches.
WRs Charone Peake & Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 5: @Pit.): Eric Decker is very likely out for this week (and potentially quite a bit longer), and the matchup is decent for the Jets, with the Steelers ranking 17th in pass defense DVOA. There's a decent chance that Peake or Anderson will make an impact this week, but good luck guessing which one. Anderson got the start last week, but Peake out-produced him on half as many targets, and also scored a TD on a fumble return. Because of that, I think I'd lean towards Peake if I were picking one of these two, but neither is more than a DFS tournament punt play.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL (Wk. 5: @Den.): Hooper did crack double-digit fantasy points last weekend, and the Broncos stout defense has been vulnerable to tight ends (Cameron Brate just went for 5-67 against them), but he produced those double-digit points on just one target. Jacob Tamme is the tight end you'd want in this matchup, not Hooper.
Rookies on byes in Week 5: RB CJ Prosise,SEA, WR Michael Thomas, NO, WR Tyreek Hill, KC
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Wendell Smallwood, PHI (Wk. 5: @Det.): The Lions still haven't allowed a running back TD this season, but they've allowed over 140 scrimmage yards per game to them and they rank 31st in run DVOA. It's only a matter of time before the TDs follow. Ryan Mathews should be back in this game, but head coach Doug Pederson has already said that they will use more of a committee approach, and Smallwood is coming off a very impressive game in week 2. He'll still have to contend with Mathews and Darren Sproles for touches, but I think he gets more work than Mathews this week and has some legitimate flex appeal in leagues with 12+ teams.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 5: vs. Was.): John Harbaugh declined to endorse Terrance West as the lead back despite his impressive week 4 performance, and Dixon seems to be on track to play in week 5. There isn't necessarily a ton of upside this week for Dixon, but with Justin Forsett gone, Dixon should absolutely be owned. West has never shown much ability as a receiver, and Marc Trestman's offense has averaged 9 passing targets per game to RBs after averaging 10.5 last year. Dixon should be the receiving back going forward, and he'll have a chance to earn a bigger role if West struggles. He's a better PPR add right now, but there is upside for him to become a viable standard league option as well.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 5: @Dal.): Boyd hasn't made the splash that many predicted he would, still struggling to beat out Brandon LaFell in the pecking order, but this week's matchup may work in his favor. The Cowboys rank 24th in pass DVOA, and 3 of the 4 passing TDs they've allowed to WRs have been to slot WRs (Sterling Shepard, Jamison Crowder, and Jeremy Kerley). Boyd runs most of his routes in the slot. If Eifert returns this week, it'll hurt Boyd's outlook, but he's got a real shot to find the end zone this week.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you make some of the tougher lineup decisions this week to deal with your bye weeks. Keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week to not be caught off-guard on Sunday if someone winds up sitting at the last minute. The lack of the 'Probable' injury designation has made it tougher than ever to stay on top of who's in and out, so stay vigilant. If you want to tell me how wrong I am or have any specific questions, feel free to hit me up on twitter and let me know (@Shawn_Foss). As always, good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! It's been a brutal season thus far for injuries, so hopefully your team is surviving alright through 5 weeks. Now that we're a handful of weeks in, things are starting to get clearer with this year's rookie crop...unfortunately not many of them among high picks have been able to carve out a big role, so the list of plug-and-play rookie starters is a short one, but there is still plenty to sift through. Let's take a look at what to expect in week 6...
Rookies to Start:
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 6: vs. Jax.): Howard has been phenomenal over the past two weeks, and it's safe to say at this point he's ahead of Jeremy Langford even when he returns from injury. Jordan should be a strong play again this week against Jacksonville. The Jaguars haven't given up a ton of RB points, but they rank just 29th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA, and have allowed over 4 yards per carry to each starting RB they've faced. The Bears' offense has shown some life and balance with Hoyer and Howard leading the way. I like Howard's chances to get 20 carries in this one, and I expect him to find 80+ yards and a great chance at a TD. He's played like an RB1 the past 2 weeks, and he should be a safe RB2 this week with upside for more again.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 6: @GB): Despite a brutal matchup this week, Zeke is a locked-in every-week starter at this point. I would probably fade him in DFS, but I wouldn't be able to sit him in season-long leagues. The Packers have allowed under 50 rushing yards to opposing RBs in each of their 4 games, rank 2nd in run defense DVOA, and allow the fewest RB fantasy points in the league. With that said, Zeke has been steamrolling teams lately and will get enough volume to be a passable RB2 even if the Packers are able to slow him down.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 6: @GB): Dak has been eerily consistent so far. He’s put up exactly 17 points (ESPN standard scoring) in 3 of his past 4 games, and 22 in the other. He should be in that ballpark again vs. a Packers’ secondary that is still trying to get healthy. The Packers rank 19th in pass defense DVOA, and they allow opposing QBs an average of…17 points per game. Look for Dak to be a mid-range QB2.
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 6: @Was.): Last week, Baltimore fell to Washington mainly because they got away from running the football despite having a ton of success when they did run. I don’t expect the Eagles to make the same mistake this week, so you should see a bunch of Ryan Mathews in this one. Washington ranks a middle-of-the-pack 16th in pass defense DVOA, but dead last in that metric for their run defense. They’ve also allowed just 3 passing TDs in their past 4 contests. Wentz is a borderline option in 2 QB leagues this week.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 6: vs. Ind.): We saw the ‘bust’ side of the boom-or-bust proposition that is Fuller last week, but the matchup gets much lighter this week. Indy ranks just 30th in pass defense DVOA, and I would expect their top cover corner Vontae Davis to be assigned to cover Hopkins for most of this one. Davis has allowed 12 catches for 118 yards and zero TDs on 20 targets in the three games he’s played in, or 4-39-0 on 6.3 targets per week. The Texans’ offense has been ugly the past few weeks, so there is some downside here, but with the Colts giving up 307 passing yards per game…they have to go to someone. I expect this week to be more of a boom than a bust. Fuller is an upside WR3 this week.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 6: vs. Bal.): I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to start Shep this week. He’s had a rough couple of games and the Giants’ offense just seems broken. The Ravens have struggled more with perimeter receivers than slot guys like Shepard, but they have given up 9 WR touchdowns in the past 4 games. For TD upside alone Shepard is back on the WR3 radar this week. I still trust his talent, and it’s just a matter of time until this offense gets on track.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 6: vs. Car.): Drew Brees at home is always a good situation for New Orleans pass catchers, and the Panthers have showed some vulnerability over the past couple weeks. They are still a tough defense, and are tied for the 10th-fewest fantasy points allowed to WRs despite giving up 52(!) to the Falcons. I would still rather start Cooks or Willie Snead this week, but Thomas is definitely in play as a WR3 or Flex option. Over his past 7 home games, Brees has thrown 26 touchdown passes with at least 3 in each game.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 6: vs. Den.): Antonio Gates should be getting healthier, and the matchup isn’t ideal with Denver allowing zero TE scores thus far, but you could do worse than Henry this week. I would expect him to still play about as many snaps as Gates if not more, and with the Broncos’ corners being so good against WRs, TE has been a good place to attack their defense. Denver hasn’t exactly faced any top end TEs after week 1, but they did allow lines of 7-73 to Greg Olsen and 5-67 to Cameron Brate this season. Henry is only in play as a low-end streamer, but unlike most TE streamers he should provide at least a handful of points even if he doesn’t find the end zone.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN (Wk. 6: @SD): It's unlikely that Lynch starts again this week, but if Siemian isn't able to make the start, Lynch is a consideration as a QB2 streamer for 2-QB leagues. He wasn't impressive in his first start, but he had looked good the week before after Siemian was hurt. There is a decent floor in this matchup, with the Chargers allowing 300+ passing yards in 4 of their first 5 games, and 2 passing TDs in 4 of them as well, but counting on a rookie in his second career start to hit those numbers is a risky proposition.
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 6: @Ten.): Don’t get cute here in 2 QB leagues. It’s likely that Kessler gets the start this week and has handled himself fairly well, but the Titans’ defense has been better than you probably think it has. They’ve allowed the 4th-fewest points per game to opposing QBs, and rank 8th in pass defense DVOA. This is not a great spot to take a chance on Kessler, even if you’re desperate in a 2 QB league.
RBs Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington, OAK (Wk. 6: vs. KC): With Latavius Murray due back this week, the running back split will be too unpredictable to feel comfortable starting any Raiders' back if he actually plays. As of Wednesday, Murray still isn’t practicing, so both Richard and Washington would be bumped up to the Borderline section if Latavius indeed sits again. They would both be on the Flex radar. It’s a juicy matchup, with the Chiefs allowing the 6th-most RB fantasy points, and allowing at least 95 RB rush yards in each game. Richard was more productive than Washington last week, but both men had the exact same number of touches. I would expect a similar split this week if Latavius is a no-go. I still have no feel for which will be better on a weekly basis, so proceed with caution here.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 6: vs. Phi.): Head coach Jay Gruden mentioned that he thinks Kelley has earned more carries, but there’s no telling how many more that means. He had just 3 carries last week, and just 8 on the season for a paltry 29 yards. His role may increase a bit this week, but third downs still belong to Chris Thompson and the Eagles have been stout against the run, allowing the 5th-fewest RB fantasy points per game and ranking 7th in run defense DVOA. I would need to actually see the workload increase play out on the field before I’d consider him in my lineups.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 6: vs. LA): There’s a chance that Washington will be able to play this week, but things aren’t started on the right foot after he missed practice Wednesday. Even if he’s able to play, this is Theo Riddick’s backfield, and the addition of Justin Forsett only clouds Washington’s outlook further. You’d be best served waiting to see how this backfield split shakes out this week. The only Lions’ back I’d feel okay playing is Riddick.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 6: @NYG): There's no reason to fire up Dixon just yet. He's still an interesting stash, but he didn't have a great debut, splitting passing down work with Buck Allen and not making a big impact with his opportunities. He'll likely continue to work in as a receiving back, but with the Jim Trestman firing, the Ravens likely won’t target their RBs in the passing game as often. Meanwhile, the Giants are 4th in the league in pass defense DVOA on throws to the opposing RBs. Take a wait-and-see approach with Dixon.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 6: vs. Bal.): Perkins is already fighting with Bobby Rainey, Orleans Darkwa, and possibly Rashad Jennings for snaps and touches, and this week the Giants face a Ravens defense that has allowed the 2nd-fewest running back points in the league. No thanks.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 6: vs. Cle.): Sharpe had been seeing at least 7 targets per week in the first 4 weeks, but his efficiency with those targets hasn't been where it needs to be (11-113-0 on 25 targets over the past 4 weeks). Last week, with Tennessee playing from ahead for much of the game Sharpe saw just 4 targets. The Titans are a 7-point favorite, so I'd expect more of the same this week. If you start Sharpe, you're just hoping for a TD.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 6: @NE): The Patriots are allowing just 26 yards per game to WRs who aren't their team's number 1 or 2 WR, and Boyd has been averaging just 15 yards and 4 targets per game over the past 3 games. He wouldn't be near my lineup.
Rookie on Bye: WR Laquon Treadwell, MIN
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 6: @SD): Booker is still more of a high-end injury handcuff than anything, but his matchup this week makes him an intriguing flex option in deeper leagues. He’s flashed when given the opportunity, and he’s been slowly getting more opportunity. In week 5, Booker handled 10 touches to CJ Anderson’s 14. It’s unknown if he’ll continue to take that big a chunk of the work going forward, however. Booker was targeted in the passing game 6 times in week 5 after receiving just 3 targets total in the first 4 weeks. I question if any of that is a product of Paxton Lynch being the QB. At any rate, the Chargers have allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points to opposing RBs and Booker is likely to see close to 10 touches again. There is upside there for a solid performance.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 6: vs. Cle.): Henry is still clearly second-fiddle to DeMarco Murray, but it was nice to see him get involved again last week with 7 carries and a robust 7.7 yards per carry. The Titans are a touchdown favorite this week against a Browns team that has allowed 18+ running back points in 4 of their 5 games. There could be an opportunity for some garbage time carries for Henry, and possibly his second game with double-digit carries on the year. He’s no more than a desperation Flex for deeper leagues or a DFS tournament punt play, but the matchup could work in his favor this week.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you with your lineup decisions. I'm quickly learning that this new injury designation setup is a nightmare, so make sure to keep a close eye on the injury report and not play an inactive player. If you have any specific questions or want to yell at me about stuff you think I'm way off on, feel free to hit me up on twitter and let me know (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We're nearly halfway through the fantasy regular season, so hopefully your teams have gotten out of the gate quickly enough to still feel like a contender at this point. With Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott on bye this week, the list of rookies I would tell you to confidently start is a bit light for week 7.
Outside of Zeke and Dak, it's been a bit of a down year for the rookies. Whether we're talking about high picks (Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Derrick Henry, Jared Goff), or just rookies who were hyped up by the fantasy community (Kenneth Dixon, CJ Prosise, Tyler Boyd), things just haven't gone as planned for most of the rookies. Meanwhile, veteran players who were long buried and forgotten by the fantasy community like Christine Michael, Jacquizz Rodgers, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Terrelle Pryor have re-emerged.
While the rookies haven't lived up to the hype so far, I do expect we'll see more flashes from them as the season wears on. This week, since there are so few bankable rookies to start, I took a look at some lesser known deep-league sleepers and stashes to keep an eye on this week and going forward. Let's dive into the week 7 matchups...
Rookies to Start:
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 7: @Atl.): Henry will remain a top-10 TE play as long as Antonio Gates is at less than 100%. He's scored a touchdown in each of the past 3 games, and has been a focal point of the passing game. This week he gets to face off with a Falcons' defense that has allowed the 4th-most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs (ESPN standard scoring), and ranks 22nd in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA stat on throws to opposing tight ends. There's always the risk that Gates's role will increase again, but I'd feel comfortable starting Henry again this week.
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 7: @Cin.): Kessler is a streaming option for 2-QB leagues this week. Head coach Hue Jackson has officially named Kessler the team’s starter (regardless of Josh McCown’s status) after playing his best game of the season. This week, he faces a Bengals team that has allowed the 3rd most passing TDs, the 2nd highest QB rating, and the 8th-most QB fantasy points in the league. If Terrelle Pryor ends up sitting, it drops Kessler’s outlook a bit, but if he plays he has top-15 upside.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 7: @GB): Howard was able to save a sub-par game last week with a touchdown, but he ceded more carries than you would like to Ka’Deem Carey and he faces a much tougher matchup this week. The Packers rank 3rd in run defense DVOA despite getting torched by Ezekiel Elliott last week. Howard is still in play this week, but you need to temper your expectations. He would need a bit more receiving production to hit his ceiling in this one and should be treated as more of an RB3. He plays tonight, so you have to make an early decision here. If you were able to grab Jacquizz Rodgers or Mike Gillislee off the wire this week, I would play one of them over Howard.
RB DeAndre Washington, OAK (Wk. 7: @Jax.): Washington finally seemed to push ahead of Jalen Richard last week in the Raiders’ backfield platoon, playing the majority of the snaps and out-touching Richard 10-to-6. Latavius Murray has been limited in practice this week and is shaping up to be a possible game-time decision. If he sits, there is some upside in this matchup. The Jaguars rank 27th in run defense DVOA, and Washington has at least been consistent, putting up at least 46 scrimmage yards in each of his past 5 games. If you’re hard up for a starter this week with so many RB injuries, Washington could make for a decent floor play if Latavius remains sidelined again.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 7: @KC): Thomas has been outstanding of late, putting up at least 4 catches and a TD in each of the past 3 games, and topping 70 yards in 2 of them. The problem is that Willie Snead was out or limited in 2 of those 3 games, the Saints are on the road (where Brees is significantly worse than at home), and the Chiefs rank 6th in pass defense DVOA (despite allowing the 12th-most WR points). This offense will still throw enough for Thomas to have some upside, but he’s a WR3 option at best.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 7: @LA): Shep has been a pretty big letdown over the past few weeks, but he should have a great opportunity to get back on track this week. The Rams have allowed more catches to slot WRs than any other team in the league, and have allowed the following WR lines to predominantly slot guys: Adam Humphries 9-100, Larry Fitzgerald 5-62, Anquan Boldin 8-60-1, and Jeremy Kerley 7-61. Shepard should actually be a pretty solid floor WR3 in PPR, and more of a borderline option in standard leagues. Even through his struggles, Shepard has still been targeted at least 7 times in each of the past 5 games. Those looks are bound to start leading to production, and I think that starts this week.
WR Chester Rogers, IND (Wk. 7: @Ten.): The Colts have been desperate for a number 2 wide receiver since Donte Moncrief went down with injury. Phillip Dorsett hasn’t been the answer and may be out this week, and tight end Dwayne Allen is likely to miss the game as well. Rogers has performed admirably as a fill-in, and he should have the most opportunity he’s had yet with so many pass-catchers sidelined. Rogers played 53 snaps last week and put up a 4-63 line. While the Titans have been pretty good vs. wide receivers this season, they did just allow 18-202-2 to the Cleveland WRs. Hilton should still be a target hog, but Rogers could be a decent WR3 play this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 7: vs. Min.): Wentz is coming off his worst start of the year, and this week he gets to face off with the defense allowing the 5th-fewest points to opposing QBs. The big thing that worries me with Wentz is the suspension of Lane Johnson. Ryan Kerrigan basically set up a residence in the Eagles' backfield last week, and the Vikings have the bodies up front to cause the same kind of trouble in Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. Add in the fact that the Vikings are coming off a bye and Jordan Matthews is banged up this week, and it doesn't look good for Wentz. I'd be nervous to even play him as a low-end QB2.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 7: vs. Hou.): Booker managed to out-rush CJ Anderson last week on far fewer carries, and many people think more touches are headed his way after his coach said he wants Booker to be more involved. I still think CJ is the lead back here and will see significantly more snaps than Booker. Anderson had 47 yards and a TD called back by 3 Bronco penalties last week. He would have had a robust 118 yards and a TD without those penalties on just 17 touches. Booker will have to continue making an impact in limited opportunities to provide any real fantasy value this week. I’d avoid him in most leagues.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 7: @Jax.): Richard has had bigger games than DeAndre Washington this season, but he’s been less consistent. While Washington has tallied 46 or more yards in 5 straight games, Richard has only reached that mark twice all year. Granted, he put up 95 and 97 yards in those contests, but there is just too much downside here after he gained just 13 yards on 6 touches last week.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 7: vs. Ind.): This is a great matchup, with the Colts allowing the 2nd-most RB fantasy points in the league, but the workload just hasn't been usable for fantasy purposes. He might be worth trotting out as a TD dart throw...if the Titans ever used him when they got close to scoring. So far they haven't. On the year Henry has seen just 2 carries and zero passing targets in the red zone while DeMarco Murray has seen 17 carries and 9 targets there. Without the TD upside, there isn't much to like about playing Henry.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 7: @Det.): The Lions still haven't allowed a running back to score a rushing TD, and Kelley hasn't caught a single pass all year. It's safe to say he's unlikely to find the end zone. The increased workload that Coach Jay Gruden talked about last week turned out to be 5 carries instead of the 3 he saw in week 5. While he did turn those 5 carries into 59 yards, that's not the kind of volume you want to trust in your lineup and Matt Jones is playing too well for Kelley to steal a much larger piece of the load.
RB Wendell Smallwood, PHI (Wk. 7: vs. Min.): The Vikings have allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs, and Smallwood hasn’t had much of a role lately. He put up 20 yards on 5 touches last week, and played just 1 snap in the previous game. He came up with a punt return TD last week, but that isn’t the kind of thing that will be duplicated. He’s best left out of any lineups this week.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 7: @LA): Perkins looked decent on the 4 touches he saw in week 6, gaining 26 yards, but I repeat: He saw just 4 touches. It's promising for Perkins that Orleans Darkwa saw zero, but for now Perkins is still comfortably behind Jennings and Rainey in the pecking order. Steer clear for the time being.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 7: @Den.): Fuller has been banged up the past couple weeks, and this week gets to face off with a Broncos’ defense that is allowing the fewest WR fantasy points in the league. While it seems likely that Fuller is able to play, I wouldn’t count on him doing much. He gets by on his speed, and if his hamstrings are anything less than 100%, I’d expect him to struggle in a big way. I just wouldn’t be able to trust him in my lineups.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 7: vs. Ind.): You don't need me to tell you that you can't start a guy who has totaled just 32 yards in 3 weeks against the Texans, Dolphins and Browns. That's hardly a murderer’s row of defenses. The coaching staff has talked about Sharpe regressing of late, and he may have squandered his opportunity to be the Titans' WR1 with the breakout game of Kendall Wright last weekend.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, & Cheap DFS Plays:
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 7: vs. Was.): He obviously has to play to be a sleeper this week, but all of the signs are pointing to him suiting up. The Lions’ backfield appears to be a bit of a 4-way mess, so you kind of have to read the tea leaves here, but Washington looks like the best option of the group this week. Theo Riddick seems to be less than 50-50 to play this week, and despite a decent week 6 performance, I’d expect Zach Zenner to be relegated to backup duties once again. Justin Forsett will likely take over the third down receiving back role with Riddick out, and Washington would then assume most of the early down work. Washington was just getting going this year before his ankle injury sidelined him, and this week he gets to face a defense that ranks 31st in run defense DVOA and has allowed the 7th-most running back fantasy points. If Riddick sits, Washington has RB2 upside this week.
RB Don Jackson, GB (Wk. 7: vs. Chi.): Things in the Green Bay Packers’ backfield have rapidly devolved with the injuries to Eddie Lacy (placed on IR) and James Starks (out at least a month after a knee scope). The Packers have traded for Knile Davis and signed Jackson from the practice squad. Wide receiver Ty Montgomery also entered the backfield mix by impressing on 22 snaps in that role last week after Lacy was hurt (6 catches for 52 yards out of the backfield). There have been conflicting reports from two different Packers beat writers this week, one suggesting that Montgomery would get the majority of the backfield snaps, the other suggesting it will be Jackson. I’d expect game script to dictate it. If the Packers are playing from behind or in a close game, Montgomery will likely see more work than Jackson, and vice versa if they play from ahead. The Packers are at home, and are a touchdown favorite, so if things go according to plan it should favor the rookie. The Bears rank 20th in run defense DVOA, so if he sees 15 carries, he should be productive enough to be on the RB2/RB3 borderline. At the very least, he should be owned with both Lacy and Starks out an extended period.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 7: vs. Cle.): Boyd managed to put up 77 yards last weekend against the Patriots, but the Bengals spent much of that game playing catch up. They figure to play from ahead this week as a 10-point favorite at home against the Browns. Overall passing volume should be down, but the Browns have struggled to contain slot receivers. They’ve given up lines of 7-114-1 to Jordan Matthews and 7-120-1 to Jarvis Landry. You could argue that those guys are better than the average slot receiver, but last week they allowed 8-133-1 to Kendall Wright. There won’t be a ton of volume for Boyd, but he’s a sneaky bet to score a TD this week.
WR Ricardo Louis, CLE (Wk. 7: @Cin.): Louis seems to have established himself as the WR2 on this team as long as Corey Coleman is sidelined. He saw a season-high 9 targets in week 6, and this week faces a Cincinnati team that ranks 23rd in pass DVOA on throws to the opposing number 2 wide receiver. They’ve allowed TDs to #2 guys Eric Decker and Kenny Stills and two to Emmanuel Sanders (Demaryius also scored a TD vs. Cincy if you consider Sanders their number 1). Some of this is moot if Terrelle Pryor winds up not playing this week, since Louis would be the de facto number one, but in that case he would see enough volume that his outlook would be similar. Louis is legitimately in play as a WR3 in deeper leagues this week.
WR Charone Peake, NYJ (Wk. 7: vs. Bal.): Peake seemed to take a step forward as the Jets’ WR3 last week, and the Ravens have allowed over 31 points per game to opposing WRs in the past 5 games (non-PPR). Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa will certainly benefit the most from the Eric Decker injury, but Peake saw 10 targets last week and looks to at least be ahead of Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall on the depth chart for now. With Geno under center, there may be a little extra chemistry between these two since they have both been playing with the 2nd team offense. Peake is in play as a DFS tournament punt option or a WR3 in really deep leagues.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with some of the tougher lineup decisions you're facing this week. As usual, a lot of these outlooks hinge on the injury status of other players on these teams, so make sure and keep an eye on the injury report to see if guys like Latavius Murray, Theo Riddick, Phillip Dorsett, etc. are going to play. If you have any specific questions, or want to yell at me about any of the info above, feel free to hit me up on twitter and let me know (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.
We're joined by fantasy football veteran and former drinkfive.com contributor Vince Foss as we discuss the very best plays moving forward into championship week. We'll analyze the matchups and go over recent NFL news and updates that can impact the production of your players.
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!