Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Week 3 was a big one for the current rookie class. First round quarterbacks Blake Bortles and Teddy Bridgewater got their first taste of NFL action, and it won’t be short lived. Matt Cassel is on injured reserve and Gus Bradley as anointed Bortles the Jaguars’ starter for the remainder of the season. It was another solid week for the rookie receivers too, with big performances from Kelvin Benjamin, Jordan Matthews and John Brown. With the first bye week of the season upon us, it’ll be even more critical to pay attention to the rooks since you might need some of them to fill in for your studs who are taking the week off. With that in mind, let’s dive right in to the week 4 outlook…
Rookies to Start:
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (Wk. 4: @Bal.): Kelvin is quickly earning automatic start status as long as your league requires 3 WRs. Regardless of matchup, KB is going to see plenty of targets and is a tough cover for just about anyone due to his size. The Ravens allow the 7th most points to opposing WRs thus far. Don’t overthink this. For the record, I was wrong about Benjamin in the preseason. His drop issues still remain, but he sees so much volume as the clear number one WR in Carolina, he’ll keep producing.
WR Brandin Cooks, NO (Wk. 4: @Dal.): While the Cowboys’ defense hasn’t exactly lived up to the “historically bad” hype, but Cooks’s speed will give the ‘Boys fits. You should feel comfortable firing him up as a WR3 in PPR leagues.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN (Wk. 4: vs. Atl.): The Atlanta Falcons have a really good offense. They also have a really bad defense. That should equate to Teddy throwing it a bit more than the Vikes would like and he should have success when he does. Matt Cassel was averaging under 6 yards per attempt this season, and Bridgewater was at 7.5 in his first game action. Granted it’s a small sample size, but Teddy could be in line for a really strong first start. He should be a high-end QB2 this week.
QB Blake Bortles, JAX (Wk. 4: @SD): Bortles should be a low-end QB2 option this week. There’s a little fear that the Chargers will be able to control the clock and keep the ball out of Bortles’s hands. If the Jags’ defense can get off the field, there are some factors working in Blake’s favor. SD has allowed a QB rating of over 100 through the first 3 games, is missing one of their best defensive players in Melvin Ingram, and haven’t picked off a pass yet this season. Add in that the Jaguars will be playing from behind, and there’s potential for a nice fantasy day.
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, BAL (Wk. 4: vs. Car.): The only thing keeping me from saying to start Zo-Bot for sure are the reports that the Ravens plan to reinsert Bernard Pierce as the starter. Taliaferro was outstanding against the Browns, and has earned himself a share of the workload, and the Panthers’ defense isn’t nearly as stingy as you might think. They’ve allowed a whopping 6 yards per carry through 3 games and were gashed by the Steelers on Sunday night. I like Taliaferro as a flex this week.
RB Bishop Sankey, TEN (Wk. 4: @Ind.): Sankey’s role is growing quickly, and the Colts have allowed the 6th most fantasy points to opposing RBs at 21.7 points per game. Greene is still the starter, but I think Sankey sees a good amount of work this week and is a decent bet for double-digit fantasy points. I’d say better than a 50/50 shot in PPR leagues.
WR Sammy Watkins, BUF (Wk. 4: @Hou.): I like Watkins the most of any WR listed as borderline this week since the Texans have given up plenty of yards to opposing WRs, but with E.J. at QB, there’s always some risk of a bust game. If I had to guess, I’d expect him to put up 70-80 yards but he could certainly fall short.
WR Mike Evans, TB (Wk. 4: @Pit.): Evans certainly seemed to benefit from having Mike Glennon under center in week 3, but Glennon fed targets to Vincent Jackson last season. Granted, he didn’t have another weapon like Evans, but I’d want to play the waiting game with this situation before I roll with Evans. He could have a really strong game this week, but it would probably come from my bench.
WR Jordan Matthews, PHI (Wk. 4: @SF): Matthews makes an intriguing bye week fill-in option. The 49ers have allowed the 2nd most points to opposing WRs through the first 3 weeks, and Matthews has clearly been better than Riley Cooper thus far. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Matthews find double-digit points again, and I’m pretty confident he’ll have at least 6. He’s a better PPR play than standard.
WR Allen Robinson, JAX (Wk. 4: @SD): Robinson is quickly becoming the go-to guy in Jacksonville. The Jaguars will play from behind a lot, so there’s a ton of long term upside. Bortles leaned on Robinson after getting in against Indy and will likely continue to do so. 60-70 yards seems like the floor for what he could do this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Derek Carr, OAK (Wk. 4: vs. Mia.): I’m still not ready to trust Carr. He’s lost his top receiver Rod Streater for the year and has a non-existent run game. This week the Raiders get to travel 8 or 9 time zones east to play in London. Hard to imagine Carr has a banner day. Leave him out of your lineup if you’ve got him.
RB Alfred Blue, HOU (Wk. 4: vs. Buf.): It looks like Arian Foster is going to play in week 4. If he doesn’t, Blue would get a slight bump to borderline, but the Bills run D has been stingy. The Texans will certainly run, but Blue would be no lock to match his week 3 output.
RB Jerick McKinnon, MIN (Wk. 4: vs. Atl.): I love McKinnon’s raw talent and he does have a tasty matchup, but for some reason the Vikings seem committed to plodder Matt Asiata. With AP out, the Vikings are in dire need of playmakers and McKinnon and Cordarrelle Patterson are the best options. Norv Turner just doesn’t know how to use them right now. If the Vikes change course on Asiata, Jerick could be in for a big day. I just don’t see it happening.
RB Devonta Freeman, ATL (Wk. 4: @Min.): Not much analysis needed here. There are just too many mouths to feed in the Falcons’ backfield in a pass-happy offense to make Freeman a viable fantasy play right now.
WRs Allen Hurns & Marqise Lee, JAX (Wk. 4: @SD): Hurns totaled just one catch in week 3, albeit a 60+ yard touchdown catch. He just won’t see enough volume with Cecil Shorts back in the mix. Lee, meanwhile, likely won’t even play this week due to injury. Even if he does suit up, he still has work to do to establish a role and rapport with Bortles.
TE Austin Sefarian-Jenkins, TB (Wk. 4: @Pit.): ASJ is a tempting option with the Steelers allowing 12.3 points per game to opposing tight ends so far, but I just don’t trust this offense to get him the ball enough for a productive day.
Rookies on Byes this week: RBs Isaiah Crowell & Terrance West, CLE, RB Jeremy Hill, CIN, RB Marion Grice, ARI, WR John Brown, ARI, and WR Cody Latimer, DEN
Deep League Sleepers:
QB Zach Mettenberger, TEN (Wk. 4: @Ind.): This one will require a little monitoring of the situation. Jake Locker is questionable with a wrist injury, but it’s not certain whether it’ll be Mett or Charlie Whitehurst who would start in his place. It’s a great matchup with the Colts giving up a ton of points to opposing QBs, and Mettenberger has the ability to take advantage.
RB Carlos Hyde, SF (Wk. 4: vs. Phi.): Hyde would be a ballsy play, even in deep leagues, but there has been a bunch of speculation that the 49ers will go back to playing bully ball and pounding it on the ground this week to try to get back on track. If they do that, Hyde will certainly see a decent share of carries.
RB Branden Oliver, SD (Wk. 4: vs. Jax.): The Jaguars have been giving up 28.7 points per game to opposing RBs so far this year, easily the worst in the league. Do your really think Donald Brown will do that much damage? The Chargers did add Shaun Draughn this week, but they won’t have time to work him into the gameplan. It’ll be Oliver getting the number 2 carries. I think the Chargers will realize that giving Donald Brown 31 carries a week when the RB group is thin to begin with is a recipe for disaster. I like Oliver to top 50 yards and possibly find paydirt.
RB Marion Grice, ARI (Wk. 4: Bye): I know it’s silly to list a player on a bye, but people should be aware of him as a possible stash. The Cardinals swiped him from San Diego’s practice squad, and he could find a role in this offense. Andre Ellington is playing through an injured foot, Jonathan Dwyer likely won’t be on the field this year, and Stepfan Taylor just isn’t very good. Grice is a versatile player who should be getting 5-10 touches per game before long.
WR Philly Brown, CAR (Wk. 4: @Bal.): Brown caught a surprising 7 passes in week 3 with Jerricho Cotchery out. If Cotchery misses another week, Brown is an interesting PPR option against a team that has struggled to contain possession receivers and was gouged by Miles Austin and Andrew Hawkins a week ago. As I mentioned earlier, the Ravens have allowed the 7th most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers so far.
WR Donte Moncrief, IND (Wk. 4: vs. Ten.): Moncrief got involved in the 2nd half last week despite a big Colts lead and he was impressive. He could surprise again this week if T.Y. Hilton can’t play despite the likely scenario that Indy wins big. It’s only a matter of time before the Colts realize Moncrief is a better WR than Hakeem Nicks.
TE Jace Amaro, NYJ (Wk. 4: vs. Det.): Amaro has started to make his presence felt, and the only players the Lions’ defense has been at all generous too are the tight ends, allowing 9.3 points per game to them so far. I like Amaro to catch for over 50 yards this week with a chance for more.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you survive the season’s first bye week unscathed. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.