Welcome back to the Rookie Report! I hope all you Sammy Watkins owners out there took my advice and fired him up last week as he crushed the Vikings. Last week was a coming out party for a couple more rookies, Tre Mason and Martavis Bryant, and we may have gotten another step closer to Johnny Football getting his shot in Cleveland. There is one rookie QB who looks to be getting his first career start this week, and it isn’t Manziel. It’s LSU product Zach Mettenberger. I’m not sure if this is a permanent move or if it’s just because Locker’s not as ready to go as previously reported, but it looks like Mett will get a chance to take the job and run with it. Let’s take a look at what to expect from him and the rest of the rookies for week 8…
Rookies to Start:
RB Jerick McKinnon, MIN (Wk. 8: @TB): McKinnon had a very impressive game against a stout Buffalo run defense in week 7, and he gets a much more enticing matchup with the Bucs in week 8. Tampa is allowing a robust 165 yards from scrimmage per game to opposing running backs, and McKinnon is a good bet to see at least 75% of the touches out of the Vikings’ backfield. He’s a good bet to hit triple-digit total yards again and is also likely to find the end zone. He’s a solid RB2 option this week.
RB Branden Oliver, SD (Wk. 8: @Den.): Oliver isn’t quite the slam dunk play that he was the past couple weeks, but I’d still feel very comfortable with him as a flex option this week, and might be willing to trot him out as an RB2. The Broncos have allowed a league-low 310 rush yards to opposing RBs and under 3 yards per carry, but San Diego rode a run-heavy attack in a Thursday night game against Denver last year to pull off an upset win. I’d expect a similar strategy this week, so Oliver should be plenty involved to be worth a fantasy play despite the tough matchup.
WR Sammy Watkins, BUF (Wk. 8: @NYJ): Watkins is a must-start this week against the rag-tag Jets’ secondary. They were getting exposed before Dee Milliner went down with injury. Things are likely to get worse with him gone. Watkins shredded the Vikings last week, and he shouldn’t have much trouble doing the same this week. He remains the focal point of the Bills’ passing game and should be a very solid WR2 vs. the Jets.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (Wk. 8: vs. Sea.): If ever there was a week where Benjamin wasn’t an automatic start, this is probably it, but I’d still trot him out there as a WR3. The Seahawks secondary is still formidable, but Richard Sherman rarely leaves his left side. He did shadow the top receiver against Dallas, but that was Dez Bryant. I doubt the rookie gets the same sort of respect. The Panthers should be smart enough to not line KB up against Sherman, so he should again be a safe play for fantasy purposes. He remains the number one option in the passing game.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN (Wk. 8: @TB): Teddy gets a juicy matchup this week with Tampa. The Bucs allow 71.4% of passes thrown against them to be completed, and the defense has had several breakdowns and growing pains as they learn the Lovie Smith cover 2 defense. Teddy should pick them apart at the intermediate level. This is as good a matchup as Teddy might see all year. The Bucs allow 20 points per game to opposing QBs, and Bridgewater should be a high-end QB 2 this week.
RB Isaiah Crowell, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. Oak.): The matchup is excellent. The Raiders allow the 2nd most fantasy points to opposing RBs behind only Atlanta, giving up almost 23 points per game. Ben Tate struggled for much of last week’s game vs. the Jaguars, so there’s a chance Crowell sees some extra work. I love Crowell’s chances of finding paydirt this week, but there’s always the chance he ends up with just 20-30 yards. He’s riskier in PPR since he’s a non-factor in the passing game. Cro is a high-risk, high-reward flex option this week. Terrance West is still not worth a start.
RB Bishop Sankey, TEN (Wk. 8: vs. Hou.): The Texans have been gashed on the ground this year, but Sankey is still really hard to trust. He’s just a flex option this week in a plus matchup. His lack of use in the passing game is especially troubling. I get that McCluster is more of a receiver than Sankey, but he should still have seen more than just one target last week. His floor is much higher than Crowell’s, but his ceiling is lower.
RB Tre Mason, STL (Wk. 8: @KC): It looks like Mason will get 1st crack at the bulk of the carries this week after having a big game last week against the Seahawks. The Rams are a run-first team, but the KC defense has been stingy to opposing backs. Thanks to the fact that he might lose the hot hand this week and in turn lose carries, Mason makes a dicey flex option this week. I do love his running style though. He has great vision, doesn’t dance around in the backfield and always seems to fall forward.
WR Brandin Cooks, NO (Wk. 8: vs. GB): Cooks was a big disappointment in week 7. With Jimmy Graham VERY limited, Cooks saw just 3 targets and caught just 2. We’ll chalk it up to the inconsistency of rookies, but his standard league value is nowhere near his PPR value right now. He flashed big play abilities and downfield receiving skills in college (similar to Steve Smith), but they haven’t shown up at the NFL level yet. He’s still an asset and a decent WR3 in PPR, but he’s getting harder to trust in standard leagues until the Saints start to get him a little further downfield on some of his targets.
WR Mike Evans, TB (Wk. 8: vs. Min.): The Vikings sport a middling defense vs. fantasy WRs (#17 in the NFL), but with Glennon at the helm, V-Jax comes first in this offense. Evans, like usual, is a safe bet for around 50 yards with an ok shot at a touchdown. His upside is limited right now.
WR Jarvis Landry, MIA (Wk. 8: @Jax.): Landry is now cemented as the slot receiver in Miami with Brandon Gibson being a healthy scratch in week 7. His hands have been very reliable, and only the Ravens have allowed more WR receiving yards than the Jaguars. Landry should be a very solid WR3 option for PPR leagues this week, and has some boom or bust standard league appeal.
WR Allen Robinson, JAX (Wk. 8: vs. Mia.): On the other side of the ‘Phins-Jags game, Allen Robinson has earned every-week consideration as a WR3, especially in PPR leagues. The matchup is a tough one this week, but like Seattle, Miami lets their top corner play his side of the field more often than not. The Jaguars should find ways to keep Robinson away from Brent Grimes. He should be a decent bet again for 4-5 catches and 60 yards, and he could find a garbage time TD as well.
WR Davante Adams, GB (Wk. 8: @NO): Don’t be too worried about Adams’s unproductive week 7. Instead, be excited that he still played over 75% of the Packers’ offensive snaps with Jarrett Boykin back healthy. Aaron Rodgers is flat out dealing right now, so Adams remains a boom or bust WR3 option every week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Zach Mettenberger, TEN (Wk. 8: vs. Hou.): The Texans’ defense is merely middle-of-the-road against opposing QBs, and Mett has some intriguing upside with his big arm, but facing off with J.J. Watt in your first NFL start could be a harrowing experience. The Texans should be good enough to give the rookie signal caller trouble this week, and I’d view Mett as no more than a bottom end QB2 this week. The Titans’ O hasn’t been sharp in general this year.
QB Derek Carr, OAK (Wk. 8: @Cle.): The Raiders’ offense has certainly improved since Tony Sparano took over as interim coach, but the Browns’ pass defense is better than you might think against the pass. They’ve allowed a 9:7 TD-INT ratio and can still get pressure on the QB with Mingo and Paul Kruger. Carr is a roll of the dice QB2 this week.
QB Blake Bortles, JAX (Wk. 8: vs. Mia.): The ‘Phins are a top-5 defense vs. opposing QBs, and Bortles has been very turnover-prone in his young career. It’s an easy call to avoid this matchup.
RB Jeremy Hill, CIN (Wk. 8: vs. Bal.): It seems likely that A.J. Green will give it a go this weekend, likely causing the Bengals to lean less on the ground game. It’s probably a good week for that since the Ravens are tied with Buffalo for the fewest fantasy points allowed to opposing RBs. Hill needs a TD to make playing him worth it, and the Ravens have allowed just 2 RB touchdowns all year. You have to sit Hill this week.
RB Storm Johnson, JAX (Wk. 8: vs. Mia.): The Dolphins can be run on, but Denard Robinson will undoubtedly lead the way in the Jaguars’ backfield committee this week. Storm won’t see enough touches to warrant fantasy consideration.
WR John Brown, ARI (Wk. 8: vs. Phi.): The Philly D has been very beatable, allowing 24.5 points per game to opposing WRs, but they haven’t been beatable in the slot where CB Brandon Boykin patrols. This could be a big week for Floyd and Fitz, but it’s not a good spot to sneak in Brown hoping for a big week against a suspect secondary.
WRs Marqise Lee & Allen Hurns, JAX (Wk. 8: vs. Mia.): Hurns’s role has been greatly diminished with Cecil Shorts coming back healthy, and although Lee is starting to get involved, he’s still just the 4th option in the passing game at best. There won’t be enough to go around this week for Lee to be worth a try.
WR Martavis Bryant, PIT (Wk. 8: vs. Ind.): Bryant was active for the first time in week 7, and rewarded the Steelers with a long-ish TD catch. He’s certainly pushing the underachieving Markus Wheaton for the number 2 job, but the Colts allow a league-low 12.6 points per game to opposing WRs. Antonio Brown is going to get his points. Do you really think there will be enough to go around for Bryant to be productive as well? I don’t.
TE Jace Amaro, NYJ (Wk. 8: vs. Buf.): No rookie TE is worth starting this week. Amaro has the best matchup of he, Ebron and ASJ, but the Bills still allow just 6 points per game to opposing TEs, and the addition of Percy Harvin may cut into Amaro’s targets. Eventually, Harvin may just draw attention away from Jace and give him some room to operate over the middle, but with Harvin playing limited snaps to start out, that won’t happen immediately.
Rookies on Byes: RB Andre Williams, NYG, RB Carlos Hyde, SF, WR Odell Beckham Jr., NYG
Deep League Sleepers:
QB Johnny Manziel, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. Oak.): Browns’ head coach Mike Pettine admitted after last week’s embarrassing loss to the Jaguars that he briefly considered going to Manziel in that game. He issued a vote of confidence for Hoyer in that same presser, but once you’ve opened up Manziel as a possibility, it doesn’t take all that much to make it a reality. I think Hoyer bounces back this week, but if he doesn’t, a poor performance against the 0-6 Raiders could be enough to get Johnny Football under center.
WR Donte Moncrief, IND (Wk. 8: @Pit.): Reggie Wayne is likely out this week despite reports that he is day-to-day, and Moncrief has been steadily pushing closer to overtaking Hakeem Nicks for the number 3 WR job already. If Wayne is out, Moncrief has some nice upside in a game against a Pittsburgh team that has allowed over 1,000 yards to opposing WRs this year. Moncrief is a volatile WR3 option this week that a ballsy owner could make pay off big.
WR Paul Richardson, SEA (Wk. 8: @Car.): Richardson is the one guy on Seattle’s roster who can come close to matching Percy Harvin’s explosiveness, and he’ll do it without the ego. The trade should open up a role for Richardson as a gadget player and a deep threat in the passing game. Doug Baldwin will certainly be the top option, but Richardson could have some big weeks a la Jermaine Kearse a season ago. This week has the potential to be one of those for him as the Seahawks draw the Carolina Panthers. Carolina has allowed the 4th most WR points per game in the NFL.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully some of the insight above can help you secure a W. I’ll leave you the same way I always do: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.