Welcome back to the Rookie Report! For most of us, it’s the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Hopefully you were able to secure a bye into the next round, but if not, this week’s lineup decisions will be critical. With rookies being inconsistent by nature, there are only a few that I can fully recommend starting this week. That doesn’t mean those are the only rookies worth playing. Before we get into specifics, I just want to offer one piece of advice: Start your studs! You don’t want to be kicking yourself next week because you decided to sit T.Y. Hilton for a guy like Doug Baldwin or Jarvis Landry just because Hilton’s facing Joe Haden and the other guy has a plus matchup. Sure there’s a risk of a dud from T.Y., but he could also have a monster game. It’s much easier to live with the dud from T.Y. than T.Y. blowing up on your bench. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the outlook for the rookies in week 14…
Rookies to Start:
RB Isaiah Crowell, CLE (Wk. 14: vs. Ind.): Sure, Crowell was awful last Sunday, but if you want to win this week you’ll look past his miserable week 13 performance and get him in there this week. Crowell is listed as questionable with a hip injury, but the Colts allow 20 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. I’m starting the Crow in both leagues that I own him in, and I think he’s in line for a big game.
WR Odell Beckham Jr., NYG (Wk. 14: @Ten.): Beckham failed to find the end zone in a dream matchup with the Jaguars last week, but he remains a must-start option as a borderline WR1. He has 6+ catches and 90+ yards in each of his past 5 games and is a great bet to find the end zone against a Titans’ defense that just let Ryan Fitzpatrick torch them for 6 scores. Rueben Randle’s recent disciplinary issues (benched due to tardiness to meeting) should only increase Beckham’s work.
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (Wk. 14: @NO): The Saints managed to contain KB in the first meeting between these teams, holding him to season-lows of 2 catches and 11 yards. Don’t expect a repeat of that game. The Panthers are still force-feeding the ball to Benjamin, and the Saints’ Keenan Lewis hasn’t been the same since injuring his knee against the 49ers a few weeks ago. I expect Kelvin to put up at least 60 yards and a TD, and those numbers should be in your lineup.
WR Mike Evans, TB (Wk. 14: @Det.): Despite the tough matchup with the Lions, and the relatively weak outing last Sunday, Evans fits the idea of starting your studs. He has to be in the lineup. He’s got a pretty high floor, tallying at least 47 yards in every game except the season opener, and he’s got a ceiling that can win your week. I wouldn’t be able to sit him knowing what he is capable of.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN (Wk. 14: vs. NYJ): I wouldn’t necessarily say Bridgewater is turning the corner just yet, but he’s thrown just 2 INTs in his last 5 games and is coming off back-to-back 2 TD performances (his only 2 of the year). This week he’s home against the Jets, who have allowed a staggering 27:4 TD:INT ratio to opposing QBs. Given the matchup, Teddy is a passable QB2 this week, but his ceiling will be limited by what should remain a run-heavy game plan.
QB Zach Mettenberger, TEN (Wk. 14: vs. NYG): Mett left last week’s game with a shoulder injury, but he seems to have avoided any serious damage and the Titans expect him to start this week. He did lose his most talented downfield target in Justin Hunter to injured reserve, but he should again be a borderline QB2 with upside. The Giants D hasn’t been the same without Prince Amukamara in the secondary and Mett was on his way to what could have been a 300-yard game before getting hurt last week.
RB Jeremy Hill, CIN (Wk. 14: vs. Pit.): Hill was called out by offensive coordinator Hue Jackson after questioning Jackson’s game plan on Sunday. Hue said he needed to block better and break more tackles because, “that’s what running backs do.” I expect Hill to want to make a statement this week in a game that could really cement the Bengals’ claim to the AFC North crown. The timeshare with Gio limits his upside a bit, but a bit of inspired play should make Hill a borderline RB2 with upside.
RB Tre Mason, STL (Wk. 14: @Was.): Mason made good on my prediction of triple-digit yards last week, but I didn’t expect 3 TDs to go with it. You have to be kicking yourself if you didn’t start him. It was the breakout game we’ve been waiting for from Tre, but he should come back to earth a bit this week. The Redskins have been very stout vs. the run, but Mason’s volume isn’t going anywhere. He’s the engine that makes the Rams’ offense go, and he’s at least in the RB2 discussion this week, and would be a strong flex-play.
RB Andre Williams, NYG (Wk. 14: @Ten.): This only applies if Jennings is out this week. He’s questionable with injury. Even though Williams is an unsexy option who runs like he’s stuck in mud, you could do worse than the lead back facing the second-most generous defense in terms of RB fantasy points. I’d much rather play Williams if he starts than a questionable option like Bishop Sankey, Chris Ivory or LeGarrette Blount.
RB Bishop Sankey, TEN (Wk. 14: vs. NYG): Speaking of the Bishop, he faces yet another favorable matchup on the other side of the Giants-Titans game. This may be Sankey’s last chance to show that he can produce in a good matchup, but it would probably be best if that chance comes with him on your bench. He’s still got some appeal in really deep leagues, but he’s even been vulture at the goal line by Dexter McCluster. He should be good for about 50 scoreless yards. It’s worth noting that he’s been returning kicks over the past 3 weeks if your league gives points for that.
WR Jordan Matthews, PHI (Wk. 14: vs. Sea.): The targets and production have been steady with Sanchez at QB, but the Seahawks’ defense allows the fewest WR points in the league and has been downright dominant as a whole over the past 2 games. Matthews should remain a big part of the offense this week, but his upside will be extremely limited in such a tough matchup. He’s more worthy of a play in PPR than standard.
WR Jarvis Landry, MIA (Wk. 14: vs. Bal.): Landry is going to be a safe WR3 this week for PPR leagues, but he should be on the WR3 radar in standard leagues as well. The Ravens allow as many WR points as any team in the league, and Ryan Tannehill just looks lost trying to throw downfield. Landry has been fantastic in the short passing game, and he should rack up catches again this week. The yardage should remain modest, but a TD is at least a 50/50 bet this week.
WR Sammy Watkins, BUF (Wk. 14: @Den.): I’d actually lean towards sitting Watkins this week. Kyle Orton has been pretty bad lately, and Watkins’s production has suffered as a result. I’m not really confident that he rebounds this week against Aqib Talib and the Broncos, even if there is ample garbage time. At best he’s a WR3 this week.
WR John Brown, ARI (Wk. 14: vs. KC): It’s somewhat frustrating that Brown didn’t take advantage of his plus matchup last week with the Falcons, but he’s averaged 61 yards per game over the past 4 games, and 64 yards per game in 6 home contests (just 31 ypg on the road in 6 games). He should be an okay WR3 in deeper leagues even if Fitz plays this week, and okay for standard leagues if Fitz sits.
WR Davante Adams, GB (Wk. 14: vs. Atl.): Despite his monster game against the Patriots last Sunday, Adams is a risky play this week. He benefitted from the Pats’ focus on slowing down Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and he still managed to leave 2 TDs on the field. This week he’s back to being a boom or bust option, and is a major roll of the dice this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Johnny Manziel, CLE (Wk. 14: vs. Ind.): If you saw the news on Tuesday, then you probably know not to play Manziel, but even if something were to change between now and Sunday, I’d still keep him benched. There’s no way to really know what to expect. Crowell would get a boost if Manziel starts though.
QB Blake Bortles, JAX (Wk. 14: vs. Hou.): His numbers have been very poor this year, putting up far more turnovers than the Jags can be comfortable, and the Texans have 15 interceptions in 12 games. Multiple turnovers are likely again , and it’s not a good sign that he’s averaged just 5.5 yards per attempt over the past 2 games without Allen Robinson. Keep him benched this week.
QB Derek Carr, OAK (Wk. 14: vs. SF): Not much analysis needed here. The 49ers allow the 4th fewest pass yards in the league and Carr has failed to break 200 yards passing in 9 of his 12 starts. There is no reason to expect him to get to 200 this week.
RB Jerick McKinnon, MIN (Wk. 14: vs. NYJ): Jerick was out last week, but I wouldn’t trust him even if he plays this week. He should slide back into his usual role after Joe Banyard badly blew a blitz pickup last week, but zero touchdowns all year? You can’t make just make the argument that he’s due. There’s no reason to expect TD #1 this week.
RB Terrance West, CLE (Wk. 14: vs. Ind.): West was clearly played 2nd fiddle to Crowell last week, and was blasted publicly Monday by head coach Pettine this week for his fumbling woes. As long as Crowell is good to go, West should be on the bench. He gets a bump up to an intriguing flex option if the Crow is out.
RB Alfred Blue, HOU (Wk. 14: @Jax.): As expected, Blue has been a non-factor with Arian Foster back, and that should continue to be the case this week. There’s no reason to consider him despite a plus matchup.
RB Lorenzo Taliaferro, BAL (Wk. 14: @Mia.): There were reports this week that John Harbaugh insists that Taliaferro isn’t in the doghouse. The fact that the question would even be brought up shows just how little Taliaferro has factored in the Ravens’ offense. He has just 3 carries in the last 3 games since a fumble in week 10 put him on the bench. He should stay on your bench as well.
WR Martavis Bryant, PIT (Wk. 14: @Cin.): It’s hard to say to avoid Bryant altogether after the way he exploded onto the scene, but the bottom has fallen out over the past 2 weeks. He had just 2 catches for 11 yards in week 12 and dropped a sure touchdown in the process. The really troubling number is the 4 targets he received last week. It’s troubling because the Steelers threw the ball 58 times. The Bengals’ defense is really good against WRs, and you’d be better off not relying on Bryant to bounce back.
WR Allen Hurns, JAX (Wk. 14: vs. Hou.): Despite a really good matchup, I wouldn’t have the stones to trust Hurns with my season on the line. He could certainly blow up and have a big game against the defense that allows the most fantasy WR points in the league, but he’s much more likely not to. Hurns has done nothing to warrant a spot in the lineup, tallying less than 5 points (standard leagues) in 7 of his last 8 games. Why would you expect that to change this week?
TE Eric Ebron, DET (Wk. 14: vs. TB): Ebron has been a total disappointment this season. Lions’ fans have lamented the decision to draft Ebron over a guy like Odell Beckham Jr. for much of the season, and I can’t bank on the athletic rookie to pick it up this week. He’s been seeing a handful of targets each week, but has exactly 22 or 23 yards in each of his past 4 games. If you’re happy with 2 points out of your tight end, be my guest and start him.
TE Jace Amaro, NYJ (Wk. 14: @Min.): Even if Amaro returns from the concussion that kept him sidelined in week 13, there’s no reason to expect a solid showing. The Vikings have allowed less than 5 points per game to opposing tight ends, and it looks like Rex Ryan and the Jets refuse to throw the ball as long as John Idzik forces him to play Geno Smith. Smith attempted just 13 passes on Monday night, with 5 coming on the final drive. The limited upside in the passing game means Amaro isn’t a realistic streaming option.
TE Richard Rodgers, GB (Wk. 14: vs. Atl.): Don’t overthink this. Despite scoring a TD in each of the last 2 games, Rodgers isn’t a real option for your lineup this week. He hasn’t caught more than 2 passes in any game this year, and the Packers’ stars should have no trouble piling up stats against the Falcons’ porous D. Pinning your tight end hopes to Rodgers on the chance he gets a 3rd TD in as many weeks isn’t a smart choice.
Deep League Sleepers:
RB Marion Grice, ARI (Wk. 14: vs. KC): Andre Ellington is dinged up, and Grice is in line to get the start if AE can’t go. Grice doesn’t have overwhelming talent, but he’s a versatile player who could thrive in an offense that involves the running back in the passing game a bunch. Michael Bush and Stepfan Taylor should mix in a bit, but Grice will get the first carries against a defense that can be run on. Grice should be a solid flex option in PPR and deeper leagues if he gets the start.
RB Carlos Hyde, SF (Wk. 14: @Oak.): Teams rarely lose by 50 in the NFL and then proceed to lay another egg the following week, but I still expect the 49ers to be playing from ahead of the Raiders all day. Hyde hasn’t gotten a ton of carries over the past few weeks, but game flow should work in his advantage this week. I’d expect 12+ carries from Hyde, and against the Raiders’ league-worst RB defense, that makes him worthy of flex consideration in deep leagues.
RB Charles Sims, TB (Wk. 14: @Det.): Doug Martin came back from the dead last week to take over as the lead back for the Bucs, but Sims could have some really sneaky upside as a PPR flex play in deep leagues. The Lions’ defensive front is stout against the run, but they’ve allowed a league-high 75 receptions to opposing RBs. Sims’s role in the passing game gives him value in what looks like a brutal matchup on paper.
WR Donte Moncrief, IND (Wk. 14: @Cle.): Moncrief was mentioned here last week, and he went off for 130+ yards and 2 TDs. He’s been great every time he’s been given a chance, and his snaps have increased each of the last 2 weeks. With Joe Haden likely shadowing T.Y. Hilton all day, there should be opportunities for Moncrief to make an impact again as he squares off with burnable Buster Skrine and K’Waun Williams. There’s some risk since Moncrief is just a part-time player, but you saw what he’s capable of last week.
WR Marqise Lee, JAX (Wk. 14: vs. Hou.): I mentioned that Hurns should be benched, but someone has to catch Blake Bortles’s passes, right? The polished rookie has been productive when given opportunities, and he should have plenty of them against a Houston defense that allows 27.4 points to opposing WRs per game. Lee should get the biggest piece of the Jags WR pie and makes for an intriguing WR3 in deep leagues, especially PPR.
TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins, TB (Wk. 14: @Det.): If ASJ suits up this week, he’s the best option among the rookie TEs. Tight end is the one position the Lions have been vulnerable against, and when he plays, Austin is in on almost every play. He’s done little to suggest he’s more than a TD dart throw, but he’s got a slightly higher floor that Richard Rodgers or Amaro.
That’s it for this week. Hopefully some of this info helps you into the next round. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.