Welcome back to the Rookie Report! It’s fantasy championship week in most leagues. Everything is at stake. If the last two weeks have taught us anything, it’s that crazy things happen in the fantasy playoffs. How else do you explain the recent performances of Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, Demaryius Thomas, Calvin Johnson, Jamaal Charles, Jordy Nelson and Josh Gordon? The list goes on and on. There were several on the good side as well like Jeremy Hill, Harry Douglas, and Tony Romo, but we always remember the guys who cost us a playoff win before the guys who won one for us. My only advice: Don’t get crazy with your lineup to match the craziness on the field. Let’s take a look at which rookies might help you bring home the trophy:
Rookies to Start:
RB Jeremy Hill, CIN (Wk. 16: vs. Den.): The Bengals finally get it and are giving this kid the rock a ton. He’s been great just about every time he’s been the lead back, clearing 140 rushing yards in 3 of those 5 contests and topping 80 with a score in another. The Broncos are a tough test, allowing just over 12 fantasy points to RBs each week, 4th fewest in the league, but the volume and upside will make Hill a high-end RB2 with a chance for more.
RB Tre Mason, STL (Wk. 16: vs. NYG): Don’t let last Thursday’s 13-for-33 blip scare you. Mason has seen a ton of volume and put up some very respectable numbers since taking over the lead back role, and has only had one plus matchup so far. In that matchup he torched the Raiders for 164 scrimmage yards and 3 TDs. He’s in line for a big day against the Giants’ porous run D, and is probably going to win someone their championship. He’s a strong RB2 play this week.
WR Odell Beckham Jr., NYG (Wk. 16: @StL): If you need me to explain this, Odell’s not on your team. Moving on…
WR Kelvin Benjamin, CAR (Wk. 16: vs. Cle.): Joe Haden is questionable with injury this week, which should make life easier for Kelvin. You know what else makes Kelvin’s life easier? Having Derek Anderson at QB. In the 5 games that Anderson has played (either as starter or in relief of Cam), KB has averaged 6 catches for 90 yards and nearly a TD (0.8) per game, and also about 6 more fantasy points per week than games that DA doesn’t play. Feel comfortable getting him in there. His floor is higher with Anderson at the helm.
WR Mike Evans, TB (Wk. 16: vs. GB): Evans had his worst game last week with just 2 catches for 13 yards, but he did manage to salvage his fantasy day with a TD. Don’t expect 2 down games in a row. The Packers will be eager to bully the Bucs after being a little embarrassed by their play in a loss to the Bills. Tampa should be playing from behind all day, and that means a lot of passes are going to go Evans’s way. He’s still a solid WR2 with a bunch of upside.
WR Jordan Matthews, PHI (Wk. 16: @Was.): Matthews was a shocking no-show on the stat sheet last week against Dallas. It won’t happen again this week. The Redskins are stout up front against the run, but the back end is basically a row of turnstiles. Matthews should be in line for a really nice bounce back game and should be a safe WR3 for both standard and PPR formats.
WR Jarvis Landry, MIA (Wk. 16: vs. Min.): Landry is coming off the best game of his career in terms of yards, and as usual is worth a start as a WR3 in PPR. He’s been remarkably consistent for a rookie, much more so than veteran teammate Mike Wallace. Landry has posted at least 6 catches and 50 yards in each of the last 4 contests, and 4 and 45 in 9 of his last 10. Add in that Xavier Rhodes will likely be matched up with Wallace, and there’s a lot to like here.
QB Teddy Bridgewater, MIN (Wk. 16: @Mia.): It’s not a good matchup this week for Teddy, but he was a serviceable low-end QB2 against the Lions’ defense on Sunday, putting up over 300 yards and a score while adding 30 yards with his legs. I wouldn’t expect a repeat, but Teddy is the one rookie QB who has steadily gotten better as the year has progressed. He’s at least passable again as a lower-end QB2 this week.
RBs Isaiah Crowell & Terrance West, CLE (Wk. 16: @Car.): Last week was a total let down for the Browns’ entire organization. Johnny Manziel fell flat on his face in his first start, the rest of the offense tanked with him, and they essentially knocked themselves out of the playoff race in the process. The scenario that puts the Browns in the playoffs literally requires a tie between the Chargers and Chiefs in week 17. This week, against a suddenly resurgent Panthers’ defense, the Browns’ offense will go as far as Johnny Football takes it. If he can’t provide a threat with his arm, it’ll be tough for any Browns to run the ball. Johnny’s running ability stresses the defense enough to open some running lanes, but the floor that we saw last week for this offense is scary. Crowell remains the better play of the two RBs, but both make for slightly dicey flex options.
RB Carlos Hyde, SF (Wk. 16: vs. SD): Reports out of San Francisco say it’ll take a miracle for Hyde to play this weekend, but if he does he’ll be on the RB2 radar. Frank Gore appears to be out, so Hyde would start and likely be slated for 15-20 touches against a so-so Chargers’ defense. He wouldn’t be the safest play, but there would certainly be upside.
WR Martavis Bryant, PIT (Wk. 16: vs. KC): Three words: Boom or Bust. You know what he can do, and you know the risk. It’s up to you if you want to roll the dice or not. From a schematic standpoint, the Chiefs’ secondary isn’t as good without Eric Berry. Make of that what you will.
Rookies to Sit:
I’m going to do something a little different this week and point out the most obvious sits quickly, then dive into a couple tougher calls in more detail. For starters, avoid Blake Bortles and Derek Carr. We’ve seen enough of these guys to know a big game isn’t coming this week. Don’t be dumb and play Bishop Sankey. I know he’s playing the Jaguars. So what? We’ve been fooled too many times before. Devonta Freeman is getting a little more work lately, but not enough to be viable. Juwan Thompson showed what a 4-carry stat line should look like last week. His role won’t grow this week. Alfred Blue remains just a handcuff for Arian Foster owners. Davante Adams has topped 15 yards just once in the past 6 games. It’ll be the Jordy and Randall show again this week. John Brown’s quarterback will be Ryan Lindley. Don’t even think about him this week. Paul Richardson has been on the field a lot for Seattle, just not in the box score very much. Also, please avoid all 3 notable rookie tight ends suiting up this week. Jace Amaro, Eric Ebron, and Richard Rodgers all have been far too mediocre in terms of production to be trusted in the biggest week of the year. Now let’s take a closer look at a few other rooks to bench:
QB Johnny Manziel, CLE (Wk. 16: @Car.): I know, this one seems obvious, but I’m sure there are some people tempted to try him again. He does have tantalizing athleticism. That doesn’t mean it’ll translate onto the NFL field.
RB Andre Williams, NYG (Wk. 16: @StL.): Williams looks like a good bet to start the rest of the way for the G-Men, so he’ll get good volume this week, but the Rams’ run defense has been really solid lately. Williams also hasn’t been the most efficient runner in the league, averaging just 3.2 yards per carry. He put up just 44 yards on 18 runs against Washington last week, and I’d expect a similar output this week.
RB Branden Oliver, SD (Wk. 16 @SF): Ryan Mathews looks to miss another game this week, so Oliver should see a lot of work, but I doubt the 49ers have thrown in the towel despite being eliminated from playoff contention last week. I’d be surprised if they surrender 70 yards to Oliver like the Broncos did last week. Oliver got most of that yardage in the passing game, and I think a repeat is unlikely. 70 yards from scrimmage is Oliver’s 3rd highest total of the year.
WR Sammy Watkins, BUF (Wk. 16: @Oak.): I know it’s wild to sit a guy with the type of ability Watkins has with the season on the line, but the production just hasn’t been there. He’s been held under 40 yards in 5 of his last 6 games and even his coaches are worried that he might be hitting the rookie wall. The Raiders’ defense has been surprisingly good against WRs, surrendering the 3rd fewest points to them in the league. There’s upside here, but not enough to offset the risk in my opinion.
WR Marqise Lee, JAX (Wk. 16: vs. Ten.): Although Lee’s poor week 15 showing was more a result of poor QB play than anything he did, he ended the day with his arm in a sling. I’d say that hampers his outlook this week, and it isn’t like Bortles is going to suddenly get more accurate. Lee is a fringe option when things are perfect, and this week they aren’t.
Deep League Sleepers:
RB Charles Sims, TB (Wk. 16: vs. GB): Martin is back in the saddle as starter, but Sims still is the best back the Bucs have in the passing game, and passing is something they’ll be doing a lot of this week. The increased work should bump Sims from obvious bench player to a sneaky PPR flex option in deep leagues.
WR Donte Moncrief, IND (Wk. 16: @Dal.): The future is really bright for Moncrief, but the Colts seem stuck in the past. They continue to trot out inferior football players (T-Rich, Fleener, and the old and injured Reggie Wayne) instead of guys like Boom Herron, Dwayne Allen and Moncrief. I really feel like Moncrief is going to break out again in one of these final two games, but I don’t know which one it’ll be. He’s a fun roll of the dice in deeper leagues this week. It’s possible the Colts lean more his way now that Wayne has set the Colts’ record for career games played. Reggie has battled through a torn triceps lately to set that record.
WR Allen Hurns, JAX (Wk. 16: vs. Ten.): Hurns is coming off a 6-for-70 game last week, and he’s a decent bet for similar production this week with Lee dinged up. Is he going to win you your week? No, but he likely won’t kill you either.
WR Albert Wilson, KC (Wk. 16: @Pit.): Wilson has been coming on strong lately with Donnie Avery sidelined, putting up 122 yards over the past 2 weeks and earning Alex Smith’s trust. Not many WRs can do that. The Steelers allow almost 24 WR fantasy points per week, so you’d think someone in this group of wide outs will take advantage. My money would be on Wilson. He’s an interesting WR3/flex option in really deep leagues.
That’s it for this week. I’ll do a quick column next week in case your championship game is in week 17. As always, good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.