Welcome back to the Rookie Report! I hope everyone had a great Turkey Day. Week 12 was another fun one, with things going pretty much according to plan for Thomas Rawls, Buck Allen, Mariota and Amari Cooper, but not so much for Todd Gurley or TJ Yeldon. In most fantasy leagues, week 13 is the last one before the playoffs start, so this week's matchup is likely crucial. If you're fighting to claim a playoff spot or improve your seed, you don't want to leave points on your bench. If you're out of the playoff race, it can be fun to take some chances with the lineup and play spoiler. If you're in contention, my strategy is always to not get too cute with the lineup at this point unless you're in a desperate situation due to injuries. That's why the 'Rookies to Sit' section will be a bit larger than usual this week. With that in mind, let's dive in to what we can expect from the rookies in this all-important week...
Rookies to Start:
RB Thomas Rawls, SEA (Wk. 13: @Min.): Rawls has a tough matchup on paper, but the Steelers were a tougher matchup last week and Rawls put up 14 points (ESPN standard scoring) on 21 touches against them. The Vikings rank 6th in the league in limiting RB points, but they have still allowed double-digit RB points in 8 of their 11 games and rank just 23rd in Football Outsiders' run DVOA defensive efficiency stat. Dominating touches out of the Seattle backfield, Rawls should be a strong RB2 this week despite the matchup.
RB Javorius 'Buck' Allen, BAL (Wk. 13: @Mia.): Allen did what was expected of him on Monday Night Football. He didn't dazzle anyone, but he was productive, picking up 55 yards on 12 carries and 29 and a TD on 4 catches. That's good for 13 points in ESPN leagues, which puts him in a 3-way tie as the RB10 for the week. This week he gets to face the Dolphins, who are hemorrhaging points to opposing RBs lately. The 'Fins have allowed at least 17 points to RBs in their last 6 games, and are giving up an average of 24 per game in that span. While it was a little concerning that Allen conceded some work to Terrence West and played only about 60% of the offensive snaps, if Buck is given the same 16 touches he got against Cleveland, he should be a fine RB2 once again.
WR Amari Cooper, OAK (Wk. 13: vs. KC): Cooper has been finding the consistency he lacked early in the season over the past few weeks. Despite his pathetic 1-4 line against Detroit, he's still reached 79 or more receiving yards in 3 of the last 4 games after failing to reach 50 yards in 4 of his first 7. Kansas City seemed like they had been righting the ship after a horrendous start to the year vs. WRs, but then they let Sammy Watkins go off last week for 6-158-2. KC still ranks second-to-last at limiting opposing WR fantasy points. Amari should be a solid WR2 in a very favorable matchup.
QB Marcus Mariota, TEN (Wk. 13: vs. Jax.): Mariota failed to throw a TD pass when the Titans visited the Jags two weeks ago (the only QB to do so vs. Jacksonville this season), but he did tally 17 points in that game thanks to a rushing score, and he has Kendall Wright back in action for round 2. The Jaguars rank 30th in pass DVOA, and have allowed 9 TDs in the past 4 games. I look for Mariota to have a much better showing this time around and wind up right on the borderline of the top-10 QBs of the week.
RB Todd Gurley, STL (Wk. 13: vs. Ari.): Obviously if you have Gurley, you probably are going to start him. I'm starting him in the league I have him in. If you were lucky enough to get 3 stud RBs, I just want to point out that Gurley shouldn't be an automatic start this week. Yes, he did gash the Cardinals for 161 total yards in his first start when they met in Arizona and the upside is huge again, but with no passing game to speak of, teams have increasingly been able to sell out to stop Gurley. The Cardinals are a team that already is comfortable leaving their CBs on an island and loading up against the run, so it should be 2nd nature to them this week. They rank 7th in run DVOA, and you may or may not have noticed that Gurley's point total has slipped for 5 consecutive weeks now. Last week might not just be a blip on the radar. I expect Gurley to bounce back a bit this week, but just know there is a lower floor than we thought.
RB David Johnson, ARI (Wk. 13: @StL): Johnson will get an opportunity to start this week for Arizona with CJ2K and Andre Ellington sidelined with a fractured tibia and turf toe, respectively. He's been a versatile playmaker for the Cardinals, finding his way to 8 TDs in 11 games despite very limited workloads. He should see a season-high in touches this week, and the Rams' once scary run defense has been slipping of late. They've allowed an average of 115 rushing yards and 20 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs over the past 4 games, and Johnson only has Stepfan Taylor to compete with for touches. He's a flex option with RB1 upside this week.
RB Duke Johnson, CLE (Wk. 13: vs. Cin.): Duke seemed to be getting going last week, but McCown's new injury likely won't help him going forward. It's still unclear whether it will be Manziel or Austin Davis who gets the start in week 13, but the matchup sets up pretty well for Duke. The Bengals are a touchdown favorite, so Cleveland will likely play from behind and be throwing plenty. The Bengals have allowed the 2nd most RB receptions in the league, and Johnson has been getting more touches as a runner as well, logging the most carries he's had since week 6 last Monday. Johnson sets up as a decent flex play in PPR, and one with higher upside than usual. Five catches and 60+ scrimmage yards is entirely possible.
RB Melvin Gordon, SD (Wk. 13: vs. Den.): San Diego looked committed to geting Gordon involved for the first time in a while last week. They even gave him a carry inside the 10-yard line. He still hasn't scored his first touchdown, but with the season essentially over for the Chargers, it can't hurt to get Gordon meaningful playing time and see what he can do. The Broncos are more vulnerable to the run than the pass, allowing an RB rushing TD in 4 of their last 5 games, and I don't expect Denver to blow the Bolts out and force them to throw non-stop. Denver has won by more than 7 just twice in 9 wins. That sets this up as a game where Gordon will have the opportunity to return RB2 value and should be considered as a possible upside flex play.
RB Jeremy Langford, CHI (Wk. 13: vs. SF): Despite the return of Matt Forte last week, Langford still saw reasonable volume and turned in a decent fantasy day at Lambeau. Forte out-touched Langford 16-13, but the rookie matched him in yards (53) and managed to punch in a short touchdown run. Langford could have had an even better day if not for a couple drops in the passing game. If he approaches 15 touches again, that should be plenty to do damage against the 49ers run D that hasn't traveled well. The 49ers are 27th in the league in run DVOA, and in 5 road games they've allowed averages of 140 rush yards and 1.4 rush TDs to RBs, as well as 28 fantasy points per game (allow 15 per game at home). The only thing keeping me from calling Langford a must-start is the fact that he will split work with Forte.
WR Stefon Diggs, MIN (Wk. 13: vs. Sea.): Diggs has continued to flash great talent, running crisp routes, catching what he can, and being an overall playmaker, but the Vikings' low pass volume is killing his upside. In Diggs's 4-game breakout, the team attempted an average of 34.25 passes per game, with a minimum of 30 in that stretch. In the 4 games since, they've averaged just 27 attempts per game, and have hit 30 or more just once in that period. The Seattle defense is stingy against both the run and the pass, but have allowed 39 WR points to Arizona and 44 to Pittsburgh in games this year. If you play Diggs, you're banking on Seattle forcing the Vikings to throw it more than 30 times. Diggs might make a nice contrarian play in DFS tournaments, but is a low floor WR3 with upside in season-long leagues.
WR DeVante Parker, MIA (Wk. 13: vs. Bal.): Rishard Matthews's broken ribs will open the door for Parker to start down the stretch. He hasn't had many chances to flash his potential this year, but he did pull in 4 passes for 80 yards and a score last weekend, even if most of that was in garbage time. The Baltimore defense has allowed 25+ fantasy points to opposing WRs in 4 of the past 5 games, and 4-60 should be a reasonable expectation for Parker in his first start.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Jameis Winston, TB (Wk. 13: vs. Atl.): Winston has shown a safe floor, but he shouldn't be in play as anything more than a lower end QB2 this week. The Falcons' pass defense hasn't been great, ranking 22nd in pass DVOA, but teams haven't been throwing on them a ton lately. During Atlanta's tumble down the standings, teams are beating them by running the ball and playing keep away. In three of their past 4 games, the opposing team has had at least 29 running back carries, and in the past 5, the Falcons allowed more than 200 passing yards just once and more than 14 QB points just once. I wouldn't expect Tampa to deviate from that script. Doug Martin should carry it a bunch. Jameis put up 19 points the first time he faced Atlanta, and I think it would be a positive day if he even approaches that number again.
RB TJ Yeldon, JAX (Wk. 13: @Ten.): I'm sure most of you that have Yeldon are at least considering starting him. He typically has a reasonable floor thanks to his volume, and he should again have a floor around 5 points this week, but there just isn't much upside for more. He fell flat in a very plus matchup last week, and at this point he's being pulled in the red zone as well, limiting his TD upside. Yeldon gets a much tougher matchup this week. The Titans allow the 3rd fewest fantasy points to opposing backs, and have allowed less than 10 points in 4 of the past 5. Yeldon is also unlikely to pad his numbers in the passing game since the Titans have allowed the fewest RB catches and receiving yards and are #1 in pass DVOA on throws to running backs. Yeldon put up 82 scrimmage yards in the first go-round, and I expect him to come up short of that amount in this one.
RB Matt Jones, WAS (Wk. 13: vs. Dal.): Since posting his 2nd breakout game of the year, Jones has just 16 touches in 2 games, and he was out touched by Alfred Morris 24-9 in week 12. You simply can't count on him to have volume or to produce, even in plus matchups like the one he has this week. He's scored 70 fantasy points on the year, and 48 of them came in just 2 games. Outside of those games, he's cleared 5 points just once. That type of extreme boom-or-bust player isn't the type of guy you want to trust with the season on the line.
RB Jay Ajayi, MIA (Wk. 13: vs. Bal.): Ajayi continued to contribute in week 13, chipping in over 50 receiving yards in the blowout loss to the Jets. He now has gained at least 36 yards from scrimmage in each game he's been active. He's still behind Lamar Miller on the depth chart, but he could be a league-winner down the stretch if anything happens to Miller. The Dolphins have a favorable schedule coming up with the Giants, Chargers and Colts during the fantasy playoffs. The Ravens, however, are not a favorable matchup. Baltimore is tied for 6th in fewest RB points allowed. Ajayi shouldn't be started in this one.
RB Tevin Coleman, ATL (Wk. 13: @TB): There isn't a ton of reasoning needed for this one. Freeman is expected to return from his concussion this week, and despite breaking the century mark in yards last week, Coleman made critical mistakes in a tough loss. He dropped his only two targets, and more importantly he coughed up the ball at the end of a 46-yard run. Freeman should step right back in as the starter. Even if Coleman does see a few extra carries as they ease Devonta back in, this isn't a good matchup. The Bucs are 2nd in run DVOA and allow the 8th fewest RB fantasy points.
RB Karlos Williams, BUF (Wk. 13: vs. Hou.): Rex Ryan didn't sound very optimistic about Karlos's chances of playing this week, but he should remain benched even if he does suit up. The Texans' defense has been red hot over the past 4 games, allowing averages of 57 rushing yards and 8 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, and they've faced a few good ones. They've squared off with the Titans, Bengals, Jets and Saints in those 4 games.
RB David Cobb, TEN (Wk. 13: vs. Jax.): Three carries for 8 yards is an improvement over 4 for negative-3, and interim coach Mike Mularkey keeps talking about wanting to get Cobb more involved, but we'll need to see it before we can believe it. He's still just a deep league stash right now at best.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, TEN (Wk. 13: vs. Jax.): Dorial's chances to make an impact in 2015 are dwindling. He caught just 1-of-5 targets for 22 yards last weekend, and was called out publicly by his coach for not making enough plays, and not using his physical advantages as well as he should. The Jaguars are a favorable matchup for DGB, but he's fallen flat in several of those this season. I don't have any confidence that he bests the 3-40 line he put up when these clubs met in Jacksonville a couple weeks ago.
WR Jamison Crowder, WAS (Wk. 13: vs. Dal.): While Crowder's share of snaps hasn't really dropped much with the return of DeSean Jackson, his share of the targets has. I was dead wrong in thinking he'd get back to the 5-50 type lines he was putting up earlier in the year, and his slide down the target pecking order has sapped much of his PPR usefulness. He may still find a decent game or two down the stretch in garbage time, but it'll be hard to count on him any week as a starter.
WR Nelson Agholor, PHI (Wk. 13: @NE): Agholor has been a major disappointment this year, but we can attribute some of that to Jordan Matthews lining up pretty much exclusively in the slot. Most of the league's best cover corners don't venture into the slot, so Agholor has had to tangle with most of the top guys Philly has faced. This week, that means he should see a lot of Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler. Butler has developed a swagger from that championship play last February, and he's used it to propel him into being one of the league's best corners this year. Agholor's terrible, awful, no-fun rookie season should continue this week.
WR Tyler Lockett, SEA (Wk. 13: @Min.): With the recent emergence of Doug Baldwin, Lockett looks like he will continue to split the leftovers with Jermaine Kearse and Luke Willson. His role could increase a little with Jimmy Graham going down for the year, but I would expect the biggest bump in targets to go to Willson. The Vikings are a tough matchup this week, and Lockett is averaging just 3.3 catches and 39.6 yards per game over his past 5 outings. I love his talent and upside, but his role isn't where it needs to be yet for consistent fantasy production.
WRs Devin Smith & Quincy Enunwa, NYJ (Wk. 13: @NYG): Enunwa has emerged as the Jets' third WR, and Devin Smith found the end zone last week for the first time in his career and has seen a couple deep targets per game lately, but there isn't enough volume to go around after Marshall and Decker. Ryan Fitzpatrick has completed more than 22 passes just once this year, and the top 2 WRs average about 12 catches per game. That leaves the other WRs, the RBs and the TEs about 10 catches at most to fight over. Enunwa and Smith have combined for just 9 catches in the past 3 games. Both should remain on the waiver wire.
WR JJ Nelson, ARI (Wk. 13: @StL): Nelson had another nice game in week 12, but Michael Floyd should be close to full strength for this one, which should limit JJ's snaps. The Rams have allowed just 5 passes of 40 or more yards in 11 games, so the odds Nelson gets a long ball are not great. He's still a great dynasty stash, but he shouldn't be started this week.
TE Clive Walford, OAK (Wk. 13: vs. KC): There are way too many reasonable TE options out there to consider Walford if your starting TE is hurt. Kansas City has allowed the fewest receptions and yards to opposing TEs all year, and just 2 TDs to them. They've allowed 7 TE fantasy points total over the past 5 games.
TE Will Tye, NYG (Wk. 13: vs. NYJ): Tye has played great the past 2 weeks, but this isn't the week to fire him up. It's too big a risk if you have anything at stake this week, especially with guys like Scott Chandler, Vance McDonald, Kyle Rudolph and Brent Celek recently emerging as realistic options. The Jets have allowed 50+ yards to an opposing TE just twice all year (Gronk and Charles Clay), and over the past 5 games they've allowed just 10 total TE points. It isn't quite as impressive as the Chiefs' 7, but still a miniscule number. Tye is yet to score a touchdown and has been getting by on volume over the past couple of weeks. That volume might not be there in such a difficult matchup.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Ameer Abdullah, DET (Wk. 13: vs. GB): I'm sure most fantasy players are still gun-shy about firing up Abdullah, especially if you drafted him and have seen how bad it can get, but things have been turning around for the former Cornhusker. He's avoided fumbling the ball for 5 consecutive games now, and he had 30 combined touches in the last 2, averaging 60.5 scrimmage yards per game in those contests. The Packers' run D, while improved of late, is still just 18th in run DVOA, and I expect Abdullah to get right around 15 touches again and turn in a borderline RB3 effort. You could do worse if you're desperate.
WR Devin Funchess, CAR (Wk. 13: @NO): Philly Brown may return this week, but Funchess may have stolen his job while he's been out. It's true Funch caught just 2 passes on Turkey Day, but Cam completed just 16 passes in that game and did target Funchess in the end zone twice. The Saints' pass defense woes are well documented (19 pass TDs allowed in last 5 games), and Funchess is certainly a threat to find paydirt against that rag tag group. He should be on the WR3 radar in most non-PPR leagues.
WR Rashad Greene, JAX (Wk. 13: @Ten.): Hurns is out this week, and Greene caught 7 passes in week one on an absurd 13 targets. He missed a lot of time with injury, but has worked himself back into the mix over the past couple weeks. The Titans have really struggled to defend non-WR1s, ranking 31st in pass DVOA against WR2s and 30th against all other non-number 1's. The Titans are coming off a week where they just gave up 39 points to the Raiders' WRs, including 2 TDs to their 3rd WR Seth Roberts. Blake Bortles is a bit of a turnover machine, but he also throws for about 270 yards and 2 TDs per game. There is a lot of upside for Greene as a punt play in DFS.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps you make the right moves with your rookies to propel you to the playoffs or at least to a victory this week. If you have any specific start/sit questions or any other fantasy questions, or just want to yell at me and call me an idiot, feel free to reach out via twitter (@shawn_foss). As always, good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.