Welcome back to the Rookie Report! This week’s report will be a little bit different. For the most part, season-long leagues have already come to a close…at least if they have a reasonable commissioner. Week 17 is a nightmare to try to predict. It’s like trying to guess what will happen in the lesser bowl games in college. It’s all about which team is motivated to win, which team is motivated to play their starters, and which team is motivated to just get the year over with. Because of this, it’s nearly impossible to accurately predict what will happen in a lot of the games. The wackiness of week 17 will cause me to change things up just a little bit this week and put more of a focus on daily fantasy games. There won’t be a ‘Deep League Sleepers’ section or a ‘Rookies to Sit’ section this week. For those of you still in season-long leagues, I’ll still list which rookies I’d feel good about starting this week and which ones are borderline options, but I’m also going to list a few DFS punt play options at the end. These are low-priced options that not a lot of people are likely to own that can be difference makers in guaranteed prize pool tournaments if they happen to have a big game.
Before we dive in, here are some rookies that won’t come up in the sections below: QB Marcus Mariota (out with injury), RB TJ Yeldon (Likely out with injury), RB Ameer Abdullah (Not getting goal-line work and not trustworthy), RB Duke Johnson (hasn’t produced 15 PPR points since week 7), RB Jay Ajayi (llimited role and tough matchup), WR Devin Funchess (8 catches in his past 5 games), WR Nelson Agholor (hasn’t produced all year), WR Phillip Dorsett (might have liked him as a punt play, but will have either Ryan Lindley or Josh Freeman throwing him the ball), and TE Maxx Williams (brutal matchup).
Alright, let’s dive in to week 17…
Rookies to Start:
RB Todd Gurley, STL (Wk. 17: @SF): Gurley has the best combination of role and matchup of any rookie this week. In the 6 games since their bye week, the 49ers have allowed 132.5 rushing yards and 24.3 fantasy points (all point totals are in ESPN standard scoring) per game to opposing RBs, as well as 10 total TDs to the position as well. Gurley put up 146 scrimmage yards and a TD in the first meeting with San Francisco, and it’s one of the few opponents he could face where game script is virtually guaranteed to be neutral or positive for him. He’s a locked in RB1 this week, and would be a chalk play in DFS.
RB David Johnson, ARI (Wk. 17: vs. Sea.): The Seahawks allow the fewest RB fantasy points in the league, so Johnson isn’t a great DFS target except as a contrarian play in tournaments, but his role has been too big to sit him in season-long leagues. If Arizona wins and Carolina loses, the Cardinals will secure homefield throughout the playoffs, and the games will occur simultaneously, so the Cards won’t know the Panthers’ outcome beforehand. That should keep them from resting starters. Johnson’s passing game usage gives him a floor that will keep him in the RB2 mix even in brutal matchups. He’s averaged just under 150 scrimmage yards with 5 TDs in his 4 starts, and hasn’t had fewer than 120 yards in any of them. Don’t shy away in championship week just because he faces Seattle.
WR Amari Cooper, OAK (Wk. 17: @KC): Cooper has been far more boom-or-bust than I expected this year, and he likely killed you last week if you played him with his 2-10 line. One thing that he has done consistently this year is bounce back from his worst outings. Cooper has scored 5 points or fewer 6 times this year including last weekend. In all 5 of the previous instances, he topped 10 points the following week, averaging a line of 6.4-113-1 in those 5 contests. It also doesn’t hurt that the Chiefs are 24th in Football Outsiders’ Pass DVOA (measures defensive efficiency) on throws to #1 WRs. Kansas City allows 98 yards per game to the opposing #1 wideout, and Cooper put up 4-69 in the first meeting. I like his chances to bounce back this week, and he would make a decent play in DFS and as a WR2 in season-long leagues.
RB Karlos Williams, BUF (Wk. 17: vs. NYJ): Karlos turned in a solid effort last week starting in place of injured LeSean McCoy, picking up 97 scrimmage yards and a TD, but there are a couple of concerns this week. First of all, the Jets are a brutal matchup. They allow the 3rd-fewest fantasy RB points in the league. Second, the recent success of Mike Gillislee as a runner could cause him to cut into Karlos’s workload a bit. Gillislee has gained 239 yards on 23 carries over the past 4 weeks (10.4 ypc), and has scored a TD in each of the past 3. With that said, Gillislee is more effective as a change of pace back and Karlos should continue to run as the lead back. He did manage 10 points against the Jets in a week 10 start, and the Bills still boast the best running game in the league (#1 in rush yards and yards per carry). Karlos might be a little lighter than you’d like on yards this week, but I’d still put him at better than a 50-50 bet to score a TD.
RB Javorius Allen, BAL (Wk. 17: @Cin.): Allen was surprisingly impressive against a stingy Steelers RB defense last Sunday. This week he gets to face a Bengals team that has allowed over 6 catches and about 50 receiving yards per game to opposing running backs this year, and also 17 or more fantasy points to the position in each of their past 3 games. Allen should be a solid PPR flex play this week, assuming he doesn’t fumble and get benched again.
RB Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR (Wk. 17: vs. TB): At this point, it appears that Jonathan Stewart is likely to miss the week 17 game with Tampa and Fozzy Whitaker has already been ruled out. That would leave just Cam Artis-Payne and Mike Tolbert as healthy RBs for the Panthers. Artis-Payne will likely cede goal line carries to Cam Newton and Tolbert, but he put up 49 yards on just 5 carries last week , and the volume should be much better in this one. Tampa has allowed at least one rushing TD to a running back in each of the past 3 weeks, and the backs have totaled at least 26 carries in each of those 3 games against them. I’d expect Artis-Payne to be in the 15 carry range, which puts him in the Flex discussion despite his lack of red zone opportunities.
RB Jeremy Langford, CHI (Wk. 17: vs. Det,): I would probably avoid playing Langford this week if possible, but when the Lions & Bears get together, you can usually throw out the season numbers. Matt Forte was hampered by a back injury last week, and the Bears seem to be grooming Langford to be the lead back next year. Expect him to see the bulk of the RB volume this week. The Lions have been a tough matchup lately (11.8 RB points per game allowed since week 9 bye, 20.6 per game before the bye), and Ka’Deem Carey has been vulturing some goal-line work lately (2 short scores last week vs. Tampa), but Langford should be on the flex radar on volume alone with so few elite RB options right now.
WR Tyler Lockett, SEA (Wk. 17: @Ari.): Lockett was a little bit of a disappointment in week 16, but his volume remained constant. He’s had exactly 7 targets in each of the 4 games since Jimmy Graham went down, and last week was the only game in that stretch where he had fewer than 5 catches and 9 fantasy points. The volume should be there again this week. The Cardinals are a tough matchup as they boast a versatile secondary, but the injury to Tyrann Mathieu improves the pass game outlook for Seattle. Lockett should be a high-risk/high-reward WR3 option this week.
WR DeVante Parker, MIA (Wk. 17: vs. NE): The matchup isn’t great this week for Parker, but it isn’t terrible either. The Patriots are middle of the pack in limiting WR fantasy points (allow 15th-most in the league), but their defensive focus is always on taking away the offense’s favorite options. The Pats should make it their goal to take away Jarvis Landry, which should help DeVante find some room to operate. Miami should also be playing from behind, which will keep them throwing, and Parker has 87 or more yards and/or a TD in 4 of the last 5 games. There’s risk that the ‘Fins phone it in with the season essentially over, but I like Parker’s chances at another solid day.
TE Will Tye, NYG (Wk. 17: vs. Phi.): I was surprised Tye didn’t do more with Odell suspended a week ago, but Beckham’s return should open things up for the whole offense. Tye scored 7 or more fantasy points in each of the 4 games leading up to last week’s game without Odell, and the Eagles have allowed double-digit fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 3 of their past 6 games, including 24 to Jordan Reed last Saturday. Tye should find himself in the lower half of the TE1 ranks once again.
DFS Punt Play Options:
QB Jameis Winston, TB (Wk. 17: @Car.): You might call Winston more of a contrarian play than a punt play, but his price tag is just $300 more than the minimum for a QB on DraftKings, and with a matchup against the Panthers (allow the 4th-fewest QB points in the league), virtually no one will be using him. While the matchup isn’t good, the game script figures to keep Tampa throwing and the Panthers have been vulnerable to the pass over the past month. Carolina has allowed 22 points to Drew Brees, 23 points to Eli Manning, and 306 yards to Matt Ryan all within the last 4 weeks. Jameis is yet to tally fewer than 12 fantasy points in a game all year, and there is more ceiling in this matchup than you might think. He also remains a floor play QB2 in season-long leagues.
RB Matt Jones, WAS (Wk. 17: @Dal.): This all depends on how healthy Jones is. Washington seems content to rest the majority of their starters this weekend to get ready for the playoffs, but someone has to carry the load at running back. They may look to use Jones more as he shakes off the rust of missing last week with a hip injury. This is a great matchup for the Washington backs, as Dallas ranks 27th in run DVOA on the season, and has allowed 29.3 running back fantasy points per game over the past 3 games. If the team rests Alf Morris and gives Jones enough work to get rolling, he could have really nice upside at a price tag of just $3,900 on DraftKings. Obviously this game is a bit of a wild card, with Washington having little to play for, but the situation is positive if Jones gets enough action to take advantage of it.
WR Stefon Diggs, MIN (Wk. 17: @GB): While Diggs hasn’t done a whole lot since his 4-game breakout earlier in the season to convince you he’s a good fantasy option, Green Bay should force Minnesota to throw more than they like to. The Packers rank 26th in pass DVOA against #1 WRs, and Diggs went 6-66 against Green Bay in the first meeting between the teams in week 11. While Diggs is a little more expensive than I would have expected ($4,600 in DraftKings), the price isn’t ridiculous and no one will be on him after his 4-19 showing last week. I wouldn’t be stunned if he ends up in the 20-point range.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, TEN (Wk. 17: @Ind.): With Zach Mettenberger at QB, trusting Dorial even in a reasonably good matchup is tough to do after last week’s goose egg. However, we’ve seen DGB’s ceiling, and it’s impressive. He’s topped 110 yards twice in the past 4 games, and he does have an exploitable matchup if he isn’t locked up with Vontae Davis all game. Indy has allowed the 3rd-most WR points on the year and Green-Beckham will cost just $3,800 in DraftKings.
That’s all I’ve got for this season. Hopefully it helps you set your championship and DFS lineups for this week. I’ll be back within the next couple of weeks with a 2015 rookie recap and will project the 2015 class to next year. If you have any specific questions or complaints, feel free to hit me up on twitter (@shawn_foss) and let me know. As always…good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.