Welcome back to the Rookie Report! It's been a brutal season thus far for injuries, so hopefully your team is surviving alright through 5 weeks. Now that we're a handful of weeks in, things are starting to get clearer with this year's rookie crop...unfortunately not many of them among high picks have been able to carve out a big role, so the list of plug-and-play rookie starters is a short one, but there is still plenty to sift through. Let's take a look at what to expect in week 6...
Rookies to Start:
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 6: vs. Jax.): Howard has been phenomenal over the past two weeks, and it's safe to say at this point he's ahead of Jeremy Langford even when he returns from injury. Jordan should be a strong play again this week against Jacksonville. The Jaguars haven't given up a ton of RB points, but they rank just 29th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA, and have allowed over 4 yards per carry to each starting RB they've faced. The Bears' offense has shown some life and balance with Hoyer and Howard leading the way. I like Howard's chances to get 20 carries in this one, and I expect him to find 80+ yards and a great chance at a TD. He's played like an RB1 the past 2 weeks, and he should be a safe RB2 this week with upside for more again.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 6: @GB): Despite a brutal matchup this week, Zeke is a locked-in every-week starter at this point. I would probably fade him in DFS, but I wouldn't be able to sit him in season-long leagues. The Packers have allowed under 50 rushing yards to opposing RBs in each of their 4 games, rank 2nd in run defense DVOA, and allow the fewest RB fantasy points in the league. With that said, Zeke has been steamrolling teams lately and will get enough volume to be a passable RB2 even if the Packers are able to slow him down.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 6: @GB): Dak has been eerily consistent so far. He’s put up exactly 17 points (ESPN standard scoring) in 3 of his past 4 games, and 22 in the other. He should be in that ballpark again vs. a Packers’ secondary that is still trying to get healthy. The Packers rank 19th in pass defense DVOA, and they allow opposing QBs an average of…17 points per game. Look for Dak to be a mid-range QB2.
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 6: @Was.): Last week, Baltimore fell to Washington mainly because they got away from running the football despite having a ton of success when they did run. I don’t expect the Eagles to make the same mistake this week, so you should see a bunch of Ryan Mathews in this one. Washington ranks a middle-of-the-pack 16th in pass defense DVOA, but dead last in that metric for their run defense. They’ve also allowed just 3 passing TDs in their past 4 contests. Wentz is a borderline option in 2 QB leagues this week.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 6: vs. Ind.): We saw the ‘bust’ side of the boom-or-bust proposition that is Fuller last week, but the matchup gets much lighter this week. Indy ranks just 30th in pass defense DVOA, and I would expect their top cover corner Vontae Davis to be assigned to cover Hopkins for most of this one. Davis has allowed 12 catches for 118 yards and zero TDs on 20 targets in the three games he’s played in, or 4-39-0 on 6.3 targets per week. The Texans’ offense has been ugly the past few weeks, so there is some downside here, but with the Colts giving up 307 passing yards per game…they have to go to someone. I expect this week to be more of a boom than a bust. Fuller is an upside WR3 this week.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 6: vs. Bal.): I wouldn’t blame you if you can’t bring yourself to start Shep this week. He’s had a rough couple of games and the Giants’ offense just seems broken. The Ravens have struggled more with perimeter receivers than slot guys like Shepard, but they have given up 9 WR touchdowns in the past 4 games. For TD upside alone Shepard is back on the WR3 radar this week. I still trust his talent, and it’s just a matter of time until this offense gets on track.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 6: vs. Car.): Drew Brees at home is always a good situation for New Orleans pass catchers, and the Panthers have showed some vulnerability over the past couple weeks. They are still a tough defense, and are tied for the 10th-fewest fantasy points allowed to WRs despite giving up 52(!) to the Falcons. I would still rather start Cooks or Willie Snead this week, but Thomas is definitely in play as a WR3 or Flex option. Over his past 7 home games, Brees has thrown 26 touchdown passes with at least 3 in each game.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 6: vs. Den.): Antonio Gates should be getting healthier, and the matchup isn’t ideal with Denver allowing zero TE scores thus far, but you could do worse than Henry this week. I would expect him to still play about as many snaps as Gates if not more, and with the Broncos’ corners being so good against WRs, TE has been a good place to attack their defense. Denver hasn’t exactly faced any top end TEs after week 1, but they did allow lines of 7-73 to Greg Olsen and 5-67 to Cameron Brate this season. Henry is only in play as a low-end streamer, but unlike most TE streamers he should provide at least a handful of points even if he doesn’t find the end zone.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN (Wk. 6: @SD): It's unlikely that Lynch starts again this week, but if Siemian isn't able to make the start, Lynch is a consideration as a QB2 streamer for 2-QB leagues. He wasn't impressive in his first start, but he had looked good the week before after Siemian was hurt. There is a decent floor in this matchup, with the Chargers allowing 300+ passing yards in 4 of their first 5 games, and 2 passing TDs in 4 of them as well, but counting on a rookie in his second career start to hit those numbers is a risky proposition.
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 6: @Ten.): Don’t get cute here in 2 QB leagues. It’s likely that Kessler gets the start this week and has handled himself fairly well, but the Titans’ defense has been better than you probably think it has. They’ve allowed the 4th-fewest points per game to opposing QBs, and rank 8th in pass defense DVOA. This is not a great spot to take a chance on Kessler, even if you’re desperate in a 2 QB league.
RBs Jalen Richard & DeAndre Washington, OAK (Wk. 6: vs. KC): With Latavius Murray due back this week, the running back split will be too unpredictable to feel comfortable starting any Raiders' back if he actually plays. As of Wednesday, Murray still isn’t practicing, so both Richard and Washington would be bumped up to the Borderline section if Latavius indeed sits again. They would both be on the Flex radar. It’s a juicy matchup, with the Chiefs allowing the 6th-most RB fantasy points, and allowing at least 95 RB rush yards in each game. Richard was more productive than Washington last week, but both men had the exact same number of touches. I would expect a similar split this week if Latavius is a no-go. I still have no feel for which will be better on a weekly basis, so proceed with caution here.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 6: vs. Phi.): Head coach Jay Gruden mentioned that he thinks Kelley has earned more carries, but there’s no telling how many more that means. He had just 3 carries last week, and just 8 on the season for a paltry 29 yards. His role may increase a bit this week, but third downs still belong to Chris Thompson and the Eagles have been stout against the run, allowing the 5th-fewest RB fantasy points per game and ranking 7th in run defense DVOA. I would need to actually see the workload increase play out on the field before I’d consider him in my lineups.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 6: vs. LA): There’s a chance that Washington will be able to play this week, but things aren’t started on the right foot after he missed practice Wednesday. Even if he’s able to play, this is Theo Riddick’s backfield, and the addition of Justin Forsett only clouds Washington’s outlook further. You’d be best served waiting to see how this backfield split shakes out this week. The only Lions’ back I’d feel okay playing is Riddick.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 6: @NYG): There's no reason to fire up Dixon just yet. He's still an interesting stash, but he didn't have a great debut, splitting passing down work with Buck Allen and not making a big impact with his opportunities. He'll likely continue to work in as a receiving back, but with the Jim Trestman firing, the Ravens likely won’t target their RBs in the passing game as often. Meanwhile, the Giants are 4th in the league in pass defense DVOA on throws to the opposing RBs. Take a wait-and-see approach with Dixon.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 6: vs. Bal.): Perkins is already fighting with Bobby Rainey, Orleans Darkwa, and possibly Rashad Jennings for snaps and touches, and this week the Giants face a Ravens defense that has allowed the 2nd-fewest running back points in the league. No thanks.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 6: vs. Cle.): Sharpe had been seeing at least 7 targets per week in the first 4 weeks, but his efficiency with those targets hasn't been where it needs to be (11-113-0 on 25 targets over the past 4 weeks). Last week, with Tennessee playing from ahead for much of the game Sharpe saw just 4 targets. The Titans are a 7-point favorite, so I'd expect more of the same this week. If you start Sharpe, you're just hoping for a TD.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 6: @NE): The Patriots are allowing just 26 yards per game to WRs who aren't their team's number 1 or 2 WR, and Boyd has been averaging just 15 yards and 4 targets per game over the past 3 games. He wouldn't be near my lineup.
Rookie on Bye: WR Laquon Treadwell, MIN
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 6: @SD): Booker is still more of a high-end injury handcuff than anything, but his matchup this week makes him an intriguing flex option in deeper leagues. He’s flashed when given the opportunity, and he’s been slowly getting more opportunity. In week 5, Booker handled 10 touches to CJ Anderson’s 14. It’s unknown if he’ll continue to take that big a chunk of the work going forward, however. Booker was targeted in the passing game 6 times in week 5 after receiving just 3 targets total in the first 4 weeks. I question if any of that is a product of Paxton Lynch being the QB. At any rate, the Chargers have allowed the 2nd-most fantasy points to opposing RBs and Booker is likely to see close to 10 touches again. There is upside there for a solid performance.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 6: vs. Cle.): Henry is still clearly second-fiddle to DeMarco Murray, but it was nice to see him get involved again last week with 7 carries and a robust 7.7 yards per carry. The Titans are a touchdown favorite this week against a Browns team that has allowed 18+ running back points in 4 of their 5 games. There could be an opportunity for some garbage time carries for Henry, and possibly his second game with double-digit carries on the year. He’s no more than a desperation Flex for deeper leagues or a DFS tournament punt play, but the matchup could work in his favor this week.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you with your lineup decisions. I'm quickly learning that this new injury designation setup is a nightmare, so make sure to keep a close eye on the injury report and not play an inactive player. If you have any specific questions or want to yell at me about stuff you think I'm way off on, feel free to hit me up on twitter and let me know (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.