Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We're nearly halfway through the fantasy regular season, so hopefully your teams have gotten out of the gate quickly enough to still feel like a contender at this point. With Ezekiel Elliott and Dak Prescott on bye this week, the list of rookies I would tell you to confidently start is a bit light for week 7.
Outside of Zeke and Dak, it's been a bit of a down year for the rookies. Whether we're talking about high picks (Laquon Treadwell, Josh Doctson, Derrick Henry, Jared Goff), or just rookies who were hyped up by the fantasy community (Kenneth Dixon, CJ Prosise, Tyler Boyd), things just haven't gone as planned for most of the rookies. Meanwhile, veteran players who were long buried and forgotten by the fantasy community like Christine Michael, Jacquizz Rodgers, Kenny Britt, Kendall Wright and Terrelle Pryor have re-emerged.
While the rookies haven't lived up to the hype so far, I do expect we'll see more flashes from them as the season wears on. This week, since there are so few bankable rookies to start, I took a look at some lesser known deep-league sleepers and stashes to keep an eye on this week and going forward. Let's dive into the week 7 matchups...
Rookies to Start:
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 7: @Atl.): Henry will remain a top-10 TE play as long as Antonio Gates is at less than 100%. He's scored a touchdown in each of the past 3 games, and has been a focal point of the passing game. This week he gets to face off with a Falcons' defense that has allowed the 4th-most fantasy points per game to opposing TEs (ESPN standard scoring), and ranks 22nd in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA stat on throws to opposing tight ends. There's always the risk that Gates's role will increase again, but I'd feel comfortable starting Henry again this week.
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 7: @Cin.): Kessler is a streaming option for 2-QB leagues this week. Head coach Hue Jackson has officially named Kessler the team’s starter (regardless of Josh McCown’s status) after playing his best game of the season. This week, he faces a Bengals team that has allowed the 3rd most passing TDs, the 2nd highest QB rating, and the 8th-most QB fantasy points in the league. If Terrelle Pryor ends up sitting, it drops Kessler’s outlook a bit, but if he plays he has top-15 upside.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 7: @GB): Howard was able to save a sub-par game last week with a touchdown, but he ceded more carries than you would like to Ka’Deem Carey and he faces a much tougher matchup this week. The Packers rank 3rd in run defense DVOA despite getting torched by Ezekiel Elliott last week. Howard is still in play this week, but you need to temper your expectations. He would need a bit more receiving production to hit his ceiling in this one and should be treated as more of an RB3. He plays tonight, so you have to make an early decision here. If you were able to grab Jacquizz Rodgers or Mike Gillislee off the wire this week, I would play one of them over Howard.
RB DeAndre Washington, OAK (Wk. 7: @Jax.): Washington finally seemed to push ahead of Jalen Richard last week in the Raiders’ backfield platoon, playing the majority of the snaps and out-touching Richard 10-to-6. Latavius Murray has been limited in practice this week and is shaping up to be a possible game-time decision. If he sits, there is some upside in this matchup. The Jaguars rank 27th in run defense DVOA, and Washington has at least been consistent, putting up at least 46 scrimmage yards in each of his past 5 games. If you’re hard up for a starter this week with so many RB injuries, Washington could make for a decent floor play if Latavius remains sidelined again.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 7: @KC): Thomas has been outstanding of late, putting up at least 4 catches and a TD in each of the past 3 games, and topping 70 yards in 2 of them. The problem is that Willie Snead was out or limited in 2 of those 3 games, the Saints are on the road (where Brees is significantly worse than at home), and the Chiefs rank 6th in pass defense DVOA (despite allowing the 12th-most WR points). This offense will still throw enough for Thomas to have some upside, but he’s a WR3 option at best.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 7: @LA): Shep has been a pretty big letdown over the past few weeks, but he should have a great opportunity to get back on track this week. The Rams have allowed more catches to slot WRs than any other team in the league, and have allowed the following WR lines to predominantly slot guys: Adam Humphries 9-100, Larry Fitzgerald 5-62, Anquan Boldin 8-60-1, and Jeremy Kerley 7-61. Shepard should actually be a pretty solid floor WR3 in PPR, and more of a borderline option in standard leagues. Even through his struggles, Shepard has still been targeted at least 7 times in each of the past 5 games. Those looks are bound to start leading to production, and I think that starts this week.
WR Chester Rogers, IND (Wk. 7: @Ten.): The Colts have been desperate for a number 2 wide receiver since Donte Moncrief went down with injury. Phillip Dorsett hasn’t been the answer and may be out this week, and tight end Dwayne Allen is likely to miss the game as well. Rogers has performed admirably as a fill-in, and he should have the most opportunity he’s had yet with so many pass-catchers sidelined. Rogers played 53 snaps last week and put up a 4-63 line. While the Titans have been pretty good vs. wide receivers this season, they did just allow 18-202-2 to the Cleveland WRs. Hilton should still be a target hog, but Rogers could be a decent WR3 play this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 7: vs. Min.): Wentz is coming off his worst start of the year, and this week he gets to face off with the defense allowing the 5th-fewest points to opposing QBs. The big thing that worries me with Wentz is the suspension of Lane Johnson. Ryan Kerrigan basically set up a residence in the Eagles' backfield last week, and the Vikings have the bodies up front to cause the same kind of trouble in Danielle Hunter and Everson Griffen. Add in the fact that the Vikings are coming off a bye and Jordan Matthews is banged up this week, and it doesn't look good for Wentz. I'd be nervous to even play him as a low-end QB2.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 7: vs. Hou.): Booker managed to out-rush CJ Anderson last week on far fewer carries, and many people think more touches are headed his way after his coach said he wants Booker to be more involved. I still think CJ is the lead back here and will see significantly more snaps than Booker. Anderson had 47 yards and a TD called back by 3 Bronco penalties last week. He would have had a robust 118 yards and a TD without those penalties on just 17 touches. Booker will have to continue making an impact in limited opportunities to provide any real fantasy value this week. I’d avoid him in most leagues.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 7: @Jax.): Richard has had bigger games than DeAndre Washington this season, but he’s been less consistent. While Washington has tallied 46 or more yards in 5 straight games, Richard has only reached that mark twice all year. Granted, he put up 95 and 97 yards in those contests, but there is just too much downside here after he gained just 13 yards on 6 touches last week.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 7: vs. Ind.): This is a great matchup, with the Colts allowing the 2nd-most RB fantasy points in the league, but the workload just hasn't been usable for fantasy purposes. He might be worth trotting out as a TD dart throw...if the Titans ever used him when they got close to scoring. So far they haven't. On the year Henry has seen just 2 carries and zero passing targets in the red zone while DeMarco Murray has seen 17 carries and 9 targets there. Without the TD upside, there isn't much to like about playing Henry.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 7: @Det.): The Lions still haven't allowed a running back to score a rushing TD, and Kelley hasn't caught a single pass all year. It's safe to say he's unlikely to find the end zone. The increased workload that Coach Jay Gruden talked about last week turned out to be 5 carries instead of the 3 he saw in week 5. While he did turn those 5 carries into 59 yards, that's not the kind of volume you want to trust in your lineup and Matt Jones is playing too well for Kelley to steal a much larger piece of the load.
RB Wendell Smallwood, PHI (Wk. 7: vs. Min.): The Vikings have allowed the 11th-fewest fantasy points to opposing RBs, and Smallwood hasn’t had much of a role lately. He put up 20 yards on 5 touches last week, and played just 1 snap in the previous game. He came up with a punt return TD last week, but that isn’t the kind of thing that will be duplicated. He’s best left out of any lineups this week.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 7: @LA): Perkins looked decent on the 4 touches he saw in week 6, gaining 26 yards, but I repeat: He saw just 4 touches. It's promising for Perkins that Orleans Darkwa saw zero, but for now Perkins is still comfortably behind Jennings and Rainey in the pecking order. Steer clear for the time being.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 7: @Den.): Fuller has been banged up the past couple weeks, and this week gets to face off with a Broncos’ defense that is allowing the fewest WR fantasy points in the league. While it seems likely that Fuller is able to play, I wouldn’t count on him doing much. He gets by on his speed, and if his hamstrings are anything less than 100%, I’d expect him to struggle in a big way. I just wouldn’t be able to trust him in my lineups.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 7: vs. Ind.): You don't need me to tell you that you can't start a guy who has totaled just 32 yards in 3 weeks against the Texans, Dolphins and Browns. That's hardly a murderer’s row of defenses. The coaching staff has talked about Sharpe regressing of late, and he may have squandered his opportunity to be the Titans' WR1 with the breakout game of Kendall Wright last weekend.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, & Cheap DFS Plays:
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 7: vs. Was.): He obviously has to play to be a sleeper this week, but all of the signs are pointing to him suiting up. The Lions’ backfield appears to be a bit of a 4-way mess, so you kind of have to read the tea leaves here, but Washington looks like the best option of the group this week. Theo Riddick seems to be less than 50-50 to play this week, and despite a decent week 6 performance, I’d expect Zach Zenner to be relegated to backup duties once again. Justin Forsett will likely take over the third down receiving back role with Riddick out, and Washington would then assume most of the early down work. Washington was just getting going this year before his ankle injury sidelined him, and this week he gets to face a defense that ranks 31st in run defense DVOA and has allowed the 7th-most running back fantasy points. If Riddick sits, Washington has RB2 upside this week.
RB Don Jackson, GB (Wk. 7: vs. Chi.): Things in the Green Bay Packers’ backfield have rapidly devolved with the injuries to Eddie Lacy (placed on IR) and James Starks (out at least a month after a knee scope). The Packers have traded for Knile Davis and signed Jackson from the practice squad. Wide receiver Ty Montgomery also entered the backfield mix by impressing on 22 snaps in that role last week after Lacy was hurt (6 catches for 52 yards out of the backfield). There have been conflicting reports from two different Packers beat writers this week, one suggesting that Montgomery would get the majority of the backfield snaps, the other suggesting it will be Jackson. I’d expect game script to dictate it. If the Packers are playing from behind or in a close game, Montgomery will likely see more work than Jackson, and vice versa if they play from ahead. The Packers are at home, and are a touchdown favorite, so if things go according to plan it should favor the rookie. The Bears rank 20th in run defense DVOA, so if he sees 15 carries, he should be productive enough to be on the RB2/RB3 borderline. At the very least, he should be owned with both Lacy and Starks out an extended period.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 7: vs. Cle.): Boyd managed to put up 77 yards last weekend against the Patriots, but the Bengals spent much of that game playing catch up. They figure to play from ahead this week as a 10-point favorite at home against the Browns. Overall passing volume should be down, but the Browns have struggled to contain slot receivers. They’ve given up lines of 7-114-1 to Jordan Matthews and 7-120-1 to Jarvis Landry. You could argue that those guys are better than the average slot receiver, but last week they allowed 8-133-1 to Kendall Wright. There won’t be a ton of volume for Boyd, but he’s a sneaky bet to score a TD this week.
WR Ricardo Louis, CLE (Wk. 7: @Cin.): Louis seems to have established himself as the WR2 on this team as long as Corey Coleman is sidelined. He saw a season-high 9 targets in week 6, and this week faces a Cincinnati team that ranks 23rd in pass DVOA on throws to the opposing number 2 wide receiver. They’ve allowed TDs to #2 guys Eric Decker and Kenny Stills and two to Emmanuel Sanders (Demaryius also scored a TD vs. Cincy if you consider Sanders their number 1). Some of this is moot if Terrelle Pryor winds up not playing this week, since Louis would be the de facto number one, but in that case he would see enough volume that his outlook would be similar. Louis is legitimately in play as a WR3 in deeper leagues this week.
WR Charone Peake, NYJ (Wk. 7: vs. Bal.): Peake seemed to take a step forward as the Jets’ WR3 last week, and the Ravens have allowed over 31 points per game to opposing WRs in the past 5 games (non-PPR). Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa will certainly benefit the most from the Eric Decker injury, but Peake saw 10 targets last week and looks to at least be ahead of Robby Anderson and Jalin Marshall on the depth chart for now. With Geno under center, there may be a little extra chemistry between these two since they have both been playing with the 2nd team offense. Peake is in play as a DFS tournament punt option or a WR3 in really deep leagues.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with some of the tougher lineup decisions you're facing this week. As usual, a lot of these outlooks hinge on the injury status of other players on these teams, so make sure and keep an eye on the injury report to see if guys like Latavius Murray, Theo Riddick, Phillip Dorsett, etc. are going to play. If you have any specific questions, or want to yell at me about any of the info above, 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.