Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We're officially past the halfway point of the fantasy regular season. Hopefully you're in good playoff position, but if you aren't, there is still a little time to turn it around. Week 8 won't be an easy one for many of you. There are 6 teams on a bye this week, including several prominent running backs and wide receivers whose absences will have to be survived to get a W. It's possible there might be a rookie who can help you get through, so let's jump right in and talk about the matchups for the rookies this week...
Rookies to Start:
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 8: vs. Phi.): You're not sitting him. Zeke has run for over 130 yards in each of the past 4 games and has had a bye week to rest up and get ready for this one. The Eagles have had a decent run defense on the year, but they rank a middling 13th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA statistic which measures efficiency, and they've allowed opposing running backs to put up 324 rushing yards in the past 2 games. He's definitely a high-end RB1 again this week, especially with Le'Veon, Gurley, Hyde, and the suddenly incredible Jay Ajayi on bye.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 8: vs. SD): It appeared that Booker had worked his way in to a full timeshare with CJ Anderson last week, but it doesn’t look like that will continue to be the case in week 8. That’s because CJ has suffered an ankle injury that may keep him out a several weeks, leaving all of the work to Booker. If he’s available in your league still, run to your waiver wire to claim him. It’s a ripe matchup for Devontae this week. The Chargers allow the 7th-most RB fantasy points per game, rank 18th in run defense DVOA, and rank 22nd in pass defense DVOA on throws to opposing RBs. With so many top backs out on byes this week, Booker has RB1 upside and should be started with confidence.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. vs. Det.): Suggesting that you start Fuller requires a bit of leap of faith given his lack of production over the past few weeks, but I'm willing to take that leap. The Lions have allowed a league-worst 117.3 QB rating to opposing passers, and have also allowed 18 TD passes, which is tied for the most in the league. The Lions have allowed 20+ fantasy points (all point totals from ESPN standard scoring) to 5 of the 7 QBs they've faced and 16 each to the other 2. To make matters worse, the Lions are likely going to be missing their top corner Darius Slay. They'll manage to even make Brock Osweiler look good. Fuller should have plenty of opportunity for his best day in weeks. He should be a WR3 this week with upside for more.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 8: vs. Phi.): The Eagles’ pass defense has been fairly stingy so far this year, but they’ve allowed 6 TD passes in their past 3 games. They’ve also allowed 13.3 QB points per game on the road. I know, that isn’t a big number, but it’s much bigger than the 6.7 they’ve allowed at home. Meanwhile, Prescott has been rock steady piloting this balanced offense, tallying at least 17 points in each of the past 5 games. With so many byes this week, Dak is right on borderline of QB1 and QB2 despite a tough paper matchup.
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 8: @Dal.): Wentz has been struggling in his past 2 contests, but with 6 byes this week it’s hard to make a case that he’s not usable in 2-QB leagues. The Cowboys have allowed at least 11 QB points and at least 1 TD pass in all 6 games they’ve played this year. They also rank just 22nd in pass defense DVOA. Wentz should be a low-end QB2 with a fairly safe floor but limited upside.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 8: vs. Cin. in London): Kelley salvaged a light workload in week 7 with a short receiving TD, but he should see more volume this week with Matt Jones looking less and less likely to play in London. The matchup isn’t as daunting as the Bengals would have been in past seasons. They rank just 22nd in run defense DVOA and have allowed 78 RB fantasy points in the past 3 weeks to Dallas, New England and Cleveland (26.7 points per game). I would expect Chris Thompson to handle some of the carries as well if Jones is out, and he already handles all of the passing down work, so it won’t quite be a full workload for Kelley. As long as Jones is out, Kelley should still get enough volume to be a borderline RB2 this week.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 8: vs. Min.): Howard’s role is in doubt after an apparent benching last week in the second half of a close game against Green Bay (it was close at halftime). He was out-touched by Ka’Deem Carey 11-7 for the game, but I would expect things to swing back in his favor this week. Howard should lead the backfield in touches on Monday, and he’s playable despite a tough matchup with the Vikings. While Minnesota allows just 67 rushing yards per game to opposing backs, they also allow 53 RB receiving yards per game. Ka’Deem Carey has just 11 career receptions over 3 seasons. Jordan Howard has 14 so far this season. Howard should see the bulk of the receiving work, and thanks to that receiving volume he should be on the RB2/RB3 borderline in a thin week.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 8: vs. Sea.): Thomas has been the most productive Saints WR over the past 4 weeks, averaging 6.5 catches for 81 yards per week with 3 TDs in that span. The Seahawks ‘Legion of Boom’ has always been a defense to avoid with fantasy receivers, but they’ve shown some vulnerability of late and the Saints’ passing attack is always deadly at home. Seattle has allowed 28 WR points per game over the past 3 games and Brees has thrown for at least 376 yards in all 3 home games this year. The sledding won’t be easy for Thomas, as Seattle’s best corners play on the perimeter, but there is definitely a chance for success this week. Thomas is should be right on the WR3 borderline.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 8: @Den.): I’d probably lean towards sitting Henry this week if he plays, but he certainly had success in this matchup 2 weeks ago (6-83-1). He did enter into the concussion protocol after the game last Sunday, but seems to be trending in the right direction to play in Denver. His playing time will continue to be cut into as Antonio Gates gets healthier, but you have to attack the Broncos with tight ends since their corners are so good. I’d expect the Broncos to make stopping Henry a bigger priority this time around, but he’s still likely a top-15 TE play for the week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Kevin Hogan, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. NYJ): At this point all signs are indicating that Josh McCown will be the man under center for the Browns this weekend, but I would avoid Hogan if he winds up getting the nod. The matchup is a good one, but Hogan was just 12-for-24 passing last week, tallying 100 yards. That equates to a pathetic 4.16 yards per attempt. I wouldn’t expect the Jets to allow him to beat them with his legs the way the Bengals did either. I wouldn’t be able to trust Hogan even in a 2-QB league this week. Luckily, it’s unlikely to matter with McCown due back.
RBs DeAndre Washington & Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 8: @TB): Washington has clearly established himself as the number 2 back ahead of Richard after being in a pretty even timeshare previously, but he still only saw 6 touches himself in week 7. Latavius Murray seems to be back in the lead back role after missing a game with injury. Murray dominated the rushing attempts and scored 2 TDs last weekend as Oakland played from comfortably ahead of Jacksonville. The Vegas odds project a closer game this week, so there may be some additional passing work for Washington in a plus matchup, but he'll be tough to trust coming off last week's workload. I'd steer clear.
RB Wendell Smallwood, PHI (Wk. 8: @Dal.): Keep an eye on Smallwood's workload this week. You can't play him this week since he's seen just 4 carries in each of the past 2 games and faces a tough matchup Sunday, but he might start to see a bigger share of the work thanks to some recent fumbling issues for Ryan Mathews. If there is an uptick in usage, Smallwood may be worth a stash going forward.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 8: vs. Jax.): If you need an explanation for why you shouldn't play Derrick Henry, you don't own him on any teams. There's no reason to consider him. If you need a bye fill-in in a deep league, and were considering picking up Henry, think better of it and leave him on the wire.
RB Don Jackson, GB (Wk. 8: @Atl.): It looks like this backfield will belong to Ty Montgomery until James Starks gets healthy enough to take over again. Jackson saw just 2 carries in his debut last Thursday, and left the game with an ankle injury. If the Packers need someone other than Montgomery to handle the between-the-tackles work, my money would be on Knile Davis to see the bulk of those carries, not Jackson.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 8: vs. Jax.): Sharpe had his best performance since week one last Sunday, and he totaled just 4 catches and 59 yards. There's nothing to see here. Delanie Walker remains the only pass-catcher to own in Tennessee.
WR Ricardo Louis, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. NYJ): Louis saw just 3 targets last week with Cody Kessler knocked out by a concussion. He saw 9 the previous week. The entire passing attack suffered with Kevin Hogan under center. It looks like it will be Josh McCown at QB this week, but the only pass catcher we know that’s a plus for is Gary Barnidge. Louis has deep speed, and the Jets have proven to be burnable on the deep ball several times this year, but it’ll be hard to count on Louis this week. His production and target share have been inconsistent, and he’s never caught a pass from McCown. With Terrelle Pryor getting healthier and a possible return for Corey Coleman this week, Louis will likely be pushed further down in the pecking order.
WR Chester Rogers, IND (Wk. 8: vs. KC): Rogers fell flat last week in a spot where it looked like he would get plenty of opportunity. With Phillip Dorsett and Dwayne Allen out, he tallied just 2 catches and 30 yards despite Andrew Luck throwing for 353 yards. Dorsett returns this week, and Donte Moncrief is expected back as well. That would drop Rogers to the WR4 role and render him useless for fantasy purposes.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 8: @Buf.): Mitchell isn’t quite stash-worthy yet, but it’s worth noting that he played almost as many snaps as Chris Hogan in week 7. He wasn’t targeted on any of them, but it’s only a matter of time before he sees more work. He’s a guy to keep an eye on over the next couple weeks.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 8: @Hou.): Washington looks set to return this week, and he will likely push Zach Zenner to the bench. This situation is still a bit of a mess with 4 backs (3 if Riddick sits again this week), but I buy into Washington’s talent as the early down back. Zenner and Forsett were thoroughly uninspiring last week with Washington and Riddick both sidelined, so I would expect Dwayne to have a role immediately. The Texans have allowed 8 RB rushing scores in 7 games and rank 26th in run defense DVOA. It would be hard to pull the trigger in season long leagues, but Washington should cost the minimum in DFS and could be a decent punt play in tournaments.
RB CJ Prosise, SEA (Wk. 8: @NO): CJ is a potential stash now that the other CJ has been sent packing. Spiller was released, and Prosise should assume the passing down role. There hasn’t been a ton of volume with Christine Michael hogging most of the RB touches, but Prosise did play 16 snaps last week. He only saw 3 touches, but the matchup this week is one that could have a lot more action for the former college WR. The Saints have allowed more RB fantasy points per game than any other team in the league. Obviously it would be hard to trust a guy in your lineup who’s had just 5 touches all year. Like I said, I view him more as a stash than a guy to play this week, but don’t be surprised if he has a decent game out of nowhere.
WR Corey Coleman, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. NYJ): Coleman may finally return this week from a broken hand that has sidelined him for more than a month. His status is still up in the air, but he returns to a plum matchup if he’s able to go. There’s always risk when you play a guy coming off a long layoff (especially when the QB is coming off a layoff as well), but the Jets rank 31st in pass defense DVOA, allow the 4th-most WR fantasy points, and have allowed 9 passes of 40 or more yards (tied for most in the league). One deep ball would make Coleman worthwhile. He could be a usable WR3 if you are in a pinch. Just make sure he’s playing before pulling the trigger.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 8: @Cle.): Anderson appears to have moved back ahead of Charone Peake and Jalin Marshall in the pecking order in New York. Peake had really started to gain traction with 10 targets in week 6, but that number plummeted to 2 in week 7. Anderson didn’t see many more, with 3 targets, but he made the most of his opportunities by catching all 3 for 41 yards and gaining 30 yards on a rushing attempt. I expect Anderson to be the third WR moving forward. While Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa will see the bulk of the passing targets, Anderson might be worth a desperation play in the deepest of deep leagues this week. The Browns allow the 5th-most WR points, and Enunwa’s target share has been slowly dipping over the past few weeks (11,7,7,5 and 4 targets over past 5 games). There’s a chance Anderson picks up some of that slack if the trend continues.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps you survive the many byes that you may be dealing with this weekend and pull out a win. Keep a close eye on the injury reports to make sure everyone in your lineup is active on game day. Feel free to reach out via twitter if you have any specific questions or just want to yell at me about the things written above (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.