Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We made it! Playoff season is finally here. Hopefully you've managed to secure a berth in the postseason and hopefully your team is headed in at full strength. If you are in, the rest of the weeks are do-or-die, so you want to make sure you play your best options. The rookie crop continued to make their presence felt last week, with a couple of new rookies coming up with their first fantasy points of the season. Cody Core caught a 50-yard pass against the Eagles, and Paul Turner filled in admirably for an injured Jordan Matthews on the other side of that game. Core's production likely won't be repeated in the next few weeks, but Turner may be able to make an impact if Matthews sits again. Let's talk about what to expect from Turner as well as the rest of the rookie crew in week 14...
Rookies to start:
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 14: @NYG): There aren't really any good numbers to back up the call to start Zeke, at least with regard to his opponent. The Giants have a pretty solid run defense that held Elliott to 51 yards on 20 carries in week one, and Zeke may soon be hitting the rookie wall. Still, he leads the league in rushing by over 200 yards and has scored more than 10 fantasy points in every single game this year (All point totals are in ESPN standard scoring). He's a must-start as always.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 14: @Det.): The Lions have been pretty good at slowing down opposing running backs, allowing the 7th-fewest points per game to the position, but some of that is due to teams throwing on them because of their porous secondary. The Lions still rank just 25th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA stat which measures defensive efficiency. Teams just haven't tried to run on them enough. That shouldn't be a problem for Howard, who has seen at least 15 carries in 8 of the past 9 games. That volume should make him an easy RB2 this week with some upside for more.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 14: vs. Bal.): With Gronk (and possibly Danny Amendola) done for the season, Mitchell's role is here to stay. The Ravens have allowed the 9th-most WR points per game thanks to allowing 18 TDs to them, and Mitchell has seen 18 targets in the two recent games the Pats played without Gronkowski. He's averaged nearly 10 yards per target in those games. Mitchell should have WR2 upside this week.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 14: @TB): Last week was a disappointing one for Thomas, but he has still put up at least 4 catches and 40 yards in every game this season. The Bucs have been playing improved defense over the past month, but they're far from a matchup to be afraid of. I'd expect the Saints' pass offense to get a little back on track this week and Thomas should be a WR3 with a safe floor and plenty of upside.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 14: @NYG): Dak has scored fewer than 17 points just twice all season: Last Thursday against the Vikings (10 points) and in week one against the Giants (also 10 points). The Giants have remained stingy versus QBs since, allowing the 3rd-fewest QB points per game, but Dak has certainly improved since week one. It's a tough matchup to be sure, so 12-15 points is a reasonable expectation, and if he is able to score any more than 15 he'd likely be a low-end QB1. He's worth consideration as a floor play if you don't like your other options.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 14: @Phi.): Kelley is a touchdown-dependent flex option this week. He's scored in single-digits in 3 of his past 4 games (the 3 he didn't score a TD in), but head coach Jay Gruden did say he'd like to get Kelley more involved. Unless that involves more opportunities in the passing game or Washington playing from ahead instead of behind, I don't know how much more volume there is for him to gain. The Eagles rank 9th in run defense DVOA, but they have allowed a rushing score in 3 straight games. If Kelley manages to find paydirt, he'll return RB2 value. If he doesn't, he'll be closer to a low-end RB3.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 14: @Ten.): Booker has been a let down lately as a starter scoring in the single digits in 4 straight games. The Titans have been decent against the run, allowing under 65 RB rush yards in 6 of the past 8, and Booker hasn't really been supplementing his fantasy days with receiving production. He also may lose a little work to Justin Forsett, who was just signed this week. Forsett had the most success of his career with Gary Kubiak as his offensive coordinator, and he knows the offense. I think Booker has at least one more week of seeing the starter's workload, and that volume should keep him flex-worthy.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 14: @NE): Terrance West stepped back into the 1A role in this backfield in week 13, but Dixon still managed to put up 77 scrimmage yards. The Patriots have limited opposing RBs to the 6th-fewest fantasy points per game, but Dixon could have an opportunity to make an impact in the passing game. New England has allowed the 4th-most RB receptions and the 5th-most RB receiving yards. Dixon lacks TD upside, but he's a decent PPR flex option this week.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 14: @Cle.): Boyd has averaged 5 catches for 60 yards and has scored one TD in 3 games without AJ Green, and this week he gets to face the hapless Browns. 60 yards is likely Boyd's floor in this one, and there is a decent amount of upside for a score. He's a WR3 option in PPR leagues, but a dicier play in standard leagues.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 14: vs. Dal.): Shepard's low yardage totals have been concerning, but he's found the end zone in 4 of the past 5 games, and his quarterback publicly apologized to him for the lack of targets he got in the other game. The target floor should be safe again, and the Cowboys rank 27th in pass defense DVOA and have allowed over 190 receiving yards to the opposing receivers in 4 straight games. He still needs a TD to hit his ceiling, but won't kill you in PPR if he only hits his floor.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 14: @Ind.): Fuller remains a boom-or-bust option as he squares off against the struggling Colts' secondary this weekend. He's shown life with 119 yards in the past 2 games, and the Colts have allowed 10 WR scores in the past 5. Brock Osweiler's poor play will always be a drag on Fuller's outlook, but he's worth considering if you're a big underdog this week. His wheels always make him a threat for a long TD.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 14: @Car.): Henry is pretty much just a touchdown dart throw if you use him as a streamer at this point. Antonio Gates has seen the bulk of the targets to Chargers' TEs, and Henry saw just one last Sunday. There is some reason for optimism with Henry since the Panthers allow the most points to TEs in the league, but hopefully you have better options with your season at stake.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 14: vs. Was.): You can make a case to play Wentz in 2 quarterback leagues if you're desperate. Washington has allowed 18+ QB points in 5 straight games after only allowing that amount once in the first 7. Wentz went in the tank for a handful of weeks earlier this season, but he has started to rebound with an average of 14 points per game in his past 3. He's still hard to trust with your season on the line, but he has come back from the depths of the unusable.
QB Jared Goff, LA (Wk. 14: vs. Atl.): The Falcons allow the most QB points per game in the league, and just recently lost their top corner Desmond Trufant for the season, and I still can't recommend that you start Goff. The Rams' passing offense has been abysmal all year, and half of the touchdown passes that the Falcons have allowed were in the first 4 weeks of the season. Goff has played just one decent half and scored 28 fantasy points through 3 starts. If he is able to crack double-digits it will be a successful day.
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 14: vs. Cin.): It looks like it will actually be Robert Griffin III under center this week, and it's probably the right call for the Brownies. Kessler just doesn't have the arm strength to be viewed as Cleveland's QB of the future, so they may as well use these final weeks to see what Griffin still has left.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 14: vs. Dal.): The Cowboys allow the fewest rushing attempts in the league, and the looming return of Shane Vereen would cut into his pass-catching chances. Even if Vereen isn't back yet, Perkins would still be a long shot for 10 touches.
RB Wendell Smallwood, PHI (Wk. 14: vs. Was.): There is some sleeper appeal for Smallwood. Washington allows the 4th-most RB points per game and ranks 30th in run defense DVOA, but Ryan Mathews is set to return to practice on Wednesday. Wendell put up just 56 yards on 17 carries in 2 games with Mathews out, so to expect much improvement with Mathews back would be a mistake.
WR Tyreek Hill, KC (Wk. 14: vs. Oak.): Jeremy Maclin is expected to practice in full this week, which means Hill won't be funneled targets the way he has been. He's averaging just 9.6 yards per catch on the season, so he needs either volume or a touchdown to be useful. The volume will certainly drop this week. He's a TD dart throw against the Raiders.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 14: vs. Den.): The Broncos allow the fewest points in the league to opposing WRs, and Sharpe's two double-digit fantasy outputs came against teams allowing the 4th-most (Green Bay) and 14th-most (Indy) points to the position. The increased volume Sharpe has seen lately has been promising, but he's a wide receiver to avoid this week.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN (Wk. 14: @Ten.): Lynch has struggled in his opportunities to start, but he should actually be a decent QB2 streamer this week if Siemian remains sidelined. The Titans' defense has allowed 18+ fantasy points to QBs in 7 straight games and allowed multiple TD passes in each as well. Despite his struggles, I like Lynch's chances of taking advantage of a plus matchup if he gets the opportunity. The Titans did get shredded by Matt Barkley the week before their bye.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 14: vs. Den.): This is a great opportunity for the Titans to play some smashmouth football and run it a ton. The Broncos are the stingiest pass defense in the league in terms of yards, TDs, passer rating, and pass defense DVOA, but they rank just 26th in run defense DVOA. If the Titans are smart, they'll use a pretty healthy mix of both DeMarco Murray and Henry. The Heisman winner is mostly only in play for DFS tournaments as a punt play, but don't be surprised if he has a bigger day than expected, and you should absolutely own him if you own Murray.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 14: @KC): Richard remains a handcuff for Latavius Murray, and he has weekly touchdown upside with DeAndre Washington vanquished to the land of healthy scratch each gameday. The Chiefs are one of 5 teams that have allowed 4 or more receiving TDs to running backs, and Murray has zero TD catches on the year.
WR Corey Coleman, CLE (Wk. 14: vs. Cin.): Coleman will be a volatile option with RG3 under center this week. Griffin did show the ability to throw deep during the preseason, but didn't make it far enough into the regular season to be able to showcase that again. Coleman has averaged nearly 9 targets per game since returning from a broken hand, but who knows how many he'll see with RG3 inserted. Like Will Fuller, Coleman is an interesting option if you are a big underdog this week because his talent gives him really nice upside.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 14: @SF): Robby has been the most targeted Jets' WR with Bryce Petty at quarterback, and Petty was just announced as the starter for the remainder of the season. Anderson faces off with the 49ers this week, and San Francisco is allowing the 2nd-most points per game to opposing WRs. Efficiency hasn't been a strong suit for Anderson, with just 4 catches on 12 targets last week, but he did score his first TD and should be a decent WR3 streamer in deep leagues.
WR Paul Turner, PHI (Wk. 14: vs. Was.): Turner is only in play if Jordan Matthews sits again. Washington ranks 20th in pass defense DVOA, and Turner hauled in 6 catches for 80 yards on 8 targets last week with Matthews out. He's only in play for really deep leagues even if J-Matt does sit.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with your tougher lineup decisions and helps you advance to the next round. Be vigilant about checking the injury report througout the week to make sure your players are all going to suit up, and that the guys ahead of them on the depth chart don't suit up by surprise. Feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have any specific questions or just want to yell at me about anything written above. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.