Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Hopefully, your fantasy teams still have a pulse after the carnage that week 14 brought…Melvin Gordon, Donte Moncrief, Matt Forte and Jordan Reed were slowed by injuries and likely killed you if you played them. There was also a massive list of horrible fantasy performances from key players. QBs Dak Prescott, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson, Big Ben and Derek Carr all put up less than 5 fantasy points (all scores in ESPN standard scoring). RBs Spencer Ware, Thomas Rawls, Jay Ajayi, Mark Ingram, Devontae Booker and Devonta Freeman all scored 5 or less. At WR, the list under 5 points included Dez Bryant, Mike Evans, DeAndre Hopkins, Brandon Marshall, Amari Cooper and Larry Fitzgerald. Not even TEs were immune to the disappointment with Delanie Walker, Jimmy Graham and Ladarius Green all scoring 3 points or less. Sorry for the painful walk down memory lane if you had any of those players, but hopefully you were able to survive and advance. The decisions this week are just as important if you’re still kicking, so let’s take a look at which rookies are safe to trot out there in week 15….
Rookies to Start:
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 15: vs. TB): At this point, is there any defense that would scare you away from using Zeke? He’s still got 10+ fantasy points in all 13 games this year and at least 20 carries in 11 of them. The Bucs’ defense has been playing better over the past few weeks but still ranks just 21st in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat, which measures efficiency. Fire him up in season-long leagues, and there is no reason to be afraid to use him in DFS either.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 15: vs. GB): I’m a little bit nervous about Howard this week after how the first meeting with the Packers went. He had just 7 carries for 22 yards in that game and inexplicably ceded carries to Ka’Deem Carey. Since that game, Howard has put up at least 99 scrimmage yards in each of the 6 that have followed with a minimum of 15 touches in each. With that track record, it’s hard to argue that he isn’t at least an RB2 this week despite a tough matchup. The Packers have rebounded since an awful 4-week stretch (weeks 9-12), allowing just over 11 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs in the past 3. Howard’s high volume makes him a high-floor option, but I wouldn’t expect him to hit his ceiling if the Packers win this one big.
WR Tyreek Hill, KC (Wk. 15: vs. Ten.): The Titans have struggled vs. WRs for much of the year, allowing 29+ points to opposing WRs in 6 of their past 8 games and 13 WR touchdowns in those 8 contests. They’ve also allowed 22+ points in 10 of their 13 games on the year. Hill still received 6 targets last week with Jeremy Maclin back in a game where the Chiefs only threw it 26 times. He’s bound to have a down game at some point, but I don’t think this will be it.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 15: vs. TB): Tampa Bay has held 3 of the past 5 quarterbacks they’ve faced to 10 fantasy points or less and the team is on a 5-game winning streak. Luckily for Dak, all 3 of those games where they limited the QB were played in Tampa. This game will be in Dallas. Prescott is still a little riskier than he was a few weeks ago, but the upside is still there. I have a feeling that Dez Bryant will want to make a statement after embarrassing himself on national TV Sunday night. I like Dak’s chances as posting a bounce-back game and winding up a borderline QB1.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 15: vs. Phi.): The Marc Trestman influence is finally showing in the Ravens’ offense now that they actually have a receiving back playing lots of snaps. Running backs under Trestman have a history of getting a lot of passing targets, and over the past 6 weeks, only the Arizona Cardinals have targeted the RBs more than Baltimore. Almost all of those targets are going to Dixon. Terrance West isn’t going to completely go away, especially at the goal line, but Dixon should be a solid flex option this week in PPR leagues. Philly ranks 12th in run defense DVOA and 21st in pass defense DVOA on throws to running backs. 5+ catches are likely for Dixon this week.
RB Kenneth Farrow, SD (Wk. 15: vs. Oak.): Melvin Gordon appears to be out this week, and it was Farrow who stepped in after his injury last Sunday with 78 scrimmage yards on 22 touches. It looks like he’ll be used similarly to Gordon as long as Melvin is out. Ronnie Hillman is on the roster and should be active this week, but I wouldn’t expect him to take too big of a chunk from Farrow’s workload. The Raiders have allowed 14+ fantasy points to opposing RBs in 10 of their 13 games, and they have allowed the 3rd-most scrimmage yards to the position as well. Farrow should be flex-worthy in a plus matchup.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 15: vs. Car.): Kelley has proven that volume will keep him on the RB2 radar with at least 14 carries in every game since becoming the starter, but the TDs are where he’s finding his value. If he doesn’t score, you typically don’t end up with a great outing. Carolina is a tough matchup for Kelley. They’ve allowed just 7 running back scores on the year, and the 7th-fewest RB fantasy points per game, but that defense has shown cracks of late. 3 of their worst 4 games of the year against running backs were in the past 4 weeks. There is some hope for Kelley.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 15: vs. Mia.): Anderson has been surprisingly consistent this year for a guy who came into the year fighting for the WR4 spot on his own team. He hasn’t put up a goose egg since week 2, and he’s shown to have an OK floor with over 30 receiving yards in 7 straight games. Now that Bryce Petty has become the starter, he’s taken a huge step forward into being a legitimate WR3 option. He’s seen 23 targets in the past 2 weeks and turned in double-digit points in each game. The volume should be solid again this week, and that puts Robby right on the WR3/WR4 borderline. The Dolphins do allow the 13th-most WR points per game.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 15: @Ari.): Thomas isn’t an auto-start this week after being a surprise scratch last weekend. He’s been limited in practice but does look likely to play. The Cardinals have been vulnerable lately with 27 fantasy points per game allowed to WRs in their past 4, but there is a chance that Patrick Peterson follows Thomas around a bit. You may have to read the tea leaves a bit on this one, but if it looks like Thomas is a full go, he should be an upside WR3 option.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 15: @Bal.): Since their bye 6 weeks ago, the Ravens have only struggled with 2 QBs: Tom Brady and Dak Prescott. They allowed just 1 TD pass each to the other 4 signal callers they faced in that stretch. Wentz has topped 12 fantasy points just twice in the past 9 games since Lane Johnson was suspended. He’s thrown for over 300 yards in his past two games, but he also has multiple turnovers in 3 of the past 4. He should be able to reach double-digits again in this game, but I would be surprised if he gets beyond the 10-13-point range.
QB Jared Goff, LA (Wk. 15: @Sea.): The Seahawks pass defense has been vulnerable of late, with 8 TD passes allowed in their past 4 games, but nothing we’ve seen from Goff and the Rams gives me a reason to believe they’ll continue the Seahawks’ struggles. The Rams will have a short week with a new interim head coach. I’m not sure how much of the game plan he can really mix up in a 4-day week. Goff would be lucky to score 10+ points.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 15: vs. Det.): Perkins’s production has improved lately, mostly due to an increased workload, but he still averaged only 3 yards per carry last week and saw just one target in the passing game. The Lions have allowed just 68 RB rush yards per game over the past 5 games, and just 2 TDs in that stretch. Perkins has yet to rush for 50 yards in a game, and there just isn’t enough upside to run him out there this week.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 15: vs. NE): The Patriots have struggled at times vs. the pass, but have been strong against the run, and Booker lost significant snaps to a guy signed off the street last week. He’s been inefficient for weeks now and got just 5 touches against the Titans compared to 9 for Justin Forsett. That’s not a promising split. The Patriots do give up a ton of catches to RBs, but I would expect it to be Forsett taking advantage, not Booker. He’s too risky to roll with this week.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 15: @SD): There is some upside for Richard as there has been since he took number 2 duties from DeAndre Washington, and he does get a plus matchup. The Chargers have allowed the 9th-most fantasy points per game to RBs and are tied for 2nd in RB touchdowns allowed with 17, but Richard is just too much of a roll of the dice to try out in the playoffs.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 15: vs. Det.): If you trot Shepard out there, he’s no more than a risky TD-dependent WR3 this week. He hasn’t cleared 50 receiving yards in a game since week 3, so it’ll take a touchdown for him to be worth your while, and the Lions have allowed just 3 WR scores in the past 7 games. I don’t like Shepard’s chances of finding paydirt this week.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 15: @Den.): You have to steer clear of any WRs facing the Broncos. Denver has allowed fewer than 10 WR receptions total in 8 of their 13 games, and fewer than 100 receiving yards to WRs in 7 of 13. Julian Edelman alone has at least 7 catches in 5 straight games. There just isn’t going to be enough volume to go around for Mitchell to be viable without a TD, and the Broncos have allowed just 3 scores to wide receivers aside from their game with the Saints. You can’t give Mitchell the benefit of the doubt in the toughest possible matchup.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 15: vs. Jax.): The Jaguars have allowed 12 WR fantasy points per game in their past 6 games, and the Texans’ offense has been abysmal through the air. Fuller’s volatile production isn’t something I want to count on this week.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 15: @KC): I expected Sharpe to have a down game vs. the Broncos, but zero catches on one target?! He’s got just 3 games all year with over 60 receiving yards, and just 11 yards in his last 2 games combined. There’s no way you can trust Tajae this week.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 15: vs. Oak.): The Chargers TE group had a strong showing against the Raiders the last time they faced them, combining for a 7-104-2 line, but the Raiders have been fantastic against the position since. They’ve given up just 4 TDs to tight ends all year, and zero in the past 5 games. As Antonio Gates has gotten healthy again, Henry has become a TD dart throw each week, and the odds of finding the end zone are not in his favor against Oakland.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 15: @NYG): Most of this week’s sleepers are going to be DFS punt options for GPP tournaments. Most of these guys are just too risky to trust for season long leagues. Washington might be the exception to that on this list. He had his best outing of the year last week with 16 carries for 64 yards and 1 catch for 10. He did that with Theo Riddick sidelined. Riddick isn’t practicing yet as of Wednesday, so there is a chance he misses again. If he does, that pushes Washington up to ‘Borderline’ status since 3rd-stringer Zach Zenner is still in the concussion protocol. The matchup is a tough one with the G-Men ranking 5th in run-defense DVOA, but Washington could be in for a big workload. If Riddick is out, he’ll be a fantastic DFS play at his current $3,500 salary on Draft Kings.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 15: @KC): The Chiefs have faced the 6th-most rushing attempts in the league including 29 per game in the past 4 contests, and DeMarco Murray is averaging 18 carries per game in his past 5. Some quick math tells me that I like Derrick Henry’s chances at seeing 10+ carries, and the Chiefs rank 19th in run defense DVOA. Henry is priced a little higher than you’d like for a punt play at $5,100 in Draft Kings, but the upside is there for a nice day.
WR Corey Coleman, CLE (Wk. 15: @Buf.): Coleman has failed to gain more than 41 yards in any of the 5 games he’s played since returning from a broken hand, but he’s had 30 targets in the past 3. The lack of production makes him impossible to trust in the fantasy playoffs this week, but he could certainly prove to be worth his $4,100 price in Draft Kings with that kind of volume. Buffalo ranks 19th in pass defense DVOA, and RG3 is always looking for the deep ball.
WR Leonte Carroo, MIA (Wk. 15: @NYJ): Carroo had played just 24 offensive snaps in the past 4 weeks, so it is a bit of a stretch to consider him, but he should see some targets on the snaps he does play this week with Matt Moore at quarterback. The two have been practicing together on the 2nd team all season, and we’ve seen what that kind of connection has done for Robby Anderson with Bryce Petty at the helm. All Carroo needs is to get on the field and he should have one of his best days of the season. The Jets rank dead last in pass defense DVOA, and Carroo costs the minimum in Draft Kings.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL (Wk. 15: vs. SF): This is mostly a hunch. San Francisco has actually been surprisingly decent vs. tight ends, but I feel like Hooper is due in a game that Atlanta should dominate. He’s been a solid deep threat with 4 catches of 25 yards or more among his 18 grabs on the year, and he’s a decent TD dart throw this week that costs the minimum in Draft Kings.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you advance to your league title game (or semifinal if your title game is week 17). Watch the injury reports closely this week and make sure you don’t start an injury replacement if the starter is playing, or play the starter if he’s not. Feel free to hit me up on twitter with any specific questions or to yell at me about what’s written above (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.