Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We're finally here: fantasy championship week (as long as your league isn't one of those weird ones that goes through week 17). Hopefully you've still got a championship to play for. If you played Sammy Watkins, Stefon Diggs, Adrian Peterson, Tom Brady, or Toddy Gurley last week, it's likely 'Better luck next year' (I had two of them in), but if you're still alive & kicking you've got some decisions to make this week. Let's jump right into what to expect from the rookies in week 16...
Rookies to Start:
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 16: vs. Was.): Howard's hot streak continued last week even as the Bears' comeback effort fell short. Sunday's game was Howard's 7th straight with at least 99 yards from scrimmage, and Washington has surrendered plenty of points to running backs all season, allowing the 4th-most fantasy points per game to the position. They've also allowed 24 or more fantasy points to opposing backs in 3 of their past 4 (all point totals are in ESPN standard scoring). Howard should be a solid RB1 this week.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 16: vs. Det.): Let's be honest, you're not going to sit Zeke for your championship game if you've got him, but I would probably fade him in DFS if the Giants somehow lose to the Eagles on Thursday. That would clinch the top seed in the NFC playoffs for the Cowboys, and there is a chance that could mean less Zeke and more Darren McFadden. If the Giants win, as is expected, Elliott should be a fine play in any format. The Lions have been stingy in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs, but they rank just 20th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA stat, which measures efficiency.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 16: @Chi.): Kelley is coming off possibly his worst rushing game of the year with 9 carries for just 8 yards on Monday. Luckily, he was able to salvage his fantasy day with a touchdown and some receiving yardage. The receiving work is rare for him, and isn't something I'd expect him to repeat, but I still think he'll have a bounce-back game this week. The Bears have been struggling against the run lately, allowing 100+ rushing yards to the opposing backs in 5 straight games, and they allowed Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael to run wild last Sunday with 3 scores and over 200 yards combined. Kelley should have some success running the ball, and should be a solid RB2 as a result.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 16: vs. TB): Thomas returned from a surprising 1-week absence and dropped a 7-52-1 line on the Saints last weekend. He now has at least 40 receiving yards in all 13 games he's played in and is a top-10 WR in standard scoring for the season. He provides a relatively safe floor (especially playing indoors while other teams brave the December elements), and he provides WR1 upside this week against a beatable Tampa Bay secondary. There's no reason not to trust him as at least a WR3 this week.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 16: vs. NYJ): Mitchell should get back on track this week after a 1-target, 1-catch outing against the stifling Broncos' secondary last weekend. The Jets rank dead last in pass defense DVOA, and Mitchell put up 5-42-2 in the previous meeting with these Jets. He's only become a more established part of the offense since then. Look for him to easily return WR3 value this week.
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 16: vs. Det.): The Lions have done a really nice job of limiting opposing QBs over the past 7 games, coughing up just under 11 QB fantasy points per game in that stretch, but there are some factors working against them this week. Darius Slay, the team's number one CB is likely to miss the game with a hamstring injury, and their recent hot streak has actually been aided a bit by the schedule. They were truly impressive in shutting down Drew Brees in New Orleans, but the QBs they faced in the other 6 games were Brock Osweiler, Matt Barkley, Sam Bradford (twice), Blake Bortles, and Eli Manning. The Lions still rank just 30th in pass defense DVOA and allow the 2nd-highest passer rating against, behind only the Browns. Dak is right on the QB1 borderline this week, and I'd lean towards starting him unless you have a surefire top-10 QB to play over him.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 16: @Pit.): The Ravens continue to keep fantasy players guessing as to how the backfield work will be split between Dixon and Terrance West. Dixon played a season-high 60% of the snaps in week 14, but that number plummeted to 29% in week 15 without a clear reason why. Dixon still has at least 7 points in 5 of the past 6 games and a touchdown in each of the past 2, and I still like the rookie's outlook this week. The Steelers have been playing improved defense against RBs lately...they allowed 33+ fantasy points to opposing RBs 4 times in the first 9 games, but have given up an average of just 12 points per game to them in the 5 games since. Despite the recent improvement, receiving backs like Dixon have given them some issues. They've allowed the 3rd-most running back receiving yards and and are tied for the most RB receiving touchdowns allowed. Dixon's got real upside again as a PPR flex play.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 16: @Jax.): Henry has clearly carved out a role as a change-of-pace back for DeMarco Murray, amassing 30 touches and 3 TDs in the past 3 games while averaging a robust 5.5 yards per carry. Murray is still the clear lead dog, but the Jaguars are just playing out the string at this point and the Titans backs combined for 33 fantasy points in the first go-round with Jacksonville, including 15 from Henry. He'll need a TD to be a big help, but Henry could be a nice flex option this week in leagues with 12 teams or more.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 16: @NE): If Bryce Petty ends up missing this game with injury, Anderson will probably be best left on the bench. He doesn't see nearly the same volume from Fitzpatrick, and I don't know how much he would see from (gulp) Christian Hackenburg. It was a little concerning that Anderson was out-targeted by both Brandon Marshall and Quincy Enunwa while Petty was still in the game last week, but he's still scored in double-figures in 3 straight games with Petty and the Patriots rank just 25th in pass defense DVOA. Anderson should be a fine WR3 option if Petty gets the start.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 16: @Phi.): As usual, Shepard will be a TD-dependent WR3 option this week. If he scores a TD you'll be happy he's in, and if not you probably won't. The 56 yards he put up last week is his high-water mark since week 3, but he's scored a touchdown in 5 of his last 7 games. The Eagles have allowed 7 TDs to opposing wide receivers in the past 4 games, so the upside is there, but you're probably not getting more than 5 points in standard leagues if he doesn't get in the end zone (8 or 9 in PPR).
WR Tyreek Hill, KC (Wk. 16: vs. Den.): Let me just start off by saying what Tyreek Hill did last week isn't sustainable on a weekly basis. He had one rushing attempt and ZERO catches and still managed to get to 12 fantasy points. Hill had his coming out party on Monday Night Football against these Broncos in week 12 with a 3-TD outburst, but this is still the best defense against WRs in the league. I can't imagine he's going to catch Denver off guard this week. I'd expect him to get a little more volume than last week, and he's explosive enough to score from anywhere on the field, but he'll be a true boom-or-bust option. It's up to you if you want to roll the dice.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 16: @Cle.): Henry is in play as a streaming option if you don't like your tight end or he's out this week. Hunter has been no more than a TD dart throw each week, but he's found the end zone in 4 of the past 5 games, and the Browns allow the most points to opposing tight ends in the league. With the team out of the playoff hunt, they may start to slide more snaps away from Antonio Gates and over to Henry.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 16: vs. NYG): The Giants' defense has really been coming on strong of late. They're up to 3rd in pass defense DVOA for the season, and they've allowed 13 fantasy points total in back-to-back games against NFL MVP candidates (Dak & Stafford). Wentz has topped 12 fantasy points just twice in his past 11 games, and I really don't like his chances to make it 3-of-12. He's a bottom-of-the-barrel QB2 option this week.
QB Jared Goff, LA (Wk. 16: vs. SF): Goff suffered a concussion last Thursday on a vicious hit from Richard Sherman, but he's practicing in full Tuesday and seems likely to play. Even if he does, he hasn't shown enough to warrant consideration this week even in 2QB leagues despite the excellent matchup. In 5 starts, Goff has totaled 42 fantasy points, and 18 of them were scored in one half against the Saints. That's certainly not a track record you want to trust in the championship, and you should aim for more upside from a cheap DFS play.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 16: @KC): Kansas City has been gashed on the ground in their past 4 games, giving up 488 rushing yards and 5 TDs to opposing backs, but Booker's role has mostly evaporated since the team signed Justin Forsett due to Booker's inefficiency as the starter. He was out-snapped and out-touched by Forsett last week, and he's totaled just 83 scrimmage yards and 1 TD in the last 3 games combined. I wouldn't feel comfortable running him out there in a championship this week.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 16: @Dal.): This is a pretty easy call this week. Theo Riddick should be back, and Washington hasn't really produced the way you'd hope with an increased workload while Riddick was out (114 scrimmage yards and no TDs on 33 touches over the past 2 games). Also, the Cowboys allow the fewest rushing attempts in the league. No thanks on Washington this week.
RB Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 16: vs. Ind.): The Colts are actually a favorable matchup for Richard, and Latavius Murray did fumble twice last week, but Jalen's upside is suddenly capped again by the re-appearance of DeAndre Washington. Washington was a healthy scratch for the previous 3 games, but got back out there in week 15. Richard still tallied 10 touches to Washington's 6, but as we saw in the early part of the year the duo pretty much cancel each other out. You're pretty much hoping for a fluky touchdown to play either.
WR Corey Coleman, CLE (Wk. 16: vs. SD): I love Coleman's talent, and I keep waiting patiently for his breakout game, but the Browns' quarterback play has killed his upside. He's scored more than 4 fantasy points just once in 6 games since returning from his hand injury, and the Chargers allow the 10th-fewest points to opposing WRs. Hopefully the Browns are able to find someone this offseason that can get the ball in Coleman's hands more effectively.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 16: @Jax.): Tajae has just 4 catches for 21 yards total over his past 3 games, and the Jaguars allow the 6th-fewest fantasy points per game to opposing WRs. Look elsewhere this week.
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 16: @Hou.): It sounds like AJ Green will be back this week, and Boyd proved to be a low-ceiling option even while Green was out. The team went with a much more run-heavy attack, and the volume just wasn't there for him. I'd expect even less opportunity for him with AJ back out there. Anything over 40 yards against the stingy Texans' defense should be considered a win for Boyd.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL (Wk. 16: @Car.): Of course you probably weren't considering Hooper for your fantasy championship game this week, but I just wanted to point out that I don't like him as a DFS punt option either. I pushed him as a sleeper a week ago, and he did find the end zone, but left the game with a knee injury after that one 9-yard scoring catch. He may play this week, but expecting a TD 2 weeks in a row from Hooper is playing with fire, even though the Panthers allow the 2nd-most TE points in the league.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Kenneth Farrow, SD (Wk. 16: @Cle.): Farrow showed that he wasn't yet ready for prime time last week against the Raiders, but the Browns have just about packed it in for the season. Cleveland has allowed 140+ rushing yards to opposing backs in 6 of their past 8 games, and mulitple TDs in 4 of them. Melvin Gordon still isn't practicing as of Tuesday. If he sits, Farrow would be an intriguing flex option in deeper leagues and a decent DFS tournament play, even if he splits the work with Ronnie Hillman a little more evenly.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 16: @Phi.): Perkins has been running more effectively than Jennings lately, and he's starting to get more work as a result. Jennings hasn't really been losing carries, but Perkins has been gaining some. Here are the carry totals Jennings has seen in the past 4 weeks: 15, 6, 15, 18, and here are his yards per carry in those 4 games: 3.7, 3.1, 3.0, 2.1. Here are those same numbers for Perkins: 9, 7, 15, 11 and 3.2, 5.4, 3.0, 5.1. I'd expect the trend to continue, and there is an opportunity for some success against the Eagles. Philly ranks 15th in run defense DVOA and has allowed 6 rushing scores to opposing backs in the past 5 games. Perkins and Jennings are likely to have close to an even split of the work, and Perkins is running better than Jennings and costs $1,200 less than him in Draft Kings ($3,200 to $4,400). At that price, I really like him as a steal in GPP tournaments.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 16: vs. Cin.): Fuller has probably killed you at some point this year if you owned him. His season fell apart quickly after a strong first 4 weeks. Since the end of week 4, he hasn't scored a single touchdown or topped 60 receiving yards. Tom Savage may be coming to the rescue. The Bengals allow the 4th-fewest WR points, but they rank just 23rd in pass defense DVOA on throws to number 2 wide receivers. If Savage is able to give Fuller new life and get the ball to him more effectively than the Brockweiler, he'll be a steal at his $3,900 Draft Kings price tag.
That's all I've got for this week. I'll be back with a quick rundown for week 17 for anyone who has games left next week. Week 17 is always a crapshoot as you try and figure out which players are going to be rested, but I'll do my best. Keep a close eye on the injury report to see what happens with guys like Melvin Gordon, AJ Green and Bryce Petty since it will make a difference on the outlooks of the guys above. Feel free to hit me up on twitter if you have any specific questions or you want to yell at me about anything written this week (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.