Welcome back to the Rookie Report! More than likely, your fantasy season is over at this point, but there are still some leagues out there with playoffs that run through week 17, or have a 2-week championship matchup, and there are certainly still DFS games this week. Week 17 is always a tricky one because several teams have nothing to gain by playing their starters, and automatically playing your studs might not always make sense. With that in mind, this week's report will have a little bit of a different layout. I'll take a detailed look at what to do with the rookies who should have their normal role this week, I'll touch quickly on some rookies who should be avoided due to rest and some who should just be avoided in general, and then I'll look at a few less heralded rooks who could make good cheap DFS options this week. Let's take a look...
Rookies Worth Considering:
QB Carson Wentz, PHI (Wk. 17: vs. Dal.): Wentz has been a pretty poor fantasy option for much of the season, putting up a pretty weak 8-14 TD-INT ratio over the past 12 games. Still, he won't have much of a running game to work with since Ryan Mathews and Kenjon Barner were just added to IR this week, so he should be throwing plenty. The Cowboys rank just 19th in Football Outsiders' pass defense DVOA stat, which measures efficiency, and they are likely to be sitting many of their starters. Wentz has a chance at a nice day and could be a pretty good QB2 if you are desperate to replace Dak, Eli, or Big Ben.
RB Jordan Howard, CHI (Wk. 17: @Min.): Howard's put up 99 scrimmage yards or more in 8 straight contests, and he's run for a robust 6.15 yards per carry over the past 3 weeks. There is no reason the Bears won't lean on him again this week, and he should have success. The Vikings rank a middling 15th in run defense DVOA and let Howard go off for 202 scrimmage yards and a TD in the first meeting. Howard should be trusted once again.
RB Rob Kelley, WAS (Wk. 17: vs. NYG): This is a must-win game for Washington and the Giants will be sitting a lot of their starters. New York ranks a daunting 4th in run defense DVOA this year, but I would throw that out the window this week. Kelley will almost certainly see at least 15 carries and is a good bet for a TD. It also helps that he's been more involved in the passing game lately, with twice as many catches in the past 3 weeks (8) as he had in the rest of the season prior. With several stud backs resting, Kelley could be close to an RB1 this week.
RB Kenneth Dixon, BAL (Wk. 17: @Cin.): Dixon's outlook this week is about the same as it's been for much of the past month or 2. He's likely to end up in the 6-8 point range barring an unexpected touchdown (all point totals are in ESPN standard scoring) That range is usable, but probably not what you would hope for. He's been running pretty well lately, but he's still splitting work with Terrance West and the Bengals have allowed the 4th-fewest RB points per game over the past 5 weeks. He’s in play as a flex option, but not much more.
RB Devontae Booker, DEN (Wk. 17: vs. Oak.): Booker did finally get back to over 50% of the snaps played last week and saw 10 targets in the passing game, but he's totaled just 115 scrimmage yards in 3 games since the team signed Justin Forsett. The biggest reason Devontae received so many targets last week was because the team played from multiple scores down. I wouldn't expect that to happen against the Matt McGloin-led Raiders, and Oakland has allowed just 10 fantasy points per game to opposing RBs in the past 3 weeks. Booker is just too hard to trust in anything but really deep leagues while he’s splitting work with Forsett in one of the least effective rushing attacks in the league.
WR Michael Thomas, NO (Wk. 17: @Atl): There is no reason for the Saints to hold back this week. Thomas has seen at least 5 targets and at least 40 receiving yards in every game he’s played this year, and he gets a plus matchup with Atlanta. The Falcons rank 24th in pass defense DVOA and haven’t faced a competent passing attack in a month (Last 3 opponents: LA, SF, Carolina). Thomas should be a strong option this week and a high-floor WR2.
WR Tyreek Hill, KC (Wk. 17: @SD): Hill should be a boom-or-bust option again this week thanks to limited volume, but he’s boomed in 4 of his last 5 games, including the last two in which he didn’t catch a single pass. SD isn’t a great matchup for him…they allow the 8th-fewest WR fantasy points and have allowed just 7 pass plays of 40+ yards and just one run of 40+ on the year. Hill has thrived on long TDs. More than half of his rushing and receiving scores have gone for 34 yards or more, but he’s also had two strong performances against the Broncos, who are the #1 defense in the league vs. WRs. The Chiefs need to win and Hill is their best playmaker, so he could be worth a roll of the dice yet again. Just know there is some risk as always.
WR Sterling Shepard, NYG (Wk. 17: @Was.): Shepard could be a little dicey this week with the Giants locked into the 5-seed in the NFC, but they typically only dress 5 or 6 WRs, and they play more 3-WR sets than any team in the league. I think the Giants are more likely to rest OBJ and Victor Cruz than Shepard. I can’t imagine that the Giants would spend the majority of the game with Tavarres King, Dwayne Harris and Roger Lewis as their receivers in 3-wide sets. Sterling has found the end zone in 6 of the last 8 games and put up his highest yardage total since week 3 in his last one. He’s right on the WR3 borderline for me this week.
WR Corey Coleman, CLE (Wk. 17: @Pit.): I’d probably avoid Coleman this week, but I mention him here because he should still see some volume. His two biggest yardage totals of the season were in weeks 1 & 2, and he’s averaged just 28.6 yards per game since returning from a broken hand in week 9. Still, he’s seen at least 4 targets in each game since his return (with an average of 7.3 per game), so he remains in play as a blindfolded dart throw in DFS.
TE Hunter Henry, SD (Wk. 17: vs. KC): Henry’s dynasty outlook may have taken a hit this week when Antonio Gates hinted that he’s likely to return next season, but his outlook for week 17 might have gotten a little better. Gates needs just 2 TDs to set the NFL record for receiving touchdowns by a tight end, and the Chargers were likely to try to get him those scores if this was going to be his last game. Since it likely isn’t, there is a chance Henry gets some of the targets in the red zone. He’s still not much more than a TD dart throw against a defense that has allowed just 2 TE scores all year, but crazy things happen in week 17.
Rookies to Avoid Because They've Clinched:
QB Dak Prescott, DAL (Wk. 17: @Phi.): The Cowboys have nothing to play for this week with the top seed in the NFC sewn up. Dak will likely play a few series to keep fresh, but with the news that Mark Sanchez will be active, I would expect the Sanchize to play more than half of the game.
RB Ezekiel Elliott, DAL (Wk. 17: @Phi.): Like Dak, Zeke should also have a short day. If you have Zeke, pick up Darren McFadden if he's available. He should play the majority of the snaps.
RB Paul Perkins, NYG (Wk. 17: @Was.): Perkins has become a pretty big part of the Giants' offense of late with 41 carries in the past 3 games. I'm not sure how the G-Men will divvy up the backfield touches this week, but my best guess is they will use a ton of Bobby Rainey to keep Perkins and Rashad Jennings healthy.
WR Will Fuller, HOU (Wk. 17: @Ten.): You could argue that the Texans will want their receivers to work on their rapport and timing with new starting QB Tom Savage, but I think they will want to make sure Fuller is healthy. Bill O'Brien on Thursday called Fuller one of the team's best route runners, and he mentioned that injuries are what sapped his productivity. With that in mind and nothing to gain with a win this week, I'd expect a limited amount of Fuller to ensure he's at full strength for the Wild Card weekend.
Other Rookies to Avoid:
QB Jared Goff, LA (Wk. 17: vs. Ari.): You know better than to play Goff.
QB Cody Kessler, CLE (Wk. 17: @Pit.): It was looking as though Kessler would get the nod, but RG3 was cleared from the concussion he suffered last weekend and will get the start.
QB Paxton Lynch, DEN (Wk. 17: vs. Oak.): The Broncos announced that both Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch would see some action in week 17, which makes both useless in DFS or any other formats.
RB Dwayne Washington, DET (Wk. 17: vs. GB): It looks like Theo Riddick is likely to sit again this week, but Dwayne has had just one useful week since scoring a TD in week one. It's ugly out there at RB this week, but there are better risks to take than expecting Washington to put up his best game of the year.
RB Derrick Henry, TEN (Wk. 17: vs. Hou.): With Matt Cassel under center, the Texans should stack the box to stop the run, and there is no telling if Henry will see extra work now that the Titans are out of the playoff hunt. He played just 24% of the snaps last week and saw just 4 carries, and he also carries a price tag of $4,900 in DraftKings this week, which just isn't worth the risk.
RB Kenyan Drake, MIA (Wk. 17: vs. NE): Drake put up 56 yards and a TD last weekend, but he did so on just 4 touches, and the Dolphins still have the ability to move up to the 5-seed in the AFC. That would mean they’d draw the Texans rather than the Steelers, so they should be trying to win. That also means they’ll use a lot of Jay Ajayi. Don't chase last week's points, despite the OC’s comments that Drake “warrants more in the gameplan.”
WR Tyler Boyd, CIN (Wk. 17: vs. Bal.): Boyd’s production has dropped off precipitously after a quick spike when AJ Green got hurt. He averaged a line of 5-60.7-0.3 on 7.7 targets per game in the first 3 games that Green was out, but that has dropped to 3.3-29-0 on 4.3 targets in the 3 games since. There's been no sign that his target share will suddenly go back up this week.
WR Tajae Sharpe, TEN (Wk. 17: vs. Hou.): Matt Cassel should sap any upside that Sharpe has in week 17. He did see 8 targets last week and still posted just a 3-43 line. You should probably steer clear.
WR Malcolm Mitchell, NE (Wk. 17: @Mia.): Mitchell has yet to practice yet this week after banging up his knee against the Jets last weekend. Even if he is able to suit up I'd expect him to play limited snaps. Look for Michael Floyd to get his first extended look as a Patriot. As of Friday, Mitchell is listed as doubtful.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ (Wk. 17: vs. Buf.): With Bryce Petty on IR, Anderson is pretty much unusable. A huge portion of his production came with Petty at the helm. Charone Peake may have some extra upside this week, but the Jets' passing attack is one to avoid in general in week 17.
TE Austin Hooper, ATL (Wk. 17: vs. NO): Hooper is banged up this week and not practicing as of Thursday. It's a plus matchup, but I'd be surprised if Hooper does much this week. The Falcons signed an extra tight end off their practice squad this week, which doesn't bode well for Hooper's status.
TE Tyler Higbee, LA (Wk. 17: vs. Ari.): Higbee scored a TD last week, but he's put up just 85 yards on 29 targets for the season. Over the past few weeks, his role has been increasing, but it's led to 6 catches for 44 yards and a TD on 11 targets in the past 4 games.
Cheap DFS Sleepers:
RBs DeAndre Washingon & Jalen Richard, OAK (Wk. 17: @Den.): The best way to attack the Broncos’ defense is with the rushing attack, and Latavius Murray has seen his workload shrink quickly in the past couple of weeks with Washington active again. Denver ranks first in pass defense DVOA, but 26th in run defense DVOA. In week 16, Murray played just 41% of the offensive snaps and handled 17 touches while Washington (33%, 13) and Richard (20%, 9) split the rest and both of them turned in a productive day. The pair of backups combined for 196 scrimmage yards and 3 touchdowns. Each will cost less than $4,000 in DraftKings while Murray will cost $5,200. I’d rather take my chances with one of the backups than try Latavius in DFS this week. I’d lean toward Washington with Richard limited at practice this week with a shoulder injury.
RB Alex Collins, SEA (Wk. 17: @SF): It looks like Thomas Rawls will play this week, but I’d be surprised if he gets more carries than Collins as he fights through a shoulder injury. The Seahawks will need a healthy Rawls if they want to win in the playoffs, and they should be able to beat the 49ers and still limit his workload. The 49ers rank a miserable 29th in run defense DVOA, and have allowed 4 more RB fantasy points per game than any other team this year. Collins should see a nice share of the workload, and costs a reasonable $4,600 on DraftKings. He should be a popular play in GPP tournaments, and for good reason.
WR Cody Core, CIN (Wk. 17: vs. Bal.): Core costs the minimum in DraftKings this week, and he was targeted a whopping 14 times last week with AJ Green and Tyler Eifert out. He’s also started in each of the past 3 games. The final stat line wasn’t great last week with 8-39-0 on those 14 targets, but the PPR scoring format of DraftKings makes all those targets valuable. He should be heavily targeted again this week, and the Ravens allow the 9th-most WR fantasy points per game. He’s an enticing punt option this week.
WR Roger Lewis, NYG (Wk. 17: @Was.): Like Core, Lewis costs the minimum in DraftKings, and as mentioned above, the Giants should be resting their starters quite a bit. Josh Johnson will likely play some at QB, and he and Lewis should show a 2nd team connection. Washington is a 7.5-point favorite, so the Giants should be throwing a lot. Washington also ranks just 25th in pass defense DVOA. The volume is less certain with Lewis than it is with Core, but his targets should be farther downfield as well. Both are interesting options in GPP contests.
WR Geronimo Allison, GB (Wk. 17: @Det.): This will undoubtedly feel like chasing last week’s production after Allison put up 4-66 on 7 targets, but Allison will have an opportunity again if Randall Cobb is out Sunday night. The Lions are best attacked through the air, and they rank dead last in pass defense DVOA on throws to WRs other than the number 1 & 2 on the opposing team. Darius Slay should return and would be matched up with Jordy Nelson, which could create additional looks for Davante Adams and Allison. Adams has been more productive this year, but he costs $5,700 in DraftKings while Allison costs just $3,000. You can avoid Geronimo if Randall Cobb plays, but he’ll have great upside for a minimum priced option if Cobb sits again.
That's all I've got for this season. Hopefully the breakdowns I've posted weekly have helped you get through some tough rookie decisions throughout the year and helped you to victory more often than not. Feel free to give me a hard time about anything written above via twitter (@Shawn_Foss). Week 17 is always wacky, so I expect to be wrong about more than I get right. Thanks for reading, and as always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It's just a game.