Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’ve got another week of data on this rookie crop, so we’re starting to get a better idea of who these guys are. Hopefully all of your teams are off to 2-0 starts, but obviously not everyone’s is. The key if you’ve started 0-2 is not to panic (unless you’re the Bengals). Be patient with your stud players. I’m looking at you owners of OBJ, Le’Veon Bell, Isaiah Crowell, Kirk Cousins, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Eifert. Speaking of Tyler Eifert & the Bengals, they did in fact panic after an 0-2 start, and have replaced their offensive coordinator with former Dolphins’ OC Bill Lazor. Hopefully this can jump-start the offense and help Eifert and Joe Mixon get going. Of course Mixon needs to get on the field more for that to happen. Let’s dive in and take a look at what to expect in week 3…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 3: @LAC): You have to play Kareem Hunt. He’s the number one scoring running back so far by a wide margin, and this week he faces a defense that just allowed 122 yards rushing to Jay Ajayi last weekend. Hunt is decidedly a different style runner than Ajayi, but he should have success running in this matchup. TD regression is coming at some point for Hunt, but he should be a locked in RB1 in your lineups right now.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 3: vs. NO): McCaffrey hasn’t gotten off to the start that most fantasy owners had hoped he would, ranking as the RB27 in PPR leagues so far. His usage has been strong, but he hasn’t made any of the spectacular plays we were used to from him at Stanford. Things should get better this week. New Orleans hasn’t shown they can cover anyone. They’ve allowed 92.5 receiving yards per game to opposing RBs, and CMC should see extra passing game targets with Greg Olsen out. This game is a real opportunity for McCaffrey to blow up. He should be at least a solid RB2 with week-winning upside if things go his way.
RB Dalvin Cook, MIN (Wk. 3: vs. TB): Cook managed a surprisingly solid 5.3 yards per carry against a normally stout Steelers front despite having Case Keenum under center. The Steelers were without Stephon Tuitt on their defensive line, but it was impressive from Cook nonetheless. His fantasy totals weren’t inspiring since he saw just 12 carries in a lopsided loss and he was vultured at the goal line by CJ Ham, but his performance showed that he can succeed against good defenses. Tampa isn’t quite as stingy as Pittsburgh typically is, and it sounds like there is a good chance that Sam Bradford will return in this one. Even if Bradford is out, Cook should put up RB2 numbers.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 3: vs. Bal.): Fournette faces a tough matchup this week, so he’s more of a volume RB2, but with a score each week so far he should be in your lineup. The Ravens allowed the 6th-fewest RB fantasy points last year, and the 11th-fewest so far in 2017, but Fournette has seen 40 carries and 8 targets already. As long as the volume keeps up, and it should, Leonard should be able to post a respectable line again.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 3: @Ind.): Kizer is a borderline option in 2-QB leagues this week, and is an interesting DFS tournament play with a meager $5,000 cost on DraftKings. The Colts have allowed over 300 passing yards in each of their first two games with top corner Vontae Davis sidelined, to Jared Goff and Carson Palmer. If Davis is out again, Kizer makes for an interesting play now that he has found a trusted possession receiver in Rashard Higgins. The Colts have stifled the running game, allowing just 2.73 yards per carry and have forced teams to throw instead. The throwing has worked out pretty well for those teams. I don’t know that I’d expect 300 passing yards out of Kizer, but I think he’ll post his best yardage total to date, and his rushing skill gives him an added boost. He’s worth considering if you are struggling for a second QB this week.
RB Chris Carson, SEA (Wk. 3: @Ten.): Carson put the Seahawks on his back in week 2, and may have earned the starting RB job in the process. The Titans’ run defense isn’t an easy matchup this week. They allowed the 2nd-fewest RB points in the league last year, and although they are off to a slower start in 2017 they held the Jacksonville running backs to 3.3 yards per carry. In addition to the tough matchup, there is always the chance that Rawls plays more as he gets healthier, and Carson was barely used in the passing game with Prosise around to handle 3rd down work. I see Carson as a risky flex play this week, but one with big upside if the game script is in Seattle’s favor.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 3: vs. Pit.): As I mentioned with Dalvin Cook above, the Steelers’ defense has been pretty stout against opposing runners, but they have been susceptible to receiving yards out of the backfield. Pittsburgh allowed the 4th-most RB receiving yardage and the 13th-most receptions to the position a year ago. This is a matchup that already favors Cohen over his backfield mate Jordan Howard, and Howard is battling a shoulder injury that had him in a sling after their last game. The rookie’s usage has been outstanding through 2 weeks, with 12 rush attempts and 16 catches on 21 targets. He should be a strong PPR flex option once again.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 3: @SF): Kupp saw the same 6 targets in week 2 that he did in week 1, but he did quite a bit less with them. I got ahead of myself by calling him a ‘Rookie to Start’ last week. He gets another solid matchup this week, but I won’t make the mistake of going all in on him this time. The 49ers have been improved against WRs so far compared to 2016, but they’ve still been in the bottom half of the league against the position. Kupp should see another 6-7 targets, which puts him firmly on the flex radar again, especially in PPR leagues. Give him a slight bump up if both 49ers safties are out.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 3: vs. Atl.): Golladay is going to remain a boom-or-bust option for the time being, and he’s shown both extremes through 2 weeks. Atlanta has a talented secondary and has allowed just 4 completions of 20+ yards so far this season, but they did struggle to contain Green Bay’s wide receivers late in their win over the Packers. What you do with Golladay depends on what your other options are, but he’s a volatile flex play for deeper leagues.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 3: @Phi.): He’s in the concussion protocol at the moment, so there’s a chance he doesn’t play this week, but most updates I’ve seen are suggesting he’ll be able to go. He’ll likely need a TD to return real value as a streaming TE, and the Eagles had allowed just 4 TE touchdowns in their last 17 games before being shredded by Zeus last Sunday. Engram has some appeal as a streamer in deeper PPR leagues, as 4-40 seems like something he can keep putting up, especially if Brandon Marshall continues to struggle. The Giants’ protection issues are making it hard for Eli to throw anything down the field, so Engram will continue to make his living on shorter catches. Engram is a borderline top-15 option this week.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 3: @NE): Even against New England’s defense, which has allowed 362 passing yards per game so far, Watson would be a shaky QB2 option. He salvaged his fantasy day last week with a 50-yard TD run, but plays like that are pretty fluky, and Bill Belichick knows how to gamplan for rookie QBs. In the last 10 games the Patriots have played against a rookie QB, New England is 9-1 and has allowed just 8 total TDs to those rookie signal callers.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 3: @GB): While it was nice to see Mixon actually outperform Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard in week 2, the timeshare continues to hamper his upside. He could be worth a dart throw in GPP daily tournaments after seeing what Atlanta’s backs did to Green Bay (145 scrimmage yards and 3 TDs), but the Cincy offense hasn’t been anywhere near as effective as Atlanta’s. The Bengals did swap offensive coordinators this week, promoting QB coach Bill Lazor to the OC position. Hopefully Lazor will start to get Mixon more involved, but in his initial media session after getting the promotion, he didn’t really clarify what his plans were for the RB position. He said that he hadn’t done a 3-back committee before, “but that’s where we’ve been so far.” I’ll need to see Lazor actually increase Mixon’s role in a game before I trust him in season-long leagues.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 3: @NE): Foreman saw a decent workload last week, but week 3 may be a different story. Houston was able to pound the ball on the ground thanks to the stagnant Bengals’ offense keeping the game close. The Texans are likely to be playing from much further behind this week going to New England. If Houston is in catch-up mode, it should be mostly Lamar Miller and a little Tyler Ervin sprinkled in. Foreman offers nothing in the passing game. If you play D’Onta, you’re counting on a TD that is unlikely to come.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 3: vs. Oak.): This outlook could change if Rob Kelly has a setback or winds up missing the game Sunday, but if Kelley plays you’d have to expect ‘Fat Rob’ to start. The Raiders are vulnerable against the run, so Perine becomes a flex play option if Kelley sits. He’s a worse option in PPR leagues than in standard, since he offers little in the passing game. Oakland allowed the 9th-most RB points last season, and the 6th-most rushing yards, and they just allowed the lowly Jets’ running backs to post 95 yards on 21 carries (4.5 ypc). If Kelley is a go, Perine likely won’t see enough work to be started.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 3: vs. Cle.): The Browns may look like a good matchup on paper, but Mack is still working well behind Frank Gore, and a Brissett-led offense is unlikely to make this game a blowout win where he’ll get garbage time run. Gore out-touched Mack 14-7 last week and out-gained him 46-8. Outside of a 24-yard carry in week one, Mack has a total of 15 carries for negative-3 yards.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 3: vs. Mia.): You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but even though the Jets have claimed that this will be a 3-man committee going forward, Elijah McGuire is not someone you should be considering for your fantasy lineup. The offense is a mess for the Jets so far, and a 6th-round rookie RB isn’t going to be the guy to jump start it.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 3: vs. Sea.): This is an easy decision now that Davis has been ruled out with a hamstring issue. I likely would have recommended you to sit him against the Legion of Boom even if he were going to play.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 3: @Chi.): JJSS played 51% of the Steelers’ offensive snaps in week 2, but saw just 4 targets and gained only 16 yards. The TD was nice, but it’s not something to expect every week based on his usage up to this point. He has received 2-of-8 red zone targets that Ben has dished out so far, so he may find some stray TDs here or there, but the weekly chances aren’t great and he won’t put up enough yardage to buoy his point totals whether it’s in a season-long league or DFS. The Steelers are also likely to lean on the run game in this one as a 7.5-point road favorite. Steer clear.
WR John Ross, CIN (Wk. 3: @GB): Ross finally got on the field last week, but was given just one touch, a rushing attempt. Green Bay’s secondary is beatable, allowing the most WR points in the NFL a year ago, but Cincinnati’s offense just hasn’t gotten anything going on offense to make you think they’ll take full advantage here. Ross hasn’t been involved enough so far to use anywhere. Hopefully Lazor gets him more involved, but you should avoid Ross for now.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 3: vs. Den.): The last thing Zay Jones needed after opening the season with a 3-39 line on 10 targets in the first two weeks was a meeting with Denver’s corners. That’s exactly what he’ll get this week. There’s no reason to use Zay in any format against the best CB group in the league.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 3: @Ind.): The Colts have allowed 60+ yards per week to TEs so far, but have also allowed just 3 receptions per week to them. Njoku is still only playing about half of the offensive snaps and is splitting work with Seth DeValve, who seems the more likely Browns’ TE to get hit with a deep ball after posting a 49-yard catch last week. Njoku is a TD dart throw this week, and there are better options available. He won’t see enough volume to be a punt play in DFS tournaments either.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 3: @Min.): Howard ran just 11 pass routes last week despite playing more snaps than Cameron Brate, who ran 22 pass routes. He played more because the game script called for a lot of running, and Howard is the superior blocker. The volume simply isn’t going to be there for Howard early on this year if they are going to use him as blocker this much.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 3: @SF): Everett has made a big impact every time the ball is thrown his way, posting 4 catches for 134 yards on just 4 targets so far, but he’s still being more than doubled in snap count by teammate Tyler Higbee, and he’s battling through a thigh injury. To make matters worse for him, the 49ers have been much improved so far against tight ends this year, holding Greg Olsen to 2-18 and Jimmy Graham to 1-1. That’s right…3 catches for 19 yards between two of the best tight ends in the game. There will be better spots to take a shot on Everett.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 3: vs. LAR): Kittle rarely leaves the field, but he’s seen just 8 targets through 2 games and is dealing with a couple of injuries. He also faces a Rams’ defense that ranked 6th against tight ends last year, and hasn’t allowed a TD to the position yet this year. There’s not enough upside to try him in DFS, and too much downside to try him in season-long leagues.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 3: @Car.): Kamara is probably a better option for DFS tournaments than for season-long leagues this week. The Panthers ranked 7th last year in limiting RB fantasy points, and 5th so far this year, but they allowed the 3rd-most RB catches in ’16 and are tied for 4th-most allowed so far this year. Kamara is the best receiving back the Saints have, and they are a 5.5-point underdog on the road. I’d expect Alvin to get a lot of run, and likely catch 6+ passes. He’s been targeted 13 times in the first 2 weeks.
WR Taywan Taylor, TEN (Wk. 3: vs. Sea.): With Corey Davis sidelined by a hamstring issue, I’d expect Taywan Taylor to be the guy who benefits the most in terms of playing time. In week 2, it was Jonnu Smith who benefitted from Davis’s injury, playing 37 offensive snaps and scoring his first career TD, but the Titans were playing from ahead all day. I’d expect Taywan to play a bunch this week. Some are speculating that it will be Eric Decker in the slot and Taywan outside since Decker played there a lot in New York, but Taywan spent more time in the slot in camp while Davis was out. The reason this matters is because the Seahawks’ weak link in the secondary is slot corner Jeremy Lane. Whoever gets to face off with him will be the best matchup the Titans have in the passing game. If that guy is Taywan, he would be in line for a strong day. He’s a sneaky DFS tournament punt play.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 3: vs. NO): Samuel saw his first targets of the year in week 2, and with Olsen hurt, it’s likely he becomes a bigger part of the offense. The Saints’ pass defense has been abysmal, and Samuel has a trait that Funchess and Kelvin Benjamin lack…speed. There’s a real chance he gets behind the defense for a big play or two. With just 3 targets on the year, he’s probably not to be trusted as anything more than a DFS punt play, but he costs just the minimum in DraftKings and has some nice upside.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 3: vs. Sea.): As spelled out in the Taywan Taylor description above, I’m not really on Jonnu for this week. Sure, he could find another TD, but Seattle is stingy to tight ends. I list him here because I think he’s a great dynasty league stash at this point. Delanie Walker is 33 years old, and has just one more year left on his contract. Jonnu is quickly earning the coaching staff’s trust with offensive snap percentages of 38% and 54% in the first two weeks. He’s also looked every bit the part of Walker’s heir apparent. I think he has a chance to be a really good player, and is in an ascending offense with Mariota, Derrick Henry, Corey Davis and Taywan Taylor around. Stash him if you can.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with some of your tougher lineup decisions. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury report all week and check back before kickoffs to see if there are any surprise inactives. If you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything included above, feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.