Welcome back to the Rookie Report! The chaos of week 3 seemed to spill over into week 4 as we were treated to another round of surprise results. The primetime games all seemed to go according to plan, but the morning and afternoon games on Sunday were chock full of surprises again. The Dolphins were shellacked again as Alvin Kamara piled up 10 catches. Buffalo stunned the Falcons. Deshaun Watson and the Texans dropped over 50 points on the Titans. The “tanking” Jets pulled off their second win in as many weeks, and the Rams upended the Cowboys as Cooper Kupp got into the end zone for the 2nd time this year. There were plenty of impressive rookie performances, from Watson to Kupp to Kamara to Elijah McGuire, and the rookies will get even more important as the bye weeks get started. This week will be a little trickier to set lineups with Washington, New Orleans, Denver and Atlanta taking the week off. Let’s take a look at what to do with the rookies on your rosters and see if any of them can help fill in for those starters on byes…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 5: @Hou.):The Texans allow just the 3rd-fewest fantasy points per game (all stats in PPR scoring unless otherwise noted), so this may not be the best week to fire up Hunt in DFS lineups, but he’s a must-start in season-long leagues. He had his worst fantasy game of the year on Monday night, and still topped 100 rushing yards and ended up the RB17 for the week. You simply can’t sit him regardless of matchup right now.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 5: @Pit.): Fournette has scored a TD and logged at least 16 touches and 61 scrimmage yards in every game so far, and the Steelers’ run defense has had some cracks this season. They’ve allowed 5.61 yards per carry to opposing backs over the past 3 weeks and have allowed the 9th-most RB points per game for the season. Fournette should be penciled in as an RB1 once again.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 5: @Dal.): This status only applies if Ty Montgomery sits as expected. Jamaal Williams is expected to miss this game as well, and that would mean Jones has the backfield pretty much to himself. The Cowboys allow the 7th-most RB points per game, and the 3rd-most RB receiving yards per game. While Jones hasn’t flashed much receiving ability at the NFL level, he did put up 646 receiving yards in his college career at UTEP. With the byes and injuries going on right now, Jones should be a solid RB2 if TyMo and Williams are both sidelined.
QB DeShaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 5: vs. KC):Watson has dazzled in his last two starts for the Texans. He gets a tougher matchup this week against a Chiefs team that has allowed just 7.1 QB points per game on the road (vs. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers). There is some reason for optimism though. Kansas City has allowed the 8th-most passing yards per game and the 2nd-most QB rushing yards per game so far. There’s certainly risk that Watson turns into a pumpkin this week, but he’s easily the highest-upside streamer that’s likely to be available in most leagues. He’s a borderline QB1 option this week.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. NYJ):Don’t overreact when you see Kizer and Watson listed in the same section. Watson is a borderline option in standard leagues this week…Kizer is more of a borderline option in 2-QB leagues. With 4 teams on bye (3 with a top-10 fantasy QB), almost all of the starting QBs are in play in the 2-QB format. Kizer has been up and down so far this year with 2 games at 18 points or more scored, and two games under 4 points. The Jets have looked pretty good over the past 2 weeks at home after scuffling in 2 road games to start the year. There is some hope that with this game in Cleveland that the Jets return to their struggling ways, but I doubt that happens. The floor for Kizer is helped by the fact that the Jets allowed both mobile QBs they’ve faced, Blake Bortles and Tyrod Taylor, to rush for over 35 yards, but it’s still pretty a pretty low floor For DeShone. There’s always the chance that Hue Jackson benches him mid-game for Kevin Hogan again. Kizer is a boom-or-bust streaming option for 2-QB leagues.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 5: vs. Buf.):Sub-par O-line play has made it hard for Mixon to really get going, but his usage has been promising. Mixon only played on 48% of the offensive snaps in week 4, but he touched the ball 21 times on 31 snaps played. The Bills’ run defense is tough, but it isn’t impenetrable. They were ranked 9th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat through week 3, and then they allowed the Falcons’ RBs to rush for over 5 yards per carry. The Falcons’ rushing attack has been much more efficient than the Bengals’ this year, but Mixon remains in play as an RB2/flex option that carries a bit of risk. If he sees 20+ touches again, he should return better value than he did a week ago.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 5: @Det.):McCaffrey was a big letdown in a good spot last weekend. He posted just 8.9 PPR points on 10 touches against a Patriots defense that had been bleeding receiving points to running backs. For the season, he’s just the RB20 in PPR scoring and has finished higher than the RB24 just once in an individual week. The Lions are just a middling running back defense, but it’s hard to trust CMC as more than a lower end PPR RB2/flex play, even with the byes this week. He’s always a threat to have a blow-up week with his talent, but he’s had just one play all year that went for more than 16 yards.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 5: vs. Min.):Cohen clings to the borderline this week in PPR formats due to byes/injuries, but this is probably not a great spot to use him. For starters, there’s the uncertainty of how much his role will change with Mitch Trubisky at QB. He’s averaged 7 targets a game with Glennon at QB, and there’s no guarantee that holds up with Mitch. There’s also the fact that the Vikings run defense has been excellent so far, even after allowing 94 yards and a TD to Ameer Abdullah last weekend. They’ve allowed the 3rd-fewest rushing yards, the 4th-fewest yards per carry, and the 2nd-fewest RB fantasy points per game. While Cohen thrives on passing game work as much as rushing, the Vikes have allowed the 5th-fewest RB catches per game as well. Cohen’s game-breaking ability could help him overcome the tough matchup, but everything seems stacked against him this week. I’d only play him if you have to.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 5: vs. Sea.):Kupp has seen 6 or 7 targets in 3 of the first 4 games of the year. The Seahawks are more susceptible to slot WRs than perimeter guys, especially with normal slot corner Jeremy Lane out. Kupp should see mostly New England castoff Justin Coleman’s coverage in this one. The Seahawks’ vaunted Legion of Boom secondary has struggled away from C-Link Field so far this year, allowing 39.6 PPR points per game to opposing WRs on the road. Kupp should be a reasonable WR3 option in PPR again despite the Seahawks’ defensive reputation.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 5: vs. LAC):The Chargers have allowed the 7th-fewest points per game to opposing TEs, and held Travis Kelce to 1 catch for 1 yard in week 3, but Engram just keeps putting up borderline TE1 weeks. Through 4 games, he’s ranked as the TE14, TE9, TE14, and TE8. If you need a streamer to replace Jordan Reed this week, Engram is probably the best option you’re going to find if available.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 5: vs. Min.):It was nice of the Bears to give Trubisky his first start in the friendly confines of Soldier Field, but with a matchup against the stingy Vikings’ defense, that crowd may turn much less friendly on Monday night. Through the first 4 weeks of the season, the average weekly QB12 has put up 18.75 fantasy points. The Vikings are allowing 14.67 points per game to the position, and have faced a gauntlet of Drew Brees (posted QB16 week vs. Vikings), Big Ben at home in Pittsburgh (QB8), JameisWiston (QB19), and Matt Stafford (QB22). To expect a rookie making his first career start to succeed where that group has mostly failed is not wise. Trubisky could be in for a long Monday night.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 5: @Cle.):While McGuire was impressive last week, I doubt we get an encore in week 5. He was out-snapped 46-19 and out-touched 25-12 by Bilal Powell in that game last Sunday, and he put up 12.9 of his 21.1 PPR points on one play. The Browns have allowed just 3.08 yards per carry and have allowed only 2 carries of 20 or more yards for the year. The odds that McGuire turns limited snaps into another big day aren’t high. Powell is the Jets’ back to play. McGuire should be left benched.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 5: vs. KC):Kansas City is allowing just 13.2 PPR points per game to opposing RBs over the past 3 weeks. The Broncos are the best RB defense in the league so far, and they allow 14.4 per game. Foreman only played 29% of the offensive snaps last week in Houston’s blowout win. He would need a Lamar Miller injury or a plus matchup where he can turn limited opportunity into production in order to be playable. He certainly doesn’t get the latter this week, and there’s no way to predict the former.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 5: vs. Car.):Even if Golladay suits up this week, the Panthers have been pretty good at limiting his bread and butter: the deep ball. They’ve allowed just 8 completions of 20 or more yards through 4 games. Golladay will be a TD-or-bust option this week, and he remains questionable to even play. I’d steer clear of Kenny.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 5: @Ind.):While it was nice to see Taylor get targeted 10 times last Sunday, he’s unlikely to see the same volume this week. Garcon isn’t going to be locked down by Patrick Peterson in this one, and the way to beat the Colts is to throw downfield. Taylor has made his living on short passes, with just 8.5 yards per catch. The Colts have allowed 26 completions of 20 or more yards in 4 games. Only the Patriots (19) and Saints (21) have allowed more than 15 other than Indy. Aldrick Robinson or Marquise Goodwin (if he plays) will be the better second option to Garcon in this one.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 5: @Cin.):The connection with Tyrod is still just not there despite Zay playing basically full-time snaps. Taylor completed 11-of-13 throws targeting anyone other than Jones last Sunday, but connected on just 1-of-5 when Zay was the target. That brings the season totals for Jones to 4 catches on 17 targets. Jordan Matthews is expected to miss about a month with an injury, so it’s worth watching to see if Zay’s role increases, but his efficiency has been so bad you can’t play him anywhere this week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 5: vs. NYJ):The Jets have allowed just 3 catches for 16 yards to opposing tight ends in the past 2 games, and haven’t allowed a tight end TD since week 1. They held Marcedes Lewis without a catch a week ago after the Jags TE caught 3 TD passes in London the week before. Njoku is yet to top 3 catches or 27 yards in any game this season. There’s no reason to start him and hope for a TD.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 5: @Mia.):Smith is already a TD dart throw at best with Delanie Walker around, and now it sounds like Marcus Mariota will miss this game after the Titans signed Brandon Weeden. The odds Jonnu scores a TD definitely are lower with Matt Cassel under center.
Rookies on Byes: RB SemajePerine, WAS, RB Alvin Kamara, NO
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 5: vs. LAC):Gallman got on the field last week and scored his first career TD. He was also the Giants most effective runner, but he still put up just 3.8 yards per carry. There’s a chance the Giants don’t let Gallman continue to see the amount of work he did last week with Orleans Darkwa expected back, but I think he’s earned a bigger role. The Chargers have allowed over 100 RB rushing yards in all 4 games this year, and have coughed up over 30 RB PPR points in each of the last 2. Gallman is still really cheap in DFS ($3,900 on DrafKings), and could be a decent flex option in deep leagues this week. The Giants’ shaky run game makes him hard to trust as more than that.
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC (Wk. 5: @NYG):Melvin Gordon has been battling a knee injury and general ineffectiveness, and Ekeler has looked better in his limited touches than Branden Oliver has. Ekeler is only an option as a stash in really deep leagues as he’s played just 12 offensive snaps, but he’s made the most of those snaps. He’s put up 82 yards and a TD on just 6 touches. Oliver, meanwhile, has 78 yards and no scores on 22 touches. If something were to happen to Melvin Gordon, I think there’s a real chance Ekeler would play a really big role. Hopefully his recent play has been impressive enough to warrant a bigger role going forward anyway.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 5: vs. Jax.):No team allows fewer fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers than the Jaguars. Luckily for JJSS, he gets to avoid their top corners since Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant are around. Smith-Schuster has seen 14 targets in the past 3 weeks, and scored 2 TDs. It’s tough to trust him with just 34 yards per game in that stretch and a tough matchup this week, but he’s a stong TD dart throw once again. We all know how much better Big Ben is at home.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 5: @NYG):I mention Williams only as a stash at this point, and only for deeper leagues. The Chargers have gotten decent production out of Keenan Allen and Tyrell Williams, but Mike is expected to return and be active this weekend. If he looks good, he could supplant Travis Benjamin as the WR3 before long. The Chargers face two very burnable pass defenses in the next few weeks (Oakland in week 6 and New England in week 8). It might make sense to scoop him up now before people see what he can do.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 5: vs. NE):Howard isn’t running nearly as many routes as teammate Cameron Brate, and he’s only seen 8 targets through 3 games, but there are several factors working in his favor this week. The 4 targets he received last weekend were a season-high, he’s still playing about two-thirds of the Bucs’ offensive snaps, and he gets a choice matchup with the Patriots this week. The Pats are allowing the 4th-most TE fantasy points per game so far, and they have a good enough offense to force Tampa to keep throwing to stay in the game. The floor is pretty low for season-long leagues, but OJ has great upside for DFS tournaments this week, and costs just $200 more than the minimum on DraftKings.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 5: @Ind.):Kittle has been playing almost full-time snaps, and is second on the 49ers in number of pass routes run. It’s only a matter of time before it starts to translate into more targets for the Iowa product. He’s had 14 targets through the first 4 games. The Colts allow the 8th-most receiving yards to TEs per game, so there is a chance his improvement starts this week. I like Kittle’s chances to post his best game of the season. I don’t know what that means for where you would play him, but a 50-yard game isn’t out of the question here.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with those tough lineup decisions and helps you fill in some of your bye spots. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week and do a final check before the games to make sure your guys are active. If you take issue with anything above or have any questions or general feedback, feel free to hit me up on twitter to discuss (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.