Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Week 6 was another wild one in the NFL. One of the most exciting things about the league is how unpredictable it can be. 7 underdogs came away victorious, including two that were double-digit underdogs in the Giants and Dolphins. Aaron Rodgers suffered a season-ending broken collarbone and opened up the NFC North race in the process. The Bears managed to top the Ravens by running the ball an astounding 54 times, and the Jets took a 14-0 lead on the defending champs before falling by 10. It was another week of top rookie performances, as Christian McCaffrey and Leonard Fournette turned in top-10 running back weeks. Deshaun Watson maintained his spot as fantasy’s top scoring QB with a 3-touchdown day, and Evan Engram made the most of the lack of other receiving options for the Giants and finished as the TE3 for the week. There were let downs too, like Aaron Jones and Elijah McGuire, but all in all it was a decent week for the rookies. We also got to see another rookie QB take over as Brian Hoyer was benched in favor CJ Beathard in the bay. There’s plenty more on tap for week 7, so let’s dive in and discuss what to expect…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 7: @Oak.): Last week didn’t go quite according to plan for Hunt or the Chiefs, but the matchup is strong again this week. Hunt is still an obvious start in season-long leagues. He topped 100 scrimmage yards again last week and finished as the RB15 even in a down week. He should be a solid DFS option this week as well. The Raiders have allowed 85.9 PPR points to opposing backs in the past 3 weeks. That’s 28.7 per game, which would be the 4th-most in the league. Hunt is safe as usual.
RB Leonard Fournette, Jax. (Wk. 7: @Ind.): As long as the twisted ankle Leonard suffered last week doesn’t keep him sidelined, you have to play him. He came up big for you again last week, and the Colts allow the 4th-most RB fantasy points per game in the league. The volume for Leonard is unlikely to change despite him tweaking the ankle. He should be worth the price tag in DFS lineups this week as well.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 7: @GB): If their week 1 matchup with the Seahawks were removed from the equation, the Packers would go from allowing the 14th-most RB points per game all the way up to 4th-most. Kamara is still taking a back seat to Mark Ingram in the wake of the Adrian Peterson trade. He was out-snapped by Ingram 47-30 last week, but in the past 2 games Kamara has seen at least 14 touches and 85 yards in each, and I’d expect that usage to continue again this week. He’s got a high volume role in a plus matchup. He should return RB2 value in PPR leagues with no problem.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 7: vs. Sea.): The matchup with the Seahawks isn’t as daunting as you might expect this week. Seattle is in the middle of the pack when it comes to limiting tight end points. They have allowed the 15th-most TE points per game, and have given up 11+ PPR points to the position in 4 of their 5 games. Engram became the focal point of the Giants’ passing attack last weekend with their decimated WR group, so his target share should be strong again this week even if Sterling Shepard is able to play. The Seahawks are good enough to shut the Giants down as a whole, so I would probably fade Engram in DFS lineups, but he should be a low-end top-10 TE in PPR leagues this week.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 7: @Chi.): McCaffrey is a guy you should be starting every week in PPR leagues, but he’s much less of a sure thing in standard formats. He’s been held under 50 scrimmage yards in 3 out of the 6 games he’s played this season, but he’s kept up his PPR floor with at least 4 catches each week. It would be nice to see CMC’s rushing usage go up, but there’s no way to bank on it this week. The Bears are a middling run defense in terms of fantasy points allowed to RBs, but they’ve given up a rushing score in 5 of 6 games and 90+ rushing yards to opposing backs in 4 of 6. If McCaffrey gets an increased rushing load, he might finally start to hit that ceiling we’ve been waiting on. In the meantime, the floor is working out just fine. He’s the overall RB10 in PPR leagues despite just 2 top-10 weekly finishes.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 7: @Pit.): I’m not quite sure what to make of Pittsburgh’s run defense so far this year. On the surface, they’re pretty bad. They’re in the bottom-10 in the league in terms of yards per carry, yards per game, and rushing TDs allowed, and they’ve allowed the 6th-most RB fantasy points per game, but they also rank a respectable 12th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat and just held all-world rookie Kareem Hunt to 21 yards on 9 carries. Hunt did save his day with receiving yardage, but it was the first time all year he was held under 80 rushing yards. The Bengals had the bye week to gameplan for this one, and the Steelers would qualify as a plus matchup for running backs, but I see Mixon as no more than an RB2 this week. He’s cracked the top-20 PPR backs just once in 5 games on the season.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 7: vs. NO): Splitting reps with Ty Montgomery likely saps the value for both backs going forward. Green Bay may try to run a bit more this week with Aaron Rodgers sidelined with a broken collarbone and Brett Hundley under center, but the Saints have been improved against running backs in their last 2 games. There is still upside to be had here, as the Saints’ defense still ranks just 24th in run defense DVOA and has allowed the 3rd-most running back receiving yards despite their recent improved play. Jones may still wind up being a fine flex play in a pinch this week, but I’d lean on more reliable options if I have them.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 7: vs. Car.): Cohen’s usage had taken a nosedive recently, but it should rebound with Benny Cunningham back on the shelf with another hamstring injury. Assuming Benny doesn’t play, Cohen should see significant snaps as he did in week 6. Cohen handled 15 touches in week 6 after seeing just 17 of them in weeks 4 & 5 combined. He also threw a TD pass, but that was a fluke trick play. Don’t expect it again. There is some warranted concern that only one of Cohen’s 15 touches was a reception, but I’d expect the game script to be a bit more negative this week, and only 2 teams have allowed more running back receptions than the Panthers. Cohen is back in play as a PPR flex option this week despite the Panthers allowing the 11th-fewest RB points per game.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 7: vs. Ari.): Any WR that doesn’t draw Patrick Peterson has a chance to burn the Arizona defense, but slot wide receivers have been especially effective. Golden Tate lit them up for 10-107 in week 1, and in the past 3 weeks they’ve allowed 5-47 to Trent Taylor, 4-93-1 to Nelson Agholor, and 6-51 to Adam Humphries. Kupp is as good a bet as any Ram to lead the team in catches this week, and the best bet to catch a TD pass. Despite Patrick Peterson being one of the premiere corners in the game, allowing just 7-82-1 total in 6 games on throws into his coverage, the Cardinals still allow the 5th-most WR fantasy points per game. Pat Pete should be on Watkins in this one, making Kupp a sneaky DFS play and decent flex/WR3 option.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 7: vs. Dal.): Kittle has seen his target share take off in a big way in the past 2 weeks, and the installation of his college QB CJ Beathard as the 49ers new starter should only help. The Cowboys have allowed 50+ receiving yards to the opposing tights end in 4 of 5 games this year, and gave up a TD in the other. While they usually split that yardage allowed between multiple opposing TEs, the 49ers don’t really have much else at the position. The 49ers have targeted the tight end position 38 times on the year, and 31 of those targets went to Kittle, including 17 of 20 in the last 2 weeks. As long as that target volume continues this week, Kittle should be a solid streaming option in PPR leagues.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 7: vs. Car.): The Panthers’ pass defense has shown some holes this season. They rank 15th in pass defense DVOA, they allow the 7th-highest QB rating to opposing QBs, and they’ve allowed multiple passing scores in 4 straight contests. With that said, they also rank 2nd in the league in quarterback sacks and allow the 7th-fewest passing yards per game. The Bears showed us what their gameplan is with Trubisky last week. Run, run, and run some more. They piled up a ridiculous 54 rushing attempts against Baltimore, compared with 16 pass attempts for Mitchell. If the Panthers don’t run out to a big lead, the Bears will lean on the run again. If Carolina does get out in front, Mitch lacks the weapons to put up a big game in garbage time. He’s a lackluster QB2 option against the Panthers on Sunday.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 7: vs. Ten.): The Browns have made the decision to go back to Kizer this week at QB, and he may even have a decent game, but I’d be hard pressed to use him in any lineups. The Titans have allowed the 6th-most QB fantasy points per game, but they allowed 33+ points each to Russell Wilson and Deshaun Watson, which has skewed their overall average. In their other 4 games, facing Derek Carr, Blake Bortles, Jay Cutler and Jacoby Brissett, they’ve allowed just 12.25 points per game which would rank 7th fewest in the league. I’d argue Kizer seems to fit better into that second group of signal-callers than the first in terms of where you’d rank them as a fantasy QB. I hope he plays better in his second stint as the starter, but I’ll believe it when I see it.
RB Matt Brieda, SF (Wk. 7: vs. Dal.): It pains me to say you should bench Brieda against a Cowboys’ team that ranks dead last in run defense DVOA, but I’d expect the 49ers to be showcasing Carlos Hyde for any potential trade suitors in this plus matchup. Brieda’s playing time is already on the decline of late. The 17 snaps he played in week 6 were the fewest he’s seen in the past 3 contests. I’d expect similar usage for Brieda this week, and that kind of snap count doesn’t bode well for his fantasy prospects. You should still hold on to him on your bench if you can.
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 7: vs. Sea.): Gallman’s run as New York’s lead back was shorter than expected. Orleans Darkwa appears to have stolen the job from him after racking up 117 rushing yards against a Denver defense that had allowed just 165 rushing yards to RBs in the previous 4 games combined. Gallman saw just 11 touches in that game, and that kind of usage isn’t going to get it done against Seattle. The Seahawks allow the 4th-fewest RB fantasy points per game.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 7: @Mia.): It was a disappointing week for McGuire as Matt Forte returned from injury and took away his opportunity to play as the Jets’ lead back. I expected the Jets to ease Forte back in, but they didn’t hold him back much. Forte didn’t exactly dazzle as a runner with just 22 yards on 9 carries (McGuire had 22 on 10), but Forte received 8 passing game targets compared to zero for Eli. What was even more disappointing was seeing Travaris Cadet get 3 targets. The Dolphins aren’t nearly as giving to RBs as the Patriots, and the lack of receiving usage makes McGuire basically unstartable this week regardless of whether or not Bilal Powell returns.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 7: @Phi.): It seems very likely that Rob Kelley will be able to play this week, which would send Perine back to a bench role. He scored a TD last weekend, but he still hasn’t really capitalized on the opportunities he’s been given. Even with the TD, Perine was outscored by receiving back Chris Thompson in non-PPR scoring. The Eagles allow the 6th-fewest RB points per game and have allowed just 40 rushing yards to opposing backs per week. There’s no way Perine posts a usable week with Kelley back.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 7: vs. Cin.): JuJu continues to see more usage than Martavis Bryant in this offense, but the matchup isn’t a great one this week. The Bengals allow the 3rd-fewest WR PPR points per game, allowing only Green Bay’s receiver group to eclipse 20 total points against them. As I mentioned, JJSS is still playing more snaps than Martavis Bryant, but he hasn’t had quite enough volume to be a trustworthy flex play. His matchup is tougher than it was last week, and yet his DraftKings price is $200 higher. I’d avoid him in all formats this week.
WR Taywan Taylor, TEN (Wk. 7: @Cle.): Jon Gruden referred to Taylor as a ‘gadget receiver’ during Monday Night Football this week, but I think Taywan had the last laugh after catching a 53-yard TD in the 4th quarter of the game. He’s shown some serious ability when given the chance with two 40+-yard catches on the season, but even with Corey Davis sidelined the volume just hasn’t been there. He has just 7 receptions in total. Here’s a weird stat for the Browns that will work against Taylor this week: The Browns have allowed 2 wide receivers to reach 40 yards in the same game just once this season (TY Hilton & Donte Moncrief). With Rishard Matthews and Eric Decker around, it’s hard to believe the guy to get to 40 yards will be Taylor if the Titans only get one.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 7: vs. Ari.): Everett scored his first career TD last week, but has hauled in just 3 catches for 20 yards on 9 targets in the past 4 games. The Cardinals were shredded by Brate & Ertz in the past 2 weeks, but there’s no reason to expect that from Everett. Tyler Higbee is the play if you want to attack the Cardinals’ TE defense.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 7: vs. Ten.): With Kevin Hogan under center last Sunday, Njoku saw a season-high 5 targets, but he caught just 2 of them for zero yards. Njoku has scored 3 TDs in 6 games, but he’s no more than a low-volume TD dart throw this week. The Titans allow the 12th-fewest TE points per game.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 7: @Buf.): Howard has been almost a non-factor in the passing game. He’s averaged just 2.4 targets per game, and the Bills have allowed the 8th-fewest TE points per game. It’s an easy call to avoid OJ this week.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 7: vs. Dal.): It’ll be Beathard’s first NFL start, but he acquitted himself well in mop-up duty against Washington last week and he gets a nice matchup in week 7. The Cowboys have allowed multiple passing TDs and at least 18 fantasy points to each QB they’ve faced in the past 4 games. The bye might have helped them get their heads on straight, but it’s hard to know. This will be Dallas’s first game since Jerry Jones issued his anthem ultimatum, and Ezekiel Elliott was only legally cleared to play on Tuesday. There could be some distractions affecting the team. Even if the Cowboys play well, Beathard should be playing from behind and have increased passing volume. He’s an interesting 2QB streamer option and upside DFS tournament play.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 7: vs. Jax.): Marlon Mack has a chance to explode this week. Robert Turbin has played at least 28% of the offensive snaps in every single game Mack has been active for. Turbin was lost for the season with an elbow injury at the end of the MNF game this week. The Jaguars have allowed an NFL-worst 5.2 yards per carry and 2nd-worst 145.7 rushing yards per game. Both Gore and Mack have brighter outlooks with Turbin out of the picture, but Mack is the more explosive back. Pat Thorman of Pro Football Focus noted this week that the Jaguars have allowed 21 carries of 10 or more yards this season, 4th-most in the league, and Marlon Mack has 5 such carries in just 27 attempts. As long as Mack picks up some of the slack left behind by Turbin, he should be a great cheap DFS option and a fun sleeper for deeper leagues.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 7: vs. TB): Jordan Matthews’s status is still up in the air for this week, and Charles Clay is definitely out. If there was ever a spot for Zay Jones to get his rookie year on track, this is it. The Buccaneers allow the most WR PPR points per game by an incredible 8.7-point margin over the 2nd-worst unit (Eagles). That point gap is the same as the one between the Eagles and the Dolphins. The Dolphins allow the 17th-most WR points. Tampa has been absolutely shredded by wide receivers. I know Zay has just 5 catches on 23 targets for the year, but if Matthews sits out again he could see 8+ targets in this game against that Buccaneer defense. You can’t trust him in season-long leagues, but he could be a great value in DFS tournaments at just $3,600 on DraftKings.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 7: vs. Den.): The Broncos are never an ideal matchup to play a wide receiver, so this is about reminding you that Williams is still a solid stash for deeper leagues. He had just 1 catch in his debut, and will likely be eased in slowly, but the Chargers could use some wide receiver help. Only 16 of Philip Rivers’s 46 completions in the past 2 weeks went to wide receivers, and only 7 to receivers who weren’t Keenan Allen. Tyrell Williams and Travis Benjamin aren’t getting it done. Among waiver wire WRs, I like Corey Davis’s upside more in terms of the rest of the season, but Davis has already been ruled out for this week. You can wait a week in most places to pick him up. You might not have that luxury with Williams.
WR John Ross, CIN (Wk. 7: @Pit.): Ross is just a stash at this point. You can’t put him in the lineup this week, but with Tyler Boyd out, Ross might actually make an impact against Pittsburgh. You could beat the rush and pick him up this week in really deep leagues. Monitor Ross’s usage this week. Cincinnati gets the Colts, Browns and Titans in three of their next 5 games. There could be a couple big games for him if he manages to carve out a role.That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps with some of your tough lineup decisions. I always try to include every fantasy relevant rookie, and if you see two guys at the same position under the same header, I try to rank them in the order I would play them this week. Keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week, and always check for any surprise inactives on game day. If you have any questions, or want to yell at me about anything 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.