Welcome back to the Rookie Report! We’ve now passed the halfway point of the regular season. Hopefully your teams are doing pretty well, because things are about to get a little dicey in the next 2 weeks. There are 6 teams off each week, the most we’ll see in any weeks this year. It’s going to create some holes in your lineups, and finding the right guys to fill those gaps will be critical. At least a few rookies may be peaking at the right time to help out. OJ Howard was the TE1 last weekend. David Njoku had the longest catch of his career so far. Aaron Jones clearly took over as the lead back in Green Bay, and Marlon Mack out-snapped Frank Gore for the first time this year. There are plenty of other rookies who are poised to play bigger roles as the season wears on like Corey Davis (pick him up this week if you have the roster spot to do it), Kenny Golladay, Austin Ekeler and John Ross among others. Let’s dive in and discuss what to expect for week 8…
Rookies to Start:
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 8: vs. Den.): Denver has allowed the 2nd-fewest RB points per game (all scoring stats in PPR scoring unless otherwise noted) and ranks 1st in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat, and Hunt hasn’t finished higher than the RB10 in the past 4 weeks despite a couple of good matchups. You still have to start him. He’s been at least an RB2 every week, and the daunting matchup isn’t enough to make me act crazy and bench him. He’s a contrarian play for DFS tournaments this week.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 8: vs. Ind.): The Colts were stingy against the run to start the year, allowing just 67 RB rush yards per game and 3.2 yards per carry in the first 3 weeks. They’ve allowed 136.5 yards per game and 4.9 yards per carry since. Mixon voiced some displeasure after last week’s game about getting zero carries in the 2nd half after piling up 48 yards on 7 first half carries. Head Coach Marvin Lewis called the comments immature, but I think he got the message. Even if he didn’t, with the Bengals a 10-point favorite in this game, they might not have any choice but to run in the 2nd half. The Colts have coughed up the 2nd-most RB points per game so far, and I expect Mixon to still be the lead back despite the Lewis’s comments. Mixon has RB1 upside this week and should be a staple in DFS lineups at just $4,700 in DraftKings.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 8: vs. Chi.): While the biggest beneficiary of the Saints’ Adrian Peterson trade has been Mark Ingram, it’s also given a boost to Kamara. He’s played 42% and 49% of the snaps in the two games since Peterson was jettisoned, the highest rates since he cracked 50% in week 1. He’s put up 87 scrimmage yards on 13 touches and 107 scrimmage yards on 14 touches in those two games. Kamara has now scored double-digit points in PPR formats in 4 straight games, and what’s been most impressive is the ability he’s shown as a runner. His receiving upside could be somewhat limited by the Bears, who have allowed the 6th-fewest RB receiving yards in the league, but I don’t expect that to hold him back. The Bears rank 16th in run defense DVOA, have been banged up at linebacker (Willie Young and Jerrell Freeman on IR), and the Saints are a 9-point favorite this week. The positive game script and decent matchup should make Kamara a solid RB2 this weekend.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 8: @TB): Another NFL week, another week where McCaffrey looks to be a solid RB2, but he may have some upside for more this week. The Bucs have really been scuffling against RBs in the past 3 weeks. They’ve allowed 28.9 points per game to running backs in the past 3, which would be 3rd-most in the league if they averaged that for the year. Tampa Bay has been more vulnerable in the red zone to running backs running the ball rather than catching it out of the backfield, allowing 5 rushing TDs to backs compared to just 1 receiving score, but they’ve still allowed 6 catches and 45.5 receiving yards per game to them. Tampa ranks in the bottom half of the league in receiving points allowed to RBs per game. That’s should suit McCaffrey just fine. CMC has established himself as the lead back for the Panthers after playing 74% of the offensive snaps last week compared to 39% for J-Stew, and he may finally hit that ceiling we’ve all been waiting for. It should be a great week to fire up McCaffrey, and he’ll be could be a nice piece in DFS lineups if he makes good on his potential in this plus matchup.
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 8: @Sea.): Watson has been a tremendous fantasy QB so far, but this week he gets his toughest test to-date. If you are in a 1-QB league, I would certainly be considering other options if decent ones are available. No quarterback has scored 20 points against the Seahawks this year, and only Aaron Rodgers and Marcus Mariota have topped 10. Seattle allows the 4th-fewest QB points per game, ranks 5th in pass defense DVOA, and has allowed the 2nd-lowest QB rating against. Watson’s rushing ability adds a little bit of a boost to his floor, but this isn’t a great spot to trot him out there. Watson is averaging nearly 23 fantasy points per game, so it isn’t like he’s going to suddenly be held to 5 points. He’s still a fine play in 2-QB formats. I’m just pointing out that he’s far from an automatic start in 1-QB formats thanks to the difficult matchup.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 8: @NO): With so many running backs on bye this week, Cohen is worth considering, especially if Benny Cunningham sits again. Cohen only played 18% of the snaps last weekend and handled just 1 touch (a 70-yard reception), but the game script worked against him. The Bears were ahead for much of that game. I’d expect a reversal of fortunes this week against the red-hot Saints. New Orleans has allowed the most RB catches per game and most RB receiving yards per game, and that’s where Cohen’s bread is buttered. The Bears will still likely try and limit Trubisky’s passing volume, but there might not be any way to avoid throwing when they fall behind. Cohen is back in play as a PPR flex option.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 8: @Cin.): It was exciting for Mack owners to see him out-snap Frank Gore for the first time last weekend, but much of that had to do with game script. The Colts trailed 14-0 in the first quarter, and never got themselves into the game. The good news for Mack: This week’s game script is likely to set up the same way. The Bengals haven’t played great so far, but even they are a 10-point favorite this week. Gore will still factor in here and the Bengals have allowed the 12th-fewest RB points per game, so it isn’t all roses for Mack, but Cincy also allows 6.5 receptions per game to running backs. With the limited slate of games, Mack is certainly in play as a flex option, and an enticing DFS tournament play at just $4,000 in DraftKings.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 8: @Det.): I can’t imagine all of the Martavis drama results in more playing time from Bryant, and at least for week 8 it’s got him benched completely. JuJu was already an intriguing option this week before the announcement came about Martavis. There was some worry about JuJu being in the concussion protocol, but he practiced in full Wednesday. With Bryant out, JJSS may get to move to the outside a bit and will likely avoid both Quandre Diggs and Darius Slay, who have been Detroit’s two best corners. The Lions allow the 11th-most WR points per game. Smith-Schuster has a great opportunity to post a WR3 game this week.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 8: vs. Pit.): Golladay is back at practice this week and should be good to go for Sunday night. Golden Tate is expected to miss this game (monitor the situation, Tate got in a limited practice Wed.), and the Lions are going to need someone to pick up the slack of the 8 targets per game that he averages. The Steelers have allowed the fewest WR points per game, but among the teams they’ve played, only Cleveland throws the ball nearly as much as Detroit does, and the Browns don’t really have a QB or WRs. The Browns throw it on 63.97% of their offensive plays, while the Lions throw on 63.43%. No other Pittsburgh opponent throws even 59% of the time. If Tate does sit, the volume should be there for Golladay to be an upside flex option in a week with so many byes. He’s worth grabbing as a fallback if you’re waiting on the status of another WR who’s questionable to suit up.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Kittle was targeted just twice in a 30-point loss to the Cowboys last week in which CJ Beathard threw 38 times. I believed in the Iowa connection, but those results weren’t promising. I still might be willing to go back to the well this week. The Eagles aren’t exactly a great matchup for TEs, or at least they weren’t. With the injury to Jordan Hicks, that may change. Hicks had a 90.0 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus last year and was at 71.5 so far this season. The Eagles were shredded by Jordan Reed after the injury occurred on Monday. Of course Kittle isn’t Reed, but I like his chances at a bounce back in another game where the 49ers should be throwing a ton. He’s a decent streamer option or bye week filler for deeper leagues.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 8: @NO): The Bears have been running the ball on 68.9% of their offensive snaps with Trubisky as starter (per PFF’s Scott Barrett), and he’s attempted 23 passes in the past 2 weeks combined. They’re likely to have to throw a bit more to keep pace with New Orleans, but the Saints have actually been pretty stingy to opposing QBs during their 4-game win streak. They’ve allowed just 10.2 fantasy points per game and 187 passing yards per game to opposing QBs in that 4-game span. Couple that with the fact the Bears will still try to limit his volume, and it’s easy to see Trubisky should be avoided this week.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. Min.): The Browns have decided to go back to Kizer once again this week, but the in-game benchings can’t be good for this kid’s development. He gets a brutal matchup this week across the pond against a Viking defense that has allowed the 5th-fewest QB points per game. I’d expect more of the same from Kizer in this one – turnovers. He’s failed to reach 4 fantasy points in each of his last 3 starts, and I wouldn’t be stunned if that happens again Sunday.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 8: @Sea.): Foreman has 3 games this season with 12 or more carries, but all 3 were wins, and 2 were blowouts. He has 13 carries combined in the Texans’ 3 losses. Seattle is a 6-point favorite and allows the 4th-fewest running back points per game. You have to pick your spots with a lower volume player like Foreman, and this isn’t a good spot to use him.
RB Matt Brieda, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Brieda has played just 32 offensive snaps and handled 9 touches total in the past 2 weeks after Kyle Shanahan proclaimed that he is on equal footing with Carlos Hyde. They may be showcasing Hyde for a trade, but as long as Carlos is on the roster it’ll be hard to trust Brieda. His limited role certainly isn’t a recipe for fantasy success against an Eagles team that allows the 8th-fewest running back points per game.
RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 8: vs. Atl.): With Bilal Powell and Matt Forte both healthy last weekend, McGuire played just 7 offensive snaps and saw just 3 touches. He’ll go back into obscurity for now until one of those top 2 backs comes down with another ailment or the Jets nosedive out of playoff contention. We know they aren’t going to the playoffs, but at the moment they are just a game and a half out of the last wild card spot.
RB Samaje Perine, WAS (Wk. 8: vs. Dal.): Perine played zero offensive snaps last week, yet somehow has a higher price tag in DraftKings than teammate Rob Kelley, who starts. That is absurd to me. Avoid Perine in all formats.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Taylor showed a connection with QB CJ Beathard last week with 5 catches, and the Eagles have been torched by slot WRs Sterling Shepard and Keenan Allen (runs about 55% of snaps from slot), but those guys were outliers. Outside of those two weeks, the Eagles have actually defended the slot pretty well, and Taylor is nowhere near as good as Shep or Allen. Taylor probably shouldn’t be a consideration for your lineup.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 8: @NE): Williams draws a great matchup with the Pats allowing the 3rd-most WR points per game, but Williams played just 24% of the snaps last week and was targeted only twice. He’s essentially splitting WR3 reps with Travis Benjamin, which puts a pretty big damper on his upside. Hopefully that will change in the coming weeks, but I can’t make a compelling argument for why you should expect it to change this week. There’s upside here, but also a floor of zero points that seems more likely than him making good on that upside.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 8: vs. Oak.): Zay was targeted a season-high 9 times last Sunday, and he caught just 2 of them for 17 yards. He now had 7 catches for 83 yards on the season on 32 targets. His inefficiency and 22% catch rate are quickly becoming the stuff of legend. I wonder how much longer the Bills can keep forcing that kind of volume his way. There’s no reason to expect a positive change this week.
WR John Ross, CIN (Wk. 8: vs. Ind.): It’s really disappointing that Ross didn’t manage to get healthy for last week’s game and get some reps in. You can’t throw him into lineups without seeing what his usage is going to look like first, but this would’ve been a great spot for him. Ross has exceptional deep speed and the Colts have allowed 40 passes of 20 or more yards this season. While it’s a bummer for Ross that he won’t be up to speed for this one, AJ Green may be the premiere WR play of the week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 8: vs. Min.): I would actually like Njoku as a sleeper this week if Cody Kessler had gotten the starting nod. Njoku’s snap rates are still troubling, as he played under 40% of the offensive snaps last week, but Kessler seemed to seek him out. 4 of Kessler’s 19 pass attempts went in Njoku’s direction, and he hauled in 2 of them for 31- and 27-yard gains. They were the two longest catches of his young career. Minnesota is right square in the middle of the pack when it comes to defending tight ends (16th-most points allowed per game), but they rank just 26th in pass defense DVOA on throws to the position. There would be a case to be made for Njoku in deep enough leagues if Kessler were back under center.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 8: vs. Car.): Don’t chase last week’s points with Howard. Hopefully the increased targets are a sign of things to come for him, but Cameron Brate still ran more pass routes and was targeted more often last Sunday. 47% of Howard’s PPR production has come on 2 TDs against broken coverages where the defense let him get wide open. It’s hard to bank on that happening again this week, especially with the Panthers allowing the 7th-fewest tight end points per game.
Rookies on Byes: RB Leonard Fournette, JAX, RB Aaron Jones, GB, RB Wayne Gallman, NYG, WR Corey Davis, TEN, WR Taywan Taylor, TEN, WR Cooper Kupp, LAR, TE Evan Engram, NYG, TE Jonnu Smith, TEN
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 8: @Phi.): Beathard didn’t exactly set the world on fire in a favorable matchup last week, but he did manage to tally 14.4 fantasy points thanks to a garbage time rushing TD, and he gets a favorable draw again this week. Philly has been allowing a lot of garbage time passing stats this year. They’ve been ahead entering the 4th quarter in all 6 games they’ve won, and had a 2-score advantage in 3 of them. I’d expect them to be up double-digits entering the 4th this week. There should be plenty of time for Beathard to pad stats. Philly allows the 4th-most passing yards and 9th-most QB fantasy points per game. CJ is an intriguing streamer in 2-QB formats thanks to the byes.
RB Austin Ekeler, LAC (Wk. 8: @NE): Ekeler found his way to a surprising 11 touches last week and was pretty effective with them, finishing as the PPR RB13 for the week. This may be point chasing, but he might be in play for you if you’re scrambling for a running back in deep PPR leagues. The Patriots have allowed the 5th-most RB points per game and the 2nd-most receptions and receiving yards to backs. The bulk of that will go to Melvin Gordon, but Ekeler clearly has established a role.
RB Corey Clement, PHI (Wk. 8: vs. SF): Clement may get a chance to pile up garbage time carries in a game where the Iggles are 13-point favorites. The 49ers allow the most running back points per game in the league, and they just let Rod Smith find his way to be the RB35 last week without even finding the end zone. That was with just 2 teams on bye. There are 6 this week. Clement’s usage makes him no more than a DFS tournament punt play this week. He was on the field for just 12 offensive snaps on Monday night.
WR Mack Hollins, PHI (Wk. 8: vs. SF): Hollins is a guy worth stashing in dynasty leagues. The Eagles have been raving about him since training camp, and for the season he’s been targeted 6 times, and has a 6-134-1 line to show for it. It’s only a matter of time before he overtakes Torrey Smith and starts to get more playing time. Smith signed a 3-year contract with Philly last offseason, but the last 2 years are both club options. Also worth noting: Alshon Jeffrey signed just a 1-year deal with Philadelphia. Hollins should be a prominent part of the passing game next year, one way or another.
WR Tanner Gentry, CHI (Wk. 8: @NO): The Bears passing volume has been a bit of a joke the past couple weeks, but Gentry has been on the field for 109 out of a possible 118 offensive snaps in the past 2 weeks. He only has one catch to show for all of that playing time, but that’s due to there being just 12 passing completions in those games. I’d expect quite a bit more volume against the high-powered Saints. New Orleans allows the 9th-most WR points per game. Gentry has displayed big play ability (had a 45-yard TD catch in preseason), and the Saints have allowed the 4th-most pass plays of 20 or more yards. Gentry could surprise this week as a DFS punt option. The Bears did just acquire Dontrelle Inman on Wednesday, so the snap share could be a bit in jeopardy for Tanner, but I don’t expect Dontrelle to be fully up to speed by Sunday.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps with your tough lineup decisions. If you see two players at the same position with the same designation, the one listed first is the one I like better this week. Make sure to keep an eye on the injury reports throughout the week and always do a final check before kickoff to make sure your guys are active. If you want to yell at me about anything above or have any questions, 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.