Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Hopefully, the bye weeks didn’t hit you too hard last week. If you’re lucky you had Deshaun Watson or one of his two WRs to help you get through. The Texans may have come up short against Seattle, but Watson shredded one of the league’s better defenses. He just might be matchup-proof going forward. A few other rookies had stellar performances as well. JuJu Smith-Schuster has cemented himself as the #1 rookie WR for 2017 after posting 32.3 PPR points in prime time Sunday night with Martavis Bryant sitting. Josh Malone grabbed his first career catches and scored his first TD on Sunday for Cincinnati. I wouldn’t expect him to have a big role moving forward though. It was a lower scoring week for RBs, but Alvin Kamara, Matt Breida, and Marlon Mack all turned in quality performances. Christian McCaffrey, Joe Mixon and Kareem Hunt were less impressive this week but still posted respectable days as well. There are another 6 teams on bye in week 9, so this could be another one where your lineup is a patchwork that could be pieced together by a couple rookies. With that in mind, let’s dive in and see what’s in store for the rookie crop this week…
(A couple notes: All point totals or points per game stats are based on PPR scoring, and players within the same position and same header are listed in order that I would play them):
Rookies to Start:
QB Deshaun Watson, HOU (Wk. 9: vs. Ind.): The matchup is a juicy one for Watson this week. The Colts have allowed 300+ passing yards in 5 of their 8 games (and 295 in one of the other 3), and they’ve allowed at least one passing TD each week as well. Watson has been the QB1 or QB2 overall in each of his past 4 starts. Indy has allowed 10 more passes of 20+ yards than any other team in the league, and the Texans are tied for the 5th-most 20+ yard pass plays on offense. Watson is an easy top-5 option this week (probably higher). He’s really pricey in DFS this week, checking in at $800 more than any other QB in DraftKings and $1,100 more than any other in FanDuel. At those prices, I might look at other options in GPP tournaments, but if he hits his ceiling once again you’ll regret not having him in there. He should be chalk in cash games.
RB Kareem Hunt, KC (Wk. 9: @Dal.): Hunt is a great bet to get back on track this week. The Denver defense was a daunting matchup on Monday night, and it resulted in Hunt’s worst game to-date. The Cowboys aren’t nearly as daunting. Dallas allows the 13th-most RB points per game and ranked 31st in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat before facing Washington’s hapless rushing attack in week 8. It’ll be hard to trust Hunt at his price tag in DFS tournaments after he failed to return value in plus matchups with Pittsburgh & Oakland, but he should be a great option in cash games and locked in as your RB1 in regular lineups. He’s overdue for a big game.
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 9: vs. Cin.): He’s had two weeks off with the bye to recover from his ankle injury, so he should be ready to roll this week. The Bengals have allowed 24+ PPR points to opposing RBs in 3 of their last 4 games, and when healthy Fournette handles the vast majority of the backfield touches. He should return to RB1 status this week. He might even have less competition for goal-line work if the Jaguars decide to make TJ Yeldon active instead of Chris Ivory this week. Yeldon flashed in a big way during Fournette’s week 7 absence. Prior to week 7, Fournette had handled 16 red zone carries, and Ivory had handled 4. Regardless of who suits up as LF’s number 2, he should be in your lineup this week.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 9: vs. TB): Tampa Bay has allowed the 10th-most RB points per game this season, and Kamara has been the RB22, RB12, and RB9 in the 3 games since Adrian Peterson was traded to Arizona. He’s been outscored by Mark Ingram each week, but he’s closed the gap in the snap count in each of the last 3 weeks and topped 50% of the snaps in week 8 for the first time since week 1. He actually played the same number of offensive snaps as Ingram against the Bears. We’ve seen there’s clearly enough volume in this offense to support two starting fantasy backs, but Kamara’s role continues to grow. The matchup this week isn’t a scary one, so Kamara should be fired up once again as a solid RB2 with upside for more.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 9: @Jax.): Mixon’s game was salvaged by a long screen pass last week but was otherwise a lackluster showing. He put up just 18 yards on 11 carries on the ground. I’d still go back to the well with Mixon this week. The Jaguars rank 32nd in run defense DVOA, and still allow the most rushing yards per game (138.6) and highest yards per carry average in the league (5.2). Things may get better up front for Jacksonville with the acquisition on Marcell Dareus, but I doubt he has that big of an impact this week. Mixon hasn’t really shown the ceiling yet, but I’m in on him as an RB2 for week 9. He’s still underpriced on DraftKings at $5,100 this week.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 9: vs. Atl.): With the surprising trade of Kelvin Benjamin to the Bills there are more passing targets to go around for Carolina. Atlanta has allowed the most RB receptions per game through the first 8 weeks, and McCaffrey has 6 more catches than any other RB thus far. Even without much rushing production, McCaffrey should be a safe RB2 in PPR formats, and a dicey flex in standard leagues. The Falcons don’t give up a ton of yards on all of those RB catches, so I’d probably shy away in DFS lineups.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 9: vs. Det.): The matchup doesn’t really qualify as good or bad this week for Jones. The Lions have allowed the 7th-fewest rushing yards per game, but also the 12th-most fantasy points per game to running backs. Jones seems to have a firm grasp on the lead back role after playing 80% of the snaps against the Saints before the week 8 bye, and the game plan figures to be run-heavy with Brett Hundley at the helm. Volume alone should get Jones into RB2 range, but you always worry about Ty Montgomery lurking over his shoulder.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 9: vs. LAR): The Rams have been tough on tight ends so far this season, allowing the 4th-fewest TE points per game, but Engram has been the focal point of the Giants’ passing attack since the receiver group was decimated by injuries. He’s seen at least 7 targets in 5 of 7 games, and has seen 19 total in the past 2 games since Beckham, Brandon Marshall and Sterling Shepard were all injured against the Chargers. He’s made good on that volume, finishing as the TE3 and TE4 in those contests. He’s a top-5 option again this week despite a tougher draw and the likely return of Shepard.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 9: @Hou.): Mack out-snapped and outscored Frank Gore for the 2nd time in as many weeks last Sunday. The Colts are huge underdogs again this weekend, and Mack has been targeted 11 times in the past 2 games. I’d expect more of the same usage this week. The Texans have been stingy to opposing backs, allowing the 2nd fewest fantasy points per game to the position, but they have given up 3 receiving TDs to RBs. Mack is a sneaky flex play in PPR and half-PPR leagues, and a better option than Gore again this week.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 9: @NYG): The suspension of Janoris Jenkins could be a good thing for Kupp this week. While on the surface, it seems to be a plus for Sammy Watkins, who Jenkins would likely be covering all day, the suspension also gets Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie out of the slot where Kupp lines up most often. DRC has allowed an average of just 2.5 catches and 29.5 yards per game into his coverage, and has coughed up just one TD. It will benefit Kupp to not have to face him. I wouldn’t expect a huge bump in targets for Kupp, but he should be fairly efficient with them, and he’s the best bet to score a TD among the Rams WRs. Goff trusts him in the red zone. That keeps him in play as a PPR flex or WR3 option.
TE Jonnu Smith, TEN (Wk. 9: vs. Bal.): Obviously, Jonnu shouldn’t be in your lineup if Delanie Walker plays, but it sounds like Walker’s status is in doubt as he deals with a bone bruise on his ankle. He may very well play, but he was spotted in a walking boot just last week and isn’t practicing as of Wednesday. The Ravens have allowed 6 TDs to opposing tight ends in 8 games, and Walker is averaging 7 targets per game. If Delanie is held out, Jonnu is a fine streaming option for deeper leagues. He wouldn’t automatically see the same target share Delanie has been seeing, but 4-6 targets would be a reasonable expectation.
Rookies to Sit:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): Despite the Cardinals allowing the 3rd-most QB points per game, Beathard has shown that you shouldn’t really trust him even in great matchups. It’s a messy week in 2-QB leagues this week with the 6 byes, so you might be forced to go with Beathard. There is some solace to be had in the fact that he’s topped 10 points each week, but not much. He’s no more than a desperation QB2 if you have just about no other options. I wouldn’t go near him in DFS lineups.
RB Matt Breida, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): The Cardinals are allowing the 10th-fewest RB points per game, and despite his TD last week, Breida has still averaged just 6 touches per game in the past 3 weeks. The 32% of the snaps he played last week was the highest he saw in those 3 games, but the matchup this week is too tough to expect Breida to make hay on that limited of a snap count.
RB Corey Clement, PHI (Wk. 9: vs. Den.): Although the Eagles are again a comfortable favorite, I don’t see Clement piling up 10 garbage time carries again this week. Even if he does, I’d be stunned if he manages to top 50 yards again. He goes from facing the defense that allows the most RB points per game last week to the one that allows the fewest this week. It’s not a recipe for success for a part-time player like Clement.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 9: vs. Bal.): Davis should return this week from the ankle injury that’s sidelined him since week 2, but I’m not quite ready to throw him into the fire in fantasy lineups. He may be eased back in, and he gets a gauntlet the first few weeks back. The Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers all rank in the top-5 in the league at limiting WR fantasy points. If you have the space to stash him, his schedule opens up a ton after that. The following 4 opponents after the AFC North stretch all rank in the bottom 13, including the dumpster fires that are the Colts and 49ers. There are better days ahead for Davis, but you should exercise caution with him for now.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 9: @GB): Golladay does return to a good matchup if he’s able to get back on the field this week, but he’ll be little more than a TD dart throw. He may struggle to keep up with the Joneses (Marvin and TJ), who have both played well while Kenny was sidelined. TJ has likely earned a split of the WR3 reps with Golladay, so it would be best to take a wait-and-see approach before putting Babytron back into lineups.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 9: @NYJ): Zay finally had a reasonably efficient game last weekend with 3 catches on 5 targets for 32 yards. It’s not a week you can use for fantasy purposes, as he was just the WR46 for the week in PPR scoring, but it’s something for him to build on. At least, it would have been if the Bills didn’t go out and trade for Kelvin Benjamin. He may get one more chance to showcase what he can do this week since KB was acquired 2 days before this week’s tilt with the Jets, but there’s no reason to try him in your lineup. He’s droppable even in deep redraft leagues since his targets will likely be cut in half the rest of the way.
WR Dede Westbrook, JAX (Wk. 9: vs. Cin.): Dede might be worth stashing in deeper leagues, and should certainly be owned in dynasty formats, but this is probably not the best week to use him. The Bengals allow the 5th-fewest WR points per game, and the Jaguars attempt the 3rd-fewest passes per game. Since Jacksonville is a 4-point favorite this week, I don’t see them having to deviate much from their run-heavy game plan in this one. Keep an eye on Westbrook’s usage, but keep him out of the lineup.
TE George Kittle, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): Kittle has shown pretty clearly in the past 2 weeks that the Iowa connection hasn’t carried over to the NFL level. Arizona is a tougher matchup on tight ends than the Eagles were, and Philly held Kittle to 2-22 on 4 targets. Kittle has seen just 6 targets in 2 games with Beathard as the starter after getting 7 targets from him in week 6 when CJ relieved Hoyer. I don’t expect a spike in targets this week. There are likely better streaming options available.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 9: @NO): After posting a career game in week 7, Howard came back down to Earth last Sunday with 2-16 on 2 targets. He remains behind Cameron Brate as a pass-catching TE for Tampa. Howard’s athleticism will allow him to post a big game here or there if the defense doesn’t account for him, but it’s hard to predict when those games will come. You could use Howard in DFS tournaments as a shoot-the-moon option, but he’s a volatile play.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 9: vs. LAR): The Rams allow the 2nd-most RB points per game, and Gallman hasn’t totally disappeared from the offense despite Orleans Darkwa’s breakout 100-yard game. Gallman actually played 1 more snap than Darkwa the week after that game. His production has been minimal, but if he manages to play 35% or more of the snaps again in this plus matchup, he could be in play as a DFS tournament punt option, or as a desperation flex in the deepest of leagues with so many byes on tap.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 9: vs. Ind.): Foreman’s usage pattern has been pretty easy to get a read on in hindsight, and this week, it may be pretty easy to guess how he’ll be used beforehand. In the Texans’ 4 losses, Foreman has averaged 4 touches and 33 scrimmage yards per game. He’s averaged 12 touches and 48 yards in their wins. The Texans are 13-point favorites this week. I’d expect there to be ample garbage time against a Colts’ team that has allowed the 3rd-most RB points per game. If he gets his typical usage for wins and manages to find the end zone, he likely winds up a top-30 RB for the week. You could do worse if looking for a fill in for deeper leagues. He’s a better option in standard formats rather than PPR.
WR Trent Taylor, SF (Wk. 9: vs. Ari.): Pierre Garcon is likely to be shadowed by Patrick Peterson once again this week, and the last time the 49ers faced the Cardinals that resulted in 10 targets for Trent. He posted 5 catches and 47 yards in that game, out-producing Garcon in the process. The Cardinals have proven to be vulnerable to all wide receivers that Peterson doesn’t shadow, They’ve allowed the 4th-most WR points per game despite Pat Pete allowing just 5 catches and 60 yards on balls thrown into his coverage all year according to RotoWorld’s Targets & Touches. Even with Beathard at QB, Taylor is an intriguing punt option for GPP tournaments and costs the minimum on DraftKings.
WR Ryan Switzer, DAL (Wk. 9: vs. KC): Cole Beasley suffered a concussion and is likely to miss this game. It appears it’ll be Switzer who gets the nod in the slot in a nice matchup against the Chiefs. KC allows the 2nd-most WR points per game. Beasley hasn’t been a consistent option with just under 4.5 targets per game, but the looming Ezekiel Elliott suspension could change the calculus of the Cowboys’ short passing game. Dallas is likely to be less effective running the ball without him, and they also lose the best receiver they have out of the backfield. Switzer may soak up several more targets than expected this week. With a minimum DFS price tag, he could surprise as a DFS punt play. I would disregard this if Zeke manages to avoid a suspension this week.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 9: vs. Atl.): After the Kelvin Benjamin trade, Samuel is likely to be elevated to the WR2 in Carolina behind Devin Funchess. He offers a much different skill set than Funch & KB, and should be a better complement to Funchess. Russell Shepard will likely man the slot in the new-look passing attack. I don’t think this is the best opportunity to use Samuel, but I do believe he’s worth a stash in deeper leagues. Atlanta doesn’t allow many big plays in the passing game (just 1 completion against them for 40+ yards), and Samuel’s speed is his best asset. He’s only been targeted 14 times on the season, but KB’s departure frees up 6.5 targets per game and the Panthers have found ways to use Samuel in the running game as well. Keep an eye on what the rookie does this week.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 9: @NYG): If you’re really desperate at tight end, the Giants have allowed at least 45 receiving yards and a touchdown to the tight end position in every game this year. Tyler Higbee is the starter and probably seems like the better play, but Everett has the only TD between the two and averages more than 5 more yards per target than Higbee. Of course, Higbee has more targets, but Everett has been the better downfield threat.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully, it helps you with some of those more difficult lineup decisions and helps you get through another week that’s heavy with byes. Keep a close eye on the injury report this week. A lot can change as the week goes on with guys like Delanie Walker, Jordan Reed, Sterling Shepard, Emmanuel Sanders and anyone else that might affect your lineups. Make sure to check before kickoff on Sunday (or Thursday) to see who’s active. Feel free to hit me up on twitter (@Shawn_Foss) if you have any questions or want to yell at me about anything included above. As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.