Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Week 9 was a tough one for us here. A lot of outlooks changed after the report posted. Most notably, Deshaun Watson suffered a season-ending leg injury. That threw a wrench into the expectations for Marlon Mack and D’Onta Foreman along with Watson’s. Leonard Fournette was suspended for breaking team rules right before their game with the Bengals, likely sending people scrambling for a running back. Hopefully you were able to find an adequate replacement. Hopefully things go a little more according to plan this week. The number of byes in week 10 drops to 4 (KC, PHI, OAK, BAL), so you shouldn’t be quite as hard pressed to fill gaps as the last two weeks. With the Chiefs and Eagles on bye, we won’t get to dive into what’s wrong with Kareem Hunt or talk up Corey Clement’s garbage time bonanza, but we will talk about all of the fantasy relevant rookies who are playing this week. Let’s jump in and take a look at the week 10 slate…
Rookies to Start:
RB Leonard Fournette, JAX (Wk. 10: vs. LAC): The Chargers have allowed 8 running backs to finish as a weekly top-20 back, and Fournette has landed in the top 14 backs in all 6 weeks he’s played (top-10 4 times). As long as he doesn’t suddenly get benched on Sunday again, he should be a safe RB1 again. The Chargers allow the 2nd-most rushing yards per game. Fournette will cost a bundle in DFS games, but he may be worth the price. He should be a chalk play in cash games.
RB Christian McCaffrey, CAR (Wk. 10: vs. Mia.): McCaffrey finally saw a spike in his rushing usage last week. It only took two early Jonathan Stewart fumbles to get us here, but McCaffrey handled a season-high 15 rushing attempts, and he actually had success, picking up 66 yards and a score (the score probably should’ve been ruled a pass play, but I digress). The Panthers said they traded Kelvin Benjamin to open things up for the running game, and for at least one week, it worked. McCaffrey’s receiving floor has already proven solid this year with at least 4 catches and 28 receiving yards in every single game so far. The rushing usage could be the key to unlocking his ceiling if it continues. The Dolphins aren’t a great matchup for him, but CMC has been at least a flex play every week. I’d look for him to be a safe RB2 in all formats this week, with higher upside in PPR.
RB Alvin Kamara, NO (Wk. 10: @Buf.): Kamara put on a show last weekend with 31.2 PPR points, good enough to be the overall RB1 for the week. His point total has gone up each week since the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson. The matchup gets a little tougher this week, but the Bills have had some struggles vs. RBs lately. They allowed only one team’s RBs to top 20 PPR points in the first 6 games of the year, but have allowed 35 or more to the position in each of the last 2. Kamara should be an easy RB2 again this week. His price tag in DFS has finally caught up with his production a bit, but he should still be a strong option there as well.
TE Evan Engram, NYG (Wk. 10: @SF): Engram has 29 targets in the 3 games since Odell Beckham and Brandon Marshall were hurt, and he’s posted 15-212-3 with at least 60 yards and a score in each game. The return of Sterling Shepard last week didn’t cut into his volume at all, as he was targeted 10 times in week 9. The 49ers do limit TE production, allowing the 6th-fewest points per game to the position, but Engram is a featured part of this offense. The buckets of volume he should continue to see make him a top-3 TE option this week with Ertz & Kelce on byes.
RB Joe Mixon, CIN (Wk. 10: @Ten.): Mixon should continue to return much the same value we’ve seen over the past several weeks. He’s scored between 8 and 14 points in PPR scoring each and every week since Bill Lazor took over as offensive coordinator. That range is uninspiring, but it can be usable. The Bengals’ shoddy o-line play has severely limited Mixon’s upside. The Titans do have a decent run defense, ranking 12th in Football Outsiders’ run defense DVOA stat, but Mixon should still get his typical volume. That’ll keep him in play as a floor RB2/flex option as usual.
RB Aaron Jones, GB (Wk. 10: @Chi.): I actually like Jones this week, but it’s hard to have a ton of confidence in him after Monday night. Ty Montgomery has re-appeared and Head Coach Mike McCarthy has said TyMo will handle passing downs going forward. Against the Bears, I do like the Packers’ chances of being able to run on early downs, which would work in Jones’s favor. The Bears are actually a 5.5-point favorite in this game, which is incredible. That would make you think game script will favor Montgomery, but I’m not convinced. The Bears do allow the 11th-most RB points per game. If Green Bay is able to keep the game tight or play with a lead, Jones should be able to return solid value as a flex option. If they play from behind, I’d be less optimistic. Go with your gut on how you think this game will go. If I had to guess, I like Jones to outscore Montgomery.
RB Marlon Mack, IND (Wk. 10: vs. Pit.): Mack is in play again this week with the Colts a 10-point underdog at home. They lucked into facing Tom Savage last week, and were able to play in a positive game script for once, which undoubtedly hurt Mack’s output. I’d expect him to get a healthier dose of passing game work in this one. I’m not bullish on Mack’s prospects of finding the end zone though. The Steelers haven’t allowed a running back receiving score all year, and the Colts have run the ball from inside the 5-yard line just 4 times all year, and 3 of them were Robert Turbin carries. If you’re desperate for a fill-in back with some upside this week, Mack fits the bill, but it’s likely there are better plays available.
WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT (Wk. 10: @Ind.): JuJu gets a great matchup this week and is coming off his best game of the year before last week’s bye, but I’m not ready to go all-in on JJSS this week. As mentioned above, the Steelers are a 10-point road favorite and may not need to throw a lot as the game goes on. They also will have Martavis Bryant back, and he could get some squeaky wheel treatment after complaining about his role in the offense (I know he got suspended for those complaints, but they still may try to get him more involved). The Colts will also be without Vontae Davis, which means Antonio Brown should be able to do anything he wants to against this secondary. The Colts allow the 7th-most WR points per game and have allowed the most 20+ yard completions in the league. The matchup is ripe for JuJu to have a big day, but there are plenty of concerns as to just how much volume he’s going to see. He’s a WR3 option this week with some boom-or-bust to him.
WR Cooper Kupp, LAR (Wk. 10: vs. Hou.): The Texans have really struggled to slow down opposing WRs in the two games since their bye, coughing up an absurd 105 PPR points to the position total in those games. The Rams’ passing attack looked great against the Giants last week, and it may be Kupp’s turn to score a TD this week after Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins combined for 3 TDs last Sunday. Per Rich Hribar of Rotoworld, 27.7% of Kupp’s targets have come in the red zone, the highest percentage of any WR in the league. Volume could be a problem with the Rams a 12-point favorite, but if Kupp finds the end zone he should return decent value as a flex or WR3.
Rookies to Sit:
QB Mitch Trubisky, CHI (Wk. 10: vs. GB): As I mentioned above for Aaron Jones, the Bears are stunningly favored to beat the Packers. If the game goes the way Vegas expects it to, the Bears should go back to the run-heavy game plan they’d been employing prior to the Saints game. Trubisky threw 32 pass attempts against New Orleans in that game. It was the most he’s thrown in a game. 24 teams average more attempts than that per game. The Pack can be thrown on, but I don’t expect Trubisky to throw enough to be even a usable QB2.
QB DeShone Kizer, CLE (Wk. 10: @Det.): As long as the Browns continue to let Kizer start, there will be some sneaky spots to use him once Corey Coleman and Josh Gordon are into the lineup. This week is not one of them. The Lions have allowed just one top-12 QB all year, and have kept 5 QBs out of the top-20. That list includes Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Eli Manning and Carson Palmer. The Lions are currently tied for 3rd in the NFL in takeaways, and no QB has turned the ball over more than Kizer. This is a great spot to play the Detroit defense.
RB RB Elijah McGuire, NYJ (Wk. 10: @TB): The Bucs have given up 7 running back scores in the past 4 games, and McGuire did just handle 14 touches last Thursday, but he’s still stuck behind Forte and Powell. As bad as the Bucs have been, it’s still hard to imagine the Jets blowing them out in Tampa by enough that McGuire gets extended run. Forte was held out of practice Wednesday, so monitor the situation as the week goes on. It’s likely just a precautionary measure, but McGuire would have pretty decent upside this week if Forte is out.
RB Matt Breida, SF (Wk. 10: vs. NYG): Despite the 49ers having limited options on offense thanks to a litany of injuries (Kittle, Garcon, Trent Taylor), I wouldn’t expect big things from Breida this week. He’s been the clear second fiddle to Hyde for several weeks now, and I’d expect SF to lean on Hyde again this week. He was targeted an absurd 11 times in the loss to Arizona last weekend. Breida will continue to handle the scraps, but that isn’t enough to make him an intriguing option this week.
RB D’Onta Foreman, HOU (Wk. 10: @LAR): The Texans’ offense with Tom Savage at the helm just doesn’t generate enough production to consider playing the number 2 running back, even in a plus matchup like this one.
WR Zay Jones, BUF (Wk. 10: vs. NO): Zay Jones was written off earlier this year (by me and others) due to historic inefficiency, but he appears to have gotten his rookie season back on track in the last 2 weeks. He had his best game as a pro last Thursday with a 6-53-1 line. Unfortunately he got dinged up in that game. Jones was able to play much of the 2nd half last week after being injured, so there is a real chance he plays this week, but he’s not practicing as of Wednesday. If he does play, his volume will likely take a big hit with Kelvin Benjamin getting up to speed and Charles Clay likely returning. I’d shy away even if Zay is a go.
WR Curtis Samuel, CAR (Wk. 10: vs. Mia.): It was nice to see Samuel get more involved in the passing game with Kelvin Benjamin gone. The 3 catches, 23 yards and 5 targets were all season-highs (5 targets tied his season-high), and he tacked on a 14-yard rush as well. I’d expect his role to continue to grow moving forward, but I don’t like his prospects for this week. Both the Panthers and Dolphins like to slow the game down, and that will limit the total number of plays and overall passing volume. The Dolphins have allowed the 10th-fewest WR points per game, and have faced the 2nd-fewest overall pass attempts against. That limited volume curtails the upside that Samuel has this week. He’s still just the 3rd option in the passing game at best. I’d expect somewhere around 25 passing attempts for Cam, and Funchess and CMC are averaging a combined 16 targets per game
WR Dede Westbrook, JAX (Wk. 10: vs. LAC): Westbrook’s return from IR was delayed last week, and may be again. The Jaguars have said they aren’t sure if he’ll be activated this week. If he is, he should push Keelan Cole to the bench in 3WR sets. Even if Westbrook suits up, I’d be hard-pressed to trot him out there in any formats this week. Jacksonville should have their way with the Chargers on the ground, and the team has averaged just 178 passing yards per game when Fournette is in the lineup. Westbrook could be an interesting punt option in DFS tournaments if Marqise Lee sits, but there won’t be a ton of passing volume for the Jaguars in this one.
WR Mike Williams, LAC (Wk. 10: @Jax): The Jaguars erase wide receivers. They allow the fewest points per game to the position in the league, and the Chargers have averaged 8 completions per game to WRs in their past 4 contests. I’m not even sure I trust Keenan Allen this week, let alone Williams.
WR Josh Malone, CIN (Wk. 10: @Ten.): I mention Malone because he now has 7 targets in the last two weeks, and Cincy does face a weak pass defense on Sunday. You still should avoid him. The Bengals have been a low-volume attack and I’d look for them to try and spark AJ Green in this one.
WR Kenny Golladay, DET (Wk. 10: vs. Cle.): Even if Golladay finally returns to the lineup for Detroit, Stafford seems to have found a great rhythm with Golden Tate and Marvin Jones, and Kenny would still split snaps with TJ Jones for the WR3 spot. The Lions are also a 12-point favorite, so they should stray a little from their typically pass-heavy play calling. There is more risk than upside for Golladay this week.
TE David Njoku, CLE (Wk. 10: @Det.): The Lions have allowed a league-low 26 catches to opposing TEs on the year, and Njoku continues to split time with Seth DeValve. Until that changes, he’ll continue to be a low-upside TD dart throw. You typically don’t want to play a TD dart throw option in a game where the team’s implied total is only about 15 and a half points.
TE OJ Howard, TB (Wk. 10: vs. NYJ): With Jameis sidelined, OJ’s already limited fantasy prospects get even more limited. You could argue Howard could get more usage as a receiver with Mike Evans out, but there’s a different guy I expect to pick up that slack that I’ll get to in a moment. I’d avoid Howard this week.
TE Gerald Everett, LAR (Wk. 10: vs. Hou.): Everett is always capable of putting up a long catch and the Texans are allowing the 6th-most TE points per game, but you’d have to be pretty desperate to trot out Everett. He played just 15 offensive snaps last week compared to 50 for teammate Tyler Higbee.
Deep League Sleepers, Stashes, and Cheap DFS Options:
QB CJ Beathard, SF (Wk. 10: vs. NYG): As long as he gets the start, Beathard is in play as a streamer in 2QB leagues. Kyle Shanahan left the door open for Jimmy Garoppolo to start with comments to the media on Wednesday, but I’d expect it to be CJ. There’s no reason to rush Jimmy with the season already lost and a bye following this game. There are some concerns for Beathard, as the Niners are without George Kittle, Pierre Garcon, and Trent Taylor. Instead, his targets will be Hyde, Garrett Celek, Marquise Goodwin, and Aldrick Robinson. The matchup is still a pretty good one. The Giants have allowed 3 passing scores in 4 of their past 5 games, and allowed over 250 passing yards in all 5. Beathard is likely to put up less than the 23.7 points per game the Giants have allowed to QBs in that stretch, but there is still some upside to be had.
RB Tarik Cohen, CHI (Wk. 10: vs. GB): It’ll be tough to trust Cohen in season-long lineups after he handled just 6 touches in the past 2 games combined, but the Bears know they need to get him more involved. The Packers rank 25th in pass defense DVOA on throws to running backs, and Cohen is their most explosive pass catcher out of the backfield. He should be an intriguing punt options for DFS tournaments, but is probably a little too volatile to use anywhere else.
RB Wayne Gallman, NYG (Wk. 10: @SF): While it appears Orleans Darkwa has taken over the lead back role for the G-Men, Gallman hasn’t completely disappeared. He handled 9 carries last week, and this week the Giants face a 49ers team that has allowed the most rushing yards per game and 2nd-most rushing TDs in the league. Darkwa is a huge upside play this week, but I think some of the benefits spill over to Gallman. He did out-snap Darkwa in week 7 before the bye.
WR Corey Davis, TEN (Wk. 10: vs. Cin.): The Bengals have been excellent at limiting WRs (they allow the 4th-fewest points per game to the position), but they struggled badly to contain Marqise Lee last Sunday. Davis looked healthy and played 75% of the offensive snaps. Head Coach Mike Mularkey said that his snap count is going to increase moving forward. With DeMarco Murray ailing, the Titans could lean on the pass a bit more this week, and Davis should be basically a full-time player. There are worse options you could go to if you need a fill-in WR. Davis was targeted 5 times last Sunday, and I’d expect at least that number again.
WR Chris Godwin, TB (Wk. 10: vs. NYJ): With Mike Evans suspended for this game, Godwin should move into a starting role. He’ll have Ryan Fitzpatrick throwing him the ball, which doesn’t seem ideal, but Godwin likely catches a lot of balls from Fitz in practice since both are on the 2nd team. I’d also expect the Jets’ top corner Mo Claiborne to be contending more with DeSean Jackson than Godwin. The Jets allow the 9th-most points per game to WRs, and Godwin has been impressive whenever he’s been given a chance. He’s in a great spot and costs the minimum in DraftKings.
WR ArDarius Stewart, NYJ (Wk. 10: @TB): Stewart has been irrelevant so far this year, but his role is worth monitoring this week with Jeremy Kerley suspended for the next 4 games. Stewart looked poised to be the starting slot WR before Kerley was cut by the 49ers. Stewart is probably unlikely to make a fantasy impact in these 4 weeks with the Jets favoring Kearse, ASJ and Robby Anderson, but the Bucs do allow the 2nd-most WR points per game. Don’t be shocked if Stewart has a decent game out of nowhere.
That’s all I’ve got for this week. Hopefully it helps you with some lineup decisions wherever you have rookies. Keep an eye on the injury report throughout the week and make sure to check before kickoff that there aren’t any surprise inactives like Fournette last week. If you have any questions or want to rant at me about anything written above, feel free to hit me up on twitter and let me know (@Shawn_Foss). As always: Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun. It’s just a game.