Welcome back to the Rookie Report! Week 1 is upon us. By now you should have your team drafted and it's all about picking the right guys to fill out the lineup and get off to that all-important 1-0 start. Before the bye weeks hit, the strategy should be pretty simple: Start your studs. Unfortunately, injuries may already be derailing that if you own(ed) Jordy Nelson, Kelvin Benjamin, C.J. Spiller, Arian Foster, Mike Evans, Tre Mason, or any other player who is out or questionable for week one. Perhaps there is a rookie who could fill that void and help you get in the win column. Each week I'll break down the rookie matchups, listing which guys you should start, which ones are borderline options, and which ones you should keep planted on the pine. I'll also include a couple of sleepers each week for deep leagues who could also be cheap options for those who play daily or weekly fantasy games. So, without further ado...
(Note: Both quarterback projections are for 2 QB leagues. Both should be sitting in 1 QB format)
Rookies to Start:
QB Jameis Winston, TB (Wk. 1: vs. Ten.): Famous Jameis gets one of his easiest matchups of the year in week one. The Titans have been a mess for a couple of years now, and most of their offseason additions will help on the offensive side of the ball, not defense. The Titans did bring in long time Steelers D coordinator Dick LeBeau, and he's traditionally made life hell on rookie signal-callers with his aggressive blitz schemes, but I doubt he has the personnel to wreak the havoc he's used to. I'd project Winston for about 225 yards and 2 TDs, which should make him a solid start in 2QB leagues (don't start him if you only get one). This projection takes a minor hit if Mike Evans is a no-go.
WR Amari Cooper, OAK (Wk. 1: vs. Cin.): Things have been kind of quiet on the Amari front through training camp. There was one great highlight of him burning Patrick Peterson in a preseason game on a comeback route, but otherwise there hasn't been much buzz. He's been flying a little under the radar. That changes on Sunday when the Raiders get to break out their new toy. Derek Carr will funnel Oakland's new #1 WR with targets, and I expect at least 7 catches in a stellar debut. He should be especially solid in PPR formats.
WR Nelson Agholor, PHI (Wk. 1: @Atl.): The Falcons' defense wasn't very good against WRs a year ago, and there haven't been any substantial improvements made. J-Matt is number one in the pecking order, but he'll see a lot of Atlanta's top CB Desmond Trufant, and Zach Ertz's status is still up in the air. I'd expect a lot of volume to come Nelson's way. He has potential to be a solid WR2 in PPR leagues this week.
QB Marcus Mariota, TEN (Wk. 1: @TB): Tampa Bay is back to running Lovie Smith's Tampa 2 defense, which is a bend-but-don't-break scheme featuring a lot of zone pass defense. If there's one thing Mariota showed in college, it's that he knows how to get the ball to guys in space, and there will be some soft spots in that zone. Unfortunately for Mariota, I'd expect a pretty conservative gameplan from Whisenhunt in the first start of his career. His running ability gives him top-15 QB potential this week, but I'd have to be pretty underwhelmed by my QB2 to roll the dice on Mariota. The Bucs allowed an NFL-low 78 rushing yards to opposing QBs last season.
RB T.J. Yeldon, JAX (Wk. 1: vs. Car.): The Panthers have an imposing front 7 on paper, but they were just a middling defense vs. RBs a year ago. The Jaguars' offense is ascending, but the o-line still has a little work to do. Yeldon makes an intriguing flex option this week, but I'd be happy with 75 yards and a TD from him in his debut. If you think you have better options than that, play them. I will say, I do like Yeldon better this week than...
RB Melvin Gordon, SD (Wk. 1: vs. Det.): Let's not kid ourselves, you likely drafted Melvin Gordon to play him. He's probably your RB2, but he's only a 2-down back. He will continue to give way to Danny Woodhead in passing situations, and there might be a lot of those this week. The Lions allowed the 3rd fewest RB points last year, and yes they lost Ndamukong Suh, but they did replace him with Haloti Ngata, who was an integral part of the Ravens' defense last year. The Ravens allowed the fewest RB fantasy points. I'm not saying Ngata isn't a dropoff from Suh, just that he isn't as much of one as you might think. Temper your expectations for Gordon this week. Anything over 50 total yards would be a promising debut.
RB Tevin Coleman, ATL (Wk. 1: vs. Phi.): The Eagles did give up 20 TDs to opposing RBs last season, but the front 7 was still stout, allowing just 3.5 ypc and just the 11th most fantasy points to RBs despite allowing them the 4th most TDs. Kyle Shanahan should improve the Falcons' running game, but week one could be a dicey one. I'd expect 12-15 touches for Coleman, and he has big play speed, but you'd basically be hoping he breaks a long one or finds pay dirt if you start him.
RB Ameer Abdullah, DET (Wk. 1: @SD): After Joique Bell missed the entire preseason, I'd expect a decent sized role for Abdullah in week one. He should be solid flex option in PPR leagues, and I'd expect him to pull in 5+ receptions. The Lions know what a special playmaker AA can be, and they should look to get him involved. Don't go crazy here, we're still likely only talking about 10-12 touches, but there is upside in PPR formats.
Rookies to Sit:
RB Duke Johnson, CLE (Wk. 1: @NYJ): Johnson was just cleared to resume practice Wednesday after suffering a concussion in the only game that he played in the preseason. Yes the Browns only have 2 running backs on the roster after trading away Terrance West, but I'd expect the bulk of the work to go to Isaiah Crowell. Johnson looks to be the 3rd down and receiving back for the Browns, but only 3 teams allowed fewer catches by RBs last season than the Jets, and new head coach Todd Bowles's Arizona team allowed just 3 more RB receptions than those Jets.
RB David Johnson, ARI (Wk. 1: vs. NO): The Saints were among the worst in the NFL against RBs a season ago, and things didn't get better when they released Junior Galette and lost Curtis Lofton in the offseason. Unfortunately for Johnson, there's no real telling what his role in the offense will be. He looked to be the clear number 2 to Ellington early on in preseason, but the addition of Chris Johnson has muddled the picture somewhat, especially after CJ looked good in the final preseason game. This is a situation best left avoided for week 1.
WR Devin Funchess, CAR (Wk. 1: @Jax.): The Panthers still won't commit to Funchess as a starter despite the Kelvin Benjamin injury. They have him listed with the second team, and will likely employ a conservative gameplan against a Jags team that was sieve-like against the run last year. With that said, I think the Jacksonville defense quietly came together late last year and will bump up to the middle of the pack of NFL defenses this season. I expect Funchess to disappoint in week one. Unless you're in a pretty deep league, you should have better options this week.
WR Breshad Perriman, BAL (Wk. 1: @Den.): He seems unlikely to play this week, so that should make the decision easier on you, but after limited practice time in camp, he's a poor bet to produce even if he's in the lineup. It's not a good week for him to be hurt. This should be a pass-happy week for the Ravens as they try to keep pace with Denver.
WR Devante Parker, MIA (Wk. 1: @Was.): I love Parker's upside this year, and it's very encouraging from a health standpoint that DeVante played at all in the final preseason game, but I expect him to be eased into regular season action with Kenny Stills and Greg Jennings playing more snaps early on. I could regret this recommendation given who the 'Phins are playing, but I don't think Miami will need much help from Parker to vanquish the Redskins.
WR Phillip Dorsett, IND (Wk. 1: @Buf.): At this point, the Colts' wide receiver depth and gameplan are way too uncertain to play Dorsett. All indications are that he beat out Donte Moncrief for the 3rd WR spot (Moncrief is listed as the starting return man), but we still don't know for sure if the offseason talk of the Colts running more 3 & 4 WR sets and less 2 TE sets was just talk or not. There's a very real chance Dorsett puts up a goose egg.
TE Maxx Williams, BAL (Wk. 1: @Den.): I know, the Ravens have to throw to somebody, why not Williams? While I think he's easily the best rookie TE in this class, at 21-years old, the sheer physicality of playing tight end in the NFL will take him some getting used to. There's a reason rookie tight ends typically don't produce in year one. Look for Crockett Gillmore to open the season at the number one TE, and for Williams to work his way into that role as the season progresses.
Deep League & DFS Sleepers:
RB Matt Jones, WAS (Wk. 1: vs. Mia.): Things could get really ugly this year for the Redskins. They'll be playing from behind a lot. Alf Morris is essentially a zero in the passing game, and his yards per carry average is 1.25 yards lower with anyone other than RG3 under center. Add in that the coaching staff has been singing Jones's praises, and Morris is in the final year of his contract, and it adds up to the torch being passed to Jones before the end of the year. I think he'll have a big role before that happens, and it starts week one. Look for close to a 50-50 split of touches between Alf and Jones, and look for Jones to be more impressive with them.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, TEN (Wk. 1: @TB): DGB has impressed thus far in camp and the preseason, and the Titans are carrying just 4 wide receivers on the roster into the opener (Kendall Wright, Harry Douglas, Justin Hunter & DGB). Green-Beckham is easily the toughest cover of the group with his freakish size and athleticism, and I don't think anyone on the Bucs is big enough to cover him. He's the best bet of any Titans' pass catcher to score a TD in the opener.
That's all I've got for this week. Hopefully it helps. Week one is always an unpredictable one for the rookies, so play it safe where you can, and go get a week one win. Good luck, trust your gut, and have fun...It's just a game.
Welcome back to the Rookie Report! It's finally here...championship week. Hopefully all of the weeks of waiver wire moves, bold lineup decisions, and Sunday and Monday nail biting have paid off, and you still are left standing with a chance to bring home the title. This week should be all about making the lineup decisions that you can live with even if you happen to lose...does that mean playing it safe and rolling with your stars (even if they haven't necessarily been that this year), or does that mean rolling the dice with a guy you feel good about this week? That's up to you. I'm here to give you a better feel of what to expect from your rookies this week, but it's up to you to pull the trigger and start them. Let's dive in...
Rookies to Start:
RB David Johnson, ARI (Wk. 16: vs. GB): The matchup isn't ideal, but you aren't sitting him after he dropped 40 points on the Eagles last Sunday (all points listed are in ESPN standard scoring). Johnson has averaged 157 yards from scrimmage and scored 4 TDs in his 3 starts since CJ2K went down, and this week faces a Packers team that ranks 18th in Football Outsiders' run defense DVOA (measures defensive efficiency). Johnson has RB1 upside again this week (although I doubt he beats the rest of the RB field by 10 points again).
WR Amari Cooper, OAK (Wk. 16: vs. SD): The matchup is tough this week, as Cooper is likely to draw Jason Verrett and the Chargers allow the 4th fewest WR points in the league, but if you take away the goose egg Amari put up against Denver, he's put up lines of 7-115, 4-69, and 6-120-2 in the past 4 weeks with at least 8 targets in each game. He'll continue to see lots of volume, and the upside is just too high for you to leave Cooper on the bench despite some shaky weeks this season. He's a rock solid WR3 this week.
QB Jameis Winston, TB (Wk. 16: vs. Chi.): Jameis gets an interesting matchup this week. The Bucs' offensive game plan is typically run-heavy and limits Jameis's passing volume, but the Bears have allowed some solid passing days on limited attempts this year. They've allowed over 20 QB points on fewer than 25 passing attempts 3 times this season, including 32 to Teddy Bridgewater on 20 attempts last Sunday, and have also allowed at least 21 QB points in each of the past 3 contests. I expect the game script to at least be neutral, and the Bucs pass volume to be limited again, but Jameis has shown a safe QB2 floor, and there is upside for a top-10 QB day.
RB Karlos Williams, BUF (Wk. 16: vs. Dal.): There is a fear that Karlos will split touches with Mike Gillislee after Gillislee ran so well over the past few weeks, but Williams is the one who is built to be an every down back and I'd expect him to lead the committee. The Cowboys rank 27th in run DVOA, and Karlos averaged about 10 yards per carry in his return from a two-week injury absence. If Karlos is able to take the lead, I like his chances to return RB2 value and get back into the end zone for the first time since week 10.
RB Todd Gurley, STL (Wk. 16: @Sea.): The matchup is brutal and we've seen a low floor for Gurley, but his talent and volume give him some flex appeal. The Rams do have some history of being able to run on the Seahawks under Jeff Fisher, getting stat lines of 18-85-1 from Tre Mason and 26-134 out of Zac Stacy against them in the last two seasons, but those games were in St. Louis. This one is in Seattle. I'd lean towards sitting Gurley if you have better options.
RB Ameer Abdullah, DET (Wk. 16: vs. SF): Abdullah is coming off his best game of the year, and the 49ers run defense has been abysmal on the road. San Francisco allows 28.7 points per game to opposing RBs on the road (at least 22 in all 7 road games). They also rank 24th in run DVOA for the year. Abdullah was the overall RB14 in a plus matchup on Monday. He looked explosive, and more importantly, Jim Caldwell went back to him after he lost a fumble in the 2nd half. Betting on the Lions' run game is always a risky proposition, but Abdullah could have week-winning upside if you're willing to trust him with the title on the line.
RB Cameron Artis-Payne, CAR (Wk. 16: @Atl.): Although Mike Tolbert and Cam Newton are likely to vulture any short TDs, Artis-Payne should lead the backfield in touches yet again. He out-touched Tolbert and Fozzy Whitaker 16-9 a week ago, and this week faces the Falcons who allow the 4th-most RB fantasy points and rank 21st in run DVOA. Artis-Payne's expected volume should make him a low-end RB2 with the upside for more.
RB TJ Yeldon, JAX (Wk. 16: @NO): Yeldon is very iffy for this week, and would likely split touches with Denard Robinson if he's able to give it a go Sunday, but boy does he get a juicy matchup. The Saints have only held 2 teams in their past 10 games under 19 RB points, and they rank 29th in run DVOA and 31st in pass DVOA on throws to running backs. Keep an eye on the injury report and be ready to roll out Yeldon if he seems to be close to 100%.
WR Tyler Lockett, SEA (Wk. 16: vs. StL.): Regardless of matchup, Lockett should remain a borderline WR3 in most formats. He's seen 7 targets in each game since Jimmy Graham went down for the year, and in those games he's been the overall WR28, WR4 and WR21. The Rams have allowed the 5th-fewest WR points per game for the full season, but have allowed 26.5 per game over the past 4, which would be the-4th most. Don't invent reasons not to play Lockett just becuase it's the title week.
WR Dorial Green-Beckham, TEN (Wk. 16: vs. Hou.): Week 15 was just a taste of what DGB is capable of. He's now put up 14-285-1 over the past 3 games on 22 targets. With Mariota out due to a knee injury, you'd expect Green-Beckham's value to take a minor hit this week, but that might not be the case. Zach Mettenberger did target Dorial 7 times after taking over last Sunday, connecting with him 5 times. Dorial actually has a higher catch rate on throws from Mett than he has on throws from Mariota. His talent and role will keep him firmly on the WR3 radar this week.
WR DeVante Parker, MIA (Wk. 16: vs. Ind.): If Rishard Matthews is able to come back from his rib injury this week, this is a situation best avoided for fantasy. If Matthews is out again however, Parker remains in play as a WR3 option. He's topped 80 yards and/or scored a touchdown in 3 of the last 4 games, and the Colts allow the 5th-most WR points in the league. I'd feel more comfortable starting him as a 4th WR in leagues where that's possible, but he has upside once again.
TE Will Tye, NYG (Wk. 16: @Min.): I'm almost inclined to list Tye as a 'Rookie to Start' this week, but I can't advocate starting him over proven studs like Barnidge, Olsen, Antonio Gates, Jordan Reed, etc. Tye has been no lower than the overall TE8 in the past 3 weeks, and he should see an uptick in volume this week with Odell Beckham suspended (I expect the suspension to be upheld). Tye should carry a low TE1 floor this week, regardless of the matchup. Every defense that Tye has started against so far has ranked in the top half of the league in limiting TE fantasy points (4th, 8th, 12th, and 15th). The VIkings rank 12th(tie) vs TEs in terms of points allowed, but also are 26th in pass DVOA on throws to tight ends. Tye should be safe to fire up again.
TE Clive Walford, OAK (Wk. 16: vs. SD): Walford has seen target totals of 5, 7 and 7 over the past 3 games, and the Chargers rank 31st in pass DVOA against tight ends. His point totals haven't been overwhelming (10 total points in those 3 games), so he's more of a desperation streamer, but there is legitimate upside here.
Rookies to Sit:
RB Jeremy Langford, CHI (Wk. 16: @TB): Despite double-digit carries in games vs. the 24th, 23rd and 20th ranked run defenses in terms of DVOA, Langford has been held to 5 points in each of the past 3 weeks. Meanwhile, Matt Forte has tallied 17, 10 and 15 in those games. This week, they face the Bucs, who rank 4th in run DVOA. Langford is a desperation flex-play at best.
RB Matt Jones, WAS (Wk. 16: @Phi.): Jones gets a plus matchup this week, but he has proven to be unreliable over and over again. Every time we're convinced he's taken over as the lead back, Alfred Morris rears his ugly head again. This past weekend it was due to a Jones hip injury, and the rookie is day-to-day as a result of it for this week. That should allow Alfred to continue to mix in prominently in week 16. We've seen the big play ability of Jones a few times this year, and he has higher upside than Jeremy Langford this week due to the matchup, but like Langford, Jones is just a desperation flex option.
RB Javorius Allen, BAL (Wk. 16: vs. Pit.): Allen has totaled just 2 fantasy points total in the past two games and was out-carried by Terrance West last week after fumbling for the 2nd straight game. John Harbaugh claims Allen won't be banished to the doghouse this week, but West isn't going to go away and the Steelers allow the 2nd fewest RB fantasy points in the league. Pittsburgh also ranks 7th in run DVOA and 5th in pass DVOA on throws to running backs. Buck isn't worth a starting spot this week.
RB Duke Johnson, CLE (Wk. 16: @KC): Even with an impressive performance last week in a tough matchup with Seattle, Johnson was still just the overall RB27 for the week. I don't expect him to be even that good this week against a Chiefs defense that is in the top-5 in the league at limiting RB fantasy points and also allows the fewest RB receiving yards.
WR Devin Funchess, CAR (Wk. 16: @Atl.): Funchess managed to cash in for those owners who rolled the dice on him finding a touchdown last weekend, but do you really want to make it double-or-nothing against the #2 defense in the league in terms of wide receiver fantasy points allowed? Funchess is once again a low-volume TD dart throw this week, but not one I'd want to roll out there.
WR Nelson Agholor, PHI (Wk. 16: vs. Was.): I'm pretty much listing him for comic relief at this point. Agholor followed a 3-62-1 line in week 14 with a goose egg in week 15. There's no chance you're playing him despite a decent matchup.
Deep League Sleepers and Cheap DFS Options:
RB Jay Ajayi, MIA (Wk. 16: vs. Ind.): Ajayi is a DFS punt option again this week. His role is too undefined to trust him in your fantasy title game. Miami's season is limping to the finish, and Ajayi saw some work with the game last week getting out of hand early. This week things may stay a bit closer, but the Colts have allowed 132.5 RB rushing yards per game in the past 4 weeks, and the Dolphins have consistently under-utilized Lamar Miller. Miller is averaging under 12 carries per game. There is a decent chance that Ajayi gets a bigger share of the load than expected once again this week.
WR Stefon Diggs, MIN (Wk. 16: vs. NYG): Most people would probably still shy away from using Diggs despite his 2 TDs last week. The volume just hasn't been there. He's tallied just 11 catches and 120 yards in the past 4 games. With that said, I have a hunch the Minnesota pass volume is a little higher than we're used to this week. The Giants invite shootouts, and with AP nicked up, the Vikings might be inclined to oblige them. New York has faced 35 or more pass attempts in 12 of their 14 games this year, and 40+ in 9 of them. They've also allowed 28.5 WR fantasy points per game over the last 4 weeks, which would be the worst in the league as a season average. No one is questioning Diggs's talent. The increase in volume should make him an upside WR3 option.
WR Quincy Enunwa, NYJ (Wk. 16: vs. NE): Quincy is running as the full time #3 WR for the Jets with Devin Smith on IR, and the Pats' defense focuses on taking out the top options of the opposing pass attack. New England is 5th in pass DVOA against number 1 WRs, 14th in pass DVOA against number 2's, and 27th vs. all other WRs. While I'm hard pressed to mention formats where Enunwa is a viable option, he should be a decent bet to set career bests in catches and yards (currently 5 and 50).
TE Maxx Williams, BAL (Wk. 16: vs. Pit.): Williams put up a 5-31 line against the best fantasy TE defense in the league last week with Crockett Gillmore now done for the year. This week he gets a Pittsburgh defense that has been good against tight ends, but they have given up 75+ yards to the position 6 times in 14 games. Williams is nothing more than a DFS punt play, but 5 catches and 50+ yards wouldn't be surprising.
TE Blake Bell, SF (Wk. 16: @Det.): The Belldozer has 40+ yards in 3 of the past 4 games, and is fresh off receiving 8 targets last week despite Vance McDonald being active. The Lions have allowed 11 TDs to tight ends in 14 games, and rank 30th in pass DVOA against the position. If last week's volume repeats itself, Bell should at least threaten to crack the top-12 tight ends for the week.
That's all I've got this week. Hopefully it helps you to the league title. For those of you with a week 17 championship game or avid DFS players, I will do a quick column for week 17 as well. If you have any specific questions or want to yell at me about anything written 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.
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