Recapping the most important Week 14 performances from top fantasy football rookies of 2018 and looking ahead to their Week 15 matchups. Follow Joe on Twitter @joebuttgereit for random thoughts and nuggets pertaining to all things fantasy sports.
We haven’t seen this many fantasy-relevant rookies in one season in a long time. Every week, another guy manages to hit the highlight reel, putting his name on the fantasy map. Here’s a look at last week’s top rookies, and their matchups ahead in Week 15.
Baker Mayfield (QB, Cleveland Browns)
After his worst performance as a pro in Week 13, Baker Mayfield followed up with a very ho-hum day against Carolina last week. He was very efficient, going 18-for-22 for 238 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers. It was a very solid performance, getting Cleveland right back into the thick of things in the AFC North.
This week will present a tough matchup as the Browns head to Denver to take on the Broncos. Denver sports the league’s 12th best defense against opposing fantasy quarterbacks, allowing 16.7 points per game. The Browns have to continue winning to put pressure on the Steelers/Ravens atop the division, but a tough opponent on the road will be prove to be difficult for Mayfield to overcome.
Sam Darnold (QB, New York Jets)
Sam Darnold put forth a very mediocre day on the stat sheet in a win over the Bills on Sunday, but it’s how he got there that was impressive. Going 16-for-24 for just 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception is nothing to boggle at. But two fourth-quarter touchdown drives to come back from what was once an 11-point deficit in the 2nd quarter, including the go-ahead touchdown on 4th & goal with 1:17 on the clock is what impressed us all.
This Saturday, the Jets will be hosting the Texans. Houston, finally losing after their nine-game win streak, will be looking to get back on track this week. The pressure of the streak behind, they should enter this game much more relaxed. That won’t help Darnold and the Jets considering they’re already a top-10 defense against every fantasy position outside of tight end. They allow just 16.4 points per game to opposing quarterbacks, so Darnold’s heroics of last week may stay right there in the past.
Lamar Jackson (QB, Baltimore Ravens)
Lamar Jackson had his first multi-passing-touchdown game in a heartbreaking loss to the Chiefs on Sunday. He did everything he needed to in order to win the game, except prevent the Patrick Mahomes show from taking over. After being down seven at halftime, Jackson led the Ravens to two second-half touchdowns, including a 9-yard score to John Brown to put Baltimore up seven with 4:04 on the clock. After it was all said and done, he went 13-for-24 for 147 and two touchdowns while adding 71 yards on the ground.
John Harbaugh has announced that Jackson will again be the starting quarterback when the Ravens host Tampa Bay on Sunday. This presents another favorable matchup as the Bucs have been putrid against opposing quarterbacks, allowing 20.6 points per game. In Jackson’s four starts, he’s averaged 84.0 yards per game on the ground. It’ll be hard to hide the fantasy value this week against a poor rush defense as well.
Saquon Barkley (RB, New York Giants)
I keep looking for a reason to not include Saquon Barkley on this weekly report, but he keeps giving me more reasons to spotlight him each week. He set season (and career) highs on Sunday with 170 rushing yards and 12.14 yards per attempt. No Beckham, no problem. Barkley took over this game with big run after big run to catapult the Giants to a 34-0 halftime lead over the Redskins.
This week will be a good test for Barkley. The Giants host the Titans, who have been exceptional against the run. If the Giants’ long-shot playoff hopeful run is to continue, he’ll have to shake the trend and get by Tennessee, who allow just 14.8 fantasy points per game to opposing running back committees. It’s a tough test for Barkley, but from what I’ve seen thus far, he’s the best student in the class.
Nick Chubb (RB, Cleveland Browns)
It wasn’t a flashy day at the office for Nick Chubb, but it was an effective one. He managed 66 yards and a score on just 13 carries in a win over Carolina. The touchdown, however, was a crucial one. It gave the Browns the lead that they would never relinquish in the 4th quarter. On a much more upbeat note, he did manage 4 receptions on 6 targets, both season highs. A very good step forward for Chubb owners looking for more in PPR-format leagues.
As mentioned earlier, the Browns will take on the Broncos this weekend. This is a very good opportunity for Chubb to display his ability to take over a game. Denver has been very stout against the pass, but have been susceptible to running games. They’re allowing 18.9 fantasy points per game on the ground, so it’s a good week for Mayfield to hand the ball off and let Chubb do his thing.
Phillip Lindsay (RB, Denver Broncos)
An off week against a very poor run defense left Phillip Lindsay owners mildly disappointed Sunday. He did manage a RB2 performance, thanks to an early touchdown, but only managed 30 yards on 14 carries in a loss to the 49ers. His 51 scrimmage yards was the lowest output of the season.
He’ll look to bounce back against the Browns this week. With both teams playing for their playoff lives come Sunday, I expect a very hard-nosed game. This should benefit Lindsay as Cleveland has not been good against the run. Denver should come out looking to establish the run and control the clock. The Browns allow 22.6 points per game to opposing running backs; so repeatedly give Lindsay the ball and let him go to work.
DaeSean Hamilton (WR, Denver Broncos)
DaeSean Hamilton is appearing on this report for the first time, thanks to his coming-out party in San Francisco on Sunday. He reeled in seven balls for 47 yards and a score. With a depleted wide receiving corps, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to expect a strong finish this season, even from a guy that had just seven targets all season prior to last week’s game.
To continue the theme of highlighting every rookie in the Broncos-Browns game Sunday, the matchup isn’t the best for Hamilton and the Bronco receivers. Cleveland is middle-of-the-pack against wide receivers, allowing 24.2 points per game to the position. I think it’s a bit early to put your trust in Hamilton, especially in the fantasy playoffs; but he’s certainly a guy to keep your eye on moving forward.
Robert Foster (WR, Buffalo Bills)
For the first time this season, we’ve included a second undrafted rookie in the report. Robert Foster has been slowly garnering attention as the Bills’ deep threat, but last week, he finally put it all together to the tune of seven receptions on eight targets for 104 yards. He failed to find the end zone, but with the lack of a steadfast No. 1 guy in Buffalo, I expect Foster to have a consistent role in the offense down the stretch.
This week, the Bills will host the Lions. Detroit, after a rough start, has been much better defensively of late. Thus far, they’re 17th in the NFL against fantasy wide receivers, so as long as he can avoid Detroit corner Darius Slay for most of the afternoon, I expect another good performance from Foster this week.
Dante Pettis (WR, San Francisco 49ers)
Dante Pettis found the end zone for the third straight game Sunday. In a win over the Broncos, he caught three balls for 49 yards and the score. He has become a focal point in the 49ers’ passing attack and has consistently received seven targets in three straight weeks. Head coach Kyle Shanahan has a knack for putting receivers in perfect spots to find holes in a defense, and Pettis should benefit the most down the stretch.
This week, the 49ers will host the Seahawks. Seattle still has a lot to play for as they’re currently in position to secure a wild card spot, but they haven’t quite been the daunting defense we’ve come to expect in recent years. They’re below average against the pass, and Pettis exploded for 129 yards and two touchdowns against this very Seahawks’ defense just two weeks ago, so fire him up with confidence in a WR3/Flex role this week.