Recapping the most important performances from top fantasy football rookies of 2018 and looking ahead to their next matchups.
Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets
The turnover gene reared its ugly head, yet again. On Sunday in Miami, Sam Darnold threw a career-high four interceptions, to bring his season total to a league-leading 14. In a low-scoring game, the Jets had ample opportunity to steal a win on a day they didn’t have their best stuff offensively, but Darnold made bad decision after bad decision. Overall, he went 21-for-39 for 229 yards, no touchdowns and the aforementioned four interceptions.
It doesn’t get any easier in Week 10 as the Jets will host the Bills. Buffalo doesn’t look intimidating based on the standings, but their defense has been downright suffocating to opposing quarterbacks. They are 4th in the NFL allowing just 13.3 fantasy points per game to opposing signal callers. With a bye week for the Jets in Week 11, it’ll be crucial for Darnold to have a good performance this week in order to have some positives to look at on tape during the off week.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Baker Mayfield continues to be a sneaky play as a bye week fill-in. For the third straight game, he threw two touchdown passes, with this week’s scores coming against the Chiefs. In a loss, he performed very well. Overall, he went 29-for-42 for 297 yards, the two scores and one interception, although he struggled to keep up with Mahomes and high-flying Chiefs’ offense. He also added 22 yards on the ground on two carries.
The Browns have another good matchup this week, at least for the offense. They will welcome the Falcons to town, whom aren’t exactly stout when it comes to slowing down opposing offenses. Atlanta is 30th in the NFL allowing 21.7 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, so again, Mayfield is a sneaky play if you need to fill the bye week hole of a Deshaun Watson or Kirk Cousins.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
Nick Chubb had another solid performance on Sunday against the Chiefs. Since the departure of Carlos Hyde, Chubb has performed very well as the premiere back. In Sunday’s loss, he carried the ball 22 times for 85 yards and a score. Duke Johnson remains the pass-catching back, so there’s not much receiving upside; but with the lack of depth at the running back position in fantasy football, Chubb is providing very consistent value.
Week 10 will provide another good matchup for Chubb and the Browns. The Falcons will come to town and they have been underwhelming against the run. They allow 20.4 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, 24th in the NFL. The only concern for Chubb this week is the flow of the game. If Atlanta’s high-scoring offense puts up points early, it will likely force the Browns to air it out more frequently, giving Duke Johnson more snaps out of the backfield.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
Another tough matchup, and another long day for Kerryon Johnson. The flow of the game didn’t help either, as the Lions were playing from behind the entire game. Either way, Johnson was held to just 44 total yards on 15 touches. As Theo Riddick is generally the pass-catching back in the Lions’ offense, Johnson is most effective while playing with a lead or in a one-possession game.
This week, the Lions head to Chicago in what will be another brutal matchup for Johnson. The Bears, 2nd in the NFL allowing just 10.7 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs, have been a relentless defense over the past two games. Even without Khalil Mack, Chicago has allowed just 154 total rushing yards over that stretch, and one score on a garbage-time Nathan Peterman sneak.
Phillip Lindsay, RB, Denver Broncos
Philip Lindsay was “mediocre, at best” (thanks, Richard Sherman!) on Sunday against Houston. He did manage 84 total yards on 19 touches but failed to find the endzone for the first time in 3 weeks. The Texans have been tough against opposing running backs, and they proved that on Sunday by containing Lindsay.
The Broncos will now enter their bye week, giving Lindsay and the rest of the team a much-needed break. In Week 11, the Broncos will head to Los Angeles to take on the Chargers, who have been middle-of-the-pack against opposing running backs, allowing 17.5 fantasy points per game, 17th in the league.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Calvin Ridley scores! For the first time since his explosive stretch in Weeks 2-4, Ridley caught a touchdown pass. He continues to receive a consistent dose of roughly 6 targets per game, but he tends to score in bunches. Perhaps this could begin another torrid stretch of touchdowns for the rookie wideout. In total, he amassed 71 yards on 6 receptions and the score in Sunday’s win over the Redskins.
The next matchup should produce opportunity for Ridley to find the endzone again. In Week 10, the Falcons will head to Cleveland to take on the Browns who are 23rd in the NFL, allowing 23.5 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receiver groups. The only thing that has held Ridley back from fantasy dominance this season is the amount of weapons at Matt Ryan’s disposal. However, he’s a must-start WR2 for me this week.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers
Marquez Valdes-Scantling continues to build on his deep-threat chemistry with Aaron Rodgers. For the third time this season, he averaged over 30 yards per reception, adding another 101 yards on 3 catches in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. Over the last three games, he’s averaged 31.13 yards per reception, adding one score in the mix as well.
This week, however, the matchup isn’t great. The Packers will host the Dolphins, who have been average against the pass. They rank 16th in the league allowing just 21.2 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receiver groups. Assuming Davante Adams will get his, it may be tough for Valdes-Scantling to provide quality fantasy value this week.
Tre’Quan Smith, WR, New Orleans Saints
Tre’Quan Smith was able to find the endzone on Sunday for the first time since his two-touchdown performance in Week 5 against Washington. He didn’t provide much outside of that in a high-scoring affair with the Rams. He totaled just 23 yards on 2 catches. He’s gotten a steady dose of just 4 targets per game in the past four games, so without a touchdown, he’s not providing much fantasy value.
Things would appear to get easier this week with a good matchup against the Bengals. Cincinnati is 30th in the league against opposing wide receiver groups, allowing 27.8 fantasy points per game. However, reports have stated the Saints are going to be working out a few receivers this week, including Dez Bryant. Should New Orleans make a move to sign another wideout or two, that could negatively impact the target share for Smith, considering the target shares for Michael Thomas and Alvin Kamara are unlikely to decrease.