Week 8 Fantasy Football Rookie Report: Recapping the most important fantasy performances from the league’s top rookies and looking ahead to their next matchups.
Sam Darnold, QB, New York Jets
Following his first two-game win streak, Sam Darnold looked like a rookie Sunday against the Vikings. In a game that stayed very close until Minnesota pulled away in the 4th quarter, Darnold completed just 17 of 42 passes for 206 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. He also ran for a score in the game.
The only real knock against Darnold coming out of USC was the amount of turnovers. He threw interceptions at an alarming rate for such a highly-touted college prospect. In just 27 games as the Trojans’ signal caller, he threw 22 interceptions. It doesn’t seem like much, less than one per game, however, as defenses only get better when you transition from college to the pros, it may have scared some NFL scouts. Through seven games thus far, Darnold has already thrown 10 picks. Granted, he’s not exactly blessed with explosive weapons on the outsides, but it is something to pay attention to moving forward.
This week, the Jets will head to Chicago and square up against one of the league’s premiere defenses, ranked 10th in the NFL allowing just 16.5 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. It’ll be another tough test for the rookie quarterback as he’s still learning the ins and outs of professional football.
Baker Mayfield, QB, Cleveland Browns
Since bursting onto the scene and leading the Browns to that second half comeback win over the Jets in Week 3, Baker Mayfield has been rather pedestrian. That changed, at least for this week, as he had his best performance in his young NFL career on Sunday. In an overtime loss to the Buccaneers, he completed 23 of 34 passes for 215 yards and 2 touchdowns while leading the Browns to two 4th quarter touchdowns, including a 16-yard toss to Jarvis Landry to tie the game with two minutes left.
Mayfield has certainly shown flashes, but overall has been a tick below average since taking over for Tyrod Taylor in Week 3. In roughly 4.5 games, he’s thrown 6 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, while completing just 57.8% of his passes. As one of the most accurate passers in recent college football memory, he has some work to do to get to that level of accuracy at the pro level. His level of passion and excitement, not to mention talent, is certainly something that has been lacking from the quarterback position in Cleveland; Browns’ fans have to be excited about their latest #1 overall selection thus far.
In Week 8, the Browns will head to Pittsburgh for a very important divisional battle. This matchup should bode well for Mayfield and the Browns’ offense as the Steelers rank 29th in the NFL allowing 23.9 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks and 30th in the league allowing 30.6 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receiver groups.
Josh Rosen, QB, Arizona Cardinals
Josh Rosen had a tough night against Denver under the bright lights of Thursday Night Football. He went 21-for-39 for 194 yards, one touchdown and three picks, two of which were returned for touchdowns. Overall, the Cardinals offensive line was severely overmatched by Denver’s front seven allowing Rosen to be sacked 6 times on the night, a season high.
Of the four rookie quarterbacks that have the opportunity to start this season (Mayfield, Darnold, Allen, Rosen), Rosen has been the most underwhelming of the bunch. In 5 games, he’s completing just 55.0% of his passes for under 165 yards/game, with three touchdowns to five interceptions. He was labeled the most “NFL ready” coming out of college this season, but hasn’t lived up to that bill just yet. It’s still early, however, and he has one of the most dynamic backs in the NFL with David Johnson, so it’s not foolish to think that he won’t right the ship and succeed at the pro level. The next two drafts will be essential for the Cardinals to surround their young quarterback with help on the outside, as well as on the offensive line.
This week, Rosen has a favorable matchup at home against the 49ers. In 2018, San Francisco is ranked 27th in the NFL allowing 21.8 fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks, so it’ll be interesting to see if Rosen and the Cardinals can have a bounce back performance.
Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants
In what was perhaps Saquon Barkley’s “worst” performance of the season, he still managed 17.4 and 26.4 fantasy points in standard and PPR leagues respectively. It was the first game this season that he failed to reach the 100 scrimmage-yard plateau. It was evident that the Falcons’ primary focus was to limit Barkley as much as possible, and they did so better than anyone else thus far.
Barkley has easily provided the most fantasy value out of the gate this season of any rookie. He has 94.0 more fantasy points than the next closest rookie running back, Denver’s Phillip Lindsay, in PPR leagues. In addition, he ranks 2nd in fantasy scoring of all running backs behind only Todd Gurley of the Rams; and 3rd among all players, behind just Gurley and Patrick Mahomes of the Chiefs. If the Giants do what everyone is expecting them do by upgrading the offensive line via the draft and free agency this offseason, the sky is the limit for Saquon Barkley.
The Redskins, fresh off an impressive performance in containing the Cowboys’ Ezekiel Elliott, provide the next challenge for Barkley and the Giants. Washington is middle of the pack, ranking 21st in the league allowing 15.9 fantasy points per game to opposing running backs.
Nick Chubb, RB, Cleveland Browns
After the Browns traded RB Carlos Hyde to Jacksonville early in the week, Nick Chubb finally got his time to shine. He took the opportunity and turned it into 80 yards on 18 carries and a score in an overtime loss in Tampa Bay on Sunday.
Hyde managed to keep Chubb behind him on the depth chart thus far in 2018, that is, until he got traded earlier in the week. Chubb is now the premiere back in Cleveland and he will look to build on the opportunity to show what he can offer to the Browns’ improved offense after being one the more highly touted running back prospects in the 2018 draft. The biggest thing to pay attention to is the lack of a receiving threat from a fantasy standpoint. He has yet to make a catch on three targets in seven games this year, which is not much of a surprise. In 47 games at the University of Georgia, he had just 31 receptions, 18 of which coming in his freshman year.
This week’s opponent, Pittsburgh, presents a tough matchup for Chubb. So far this season, the Steelers have been the 4th stingiest defense against opposing running backs, allowing just 13.4 fantasy points per game.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
Kerryon Johnson is coming off his most impressive game to date, going for 158 yards on just carries, adding another 21 yards on two catches. LeGarrette Blount has been receiving the bulk of the goal-line carries this season, scoring his 3rd touchdown in the last two games, but Johnson is the undisputed top back on the depth chart for the Lions.
Detroit took a gamble in moving up to select Johnson with the 11th pick in the second round of the draft, but it’s certainly paid off thus far. He leads NFL rookies in yards/attempt at 6.4 and rushing yards per game with 74.0. He’s been a pleasant surprise for a team that has struggled to find a consistent running back for the duration of Matthew Stafford’s time in Detroit. Once Johnson starts receiving a few more goal-line carries resulting in a couple more touchdowns, his fantasy value will skyrocket.
The upcoming three-game stretch will be very telling for Johnson. Detroit’s next three contests will be against Seattle, Minnesota, and Chicago who rank 14th, 9th, and 2nd respectively in fantasy points allowed to opposing running backs.
Calvin Ridley, WR, Atlanta Falcons
Calvin Ridley has cooled off a bit after a scorching stretch earlier in the season when he caught 6 touchdown passes in a three-game span. He was held in check Monday night by the Giants, recording 5 catches on 6 targets for just 43 yards. He did have a crucial 3rd down reception late in the game which set up Atlanta for the eventual game-winning field goal.
The 2018 NFL Draft was labeled as a “weak” wide receiving class. Try telling that to Ridley. He has been an excellent complement to Julio Jones and the Falcons’ passing attack. He has certainly become an equal, if not a better, red zone threat to Jones, securing 6 touchdowns already as we approach the halfway mark of the season. Situations matter, and Ridley was drafted into what may have been the best possible situation for his style of play. He should continue to get a lot of single coverage with the threat of Jones on the other side of the field, allowing him to continue to post very good fantasy numbers, currently averaging 14.1 points per game in PPR formats.
Atlanta will get a rest this week, but will soon begin preparing for Washington in Week 9. Ridley should get an opportunity to bounce back against the Redskins’ who are ranked 16th in the NFL allowing 23.8 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receiver groups.
Courtland Sutton, WR, Denver Broncos
In a blowout victory over the Cardinals on Thursday, Courtland Sutton didn’t receive much action but he took advantage of the one catch he made converting it into a 28-yard score.
Sutton was a very impressive prospect coming out of the college, but hasn’t yet translated that into NFL success. Much of that can be correlated to the simple fact that he’s slated behind both Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on the depth chart. Two of the premier receivers in the league will garner the majority of the targets, naturally. However, with a lot of rumblings regarding a Thomas trade after a disappointing start to the season for Denver, the door of opportunity could swing wide open for Sutton. It’ll be very interesting to monitor the target counts moving forward, especially if Thomas gets moved. Keep an eye on Sutton, as his fantasy value could steadily rise as more opportunities come.
The Broncos have a favorable offensive matchup this week when they head to Kansas City to take on the Chiefs, who are no strangers to scoring points, so it should be a high-scoring affair which favors fantasy scoring. Sutton should get a few more opportunities in a game where Denver will likely need to score often to keep up with Kansas City.
Michael Gallup, WR, Dallas Cowboys
In a loss to the Redskins on Sunday, Michael Gallup provided a small bright spot for the ailing Dallas offense. He recorded the first touchdown in his young NFL career, going for 81 yards on three catches.
Gallup hasn’t been a major part of the Cowboys’ offense yet this season, setting a season and career high with 3 catches and 81 yards on Sunday. He has yet to receive more than 5 targets in a game, which is largely because the Dallas offense runs through star running back Ezekiel Elliott. After Sunday’s game, there was thought around the league that that could have been Gallup’s breakout performance that could open the door to more opportunities for the rookie wide out. Those thoughts have seemingly been put to bed after the Cowboys acquired Amari Cooper from the Raiders on Monday. Already low on the depth chart, it’ll be difficult for Gallup to provide any fantasy value barring injury for the rest of this season.
In addition, the Cowboys will have a week off, allowing Cooper time to learn the offense and be ready to go when the Titans come to town in Week 9. The Titans rank 13th in the league allowing just 23.1 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receiver groups; don’t expect much from Gallup.