This is the third article in a weekly installment dedicated solely to the rookie class of 2012. The goal is to provide everyone with a list of rookie players who should be on your dynasty roster or radar and track their progress throughout the season. You won’t typically find weekly updates on players like Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III. We already know their roles in the offense. Rather, this weekly article will focus on the players who are working to carve out a role for themselves in the offense.
While updating the progress of certain players and highlighting the emergence of others, you can expect this article to cover players with big weeks, value rises and declines, depth chart movements, waiver suggestions and other recommendations.
Here is the rookie report from week three:
Lamar Miller, RB MIA
Miller followed last week’s impressive performance by continuing to serve as the change of pace back. In week three, however, he was the backup to Daniel Thomas following a second quarter knee injury to Reggie Bush. The injury was declared to be a minor bruise, but Bush’s availability is questionable for week four. It seemed pretty clear last week that Thomas was the lead back in the absence of Bush. Even if this continues to be the case, the Dolphins have been relying very heavily on the run so far this season, so Miller could still get a decent workload. Until Bush is healed, this could be a great opportunity for him as he has been the more efficiently productive backup. Furthermore, Thomas has showed ball security issues in the past and if this continues, he could easily be pushed aside for Miller. This week I would expect to see the carries split a bit more evenly if Bush cannot suit up. In this scenario, Miller could be a sneaky, albeit desperate, flex play if you’re facing early bye week decisions.
Brandon Bolden, RB NE
In week three, the undrafted free agent had his first touchdown in the NFL. It was a surprising move to see Bolden get the goal line carry because sophomore standout Stevan Ridley has no doubt emerged as the lead back. In week three, Ridley’s role was diminished some. It was veteran Danny Woodhead that took the slack from Ridley, as they split carries almost evenly. Although Bolden was used in the goal line, if you look at the big picture you will see he has only played a total of 11 snaps all season, during which he has received seven total carries for 15 yards. New England’s backfield is crowded, and the eventual return of Shane Vereen only figures to push Bolden even further down the depth chart. There are better options out there on the waiver wire.
T.J. Graham, WR BUF
In week three, Graham had three receptions on five targets. While he only had 24 receiving yards, he did record his first career NFL touchdown on a nine yard hookup with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Competing wide receiver Brad Smith received zero snaps to Graham’s 40. Although he may not be a major part of the game plan, Graham’s outlook continues to trend up and he is the unquestioned third receiver on the depth chart.
Mohamed Sanu, WR CIN
The good news: Sanu was finally worked into the game plan and even had a touchdown on the day. The bad news: It was a passing touchdown, as his only look was lined up as the quarterback in a wildcat formation when he threw a perfect bomb to A.J. Green. Obviously this isn’t the type of production owners were hoping for at this point.
Ladarius Green, TE SD
With Antonio Gates back from injury, Green did not even see the field, as expected. Each other tight end had at least one target.
Ronnie Hillman, RB DEN
Hillman was declared active in week three for the first time this season. It appears he has jumped ahead of Knowshon Moreno (who was a healthy scratch) on the depth chart. When starter Willis McGahee went down with a rib injury in week three it was Lance Ball who took over primary duties, and Hillman maintained the change of pace role. McGahee is listed as day-to-day. If he is unable to play in week four, it will be interesting to see how the load is divided, though it would be surprise if Ball did not receive the vast majority of the work.
Kevin Elliot, WR JAX
Kevin Elliot is a relatively unknown, undrafted wide receiver out of Florida A&M. Following Laurent Robinson’s early concussion, Elliot filled in as the outside receiver. He played more snaps than Mike Thomas and Cecil Shorts combined, as well as equaling their combined targets. With that being said, Elliot’s totals were 41 snaps and only four targets, and he finished with a meager two receptions for 24 yards. With the inconsistencies in this lineup and its underproduction, I would look elsewhere for a “late flier.”
Kendall Wright, WR TEN
This is the first week Kenny Britt has been unimpeded by injury and fully integrated into the lineup. It’s worth noting that even with his full return, Wright was still second in the number of snaps (52) and tied for a team high with 11 targets.
Taylor Thompson, TE TEN
So far this season, Thompson has had just a single target. He remains third on the depth chart behind Craig Stevens, however, starter Jared Cook sustained a shoulder injury in the first half last week and is questionable for week four. While Cook remains a favorite for a bright future in the passing game, if he should miss time it would be interesting to see if Thompson picks up some of the slack. Stevens is mostly known for his blocking.
Dwayne Allen, TE IND
Dwayne Allen’s outlook continues to trend up. In week three he had almost all the looks at tight end for the Colts. He played 60 snaps and had six targets compared to Coby Fleener’s 43 snaps and single target. Allen hauled in five receptions for 35 yards and even exhibited some yards after the catch ability when he broke one for a 17 yard gain. It’s possible he could still be on some waiver wires given that Fleener has been the heavy favorite. If this is the case, now is the time to go get him.
T.Y. Hilton, WR IND
Hilton had a breakout game totaling four receptions on seven targets for 113 yards and a touchdown. The vast majority of his snaps from the entire season were in week three. It’s unclear how much he’ll be used consistently, but with Austin Collie out for the season, there is certainly an opportunity for Hilton to work out of the slot going forward.
Reuben Randle, WR NYG
With Hakeem Nicks and Dominik Hixon ruled out for week three, there was an opportunity for another receiver to shine. In this case it was Ramses Barden and he left no doubt in anyone’s mind who would play a role going forward. Randle served as the third receiver, but had far less playing time and production than Barden. The question in regards to Randle is where he will fall on the depth chart after the return of Hixon. It’s quite possible he will now be the fifth receiver for the Giants. I still see him having an opportunity in this offense in the long term, however. At the end of this season, Barden’s rookie deal expires and he becomes a free agent. I see two likely scenarios. One, hee continues to perform well even when Nicks returns. Following an exceptional breakout season entering free agency, he demands more money and the Giants opt to go with a talented option they already have on their roster – exactly how the situation with Mario Manningham played out last year. Two, he doesn’t consistently perform at the same level, in which case he is retained by the Giants at a cheaper cost. In this case, however, he does not have a role locked in, thus giving Randle a shot to surpass him.
David Wilson, RB NYG
Wilson had an opportunity to get some extra work with starter Ahmad Bradshaw out due to injury. Just like Randle, he took a back seat as another player shined. It was expected that Andre Brown would be the primary back, but rather than having an increased workload, Wilson had just a single carry for negative two yards and played just four snaps all game. Even Da’Rel Scott had more playing time.
Damaris Johnson, WR PHI
Damaris Johnson is another undrafted rookie who has quickly risen into an opportune situation. Due to his high talent level, the Eagles had been finding creative ways to get him involved. With Jeremy Maclin out, Johnson had the perfect opportunity to fill the void and carry a larger workload. This is exactly what happened as he amassed nine targets, five receptions and 84 yards – all team highs. Although Maclin is expected to play in week four (according to head coach Andy Reid), he is still currently labeled as day-to-day. Even if Maclin returns healthy, the Eagles will surely continue to use Johnson and he could start to push Jason Avant for the third receiver role. Johnson should be owned in all leagues and could be a flex play if either starter for the Eagles were to miss any time.
Jarius Wright, WR MIN
Before week three, the Vikings stated they would like to start getting Wright more involved in their offense. He was, however, listed as inactive for the game as he continues to nurse an ankle injury sustained in the preseason. Once he is declared healthy, it will be interesting to see if he does get involved as the Vikings claim. Quarterback Christian Ponder is improving and, aside from Percy Harvin, no one else has stepped up to secure a role in the passing offense.
Alshon Jeffery, WR CHI
Jeffery continues to have a consistent role in the offense. It appears he truly is starting and so far this season he is second to only Brandon Marshall in snaps, targets, receptions and receiving yards.
Daryl Richardson, RB STL
Despite Steven Jackson’s return, it is clear that Richardson’s strong performance thus far has earned him more playing time and a role in the offense. He only received four carries in week three, but this was more likely due to the Rams playing from behind. Richardson had 20 snaps relative to Jackson’s 40. While his role is likely to be somewhat limited while Jackson remains healthy, his long term outlook is good. You can bet the Rams hope they have found Jackson’s successor.
Michael Floyd, WR ARI
Floyd caught his first touchdown in week three, however, he still only had two targets in the game. He can definitely be used as a red zone target, but this is a highly unreliable role for the Cardinals. Floyd will need time to develop and perhaps a different quarterback to emerge as a fantasy option.
Travaris Cadet, RB NO
Last week in practice the Saints were beginning to teach Cadet the wide receiver position. They recognize his talent and would like to get him involved somehow, but are obviously crowded at the running back position. While it is highly unlikely he would emerge as a fantasy option through the passing game, it is more important they are trying to develop him and include him in the game plan. This is more of a long term stash while we wait for the Saints’ backfield to thin out or he finds work elsewhere. The Saints can’t hoard this much talent at one position forever, can they?