This is 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 significance in the offense. Rather, this weekly article will focus on the players who are working to carve out a role for themselves.
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 wire suggestions and other recommendations.
Here is the rookie report from week eleven:
Mohamed Sanu, WR CIN
This week marked the first time Sanu was an every down player. He played the same number of snaps as A.J. Green, and was actually Green’s compliment receiver as he lined up across from him as the number two wideout all game. Rather than having one receiver to fill this role all season, the Bengals have consistently spread out the snaps amongst a number of receivers. Recent injuries to Andrew Hawkins and Marvin Jones opened the door for Sanu to fill this role many expected him to take over early in the season. With a full compliment of snaps, Sanu only managed two receptions for 22 yards on four targets, however he did secure one of them for a touchdown. When Hawkins and Jones return from their knee injuries they will most certainly be back in the mix for snaps, but it was encouraging to see the Bengals coaching staff trusts Sanu with the role as full time complimentary wideout opposite to Green.
Jeremy Stewart, RB OAK
Stewart is an undrafted rookie out of Stanford who made the practice squad for the Raiders. Following injuries to Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson, he was signed to the active roster before week ten. While Marcel Reece has been the unquestioned leader of the backfield in recent weeks, Stewart unexpectedly played ahead of second year veteran Taiwan Jones. Over the last two weeks, Stewart has averaged a handful of carries (4.5) per week. Goodson and McFadden are again doubtful for week twelve’s matchup, but with Reece consistently excelling with a full workload, it is unlikely Stewart will receive more than a handful of touches. Once the injured backs return Stewart will be buried on the depth chart, or more likely returning to the practice squad. For the moment there are better options following a crazy week on the waiver wire.
Ronnie Hillman, RB DEN
One of the big injury headlines from week eleven was that of starting running back Willis McGahee. He tore his MCL and is expected to sit out 4-6 weeks. Once he went down early in the game, it was rookie running back Ronnie Hillman who took over the majority of work in the backfield. He finished the game with 12 carries for 43 yards and a pair or receptions for 16 more yards. In recent weeks, Hillman has been quickly increasing his role in the offense due to his improving pass protection, and now has the opportunity to get a heavy workload in the upcoming fantasy playoff stretch. He should be the largest benefactor following McGahee’s injury, however, Lance Ball is also a very capable back and will definitely remain in the mix. The opportunity to buy low on Hillman is long gone, but it will be an important test to see just how much the Broncos’ coaching staff trusts him and what kind of back they envision Hillman to be in the future.
Ladarius Green, TE SD
In week eleven, the rookie tight end saw his greatest workload and production of the season. Although Antonio Gates maintained his every down status, Green saw more snaps in two tight end sets. Green’s playing time matched that of second string player Randy McMichael and he played in front of Dante Rosario. It appears he is beginning to earn some extra playing time and work his way up the depth chart. With Gates on the declining side of his peak years, and always a risk for injury, this could be a great time to jump on him. Of these players, Green by far represents the highest future fantasy upside, but right now he is a project player. He could be a great addition to the roster as you head into the fantasy off-season. After a full year of experience and another training camp, Green is a good candidate to earn a bigger role next season.
T.Y. Hilton, WR IND
Hilton is slowly becoming one of Andrew Luck’s favorite targets. In week eleven he eclipsed the century mark and recorded a pair of scores. Hilton’s emergence has been a bit under the radar this year, but he has already totaled 30 receptions for 455 yards and four touchdowns. In recent weeks he has been second in targets and snaps only to Reggie Wayne – this is an important role for the offense going forward. The Colts drafted a lot of potential weapons and developing chemistry with Luck could have benefits for years to come.
Dwayne Allen, TE IND
Allen continues to have an increase in production and workload without Coby Fleener in the lineup. Over the last three weeks he is averaging just under seven targets and five receptions for 58 yards per week. Over this time span, his total yardage is fifth in the league, although he has recorded no touchdowns.
Justin Blackmon, WR JAX
With Blaine Gabbert unable to play, Chad Henne got the start at quarterback and Blackmon finally showed us his potential with a full breakout game. He finished with seven receptions for 236 yards and a touchdown. The quarterback change could have been all Blackmon needed to excel; Gabbert’s struggles are no secret. Henne is not a star, but his upside is much greater than Gabbert’s. Regardless of Gabbert’s availability next week, Henne will get the start. This is good news for Blackmon owners and he could even be a viable play if you need him. I don’t want to jump to conclusions too fast, but this quarterback change could be exactly what Blackmon needed.
Jonathan Grimes, RB HOU
A couple of weeks ago the Jets released Grimes after stealing him from the Texans practice squad earlier this season. With Ben Tate continuing to sit out, the Texans re-claimed him off waivers from the Jets. Although this doesn’t immediately put him in line for playing time, it does speak volumes that multiple teams are there to put claims on him when he gets dropped. He may not be worth adding to your roster yet, but this may indicate he gets a shot somewhere down the line.
Nick Foles, QB PHI
In the first start of his career, Foles totaled just 204 yards with zero touchdowns and a pair of interceptions. He also fumbled three times, which is all too familiar to the Eagles offense. Oh, and the Eagles lost. This is certainly not the ideal start Foles was hoping for, but the bar is set low this year. Michael Vick’s status is unknown going forward. While it is rumored he could be ready to start in the week twelve contest, it would be a curious decision not to give the rookie another chance to prove himself as the season looks to be a lost one in Philadelphia. Coach Andy Reid said Vick “is the starter when he returns”, but a lot can change if Foles begins to step up his play. Changing directions and beginning to develop the rookie could be a way Reid tries to keep his job, rather than sticking with a losing formula that had such high expectations. Although Reid currently maintains the job is still Vick’s, he may sing a different tune if the Eagles start winning with him Foles under center.
Bryce Brown, RB PHI
Another significant injury in week eleven was the concussion of LeSean McCoy. After his exit from the game, Bryce Brown came in as the largest contributor in the backfield. He has been the unquestioned handcuff for McCoy, but until now has yet to be truly tested or receive a significant workload. McCoy is doubtful for week twelve, and even if he is cleared to play, it would be another surprise move by Andy Reid to see McCoy rushed back after a serious injury with the season out of reach. For the remainder of the season, it is highly likely we will see a lot of Bryce Brown, and there is little doubt he will be featured in week twelve. Chances are the McCoy owner already has him stashed away for just such an event, however, if he is still on waivers in your league then go get him. He could be a solid play when it comes time for fantasy playoffs. Next week will be key to see if he gets featured or Reid shares the workload with some of his other backs, like fellow rookie Chris Polk.
Lance Dunbar, RB DAL
If the Cowboys weren’t having enough trouble with their running game already, running back Felix Jones has been limited with an injured knee. Right now the backs practicing are Dunbar and Philip Tanner. Although Dunbar has been playing ahead of Tanner in recent weeks, in limited opportunities he has offered little spark to the running game. If Jones misses any time, in all likelihood there will be some sort of timeshare in the Cowboys’ backfield. Though it is certainly a reach, Dunbar could be worth owning right now in deeper leagues until Dallas’ backfield situation settles down.
Ryan Broyles, WR DET
Lions’ wide receiver Titus Young has proved to be problematic yet again. This time he was benched for lining up in the wrong position multiple times with the game on the line against their division rival, the Green Bay Packers. As a result Jim Schwartz said Titus Young will be inactive in week twelve and potentially longer. His absence leaves more opportunities for Ryan Broyles and Mike Thomas, though Broyles will likely see the greatest increase in work – he produced on Thanksgiving with six catches for 126 yards, though Thomas also caught a touchdown pass of his own.
Alshon Jeffery, WR CHI
Week eleven was Jeffery’s first week back from sitting out with a broken hand. He had just two receptions on four targets for 15 yards. It’s not a lot, but its hard to judge this performance considering the terrible quarterback and offensive line play of the Bears’ offense. He only played 26 snaps, behind Earl Bennet, but it was likely due just to easing the rookie back into action. In Jeffery’s absence no one stepped up in production to earn an increased role in the offense, meaning Jeffery should resume his previous role of second receiver without much problem as soon as he can make it back from his recent knee injury that should keep him out 2-4 weeks.
Ryan Lindley, QB ARI
In week eleven, quarterback John Skelton started the game for the Cardinals only to be unimpressive yet again. After missing a wide open Larry Fitzgerald in the end zone, Skelton was benched in favor of rookie Ryan Lindley. With consistently poor quarterback play for the Cardinals, it only seemed a matter of time before the rookie got his opportunity, however, Lindley failed to bring anything different to the table in his first start. The Cardinals were still unable to convert touchdowns, despite the good field position resulting from five interceptions by their defense.
It seems the Cardinals have seen enough of Skelton. After winning their first four games, they have proceeded to lose six straight and now sit towards the bottom of the NFC West. They don’t have much to lose by giving Lindley a shot, and it has been reported he will retain the job until Kevin Kolb returns from a rib injury. Since it appears the Skelton experiment is over, and Kolb remains without a timetable for return, Lindley has a huge opportunity to prove himself. He will have to perform quite well to keep the position when Kolb returns, since Kolb was able to string together the winning streak to start the season. Even if Lindley doesn’t keep the job now, proving himself would go a long way in competing for the job next season, because if one thing is certain, there is no lock for a starter in Arizona.
Joe Adams, WR CAR
Adams was finally on the active roster for the Panthers following a long hiatus due to fumbling issues. After fumbles in three consecutive games to start the season, Adams has been a healthy scratch since week four. Following injuries to other special teams players, Adams got another shot in week twelve. He was worked into the punt return game, and did not cough the ball up. Adams is still not worthy of rostering. Perhaps he can show some of his electric play-making ability if he continues to get worked into special teams, but it is an upward hill battle as he tries to crawl his way back into the good graces of the coaching staff.