Monday, September 22, 2014

Rookies step into the spotlight, for better or worse

If the theme of Week 2 was the wicked sting of the injury bug, this weekend may go down as the dawn of the Class of 2014.

Injury and ineptitude led to a changing of the guard at quarterback in Minnesota and Jacksonville, respectively. Much like Derek Carr in Oakland, both Teddy Bridgewater and Blake Bortles are stepping into less-than-desirable offensive situations and cannot be expected to prosper in the short term. Meanwhile, in Cleveland, a certain uber-hyped freshman QB is still awaiting his turn, perhaps because his achingly short “highlight” reel features as many yellow flags as red ones.

Alfred Blue, Bishop Sankey and Lorenzo Taliaferro joined Carlos Hyde, Jeremy Hill and Terrance West as rookie runners to be reckoned with. If not right away, then soon enough.

Jordan Matthews put Rookie of the Year voters on notice with his star turn in Philly. He joins Sammy Watkins, Brandin Cooks, Kelvin Benjamin and Mike Evans as first-year wideouts with promising futures. And their definition of “future” is a whole lot shorter than we might have expected. John Brown, who also turned heads Sunday, faces a more daunting path to fantasy relevance given the established veterans above him in the Cardinals’ WR pecking order.

Even Travis Kelce stepped up to represent for the tight ends, snaring his first scoring reception in the Chiefs’ victory on Sunday.

One rookie making headlines for all the wrong reasons is Nate Freese, who missed four out of his seven field goal attempts. He was released Monday by Detroit, which signed former Eagle Alex Henery.


To win a fantasy championship, it helps to start with a great draft. But filling in your roster throughout the season with the right free agents is also important, especially as you navigate the challenging bye-week schedule. Here's a look at players worth considering, and others who would look better in someone else's lineup.

Catch ‘em while you can

Donald Brown, RB, Chargers.  Now that Danny Woodhead has been lost for the season, and with Ryan Mathews (knee) sidelined, Brown is the last healthy and proven running back standing in San Diego.  Those with big holes to fill in their Week 4 schedule – thanks to the upcoming byes, injuries and/or suspensions – could land a bona fide workhorse off this week’s waiver wire.

Lorenzo Taliaferro, Ravens. So much for Bernard Pierce (thigh) solidifying his starting job. Now that Taliaferro has had his moment in the sun, the talented rookie has surely earned his fair share of Baltimore’s now-three-headed backfield. Many Ravens observers believe Taliaferro is the pick of the litter, making him worth a roster spot in the event that he emerges in a leading role.

Alfred Blue, RB, Texans. Those who drafted Arian Foster (hamstring) knew they were assuming a significant injury risk, and the inevitable came to pass in Week 3. Blue, a sixth-round rookie out of LSU, did a serviceable job as Foster’s proxy, and should be scooped up at a minimum by those banking on Foster.

Jordan Matthews, WR, Eagles. Rookie wideouts are notoriously inconsistent fantasy contributors, but Matthews has the potential to defy the odds. After his breakout game against Washington, he certainly seems more deserving of a roster spot than Riley Cooper. It’s a good thing when Nick Foles takes a shine to you.

Don’t be fooled

Blake Bortles, QB, Jaguars. It was only a matter of time before the No. 3 overall draft pick was handed Jacksonville’s starting job, but that doesn’t make Bortles roster-worthy. After all, he steps into one of the worst offenses in the land, with arguably the weakest offensive line to protect him. Look away. 

Teddy Bridgewater, QB, Vikings. Again, move along. Nothing to see here. The Bridgewater Era has arrived in Minnesota, a bit earlier than anticipated due to Matt Cassel’s broken foot. Let him work through his growing pains as a free agent – or better yet, on an opponent’s roster. With below-average talent around him, especially with Adrian Peterson out of the picture, the rookie’s ceiling is low.

Eddie Royal, WR, Chargers. Let me think, where have we seen this before? Oh yeah, last season, when Royal caught five TD passes in the first two games. Then we scarcely heard from him again outside of a brief, mid-season cameo. You can learn from Royal’s well-documented history or doom yourself to repeating it.


  1. Do you like John Brown (Ari WR) as much as Mathews?

    1. Not to be rude, but did you read the column above?