2015 Fantasy Football: Week 9 Rookie Report
Marcus Mariota – QB – Tennessee Titans
The story of week nine in rookie world was Titans quarterback Marucs Mariota. Mariota lead the 2-6 Titans to the team’s second win of the season with a 34-28 overtime win against the New Orleans Saints. Mariota threw for a career high 371 yards and tied his career high with four touchdown passes in their come from behind win. Even against the Saints 30th ranked defense, this was an impressive outing for the rookie out of Oregon. Mariota is the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for four touchdowns and have zero interceptions twice in his rookie season. He and Tom Brady are the only quarterbacks in the NFL this season to accomplish that feat. As if this weren’t enough, Mariota did all of this coming off of a knee injury where he missed the previous two games and was without Tennessee’s number one receiver, Kendall Wright. Mariota looked fantastic in week nine against the Saints, but he and the Titans will face their biggest task of the season thus far as they host the undefeated Carolina Panthers next.
Jameis Winston – QB – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston was mistake free yet again in week nine against the Giants, as he has now gone the last four games without a turnover. Winston threw for 249 yards in the Bucs loss to the Giants but was held without a passing touchdown for the first game of his career. For the second straight game, however, Winston scrambled for a touchdown, giving him 13 total touchdowns on the year. When you stack the numbers of Winston and the numbers of Mariota against each other, it’s tough to pick which one has had the better rookie season. Winston has been more consistent than Mariota, especially since his week four performance against the Panthers when he threw four interceptions, whereas Mariota has benefitted statistically from two or three huge games. The weapons surrounding Winston are much better than those surrounding Mariota, making Winston the more appealing option moving forward.
Todd Gurley – RB – St. Louis Rams
The Minnesota Vikings did something that no team has been able to do in Todd Gurley’s first four starts of his NFL career: hold him under 125 yards rushing. While it will still go down as a productive day for the rookie out of Georgia, it was his worst outing of the season with only 89 yards and a touchdown. Think about that for a second. Todd Gurley just ran for 89 yards and a touchdown and had the worst game of the season from a yardage perspective. The Rams should get Gurley back up above 100 yards with another huge game next week as they return home against the Bears. Gurley only averaged 3.7 yards per carry against the Vikings, who are now tied for the lead in the NFC North at 6-2 after beating the Rams 21-18 in overtime. Gurley still had one of the more productive games from a running back standpoint in the NFL on Sunday, and should continue to do so each and every week as long as he stays healthy and continues to get 20-plus carries every game. Between the skill set that Gurley possesses and the lack of a passing game in St. Louis, Gurley is arguably the best running back in the NFL right now moving forward.
Stefon Diggs – WR – Minnesota Vikings
Diggs, just like Gurley, had his worst game of the season in the same defensive game. Diggs went up against a very good Rams defense that has allowed the seventh fewest fantasy points to wide receivers in the league, and they limited him to just three catches for 42 yards. Last week in the Vikings win over the Bears, Diggs had six catches on 12 targets on 25 Bridgewater passes. This week, Diggs was targeted just five times on 27 Bridgewater passes, as the Vikings squeaked out a 21-18 win over the Rams in overtime. While Diggs had a disappointing outing, he was still second on the team in targets, as only Mike Wallace had more (six). Wallace, however, had just one catch on those six targets for four yards. Diggs is the best playmaker in the Vikings passing game and should continue to lead the Vikings in targets moving forward. However, Bridgewater suffered a concussion in the Vikings win, which should be monitored closely moving forward. If Bridgewater is unable to go next week in Oakland, the veteran Shaun Hill will get the start, which would limit Diggs’ value a bit.
Karlos Williams – RB – Buffalo Bills
Williams has had to sit behind LeSean McCoy for most of the season in Buffalo, but that hasn’t stopped him from being the second leading rusher among all rookies in terms of yards per game with 67.2. McCoy injured his shoulder in the Bills win over the Dolphins on Sunday, and Williams took advantage of the opportunity as the lead back, even if it was only for one quarter. Williams carried the ball just nine times, but he racked up 110 yards and two touchdowns on those nine carries. It will likely not be as good of a week for Williams on Thursday night against the Jets, as McCoy has said that he will be ready to play and the Bills go up against a tough run defense.
Despite being a backup, Williams has been able to rack up 336 yards this season on 51 carries, which gives him a very respectable 6.6 yards per carry average on the year. Thomas Rawls is the only other rookie back discussed here that has been a backup for the majority of the year, as TJ Yeldon and Melvin Gordon have had the ability to start for the entire season, making the work that Williams has done on a significantly smaller workload all the more impressive. The only rookie running back that has a higher average in yards per carry is Jay Ajayi, who has only carried the ball five times in 2015. If McCoy misses more time due to injury, Williams instantly becomes a definite flex option, and with injuries to so many running backs around the NFL, he could even be an RB2 moving forward. McCoy owners should handcuff Williams in case this shoulder injury turns out to be worse than originally expected.