It used to be that rookie quarterbacks were persona non grata in NFL lineups.
That’s no longer the case, with five rookies starting this season. Fantasy owners have been slower to embrace the trend, but even that’s starting to change.
Following in the footsteps of Cam Newton last season, Redskins rookie Robert Griffin III has become a fantasy superstar in the first two months of the season. Griffin leads all players in fantasy points, with 158 in standard ESPN leagues. He’s owned in 100 percent of leagues.
Here’s a look at how the rest of the rookie QBs are faring:
• Andrew Luck, Indianapolis: The No. 1 pick in the draft ranks 11th in fantasy points with 100, just one fewer than Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick. Luck has thrown for seven touchdowns and run for another three. He’s facing a Tennessee team this week that has allowed an NFL-high 16 touchdown passes. Luck is owned in 95 percent of ESPN leagues.
• Ryan Tannehill, Miami: The eighth overall pick ranks 29th in scoring among quarterbacks with 67 points. He’s coming off a 185-yard, two-touchdown game against St. Louis in Week Six and since throwing three interceptions in the season opener has only thrown three since. Tannehill visits the New York Jets on Sunday. New York has given up almost 150 yards per game on the ground, so it’s likely the Dolphins will focus more on the ground game. Tannehill is owned in fewer than 6 percent of leagues.
• Brandon Weeden, Cleveland: Weeden’s thrown two touchdown passes in each of the last three games and has scored at least 15 fantasy points in each of those contests. He’s a great sleeper option this week against San Diego, which has a mediocre pass defense. Weeden, who’s owned in 11 percent of ESPN leagues, is averaging better than 250 yards a game through the air and almost 40 attempts per game. Weeden ranks 22nd in scoring, ahead of established quarterbacks such as Dallas’ Tony Romo and Chicago’s Jay Cutler.
• Russell Wilson, Seattle: The third-round pick of the Seahawks beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn for the starting job, and turned heads in Week Six with 293 yards and three touchdowns against the Patriots. Wilson, though, came back down to earth last week against the 49ers, scoring just three fantasy points. He’s owned in 14 percent of ESPN leagues. Wilson has a tough matchup in Week Eight, facing a Detroit Lions’ pass defense that ranks sixth in the NFL.
Free agent finds
Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew’s foot injury makes Rashad Jennings the hot pickup of the week. Jennings has seen his ownership go up 42 percent this week, but he’s still owned in just over half of ESPN leagues. If he slipped through the cracks in your league, grab him. He’s got the potential to get starting carries for multiple weeks and has some ability (averaging 4.8 yards per carry in his career).
Here are a few more players to consider heading into Week Eight:
• Dustin Keller, TE, N.Y. Jets: He’s finally full recovered from a hamstring injury and put up big numbers in Week Seven: seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown. Keller was Mark Sanchez’s favorite target last season and should get plenty of work with Santonio Holmes out for the Jets.
• Leonard Hankerson, WR, Washington: With Pierre Garcon on the shelf, Hankerson should become RG3’s favorite target. The second-year player from Miami had six catches for 70 yards last week and is a decent flex option.
• Seattle defense: The Seahawks rank fifth in the NFL in total yards allowed and have allowed 13 points or fewer in four of their last five games.
• Devery Henderson, WR, New Orleans: When he produces, it’s big. When he doesn’t, it’s bad. If Jimmy Graham misses another week, that’s one less weapon at Drew Brees’ disposal. Henderson has 198 yards and a touchdown in his past two games.
Fantasy stars again
Titans running back Chris Johnson re-established himself as a fantasy superstar last week against Buffalo, with 195 yards and two touchdowns. He should be able to keep that momentum going this week against Indianapolis, which is giving up almost 22 points per game to fantasy running backs.
So who can follow Johnson’s lead in Week Eight? Try Raiders running back Darren McFadden. He’s had to go up against three of the top 10 rush defenses in Oakland’s first six games, but goes up against the Chiefs on Sunday. Kansas City ranks sixth in fantasy points allowed to running backs, and has allowed six total touchdowns to opposing runners.
That’s good news for McFadden, who has gone over 70 yards just once this season.
Bye weeks: Buffalo, Baltimore, Houston, Cincinnati.