After a week off, we are back with the week 8 performances of some of the lesser known rookies. Pay attention and grab some of these rookies before they are more well known.
After my article and a string of successful games, Miami Dolphins rookie linebacker Jerome Baker, Baker has taken a backseat to fellow linebacker Raekwon McMillan. All of the sudden, linebacker McMillan is back on the Miami Dolphins good graces. After Baker out-snapped McMillan in week 4 and 6, McMillan has severally out-snapped Baker the past two weeks and has led the Dolphins in tackles.
Baker, for his part, has still been able to produce good numbers despite the decreased snap share. Playing only 59% of the Dolphins defensive snaps, Baker totaled six tackles in week 8 against the Houston Texans. Baker has five or more tackles in 6-of-8 weeks.
While he will not be the most prolific linebacker with a decreased snap share, Baker is still startable most weeks. Baker should be rostered in all leagues and is especially valuable in dynasty.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie safety Jordan Whitehead continues to be a force in the Buccaneers secondary. While he did not produce prolific tackle numbers with four, Whitehead had a tackle for loss and stuffed Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon at the goal line on a fourth down play.
Whitehead has 23 tackles on the season. Again, while not prolific, Whitehead has three or more tackles in every game since week 2. He also has played in 78% or more of the Buccaneers defensive snaps in three of the last four games since he has played in.
With a steady floor and relatively high snap share, Whitehead is worth a roster spot. While he will not get you top end performances, he is reliable enough for a bye week fill-in.
Cincinnati Bengals rookie safety Jessie Bates should be in the conversation for defensive rookie of the year. Since week 1, Bates has been a playmaker for the Bengals. Bates has three or more tackles in every week and five or more in 7-of-8 weeks. This includes six tackles against the Buccaneers in week 8. Bates also added three passes defended and an interception for a touchdown against the Buccaneers.
The #Steelers haven't had a safety that can make a play like this since Troy. And now, because they don't know how to draft defensive backs, they don't have this guy either. Jessie Bates is a baller pic.twitter.com/NeRcG0pkyC
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) October 29, 2018
Bates has been one of the best safeties in the league in 2018. He has played in 92% or more of the Bengals defensive snaps in every game this season. Bates should be rostered in all formats and is a weekly starter from here on. If he is not rostered in your leagues, you should jump on him NOW!
This is the first time making the list for Seattle Seahawks rookie cornerback Tre Flowers. Flowers has actually been relatively productive for a cornerback. He has 30 total tackles, one forced fumble, and three passes defended in six games this season. Flowers has seen 78% or more of the Seahawks defensive snaps in the games he has played.
Former Oklahoma State safety turned Seahawks standout rookie CB Tre Flowers. Impressive transition and acceleration for 6-3, 203 pounds & 33 7/8” arms.
Latest example of Seattle’s remarkable ability to find, develop their model of CBs throughout the Carroll-Schneider era. pic.twitter.com/Se15z4cYWR
— Rob Rang (@RobRang) October 28, 2018
Lining up across from second-year cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who is slowly becoming a premier corner in the league, means that Flowers will see a lot more targets. This is fantastic for IDP fantasy as it will give him more chances to make plays. Flowers has shown he is able to handle the targets and is a top option at cornerback in IDP. He should be rostered and started in all IDP leagues that separate the defensive backs.
Pittsburgh Steelers rookies safety Terrell Edmunds is another rookie who has been relatively ordinary but consistent. Since week 2, Edmunds has only one game of fewer than three tackles and four games of four or more. Edmunds has played in nearly every one of the Steelers defensive snaps since week 3 when fellow safety Morgan Burnett went down with a groin injury. Even with Burnett’s return in week 8, Edmunds still played in 97% of the defensive snaps.
Beware that the Steelers may be working Burnett back into the rotation and Edmunds snap share may drop in the coming weeks. However, with Edmunds role seemingly cemented and his consistent production, he is a good bye week fill-in and spot starter.
Once again, Denver Broncos rookie linebacker Josey Jewell proved himself when given a chance. Starting linebacker Brandon Marshall left the Broncos week 8 game with a knee injury and Jewell stepped in. Playing in 64% of the Broncos defensive snaps, Jewell produced five tackles. In the only other game that Jewell played in more than 50% of the defensive snaps, he accrued eight tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass defended.
I have previously written about Jewell’s abilities. Jewell has shown he is extremely productive when given the snaps. With trade rumors surrounding Marshall, Jewell may get his chance as a starter sooner rather than later. If that is the case, IDP players should pick up Jewell now before the shoe drops.
After seeing a steady increase in snaps in every week since returning from injury, Green Bay Packers rookie linebacker Oren Burks saw his snaps drop to just eight in week 8. Despite this, Burks was extremely productive, accounting for three tackles in those eight snaps.
Burks’ drop in snaps may have to do with the Los Angeles Rams base offensive scheme. The Rams play with three wide receivers, one tight end, and one running back, known as “11 personnel”, more than anyone in the league. They also rarely us their tight end in the pass game.
Burks is phenomenal in pass coverage. He fits perfectly next to fellow linebacker Blake Martinez‘s run-stopping prowess. Despite the drop in snaps in week 8, I expect Burks to see more responsibility as the season progresses. Burks should be rostered in deep and dynasty leagues and may be startable late in 2018.
Packers rookie cornerback Jaire Alexander had a phenomenal game against the Rams in week 8. Alexander was targeted early and often and he met the challenge. Alexander knocked down five passes to go along with seven tackles.
Great coverage by Jaire Alexander on a tough route favoring the WR pic.twitter.com/Buiuv6p14B
— Matt Waldman (@MattWaldman) October 29, 2018
In 5 games, Alexander has 26 total tackles, one tackle for loss, half of a sack, six passes defended, and one interception. In three of his five games, Alexander has 7 or more tackles. Alexander needs to be rostered in every league that separates the defensive backs.
New Orleans Saints rookie defensive end Marcus Davenport only had two tackles against the Vikings on Sunday night. Those two tackles just so happened to be sacks. Davenport is starting to show why the Saints traded away a first-round pick in 2019 to trade up for him. He is also making it extremely hard to justify only playing him approximately 50% of the defensive snaps.
Davenport has four sacks on the season, three coming in the last three games. He has already demonstrated his worth against the run, helping the Saints to rank first against the run in the league. If he continues to show improvement in the pass-rush and becomes a dominant force, Davenport will be hard to keep off of the field. He should be rostered in deep and dynasty leagues and may become a force in all IDP leagues later in the season.
Be sure to continue to follow this column and get a jump on up and coming rookies that are on the verge of a breakout.