Four weeks are in the books, so you should start having a good idea whether your current team is a contender or pretender. Obviously there's many examples of upper echelon players not performing up to par. If you drafted Carson Palmer, LaDainian Tomlinson, Randy Moss and Andre Johnson, you probably thought you were going to run away with the Championship. As Lee Corso would say ... not so fast my friend.
So, it's at this juncture that you need to decide if you're going to for it now or preparing for the future. If you're in redraft leagues, you have only one choice. Go for it or die. As a result, this rookie report is a valuable tool for all players. If you're going to go for it now, there might be some value here that you can get on the cheap. If you're preparing for next year and beyond, these players represent the youthful infusion your team likely needs.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
With 21 completions in 41 passes, Ryan put up a typical rookie performance in Week 4. Happy feet lead to high throws, as the plant foot isn't set. That being said, Ryan did show some poise running the offense, even going no huddle at times. He has a tough matchup in Week 5 against Green Bay, but there are a lot of things to like about Ryan's future potential.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Flacco had a very tough match-up against the Steelers last week and performed admirably, going 16-of-31 for 192 yards and a touchdown in an impressive showing in the spotlight of Monday Night Football. However, mistakes were made and holding onto the ball too long resulted in a sack, fumble, and touchdown for Pittsburgh that proved too much to overcome. Decision-making is something that can improve with experience, but you can't teach arm strength.
Kevin O'Connell, New England Patriots
There are whispers coming out of New England that O'Connell could see some time at quarterback. Looking at Matt Cassel's stats the past few weeks, it's impossible to disregard this rumor. That being said, looking at Cassel's stats shows that having Randy Moss and Wes Welker at receiver doesn't guarantee fantasy success.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Don't read too much into Forte's line from last week. The Eagles defense is in the upper echelon and it concentrated on stuffing the run. Forte is still a huge value in point-per-reception leagues, as he led the Bears with five receptions. The 24 touches are still a lot and there are concerns of him wearing down. So, if you can get excellent value in a trade, we're still saying sell high in redraft leagues.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
It's time to say Johnson is an every week starter. Against a stout Vikings defense, he ran for 61 yards on 17 carries. More important, he was left in the game to score two red zone touchdowns. If LenDale White isn't going to steal all the short scores, Johnson's value skyrockets. He added three catches out of the backfield, so he's clearly an every down back.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
The bye week couldn't come at a better time for the Raiders. McFadden was clearly hobbled last week, and former coach Lane Kiffin said he'd have been inactive if Justin Fargas were healthy. After two weeks rest, look for McFadden to break out against a soft Saints defense in Week 6.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
To be honest, 52 yards on 14 carries isn't all that impressive against the Atlanta Falcons. The problem in Carolina is the offense is getting predictable. When Stewart enters the game, opposing defenses know the smash-mouth is coming. They need to start getting more creative in using Stewart. The touchdowns are great, but more carries earlier in the game are needed. Look for Stewart's role to increase. He's still a buy low candidate.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys
An explosive weapon off the bench got all of zero carries against the Redskins? Wade Phillips at his best. Don't lose hope; the hapless Bengals are up next. With Ryan Fitzpatrick looking likely at quarterback for the Bengals, a huge early lead for Dallas could lead to more carries for Jones. He's actually an option for an owner desperate to fill a bye week hole.
Rashard Mendenhall, Pittsburgh Steelers
One chance. Broken shoulder. Season over. You are the weakest link, goodbye.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions
You have to like the chutzpah of a rookie publicly questioning his role. Even more so when the head coach comes back and says they are going to ride the hot hand regardless of who the actual starter is. Rudi Johnson is not the future in Detroit, so this is a great opportunity to go steal Smith from his current owner.
Steve Slaton, Houston Texans
This just in, Slaton's an every-week starter. The Jaguars' brutal defense held him to 33 yards on 10 carries, but that didn't stop the Texans from getting him the ball. Eight receptions led to 83 yards and a touchdown. We already discussed last week just how easy the schedule looks going forward. As Rod Marinelli says in Detroit, "ride the hot hand."
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
Still not an option. Willis McGahee and Le'Ron McClain top the depth chart. However, both ahead of him are nicked up. Keep an eye on that situation.
Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals
The lack of touches is still a concern. Edgerrin James being handed two short yardage touchdowns against the Jets is even worse. If Hightower loses his short-yardage role, he remains nothing more than a handcuff. Let's see how he's used this week, as last week's disaster against the Jets probably wasn't a great indication.
Ryan Torain, Denver Broncos
We profiled Torain in the preseason, as he's the perfect runner for the Broncos' system. The dislocated elbow derailed the train, but there are whispers in Denver that when Torain returns, the Broncos will focus more on the running game. With Denver on bye in Week 8, Torain could be looking at action beginning in Week 9. Early bird gets the worm. If you can afford to store a player, grab Torain now.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
The good, the bad and the ugly. The good is five catches for 71 yards and a touchdown with two rushes for 35 yards. The bad is 66 yards came on one drive, so where was he the rest of the game? The ugly was a muffed punt that seemed to have shaken his confidence. These things are going to happen to a rookie, but don't be discouraged. Even with Kevin Curtis nearing a return, Jackson has earned No. 1 receiver status in Philadelphia.
Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos
We were wrong. We expected Denver to go to the ground attack against a weak Chiefs rush defense. They continued to air it out and paid the price with a convincing loss at Arrowhead Stadium. The good news was Royal had nine catches for 104 yards. Look for the Denver offense to bounce back in Week 5 against a Tampa Bay defense that surrenders 216.5 yards per game through the air. Ronde Barber has been getting beat all over the field, so even if he lines up against Royal on certain plays, Cutler shouldn't be afraid to look his way.
Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams
Predicting a 37-yard end around touchdown from a wide receiver is impossible. Three catches for 22 yards is not good. Avery was targeted seven times, but the problem is that was Trent Green. New interim coach Jim Haslett has already announced that Marc Bulger will return at quarterback after the bye. That probably doesn't bode well for Avery, as Torry Holt should continue to get more looks.
John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks
If you haven't sold high on Carlson yet, there's still time. It looks like Bobby Engram and Deion Branch are going to return to the lineup this Sunday against the New York Giants. Some will argue that adding solid receivers will benefit Carlson with single coverage. We say less looks usually means less production. Carlson doesn't become waiver wire material since Hasselbeck is a smart quarterback who reads defenses well. It's just that if you have two tight ends, now's a good time to use Carlson in a package for an upgrade elsewhere on your roster.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets
Nothing soothes an angry fantasy owner like a garbage time touchdown in a game that brings a team's score over 50. Ridiculous play-calling in the Meadowlands won't happen too often. The fact is Keller isn't a significant part of the offense, so there just has to be better options on the wire for now.