The rookie wall. We hear that expression all the time in relation to first-year players, but how does it come into play? Simply speaking, the college football season is roughly 11-13 games, depending on the school, their schedule and whether they go to a bowl game. The easy answer is that starting around Week 12 of the NFL season, a rookie is apt to lose some of his conditioning and therefore suffer some decrease in performance. But is that really true?
Let's face it; training camp in the NFL is tougher than anything these kids went through in college. The NFL game is also infinitely faster, players are much bigger, stronger and hit harder than the players they faced in college. So, is it really fair to say that at the end of what would be the college season, the first-year pro will trail off? Let's take a look at the most recent stud rookie, Adrian Peterson.
In the first eight weeks last year, Peterson ran for 1,036 yards. He had three 100-yard games and two 200-yard games. He added 12 receptions for 206 yards. He had nine touchdowns.
In the last eight weeks, Peterson ran for 305 yards while playing in only six of the eight games. He added seven receptions for 62 yards. He had four touchdowns.
Now, he's only one man, so it's hardly volumes of data, but he was the man and even he struggled mightily after Week 8. So, if you think you can get a more secure, veteran option through trade by offering up a rookie in a sell high situation, go for it.
Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons
The Atlanta Falcons have as many wins in 2008 as they did in all of '07. Ryan was 22-for-30 for 301 yards and a touchdown against an extremely tough Bears defense last week. With only one play to set up the winning field goal, Ryan threw a deep sideline bullet off his back foot that was right on the money. A huge throw in that situation. He's developing quickly.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
Again, he's nothing like Ryan. Flacco was 28-of-38 for 241 yards against the Colts on Sunday, but much of that came once the Ravens trailed big and the Colts played loose on defense. His three interceptions and a fumble led to a big Colts lead. In fairness to Flacco, Mark Clayton hasn't stepped up his game at all and Todd Heap is once again banged up. At this point, it's looking like it might be a couple of seasons before Flacco is even on the fantasy radar.
Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
While the Bears struggled against the Falcons, Forte continued his excellent rookie season. With 20 carries for 76 yards, five catches for 34 yards and a touchdown, Forte brought home the goods once again. We've been saying all season that his workload is extreme, so if you believed what you read in the introduction, Forte is the No. 1 sell high rookie around. Even more so since Minnesota is next on the schedule.
Chris Johnson, Tennessee Titans
Don't forget about players coming off a bye. Upcoming matchups against Kansas City and Indianapolis could mean plenty of success for Johnson.
Steve Slaton, Houston Texans
Just when we call him an every week starter, Slaton puts up a stinker. With only 16 touches against Miami, Slaton had 61 yards. Ahman Green ate into Slaton's production with nine carries. Since Houston struggled against Miami, look for the Texans to get back to Slaton this week. With Detroit on the schedule, a huge game is waiting. With Cincinnati up in Week 8, plug Slaton in and forget about that roster spot.
Darren McFadden, Oakland Raiders
With a huge deficit, the Raiders passed 35 times this past week. McFadden carried the ball only eight times, but that might have been a blessing given his toe injury. This week the Jets come to town. They're currently the third-ranked rushing defense, so it doesn't get any easier. McFadden took the practice field without the boot, but between the Jets defense, the return of Fargas and the toe injury, it's better to consider other options if you have them.
Jonathan Stewart, Carolina Panthers
New Orleans and Arizona are the next two on the schedule for the Panthers, so after Stewart's six-carry, 12-yard performance this past week, his value will never be lower. You could steal him at this point. There's still upside here, even for '08.
Felix Jones, Dallas Cowboys
A hamstring injury has sidelined Jones at the worst possible moment. With Tony Romo (likely) out with a broken pinkie, the Cowboys will focus more on the running game. Brad "Checkdown" Johnson would present lots of opportunities for screen passes, as well. Depending on how Jones progresses, he could miss as many as three games, since Dallas could give him an extra week with a bye in Week 10.
Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions
Smith had 73 yards in the first half last week, including a 50-yard run, but he didn't appear in the second half. A shoulder injury sidelined him and we still don't know the extent of the injury. Monitor the injury reports.
Tim Hightower, Arizona Cardinals
FYI, Arizona is on bye this week.
Ray Rice, Baltimore Ravens
If you play in a PPR league, Rice has gained relevance again. With Baltimore getting blown out by the Colts, Rice caught seven passes for 64 yards. As long as Flacco struggles and the Ravens trail, Rice could be a useful bye week replacement.
DeSean Jackson, Philadelphia Eagles
FYI, the Eagles are on bye this week, so adjust your lineup accordingly. It's good timing, as Jackson left the game with an ankle injury. It's not serious, so don't panic.
Eddie Royal, Denver Broncos
Royal missed Week 6 but will likely work hard to be ready for Monday night's game at New England. With Denver on bye in Week 8, the Broncos just might be very careful with Royal. Keep your eye on the practice reports, but if Royal doesn't put in a full practice by Friday, look for someone else to start. As of this writing, the Broncos seem to be counting on him being ready to play.
Donnie Avery, St. Louis Rams
Well, it seems Marc Bulger will throw to Avery, but the Rams offense is so bad right now that touchdowns are very hard to come by. At best, Avery is a WR3 and even then, only in PPR formats.
Jordy Nelson, Green Bay Packers
With four receptions for 42 yards, Nelson is at least on the radar in Green Bay. He's not a starting option but he'll gain considerable value if Donald Driver or Greg Jennings suffers an injury.
John Carlson, Seattle Seahawks
Once you get outside the top six tight ends, you're basically just praying for a short touchdown. You got it this past week if you had Carlson. It's looking likely that Seneca Wallace will start at quarterback this week and that actually might be good for Carlson. First of all, Wallace isn't great, so the tight end is often a big part of a short passing game. In addition, Wallace can keep plays alive with his mobility. Once outside the pocket, a tight end is usually a good friend to the quarterback.
Dustin Keller, New York Jets
Zero catches last week. It's simply too dicey to count on Keller.
Tom Santi, Indianapolis Colts
Like Keyser Sose, just like that, he's gone.