The Wide Receiver Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s main NFL slate. For more of our weekly football content, visit the NFL homepage.
Wild Card weekend is in the books and with it goes this season’s WR4, WR17, and WR19. Be sure to check out our Vegas Lines and Outliers articles as well as our Market Share report to stay on top of the latest Vegas and workload related trends heading into the divisional round. Let’s get it.
As always, this breakdown is explicitly for the four game main slate although it has wider applicability.
The Big Two
After an absolutely wild season at the receiver position, the divisional round’s top two highest-priced receivers are essentially who anyone would’ve predicted in the preseason …
- Antonio Brown ($8,100 DraftKings, $9,000 FanDuel)
- Julio Jones ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,800 FanDuel)
It turns out that two of the league’s most talented receivers who also have top four target shares are fantastic fantasy options. Who would’ve thought?
Brown has practiced in full all week and is good to go for Sunday. Brown finished the year with a league high 1,533 receiving yards despite missing the last two and a half games. He was the only receiver to surpass 90 receiving yards on the Jaguars. Plenty of his 10/157/0 line came at the hands of all-world cornerback Jalen Ramsey:
AB converted 19 targets into a 10/157/0 line against JAX in Week 5. Went 8/137/0 on Jalen Ramsey vs. 2/20/0 on A.J. Bouye (per @MikeClayNFL ). Seems unlikely they'd ask Ramsey to shadow this time around after AB won most of Rd 1: pic.twitter.com/9G9wm2MmJ4
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) January 11, 2018
The Jaguars boast two of PFF’s top six cornerbacks, so even a potential reprieve from Ramsey’s shadow coverage doesn’t make this an exceptional matchup for Brown. He’ll certainly have plenty of chances to try and win one-on-one battles, as Brown and DeAndre Hopkins were the only receivers with at least 11 games with 10-plus targets this season. Brown has at least nine targets in each of his playoff games since 2011. Brown has the highest projected floor and projected ceiling among all wide receivers in our Pro Models.
Per our Correlations Dashboard, the average correlation between a quarterback and their WR1 this season has been a middling 0.38. Ben Roethlisberger and Brown‘s fantasy production since 2014 has a strong +0.62 correlation, which makes sense given their similar severe home/away splits and uncommon chemistry. Consider using our Lineup Builder to make Roethlisberger-Brown stacks on Saturday.
Jones missed practice on Tuesday and Wednesday with his recurring ankle ailment, but he’s not listed on the final injury report and is good to go for Saturday. He’s finally received a consistent dose of heavy usage with the Falcons in do-or-die mode, as Jones has at least 10 targets in four of his last five games. He’s continued to be especially problematic in January:
- 8 tgts, 7-64-0
- 10 tgts, 6-59-0
- 13 tgts, 11-182-2
- 8 tgts, 6-67-1
- 12 tgts, 9-180-2
- 4 tgts, 4-87-0
- 10 tgts, 9-94-1
Jones is the only player in NFL history with multiple playoff games of at least 150 receiving yards and two-plus touchdowns. The Eagles’ fifth-ranked defense in overall DVOA is certainly capable of causing plenty of problems at the line of scrimmage, but outsider corners Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills are the kryptonite of the defense. Mills allowed a league-high nine touchdowns this season while Darby allowed the most yards per cover snap among the Eagles’ starting cornerbacks. Jones has the second-highest projected floor, projected ceiling, and projected Plus/Minus among all wide receivers on DraftKings, although his projected ownership of 26-30 percent is well above his season-long average of 16 percent.
Be sure to monitor our Ownership Dashboard shortly after lock to see if Jones’ status as the second-highest priced receiver across the industry leads to reduced ownership across various contest levels.
Michael Thomas ($7,200 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel), Ted Ginn Jr. ($5,800 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel), Brandon Coleman ($3,000 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel), and Willie Snead ($3,000 DraftKings, $4,600 FanDuel): Thomas converted his eight targets into a 5-45-0 line against the Vikings in Week 1, even after managing to avoid a shadow date with star corner Xavier Rhodes. It’d behoove the Vikings to try anything to slow down Thomas, who has averaged the sixth-most DraftKings points per game (PPG) among all wide receivers since December (per our Trends Tool). Rhodes has certainly proven to be more than capable of limiting some of the league’s top receivers (save for Marvin Jones):
- Antonio Brown: 11 tgts, 5-62-0
- Mike Evans: 12 tgts, 7-67-0
- Marvin Jones (twice): 5 tgts, 2-42-0. 9 tgts, 6-109-2
- Davante Adams: 10 tgts, 5-54-1
- Josh Doctson: 7 tgts, 4-30-0
- Julio Jones: 6 tgts, 2-24-0
- A.J. Green: 4 tgts, 2-30-0
Thomas maintains a high weekly floor considering he leads the league with 13 games of at least five receptions and 50 receiving yards this season (nobody else has more than 11-such games). The Vikings have allowed a league-best 3.3 DraftKings points below salary-based expectation to wide receivers over the past 12 months, but Thomas’ 6.3-point projected floor is the highest mark outside of our big two receivers. Ginn figures to run most of his routes across from Trae Waynes, who was one of just six cornerbacks to allow over 750 yards in coverage this season. Coleman (neck, questionable) and Snead have each demonstrated low ceilings and floors considering they’ve each played at least 20 snaps per game since Week 13, but Coleman’s potential absence could lead to Snead owning the slot against the
39-year old ageless Terence Newman (foot, questionable).
Brandin Cooks ($7,000 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel), Chris Hogan ($5,200 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel), and Danny Amendola ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel): Hogan’s shoulder injury cost him seven games this season, but he’s reportedly expected to suit up Saturday night. Malcolm Mitchell (knee) could also be activated from the injured reserve list, so be sure to monitor our Injury Dashboard to view each fantasy-relevant player’s daily practice participation and estimated/final game statuses. Assuming Mitchell won’t play a featured role, the Patriots appeared to clearly define their top-three WR roles in their eight games together this season:
Cooks worked as the group’s overall alpha for their half season together, but Hogan’s fantasy-friendly downfield/red-zone role produced the most touchdowns among the group. Hogan’s eight targets inside the 10-yard line are more than any other Patriots player with the exception of Rob Gronkowski. The whole passing game is set up well with a slate-high implied total of 30.8 points. They’ll take on the Titans’ 24th-ranked defense in pass DVOA that doesn’t have a cornerback graded higher than 35th this season. Hogan’s price tag on DraftKings is the lowest it’s been since the team’s season-opening loss to the Chiefs and he’s accordingly tied for the highest projected ownership among all wide receivers.
Mohamed Sanu ($5,700 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): Sanu converted his eight targets into a 4-75-0 line last week but carries a relatively low-weekly ceiling considering he hasn’t surpassed 100 yards in a game since October, 2014. Sanu has surged in target share as Austin Hooper and Taylor Gabriel have grown less involved in the offense. Sanu is especially in play on Fanduel with a 94 percent Bargain Rating, although he has the toughest matchup among Falcons receivers against Patrick Robinson – the third-best full-time slot cornerback in lowest quarterback rating allowed this season. Be sure to utilize our Matchups tool to break down each week’s WR/CB matchups.
Alshon Jeffery ($5,500 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel), Nelson Agholor ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel), and Torrey Smith ($3,000 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel): The Nick Foles experience started off well enough for each of the Eagles’ top-two receivers, as Jeffery and Agholor converted their respective 10 and nine targets into 4-49-1 and 7-59-1 lines against the Giants. Things haven’t been so great since, as Jeffery has just one catch since Week 16 and Agholor hasn’t managed to surpass 50 yards with his last 10 targets. Smith has gained just 23 yards on 11 targets over the last three weeks and doesn’t offer his usual field-stretching upside against one of just four defenses to allow fewer than five passes of 40-plus yards this season. Jeffery figures to spend a decent amount of his time across from both Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford, PFF’s No. 17 and 24 overall cornerbacks this season, respectively. Agholor is in the best spot against Brian Poole, who allowed the second-most receiving yards and fourth-most yards per cover snap among all full-time slot corners this season. Each of the Eagles’ top-three receivers have negative Projected Plus/Minuses and they won’t benefit from projected wind gusts of 18 miles per hour with a 50 percent chance of rain.
Juju Smith-Schuster ($6,000 DraftKings, $7,000 FanDuel) and Martavis Bryant ($5,000 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel): Smith-Schuster and Bryant’s days as featured weapons in the offense are over with the return of Brown. Both receivers were clearly delegated to complementary roles during team’s five games after their Week 9 bye and before Browns’ Week 15 injury:
Steelers targets per game from Weeks 10-14 (post-bye/pre-AB injury):
1. AB – 13.2
2. Bell – 9.4
3. TE (James + McDonald) – 7.0
4. Juju – 6.7
5. Martavis – 6.2
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) January 11, 2018
The passing game’s brutal matchup against the Jaguars’ historically-elite defense was discussed in Brown’s aforementioned blurb, but Smith-Schuster and Bryant will have an extra hard time producing as long as they continue to work as the offense’s fourth and fifth most targeted weapons. Each of their Projected Plus/Minuses on DraftKings ranks among the bottom-five receivers priced over $5,000.
Marqise Lee ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel), Dede Westbrook ($4,400 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel), Allen Hurns ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel), and Keelan Cole ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): Last Sunday’s snap counts hardly cleared up the Jaguars’ receiver pecking order, as each of their top four receivers played between 31-36 snaps. Westbrook led the way with eight looks, while each of Lee, Hurns, and Cole failed to catch their lone target. The ceiling and floor for each receiver will remain low with Blake Bortles under center, especially against a Steelers defense he threw a season-low 14 passes against in Week 5. Westbrook has the highest projected floor and ceiling of the group on DraftKings, although his 13-16 percent projected ownership is well above his season average of 7.1 percent.
Rishard Matthews ($4,500 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel) and Eric Decker ($3,800 DraftKings, $4,800 FanDuel): The Titans offense has run through Delanie Walker and Corey Davis (more on him later) as of late, leaving Matthews and Decker in the dust. They’ve each failed to surpass 25 receiving yards in each of the team’s last two elimination games. Matthews has seen just four total targets during this span, while Decker has at least maintained relevance with 5.5 targets per game. Both are tough to get excited about as secondary options in a run-first offense facing the league’s eighth-best defense in pass DVOA.
The Model Wide Receivers
There are several wide receivers atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek), with the following three receivers standing out among multiple models:
- Corey Davis ($3,400 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel)
- Adam Thielen ($7,600 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel) and Stefon Diggs ($6,200 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel)
Now that we’ve discussed the Titans’ complementary receivers, we can focus on Marcus Mariota‘s No. 1 target. This season’s No. 5 overall pick has hardly lived up to expectations considering he’s yet to find the end zone, but the Titans have continued to feed Davis the ball ahead of their other options during his 11 games this season. Davis’ 64 targets surpass Matthews (51), Decker (59), and are barely behind Walker (73). Davis may not have the NFL production of his teammates in the wide receiver room, but his targets have reflected that of a No. 1 receiver.
Also working in Davis’ favor is the fact the Patriots have hardly limited opposing passing attacks this season. They rank 26th vs. No. 1 wide receivers in DVOA, they’ve allowed the fifth-most DraftKings PPG to opposing wide receiver units, and they’re one of just three units to allow 4,000-plus passing yards this season. He’s the only receiver on DraftKings priced under $4000 that can lay claim to a featured role. He leads all non-minimum priced receivers with a 94 percent Bargain Rating and +2.6 Projected Plus/Minus. Davis should have plenty of chances to surpass his salary-based expectation, but he’ll need to get the job done against a mix of Malcolm Butler and Stephon Gilmore – PFF’s No. 45 and No. 16 overall cornerbacks this season.
The Vikings’ 10th-ranked scoring offense hasn’t managed to surpass 175 yards through the air since Week 12, but that didn’t stop Diggs and Thielen from ranking among the top 16 receivers in DraftKings PPG this season. They were two of just 19 receivers to average at least 1.9 yards per route run, but face one of their stiffest challenges against the Saints’ fifth-ranked defense in pass DVOA. They’re led by stud rookie Marshon Lattimore – PFF’s No. 4 overall cornerback this season. Lattimore figures to see more Diggs than Thielen, although the rookie will have his hands full with the phenomenon simply known as #DomeDiggs:
- In domes since 2016: Thielen: 7.2 tgts, 5.2-67.0-0.2. Diggs: 7.7 tgts, 6.1-71.9-0.5.
- Outside since 2016: Thielen: 7.5 tgts, 4.8-74.6-0.5. Diggs: 7.6 tgts, 4.9-57.3-0.3.
Diggs has averaged 16.7 DraftKings PPG inside compared to 13.3 from Thielen since the beginning of last season. Thielen is still set up well, as the absence of Kenny Vaccaro (Achilles, IR) opened up the nickel corner spot for P.J. Williams, who represents a fairly drastic downgrade as PFF’s 83rd-highest graded cornerback this season. Despite the newfound success from the Saints’ secondary this season, they’ve allowed a slate-high 0.5 DraftKings points above salary-based expectation to wide receivers over the past 12 months. Diggs and Thielen each have top-five projected floors and ceiling among all wide receivers.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the wide receivers for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 17 positional breakdowns.
Good luck this week!
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Photo via Kim Klement -USA TODAY Sports