We’re in the second half of the 2018 NFL season, and we’re still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 24.0 points per game per team. The action continues with an 11-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at the wide receivers at the top of the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
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Model Wide Receivers
This week, there are six wide receivers at the top of our individual Pro Models.
- Michael Thomas: $8,100 DraftKings; $8,600 FanDuel
- Tyreek Hill: $7,300 DraftKings; $7,600 FanDuel
- Mike Evans: $7,000 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
- Cooper Kupp: $6,400 DraftKings; $6,500 FanDuel
- Jarvis Landry: $6,200 DraftKings; $6,400 FanDuel
- Chris Godwin: $4,000 DraftKings; $5,500 FanDuel
Michael Thomas: New Orleans Saints (-6) at Cincinnati Bengals, 54 O/U
UPDATE (11/10): Wide receiver Dez Bryant (Achilles) suffered a season-ending injury in Friday’s practice.
In 2016-17, Thomas had more receptions (196) than any other NFL receiver in history has had in his first two seasons. And this season Thomas has been even more dominant. Through eight games, Thomas has almost as many touchdowns (five) as incomplete targets (nine) — and he’s been targeted 79 times.
His 88.6% catch rate is transgressively high, and he leads the league this year with four games of 10-plus receptions. If Thomas weren’t a football player, he’d probably be the CEO of a peer-to-peer ride-share company, because he’s über-efficient. (It was also über-efficient of me to borrow that “joke” from my Week 7 breakdown.)
Trailing only Julio Jones with his average of 110.0 yards per game, Thomas is aggressively lining up all over the formation — 225 snaps wide left, 136 wide right and 131 in the slot — and the Saints are strategically scheming each game to get the ball to their alpha receiver, who has teamed up with quarterback Drew Brees for an elite 11.4 adjusted yards per attempt (AY/A). Thomas has been particularly strong when targeted outside the hash marks or down the field (per RotoViz AY/A App).
Last week, when the Saints knocked the Rams out of the No. 1 spot in The Action Network NFL Power Ratings, Thomas dominated the slate, scoring 42.1 DraftKings points with a resplendent 12-211-1 receiving line on a week-best 15 targets. For context: DeAndre Hopkins had the second-highest Week 9 fantasy total with 29.5 DraftKings points. Thomas wasn’t just a man among pass-catching boys last week: He was a daily fantasy gawd among mortals.
After knocking off the previously undefeated Rams with their seventh win a row, the Saints have seen their odds to win the Super Bowl jump from +700 to +350, and after Brees, Thomas is probably the most important player on the team. After his massive Week 9 performance, Thomas leads all receivers on the slate with his 24.4 DraftKings points per game.
It’s always a little concerning for the Saints when they aren’t playing at the Coors Field of fantasy football, especially when they are in the elements. For his career, Brees has been much better in a dome (8.2 AY/A) than outdoors (7.0 AY/A), and this year in his two starts in open stadiums, he’s averaged just 214.5 yards and one touchdown passing per game. Playing outside in what’s projected to be crisp 45-degree weather, Brees will likely not be at his best.
But that might not matter to Thomas, who has been a fairly splits-agnostic player throughout his career.
- Away (18 games): 18.5 DraftKings points, +3.46 Plus/Minus, 61.1% Consistency Rating
- Home (20 games): 18.5 DraftKings points, +3.57 Plus/Minus, 55.0% Consistency Rating
Thomas is in a great spot this week. The Bengals-Saints game has the slate’s highest over/under, and the Bengals have allowed a top-three mark of 45.3 DraftKings points per game to opposing wide receivers. The Bengals rank 16th in pass defense with a mediocre 5.3% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, but they have been so much worse than that number suggests, allowing every No. 1 receiver they’ve faced to go off (with the exception of Dolphins wide receiver Albert Wilson in Week 5, because #Dolphins).
- T.Y. Hilton (Week 1): 15.6 DraftKings points, 5-46-1 receiving on 11 targets
- John Brown (Week 2): 19.2 DraftKings points, 4-92-1 receiving on 10 targets
- Devin Funchess (Week 3): 16.7 DraftKings points, 4-67-1 receiving on seven targets
- Julio Jones (Week 4): 29.3 DraftKings points, 9-173-0 receiving on 12 targets
- Antonio Brown (Week 6): 24.5 DraftKings points, 5-105-1 receiving on six targets
- Tyreek Hill (Week 7): 20.6 DraftKings points, 7-68-1 receiving on 10 targets
- Mike Evans (Week 8): 32.9 DraftKings points, 6-179-1 receiving on 13 targets
And that list doesn’t even take into account the strong performances we’ve seen by supporting receivers, such as JuJu Smith-Schuster (7-111-0), Mohamed Sanu (6-111-0), Calvin Ridley (4-54-2) and DeSean Jackson (3-68-1). Thomas has a great matchup against the Bengals.
Coming out of the Week 9 bye, the Bengals should theoretically be rested and ready, but that doesn’t mean they will be healthy. In fact, the Bengals are one of the most injured teams in the league, which puts them at a distinct disadvantage. In particular, slot corner Darqueze Dennard (shoulder) is out, and replacing him will be fifth-round rookie Darius Phillips, who has allowed an 80% catch rate on 15 targets and 67 coverage snaps.
With wide receivers Cam Meredith (knee) on injured reserve, it’s likely the Saints will give more snaps to Thomas in the slot, where he’s already run a career-high 30.9% of his routes this year. With linebackers Nick Vigil (knee) and Vontaze Burfict (hip) expected to sit, the middle of the field could be especially vulnerable for the Bengals defense.
The Bengals might use shadow coverage to attempt to minimize Thomas’ impact, but that seems unlikely to be effective: Not one Bengals cornerback has a Pro Football Focus (PFF) coverage grade of even 70, and the Bengals have an extreme pass-funnel defense. Thomas could have a massive performance with a high reception total and inflated after-the-catch yardage.
Last week, Thomas was rostered at 21% in the high-stakes Luxury Box but just 16.63% in the Millionaire Maker, suggesting that he was a sharp play even though he was one of the slate’s most popular players. We’re once again projecting him for high ownership this week, and he’ll be a tough player to fade.
On Sunday morning, I will probably look to bet the over on Thomas’ reception prop. He leads the league with 8.8 receptions per game and has a great matchup. To find the best bets in the props market, use our Player Props Tool, which is powered by our industry-leading projections. Since Week 1, the props with a bet quality of 10 have gone 176-85-6, good for a 66% win rate.
Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Thomas has position-high median and ceiling projections on DraftKings and FanDuel and is the No. 1 wide receiver in the Levitan and Raybon Models for both sites.
Tyreek Hill: Kansas City Chiefs (-16.5) vs. Arizona Cardinals, 49.5 O/U
UPDATE (11/10): Wide receiver Sammy Watkins (foot) is questionable after missing practice on Wednesday and Thursday but getting in a limited session on Friday. Center Mitch Morse (concussion) is out while left guard Cam Erving (heel) is questionable after practicing limitedly on Friday.
Hill has been relatively quiet over the past two weeks with “only” 155 scoreless yards on nine targets, seven receptions and two carries, but at the position he trails only Antonio Brown with his eight all-purpose touchdowns. He’s still every bit TyFreak.
The Chiefs are just dominating the offensive side of the ball. On a per-game basis, they have:
- Outscored their implied total by 8.5 points (No. 1 in NFL)
- Exceeded their game total by 8.7 points (No. 3)
- Surpassed their spread by 8.4 points (No. 1)
The Chiefs lead the league in scoring at 36.3 points per game, and Hill is a key contributor to their success, leading the team with 774 yards receiving, 992 air yards and seven touchdowns receiving. For all of his volatility, Hill has crossed the 50-yard threshold in each game this year.
Throughout his career, Hill has had notable reverse home/away and favorite underdog splits, which have significantly impacted his usage and production.
- Home (20 games): 5.6 targets, 3.6 receptions, 1.3 carries, 59.2 yards, 0.36 scrimmage touchdowns
- Away (20 games): 7.4 targets, 5.6 receptions, 1.4 carries, 88.0 yards, 0.80 scrimmage touchdowns
- Favorite (29 games): 6.1 targets, 4.1 receptions, 1.3 carries, 68.4 yards, 0.38 scrimmage touchdowns
- Underdog (11 games): 7.5 targets, 5.8 receptions, 1.4 carries, 87.4 yards, 1.09 scrimmage touchdowns
Basically, Hill has been at his worst as a home favorite.
- Home favorite (19 games): 5.5 targets, 3.5 receptions, 1.3 carries, 57.7 yards, 0.32 scrimmage touchdowns
- All other situations (21 games): 7.3 targets, 5.6 receptions, 1.3 carries, 88.0 yards, 0.81 scrimmage touchdowns
As a result, it’s probably not advantageous for Hill that the Chiefs are such massive favorites against the Cardinals, especially since under head coach Andy Reid, Arrowhead Stadium has a league-worst 15-28-1 over/under record. No home team since 2013 has lost over bettors more money (-30.5% ROI) than the Chiefs (per Bet Labs). But most of those games were with a different quarterback. With Patrick Mahomes leading the offense, the Chiefs should put up points.
The Cardinals are eighth in overall pass defense (-1.9% DVOA) and fourth specifically against No. 1 wide receivers (-18.3%) thanks to shutdown cornerback Patrick Peterson, who has allowed a low 54.8% catch rate in his coverage for a paltry 17-189-1 receiving line on 314 coverage snaps.
It’s possible that Peterson could shadow Hill, given that in years past he’s tailed No. 1 receivers and in Week 6 he stuck to Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, who is similar to Hill in some ways as a small, shifty player.
But it’s also possible that Peterson could shadow wide receiver Sammy Watkins (knee, questionable), if he plays — and if he doesn’t play than at least Hill could see an increase in target volume. Additionally, Peterson is a physical corner who tends to dominate by pressing receivers at the line of scrimmage.
While that makes him a tough matchup for most receivers, it also means that he will be vulnerable to deep passes if Hill is able to beat him off the line. Plus, there’s no guarantee that the Cardinals will use Peterson in shadow coverage.
This season, wide receivers similar to Hill have had success against the Cardinals.
- Brandin Cooks (Week 2): 19.4 FanDuel points, 7-159-0 receiving on nine targets
- Tyler Lockett (Week 4): 7.8 FanDuel points, 5-53-0 receiving on six targets
- Emmanuel Sanders (Week 7): 24.3 FanDuel points, 6-102-1 receiving on seven targets (with a 28-yard passing touchdown)
- Marquise Goodwin (Week 8): 10.6 FanDuel points, 1-55-1 receiving on four targets
Regardless of Hill’s splits and matchup, he warrants locked-in exposure in guaranteed prize pools. It helps that Tyreek has run 40.8% of his routes from the slot this year. Peterson has lined up in the slot for literally just six snaps this season. The Chiefs move Hill all over the formation, and Reid is sharp enough as a play caller to scheme him open at least a few times.
Since stealing the No. 1 job from an injured Jeremy Maclin in Week 10 of the 2016 campaign, Hill has averaged 83.1 scrimmage yards and 0.75 all-purpose touchdowns per game. Since last season, Hill has been a top-four receiver with 15.2 FanDuel points per game. He’s always in play.
Hill is tied for first with nine Pro Trends on FanDuel, where he’s the highest-rated wide receiver in the SportsGeek Model.
Mike Evans: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs. Washington Redskins, 51 O/U
UPDATE (11/10): Right tackle Demar Dotson (knee, shoulder) and running back Peyton Barber (ankle) will play after practicing in full on Friday. Running back Ronald Jones (hamstring) has been ruled out.
The spread opened as a pick’em, but it has moved significantly since then with 53% of the bets but 76% of the money backing the Bucs (Check update odds here). It looks like professional and public bettors alike are on the Bucs this weekend.
Evans is coming off his worst performance of the season, as last week he turned 10 targets into an embarrassing 1-16-0 receiving line, thanks primarily to the shadow coverage of cornerback James Bradberry. While Evans’s performance was truly dreadful, it probably shouldn’t dissuade anyone from rostering him this week.
Evans is easily on pace to become only the third player in NFL history (along with Randy Moss and A.J. Green) to open his career with five straight 1,000-yard receiving campaigns. He’s top-five in the league with 786 yards receiving and 1,118 air yards.
Evans is in a good spot this week. First of all, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick did well enough last week to earn another start, and that’s beneficial for Evans: Fitz is aggressive in pushing the ball downfield, and he leads the league with his 9.7 yards per attempt and 11.3-yard average depth of target (aDOT). In his four complete games this season, he’s averaged an NFL-best 368.3 yards per game.
Since last season, Evans has significant quarterback-based splits. While these splits are apparent even in the games with quarterback changes, I’ve removed such games from the sample so the trend may be better seen.
- Evans with Fitzpatrick (six complete games): 18.9 DraftKings points, 10.3 targets, 5.8 receptions, 92.2 yards, 0.5 touchdowns
- Evans with Winston (13 complete games): 14.4 DraftKings points, 8.9 targets, 5.2 receptions, 68.3 yards, 0.31 touchdowns
Put differently: Since last year, Evans has nine touchdowns — five from Fitz and four from Winston, even though Winston has attempted 590 passes to Fitzpatrick’s 347.
Additionally, Evans is on the positive side of his division/non-division splits, which are pretty much the only situational splits he’s had throughout his career.
- Division (26 games): 14.5 DraftKings points, -1.97 Plus/Minus, 34.6% Consistency Rating
- Non-Division (43 games): 18.3 DraftKings points, +2.00 Plus/Minus, 58.1% Consistency Rating
Although they rank eighth with a PFF coverage grade of 77.7, the Redskins are one of the most injured teams in the league, especially on offense.
- Wide receiver Jamison Crowder: Ankle, questionable – out since Week 5
- Wide receiver Paul Richardson: Shoulder, IR
- Running back Chris Thompson: Ribs, out
- Left tackle Trent Williams: Thumb, doubtful – missed Week 9
- Left guard Shawn Lauvao: knee, IR
- Right guard Brandon Scherff: pectoral, IR
- Right tackle Morgan Moses: knee, questionable – exited Week 9 with injury
Without their two best wide receivers, best pass-catching back and at least three starting offensive linemen, the Redskins could struggle to sustain drives, which in turn could put more pressure on their defense and make it vulnerable.
On top of that, the Redskins will likely be without cornerback Quinton Dunbar (shin), who missed Weeks 7-8 and exited Week 9 early after aggravating his leg injury. Replacing him on the outside will be a combination of Greg Stroman and Danny Johnson, seventh-round and undrafted rookies who have allowed a 15-252-3 receiving line on 22 targets and 142 coverage snaps. If Evans has the opportunity to face him, he could have a massive game.
Of course, it’s possible that Evans could be shadowed by cornerback Josh Norman for most of the game. Although the Redskins haven’t traditionally used Norman in shadow coverage, over the past two weeks they’ve finally let their top corner tail No. 1 receivers. Even so, that didn’t stop Odell Beckham Jr. (8-136-0 on 11 targets) and Julio Jones (7-121-1 on 10 targets) from putting up big games. In fact, it was against Norman that Julio finally scored his first touchdown of the season.
This year, thanks to their magnificent combination of high-scoring offense (28.6 points per game) and sieve-like defense (34.4 points per game allowed), the Bucs have seen an NFL-high seven games hit the over. I’m betting this game makes it eight, since the Bucs and Redskins are both set up well to create big plays in the passing game.
For guaranteed prize pools, you might want to use our Lineup Builder to stack Evans with Fitpatrick. Since 2014, No. 1 wide receivers on average have had a 0.53 correlation with their quarterbacks. With Fitz, Evans has a personal-high 0.66 correlation.
Evans leads the position with nine Pro Trends on DraftKings, where he’s the No. 1 wide receiver in the Bales Model.
Cooper Kupp: Los Angeles Rams (-9.5) vs. Seattle Seahawks, 50 O/U
The Rams are coming off their first loss of the season, but they have hit their implied Vegas totals in an NFL-high 18 of 25 games under beard model and head coach Sean McVay since last season. The Rams averaged a league-high 29.9 points per game last season, and this season they have improved to an average of 33.2.
That will almost certainly regress, but this offense is as good as any unit in the league, and latter-day Austin Collie has a lot to do with it: For the first month of the season — before suffering a concussion in Week 5 and knee injury in Week 6 — Kupp was the No. 4 fantasy wide receiver with 18.0 FanDuel points per game. Kupp’s +9.74 Plus/Minus for Weeks 1-4 was a top-five mark at the position.
In his Week 9 return to action, Kupp played 100% of the snaps and looked entirely like himself, turning six targets into a 5-89-1 receiving line. Excluding Week 6, in which he played just 37.8% of the snaps before exiting with a knee sprain, Kupp has been a strong producer over his past 16 games (including playoffs), especially those played this year.
- Week 7 (2017) – Week 9 (2018): 13.9 FanDuel points, 7.6 targets, 5.4 receptions, 75 yards, 0.63 touchdowns
- Weeks 1-9 (2018): 17.9 FanDuel points, 7.8 targets, 5.8 receptions, 87.3 yards, one touchdown
While Kupp might seem like an unlikely touchdown producer, he was his team’s primary scorer in four seasons at Eastern Washington, putting up 77 all-purpose touchdowns in 52 career games. Last year, he was top-five in the league with 23 red-zone targets, and this year he’s top-10 with seven targets inside the 10-yard line even though he’s missed two games and parts of two others. Even with his missed time, Kupp still leads the team with six touchdowns receiving.
Of any receiver to run more than half his routes from the slot — and Kupp’s slot rate is 71.3% — he handily leads the position with 2.54 yards per route (PFF) and five touchdowns. In fact, among all wide receivers, regardless of where they line up, Kupp is top-10 with 2.44 yards per route and five touchdowns receiving (10 target minimum). Counting only the games this year in which he played at least 50% of the snaps (Weeks 1-5 & 9), Kupp leads all wide receivers with his 287 yards after the catch.
The Seahawks have never been double-digit dogs with quarterback Russell Wilson, but they’ve done remarkably well as dogs of more than a field goal, going an outstanding 10-1 against the spread, and they theoretically present a tough matchup for Kupp. The Seahawks defense is missing many of the marquee players who made the unit a feared force just a few years ago, but it has been rebuilt on the fly this season. The Seahawks are fifth overall in defensive DVOA (-9.4%) and fifth in pass-defense DVOA (-8.2%).
But in Week 5, Kupp had a strong 6-90-1 performance on nine targets before exiting with a head injury, and his touchdown came against slot corner Justin Coleman, who actually had his worst game of the season that week (6-70-1 allowed on nine targets; 48.6 PFF coverage grade). Given his offense, usage and previous history against Coleman, Kupp seems likely to produce despite the matchup.
Kupp has a position-high 97% Bargain Rating on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 wide receiver in the Koerner Model.
Jarvis Landry: Cleveland Browns (+6) vs. Atlanta Falcons, 51 O/U
Landry is first on the slate and second in the league with 101 targets, hitting a career-high 11.2 per game. Landry is actually running more of his routes out of the slot this season (69.1%) than he ran last season (64.8%), but with No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback, Landry is being used much more aggressively.
For instance, this season 26.0% of Landry’s targets have come more than 15 yards down the field; in 2014-17 with Miami, he saw such targets at only an 11.0% rate. Landry’s production with Mayfield has been neither prolific nor consistent, but their connection is improving. Landry has a weak 57.5% catch rate on the quarterback’s passes, but he is locked in as Mayfield’s No. 1 option.
The rookie has targeted Landry a personal-high 73 times — tight end David Njoku is second with 42 — and Landry has been targeted 10-plus times in five of Mayfield’s six starts. Even with the schematic uncertainty in Cleveland following the departures of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Landry has an elevated floor because of his dependable and top-end target volume.
As significant home dogs, the Browns will likely need to throw to keep pace with the Falcons, and they at least have a good matchup. The Falcons are 28th in pass defense with a 27.6% DVOA and have allowed a top-six mark of 34.5 FanDuel points per game to opposing wide receivers. On top of that, middle linebacker Deion Jones (foot, IR), free safety Keanu Neal (knee, IR) and strong safety Ricardo Allen (Achilles, IR) are out.
Since the Falcons lost Jones and Neal in the season opener, wide receivers have routinely exposed Atlanta, especially in the slot.
- Jarius Wright (Panthers, Week 2): 14.7 FanDuel points, 5-62-1 receiving on seven targets
- Cam Meredith (Saints, Week 3): 7.6 FanDuel points, 1-11-1 receiving on one target
- Tyler Boyd (Bengals, Week 4): 15.5 FanDuel points, 11-100-0 receiving on 15 targets
- JuJu Smith-Schuster (Steelers, Week 5): 11.4 FanDuel points, 4-34-1 receiving on four targets
- Adam Humphries (Buccaneers, Week 6): 9.7 FanDuel points, 3-82-0 receiving on four targets
- Sterling Shepard (Giants, Week 7): 19.2 FanDuel points, 5-167-0 receiving on eight targets
- Maurice Harris (Redskins, Week 9): 17.4 FanDuel points, 10-124-0 receiving on 12 targets
With the middle-of-the-field injuries the Falcons have had at safety and linebacker, they’re basically a slot funnel on defense. As the No. 1 receiver in his offense, Landry has an outsized opportunity to exploit the Falcons defense where it’s weakest.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, guest Scott Barrett highlighted Landry as a potential cash-game wide receiver for the week, and it’s not hard to see why.
Landry has position-high floor projections on DraftKings and also FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 wide receiver in the Bales, CSURAM88 and Freedman Models.
Chris Godwin: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-3) vs. Washington Redskins, 51 O/U
UPDATE (11/10): Right tackle Demar Dotson (knee, shoulder) and running back Peyton Barber (ankle) will play after practicing in full on Friday. Running back Ronald Jones (hamstring) has been ruled out.
Although he is splitting time with veteran field-stretcher DeSean Jackson and yet to play 75% of the offensive snaps in any game, Sacred Victorious is a key contributor to a wide receiver unit that leads the league with 28 targets, 271.9 yards and 56.4 PPR points per game.
A second-year breakout-in-process, Godwin has hit double-digit targets in only one game and done relatively little over the past two weeks (4-72-0 on 10 targets, plus a two-point conversion), but he’s top-five in the league with nine targets inside the 10-yard line, and he’s tied for the team lead (with Evans) with seven end-zone targets.
If Norman shadows Evans, Godwin is likely to run the majority of his routes against the exploitable rookie duo of Stroman and Johnson, which makes him highly intriguing. Last week, Godwin was stacked with Evans in just 0.23% of Millionaire Maker lineups, and even though they are both popping in our Models, their shared ownership this week will almost certainly still be less than 1%.
Godwin is the No. 1 DraftKings wide receiver in the CSURAM88, Koerner, SportsGeek and Freedman Models.
Positional Breakdowns & News
Be sure to read the other Week 10 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
Pictured above: Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry (80)
Photo credit: Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports