The regular season is over, but that’s no reason to stop playing daily fantasy football. Wildcard weekend brings a wonderful four-game slate that kicks off on Saturday at 4:35 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at three 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
- DeAndre Hopkins: $8,700 DraftKings; $8,800 FanDuel
- T.Y. Hilton: $7,800 DraftKings; $7,700 FanDuel
- Tyler Lockett: $5,300 DraftKings; $7,000 FanDuel
DeAndre Hopkins: Houston Texans (-1.5) vs. Indianapolis Colts, 48 Over/Under
UPDATE (1/5): Wide receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) is officially questionable but expected to play.
The Texans opened as -2.5 favorites, but the line has moved toward the Colts. On the Wednesday edition of The Favorites podcast, bookmaker Bob Scucci noted that the public and the wise guys are both backing the Colts, which in theory doesn’t bode well for Hopkins.
Even so, given the smaller slate, Hopkins has the highest median and ceiling projections of all wide receivers in our Models.
Additionally, according to The Action Network NFL Power Rankings, the public and the sharps might be wrong to back the Colts: Our numbers suggest that the Texans are the most undervalued team of wildcard weekend.
The Texans have a slate-high 24.75-point implied Vegas total, and professional bettors have targeted the over throughout the week, which makes sense: It’s winter, and the Texans-Colts game will be played indoors. Over the past 15 seasons, domed games have a postseason over/under record of 28-9-0, good for a magnificent 49.8% return on investment (per Bet Labs). For comparison, outdoor postseason games are 53-70-4 with a -15.5% ROI.
The game environment is definitely in Hopkins’ favor: The Colts and Texans are both top-10 in situation-neutral pace and should combine to have the week’s fastest-paced matchup.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, we talked about Hopkins as strong play in both cash games and guaranteed prize pools, and it’s easy to see why: Hopkins is first in the league with his 0.32 market share of targets and 0.45 share of air yards.
For the second straight season, Hopkins has had an All-Pro campaign, and since last season he’s second among all wide receivers with 17.4 FanDuel point per game.
There is, however, some cause for concern based on his splits over the past two seasons. As important as quarterback Deshaun Watson is to the Texans, for Hopkins’ personal production it’s possible that wide receiver Will Fuller is even more important. With Fuller lined up across from Hopkins, opposing defenses have to respect the speedster’s field-stretching ability, which means that they can’t shade safeties to Hopkins’ side of the field.
Nuk’s per-game splits since last season suggestive.
- Watson starts, Fuller plays (11 games): 19.6 FanDuel points, 9.6 targets, 6.3 receptions, 101.2 yards and 1.1 touchdowns receiving
- Another quarterback starts, Fuller plays (five games): 18.6 FanDuel points, 13 targets, 6.4 receptions, 98.2 yards and one touchdown receiving
- Watson starts, Fuller doesn’t play (11 games): 15.5 FanDuel points, 10.6 targets, 7.6 receptions, 91.8 yards and 0.45 touchdowns receiving
- Another quarterback starts, Fuller doesn’t play (four games): 14.7 FanDuel points, 12.3 targets, 6.5 receptions, 84 yards and 0.5 touchdowns receiving
The samples are all small, but the numbers suggest that he’s benefited more from Fuller than from Watson, and that might actually make sense. Regardless of whoever throws him the ball, Hopkins gets a lot of targets. But with Fuller on the field, the quality of Hopkins’ targets — and what he can do with those targets — improves dramatically.
With Fuller (knee, IR) unavailable, Hopkins might have less upside than he otherwise would, especially since slot receiver Keke Coutee (hamstring) seems likely to play after missing the past five games. Coutee has practiced in full this week, so there’s little reason to think that he’ll be limited this weekend.
Again, the samples are small, but with Coutee on the field, Hopkins has seen far fewer targets, and with Coutee but without Fuller, he’s been only marginally productive.
- Coutee plays (six games): 15.8 FanDuel points, 8.5 targets, 6.2 receptions, 93.8 yards and 0.67 touchdowns receiving
- Coutee plays, Fuller doesn’t play (two games): 11.0 FanDuel points, 6.0 targets, 5.0 receptions, 65.0 yards and 0.5 touchdowns receiving
Hopkins is still a top-three receiver in the league and the best receiver in the slate, but Fuller’s absence could diminish his efficiency and Coutee’s presence could limit his volume.
And targets have been significantly harder to come by since Week 5, when Watson suffered a chest (lung and ribs) injury that facilitated the team’s transition to more of a run-based attack.
- Texans offense, Weeks 1-5: 23 points scored, 38.4 pass attempts, 29 rush attempts
- Texans offense, Weeks 6-17: 26.1 points scored, 28.6 pass attempts, 29.7 rush attempts
Although the team has been productive with its run-heavy offense, Hopkins has had far fewer opportunities as an individual to put up fantasy points.
- Hopkins (Weeks 1-5): 17.6 FanDuel points, 11.4 targets, 7.8 receptions, 118.8 yards and 0.4 touchdowns receiving
- Hopkins (Weeks 6-17): 17.1 FanDuel points, 9.6 targets, 6.9 receptions, 88.9 yards and 0.82 touchdowns receiving
Even with almost two fewer targets per game, Hopkins has managed to be almost as productive since Week 6 as he was before it, compensating for the lost volume with enhanced touchdown equity, fueled no doubt by 18 end-zone targets, the second-highest total in the league.
Touchdowns are great, but they’re also fickle.
Hopkins’ decreased volume is a concern.
At a glance, Hopkins’ matchup with the Colts isn’t favorable. This season the Colts held opposing wide receivers to just 22.3 FanDuel points per game, the second-lowest mark in the league.
But the Colts have a funnel defense: They rank fourth against the run in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and 20th against the pass. And Hopkins did well against the Colts earlier in this season, averaging 19.8 FanDuel points with 11 targets per game across both contests.
The Colts have rarely deployed defensive backs in shadow coverage, but in Week 14 they had cornerback Pierre Desir cover Hopkins for the majority of snaps. Even so, Hopkins was targeted 10 times. His target volume is unlikely to be impacted much by the particularities of the Colts defense or the specific defender against whom he runs his routes: Hopkins has burned every top-tier corner he’s faced this season.
On top of that, in the playoffs, home favorite wide receivers have tended to outperform expectations even more than they usually do.
Hopkins leads the position with his eight Pro Trends and +3.21 Projected Plus/Minus on FanDuel, where he’s the No. 1 wide receiver in the Koerner, Raybon and Freedman Models.
T.Y. Hilton: Indianapolis Colts (+1.5) at Houston Texans, 48 O/U
UPDATE (1/5): Wide receivers T.Y. Hilton (ankle) and Dontrelle Inman (shoulder, finger) are questionable but expected to play.
Hilton (ankle) missed practice every day this week and is officially questionable, but wild horses (or colts) couldn’t keep him from suiting up for this game. Hilton has practiced only once since Week 14, but he hasn’t missed a game since returning from hamstring and chest injuries in Week 7.
Even with his balky ankle, Hilton is probably the slate’s second-most desirable receiver.
For his career, Hilton has notable home/away and favorite/underdog splits.
- Home (56 games): 5.0 receptions, 80.1 yards, 0.41 touchdowns
- Away (52 games): 4.4 receptions, 69.5 yards, 0.32 touchdowns
- Favorite (61 games): 5.3 receptions, 85.4 yards, 0.46 touchdowns
- Underdog (47 games): 3.9 receptions, 61.4 yards, 0.26 touchdowns
Given that he’s a road dog, this seems like a horrible spot for him, especially since the Texans are tied for fourth with a 90.2 Pro Football Focus (PFF) coverage grade.
But the Texans-Colts game has a slate-high pass funnel rating of 76.2. On top of that, Hilton has dominated the Texans ever since head coach Bill O’Brien joined the team in 2014. Hilton’s Texans-based splits (half point-per-reception scoring) since that time are intriguing (per the RotoViz Game Splits App).
- Against 31 other teams (67 games): 12.2 fantasy points, 8.4 targets, 4.8 receptions, 76.1 yards, 0.36 touchdowns
- Against Texans (10 games): 15.7 fantasy points, 8.6 targets, 5.4 receptions, 105.7 yards, 0.4 touchdowns
- Against Texans with QB Andrew Luck (six games): 17.7 fantasy points, 9.5 targets, 6.3 receptions, 125.2 yards, 0.33 touchdowns
- Underdog against Texans (three games): 20.0 fantasy points, 10 targets, 5.7 receptions, 141 yards, 0.67 touchdowns
- On road against Texans (five games): 21.4 fantasy points, 9.6 targets, 6.2 receptions, 146.8 yards, 0.6 touchdowns
The samples are small — they’re always small in football — but come on! Hilton smashes against the Texans, and when playing them he’s great with Luck, as a dog and/or on the road.
In his two games against the Texans earlier in the season, Hilton was true to form.
- Week 4 (vs. Texans): 13.5 FanDuel points, 4-115-0 on six targets
- Week 14 (at Texans): 24.4 FanDuel points, 9-199-0 on 12 targets
Jam. Him. In.
While in the past a healthy percentage of Hilton’s routes have been of the slot variety.
- 2017: 36.8%
- 2016: 57.4%
- 2015: 27.9%
- 2014: 40:2%
- 2013: 44.0%
- 2012: 42.7%
This season he’s run a career-low 28.0% of his routes out of the slot, so he won’t spend too much time facing slot corner Kareem Jackson, who leads the secondary with his 85.7 PFF grade.
Instead, the corner Hilton is likely to face most is Shareece Wright, who has a 60.8 PFF grade. In Weeks 4 & 14, he allowed two touchdowns to the Colts, who singled him out with 18 targets in his coverage.
A big-play specialist with deep speed (4.34-second 40 time) and a team-high 120 targets, Hilton has the ability and opportunity to go off in any game, and he’s an under-appreciated touchdown threat, ranking top-10 in the league with 10 targets inside the 10-yard line.
In the eight games since the team’s Week 9 bye, Hilton has been a top-six producer with 16.1 FanDuel points per game and a +5.1 Plus/Minus on the strength of 50-917-2 receiving line. Injury concerns aside, Hilton is in fine form.
On Saturday, there’s roughly a 98.7% chance that I will bet the over on Hilton’s receiving yardage prop. 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 225-106-12, good for a 66% win rate. Without question, you should supplement your DFS action with player props.
Trailing only Hopkins with his seven Pro Trends and Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper with his 98% Bargain Rating, Hilton is the No. 1 FanDuel wide receiver in the Bales, Levitan and SportsGeek Models.
Tyler Lockett: Seattle Seahawks (+2.0) at Dallas Cowboys, 43.5 O/U
The Cowboys opened as -2.5 favorites, and the game opened at 41.5 points, but both lines have moved. As noted by P.J. Walsh, sharps hit the over early in the week, and then they invested in the Seahawks. On The Favorites podcast, Scooch picked the Seahawks in “Scooch Roulette.”
That bodes well for Lockett and the Seahawks, who should benefit from playing indoors.
But the Cowboys and Seahawks both play at a slow pace, and in the previous six games that HCs Jason Garrett and Pete Carroll have met, the under has hit five times. With quarterback Dak Prescott, Cowboys games have a 19-29 over/under record
There are legitimate reasons to believe that not many points will be scored in this game. Additionally, the Cowboys rank seventh with an 89.6 PFF coverage grade. This season they’ve held opposing wide receivers to a bottom-eight mark of 31.2 DraftKings points per game. From a macro perspective, this isn’t a great spot for Lockett.
But I like his individual matchups. This season, Lockett has played 439 snaps in the slot, 331 out wide to the right and just 133 wide to the left. In just one game has he lined up more wide left than wide right.
What this means is that for the supermajority of his routes, Lockett is likely to avoid Pro-Bowler Byron Jones, who has lined up almost exclusively at right corner in 2018.
Instead, Lockett will run most of his routes against Jourdan Lewis at slot corner and Chidobe Awuzie at left corner. Neither cornerback is bad, but they have combined to allow a catch rate of 64.9%, and the Seahawks will likely attack them instead of Jones when they pass the ball.
And, honestly, I don’t even care about the matchup. Because of the way he’s used, Lockett is a matchup-agnostic asset. It’s not his volume that make him valuable: Not once this season has Lockett had more than seven targets in a game. Despite that, only twice this season has Lockett had fewer than 10 DraftKings points.
What makes Lockett valuable are his speed (4.40-second 40 time) and agility (4.07-second short shuttle), which enable him to run explosive, precise routes all over the field for quarterback Russell Wilson. Because of Lockett’s skill, he’s been able a highly efficient producer when given opportunities.
Despite earning just 70 targets this season Lockett leads the Seahawks with 57 receptions, 965 yards receiving, 970 air yards, and 10 receiving touchdowns. He’s second with 227 yards after the catch. When his 69 yards on 13 carries are taken into account, Lockett has had perhaps the quietest 1,000 yard, 10-touchdown season of all time. Since 1992, the first season that targets were tracked, Lockett is the only player to have a 1,000-10 campaign with so few targets.
When Wilson has thrown to Lockett this season, he’s had a perfect 158.3 QB rating and elite 16.4 adjusted yards per attempt. In short, Wilson and Lockett have been as dynamic as any QB/WR connection in 2018.
In Week 3, Lockett scored 18.2 DraftKings points with 82 yards and a touchdown on six targets and a carry. That kind of stat line is certainly attainable this week.
Lockett is the No. 1 DraftKings wide receiver in the CSURAM88 Model.
Wildcard Weekend Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other wildcard weekend positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.
Pictured above: Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (13), Houston Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph (24)
Photo credit: Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports