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.
Years from now, people will year T-shirts that say, “I survived Week 8 of the 2017 NFL season.” The Rams, Packers, Jaguars, Titans, Cardinals, and Giants are on bye. The Ravens and Dolphins (Thursday night), Vikings and Browns (London), and Chiefs and Broncos (Monday night) are absent from the main slate, as are the Steelers and Lions (Sunday night) on DraftKings. As Thomas Paine once said, “These are the slate’s that grind men’s and women’s souls.”
For analysis of the Thursday, Sunday, and Monday night games, see Joe Holka’s Thursday night breakdown and Justin Bailey’s prime time breakdown (out later this week). Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is explicitly for the nine-game DraftKings and 10-game FanDuel main slates.
The Big Two (or Three)
The small slate is made even smaller by the exclusion of the Steelers-Lions game from the DraftKings main slate. Keep in mind that the construction of lineups will vary across sites based on the absence or presence of Steelers skill position players.
- Antonio Brown ($8,800 DraftKings, $9,200 FanDuel)
- A.J. Green ($8,600 DraftKings, $8,500 FanDuel)
- Julio Jones ($8,400 DraftKings, $8,700 FanDuel)
To quote Lord Tennyson: “Half a league onward.”
He’s Only as Good as His Road Quarterback
Available on the FanDuel (but not the DraftKings) main slate, Brown easily has the league’s best combination of ability and opportunity. No player since 2013 has more than Antonio’s 779 targets and 46 touchdowns receiving. He leads the league with 84 targets, 52 receptions, 765 receiving yards, 1,131 air yards, 266 yards after the catch, and 3.06 yards per route run (Pro Football Focus). He’s a market share monster. He’s a near unstoppable force in a world of mostly movable objects. Of course, the problem is that the Steelers are -2.5 road favorites, and (like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger) Brown has severe home/road splits. Since 2014, Brown has still been acceptable-ish as a visitor with 21.45 DraftKings and 16.28 FanDuel points per game (PPG) for +2.10 and +0.62 Plus/Minus values, but he hasn’t been AB-caliber great. As a point of comparison: For the last four seasons, Brown has 27.2 DraftKings and 21.6 FanDuel PPG at home.
Another issue is that, although he’s a matchup-proof player, Brown doesn’t have a good matchup. We expect that Brown will be shadowed by cornerback Darius Slay, who has a good PFF grade of 83.3 and has played well against Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio. As a whole, Detroit’s defense has been stout against No. 1 wide receivers, ranking fifth versus the position in Football Outsiders’ Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA). Still, there should be more targets to go around for Brown and also rookie cyclist JuJu Smith-Schuster ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel) with the recent benching of Martavis Bryant (attitude). Even though Pittsburgh’s offense has underperformed expectations with its -3.29 Vegas Plus/Minus, Brown leads the position with seven Pro Trends on FanDuel. As is often the case, Brown has the highest ceiling projections in our Models.
The Human Resources Department
Former Bengals offensive coordinator Ken Zampese wasn’t a great play caller, but in Green’s 11 healthy games with him he averaged 10.6 targets and never had fewer than eight. He had a Julio-esque 100.5 yards per game — and then he petitioned for Zampese’s dismissal. While Green was targeted only four times within the 10-yard line under Zampese, it’s still hard to say that Green is clearly better off now than he was to start the year. Under new OC Bill Lazor, Green has 9.8 targets per game and just one target within the 10. With Zampese, Green had a 0.31 target share; with Lazor, he’s had a 0.32. For a guy promoted to be the anti-Zampese, Lazor has been rather Zampesian. What’s mattered most for Green this year has been not his player callers but his matchups (tough in Weeks 1-2 and 5-7 with the Ravens, Texans, Bills, and Steelers; easy in Weeks 3-4 with the Packers and Browns).
Fortunately for Green, he has a great matchup this week. The Bengals are -10.5 home favorites implied for 25.75 points against the Colts, who are dreadful on defense, ranking last in the league with 31.7 PPG allowed and a -7.93 Vegas Opponent Plus/Minus. Additionally, the Colts are 30th in pass DVOA, and their two highest-rated PFF defensive backs suffered injuries in Week 7: Cornerback Rashaan Melvin (concussion) is questionable and still in the concussion protocol; free safety Malik Hooker (knee) is out for the season. We’re projecting Green to be the slate’s highest-owned receiver — and for good reason. Green has the position’s highest median projections and is the top FanDuel receiver in the Bales, Levitan, and SportsGeek Models. He’s also Levitan’s highest-rated receiver on DraftKings. Green is this week’s Levitanimal.
The Moustachioed Assassin
Steve Sarkisian’s tenure with the Falcons can be summed up in one tweet.
Steve Sarkisian: Football Experience
USC, QB Coach/OC (2005-08)
UW, HC (2009-13)
USC, HC (2014-15)
AL, OC (2016)
NE, Defensive Asst (2017)
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 23, 2017
Under former OC Kyle Shanahan, Julio had 11.1 targets per game. With Sark, Julio has 8.3. With Shanny, Julio had 5.2 first-down targets per game; with Sark, Julio has 3.3. Julio has one receiving touchdown on the season — just like Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy, and the immortal Marvin Hall. You have to figure that at some point his two percent touchdown rate will progress toward his 2015-16 rate of 4.22 percent or maybe even his career mark of 5.15 percent, but it’s also within the realm of possibility that Sark is incompetent enough to keep that from happening. No team has underperformed more than the Falcons have with their -6.54 Vegas Plus/Minus. To borrow from Katya the gymnast, “You may call plays, Mr. Steve Sarkisian, but you are no comedian.”
The Falcons are implied for 25.0 points as -4.0 road favorites against the Jets, who are 23rd in pass DVOA, so Jones seems to be in a decent spot, but he’s on the wrong side of his home/road and favorite/underdog splits. In the Dan Quinn era, Julio’s been the worst version of himself as a road favorite, averaging 16.38 DraftKings and 12.63 FanDuel PPG with -3.25 and -3.22 Plus/Minus values and 37.5 percent Consistency Ratings. Also, he’s likely to be shadowed by cornerback Morris Claiborne, who is yet to allow a touchdown on 35 targets in his coverage (PFF). As of writing, the Falcons-Jets game has a slate-high 77 percent chance of precipitation. [Insert Jim Carrey GIF: “I’ve had better.”]
Doug Baldwin ($6,900 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel), Paul Richardson ($4,000 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel), and Tyler Lockett ($4,100 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel): The Seahawks are implied for 25.75 points as -5.5 home favorites and could go off against a Texans defense that is without elite rushers in J.J. Watt (knee) and Whitney Mercilus (pectoral). Baldwin runs the majority (141 of 212) of his routes from the slot and should dominate slot cornerback Kareem Jackson, who has a poor PFF grade of 47.6. Similarly, Richardson and Lockett should be able to play enough combined snaps against Jackson and right corner Marcus Williams (45.4 PFF) to have upside. Richardson leads the team with three touchdowns and an average depth of target (aDOT) of 14.2 yards, and Lockett has 7.3 opportunities per game over the last three games. Baldwin has the highest floor projections in our Models.
Kelvin Benjamin ($6,400 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel) and Devin Funchess ($5,900 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): The Panthers are +2.5 road dogs against the Buccaneers, who are dead last in overall DVOA and pass DVOA. Benjy and Funchy could benefit from a pass-leaning game script against a team that (aside from veteran cornerback Brent Grimes) has four defensive backs in the nickel package with an average PFF grade of 46.8. Benjamin is sixth in the NFL with 2.12 yards per route run; Funchess has three touchdowns in five games without tight end Greg Olsen.
Brandin Cooks ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,900 FanDuel), Chris Hogan ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel), and Danny Amendola ($5,700 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel): The Pats are implied for 28.0 points as -7.5 home favorites against the Chargers, who have a strong defense with rushers Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram (both top-10 in PFF grades) and five defensive backs in the nickel package who all have PPF grades of at least 74.9. The outside corners have been particularly good as the second-year Trevor Williams has emerged across from shutdown corner Casey Hayward. Cooks is seventh in the NFL with 692 air yards, and Hogan is tied for second with five touchdowns receiving, but the Chargers are most vulnerable via the slot, where Amendola is third in the league with 2.13 yards per route run. He’s averaged 7.2 targets per game with the Patriots in 13 contests without Julian Edelman. Hogan and Amendola are among the most undervalued receivers in the league. Amendola (knee) is dealing with an injury; if he sits look for Hogan to run most of his routes from the slot.
Alshon Jeffery ($6,700 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel), Nelson Agholor ($5,500 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel), and Torrey Smith ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel): The Eagles lead the slate with an implied total of 30.0 points as -13.0 home favorites against the 49ers, who are 29th in pass DVOA and have perhaps the league’s worst cornerback trio in Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson, and K’Wuan Williams, all of whom have poor PFF grades of under 50.0. Jeffery leads the position with a 96 percent Bargain Rating on FanDuel, Agholor quietly has five touchdowns receiving, and Smith is top-five among all full-time receivers with an 18.9-yard aDOT. Use our Lineup Builder to stack quarterback Carson Wentz with any of his receivers.
Dez Bryant ($7,700 DraftKings, $8,300 FanDuel), Cole Beasley ($4,500 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel), and Terrance Williams ($3,600 DraftKings, $4,700 FanDuel): The Cowboys are implied for 26.0 points as -2.0 road dogs, but the Redskins have held wide receiver units to bottom-five marks of 25.5 DraftKings and 20.9 FanDuel PPG, and No. 1 corner Josh Norman (ribs) could return this week. Still, the Redskins have used Norman almost exclusively at left corner, so Dez could see signifcant targets against other corners, such as Bashaud Breeland (47.9 PFF). Last year Bryant had a 7/102/0 performance in his one game against the Redskins without shadow coverage from Norman.
Amari Cooper ($6,600 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel) and Michael Crabtree ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): The Raiders are +2.5 road dogs against the Bills, who are 11th in pass DVOA but injured: Cornerback E.J. Gaines (hamstring) and free safety Jordan Poyer (knee) are both questionable and yet to practice this week. Without them Buffalo’s secondary will be substantially weaker, and Cooper and Crabtree will get the benefit of taking turns against right corner Shareece Wright and slot corner Leonard Johnson when not running routes against the impressive (but still rookie) Tre’Davious White. According to Chad and Scooch, the public and the wiseguys are on the Raiders.
Kendall Wright ($3,500 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): The Bears are +9.0 road underdogs against the Saints. As much as the Bears don’t want handmaid Mitchell Trubisky to throw the ball, they could have a pass-skewed game script. The weakest member of the Saints secondary is Kenny Vaccaro, who has transitioned (read: been demoted) to slot corner from strong safety. As it turns out, Wright is the strongest wide receiver for the Bears. It’s hard to invest in an offense ‘led’ by Trubes, but Wright is in a good spot and he leads the position with a 94 percent Bargain Rating on DraftKings, where he’s projected for almost nonexistent ownership.
Mike Evans ($7,900 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel) and DeSean Jackson ($5,100 DraftKings, $6,100 FanDuel): Evans has 9.7 targets per game, and D-Jax leads all starting receivers with a 19.3-yard aDOT. Although Evans might see shadow coverage from cornerback James Bradberry — he shadowed Cooks and Marvin Jones Jr. in Weeks 4-5 — it’s also possible that Bradberry will play primarily at left corner, where he’s played 182 of his 251 coverage snaps. If that happens, Evans and D-Jax could have big games running routes against Daryl Worley and Captain Munnerlyn, both of whom have PFF grades below 50.0.
Pierre Garcon ($6,100 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel) and Aldrick Robinson ($3,600 DraftKings, $4,900 FanDuel): The 49ers are +13.0 road dogs. They’re going to need to throw the ball, and the Eagles have allowed top-eight marks of 38.5 DraftKings and 29.7 FanDuel PPG to opposing wide receiver units. It won’t be pretty, but Garcon and Lord Aldrick could pull a Costanza and eat some trash. Garcon is averaging nine targets per game. In Robinson’s five career games with at least 70.0 percent of the offensive snaps played — and all of these games have been under Shanahan — he has averaged 10.96 DraftKings and 8.66 FanDuel PPG. With Marquise Goodwin (back) absent from practice on Thursday, he seems unlikely to play, in which case A-Rob will almost certainly play the majority of snaps.
Keenan Allen ($7,300 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel) and Tyrell Williams ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,200 FanDuel): This is an obligatory reminder that if you subscribe to FantasyLabs you’re required to like these two guys all the time. The Chargers will likely have a pass-leaning game script as +7.5 road dogs against the Pats, who are 28th in pass DVOA.
T.Y. Hilton ($5,600 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel): [Insert official music video of Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.”] Once again, Hilton is the pivot receiver for the slate. I’m sorry. I have a sickness. Hilton leads the position with six DraftKings Pro Trends.
DeAndre Hopkins ($7,500 DraftKings, $8,000 FanDuel) and Will Fuller ($5,300 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): Even though Fuller missed the first three games of the season and the Texans have had their bye, H&F have as many touchdowns receiving (11) as any other pair of teammates. The Texans are +5.5 road dogs against the Seahawks, who are fifth in pass DVOA, but Hopkins has a league-leading 35 percent target share and six receiving touchdowns, Fuller has a league-leading 19.3 yards per reception and 1.67 touchdowns per game, and they have perhaps the greatest rookie in the history of the universe throwing them the ball. On the Week 8 Daily Fantasy Flex, Evan Silva was down on Houston’s potential against Seattle, and I get his pessimism: Seattle is holding opponents to a league-low 15.67 PPG. At the same time, given that two of the most dynamic receivers in the league will be rosterable at single-digit ownership some tournament exposure is warranted.
The Model Wide Receivers
Besides Green, there are currently three wide receivers atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek):
- Michael Thomas ($7,600 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel)
- Jordan Matthews ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel)
- Josh Doctson ($3,900 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel)
The Saints are home at the Coors Field of fantasy football and second on the slate with an implied total of 28.25 points as -9.0 favorites, but Thomas (knee) missed practice on Wednesday with an injury and his status for Week 8 is uncertain. If he does play, he’s likely to run many of his routes against cornerback Prince Amukamara, who has a good 81.9 PFF grade, but too much shouldn’t be made of that matchup. Amukamara plays almost exclusively at right corner, and Thomas has run routes from all over the formation: 106 split out to the left, 72 split to the right, and 44 in the slot. The Bears are 25th in pass DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers, and Thomas leads the Saints with 54 targets, 35 receptions, 403 receiving yards, and 539 air yards. Even though the Bears defense is 10th in pass DVOA, Thomas and his teammates Ted Ginn Jr. ($4,700 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel), Brandon Coleman ($3,500 DraftKings, $5,300 FanDuel), and Willie Snead ($4,000 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel) are all in play. Thomas is the highest-rated FanDuel receiver in the CSURAM88 Model.
Matthews has been massively disappointing in his first season in Buffalo, averaging just 3.2 targets per game, but the Bills are -2.5 home favorites against the Raiders, who are 31st in pass DVOA. The Bills seems likely to be without their primary receiver in tight end Charles Clay (knee) for another week, and some of his targets could go to Matthews in the slot. Of all the skill position players in Buffalo’s base 11 formation, Matthews has been the most efficient for quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who has 12.0 adjusted yards per attempt when targeting Matthews. I don’t know what to say: At least he’s not Zay Jones. Matthews is the highest-rated DraftKings receiver in the CSURAM88 and SportsGeek Models.
For the first time all season, Doctson played more snaps (54) and ran more routes (40) than Terrelle Pryor (30, 25) in Week 7. Doctson’s been targeted only 14 times this year, but four of those were in the red zone. He leads the Redskins with a 13.4-yard aDOT and is expected to run many of his routes against cornerback Anthony Brown, who has been exploitable this year with four touchdowns allowed on 33 targets. The Redskins are implied for 24.0 points as -2.0 home underdogs, and Doctson could benefit from a pass-leaning game script in the contest with a slate-high over/under of 50.5 points. An uber-productive college player, Doctson has a great combination of size, athleticism, and draft pedigree, but he’s done little in the NFL. It’s time for Doctson to kill the boy and let the man be born.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the wide receivers for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 8 positional breakdowns:
Good luck this week!
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players herein mentioned. Be sure to stay ahead of your competition with our NFL news feed: