The Week 15 NFL main slate kicks off on Sunday, Dec. 20, at 1 p.m. ET.
In this piece, I highlight wide receivers who stand out in our large suite of analytical fantasy tools, most specifically our FantasyLabs Models. While the Models are built for daily contests, this is an all-purpose fantasy article with actionable information for all formats.
As news breaks throughout the week and we adjust our projections, where players rate in our Models will change. For updates, visit the Models directly.
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Top Wide Receivers in the FantasyLabs Models
There are six wide receivers atop the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek), Ryan Hodge and I have constructed.
Here’s where they place within our Week 15 fantasy football rankings (as of Thursday morning).
- Allen Robinson: No. 8 (PPR) | No. 10 (Half PPR) | No. 10 (STD)
- D.K. Metcalf: No. 9 (PPR) | No. 7 (Half PPR) | No. 6 (STD)
- Adam Thielen: No. 12 (PPR) | No. 12 (Half PPR) | No. 9 (STD)
- Cooper Kupp: No. 18 (PPR) | No. 18 (Half PPR) | No. 17 (STD)
- Michael Gallup: No. 47 (PPR) | No. 48 (Half PPR) | No. 43 (STD)
- Breshad Perriman: No. 50 (PPR) | No. 52 (Half PPR) | No. 54 (STD)
Of these six, the two who stand out most to me are Robinson and Gallup. The other guys I will highlight as needed in the section on players with week-winning upside.
FantasyLabs Positional Breakdowns
For more in-depth NFL analysis, check out The Action Network.
Allen Robinson: Chicago Bears (+3.5) at Minnesota Vikings (46.5 Over/Under)
Robinson has an intriguing matchup. The Vikings have allowed a league-high 28.4 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receiver units on 173-2,337-20 receiving. Objectively, this looks like a great matchup.
But I’m not sure it actually is. The Vikings rank Nos. 12 & 16 with a 0.6% pass-defense DVOA and 62.6 coverage grade (per Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus). By these numbers, they’re average, not especially exploitable.
Early in the year, the Vikings were very bad, but they were adjusting to life without 2019 starting cornerbacks Xavier Rhodes, Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander, all of whom left via free agency.
And then in the middle of the season their cornerback unit was hit hard with an onslaught of injuries.
But ever since de facto No. 1 cornerback Cameron Dantzler returned from injury in Week 11, the Vikings pass defense against wide receivers has been … almost good?
A third-round rookie, Dantzler looked like one of the worst corners in the league in his first four starts, allowing an abhorrent 27-316-4 receiving on 37 targets.
But since his return to action, he has looked like an entirely different player.
Over the past four weeks — while defending Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Robby Anderson, D.J. Moore, D.J. Chark and Mike Evans for most of his snaps — Dantzler has held opposing receivers to just 4.4 yards per target with a 38.1% catch rate.
Given that the Vikings have used him in shadow coverage in every game for the past month, Dantzler is likely to match up with Robinson, and that no longer looks like a gimme matchup.
There will be no rockets fired on Saturday night for Robinson.
And Robinson’s history against head coach Mike Zimmer’s defense isn’t encouraging. Since joining the Bears in 2018, Robinson has underperformed in four games against the Vikings (per RotoViz Game Splits App).
No 100-yard performances. No touchdowns. Just 6.6 yards per target. Not great.
But I’m not sure how much any of that matters. I don’t want to put too much weight on Dantzler’s four-game sample since Week 11 or Robinson’s four-game sample against the Vikings since 2018.
What probably matters most is the volume Robinson will get, and in his 19 games with quarterback Mitchell Trubisky since last year, Robinson has averaged 9.9 targets, which he has leveraged into 15.7 PPR and 9.6 STD points per game.
I’m not a fan of Trubisky, and Robinson probably isn’t either. Of all the quarterbacks to target Robinson at least 10 times in his career, Trubisky is the one who has been most comparable to the abominable Blake Bortles (based on adjusted yards per attempt to Robinson, per RotoViz AY/A App).
From Robinson’s perspective, Trubisky’s 2018-20 attempts (7.2 AY/A) have been only just a little bit better than Bortles’ 2014-17 attempts (6.8 AY/A).
You can take the boy out of Penn State and Jacksonville, but you can’t take PSU and JAX out of the boy — even when he moves to Chicago.
In case you ever feel sorry for yourself, here’s a list of Allen Robinson’s No. 1 QBs since his sophomore breakout at Penn State.
– 2012: Matt McGloin
– 2013: Christian Hackenburg
– 2014-16: Blake Bortles
– 2017: Torn ACL
– 2018-19: Mitchell Trubisky
– 2020: Nick Foles (so far)
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) November 2, 2020
But at least Trubisky gets the ball to Robinson as much as possible: On the season, Robinson ranks No. 4 in the league with 9.8 targets per game. Thanks to his elite usage, Robinson is on pace to exceed his marks from last season.
- 2020 (extrapolation): 17.3 PPR, 10.7 STD | 106-1,264-7, 158 targets
- 2019 (16 games): 15.9 PPR, 9.8 STD | 98-1,147-7, 154 targets
Robinson is a borderline WR1/2 in season-long leagues and the No. 1 receiver in the Raybon and Freedman Models for FanDuel, where he has a position-high +3.59 Projected Plus/Minus.
Michael Gallup: Dallas Cowboys (+3.5) vs. San Francisco 49ers (45.5 O/U)
I’m choosing to highlight Gallup instead of one of the other non-Robinson Model receivers not because he’s a world-beating talent or in some must-play situation.
I’m highlighting him because he’s simply so underappreciated, especially relative to teammates Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb.
First of all, Gallup is an objectively good player.
People, Michael Gallup is good.
Gallup (2019-20, Career Games 17-32):
– 71 Recs
– 1,215 ReYds
– 6 ReTDs
– 123 targets
DeAndre Hopkins (2014, Career Games 17-32):
– 76 Recs
– 1,210 ReYds
– 6 ReTDs
– 127 targets
Buy low on Gallup, everywhere.
Also, good morning.
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) September 24, 2020
Much of this season has been a mess due to the injury to quarterback Dak Prescott (ankle, IR), but last season Gallup was 66-1,107-6 receiving on 113 targets.
It might sound ridiculous to say, but last season Gallup — not Cooper — was the No. 1 receiver for the Cowboys. On a per-game basis, he bested Cooper in targets (8.0 vs. 7.4), target share (22% vs. 21%), yards receiving (79.1 vs. 74.3) and air yards and yards after catch (122.4 vs. 108.1, AirYAC).
AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy production and can be found in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary.
And since Week 6, in the eight games this year without Prescott, Gallup has once again led the receiver unit in the metrics that tend to correlate with fantasy success.
- Michael Gallup: 20% market share | 7.1 targets | 85.2 AirYAC | 0.49 WOPR
- Amari Cooper: 20% market share | 7.1 targets | 82.8 AirYAC | 0.46 WOPR
- CeeDee Lamb: 18% market share | 6.4 targets | 73.6 AirYAC | 0.43 WOPR
The problem is that Gallup hasn’t actually had fantasy success without Prescott, especially in comparison to Cooper and Lamb.
- Michael Gallup (eight games): 8.1 PPR, 4.5 STD | 29-299-1 receiving
- Amari Cooper (eight games): 14.9 PPR, 9.8 STD | 41-518-4 receiving
- CeeDee Lamb (eight games): 10.2 PPR, 6.2 STD | 32-309-2 receiving
But in the words of Buddy Garrity and Tim Riggins, “When all the scared rats are leaving the sinking market, that’s when a real entrepreneur steps in. A true visionary.”
Since backup quarterback Andy Dalton returned to action in Week 11, Gallup leads all Cowboys receivers with 7.5 targets and 13.2 expected fantasy points per game.
With that kind of usage, at some point Gallup is likely to produce.
In season-long leagues, you could do a lot worse than Gallup when looking for a desperation WR4/flex play, and in DFS, he’s a viable contrarian candidate.
With his low $3,500 salary, Gallup is the No. 1 receiver in the Bales, CSURAM88, Koerner, Raybon, SportsGeek and Hodge Models for DraftKings, where he has a position-high +4.06 Projected Plus/Minus.
Wide Receivers With Week-Winning Upside
In this section, I highlight some wide receivers who I think will outperform expectations and whom I especially like as upside season-long and DFS tournament plays.
Tyreek Hill, Chiefs (-2.5) at Saints (50.5 O/U): The Saints are No. 4 with a -7.7% pass-defense DVOA, but Hill is in peak form with a league-high 151 AirYAC per game. Since head coach Andy Reid joined the franchise in 2013, the Chiefs have been the league’s most profitable road team, going 39-22-1 against the spread (ATS), good for a 25.8% return on investment (ROI, per our Bet Labs database).
D.K. Metcalf, Seahawks (-5.5) at Football Team (44.5 O/U): The Footballers are No. 2 with a -14.9% pass-defense DVOA, but they are also dead last with 21.3% pass-defense DVOA against No. 1 receivers. Metcalf is Nos. 3 & 4 with 90.8 yards receiving and 141.8 AirYAC per game. He has a 99% Bargain Rating on DraftKings.
Calvin Ridley, Falcons (+5.5) vs. Buccaneers (50.5 O/U): No. 1 wide receiver Julio Jones (hamstring) is uncertain to play, and Ridley has gone off in his five career games without Jones.
In 16 games with eight-plus targets, he has dominated with 109-1,679-15 receiving on 166 targets.
DeAndre Hopkins, Cardinals (-6.5) vs. Eagles (48.5 O/U): From a sports betting perspective, I’m fading the Cardinals, against whom road dogs are 4-1 ATS (53.1% ROI) in the Kliff Kingsbury era.
But I’m still bullish on Hopkins, who is No. 5 in the league with 1,155 yards receiving and was 9-136-0 on 11 targets last week. He’s likely to face the shadow coverage of cornerback Darius Slay, who has allowed 20-313-2 receiving on 24 targets over the past few weeks while facing primarily D.K. Metcalf, Davante Adams and Michael Thomas.
A.J. Brown, Titans vs. Lions (Off the Board): Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (ribs) is uncertain to play, so this game is off the board at most sportsbooks, but it is available at Bet365, where the Titans are -10.5 favorites and the over/under is 51.5. With these lines, the Titans have a slate-high 31-point implied Vegas total. In quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s 23 regular-season starts with the Titans, the over is 18-4-1 (58.6% ROI).
Since his 2019 rookie season, Brown is No. 1 in the league with 11.4 yards per target. The Lions are No. 30 with a 25.8% pass-defense DVOA, and they will be without cornerbacks Desmond Trufant (hamstring, IR) and Jeffrey Okudah (shoulder, IR).
Justin Jefferson, Vikings (-3.5) vs. Bears (46.5 O/U): Since moving from the slot to the perimeter in Week 3, Jefferson is No. 2 in the league with 1,008 yards receiving. For the season, he’s No. 2 with 2.66 yards per route. Among modern-era rookies, Jefferson trails only Odell Beckham Jr. and Anquan Boldin with 82.9 yards receiving per game.
Michael Thomas, Saints (+2.5) vs. Chiefs (50.5 O/U): Quarterback Drew Brees (ribs, IR) increasingly looks unlikely to play, so Thomas will have another week with quarterback Taysom Hill. Since last year, Thomas is tied for No. 1 in the league with a 32% target share, and in his four weeks with Hill he has an NFL-high mark of 33%. For the season, Thomas is No. 2 with a 0.72 WOPR.
Adam Thielen, Vikings (-3.5) vs. Bears (46.5 O/U): For much of the season, Thielen has been a boom/bust producer (per RotoViz NFL Stat Explorer).
But with his volatility Thielen has an incredibly high ceiling on account of his scoring prowess: He’s No. 1 & 3 in the league with 17 end-zone targets and 12 touchdowns receiving. Thielen has a position-high nine Pro Trends on FanDuel.
Cooper Kupp, Rams (-16.5) vs. Jets (44.5 O/U): The Jets are No. 32 with a 29.8 PFF coverage grade, and at slot corner they are now starting Javelin Guidry, an undrafted third-string rookie who has allowed 8.2 yards per target and an 80% catch rate. Kupp is on pace for his second consecutive 1,000-yard receiving campaign.
Terry McLaurin, Football Team (+5.5) vs. Seahawks (44.5 O/U): In back-to-back games McLaurin has underwhelmed with a total 4-38-0 receiving on 12 targets, but he is still No. 6 with 123 AirYAC per game. Opposing wide receiver units are No. 3 against the Seahawks with 27.8 fantasy points per game on 239-2,819-13 receiving. McLaurin has an exploitable matchup against third-string cornerback D.J. Reed Jr., who has allowed 10.3 yards per target this year.
Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers (-3.5) at Cowboys (45.5 O/U): Teammate Deebo Samuel (hamstring) is out, so Aiyuk should enjoy enhanced target volume. Over his past five games, Aiyuk is 36-495-3 receiving with a 30% target share and 138.6 AirYAC per game. Opposing receiver units are No. 2 against the Cowboys with 29.2 fantasy points per game on 160-2,151-22 receiving.
Brandin Cooks, Texans (+7.5) at Colts (50.5 O/U): It’s disappointing that Cooks (foot/neck) missed Week 14, but he’s slated to return this week, and he should be targeted heavily in the absence of wide receivers Will Fuller (suspension), Kenny Stills (released) and Randall Cobb (toe, IR). In his eight games since the firing of head coach Bill O’Brien, Cooks is 47-646-3 receiving on a team-high 65 targets.
Corey Davis, Titans vs. Lions (Off the Board): The difference between Davis and second-year superstar A.J. Brown has been minimal this season.
- A.J. Brown (11 games): 24% target share | 51-835-9 receiving
- Corey Davis (11 games): 23% target share | 56-835-4 receiving
OK, five touchdowns is a big difference — but touchdowns are rather random, and Davis has the edge in receptions and has been more efficient (11.4 yards per target vs. 10.1). They have literally the exact same yardage total. Davis is the Arbitrage Brown. The Lions are No. 31 with a 34.8 PFF coverage grade.
Marvin Jones, Lions at Titans (Off the Board): Quarterback Matthew Stafford (ribs) is uncertain to play, so Jones is a highly speculative play, but since Kenny Golladay (hip) suffered a seemingly season-ending injury in Week 8, Jones is 36-441-5 receiving in seven games with a team-high 22% market share and 129.8 AirYAC per game. The Titans are No. 28 with a 24.5% pass-defense DVOA and still yet to see No. 1 cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (knee) return to action.
T.Y. Hilton, Colts (-7.5) vs. Texans (50.5 O/U): Before Hilton’s Week 13 game against the Texans, I tweeted this …
In Hilton’s 7 games vs. BOB’s Texans without a backup-level quarterback (without Matt Hasselbeck & Jacoby Brissett), he has averaged:
– 9.6 targets
– 6.1 receptions
– 119.4 yards
– 0.29 touchdowns
– 19.8 PPR points
– 13.7 standard points
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 3, 2020
… and then he had a season-best 8-110-1 receiving on 11 targets. Hilton finally seems to be over his nagging soft-tissue injuries and is 17-277-4 receiving with a team-high 22% market share over the past three games.
Hilton has an elite matchup against cornerbacks Keion Crossen and Vernon Hargreaves III. Crossen is a third-year seventh-round third-stringer with an 83.3% catch rate allowed for his career. Hargreaves has yielded 9.1 yards per target since entering the league in 2016.
CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys (+3.5) vs. 49ers (45.5 O/U): Cornerback Dontae Johnson is the fourth guy to man the slot for the 49ers defense this season, so … let’s just say he’s not their top choice. Lamb is just 17-147-1 receiving since quarterback Andy Dalton returned to action in Week 11, but Lamb is still pacing to finish the season with over 1,000 yards from scrimmage.
Chad Hansen, Texans (+7.5) at Colts (50.5 O/U): In his two games with the Texans, Hansen is a respectable 12-157-0 receiving on a team-high 14 targets. With the return of No. 1 receiver Brandin Cooks, Hansen could fade into irrelevance, but the Texans could have a pass-heavy game script as sizable road underdogs, and quarterback Deshaun Watson has the talent to elevate his receivers.
Breshad Perriman, Jets (+16.5) at Rams (44.5 O/U): I expect wide receiver Denzel Mims (personal) to return to action this week but Perriman has outproduced the rookie in their four games together.
- Breshad Perriman (four games): 12-256-3 receiving | 11.1 yards per target
- Denzel Mims (four games): 13-240-0 receiving | 9.2 yards per target
The Rams have held opposing receivers to a league-low 17.0 fantasy points per game, and Perriman is likely to run some of his routes against shutdown cornerback Jalen Ramsey — but as massive road underdogs the Jets will need to throw the ball, and Perriman is the team’s most proven downfield playmaker.
Denzel Mims, Jets (+16.5) at Rams (44.5 O/U): Teammate Breshad Perriman has outproduced Mims, but the rookie is still No. 9 in the league with 118.3 AirYAC per game.
AirYAC (air yards + yards after catch) per game entering Week 15:
1. Tyreek: 151 🏆
2. Ridley: 149.9
3. Davante: 148.5
4. Metcalf: 141.8
5. Diggs: 130.8
6. McLaurin: 123
7. Kelce: 119.9 👀
8. Robby: 119.8
9. Mims: 118.3
10. Moore: 118
11. Chark: 117.6
12. Hopkins: 116.9
— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 17, 2020
If Mims gets enough opportunities, at some point he will translate some of them into production. It’s the law of large numbers. Or something.
Greg Ward, Eagles (+6.5) at Cardinals (48.5 O/U): He’s the No. 1 receiver on a professional football team, and he’s the stone minimum on DraftKings. Burn your money.
The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.
Pictured above: Michael Gallup #13 of the Dallas Cowboys
Photo credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images