Week 5’s wide receiver/cornerback matchups were highlighted by big performances in an overtime thriller from Pierre Garcon and T.Y. Hilton, explosive games from A.J. Green and Mike Wallace, and a triumphant two-touchdown return from Davante Adams. Let’s break down this week’s notable WR/CB matchups using our NFL Matchups tool as a guide.
Antonio Brown vs. Chiefs Secondary
Despite five interceptions from Ben Roethlisberger, Brown put together a 10-157-0 line on 19 targets against the Jaguars’ No. 1 pass defense in DVOA last week. He’ll get a similarly tough test Sunday against Marcus Peters and the Chiefs, although how much Brown will see of Peters is up to the Steelers; the elite Kansas City CB lines up exclusively at left cornerback. Brown leads all receivers in targets, receptions, and yards through five weeks, but he has just one touchdown. This hasn’t been for lack of trying, as Brown has a league-high 15 targets of 20-plus yards, and his 0.6 targets inside the 10-yard line per game is higher than his 0.47 mark from 2016.
Brown has faced the first- and third-best defenses in DVOA against WR1s over the past two weeks but now gets a Chiefs unit that has allowed opponents to manufacture touches to their best receivers on a weekly basis:
- Brandin Cooks: 3-88-0
- Alshon Jeffery: 7-92-1
- Keenan Allen: 5-61-0
- Terrelle Pryor: 3-70-1
- DeAndre Hopkins: 4-52-3
The reason for this dominance has in large part been due to the play of the Chiefs’ right cornerback Terrance Mitchell, who has allowed a 23-414-3 line on 47 targets into his coverage this season. Overall, his average of 2.08 yards allowed per cover snap is the second-highest mark among all full-time corners through five weeks. Brown has historically shared his quarterback’s severe home/away splits, but he’s also averaged the second-most DraftKings points per game with an ownership discount away from Heinz Field since 2014.
Julio Jones vs. Dolphins Secondary
Thanks to a Week 5 bye that gave Jones time to recover from a hip flexor injury, he’s expected to be ready to go for Sunday. He’ll face a Dolphins defense that ranks 31st in pass DVOA and has allowed bottom-four marks in both completion rate and quarterback rating this season. Jones is expected to see a mix of Xavien Howard, Byron Maxwell (hamstring, questionable), and Bobby McCain. Rookie Cordrea Tankersley will take Maxwell’s spot if he’s unable to suit up, but all four rank outside of the top-45 defensive backs in yards allowed per cover snap (minimum of 25 percent of team’s snaps).
Jones has averaged a 6.6-109.2-0.5 line in his last 24 home games, and nothing about the Dolphins secondary indicates they have the type of talent to stop him. Additionally, the Dolphins’ No. 2 defense in rush DVOA ranks among the top-four defenses in both average yards allowed per rush and rush yards allowed per game, making them a prime funnel defense for Jones to overcome his modest +0.6 Plus/Minus on DraftKings as a home favorite since 2014 (per our Trends tool). Monitor our News feed to ensure Jones’ recovery continues to go smoothly.
DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller vs. Browns Secondary
Fuller has scored four touchdowns on just nine targets over the past two weeks, while Hopkins continues to dominate as the most-featured receiver in the league outside of Pittsburgh. Hopkins’ amazing route running and ability to catch anything thrown in his general vicinity has helped him convert all four of his targets inside the 10-yard line into touchdowns this season, and Fuller’s mere presence on the other side of the formation helps defenses from paying too much attention to Nuk:
Overall, Watson averaged 6.6 yards per attempt with a 3/3 touchdown/interception ratio during his three games without Fuller, and an 8.4 mark with a 9/1 ratio in his last two games with last year’s first-round pick. Jason McCourty shadowed A.J. Green in Week 4, potentially leading to Fuller facing off against Jamar Taylor, who is one of just 10 cornerbacks to allow over 2.0 yards per cover snap this season. McCourty has managed to limit opposing passers to the ninth-lowest quarterback rating in the league among corners to play at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps, but he’s not exactly a stranger to Hopkins considering the pair faced off on six separate occasions during McCourty’s eight-year career in Tennessee. Excluding one Brock Osweiler-fueled 1-4-0 performance last season, Hopkins has averaged a 6.6-115.8-0.8 line in his other five career performances against McCourty.
Jordy Nelson vs. Vikings Secondary
Nelson is a virtual lock to find the end zone anytime he suits up, as evidenced by his 33 touchdowns in his last 37 games. He’s scored a league-high six times this season and is one of just four receivers with five-plus targets inside the 10-yard line. Still, his efficiency numbers and overall workload are concerning through five weeks:
Nelson’s per-game averages from 2017 don’t include his 0-0-0 line on zero targets against the Falcons since he exited the game in the first quarter with a quad injury and didn’t return. While we haven’t seen a drop-off in his overall DraftKings production, it’s fair to wonder if Nelson can sustain his astronomical touchdown rate with a lessened workload. He received double-digit targets in eight of 16 games in 2016 but has yet to surpass nine in a game this season. In 2016, Nelson averaged 1.93 targets of 20-plus yards per game, but this has fallen to 1.25 such targets this season. Whether or not his early lack of upside has been merely due to a small sample size remains to be seen, but it won’t be easy for Nelson to buck his early season ‘struggles’ against Xavier Rhodes and company.
Nelson went for 154 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions the last time these two teams met, but he had just two receptions and nine yards in the second half after the Vikings followed head coach Mike Zimmer’s original strategy of having Rhodes shadow Nelson. Per PFF’s Scott Barrett, Rodgers has targeted top cornerbacks at a lower rate than any other quarterback over the past decade, and Rhodes has made a serious case as the top cornerback in the league this season. Rhodes has allowed a season-long 12-126-0 line on 24 targets, an especially impressive task considering he’s shadowed the likes of Michael Thomas, Antonio Brown, Mike Evans, and Marvin Jones over the first four weeks of the season.
Michael Thomas vs. Lions Secondary
While Thomas has averaged 1.18 more targets per game than last season, his red zone target share has remained outside of the top-40 receivers in the league. Further, the Saints are expected to welcome back No. 2 receiver Willie Snead (hamstring, probable). Thomas has five-plus catches and 50-plus yards in 14 of his 19 career games, and a receiver of his caliber carries a decent floor into almost any matchup. Still, this will be the first top-five defense he’s seen in pass DVOA this season, and Darius Slay has managed to shadow and contain some of the league’s better WR1s through five weeks:
- Odell Beckham Jr. (4-36-0)
- Julio Jones (7-91-0)
- Stefon Diggs (5-98-0)
- Kelvin Benjamin (4-58-1)
Thomas faced off against Slay last season and converted his five targets into a 4-42-0 line. He should continue to get opportunities underneath against the Lions’ zone-heavy defense, but Slay has repeatedly made life difficult for big-name receivers of all shapes and sizes:
Only Kenny Britt and Ed Dickson have managed to clear 115 receiving yards against the Lions since the beginning of last season, and the Lions have continued to move at a bottom-10 pace this season in an attempt to keep their defense off the field as much as possible. Against 12 WR1s priced above $7,000 on DraftKings since the beginning of last season, the Lions have allowed a -1.9 Plus/Minus with a 25 percent Consistency Rating. Their bend-but-don’t-break defense doesn’t shut offenses down, but Thomas’ home matchup doesn’t have its usual sky-high upside.
Tyreek Hill vs. Steelers Secondary
Hill’s sophomore season as the Chiefs’ No. 1 receiver has consisted of more good than bad, as he’s on pace for a season-long 80-1,139.2-6.4 receiving line through five weeks. Overall, he’s averaged 5.9 receptions for 67.7 yards and 0.3 touchdowns in nine games without Jeremy Maclin. With Chris Conley out for the season with a ruptured Achilles, Hill will be leaned on more than ever – most weeks. Hill will take on a Steelers secondary Sunday that has allowed league-low marks in yards per attempt, yards per game, 20-plus yard passes, and DraftKings points to wide receivers this season. This doesn’t necessarily mean the Steelers have an incredible group of cornerbacks, considering they’ve run the highest percentage of zone coverage in the league this season, but they’ve demonstrated the ability to contain opposing passing games.
Joe Haden, Artie Burns, and Mike Hilton haven’t exactly faced a gauntlet of elite wide receivers this season, but nobody has managed to pass 60 yards or catch more than six passes against the Steelers through five weeks. Hill’s minor role in the Chiefs’ rushing game elevates his floor a bit, but the Steelers’ single-largest goal on defense is to prevent big plays; they’ve done a pretty good job of achieving that goal this season. While you should never assume Andy Reid won’t revert to his pass-heavy ways, the Steelers defense has allowed the second-most yards per rush and rushing touchdowns this season. Hill has the second-lowest projected floor among all wide receivers priced over $6,000 on Sunday’s main slate in our Pro Models.
- Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen vs. Packers Secondary: The Packers have allowed the most DraftKings PPG and highest Plus/Minus to wide receivers since the beginning of last season. Diggs hasn’t been held under 90 yards in three home games this season, and Thielen has eight-plus targets in four of five games.
- Jarvis Landry vs. Falcons Secondary: The Falcons rank 17th in pass DVOA but have been especially vulnerable in the middle of the field, where they rank 30th. With DeVante Parker (ankle) questionable, Landry should continue to see his career-high 10.8 targets per game. Landry has averaged a +4.8 Plus/Minus and 70 percent Consistency Rating in 20 games as a road underdog since 2014.
- Chris Hogan, Brandin Cooks, and Danny Amendola vs. Jets Secondary: Hogan is one of just four receivers with five-plus targets inside the 10-yard line, while Cooks is one of eight receivers with double-digit targets of 20-plus yards. Both are locked in to fantasy-friendly roles with the week’s third-highest implied total against a Jets defense Tom Brady has averaged 24.8 DraftKings PPG against since 2015.
- Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson vs. Cardinals Secondary: Evans received shadow treatment from Patrick Peterson last season and managed to put up a 6-70-1 line on 18 targets. Peterson has allowed a season-long 7-82-1 line on 16 targets while guarding the best receivers on each team. D-Jax will face off against Justin Bethel — one of three cornerbacks to allow four-plus touchdowns this season.
- Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders vs. Giants Secondary: Slot corner Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie has been suspended for leaving the team facility Wednesday, leaving Janoris Jenkins to potentially shadow Thomas and Eli Apple (who joins Bethel in the aforementioned four-TD club) to see a lot of Sanders.
- Terrelle Pryor, Jamison Crowder, and Josh Doctson vs. 49ers Secondary: The 49ers boast three of PFF’s bottom-11 cornerbacks. Doctson and Pryor have each demonstrated big-play ability, but they’ve combined for one game with over five targets. Head coach Jay Gruden said he believes Crowder will be more involved this week. Everyone on the Redskins offense should have ample scoring opportunity with a slate-high 28.8-point implied total.
The Shadow Factor
Very few cornerbacks shadow a receiver for the entirety of a game due to various scheme factors from both the offense and defense. Still, there are candidates each week who could see a heavy dose of their snaps against a single corner, including:
- Alshon Jeffery vs. James Bradberry
- Jordy Nelson vs. Xavier Rhodes
- Marvin Jones vs. Marshon Lattimore
- Michael Thomas vs. Darius Slay
- DeAndre Hopkins vs. Jason McCourty
- Mike Evans vs. Patrick Peterson
- Michael Crabtree or Amari Cooper vs. Casey Hayward
- Demaryius Thomas vs. Janoris Jenkins