Week 8’s wide receiver/cornerback matchups were highlighted by DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller toasting the Legion of Boom, lockdown efforts from Darius Slay and Morris Claiborne against arguably the league’s top-two receivers, as well as JuJu Smith-Schuster biking his way to AFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. Let’s break down this week’s notable WR/CB matchups using our NFL Matchups tool as a guide.
DeAndre Hopkins and Will Fuller vs. Colts Secondary
UPDATE: 11/2 – Deshaun Watson suffered a non-contact injury in practice today and will undergo a season-ending surgery to repair a torn ACL.
The Watson–Hopkins combo was quickly becoming one of the league’s best, but now we’ll have to go back to life with Tom Savage. Still, it’s hard not to be excited about the first half of the season Hopkins just put together. Nuk is averaging a 6.4-86.6-1.0 line on 10.9 targets per game and leads all receivers with 21.9 DraftKings points per game (PPG) through eight weeks. Hopkins is just two seasons removed from gaining the second-most yards ever from a third-year receiver, and has absolutely dominated in the red zone:
Nuk leads all receivers with five touchdowns inside the 10-yard line – and he’s needed just five targets to get there. Fuller has been just as good from a red zone efficiency standpoint, converting all three of his targets inside the 20-yard line into touchdowns. Fuller’s astronomical 3.14 target/touchdown rate is certain to regress eventually, but first he gets to face a Colts secondary that has allowed the most yards per attempt and passes of 20-plus yards this season. Of course, these fantasy-friendly opportunities could be more scarce with Savage under center, as he’s failed to throw a single touchdown in his 105 career pass attempts – Watson managed to get the ball in the end zone on 19 of his 204 pass attempts this season.
A.J. Green sputtered to a 3-27-1 line against the Colts last week, and the prospect of Hopkins and Fuller without their game-changing quarterback certainly hurts their chances at continuing to drive the No. 1 scoring offense in the league. Still, Rashaan Melvin (PFF’s No. 13 cover corner) is questionable with a concussion, and no one else on the roster ranks above 70th. Paying up for the Texans receivers with their season-high salaries (via our Pro Models) could now be a contrarian way of exposure to the league’s third-worst defense in DVOA against the pass. Be sure to check out our Ownership Dashboard shortly after lock to see how the ownership levels of Hopkins and Fuller at various contest sizes.
Doug Baldwin vs. Redskins Secondary
The Seahawks’ passing game appears to have finally hit its stride after their Week 6 bye, as Russell Wilson has thrown for a combined 786 yards and seven touchdowns during his past two games. Wilson has increased his average target depth from 9.5 yards in Weeks 1-5 to 12.9 yards during his recent hot stretch, and the offense has clearly made getting Baldwin the ball a priority. Overall, Baldwin has gone from averaging 7.8 targets per game before the bye to 11.5 targets per game over the past two weeks. He’ll look to fully capitalize on this newfound workload this Sunday at CenturyLink Field, where Baldwin has balled out since 2015 (per our Trends tool):
- Home (20 games): 19.34 DraftKings PPG, +7.1 Plus/Minus, 65% Consistency Rating, 11.2% ownership, four games of 30+ DraftKings points
- Away (19 games): 14.55 DraftKings PPG, +2.1 Plus/Minus, 42% Consistency Rating, 9.4% ownership, one game of 30+ DraftKings points
Paul Richardson has posted a combined 8-166-3 line over the past two weeks but has averaged 0.9 fewer targets per game than he did in Weeks 1-5. Richardson and Tyler Lockett should see a lot of outside corners Josh Norman and Bashaud Breeland, while Baldwin should spend most of his time across from Kendall Fuller. The Redskins’ slot corner isn’t a pushover, but Fuller has allowed the most yards per cover snap among the team’s top-three corners. Nelson Agholor converted his 13 targets from the slot into a 10-131-2 line in two games against the Redskins this season. The surging Seahawks are currently implied to score 26 points, although the weather forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of rain with elevated winds. Be sure to monitor our industry-leading News Feed to stay updated on fantasy-relevant news and weather throughout the week.
Dez Bryant vs. Chiefs Secondary
Bryant’s six targets last week were his fewest since being erased by Patrick Peterson in Week 3, but this can at least partially be attributed to a season-low 22 pass attempts from Dak Prescott and plenty of rain throughout the game. Bryant remains one of just 10 receivers averaging nine-plus targets per game, and nobody has seen more looks inside the 20-yard line. He’s scored 14 touchdowns in his last 20 full games with Prescott and will now be relied on more than ever to produce big plays as Ezekiel Elliott serves his six-game suspension.
Bryant’s matchup against the Chiefs’ 29th-ranked defense in DVOA against No. 1 wide receivers is good on the surface, and it’s even better after considering No. 1 corner Marcus Peters has worked strictly as the Chiefs’ left cornerback all season. Each of the Chiefs’ last four opponents have consistently lined their best wide receiver up elsewhere:
- Demaryius Thomas: 9 targets, 5-66-0, 77% snaps away from Peters
- Amari Cooper: 19 tgts: 11-210-2, 60%
- Antonio Brown: 10 tgts, 8-155-1, 71%
- DeAndre Hopkins: 12 tgts, 4-52-3, 69%
Bryant has run 68 percent of his routes from the slot or wide left this season. Slot corner Phillip Gaines (PFF’s second-worst overall cornerback) and right corner Terrance Mitchell (the only full-time cornerback to allow over 2.0 yards per cover snap) were benched Monday night in favor of Steven Nelson and Kenneth Acker, respectively. Nelson just returned from IR and allowed the third-lowest quarterback rating among full-time slot corners in 2016. The outlook is less bright when it comes to the 6’0″ and 190-pound Acker, who hasn’t started a game since 2015 and allowed five catches for 69 yards in coverage last week. Bryant’s salary has plunged to a season-low $6,400 on DraftKings, and he’ll look to exploit a Chiefs defense allowing the most DraftKings PPG to opposing wide receiver units this season. Consider using our Lineup Builder to stack Bryant with Prescott in tournaments.
Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson vs. Saints Secondary
The Coors Field of Fantasy Football is certainly a good reason to be excited about a bounce-back game from Jameis Winston and company. Still, the Saints rank fourth in DVOA against the pass compared to 29th against the run — the second-largest difference in the league behind only the Jaguars. The Saints are a reverse-funnel defense that has relied on stud rookie corner Marshon Lattimore to lock down the opponent’s best receiver. PFF’s No. 1 overall corner has passed this test with flying colors, as he’s yet to surrender more than 38 receiving yards in a game (per PFF’s Billy Moy). He has legit 4.3 speed and great size at 6’0″ and 195 pounds, but it’s his ability to recover and ultimately make plays on the ball that is special:
Evans has produced admirably in tough matchups this season, already facing off against Xavier Rhodes (7-67-0), Janoris Jenkins (5-67-1), and Patrick Peterson (3-95-1). While much of Evans’ production in the aforementioned matchups came in the slot or with the opponent’s elite corner sidelined, it’s unrealistic to expect a single player to guard a beast like Evans 1-on-1 for 60 minutes. DeSean Jackson should see plenty of Ken Crawley (PFF’s No. 20 overall corner) while safety-turned-nickel back Kenny Vaccaro mans the slot. Winston’s shoulder looked fine in Week 7, but he then had his worst showing of the season last week. Be sure to monitor our Injury Dashboard to make sure Winston doesn’t experience any setbacks prior to Sunday’s game.
Sterling Shepard vs. Rams Secondary
Shepard is the Giants’ de facto No. 1 receiver with Odell Beckham Jr., Brandon Marshall, and Dwayne Harris all out for the season. While Shepard has missed the team’s last two games with a sprained ankle, he’s practiced all week and is expected to be good to go for Sunday. He figures to see more than his current average of 5.8 targets per game, but the quality of those targets is very much in question. Eli Manning‘s splits with and without Beckham since 2014 are concerning:
- Manning’s per-game averages with OBJ (47 games): 271.49 passing yards, 7.03 yards per attempt, 1.89 touchdowns, 0.85 interceptions, 21.68 DraftKings PPG
- Manning without OBJ (8 games): 211.25 yards, 6.4 Y/A, 1.5 TDs, 1.12 INTs, 16.61 PPG
Shepard will be featured in the passing game alongside Evan Engram, but the Rams’ ability to stifle passing attacks up the middle of the field is concerning for both receivers. Nickell Robey-Coleman has allowed the second-fewest yards per cover snap among 33 full-time slot corners, and former nickel back-turned-safety Lamarcus Joyner is PFF’s fifth-highest graded safety through eight weeks. The Rams defense is the third-best unit in DVOA against the pass this season and one of just five units to allow fewer passing touchdowns (eight) than interceptions (nine). Overall, the Rams have allowed 3.5 DraftKings points below salary-based expectations to wide receivers over the past 12 months – the third-lowest mark among teams in Week 9.
A.J. Green vs. Jaguars Secondary
Green’s overwhelming ability and workload, combined with the public’s respect for Jaguars corners Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye, makes him an enticing pivot play for Week 9. Still, the Jaguars’ No. 1 overall defense in DVOA ranks among the top-four defenses in DraftKings PPG, Plus/Minus, and Consistency Rating allowed to opposing wide receiver units. Only Brown and Hopkins have managed to clear 12 DraftKings points against the Jaguars, and it took them 19 and 16 targets, respectively, to get there. Green’s 9.3 targets per game aren’t going anywhere, but it’s fair to wonder how well Andy Dalton will be able to deliver the ball behind PFF’s sixth-worst offensive line in pass-blocking efficiency against the league-leading defense in adjusted sack rate.
Slot corner Aaron Colvin joins Ramsey and Bouye in the sub-1.0 yards allowed per coverage snap club, while the outside corners have allowed bottom-five quarterback ratings on passes thrown into their coverage this season. No. 9 overall pick John Ross was expected to help draw double teams away from Green, but he still has a ways to go after playing just six snaps last week. Green’s season-low $7,400 price tag on DraftKings is certainly appealing, but he understandably carries the lowest projected floor among all wide receivers priced over $7,000.
- Julio Jones vs. Panthers Secondary: Jones was bottled up by Claiborne and the Jets last week and will likely face shadow coverage this Sunday from 6’1″ and 211-pound James Bradberry. The Panthers rank seventh in DVOA against the pass while allowing just 182.4 passing yards per game this season – the third-best mark in the league. Still, Jones’ status as the league’s most physically-gifted receiver makes him matchup-proof even in a tough spot, and he’s one of just three receivers to average 20-plus DraftKings PPG on the road since 2014.
- Alshon Jeffery vs. Broncos Secondary: Jeffery finally hauled in a deep ball from early MVP frontrunner Carson Wentz last Sunday, but he still caught just two of eight targets and has gained fewer than 75 yards in six consecutive games. He gets his toughest matchup yet against a Broncos defense that hasn’t allowed 100-plus yards to an opposing wide receiver since 2015, although they’ve allowed an additional 3.1 PPG away from Mile High Stadium during that span.
- Larry Fitzgerald vs. 49ers Secondary: Fitzgerald has historically struggled without Carson Palmer under center, averaging a 6.2-68.2-0.5 line in 60 games with Palmer since 2013 compared to a 4.1-42.4-0.2 line in nine games without. Fitzgerald’s -6.1 DraftKings PPG differential without Palmer is even more problematic after considering he’s also historically posted negative road splits. The 49ers secondary ranks no higher than 28th in DVOA down the left and right sidelines this season – but fifth in DVOA on passes down the middle of the field.
- Tyreek Hill vs. Cowboys Secondary: Hill has averaged an additional 4.24 DraftKings PPG and 3.34 targets per game in 12 games without Jeremy Maclin since the beginning of last season. He’s run 34 percent of his snaps from the slot through eight weeks, with a season-high 24 snaps coming Monday night. Jamison Crowder (9-123-0), Emmanuel Sanders (6-62-2), Cooper Kupp (5-60-1), and Fitzgerald (13-149-1) have all had their way with the Cowboys while running most of their routes from the slot this season.
- Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper vs. Dolphins Secondary: Crabtree has 80-plus yards or a touchdown in 17 of his last 23 games, while the Raiders have attempted to resurrect Cooper via extra snaps from the slot in recent weeks. Both receivers are set up well against a Dolphins defense that ranks 28th in DVOA against the pass and has allowed a league-high 69.9 percent completion rate this season.
- Michael Thomas vs. Buccaneers Secondary: Thomas has eight-plus targets in all but one game this season, and the return of Willie Snead (four snaps) didn’t do anything to change the Saints’ pecking order at receiver last week. Thomas couldn’t ask for a better matchup against the Buccaneers’ 31st-ranked defense in pass DVOA this week, as they could once again be without starting outside corners Brent Grimes (shoulder, questionable) and Robert McClain (concussion, questionable).
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:
- Mike Evans vs. Marshon Lattimore
- Julio Jones vs. James Bradberry
- Pierre Garcon vs. Patrick Peterson
- Davante Adams or Jordy Nelson vs. Darius Slay