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.
Quarterbacks are dropping like flies, and the absence of some of the game’s finest signal callers will undoubtedly affect the performance of their respective favorite targets. Let’s breakdown some of the week’s top receiving options. Be sure to consult our Vegas line and Market Share breakdowns to stay on top of Vegas- and workload-related trends heading into Sunday.
Although it has wider applicability, this breakdown is for the 11-game DraftKings and FanDuel main slates.
The Big One and Little Two
Week 15 consists of NFL games on Thursday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. Thus, the likes of Julio Jones, Mike Evans, Dez Bryant, and Keenan Allen among others will be off the main slate. Still, the long-awaited return of this season’s current receiving leader to the main slate is finally upon us, and the other two highest-priced receivers aren’t bad either:
- Antonio Brown ($9,100 DraftKings, $9,300 FanDuel)
- DeAndre Hopkins ($7,700 DraftKings, $8,200 FanDuel)
- Michael Thomas ($7,400 DraftKings, $8,100 FanDuel)
This week’s top-priced receivers have combined to catch at least five passes in 32 of 39 games this season from old men and journeymen alike. A reminder: Targets + Hands = Fantasy Goodness.
We are gonna dance and sing in celebration, we are in the promised land
Brown is on pace for a season-long 121-1,857-11 line — thresholds only he and Jerry Rice have passed in the history of the league. He’s done it with a freakishly consistent combination of route-running, ball skills, and yards-after-the-catch ability. Next up in his path of destruction is a Patriots defense that hasn’t exactly held him in check during their five career meetings (including playoffs):
- 15 tgts, 9-67-1
- 9 tgts, 5-71-1
- 11 tgts, 9-133-1
- 11 tgts, 7-106-0
- 9 tgts, 7-77-0
Brown’s last two meetings against the Pats came with Landry Jones under center and a hobbled Le’Veon Bell. He’s seen a heavy dose of Malcolm Butler (with safety help) in recent meetings, but Stephon Gilmore, who helped hold Brown to a 5-78-0 line in Buffalo last season, could see some time on AB as well. The Patriots haven’t allowed over 250 passing yards since Week 6, but betting against Brown and his quarterback’s severe home/away splits hasn’t historically been a winning strategy. Still, Bill Belichick is known for his ability to not let the opponent’s best player beat him, and Belichick’s defenses have allowed just nine receivers to surpass 150 yards since he took over in 2000. The league’s best receiver will look to clear that mark for the sixth time this season against the Patriots’ 24th-ranked defense in DVOA versus WR1s.
Ain’t no use to hide, ain’t no need to run, ’cause I’ve got you in the sights
Hopkins versus Jalen Ramsey and the Jaguars secondary should be a must-watch matchup for years to come. They’ve already had their fair share of classics, with Nuk converting his 46 (!!!) targets into a 20-190-1 line during his past three games against the Texans’ division rival. Of course, Ramsey hasn’t shadowed this season due to the presence of A.J. Bouye, PFF’s No. 4 overall cornerback, and Nuk’s lone touchdown came with Deshaun Watson under center.
Nuk has a very real case as the league’s most-consistent receiver given he’s caught at least seven passes for 70-plus yards or scored a touchdown in every game this season. He remains capable of toppling the league’s No. 1 defense in pass DVOA even with T.J. Yates under center:
DeAndre Hopkins career PPR per game by QB:
-Deshaun Watson: 21.1
-Tom Savage: 20.8
-Brian Hoyer: 19.7
-Ryan Mallett: 18.7
-T.J. Yates: 17.3
-Ryan Fitzpatrick: 16.9
-Brock Osweiler: 12.6
-Matt Schaub: 8.7
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 12, 2017
Play for free, I play for me and play a whole lot more, more!
Thomas’ consistency (five-plus catches in 12 of 13 games) has finally been rewarded with some positive touchdown regression. Overall, Thomas has found the end zone in each of his past two games, thanks in large part to five targets inside the 20-yard line – just two fewer than Thomas had in Weeks 1-12 combined. Drew Brees has made a habit of looking his No. 1 receiver’s way upon reaching the opponent’s 20-yard line:
Mike Thomas had 7 red-zone targets in Weeks 1-12; 5 in Weeks 13-14. 2 TDs in each span. Feed the man: pic.twitter.com/lIDuQ2Eiww
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) December 12, 2017
Adam Thielen ($7,600 DraftKings, $7,600 FanDuel) and Stefon Diggs ($5,800 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel): Thielen’s 6-105-1 line against the Panthers last Sunday could’ve been even larger if not for multiple end zone drops. Regardless, Thielen’s 13 targets again demonstrated his status as Case Keenum‘s go-to receiver, a reality that could be pronounced this week with the potential absence of Kyle Rudolph (ankle, questionable). The whole passing game has a great matchup versus a banged-up Bengals defense that is already without Adam Jones (groin, IR) as well as potentially Dre Kirkpatrick (concussion, questionable). Diggs’ 10 targets last Sunday were his most since Week 3, although he’s averaged 4.0 fewer DraftKings PPG on the road during his career – with a +5.4 percent ownership premium. View each week’s WR/CB matchups using our Matchups tool.
Brandin Cooks ($7,100 DraftKings, $7,400 FanDuel), Chris Hogan ($5,500 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel), and Danny Amendola ($5,000 DraftKings, $5,200 FanDuel): Hogan played 55-of-61 snaps last Monday night against the Dolphins in his first game since Week 8. Despite the four-week absence, Hogan has more targets inside the 10-yard line (8) than both Cooks (3) and Amendola (4) this season. Amendola is averaging just one less target per game than Cooks, but the Patriots’ field-stretcher offers a bit more upside considering a league-high 32.6 percent of his targets have been thrown 20-plus yards downfield. They’ll take on the Steelers’ sixth-ranked defense in pass DVOA that hopes to welcome back PFF’s No. 32 overall cornerback Joe Haden (back, questionable). The Steelers allowed 16.4 points and 181.8 passing yards per game with Haden from Weeks 1-10 compared to 25.8 points and 243.8 passing yards in their past four games without him.
Larry Fitzgerald ($6,900 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel): Fitzgerald has struggled with shadow coverage from Logan Ryan and Jalen Ramsey over the past three weeks, and his matchup versus the Redskins’ fifth-ranked defense against WR1s won’t be much easier. Nickel back Kendall Fuller has been especially stingy, allowing the second-lowest quarterback rating on balls thrown into his coverage among all full-time slot corners this season. Outside corners Josh Norman and Quinton Dunbar/Bashaud Breeland are each physical enough to match up with Fitzgerald as well, and the Redskins rank among the bottom-six defenses in DraftKings PPG, Plus/Minus, and Consistency Rating allowed to opposing wide receiver units this season.
Davante Adams ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel), Jordy Nelson ($6,300 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel), and Randall Cobb ($4,900 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel): The Packers’ top-three receivers combined to average 14.7 DraftKings PPG in Weeks 1-5, but they’ve been at just 10.6 PPG since. The impact of Aaron Rodgers‘ (collarbone, probable) anticipated return is huge, as the Packers have averaged an additional 8.9 PPG in his five complete starts this season. The Panthers have surrendered at least 24 points and 250 passing yards in each of their three games since their Week 11 bye and don’t have a cornerback graded among PFF’s top-75 defensive backs this season. Per ESPN’s Mike Clay: ‘No. 1 corner’ James Bradberry has allowed 864 yards this season – 104 more yards than the next closest defensive back.
A.J. Green ($6,500 DraftKings, $7,700 FanDuel) and Brandon LaFell ($3,400 DraftKings, $5,500 FanDuel): Green hasn’t surpassed 80 yards in seven of his past eight games, but he’s maintained a high floor thanks to his status as the league’s third-ranked receiver in both overall and red zone target share. Still, he’ll have to earn every one of his yards in a tough matchup against Xavier Rhodes, who has made life difficult on many of the league’s best this year:
- Mike Evans: 12 targets, 7-67-0
- Davante Adams: 10 tgts, 5-54-1
- Antonio Brown: 11 tgts, 5-62-0
- Michael Thomas: 8 tgts, 5-45-0
- Josh Doctson: 7 tgts, 4-30-0
- Sammy Watkins: 4 tgts, 3-36-0
- Marvin Jones (twice): 5 tgts, 2-42-0; 9 tgts, 6-109-2
- Julio Jones: 6 tgts, 2-24-0
- Devin Funchess: 7 tgts, 3-59-1
LaFell should match up against Trae Waynes, who has allowed the fifth-most yards in coverage among full-time corners this season. LaFell has averaged 6.8 targets over his past five games and is a reasonable punt play on DraftKings, where he has a 97 percent Bargain Rating.
Josh Gordon ($6,800 DraftKings, $7,500 FanDuel) and Corey Coleman ($4,400 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel): Gordon has converted his 17 targets into a 7-154-1 line this season, demonstrating both the ball skills and social media presence of a true WR1 along the way. Next up is a Ravens defense that has struggled to slow down opposing passing attacks without No. 1 cornerback Jimmy Smith (Achilles, IR). Overall, they’ve allowed an additional 9.8 points and 71 passing yards per game in six outings without Smith since the beginning of last season. Coleman has just 10 targets since Gordon’s return, although he’s out-targeted him 3-1 in the red zone. The receivers have winnable matchups against rookie Marlon Humphrey and 31-year-old Brandon Carr, but Deshone Kizer and the Browns’ banged-up offensive line will have their hands full with the Ravens’ ninth-ranked defensive line in adjusted sack rate.
Robert Woods ($5,700 DraftKings, $6,700 FanDuel), Sammy Watkins ($4,800 DraftKings, $6,400 FanDuel), and Cooper Kupp ($6,200 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): The usage for the Rams’ top-three receivers during the team’s first 10 games clearly points toward Woods as the alpha of the group:
Kupp and Watkins will remain weekly factors thanks to their respective red zone and downfield roles. They’ll take on a Seahawks secondary that has allowed an additional 3.4 points and 27.4 passing yards per game since losing Richard Sherman (Achilles, IR) and Kam Chancellor (neck, IR) in Week 10. Woods has the second-highest projected ceiling among all wide receivers priced under $6,000 on DraftKings in our Pro Models.
Jarvis Landry ($6,100 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel), DeVante Parker ($4,200 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel), and Kenny Stills ($5,000 DraftKings, $5,800 FanDuel): Landry’s eight touchdowns through 14 weeks are as many as he totaled in 2015 and 2016 combined. Parker’s talent hasn’t gone anywhere – but his workload has. Overall, he averaged 8.8 targets in his first six complete games compared to 4.3 targets over the past three weeks. Stills retains a high weekly ceiling considering only Cooks has a higher percentage of his targets over 20-plus yards this season among full-time receivers. They’ll each see plenty of Tre’Davious White and E.J. Gaines, both of whom rank among PFF’s top-30 corners this season, but matchups may not matter if Buffalo descends into a winter wonderland again. Current forecasts call for a low chance of precipitation with mild winds around kickoff, but be sure to monitor our News Feed for all fantasy-relevant injury, workload, and weather concerns.
Mike Wallace ($4,700 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel) and Jeremy Maclin ($4,300 DraftKings, $5,900 FanDuel): Wallace has averaged a 4.3-73-0.3 line since the Ravens’ Week 10 bye. Maclin hasn’t been as effective but has racked up an additional 1.3 targets per game since the bye. Joe Flacco has tossed multiple touchdowns in three of his past five games and has averaged 21.6 DraftKings points in his last eight meetings against the Browns. Wallace and Maclin will have their hands full against Jason McCourty and Briean-Boddy Calhoun (knee, questionable) – PFF’s No. 22 and No. 18 overall cornerbacks, respectively. Be sure to monitor our Injury Dashboard to stay updated on every fantasy-relevant player’s practice participation and projected game status.
Marquise Goodwin ($6,000 DraftKings, $6,600 FanDuel): Jimmy Garoppolo, he of the Tom Brady and Joe Montana comparisons, has thrown to 10 separate receivers in his first two starts, but Goodwin’s 20 targets are 12 more than his next-closest teammate. Goodwin has clocked the fourth-highest top-end speed among all players this season and clearly has the trust of his quarterback. Still, he’ll need to overcome a $900 salary increase on both DraftKings and FanDuel against a Titans defense that is one of just four units to allow 31 or fewer passes of 20-plus yards this season. Goodwin could see shadow coverage from Logan Ryan, who has played well in recent weeks against T.Y. Hilton (2-15-0), Hopkins (8-80-0), and Fitzgerald (5-44-0).
Alshon Jeffery ($5,900 DraftKings, $7,200 FanDuel), Nelson Agholor ($4,400 DraftKings, $6,000 FanDuel), and Torrey Smith ($3,300 DraftKings, $5,100 FanDuel): Nick Foles‘ peak was a 27/2 touchdown/interception campaign as the league was still figuring out Chip Kelly in 2013. His floor was a Jeff Fisher-inspired 2015 season in which he surpassed 230 passing yards just once in 11 starts. None of the Eagles’ top-three receivers rank among the top-35 players in yards per route run, but they’ll have every chance to keep the NFC East Champion’s momentum rolling against the Giants’ 28th-ranked defense in DVOA that is already without Janoris Jenkins (ankle, IR) and potentially Eli Apple (back/hip, questionable). All three receivers have projected ownership of two to four percent or less across the industry in our models.
Marqise Lee ($5,800 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel) and Dede Westbrook ($5,100 DraftKings, $5,700 FanDuel): Lee has at least five catches in every game he’s played since October when not under Patrick Peterson‘s shadow, and he has a team-high seven targets inside the 10-yard line on the season. Allen Hurns‘ (ankle, questionable) return doesn’t seem imminent, and Westbrook has seen an average of 8.3 targets per game during Hurns’ absence. They’ll take on the Texans’ 23rd- and 27th-ranked unit in DVOA versus WR1s and WR2s, respectively — one that doesn’t have a cornerback ranked among the top-85 players in yards allowed per coverage snap this season.
Robby Anderson ($5,600 DraftKings, $7,800 FanDuel) and Jermaine Kearse ($4,000 DraftKings, $6,500 FanDuel): With Josh McCown (hand, IR) done for the season, Bryce Petty will make his fifth career start versus the Saints’ fourth-ranked defense in pass DVOA. None of Petty’s four starts last season produced multiple touchdowns, 24-plus points, or over 260 passing yards – but they did produce a whole lot of production for Anderson. Overall, Anderson averaged a 4.3-77.3-0.5 line in his four games with Petty throwing at least 25 passes last season. Still, Petty’s 2/9 performance against the Broncos last Sunday didn’t inspire much confidence, and Anderson will need to navigate past Marshon Lattimore and Ken Crawley – PFF’s No. 5 and No. 33 overall cornerbacks this season. Kearse has six-plus targets in five straight games, but his workload could be slimmed down with the potential return of Jeremy Kerley, who is eligible to return from suspension.
Jamison Crowder ($5,600 DraftKings, $6,800 FanDuel) and Josh Doctson ($3,800 DraftKings, $5,400 FanDuel): Jordan Reed‘s (hamstring, IR) season is over, which is fine by Crowder:
- Crowder with Reed (32 games): 5.4 targets, 3.8 receptions, 41.8 yards, 0.22 TDs, 9.4 DraftKings PPG
- Without (12 games): 7.3 targets, 4.8 receptions, 64.5 yards, 0.25 TDs, 12.8 DraftKings PPG
Also working in Crowder’s favor is a matchup against the Honey Badger, as Tyrann Mathieu has allowed the fifth-most receiving yards out of the slot among all full-time slot corners this season. Doctson continues to offer a highlight catch nearly every game but hasn’t surpassed seven targets in a game this season and will likely be under the watchful eye of Peterson for the majority of the afternoon.
The Model Wide Receivers
There are several wide receivers atop the Pro Models built by Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, and Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek), with the following two receivers standing out among multiple models:
- Doug Baldwin ($6,700 DraftKings, $7,100 FanDuel)
- Devin Funchess ($6,600 DraftKings, $7,300 FanDuel)
Baldwin has scored a touchdown or caught at least five passes in seven of the Seahawks’ eight games since their Week 6 bye. He’s on pace for the second-most targets of his career and is one of just four receivers with over 550 yards out of the slot this season. Baldwin will look to combine this consistency with some upside inside the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field, where he has historically balled out:
- Baldwin at home since 2015 (23 games): 19.1 DraftKings PPG, +6.5 Plus/Minus, 60% Consistency Rating
- Baldwin on the road since 2015 (24 games): 14.2 DraftKings PPG, +1.6 Plus/Minus, 45% Consistency Rating
Baldwin’s price tag on DraftKings is tied for his lowest mark at home all season, and the absence of Kayvon Webster (Achilles, IR) is the icing on the cake for Baldwin’s matchup against a Rams defense that hasn’t exactly shut down notable slot receivers, including Nelson Agholor (8-64-0), Fitzgerald (10-98-1, 3-29-0), Sterling Shepard (5-70-0), and Thielen (6-123-1). Baldwin’s 9.2-point projected floor is the highest mark among all wide receivers in Sunday’s main slate.
Funchess is quickly establishing himself as a true matchup-proof WR1 in the absence of Kelvin Benjamin. Overall, he’s converted an average of 7.8 targets into a 4.8-81-0.8 line since Benjamin was traded prior to Week 9. Funchess has converted his last 26 targets into a 14-227-2 line despite tough matchups against the likes of Xavier Rhodes and Morris Claiborne over the past three weeks:
He could see shadow coverage from Damarious Randall, who is next in line as the defense’s No. 1 corner with both Kevin King (shoulder, IR) and Davon House (back, doubtful) sidelined. Randall has allowed just 82 yards in his past four games and is fresh off holding Gordon to just one catch for 13 yards on three targets into his coverage (per PFF’s Mike Renner and Jeff Ratcliffe). Still, the 6’4″ and 230-pound Funchess has a serious size advantage on Randall, who stands 5’11” and weighs 196 pounds. The Packers have allowed the most DraftKings PPG, highest Plus/Minus, and highest Consistency Rating to opposing wide receivers units this season. Funchess is the top-rated receiver in Adam Levitan’s model, and he leads all receivers with a +2.07 Projected Plus/Minus.
Positional Breakdowns & Tools
Be sure to research the wide receivers for yourself with our tools and read the other Week 15 positional breakdowns.
Good luck this week!
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