PFF Advanced WR/CB Matchups – Week 3
We’ve had a slow start to the 2017 season as far as scoring. It seems like some teams are still stuck in preseason mode and others, well, others look like practice squad players could contend for a roster spot. As such, I’ll be adjusting how I approach both cash and tournaments over the next few weeks and not weighing 2017 statistics too heavily until we see these offenses start to get things going. I’ll continue to combine both 2016 data and partially weigh 2017 data in these WR/CB matchups, hoping to wade through the noise and find the true signal of what we should expect. Let’s take a look at which WR/CB matchups to target and fade heading into Week 3.
Studs to Target
A.J. Green vs Green Bay – We saw last week that Julio Jones was having his way with the Packers secondary, running routes freely right by them and creating separation with ease. The Falcons unfortunately took their foot off the pedal (just eight passes in the second half) or else we could’ve seen an even bigger game than Julio’s 5-108-0 suggests. A.J. Green now gets that honor and he’ll likely face the exact opposite type of game script, thus putting him in line for a massive increase in targets against one of the league’s worst secondaries. The Bengals new offensive coordinator, Bill Lazor, will bring with him his pass-happy tendencies from MIA ranked ninth in pass play percentage in 2014 and fourth in that category in 2015. Green stands to be the biggest beneficiary of the uptick in passing with him already commanding over 27.3 percent of the team’s targets through the first two weeks. Lazor should have a lot of fun utilizing a receiver like Green. He ranked second among all WRs in Yards per Route Run (YPRR) last year at 2.86 and led all wide receivers in fantasy points per game. Green has rarely travelled into the slot this year, running 93 percent of his routes from the outside. That means a lot of Damarious Randall and Davon House for Green on Sunday. Randall ranks top-three in most fantasy points per reception and yards per reception so far this season. House has yielded a 65 percent catch rate to opposing wide receivers and his 40.5 grade from last season would’ve placed him as a bottom-12 corner had he played enough snaps to qualify. If your process led you to Julio last week, rinse and repeat for Green, who should be in line for potentially more volume with negative game script on his side (8.5-point road dogs). He’s going to draw a ton of ownership, but let the Red Rifle haters fade him as you find yourself profiting.
Doug Baldwin vs Logan Ryan – The Seahawks offense has struggled to start the year. 9 points in Week 1 and 12 points in Week 2 doesn’t invoke a ton of confidence when rostering their players in DFS. That lack of confidence is exactly what I try to seek when building contrarian lineups and why Doug Baldwin is on my radar this week. Baldwin has run 65 percent of his routes in the slot this year (he moves outside in 2WR sets), and should see a lot of slot CB Logan Ryan in this one. The former Patriot has struggled to start the year in his new home. Ryan has been credited with allowing 4-of-5 targets to be caught against him for 58 yards and two touchdowns. For those without a calculator, that’s a combined rating of 154.6. That’s the worst rating allowed among slot cornerbacks so far this year and the second-worst among ALL cornerbacks. Dick LeBeau’s defense is known for bringing pressure and the Seahawks are known for collapsing under it. So far this year Russell Wilson has been pressured on 43.6 percent of his drop backs. It looks like Jimmy Graham could be ruled out in this one, and if that’s the case, Wilson will be looking to Baldwin at an even higher rate as his primary hot read to escape the pressure.
Demaryius Thomas vs E.J. Gaines
Week 2 was Emmanuel Sanders’ turn to blow up with a big game (6-62-2), but I think it’s Demaryius Thomas’ time to shine in Week 3 against a Buffalo defense that has been mildly tested. E. J. Gaines mans the right side of Buffalo’s defense and Tre’Davious White mans the left. DT has run 86 percent of his routes on the outside so far this year, which leaves him with a ton of opportunities against these terrible corners. Thomas will run the majority of his routes against Gaines, who ranks bottom-five in most fantasy points allowed per reception and was our No. 114 cornerback last year out of 119 qualifying. Gaines has allowed a 72 percent catch rate on targets against him and a whopping 1.62 yards per reception — both bottom-15 rates. The passing game funnels through DT and Sanders, with Thomas out-targeting Sanders 16-14 so far on the year. Thomas has seen eight targets in each game so far this year and it wouldn’t shock me to see him hit double-digits in a great matchup against Gaines. I’m pairing him in a ton of lineups with Trevor Siemian (7 TDs last two weeks) whom I’m projecting to be a low-owned stack.
Studs to Fade
Odell Beckham Jr. vs Jalen Mills – I guarantee this is the only time I will be writing Jalen Mills’ name in this section, but I’ve never been one that’s afraid to be bold. Mills was our worst-ranked corner last year and gives up a ton of receptions and receiving yards to opposing wide receivers. So why is he listed here this week against one of the best receivers in the league?
This is going to be more narrative-based than I’d like to be while representing PFF, but OBJ just didn’t look right against the Lions in his opener. He played on just 34-of-56 snaps finishing with a stat line of 4-36-0. He was a game-time decision and it’s clear he’s still working his way back to full health. According to NFL.com’s Next Gen Stats, Beckham saw just 1.5 yards per separation in Week 2 – the same number that 36-year old Benjamin Watson had, and he’s coming off a torn Achilles from last year! This is the guy that is supposed to take a 9-yard slant to the house. I just don’t see it happening in Week 3 after reports said he was supposed to be out for 6-8 weeks. He was limited in practice all through this week and I’m finding it difficult to justify paying up for him as WR3 in price on both sites.
Mike Evans vs Xavier Rhodes – I whiffed on the Mike Evans fade call last week (7-93-1), but I’m double dipping again here with him playing one of the league’s best shutdown corners. Here’s how Xavier Rhodes fared last year when playing against some of the league’s best big-bodied WR1’s:
Rhodes just doesn’t let big-bodied wideouts win against him. Over the course of the entire 2016 season, Rhodes limited receivers to just a 48 percent catch rate on targets thrown against him and had one of the lowest yards after catch rates among qualified corners. His 47.0 QB Rating against was the lowest among our 119 qualified graded corners. Rhodes is expected to shadow Evans in this matchup, and as such, I’ll be looking elsewhere when paying up for a wide receiver.
Dez Bryant vs Patrick Peterson – I’ll keep this one short and to the point. Dez Bryant has struggled against top-end cornerbacks in his career. He’s the most cornerback-sensitive wide receiver in the league by a longshot against top-25 corners, routinely struggling to produce. He’s going to get the shadow treatment from Patrick Peterson in Week 3, and it looks like another week to play it safe and fade Bryant. Over the past three years, Peterson ranks first among all cornerbacks in lowest fantasy points allowed per route in coverage. His current rate in 2017? Top-five allowing just 0.18. Fade and move on.
Values & Hidden Gems
Golden Tate vs Brian Poole – If you’re targeting this ATL-DET game as aggressively as I am, you’re sure to have some heavy exposure to Golden Tate. If you’re not, well hopefully I can convince to increase your shares of Tate after this segment. Tate has run 84 percent of his routes from the slot so far this year, where he should see a lot of Brian Poole. Poole has allowed 10-of-13 targets to be caught against him so far this year, giving up a hefty 49 yards of YAC on those receptions. Poole allowed the fifth-most YAC among all slot receivers last season, giving up high-percentage completions in the slot and letting those receivers rack up yards afterwards. It looks like he’s continuing that trend once again in 2017. Golden Tate on the other hand, has ranked 1st, 5th, and 1st in YAC over the past three years. It literally defines his style of play. Tate’s currently seeing a 25.8 percent target market share and the Lions will need to pass in this game as they’re currently 3-point home dogs in a game with a 51-point total. Double-digit targets for Tate looks like a lock as Stafford will try to avoid Desmond Trufant on the outside and pepper his favorite slot receiver in Tate repeatedly.
Terrelle Pryor vs Oakland
After missing out on several scoring opportunities to start the year, people have cooled off considerably with their love for Terrelle Pryor. Week 3 presents a perfect spot for him and the Washington offense to get on track in prime time Sunday night against the Raiders. Pryor moves around the formation quite a bit compared to other receivers — 45% LWR, 20% Slot, 25% RWR — and will see a decent amount of snaps against each of Oakland’s starting trio of corners. RCB Gareon Conley is a rookie who is quite green, having faced just two targets against Jermaine Kearse (allowing 1-8-0) and missing Week 1. He’ll get quite the step up in competition against the uber-athletic 6’-4” Pryor. LCB David Amerson is allowing a 141.7 QB Rating when being targeted, a top-five rate in the league. Slot CB T.J. Carrie is allowing 1.54 yards per reception, a top-20 rate in the league. All three corners are beatable, and Pryor could be in line to do so any time he lines up to run a pass route. Pryor ranks top-10 in percentage of his team’s air yards, and if he and Kirk Cousins can finally click and get on the same page, he could be in for a massive fantasy outing this week against this sub-par Oakland secondary.