Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 1

Based on this week’s matchups and projected shadow situations from Pro Football Focus, let’s take a look at three wide receivers we should be upgrading and three wide receivers we should be downgrading for this week’s daily fantasy slate.

Notes: All references to fantasy points are in PPR.

Downgrades

A.J. Green v. Darrelle Revis – This week, we’re projecting Revis to shadow Green on the majority of his routes. Fantasy owners are divided: Is Revis finally cooked? (It certainly looked that way in the second-half of last season.) Or should we expect the same islandish Revis of old? I’m betting on the 31-year-old cornerback causing Green some trouble in this matchup. Revis tore a ligament in his wrist in Week 11. In June, he had surgery to repair it and later admitted that the injury affected his play throughout the rest of the season. The stats seem to corroborate his story.

Prior to Week 11, Revis was PFF’s No. 6 graded cornerback and was allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points per target up to that point. In the first half of the season, he shadowed all of T.Y. Hilton, Jarvis Landry, Julian Edelman, Amari Cooper, and Pierre Garcon. They combined to average just 10.7 fantasy points in those games. In the rest of their games, they averaged a combined 14.8 fantasy points. From Week 11 on, Revis ranked as PFF’s No. 89-graded cornerback. He allowed, on average, 1.14 fantasy points per target prior to the injury, and 1.69 fantasy points per target in Week 11 and beyond.

Only once last year was Green shadowed by an above-average corner; Patrick Peterson (our No. 5-graded corner in coverage) in Week 11. Green saw six targets against him, catching only two for 24 yards and zero touchdowns. Green should definitely not be benched in season-long leagues and is still in play in tournaments, but I’ll be looking elsewhere in cash games.

Jeremy Maclin vs. Jason Verrett – Last season, Maclin averaged only 9.3 fantasy points in the two games he faced San Diego. Against all other opponents (13 games), he averaged 17.4 fantasy points per game. A big reason for the sharp contrast in play had to do with San Diego’s top cornerback, Verrett. Verrett shadowed Maclin on over two-thirds of his routes in their two games together last season. We’re expecting Verrett to shadow Maclin on the majority of his routes again this week. Last year, Verrett graded out as our second-best cornerback in coverage – just behind Tyrann Mathieu. Needless to say, I’ll be avoiding Maclin in cash games.

Josh Norman vs. Antonio Brown – Admittedly, this is a tricky matchup to analyze. The Redskins never shadowed once last season. Norman, while with Carolina, shadowed all of DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, Vincent Jackson, Dez Bryant, Brandin Cooks, Julio Jones (x2), and Odell Beckham Jr. Brown is the best wide receiver in the game and arguably already one of the greatest fantasy wide receivers all-time. (He owns two of the top-five highest scoring wide receiver seasons ever – both coming in the last two seasons.)

Brown is fairly matchup proof. The only time he’s ever really struggled against a corner was last season when Richard Sherman shadowed him in Week 12. On 61 routes against Sherman, Brown saw nine targets, catching only three for 24 yards and zero touchdowns.

Norman was without a doubt one of the best cornerbacks in the league last season. He graded out third-best in coverage and ranked top-5 in QBR against, fantasy points per target allowed, fantasy points per route run allowed, and fantasy points per snap allowed. If Norman does not shadow Brown, then he will see a combination of Bashaud Breeland (our no. 14-graded corner last season) and Norman on about 80 percent of his routes.

No receiver saw a higher percentage of his targets against top-30 graded cornerbacks than Brown last season, and yet, he still finished as fantasy’s No. 1 wide receiver. He’s also still projected as our highest-scoring wide receiver this week. I’m really not too concerned with Brown this week, but the matchup is something to keep in mind if you have him plugged into your lineup and are struggling to make space for some of your other favorite plays.

Upgrade

Jordan Matthews vs. Jamar Taylor – Last season, Jordan Matthews ran 93 percent of his routes from the slot – most in the league. Last season, Taylor was on the outside for 94 percent of his routes, but is expected to start for Cleveland in the slot this week. Taylor was a human sieve in 2015, grading out as our sixth-worst corner in coverage (out of 88 qualifying). When targeting Taylor, quarterbacks averaged a QBR of 134.8 – no cornerback was worse. He also allowed the second-most fantasy points per target and the sixth-most fantasy points per route in coverage. Matthews has a five-inch and 17-pound advantage on Taylor. Despite the anxiety of starting a wide receiver with a quarterback making his first career start, Matthews is a strong GPP play.

Julio Jones vs. Vernon Hargreaves, Alterraun Verner, and Brent Grimes – Last season, Tampa Bay’s pass coverage unit ranked worst in the league. Their secondary is projected in the bottom-five again this season. In Jones’ last four games against Tampa Bay, he averaged 27.1 fantasy points per game. In all other games, he averaged 21.0 fantasy points.

Offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, is constantly moving Jones around the line of scrimmage. Last season, Jones ran 29 percent of his routes from the slot, 43 percent lined to Matt Ryan’s right, and 28 percent lined to his left. He should see about even time against all three corners this week.

Last season, Grimes gave up the fifth-most fantasy points per route in coverage and the sixth-most fantasy points per target against. Verner graded-out as our 16th-worst corner in coverage. Hargreaves was a top-15 pick in 2016, but still, Jones should easily get the best of the inexperienced rookie when they square off. Jones is a strong bet to finish among the top-three highest scoring wide receivers this week.

Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Anquan Boldin vs. Patrick Robinson, Antonio Cromartie, and Darius Butler – Indianapolis will be without their top cornerback Vontae Davis (PFF’s No. 1-graded corner in 2014) for at least the next several weeks. The Colts signed 32-year-old Cromartie off of his couch less than three weeks ago. He ranked as our 17th-worst corner last season and allowed the 10th-highest QBR to opposing quarterbacks. Butler (currently listed on the practice report with an ankle injury) was just as bad, grading out as our 18th-worst corner in coverage. He also allowed the eighth-highest QBR to opposing quarterbacks, the fourth-most fantasy points per route in coverage, the 10th-most fantasy points per target, and the third-most fantasy points per snap. Robinson is a solid corner (grading out in the top-35), but he too is dealing with an injury of his own, sitting out of the Colts’ final preseason game with a groin injury. Due to the injuries, the lack of talent in Indianapolis’ secondary, and the fact that this game has the second-highest over/under of the week, all Detroit receivers are in play.