Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 11
Based on this week’s matchups and projected shadow situations from Pro Football Focus, let’s take a look at some of the most important wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups for this week’s daily fantasy slate. If you’re a fan of this article, make sure you’re also checking out our WR v. CB Chart and the Shadow Matrix.
Notes: Any references to statistical and graded rankings for cornerbacks is out of all 112 cornerbacks to play at least 200 snaps.
Green Bay wide receivers vs. Washington corner backs – In Week 10, Jordy Nelson saw a career high in targets with 18. He currently leads all wide receivers in end zone targets per game (1.7) and ranks eighth in PPR fantasy points per game (17.9). Unfortunately, in spite of this, he’s probably a fade for DFS this week. In Week 8, with Randall Cobb out, Nelson ran 64.4 percent of his routes from the slot. In games Cobb has started, Nelson ran only 18.6 percent of his routes from the slot. Over that span, he ran 52.6 percent of his routes from Rodgers’ right – where Washington’s star corner, Josh Norman, typically lines up. Even if Washington decides not to have Norman shadow, Nelson should still run about half of his routes against Norman in coverage. The concern here is Aaron Rodgers might avoid Nelson in favor of better matchups like he did in Week 7 when Chicago’s “best” cornerback, Tracy Porter, shadowed Nelson. In this matchup Nelson saw just three targets, recording only one catch for nine yards.
Cobb, who runs 77.8 percent of his routes from the slot is in a far more favorable matchup against Washington’s rookie slot cornerback, Kendall Fuller – who we targeted last week with Stefon Diggs. Since being named a starter, Fuller has seen 37 targets, allowing 29 receptions, 345 yards, one touchdown, and has not recorded an interception. Fuller ranks bottom-12 in catch percentage, targets allowed per snap in coverage, and fantasy points allowed per snap in coverage. Cobb has struggled since returning from a hamstring injury, but had at least 11 targets and averaged 21.5 PPR fantasy points across his previous three games.
Davante Adams also draws a favorable matchup against Bashaud Breeland. Breeland is our 10th-worst-graded cornerback in coverage this season and is allowing the 15th-most fantasy points per target. When targeted in coverage, opposing passers are averaging a passer rating of 115 against both Breeland and Fuller, which ranks in the bottom 25 among all corners. Over the last four weeks, Adams leads all wide receivers in both targets and PPR fantasy points.
Indianapolis wide receivers vs. Tennessee cornerbacks – T.Y. Hilton, who runs 58.5 percent of his routes from the slot, is in a dream matchup this week against Tennessee’s slot cornerback Brice McCain. Over the last five weeks, McCain has been targeted 27 times, allowing 16 catches, 249 yards and three touchdowns. For the season, no cornerback has allowed more fantasy points than McCain when covering the slot. When opposing quarterbacks are targeting him in coverage, they’re averaging a 127.3 passer rating, which is the 10th-highest of any cornerback. He’s also yielding the 11th-most fantasy points per target among corners. Last time the Colts faced the Titans, in Week 7, Hilton saw 11 targets, catching 7 for 133 yards and a touchdown. Four of those targets were against McCain, resulting in two catches, 57 yards and a touchdown.
Tennessee’s starting left corner, Perrish Cox, has been equally disastrous this season. He’s our fifth-worst-graded cornerback, leads the position in missed tackles (10), and is giving up the 14th-most fantasy points per snap. Cox has also given up the fourth-most plays of 20 or more yards. He should see Phillip Dorsett on roughly 48 percent of Dorsett’s routes. Dorsett is averaging a reception of 30 or more yards on 12 percent of his targets, which ranks fifth-most among wide receivers. Dorsett is certainly a tough sell in DFS, but someone to keep an eye on if you’re playing on the smaller slates.
Seattle wide receivers vs. Philadelphia’s secondary – Last week I argued that Philadelphia sported one of the worst cornerback corps in the league. This week Nolan Carroll is in the concussion protocol, which means they might be even worse. Doug Baldwin’s big game last week will likely drive ownership higher than deserved, which makes him something of a fade for me this week. Safety Malcolm Jenkins typically mans the slot, and has been fantastic in coverage in recent years. Jenkins was our No. 2 safety in coverage last season. This year, the Eagles are giving up the fourth-fewest fantasy points per game to wide receivers out of the slot – where Baldwin runs 78 percent of his routes.
If Carroll is out, we should expect Tyler Lockett and Jermaine Kearse to run 65 to 75 percent of their routes against Jalen Mills and the formerly benched Leodis McKelvin. Over his last four games, McKelvin has seen 25 targets, allowing 13 catches, 319 yards and five touchdowns in coverage. Over the course of the season, he’s allowing the most fantasy points per route in coverage and the third-most fantasy points per target. McKelvin is allowing 13 percent of his targets in coverage to result in plays of 30 or more yards – which is highest among all corners. Mills, meanwhile, is PFF’s overall worst-graded cornerback. He is being targeted on 24.1 percent of his routes in coverage, which ranks most in the league. McKelvin and Mills are each both one of only five cornerbacks to allow, on average, at least two yards per snap in coverage. Lockett and Kearse should both be considered as punt-play options in GPPs if Carroll is ruled out.
Stefon Diggs vs. Patrick Peterson — Diggs has set a new career high in targets in each of the last three weeks (13, 14, 15, respectively). Over that span, he leads all wide receivers in targets and PPR fantasy points. When asked how Arizona head coach Bruce Arians plans to stop Diggs Sunday, Arians said, “Put Patrick Peterson on him and hope that works.” The issue here is that over his last four games, Diggs has run 69.2 percent of his routes from the slot. Peterson, meanwhile, is fairly inexperienced in the slot, and hasn’t performed well when there. Peterson has manned the slot on just eight percent of his career routes in coverage and is averaging nearly one touchdown per every six targets (eight touchdowns on 49 targets) when there. For perspective, that’s 27.6 percent of his career touchdowns allowed on 9.7 percent of his career targets.
If he shadows Diggs throughout the whole game, projecting Diggs’ stat-line looks messy. Peterson is an elite shutdown cornerback. He’s allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per route in coverage and was our fifth-highest-graded cornerback in coverage last season. On six career targets against Peterson (none of which were in the slot), Diggs has just one catch for seven yards. Still, we don’t have much of a sample size with him in the slot.
If Peterson only shadows Diggs on the outside, things are still equally messy. Tyrann Mathieu is questionable to play this week, attempting to return from a shoulder injury. After playing the majority of his snaps as a slot cornerback last season, Mathieu has primarily played free safety this year. Arizona has been somewhat vulnerable to the slot, giving up 43 percent of their fantasy points allowed to wide receivers to wide receivers playing out of the slot – which ranks seventh-highest. Although I wouldn’t necessarily call it a favorable matchup, I wouldn’t view it as a considerable downgrade for Diggs either.
Steve Smith Sr. vs. Orlando Scandrick – Over the last four games he started and finished, Smith is averaging 9.0 targets, 6.3 receptions, 76.3 yards, 0.5 touchdowns and 16.9 fantasy points per game. Over that stretch, he’s run the majority (41.9 percent) of his routes from the slot. This means he’ll spend most of his day on Sunday in a favorable matchup against Dallas’ slot cornerback, Scandrick.
In 2014, Scandrick was our eighth-highest-graded cornerback in coverage. He missed all of 2015 with a torn ACL and MCL. Since returning in 2016, he’s played poorly. Scandrick has also missed some time with a hamstring injury, but in five games this year he’s seen 24 targets, allowing 19 receptions, 198 yards and two touchdowns without an interception. Opposing quarterbacks are averaging a 128.8 passer rating when targeting him, which ranks sixth-worst. He also ranks bottom-25 in both fantasy points allowed per snap in coverage and fantasy points allowed per target. For the season, Dallas is allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers out of the slot.
Jeremy Kerley vs. Logan Ryan and Patrick Chung — This season, the Patriots are giving up the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers out of the slot (18.6). 52 percent of their fantasy points allowed to wide receivers has come from the slot, which also ranks highest in the league. Through three games against the Patriots, Jarvis Landry, Doug Baldwin and Larry Fitzgerald averaged nine targets, eight receptions, 91.7 yards, 1.7 touchdowns and 27.2 fantasy points per game.
This looks like good news for Kerley, who runs 89.4 percent of his routes from the slot. This means he should spend nearly his entire day against Ryan and Chung in coverage. After grading out among our top-20 cornerbacks in coverage last season, Ryan grades out in our bottom-20 this year. He typically mans the slot on 40 percent of his routes in coverage. When Kerley isn’t facing off against Ryan, he should see plenty of safety Patrick Chung who grades out fifth-worst among all safeties in coverage.
Kerley quietly ranks 29th among wide receivers in targets per game and 44th in fantasy points per game. Unbelievably, he is tied with Julian Edelman in targets per game and averages only half of a PPR point less than him on a per-game-basis. Though he hasn’t been nearly as effective since Colin Kaepernick has taken over, he did drop 20.1 PPR fantasy points on Arizona last week. Hovering around the site-minimum on all major sites, he’s an interesting punt-play option this week.
A.J. Green vs. Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore — Green runs roughly 78 percent of his routes on the outside, with a near even split on both sides. This means he should face off against Ronald Darby and Stephon Gilmore on the far majority of his routes.
Both cornerbacks have struggled this season. Gilmore is our 14th-worst-graded cornerback. Darby is allowing the 13th-most fantasy points per snap in coverage. Among all cornerbacks, Darby has given up the most plays of 30 or more yards (6) and Gilmore has given up the second-most (5). Both rank top-three in this category by percentage of targets. Green, meanwhile, ranks first among wide receivers in plays of 30 or more yards.
It might be worth tempering expectations this week, though, despite the attractive individual matchups. Last season, managed just four receptions for 36 yards against the Bills. When asked how he did it, Rex Ryan answered simply, “we double-teamed him the whole game”. It’s likely Buffalo does the same thing this week.