Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 12 (Weekend Slate)
Based on this week’s matchups and projected shadow situations from Pro Football Focus, let’s take a look at nine of the most important wide receiver vs. cornerback matchups for this weekend’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 94 cornerbacks to play at least 300 snaps, unless otherwise stated.
Doug Baldwin vs. Vernon Hargreaves (likely) – With starting slot cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah suspended for the next four games, Tampa Bay likely moves slot cornerback Vernon Hargreaves back inside, where he spent 64 percent of his routes in coverage over the first three weeks of the season. It’s not a lock, but I do think it’s the most likely outcome. Hargreaves, our fifth-worst-graded cornerback this year, has struggled this season, but especially so as of late. Over the past four weeks, Hargreaves leads all cornerbacks in times thrown at (by five), receptions allowed (by four), and yards allowed (by 92). Meanwhile, Baldwin, who runs roughly 75 percent of the routes from the slot, has been on fire over his last three games – averaging 19.7 fantasy points (PPR) over that stretch.
Larry Fitzgerald vs. Brian Poole (likely) – This one’s sort of tricky. Fitzgerald has easily been Arizona’s most effective wide receiver this season, and runs roughly 65 percent of his routes from the slot. Trufant is easily Atlanta’s top cornerback, and has been known to move to the slot on occasion, but I don’t think it’s likely he shadows Fitzgerald this week. He will likely see some Trufant, but not enough to downgrade him this week. Fitzgerald ranks third among wide receivers in targets and fifth in (PPR) fantasy points. He’s also been one of the safest options on a week-to-week basis. He scored 10.9 (PPR) fantasy points in his worst game of the season, which Odell Beckham Jr. and Julio Jones have each scored under three times. Atlanta is allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to slot receivers. Poole’s numbers look fine, but he’s Atlanta’s worst-graded cornerback by a good margin. Fitzgerald would have a six-inch advantage on Poole, and should certainly get the better of him in this matchup.
Julio Jones vs. Patrick Peterson (shadow) – Across two career games against Peterson, Jones has caught nine of 11 targets for 191 yards and a touchdown. To be fair, Peterson has played much better in the two seasons since the last time they faced off (2014), and we have seen Jones somewhat struggle against elite cornerbacks before. Jones leads all wide receivers in 100 yard games with six (two more than the next closest wide receiver) and ranks third at the position in fantasy points. Despite putting up gaudy numbers, he’s also been one of the more inconsistent options among fantasy’s elite wide receivers. He has less than 30 yards in a game three times, which no other wide receiver among the top-15 can say. After holding Stefon Diggs to just 35 yards on eight targets last week, Peterson is our 10th-highest-graded cornerback in coverage and is allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points per snap. Jones gets a downgrade this week, but certainly isn’t falling out of WR1-range.
Mike Evans vs. Richard Sherman (shadow) – With DeShawn Shead and Earl Thomas doubtful for Sunday’s game, it’s almost a lock Sherman shadows Evans this week. Evans leads all wide receivers in targets and ranks second in fantasy points. We’ve also seen him struggle in two difficult matchups. Shadowed by Tracy Porter in Week 10, Evans saw only four targets, catching all of them for 66 yards. In Week 2, shadowed by Patrick Peterson, Evans saw a whopping 17 targets, catching only six for 70 yards and a touchdown. Still, Evans seems to have one of the safest floors in the game – he scored 9 (PPR) fantasy points in his worst game of the season, and has topped 16 in all but three games. Starting in Week 4, Sherman gave up three straight games of at least 85 yards in coverage and 62 the week after that. Prior to that, he gave up 85 yards or more in just one game since 2013 (48 total games). Outside of that four-week stretch, he’s our No. 4-graded cornerback. Even when looking at his season as a whole, he still tops the list on a number of statistics we typically look at. When targeted, opposing passers are averaging a Passer Rating of 51.0, which ranks fifth-best. He’s allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per snap, and is allowing only 51 percent of the targets in his coverage to be completed, which ranks third-best.
Michael Thomas vs. E.J. Gaines – Thomas has been quiet of late, but still leads the team in targets. For the season, he ranks 15th at the position in fantasy points. Thomas runs 55 percent of his routes from Drew Brees’ left, which means he should face off against Los Angeles’ right corner E.J. Gaines for the far majority of his routes. The Rams are allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to wide receivers lined up to the left. This is due, in a large part, to E.J. Gaines’ deficiencies in coverage. He’s allowing the third-most fantasy points per route in coverage. When targeted, opposing passers are averaging a 122.3 Passer Rating, which ranks ninth-worst. Gaines is our fourth-worst-graded cornerback in coverage this season, and should get bullied by Thomas, who also has a five-inch height advantage over Gaines.
Green Bay wide receivers vs. Philadelphia’s cornerbacks – Philadelphia’s left cornerback (Leodis McKelvin) and safety/slot cornerback (Malcolm Jenkins) are allowing the most and second-most fantasy points per route in coverage of any defensive backs on our chart this week. Jordy Nelson lines up to Aaron Rodgers’ right on roughly 49 percent of his routes, which means he should spend most of his time against McKelvin. The Eagles are allowing the most fantasy points per game of any team to wide receivers who line up to their quarterback’s right. Randall Cobb runs over 75 percent of his routes from the slot, and will draw the matchup against Jenkins.
Jacksonville wide receivers vs. Buffalo’s cornerbacks – Both of Buffalo’s outside cornerbacks have struggled this season. Heading into last week, Ronald Darby was 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. Allen Robinson and Marquise Lee should spend near equal time among both cornerbacks. Allen Hurns in the slot, will draw sixth-round rookie Kevon Seymour, who has only 119 career snaps to his name.
Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Joe Haden (shadow) – Over the past four weeks, Haden is our fourth-worst graded cornerback (of 104 qualifying). Over that span he’s seen 27 targets and has allowed 18 receptions, 212 yards, and one touchdown into his coverage. Haden ranks bottom-25 in both fantasy points per target and fantasy points per snap in coverage this season. Beckham Jr. caught only five passes for 46 yards last week against Chicago, but this came as no surprise to us, as Chicago has been shutting down WR1s all season. Beckham Jr. should rebound nicely this week given the soft matchup.
Brandon LaFell vs. (hopefully) Shareece Wright and Tavon Young – Jimmy Smith sat out Week 10 with a back injury and has not yet practiced this week. Brandon LaFell runs 85 percent of his routes from the outside, with a near even split on both sides. If Smith is out for Week 12, he should spend his day against Shareece Wright and Tavon Young. Wright is the cornerback we’ve streamed against all season to fantastic results. Across his five starts, he’s allowed 40 targets, 28 receptions, 400 yards, and six touchdowns. When opposing passers are targeting him, they average 136.4 Passer Rating, which ranks third-worst. He’s simultaneously allowing the most fantasy points per route in coverage and the third-most fantasy points per target. These are ridiculously bad numbers. Young has played poorly as well, allowing a 71.2 completion percentage (14th-worst) and the 13th most fantasy points per snap. LaFell has a four-inch height advantage on Wright and a six-inch height advantage on Young. With Green out for Week 12, given the favorable matchup, LaFell should lead the team in targets for the second consecutive week.