Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 2

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.

Upgrade

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Ken Crawley, P.J. Williams, De’Vante Harris – In Week 8 of last season, Beckham brutalized Delvin Breaux (our No. 11 graded corner in 2015) to put up 40 PPR points on nine targets. With Breaux ruled out for this week’s game, we can’t help but drool over Beckham’s potential against the flaming pile of garbage he’s left in his absence.

Crawley and Williams are expected to draw the starts on the outside (where Beckham spent 74.2 percent of his time last season) this week. Crawley is an undrafted rookie free agent. PFF College’s grades would suggest Crawley has no business even playing in the NFL, after earning our 13th-worst pass coverage grade among (104 qualifying) corners in his senior season at Colorado. Crawley proved us right, owning our worst overall coverage grade last week.

Williams was New Orleans’ 3rd round draft pick in 2015. Williams tore his hamstring before the start of the 2015 season and never played a single snap. In their first NFL game together, last week, Williams and Crawley combined to allow 10 receptions (on 15 targets) for 163 yards and a touchdown.

For the ~25% of routes Beckham runs from the slot, Beckham will matchup against New Orleans’ slot corner, Harris, who is also an undrafted rookie free agent. Yes, all three starting cornerbacks for the Saints played on zero career NFL snaps prior to Week 1. Only two of which were drafted. Odell Beckham Jr. is going to lose his freaking mind this week. (Can I curse on here? “Freaking” just feels way too tame.)

Larry Fitzgerald v. Vernon Hargreaves III – Welcome to the NFL, rookie! In Hargreave’s second ever start, he draws Fitzgerald who ranks top-15 all-time in receptions and receiving yards. Hargreaves saw eight targets last week and turned that into five receptions for 31 yards. That doesn’t seem terrible on paper, but he graded out as our 13th-worst cornerback via the pass (out of 71 qualifying).

Hargreaves spent the majority of his time covering the slot last week, which means he should see a good deal of time against Fitzgerald, who ran 71 percent of his routes from the slot against the Patriots on Sunday night. Fitzgerald caught eight passes (on nine targets) for 81 yards and two touchdowns, with all of this coming from the slot.  Needless to say, I like Fitzgerald’s chances of having another big game this week.

Mohamed Sanu vs. D.J. Hayden – Last week, Sanu exceeded expectations by turning eight targets (most on the team) for 80 yards and a touchdown. His day could have been even bigger if it weren’t for two dropped passes. Many are ready to chalk this up as being a fluke, but Sanu has everything going for him to prove his doubters wrong for at least one more week.

Last week, 68.4% of Matt Ryan’s throws were directed towards the middle of the field (highest percentage in the league). There’s good reason to suspect that trend carries over this week as Oakland’s defense is weakest over the middle of the field (ineffective slot corner and zero linebackers with a positive grade this week or last season).

Sanu ran 63 percent of his routes from the slot last week, so he should face off against Oakland’s slot corner, Hayden, on the majority of his routes. Hayden was our third-worst graded corner (out of 81 qualifying) via the pass last season. Hayden was picked on more often last season than I was that year in high school I thought JNCO jeans were making a comeback. Only four other cornerbacks allowed more fantasy points to wide receivers last season and only 12 cornerbacks saw a higher percentage of targets directed their way when in coverage. Hayden was targeted four times last week and allowed four receptions for 21 yards and a touchdown. There’s a lot of value at wide receiver this week, but I’ll be sprinkling Sanu into a few of my GPP lineups.

Downgrade

Allen Robinson vs. Jason Verrett – In Week 12 of last season, Verrett shadowed Robinson on 46 of his 57 routes. On those 46 routes, he saw six targets, catching only two for 31 yards. Last year, Verrett graded out as our second-best cornerback in coverage – just behind Tyrann Mathieu. Last week, Verrett shadowed Maclin on the majority of his routes, allowing three receptions for 36 yards (and a touchdown) on five targets. Elite wide receivers can always transcend a difficult matchup, but Robinson makes me especially nervous.

Robinson was easily the most matchup-dependent cornerback I tracked last season. In 2015, Allen Robinson saw 32 targets against our top-20 graded corners in coverage. On those 32 targets, he scored only 21.8 PPR fantasy points. (For reference, that was 23 percent of his total targets and 7 percent of his fantasy production.) Last season, Allen Robinson saw 23 targets against our bottom-25 graded corners in coverage. On those 23 targets, he scored a whopping 71.3 PPR fantasy points. (For reference, that was 16 percent of his total targets and 24 percent of his fantasy production.)

Robinson’s one saving grace in this matchup might come down to his five-inch height advantage over Verrett. Allen Robinson has averaged 1.92 PPR fantasy points per target throughout his career. He has 36 career targets against defensive backs he had at least a four-inch height advantage against. He has averaged 2.90 fantasy points per target on those 56 career targets. This was one of the most significant contrasts among all wide receivers on my chart (dating back nine seasons). Still, at the very least, I don’t see Robinson as being cash game-viable this week.

T.Y. Hilton vs. Chris Harris Jr. – In Week 9 of last season (Andrew Luck played), Harris shadowed Hilton on 26 of Hilton’s 31 routes. Hilton mostly got the better of Harris in this matchup, catching six of his nine targets for 91 yards. Still, Harris is one of the top corners in the league – grading out among our top-six corners in each of the past three seasons. We expect Harris to shadow Hilton again this week.

Harris saw four targets last week, allowing two receptions for 14 yards and a touchdown (he also caught an interception). The lone touchdown he allowed was to Kelvin Benjamin, who had a seven-inch and 46-pound height/weight advantage on Harris. Last season, Harris allowed the ninth-fewest fantasy points per route in coverage and the ninth-fewest fantasy points per snap. I’ll be steering clear of Hilton this week in cash.

Tajae Sharpe vs. Darius Slay – From a season-long perspective, Sharpe’s prospects look fantastic. He played on 97 percent of his teams snaps last week. No other wide receiver on the team played on even 60 percent of the snaps. His 11 targets ranked fifth-best at the position. He’s clearly Tennessee’s WR1, but that only means Detroit will be treating him as such, lining top corner, Slay, up against him in shadow coverage. Slay shadowed in eight of his past 10 games and was our eighth-highest graded corner last season. Slay was also one of our most avoided cornerbacks last season, only being targeted on 12.6 percent of his routes in coverage (seventh-best). I suspect Tennessee will do the same this week, steering clear of Slay and funneling targets elsewhere. As strong as Sharpe looks on a point per dollar basis, based on matchups, I’d be more inclined to look at Will Fuller or Jeremy Kerley at near identical price ranges.