Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 3
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.
Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Josh Norman – Without a doubt, this is the most exciting matchup of the week. Through two weeks, Breshaud Breeland saw a combined 14 targets and allowed a combined 39.8 PPR fantasy points to Antonio Brown and Dez Bryant. Those same two receivers saw a combined four targets against Norman, and Norman held them both catchless. It only makes sense then, that Washington will now shadow New York’s best wideout with their best cornerback. Per ESPN, that’s exactly what is going to happen on Sunday; “Norman will go ‘anywhere Odell goes … except for slot,’ the source said.”
Potentially in an effort to avoid Norman, Beckham ran 29.8 percent of his routes from the slot against Carolina last season (over his 25.4 percent average). With Victor Cruz now outside (former slot receiver) and rookie Sterling Shepherd in the slot, Beckham has run only 6.8 percent of his routes from the slot this season. It’s a good bet that Beckham faces off against Norman on the far majority of his routes this week.
Here’s what happened the last time these two faced off:
It’s hard to say who got the better of whom here, but it’s clear (and especially so to anyone who watched the game) Norman got the better of Beckham mentally. Excluding Week 15, Beckham had the second-best drop rate in the league, dropping just two of 90 targets. Beckham’s two drops against Norman were especially maddening for fantasy owners, as one came on a 39-yard bomb just 13 yards shy of the end zone.
If we take out Week 15 for Norman (who struggled too in this matchup), he would have been our highest-graded cornerback in coverage for the season. In 2016, through two games, he’s easily been our highest-graded corner yet again. He’s the only cornerback this season to have more passes defensed (four) than receptions allowed. On eight targets he’s allowed just three receptions for 40 yards.
Beckham is the kind of wide receiver who can transcend any matchup, and perhaps especially one where he might feel like he has something to prove, but I’ll mostly be avoiding him this week unless his projected ownership dips well below what should be expected.
Sammy Watkins vs. Patrick Peterson – To put it gently, Watkins has struggled through these first two games while dealing with a painful foot injury. To date, he’s caught just six of 10 targets for 63 yards. Whether in part due to injury or not, Watkins will likely struggle in this week’s contest as well. Peterson shadowed a wide receiver in 12 of his 16 games last season (only Malcolm Butler shadowed in more games), and we expect him to shadow again this week.
In Week 1 against the Patriots, Peterson saw three targets and allowed only two catches for 13 yards. In Week 2, Mike Evans was covered primarily by Peterson. Evans saw a whopping 17 targets last week, catching just six for 70 yards and a touchdown (Peterson also recorded an interception in this contest). How abysmal was that performance? Since 1992 (when targets began being tracked as a stat), there have been 286 instances of a wide receiver seeing at least 17 targets in a game. Mike Evans‘ 70 yards on Sunday, ranks 13th-fewest.
Peterson is currently our sixth highest-graded corner in coverage after ranking fifth-best last season. Last season he ranked first in fantasy points allowed per snap and second in fantasy points allowed per target. Watkins is not in play for me this week despite his reduced price and likely low ownership percentage.
Torrey Smith vs. Richard Sherman – Smith disappointed fantasy owners all last season, finishing among the top-36 highest scoring wide receivers in only three weeks. He began to worry fantasy owners who drafted him early, going catchless this preseason despite seeing 50 snaps. He disappointed fantasy owners in Week 1, catching just two passes for 13 yards. In Week 2, he rewarded some exceptionally patient fantasy owners with a 3-55-1 line and a team-high nine targets. In Week 3, he’s bound to disappoint us yet again.
Smith is expected to be shadowed by Sherman, who shadowed Smith on 54 of his 64 routes across two games last season. In those two contests, Smith saw only four targets (three against Sherman), catching just one for 16 yards. It makes sense San Francisco would shy away from Sherman yet again. Sherman has ranked as one of our 10 highest-graded cornerbacks in coverage every year since he’s been in the league. On 67 routes in coverage so far, Sherman has allowed just two receptions for 10 yards on five targets. Smith is not in play this weekend.
Tajae Sharpe vs. Sean Smith – No cornerback has allowed more fantasy points to opposing wide receivers than Smith. You could even say, the highest scoring fantasy wide receiver in 2016 is whoever Smith was in coverage against.
Granted, Smith has had tough matchups against the Saints and Falcons, but even with that in consideration, he’s been awful. Out of all 135 cornerbacks to play a single snap, Smith grades out 128th in coverage. He’s allowed over 13 PPR fantasy points more than out next closest-corner (Breshaud Breeland). On just 13 targets, he’s allowed 10 receptions for 252 yards and three touchdowns. When opposing quarterbacks have targeted a receiver in Smith’s coverage, they have averaged a near-perfect QB Rating of 157.9.
Smith has played on the right side of the field on over 90 percent of his routes in coverage both this season and last. This means Sharpe (Tennessee’s starting left wide receiver) should see Smith on the majority of his snaps. Sharpe burst onto the scene in Week 1, catching seven of 11 targets for 76 yards. In Week 2, against Darius Slay’s Titans, he struggled (as we predicted) catching just four of seven targets for 33 yards. Sharpe has played 55 more snaps than the next closest Titans’ receiver, and is clearly the team’s WR1. Given his price and the attractive matchup, I like his chances of exceeding value this week.
Jeremy Maclin vs. Darrelle Revis – I wrote up why we should downgrade A.J. Green in Week 1 versus Revis. I was wrong. By all measures, Revis looks cooked. In Week 1, Green caught 12 of 13 targets for 216 yards and a touchdown. Last Thursday night, everyone saw the 84-yard touchdown Goodwin caught against Revis in Week 2. It was only the second game of his career that Goodwin exceeded that number in total yards.
Darelle Revis has now allowed over 85 yards into his coverage in each of his last three games. Prior to that, he allowed over 85 yards into his coverage just five times in 124 career regular season games. For the 2016 season, Revis is our third-worst graded corner in coverage after finishing 20th-worst (out of 105 qualifying) over the second half of last season.
Maclin would have been a guy I was targeting even regardless of matchup. He currently ranks second among receivers in targets (21) and just got done with a brutal cornerback schedule. 61.9 percent of those 21 targets have come against two of our top-five graded corners in 2015 (Jason Verrett and Johnathan Joseph). It’s not a lock Revis shadows, but Maclin (who moves around the line of scrimmage a ton), should see plenty of Revis even if that’s not the case.
Julio Jones vs. Sterling Moore, Ken Crawley, DeVante Harris, & P.J. Williams – At his price, Odell Beckham Jr. was mostly a disappointment for DFS players, but we’re going back to the well this week. New Orleans had four cornerbacks see the field last week. One was Moore, who was cut by Buffalo earlier this month. The other three had never recorded a single snap prior to this season, and two of which are undrafted rookies.
Jones has been dealing with an ankle injury, but has been fantastic from an efficiency standpoint. Jones currently ranks second in fantasy points per target among all 63 wide receivers to see at least 10 targets. In 2015, Jones’ 203 targets ranks fifth-most all time since the stat came into existence (1992). This season, he ranks a lowly 49th among wide receivers in targets (12). The un-Julio-like usage might be somewhat concerning, but no wide receiver has more upside this week.