Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 5

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.

Downgrade

Demaryius Thomas vs. Desmond Trufant – At the very least, for fantasy purposes, Thomas is not Denver’s WR1. That distinction should belong to Emmanuel Sanders, who has out-targeted Thomas in each of their last seven games. Over their last 10 games (including playoffs), here’s how the two wide receivers stack up:

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Still, opposing defenses are treating Thomas as Denver’s WR1. This is likely why PFF is projecting Atlanta’s top corner, Trufant, to shadow Thomas in Week 5. Since Week 15 of last season, Trufant has shadowed the opposing team’s top wide receiver in all but one game. Trufant has shadowed all of Amari Cooper, Brandin Cooks, and Kelvin Benjamin on the majority of their routes this season. These three wide receivers would combine for seven receptions (on 17 targets) for just 90 yards and touchdown against Trufant’s coverage. Needless to say, this is well below what we should typically expect from such talented young receivers. Trufant was our eighth highest-graded cornerback last season. This year, opposing wide receivers are converting only 42.9 percent of their targets into catches against Trufant, which ranks fourth-best among corners.

Meanwhile, the far more effective Denver receiver, Sanders, has a much easier matchup in shadow coverage against Robert Alford. Alford currently grades out No. 141 out of 154 qualifying cornerbacks, and has given up both the fifth-most yards and fantasy points to opposing wide receivers this season. Needless to say, for multiple reasons, Thomas is not in play this week – and I’d urge you instead, to look at the more-affordable Sanders in an easier matchup.

Will Fuller vs. Xavier Rhodes – Based on his salary, Fuller looks like an incredible play this week. Through four weeks, he has more targets, receptions, yards, and fantasy points than his pricier teammate, DeAndre Hopkins. Not only is Fuller seeing plenty of targets each week, but at a 17.5 average depth of target (aDOT), they are also high-quality targets. He ranks first in the league in deep targets, second in in target yards (aDOT multiplied by targets), 15th in fantasy points, and 17th in targets. In spite of this, he’s still just the 27th most-expensive wide receiver on DraftKings. All of this being said, I’m not playing him this week.

Fuller, who typically lines up to Brock Osweiler’s right, is expected to draw Minnesota’s starting left corner, Rhodes, on the majority of his routes. Rhodes sat out the first two weeks of the season with an injury, but has been outstanding since returning. As PFF’s Nate Jehnke already tweeted, when Xavier Rhodes has been targeted this season, he’s allowed an NFL passer rating of 0.0. Receivers have seen 10 targets against him, catching only three for 23 yards, with zero touchdowns, one interception, and one pass defensed. Seven of those targets came against Odell Beckham Jr. Rhodes hasn’t allowed more than 50 yards into his coverage since Week 6 of last season. As much as I love Fuller’s value, I will not be adding him to my cash lineups this week.

Alshon Jeffery vs. Vontae Davis – We’re expecting the Colts’ top cornerback, Davis to shadow Jeffery this week.

The good news: 1) Kevin White will not be playing in Week 5. Last season, without White on the field, Jeffery ranked top-10 in targets per game, red zone targets per game, and deep targets (balls travelling 20 or more yards through the air) per game. He was one of only three wide receivers (the other two being Antonio Brown and DeAndre Hopkins) to accomplish this feat. He ranked third among wide receivers in fantasy points per route run, and by my estimation, he actually had the single-most valuable role for fantasy purposes. 2) Despite the fact that Davis has been a top-20 graded corner in coverage in each of the last three seasons – reaching as high as No. 2 overall in 2014, he hasn’t been nearly as effective in his two starts thus far. His -2.1 PFF grade in Week 3 was his second-lowest PFF grade in any game since Week 1 of 2013. 3) Jeffery has three career targets against Davis, catching all three for 80 yards and a touchdown.

The bad news: 1) Based on where many us drafted Jeffery in our seasonal leagues, he’s been a major disappointment. Though he’s been highly efficient, his usage is a concern. He ranks fourth in yards per target among all 62 wide receivers with at least 20 targets, but ranks 40th in total targets (25) – or nine fewer than White. The usage is concerning, and likely related to the fact that he’s playing hurt. Bears beat writer for the Chicago Tribune, Brad Biggs, confirmed as much earlier this week. 2) Though Davis’ seasonal grade thus far is unimpressive, he still ranks 18th-best in fantasy points per target allowed. Despite the positives, given injury concerns and recent usage, Jeffery is a DFS fade for me in cash.

Upgrade

T.Y. Hilton vs. Tracy Porter – With Kyle Fuller, Chicago’s only positive graded cornerback in 2015, on IR, it appears the Bears have no choice but to shadow Hilton with Porter – or at least that’s how PFF sees it. Hilton has multiple advantages over the 30-year-old Porter in this matchup.

Hilton has run 57.7 percent of his routes from this slot this season, while Porter has covered the slot on just 3.7 percent of his routes. Porter’s lack of experience there should give Hilton a significant advantage if Porter were to shadow him on inside routes. Even if Porter only sticks to Hilton on the outside, Hilton is still a serious mismatch for the Bears’ starting slot corner, Cre’von LeBlanc. The undrafted rookie played poorly, grading out ninth-worst of 94 qualifying corners.

Hilton should still be at an advantage on his outside routes against Porter as well. Porter currently grades out 91st in pass coverage of 114 qualifying corners, after giving up the 15th most fantasy points per target last season (out of 88). Hilton, meanwhile, currently ranks sixth in targets, 10th in fantasy points, and is our No. 10-graded wide receiver via the pass. Hilton makes for a fantastic GPP play this week.

Giants Wide Receivers vs. Green Bay Cornerbacks – When looking at quarterbacks and receivers in DFS, we like targeting defenses that are both weak against the pass and strong against the run. This often forces teams to abandon the run and attack via the pass where the opposition is weakest. Defenses such as these are commonly referred to as “funnel defenses” — and it doesn’t get much more funnelly (not a word, I know) than in Green Bay.

Without top corner, Sam Shields, Green Bay is allowing the second-most passing yards per game (330.0) and the fewest rushing yards per game (42.3). They are allowing only 2.0 yards per attempt to opposing running backs – the next-closest defense allows 3.3 yards per carry. They are allowing the third-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. As of Wednesday, Shields is still not practicing.

After Monday night’s debacle against Minnesota, the entire Giants passing game will likely go underowned despite the attractive matchup. This feels like the perfect get-right game for both Eli Manning and Odell Beckham Jr. I can see Manning peppering Beckham Jr. to his heart’s delight trying to make football fun again for his favorite target. Beckham Jr. is easily one of my favorite wide receiver plays of the week.

However, perhaps even more so, as a sneaky GPP-play no one is talking about, is Victor Cruz. This season, 57 percent of Green Bay’s receiving points allowed to opposing wide receivers have gone to the opposing team’s right wide receiver (most by 10 percent). They’ve allowed 25.5 fantasy points per game to the opposing team’s right wide receiver (most by 7.9 fantasy points per game). (The next-closest team will be covered in the following matchup.) This is because Damarious Randall, Green Bay’s starting left corner, typically covers the opposing team’s right wide receiver. Randall is our No. 97-graded cornerback out of 114 qualifying. Randall ranks bottom-10 in both fantasy points allowed per target and fantasy points allowed per route in coverage. This is good news for both Cruz, who runs 58 percent of his routes lined to Manning’s right, and Beckham Jr., who runs 34 percent of his routes from Manning’s right.

Green Bay’s slot corner, Ladarius Gunter, however, has been the team’s best cornerback (in Shields’ absence) by far – allowing only nine receptions for 101 yards and no touchdowns through three games. He grades out No. 22 among 114 qualifying corners in coverage. Considering Sterling Shepard runs 93 percent of his routes from the slot, I’m much more excited about the Giants’ two outside wide receivers this week.

DeSean Jackson vs. Shareece Wright – As alluded to in the previous matchup, the Ravens have struggled against their opposing teams’ right wide receivers. Baltimore hasn’t shadowed since Week 1, and PFF is projecting both corners stick to their sides in this contest. This means that Jackson (Washington’s starting right wide receiver) should run the majority of his routes against Baltimore’s starting left corner, Wright. Wright is currently giving up the second-most fantasy points to opposing wide receivers, and is allowing the third-most fantasy points per route in coverage. Over the last three weeks, Wright has given up 16 receptions, 205 yards, and 5 touchdowns to opposing wide receivers.

Wright has no doubt been bad this season, but even looking back prior to 2016, there’s reason to be excited about Jackson’s prospects. In their only previous meeting, Jackson recorded five receptions (on nine targets) for 119 yards and a touchdown against Wright in  coverage. Prior to 2016, this was the second-most fantasy points Wright ever allowed to an opposing wide receiver in a single game. I can think of one good reason why Jackson may have presented such a mismatch for Wright. Granted, it was a while since either of their combines, but Jackson’s 4.35 forty yard dash was a good step better than what the 29-year-old Wright ran (4.46) six years ago. Hopefully you listened to me last week when I recommended playing Crabtree against Wright, and hopefully it pays off again this week with Jackson.