Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 7

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.

Upgrades

Brandon Marshall vs. Baltimore Ravens Outside Cornerbacks – Ryan Fitzpatrick has been disastrous this season. His QB Rating, completion percentage, and PFF-grade all rank dead last in the NFL (yes, worse than Blaine Gabbert and Brock Osweiler). As bad as I think Geno Smith is, it’s hard to be worse than the 2016 version of Fitzpatrick. In spite of Fitzpatrick’s poor performance, Marshall ranks second in targets and eighth in PPR fantasy points over the last three weeks. What makes this even more impressive is the brutal cornerbacks he’s had to face. Over the last three weeks, he’s been shadowed by Richard Sherman, Ross Cockrell, and Patrick Peterson. Last season, Peterson was our No. 5-graded cornerback, Sherman was No. 6., and Cockrell was No. 13.

In Week 4, against Marshall, Sherman gave up the most fantasy points he’s ever given up to a single receiver since being named a starter in 2011. In Week 5, Cockrell gave up 22.6 fantasy points to Marshall on 11 targets. Across his other five games, Cockrell has given up just 29.4 fantasy points on 26 targets. In Week 6, Marshall saw four targets for 59 yards against Peterson, who, in his prior five games, had only allowed 85 yards on 19 targets to opposing wide receivers. At this point, it’s safe to say Marshall is fairly matchup-proof. However, it likely won’t matter this week up against a disastrous Baltimore secondary.

Baltimore’s top cornerback Jimmy Smith exited Week 6 with a concussion and may miss Week 7. If Smith sits out this week, Marshall will likely spend the majority of his time outside (he runs over 80 percent of his routes outside) against Shareece Wright and Tavon Young. The rookie Young was thrown at 11 times last week, giving up 123 yards and two touchdowns.

Wright meanwhile, has since been demoted from being a starter, but will likely draw the start if Smith sits. Only one other cornerback has allowed more fantasy points into his coverage than Wright this season. He’s giving up the second most fantasy points per snap and the sixth-most fantasy points per target. When targeted, he’s allowing a 132.7 QB Rating, which ranks fifth-worst. On 33 targets, he has zero passes defensed; no other cornerback has seen as many targets and has as few passes defensed. He’s arguably this season’s Brandon Browner.

Even if Smith plays, I suspect this will be a favorable matchup. Smith has given up the 15th most fantasy points this season and his QB Rating against ranks 19th-worst. I also think Marshall will continue to be heavily targeted, even in Fitzpatrick’s absence. In 2015, Geno Smith threw the ball a total of 42 times. Marshall was the intended target on over 40 percent of those passes. For perspective, he was targeted on 25.1 percent of his passes with Fitzpatrick this season. Marshall is one of my favorite GPP plays this week, despite how gross it may feel with Smith at the helm.

Odell Beckham Jr. vs. E.J. Gaines and Troy Hill – Last week, Beckham Jr. exploded for 42 fantasy points against the aforementioned abysmal Baltimore secondary. This week, he gets a Rams secondary that just gave up 31 fantasy points to Golden Tate (more than he had in total heading up to the week), 20 fantasy points to Anquan Boldin, and a combined 18 fantasy points to Marvin Jones and Andre Roberts. Like with the other two matchups, this one hinges on an injury. The Rams were without their highest graded cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, last week, and he hasn’t practiced so far this week. Beckham Jr. has only run 10.7 percent of his routes this season, so he should face off against E.J. Gaines and Troy Hill on the far majority of his routes if Johnson does not play.

Last season, Beckham Jr.’s top-five highest-scoring plays totaled 71 (PPR) fantasy points. This made up a much greater percentage of his fantasy production than any other WR1. Beckham Jr. is more boom-bust than most elite wide receivers, as evident by longs of 75, 66, 45, and 43 this season. Still, I like Beckham Jr.’s chances of being more boom that bust this week. Hill has routinely been burned deep this season – giving up a reception of 30 or more yards on 14 percent of his targets (third-most). Hill has also recorded the 13th-most missed tackles per snap of any cornerback.

Among all 102 cornerbacks to play at least 150 snaps, Hill is surrendering the highest QB Rating to opposing quarterbacks, while Gaines ranks fifth-worst in the same category. Both rank bottom-three in fantasy points per snap in coverage and bottom-eight in fantasy points per target. They are also two of only 13 cornerbacks to be targeted on over 20 percent of their snaps in coverage.

The Giants have done a good job of moving Beckham around outside to exploit matchups this season. Heading into last week, the Ravens had given up the second-most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers who line up to their quarterback’s right. Heading into the week, Beckham Jr. lined up to the left on the majority of his routes. Yet, last week, he lined up to the right on 70.3% of his routes. Hill is PFF’s overall worst-graded cornerback in coverage, so I suspect Ben McAdoo lines Beckham Jr. up against him for most of the game. Still, either cornerback would be a gross mismatch in Beckham Jr.’s favor.

He’ll likely be highly owned after last week’s big game, but still, Beckham Jr.’s ceiling is higher than possibly anyone else’s this week.
Jordy Nelson vs. Tracy Porter – Nelson has 17 touchdowns over his last 18 games. This season, he ranks 10th in fantasy points per game. Porter has shadowed in four of six games this season, and we expect he shadows again this week. This would be quite the favorable matchup for Nelson, considering Porter is our 23rd-worst-graded corner (out of 112 qualifying), and has given up the fifth-most fantasy points of any cornerback this season.

Nelson also has a four-inch and 17-pound advantage over Porter. Throughout his career, Nelson has averaged 2.25 fantasy points per target. He has 115 career targets against defensive backs he had at least a 4-inch height advantage on. He has averaged 2.46 fantasy points per target on those 115 career targets. This was one of the most significant differentials among every wide receiver I tracked.

Downgrade

Jarvis Landry vs. Nickell Robey-Coleman – Landry runs 76.2 percent of his routes and has seen 82.7 percent of his targets from the slot. This week, he gets set to face Buffalo’s starting slot cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Yes, the Bills have a nickelback named Nickell, and last season, he was as bad as the band Nickelback. In 2015, Robey-Coleman graded out 20th-worst of 118 qualifying corners. This season, however, he’s a completely different nickelback, grading out fifth-best of 112 qualifying cornerbacks.

Through six games, he’s seen 22 targets, allowing only nine catches for 110 yards and zero touchdowns (also two interceptions). When opposing quarterbacks are targeting him, they average a QB Rating of 19.1, which ranks best in the league. He’s allowing the third-fewest fantasy points per snap and the second-fewest fantasy points per target. DeVante Parker, who typically lines up to Tannehill’s right, has the better matchup against Ronald Darby who has stuck to that side of the field on 98 percent of his routes in coverage. Darby is giving up the 14th-most fantasy points per snap in coverage. The volume will likely still be there for Landry, but he’s someone I’ll be avoiding this week.

Houston Wide Receivers vs. Denver Broncos Cornerbacks – The Denver Broncos are allowing the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers after allowing the second-fewest last season. Chris Harris Jr. is our top-graded cornerback this season, after grading out seventh, first, 11th, fourth, and 19th since his rookie season. Aqib Talib is currently our No. 4-graded cornerback after grading out 35th and 25th in the two prior seasons. Talib and Harris Jr. both rank top-10 in fantasy points per snap, top-20 in opponents’ QB Rating, and top-25 in fantasy points per target. Roby isn’t graded nearly as favorably, but it doesn’t really matter – he still ranks 15th in fantasy points per target. The Broncos have had top-five-graded pass rush and pass coverage units in each of the last three seasons. Don’t play wide receivers against Denver. You should know this by now.

Marvin Jones/Golden Tate vs. Josh Norman – After Tate’s big game last week, it’s not a lock that Norman shadows Jones in Week 7. I think it is the most likely outcome, but it’s not a lock. If Norman doesn’t shadow, he’ll likely see Tate on the majority of his routes. Tate hit a career high in receiving yards and more than doubled his year-to-date fantasy production in Week 6. Jones, meanwhile, after ranking as fantasy’s highest-scoring wide receiver through three weeks, has seen his targets decline from 29 to 17 and his fantasy production dip by more than 50 percent. Norman is our ninth-highest-graded corner after finishing third-best last season. He ranks sixth in fantasy points per snap in coverage and is our third most-avoided corner, being thrown at on just 11.6 percent of his routes in coverage. Opposite Norman, Breshaud Breeland is allowing the ninth most fantasy points per snap, and is the far more attractive matchup. Still, like Odell Beckham Jr., Norman has me #shook. I’m avoiding both until there’s more clarity at the situation.