Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 8

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

Marquise Lee vs. Antwon Blake – I owe Brandon Browner and Antwon Blake a lot of money. Last season, they made me a very profitable DFS player, constantly playing whichever wide receiver was lined up against them. Browner is now out of the league. Blake is now a back-up with Tennessee. With Perrish Cox ruled out for Week 8, Blake draws the start.

Last season, no cornerback in the NFL gave up as many fantasy points as Blake. Out of 118 qualifying cornerbacks, he graded out second-worst, just behind Browner. He led all cornerbacks in missed tackles with 28 – the next closest cornerback “only” had 16. He gave up over 1,000 yards in coverage – no other cornerback hit four digits. He allowed eight touchdowns into his coverage, second most at the position. He was also routinely burnt deep, giving up six plays of 40 or more yards – most in the league. Basically, he was so bad last season, he had to change his name to “Valentino”.

After playing in the slot last season with Hurns outside last year, the Jaguars have Lee and Hurns flipped this season. Hurns likely won’t see much of Blake, but Lee and Allen Robinson will see a near-equal amount if there aren’t any shadows. Last week, Lee led the team in targets (8), receptions (7), and yards (107). Over his last five games he has eight, six, five, seven, and seven targets. There is a chance fellow Titans cornerback Jason McCourty shadows Robinson, in which case, Lee might be cash game chalk at the minimum price on FanDuel and $300 from the minimum on DraftKings. If not, both Robinson and Lee both still get a significant bump.

TY Hilton vs. Steven Nelson – On the outside, Kansas City’s cornerbacks are Marcus Peters and Phillip Gaines. Peters is our No. 6 graded cornerback this season, but he’s also slow and prone to the big play. Last season he gave up 939 yards in coverage (third-most) and gave up five plays of 40 or more yards (tied for third-most). This season he’s given up two such plays (tied for fourth-most). Part of this likely has to do with the underwhelming 4.53 forty yard dash time he recorded in 2015. For perspective, Hilton ran a 4.34 forty yard dash in 2012. Gaines is much faster (4.34 forty) but also nowhere near as strong in coverage, grading out 97th out of 116 qualifying corners. This should account for Hilton’s near 45 percent of routes spent outside. The rest of the time he’ll be in the slot facing off against Kansas City’s slot cornerback Nelson.

Nelson ran a 4.49 forty yard dash at the combine in 2015. Out of 119 qualifying cornerbacks, he ranks 12th-worst by PFF coverage grade. Over the last three weeks (New Orleans, Oakland, Pittsburgh), he’s been targeted 18 times, giving up 15 catches for 186 yards and a touchdown. Hilton, meanwhile, has seen double digit targets in five of his last six weeks. In three of those games he scored a touchdown and went over 100 yards receiving – twice over 150 yards. Given recent usage and the matchup, Donte Moncrief’s possible return doesn’t worry me. Hilton is a very strong play this week.

Jordan Matthews vs. (Hopefully) Anthony Brown – Dallas’ starting slot cornerback, Orlando Scandrick, has not played since Week 2 due to a hamstring injury. Anthony Brown has played the slot in his absence. For the season, no defense has allowed more fantasy points per game to receivers out of the slot than Dallas. A lot of this has been due to Brown’s poor play. Throughout the season, he’s been targeted 29 times (more than any other Dallas cornerback), allowing 25 catches for 249 yards and a touchdown.

Among all cornerbacks to play at least 200 snaps, Brown ranks second-worst in completion percentage (86.7%) and seventh-worst in fantasy points allowed per snap. When thrown at in coverage, opposing quarterbacks are averaging a QB Rating of 124.7, which ranks 11th-worst. The majority of his production allowed (in terms of PPR fantasy points) has gone to the following (not very imposing) receivers: Brandon LaFell, Sterling Shepard, and Jeremy Kerley. In his last game, he was thrown at 12 times (most in the league), and gave up 12 catches for 110 yards.

Matthews, meanwhile, has run 66 percent of his routes and has seen 66 percent of his targets from the slot. Matthews also has a four-inch and 17 pound advantage over Brown. If Scandrick plays, I will pivot. As it stands, Matthews is one of my favorite low-owned GPP plays this week.

Downgrades

Jordy Nelson vs. Desmond Trufant – I wrote up Nelson last week. When my calls go wrong, sometimes it has to do with variance. Sometimes, I just screwed up. Last week, I screwed up. The correct call was Davante Adams, and it made perfect sense in hindsight. Nelson has been too touchdown dependent this season. 34 percent of his fantasy points have come from touchdowns – the highest percentage among wide receivers. He also looks like he’s clearly lost a step since his spectacular 2014 season. Adams, meanwhile, has run the majority of his routes lined up to Aaron Rodgers’ left. In fact, he’s lined up there more often than any other wide receiver in the league save for New England’s Malcolm Mitchell. Chicago, heading into the week, had given up the fourth-most fantasy points per game to opposing left wide receivers.

This was a bad call for sure and I apologize, but with all bad calls there’s always a lesson learned. That lesson this week would be; Nelson is one of the easiest fades of Week 8 up against Atlanta’s shutdown shadow cornerback, Trufant. Trufant is our third highest-graded cornerback this season, after finishing eighth-best last year. Over the last five weeks, he’s faced off against some of the best receivers/passing games in the league (New Orleans, Carolina, Denver, Seattle, and San Diego). During that span he saw 28 targets, allowing only 15 receptions, 181 yards, and one touchdown. Nelson is definitely not in play in DFS, and if you’re playing him in season-long, you’re basically praying for a touchdown.

A.J. Green v. Josh Norman – Last week, Norman shadowed and held Marvin Jones without a target or a reception throughout the first half. Then, in the third quarter, he left with a concussion. He practiced on Wednesday, but is still questionable to play. If Norman is out, Green remains a fantastic play this week. If Norman starts, he will surely shadow Cincinnati’s best receiver.

Norman was our third-best graded cornerback in coverage last season and ranks 15th-best this year. Despite being asked to shadow some of the best wide receivers in the league, he’s allowed over 50 yards into his coverage just three times over the past two seasons. Over that span (including playoffs) he’s holding opposing passers to a 63.9 QB Rating. For perspective, that would be the worst QB Rating in the NFL this season (Colin Kaepernick ranks last this season with a 65.6 QB Rating). Norman is also allowing the eighth-fewest fantasy points per snap among all cornerbacks to play on the majority of their team’s snaps. I’d look to pay up elsewhere this week if Norman suits up. If not, Green moves near must-play territory against Norman’s backups Quinton Dunbar (three career starts) and Greg Toler (eighth-worst graded cornerback last season) and our seventh-worst graded cornerback this season, Brandon Browner.

Kelvin Benjamin v. Patrick Peterson – Peterson is one of the NFL’s rare “freak” athletes, but for whatever reason, is rarely placed in that conversation. He’s 6″0 and 219 pounds. In 2011, he ran a 4.31 forty yard dash and recorded a 38″ vertical jump. Since 2000, among all cornerbacks to participate in the combine, his speed score (or weight-adjusted forty yard dash) ranks first, and above all wide receivers over that span save for Calvin Johnson and Breshad Perriman. Really, his closest physical comparisons are Johnson and Julio Jones.

Since 2012, opposing passers are averaging a 78.1 QB Rating when targeting him, which ranks eighth-best among all cornerbacks to see at least 300 targets over that span. This season, when quarterbacks are targeting Peterson, they average a QB Rating of 56.9, which also ranks eighth-best. Peterson was graded fifth-best among cornerbacks in coverage last season. This season, he’s allowing the second-fewest fantasy points per snap among all cornerbacks to play on the majority of their team’s snaps. The last time Benjamin faced Peterson, he saw four career targets, catching just two for 16 yards. Benjamin is not in play in DFS this week. Like with Nelson, if he does come close to sniffing value it will likely be on a red fluky red zone score.