Pro Football Focus WR vs. CB Breakdown- NFL Week 9

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. If you’re a fan of this article, make sure you’re checking out our WR v. CB Chart and the Shadow Matrix.

Upgrade

Dez Bryant vs. Joe Haden – Before the trade deadline, the Browns pushed hard to move Haden, which makes sense considering how poorly he’s played the past two seasons. Last season, Haden was our 10th worst graded cornerback in coverage of 118 qualifying. Among those 118 qualifying cornerbacks, he allowed the second most fantasy points per snap and the second most fantasy points per target. This season he’s giving up the sixth-most fantasy points per target among all 63 cornerbacks to play at least 300 snaps this season.

This week, we’re projecting Haden, who has also been dealing with a groin injury for most of the season, to shadow Bryant. If Haden does not shadow, that means that Bryant should get Jamar Taylor on nearly half of his routes and about 33 percent of his routes against Haden. No cornerback this season has allowed more fantasy points into his coverage than Taylor. He ranks third-worst in both fantasy points per route in coverage and fantasy points per target. Cleveland, as a team, has allowed the third-most touchdowns and the most plays of 30 or more yards to opposing wide receivers this season.

Coming back from a knee injury last week, Bryant saw 11 targets, and though he only caught four balls, he converted them into 113 yards and a touchdown. With Ezekiel Elliott likely going so highly-owned this weekend, Bryant could make for a strong leverage play in GPPs.

Allen Robinson vs. Kansas City’s Cornerbacks – This season Robinson has run the majority of his routes (44 percent) lined to Blake Bortles’ left. This season, Kansas City is surrendering the most fantasy points per game to wide receivers lined up to their quarterbacks left. This, of course, mostly has to do with Kansas City’s struggling right cornerback Phillip Gaines and his back-up D.J. White.

While Robinson should spend about a third of his time against our 19th highest-graded cornerback in coverage this season, Marcus Peters, he should be able to make up the difference the rest of the time lined to the left and in the slot. Over his past two games, Kansas City’s slot cornerback, Steven Nelson has surrendered has seen 15 targets, allowing 11 receptions for 129 yards and a touchdown. He also has missed the fourth-most tackles this season (6). Nelson grades out ninth-worst in coverage and Gaines grades out 33rd-worst of 120 qualifying corners.

On DraftKings, Robinson’s price has dropped $600 since last week – down to $6,900. On FanDuel, he is only the 21st highest-priced wide receiver. Last week Robinson saw 15 targets against the Titans. Though he only caught six of them, it was his highest target total of the season. If Robinson is dead to you, I completely get it. He has not played well at all this season, and Bortles has played even worse. Still, given the matchup, projected ownership, and volume, I think he’s worth a longer look in tournaments.

Kelvin Benjamin vs. Troy Hill – Benjamin lines up to Cam Newton’s left on just over 50 percent of his routes, meaning, he should spend the majority of his time against the Rams’ starting right cornerback Troy Hill. The Rams are allowing the second-most fantasy points per game to receivers lined up to their quarterback’s left. This is largely due to Hill’s disastrous performance this season. Out of 120 qualifying cornerbacks he grades out second-worst in coverage. When opposing quarterbacks are targeting Hill in coverage they average a QB Rating of 139.6, which ranks fifth-worst among cornerbacks.

Los Angeles’ top-graded cornerback and starting left cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, has missed the past two games with a high-ankle sprain. He’s questionable to play in Week 9. Even if he plays, a cornerback coming off of a high-ankle sprain isn’t really a major concern. If he plays, Benjamin should face him on nearly 30 percent of his routes. If he sits, those routes will be up against his backup E.J. Gaines. Gaines is our 12th worst graded cornerback over the past four weeks. When opposing quarterbacks are targeting Gaines in coverage, they average a 127.2 QB Rating, which ranks 12th-worst.

Benjamin’s main competition for targets looks to be in a tough matchup this week considering the Rams are allowing the 10th fewest fantasy points per game to opposing tight ends. Coming off a two-catch performance last week, Benjamin could go low-owned this weekend despite the strong matchup.

Downgrade

Doug Baldwin vs. Nickell Robey-Coleman – Since Week 4, Baldwin ranks 57th among wide receivers in targets per game and has nine fewer than Jimmy Graham over that span. If a bounceback game is coming, I don’t see it being this week against Buffalo’s slot cornerback Robey-Coleman. Baldwin runs 81 percent of his routes from the slot and should see Robey-Coleman for the far majority of the game.

When opposing passers are targeting Robery-Coleman in coverage, they are averaging a 54.5 QB Rating, which ranks best among all slot cornerbacks and fifth-best among all corners. Robey-Coleman ranks eighth-best in fantasy points allowed per route in coverage. Opposing passers are also going out of their way to avoid Robey-Coleman. He has been targeted on just 12 percent of his routes in coverage, which ranks seventh-fewest. This makes sense considering Buffalo’s outside corners Ronald Darby and Stephon Gillmore are allowing the seventh and ninth-most fantasy points per target. I’ll be steering clear from Baldwin this week.

Michael Crabtree & Amari Cooper vs. Denver Cornerbacks – Derek Carr is just coming off of a game where he just threw for the ninth-most passing yards in a single game all-time. Crabtree and Cooper both rank top-10 in fantasy points per game and targets per game. With that being said, I’m still likely not playing either of them in DFS this week.

This season, Aqib Talib is our No. 1 graded cornerback and Chris Harris Jr. is right behind him at No. 2 – out of 120 qualifying cornerbacks. Bradley Robey has surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points per route in coverage, Talib has surrendered the third-fewest, and Harris Jr. has surrendered the sixth fewest – this is out of 63 qualifying cornerbacks. All three rank top-15 in QB Rating allowed. Passers are averaging a combined 5.4 yards per attempt and a 2 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio against them.

This season, on DraftKings, Denver is holding opposing wide receivers to -21.3 DraftKings fantasy points per game over expectation, which is by far the best of any defense. Last season, in two games, Cooper saw 12 targets against the Broncos, catching just four for 47 yards and no touchdowns. Crabtree saw 14 targets, catching eight for 73 yards and no touchdowns. The one glimpse of hope for Oakland’s passing game is that Talib is dealing with a lower back injury and looks to be a gametime decision. Still, their backups have been fantastic. Both Lorenzo Doss and Kayvon Webster (the only other cornerbacks on the team to play a snap) rank top-10 from a PFF coverage grade per snap basis.

It’s hard to predict exactly how Denver will use their corners if Talib sits, but I won’t be overreacting to the news as some of the other analysts in the industry seem to be. There are better options out there than Crabtree and Cooper this week.

Jalen Ramsey vs. Jeremy Maclin – Ramsey started off the season as Jacksonville’s starting slot corner, but has since been kicked outside. In that span he’s emerged as one of the top young corners in the game. He’s been asked to shadow all of T.Y. Hilton (partially), Alshon Jeffery, and Amari Cooper. He’s also one of the few corners in the game to follow wide receivers when they’ve moved inside. These three wide receivers combined to see just 13 targets, catching six for 84 yards. We’re expecting Ramsey to shadow Maclin this week, including the 44 percent of the routes he runs from the slot.

Maclin ranks 42nd among all wide receivers in fantasy points per game, and has been outscored by Tyreek Hill by seven fantasy points since Week 3. This week the Chiefs will be without starting quarterback Alex Smith. Nick Foles at the helm might mean more downfield targets for Maclin, but once Foles took over last week, Kelce was his preferred target seeing five targets while Maclin was tied with Tyreek Hill with four. I’ll be avoiding Maclin this week in DFS.