Daily fantasy football is a game of matchups. Our weekly projections for offensive players are based not only on talent and opportunity, but also on who they’ll be lined up against.
Throughout the season, we look closely at WR vs. CB matchups. It’s often difficult as many teams play zone, partial zones, leave corners on one side, don’t send corners into the slot and rotate defensive backs. That said, there are a fistful of shadow corners around the league which we discuss weekly on the Edge Pod and elsewhere. A total of 11 different defensive backs shadowed in at least five games last year.
That made me wonder exactly how much these shadow corners impact the fantasy lines of wide receivers. So with the help of Jeff Ratcliffe and ProFootballFocus, I looked at the games in which these 11 CBs shadowed. I then compared the wide receiver’s production when shadowed to his average production in all other games to get a +/-.
Here are the results. The lower the number, the more dominant the corner was when asked to shadow. For the top-5 shadow corners from last season, click here.
6. Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars: -2.80 pointsThe Jaguars’ defense didn’t grab headlines in 2018 as the team went 5-11. But when your offense is so anemic and turnover-prone, the margin of error for the defense is slim. The Jags were still 5th in yards per play allowed, 4th in pass yards per attempt allowed and 6th in passer rating allowed. Still, we can’t ignore the fact that Jalen Ramsey had a down year, finishing a mediocre 31st in PFF’s grades. He had majority coverage on Odell Beckham when he went off for 11-111-0 in Week 1, Antonio Brown’s 5-117-1 in Week 11 and DeAndre Hopkins’ 12-147-0 in Week 17 when the Jags had given up.
Ramsey’s best work came against TY Hilton, who he helped hold to 3-77-0 and 8-77-0 in two meetings. With Nick Foles now in town to settle down the quarterback position, there’s at least a chance Ramsey and this defense will be in more favorable game flows. That’s bad news for opposing wideouts. Don’t forget that Ramsey finished first on this list for 2017.
7. Josh Norman, Redskins: -2.75 pointsEven as he turned 31 years old, Josh Norman was at times asked to travel with some of the league’s best wideouts. He matched up with Odell Beckham once (8-136-0), Julio Jones (7-121-1), Mike Evans (3-51-0) and DeAndre Hopkins (5-56-1). As you can see, the results were uneven as Norman’s brash trash-talking often outweighs his on-field performance. Now set to turn 32 years old in December, it’s unclear if the Redskins will even ask Norman to shadow anymore. Either way, it’s not a situation worth avoiding. Norman finished 7th on this list in 2016 and didn’t shadow enough in 2017 to garner consideration.
8. Xavier Rhodes, Vikings: -2.22The 6’1/218 Rhodes is at his best when he can use his size/physicality against bigger wideouts. We saw that this year as he mostly erased Kenny Golladay (6-58-0), Allen Robinson (3-39-0) and Alshon Jeffery (2-39-0). The only time Rhodes got burned up was by the elite speed and quicks of Brandin Cooks, who went off for 7-116-1. Rhodes also appears to have Davante Adams figured out to a certain degree – Adams’ last five games against the Vikings have resulted in 5-69-1, 8-64-1, 5-54-1, 4-44-1 and 3-26-0. Expect Rhodes and Adams to meet again in Week 2 this season.
9. Tre’Davious White, Bills: -0.34The Bills’ rising star barely fared better than average against the wideouts he shadowed on average, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. White did quite well against Davante Adams (8-81-0), Corey Davis (4-49-0), DeAndre Hopkins (5-63-1) and Josh Gordon (4-42-0). His plus/minus doesn’t look great because TY Hilton scored a pair of short touchdowns on his way to a 4-25-2 line in Week 7 and Kenny Golladay got loose for 7-146-0 in Week 15. Regardless, the 24-year-old White is going to benefit greatly from one of the league’s best defenses. They added DT Ed Oliver at No. 9 overall to a unit which ranked third in yards per play allowed last season.
10. Darius Slay, Lions: +1.32Yes, wide receivers shadowed by Darius Slay actually scored more points than their season average. The eruptions were Davante Adams (9-140-1) in Week 5 and Allen Robinson (6-133-2) in Week 12. Slay shadowed nine times and the only receiver he held significantly below season average was Stefon Diggs’ 2-10-1 in Week 16. That’s not to say Slay isn’t a good corner, but the bottom line is he hasn’t been able to impact the Lions’ pass coverage in a big way without help from the front. Detroit was dead last in DVOA against No. 1 wideouts last season.
11. Marshon Lattimore: +3.68It was ugly for Marshon Lattimore right out of the gate as Mike Evans popped off for 7-147-1 in Week 1. He also had majority coverage on Calvin Ridley’s 8-93-1 in Week 12 and Antonio Brown’s slate-breaking 14-185-2 in Week 16. It wasn’t a coincidence that the Saints sunk back to 29th in yards per pass attempt allowed and 26th in completion percentage allowed. Lattimore, massive slot liability PJ Williams and ex-Giant Eli Apple were all fine targets for DFS wideouts. With the Saints not adding much corner help in free agency or the draft, pass defense again projects to be an issue.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is adamlevitan) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.