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 true shadow corners around the league which we discuss weekly on the Edge Pod and elsewhere. Nine 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 nine CBs shadowed. I then compared the wide receiver’s production when shadowed to his average production in all other games to get a +/-. Note that in three cases (Patrick Peterson, Richard Sherman and Josh Norman), we had two straight seasons with at least five games shadowing. In those cases, I used the larger sample size of both seasons.
Last week, I looked at the five most effective shadow corners. Click here to read that first. Below, I look at the bottom four. Remember, the lower the number, the more dominant the corner was when asked to shadow.
6. Xavier Rhodes, Vikings: -2.55 points
Rhodes’ shadow duties were expanded last season as he was asked to follow the opponent’s No. 1 receiver six times. The results were solid, particularly when he held Odell Beckham to 3-23-0 in Week 4 and Allen Robinson to 1-17-0 in Week 14. However, Rhodes did get hit for 4-63-1 by Alshon Jeffery and 4-84-1 by Dez Bryant – two matchups his size/strength combo should have helped him win. The ugliness came in Week 16 when Rhodes didn’t shadow Jordy Nelson even though the coaches told him to, instead playing sides with Terence Newman. Jordy went off for 9-154-2.
7. Josh Norman, Redskins: -2.40 points
Norman’s +/- here covers two seasons – 2015 when he was with the Panthers and 2016 while with the Redskins. Norman was often misused by Washington as it trusted Bashaud Breeland too much. In Week 1 Antonio Brown dog-walked Breeland for 8-126-2 while Norman inexplicably watched from the other side. In Week 2 Dez Bryant was going off on Breeland before Norman got things under control late, but Dez still finished with 7-102-0. The Redskins did a little more shadowing with Norman after that as media/fan pressure reached peak levels, but the results weren’t great. Odell Beckham got 7-121-0 with Norman in majority coverage in Week 3, Terrelle Pryor netted 5-46-1 in Week 4 and A.J. Green hit him for 9-121-0 in Week 8. At this point, the Redskins’ scheme and talent deficiencies on defense are more important than Norman’s natural abilities. We can’t shy away from using No. 1 WRs against them.
8. Richard Sherman, Seahawks: -1.15 points
Sherman’s +/- covers both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. The Seahawks’ scheme often calls for their corners to simply play sides, but they’ve made exceptions against certain wide receivers. Last year, that meant Sherman taking on majority coverage against Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Mike Evans and Kenny Britt. And things didn’t go well for the 29-year-old Sherman as Marshall netted 4-89-1, Julio 7-139-1, Evans 8-104-2 and Britt 4-50-0. That led to a major opportunity for sharp owners willing to pray on the Seattle’s previously daunting pass defense.
Overall, the WRs priced at least $6,500 on DraftKings scored 5.45 more points than salary-based expectation last season when facing the Seahawks. Most importantly, it came at predictably low ownership as Marshall was 1.1 percent owned in the Milly Maker, Julio 1.1 percent and Evans 4.9 percent. Leveraging Sherman’s perception vs. reality is something worth exploring this season.
9. Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars: -1.08 points
Ramsey’s +/- appears very underwhelming, but let’s take a step back. First, he was a 22-year-old rookie being asked to take on the best receivers in football. Second, he finished as PFF’s No. 19 overall CB among 119 qualifiers. And third, Ramsey didn’t allow any 100-yard games when he had majority coverage on a WR (five times), including a 4-29-0 domination of Amari Cooper in Week 7. Overall, trying to pick on the Jags defense this year will likely be a mistake. They ranked fourth in yards per play allowed last year and added Calais Campbell (first in PFF grades among DEs), CB A.J. Bouye (ninth) and SS Barry Church (10th). The combination of Bouye and Ramsey has the potential to challenge the Chargers for the NFL’s best CB duo.
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.