Daily fantasy football is a game of matchups. Our weekly projections for offensive players are based not only on skill and role, but also on who they’ll be facing.
Throughout the season, we will 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. Six different defensive backs shadowed in at least four 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 Mike Clay and ProFootballFocus, I looked at the 2015 games in which Patrick Peterson, Darrelle Revis, Delvin Breaux, Richard Sherman, Josh Norman and Vontae Davis shadowed. I then compared the wide receivers’ 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 a receiver:
1. Vontae Davis, Colts: -10.34 points
The Colts only used Vontae Davis as a true shadow four times last year as he struggled with a bunch of injuries (concussion, foot, hamstring). But Vontae was absolutely dominant in the shadow role as he held Sammy Watkins catchless (Week 1), Demaryius Thomas to 5-50-0 (Week 9), Allen Robinson to 1-4-1 (Week 14) and DeAndre Hopkins to 8-94-0 (Week 15). That comes on the heels of a 2014 campaign in which Davis finished as PFF’s No. 3 overall corner in coverage.
Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was fired immediately following last season and replaced by former Ravens linebackers coach Ted Monachino. But with defensive-minded Chuck Pagano still intact as the head coach, we can expect more shadow usage for a healthy Vontae. He’s one of the corners I’m consistently looking to avoid when I make wide receiver selections.
2. Richard Sherman, Seahawks: -7.85 points
The Seahawks often “play sides” with their corners, allowing Richard Sherman to take away one half of the field. But in situations where the opponent boasts an obvious No. 1 receiver and is also weak at the No. 2 spot, Sherman will shadow. He did it five times last year against A.J. Green, Torrey Smith (twice), Dez Bryant and Antonio Brown. Those receivers combined to average just 6.14 PPR points per game against Sherman vs. 13.99 in all other games when not facing Sherman. One place we know we can avoid both Sherman and Vontae is in the slot – Sherman logged just 19 snaps there last year and Vontae got a meager 16.
3. Patrick Peterson, Cardinals: -7.34 points
No one spent more time in true shadow coverage last season than Patrick Peterson, who did it in 11 games. He gave up zero touchdowns in those contests, including keeping Brandin Cooks to 4-49-0, Calvin Johnson 5-67-0, Antonio Brown 3-24-0 (albeit without Ben Roethlisberger) and A.J. Green to 4-79-0. Peterson and slot CB Tyrann Mathieu were two of PFF’s top-5 coverage corners last year, making it extremely difficult for DraftKings players to profitably use receivers against the Cardinals. They finished as the No. 4 DVOA pass defense, only behind Denver, Carolina and Seattle. Expect more of the same dominance from Peterson and Arizona this season.
4. Josh Norman, Redskins: -4.60 points
The Panthers selectively used Norman to shadow receivers, as he only did it in six games. Julio Jones was able to ring up 7-88-0 and 9-178-1 against Norman, and Odell Beckham fared reasonably well with a 6-76-1 (also dropped an easy long touchdown). The Panthers surprisingly decided to rescind Norman’s franchise tag in April, making him an unrestricted free agent. The Redskins swooped in with a $75M deal.
In Washington, Norman will line up opposite Bashaud Breeland for defensive coordinator Joe Barry. We can’t say with certainty that Norman will shadow, but at least using him against intra-division studs Odell Beckham and Dez Bryant makes sense. But that doesn’t mean we have to shy away from receivers likely to be shadowed by Norman – especially if we can get them at low ownership. As shown last year by Julio and Beckham, Norman can spring some leaks.
5. Darrelle Revis, Jets: -2.06 points
At age 31 with an ACL tear on his resume, Darrelle Revis is no longer the dominant game-changer he once was. He ranked 39th in PFF’s coverage grades last year, getting beat up by Allen Robinson (6-121-0 Week 9) and DeAndre Hopkins (5-118-2 Week 11). So while Revis still has the big name and users will be scared off by “Revis Island,” he’s not necessarily a corner I’m actively avoiding. Wide receivers shadowed by Revis only scored 2.06 fewer fantasy points than their season averages last season.
6. Delvin Breaux, Saints: +7.63 points
Delvin Breaux is a very talented 6-foot-1 corner who dominated the CFL before joining the Saints last year. Rob Ryan immediately used him to shadow some No. 1 wideouts, including Julio Jones, T.Y. Hilton and Odell Beckham. If you followed the NFL at all last year, you know Breaux’s skill set wasn’t much help to a defense that allowed more passing TDs (45) than anyone in the history of the NFL. New defensive coordinator Dennis Allen will surely make big schematic changes to this Saints unit and they’ll be improved if Keenan Lewis and Jairus Byrd are healthy. But no one should be too scared of Breaux, as seen by his atrocious +7.63 in shadow coverage.
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.