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 fading and three wide receivers we should be buying into for this week’s daily fantasy slate.
Antonio Brown vs. Jimmy Smith
Brown is our No. 1-graded wide receiver this season. Last week, he dropped a ridiculous 12 receptions, 137 yards, and two touchdowns on our No. 8-graded corner, Chris Harris Jr. Prior to the game, Harris Jr had not allowed a touchdown or more than 75 yards to his in coverage in any of his last 36 games. If Brown put up that kind of performance against one of the best corners in the league, imagine what he’ll do this week against Baltimore’s Smith, who ranks as our No. 91 corner in coverage (out of 116 qualifying).
Brown typically runs 48 percent of his routes lined to Ben Roethlisberger’s left, while, Smith covers that side of the field on 87 percent of his routes in coverage. Smith left Week 15 early with a thigh injury and is questionable to play in Sunday’s game. If he does not play, Jumal Rolle, a second-year player who has never started a game, will fill in as his replacement. Brown also lines up to Roethlisberger’s right on over a third of his routes, which means a decent amount of time spent against Baltimore left corner, Shareece Wright, as well. Wright, like Smith, has played poorly this season, grading out as our No. 66 corner in coverage. Regardless of which corner Brown specifically lines up against, it will be a gross mismatch in his favor. Brown is set up for a monster day and makes for a top DFS play this week despite price or ownership.
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Perrish Cox
Hopkins is fantasy’s No. 4 receiver and ranks second in the league in targets. This week, he’s expected to run the majority of his routes against the Titans’ Cox. Hopkins lines up to his quarterback’s left of 45 percent of his routes, while Cox covers that side of the field on 85 percent of his routes in coverage. While Hopkins ranks as our No. 5-graded receiver, Cox ranks 76th out of 116 qualifying corners. When targeting Cox in coverage, opposing passers are averaging a QB Rating of 124.8, which ranks 12th-worst among all corners. He’s allowed five touchdowns to his coverage in the past four games. On the other 39 percent of routes Hopkins lines up on the perimeter, he should expect to see B.W. Webb, who is serving as Blidi Wreh-Wilson’s replacement and has just one career start to his name. Hopkins makes for a great GPP play and is worth consideration as a cash play if you can afford the price.
Jarvis Landry vs. Darius Butler
Despite dealing with a knee injury over the past four weeks, Landry ranks second in targets (47) and 12th in fantasy points over that same span. While he missed practice on Thursday, he’s expected to play this Sunday in a terrific spot against the Colts. Indianapolis’ top corner, Vontae Davis, rarely plays the slot. This season he has only covered the slot receiver on three percent of his routes in coverage. Rather, Landry will most likely square off against the Colts’ primary slot corner, Butler.
Landry runs 74 percent of his routes from the slot, while Butler has covered the opposing team’s slot receiver on 87 percent of his routes in coverage. Landry is our No. 11-graded wide receiver, while Butler ranks 91st (tied with Jimmy Smith) among 116 corners in coverage. This season, Butler has given up the fourth most fantasy points per target and the eighth most fantasy points per snap. When opposing quarterbacks are targeting Butler in coverage, they average a QB Rating of 117.5, which ranks 21st-worst among corners. While the knee injury might be too much of a concern to use him in cash, his matchup and recent volume make him a strong play in GPPs.
Julio Jones vs. Josh Norman
Coming off of his best fantasy performance since Week 8, Jones now ranks first among receivers in targets and second in points. Still, he’s better off avoided in cash this week, up against Norman in shadow coverage. While Norman is coming off of his worst game of the season, he still ranks as our No. 1 corner in coverage. Norman has shadowed the following receivers this season: DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, Vincent Jackson, Dez Bryant, Brandin Cooks, Julio Jones, and Odell Beckham Jr. Despite the big names on the list, no receiver has amassed more than 33 yards against Norman in coverage. Odell Beckham Jr., last week, was the first receiver to score on Norman since Week 1.
In 14 games thus far, he has been targeted 84 times and has allowed only 42 receptions, 357 yards, and two touchdowns to opposing receivers, while intercepting four passes. He has not allowed more than 49 yards in any game this season. This is all the more remarkable when you realize he’s also sixth among corners in snaps. Opposing quarterbacks average a QB Rating of just 49.6 when targeting Norman, which leads all corners. He’s allowing just 50 percent of targets in his coverage to go for receptions, which ranks sixth-best among corners. He’s also giving up the fewest fantasy points per target to opposing receivers.
Last season, Norman shadowed and shut down Jones twice, holding him below 60 receiving yards and without a touchdown in both games. Norman shadowed Jones just two weeks ago, holding him to just four catches for 33 yards (on six targets). What was most interesting about Week 14’s matchup was that Jones was only in the slot on 9.1 percent of his snaps (he averages 28 percent of his routes from the slot). Norman almost never moves to the slot, so you would think the Falcons would have had Jones move there more often for the more favorable matchup. Last week, Beckham ran 33 percent of his routes from the slot after entering the game with an average of just 24 percent of his routes run from the slot. It’s unclear whether or not Kyle Shanahan plans to follow the Giants’ lead. Jones may still be in play in GPPs, but he should be faded in cash.
Dorial Green-Beckham vs. Johnathan Joseph
The good news is, Green-Beckham is coming off of his second 100-yard performance of the past three weeks. The bad news is, his starting quarterback is out for the rest of the season, Kendall Wright is expected to make his return this week, and he’s in for a brutal matchup this week against the Texans. We expect Houston’s top corner, Joseph, to shadow Green-Beckham in this contest, rather than waste any snaps covering Harry Douglas. Joseph has shadowed Jeremy Maclin, Julio Jones, Sammy Watkins, and T.Y. Hilton this season. Joseph has been terrific despite the difficult matchups, ranking as our No. 4-graded corner in coverage. He’s holding opposing quarterbacks to a QB Rating of just 77.6, which ranks 20th-best among corners. He’s allowed the 10th-fewest fantasy points to opposing wide receivers on a per target basis. Green-Beckham should be faded in cash and, dependent upon ownership, likely in GPPs as well.
Torrey Smith vs. Darius Slay
It is unlikely Smith was high on your DFS radar this week, but just in case, this can be your reminder that you’re better off avoiding him. In addition to the fact that he’s averaging just 3.2 targets per game, we also expect Detroit’s top corner, Slay, to shadow Smith. Slay has shadowed Jeremy Maclin, James Jones (x2), Amari Cooper, Kenny Britt, and Brandin Cooks earlier this season. Slay is our No. 5-graded corner in coverage for the season and our No. 1-graded corner since Week 8. He’s allowing the 12th-fewest fantasy points per snap to opposing wide receivers. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but Smith should be ignored in DFS.