Based on this week’s matchups and projected shadow situations, 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 fantasy slate.
Golden Tate vs. Chris Harris Jr. – Last week, Tate caught four passes on eight targets for 24 yards. Season-long fantasy owners who likely spent a high draft pick on the receiver are in for another rough week. Savvy DFS players, however, will just allocate money elsewhere and laugh when they see Tate in an opposing lineup. That is because Tate, who has played 79 percent of his snaps from the slot, projects to spend the majority of the game matched up against Denver’s elite slot corner, Harris.
Harris might even be the best corner in the league, and that shouldn’t even seem like a controversial statement. Last year, Harris graded out as our top corner in coverage, well ahead of Vontae Davis. Among all corners, he also gave up the second fewest fantasy points allowed per snap. Not much has changed this season, as he is currently ranks as our sixth-highest graded corner. Tate looks to be in for another rough week.
Mike Wallace vs. Jason Verrett – Coming into Week 3, Wallace has nine receptions for 101 yards on 10 targets. Despite the paltry numbers, he’s still leading all receivers on his team in yardage. This week, we’re projecting San Diego’s top corner, Verrett, to shadow Wallace for most of the game. Last week, Verrett shadowed A.J. Green on 20 of his 28 total routes. During that time, Green was targeted just twice, catching one pass for 23 yards.
For the season, Verrett is graded as tied for fourth among all corners in coverage and has given up just 0.13 fantasy points per route run. While Verrett poses a significant challenge for Wallace, the wide receiver to his opposite side, Charles Johnson, has an easier matchup against Brandon Flowers. It’s unlikely Wallace will see many balls thrown his way this week.
Stevie Johnson vs. Captain Munnerlyn – Over the first two games of the 2015 season, Johnson has caught 11 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Despite these gaudy numbers, Johnson’s price has only risen by $600 from a low Week 1 price of $3700. With a banged up Ladarius Green and a low salary relative to recent production, DFS players will likely be rushing to buy all of the shares they can find. I would argue, however, that this will end up being a big mistake. Johnson has a deceptively difficult matchup this week against Munnerlyn.
Although he graded out negatively in coverage as a whole last season, Munnerlyn has moved almost exclusively to the slot this year. Despite weak grades elsewhere, Munnerlyn exceled in the slot last season, holding opposing quarterbacks to only a 75.0 QB Rating. Looking at his numbers this year, it was obviously the right move. Munnerlyn currently sports our third highest overall coverage grade among corners and has only allowed 0.12 fantasy points per route in coverage. Last week he held Golden Tate and Calvin Johnson to only six receptions for 45 yards on nine targets. With Johnson having played 90 percent of his snaps from the slot over the first two weeks, he should make for an easy fade this week.
James Jones vs. Jamell Fleming – Jones is a 31-year-old journeyman who has been cut from two teams in the past four months. He is currently the WR22 in fantasy (just ahead of Calvin Johnson). He is averaging a touchdown on 60 percent of his catches and only has one yard after the catch. To say he’s due for a regression would be a gross understatement. That regression will most certainly come, but not this week.
To start the season, Jones has lined up to the left on close to 70 percent of his snaps, which makes for an attractive matchup this week against Kansas City’s primary right corner, Fleming. This year, Fleming has been getting picked on worse than I was in high school that time I accidentally wore my sister’s sweatpants to gym class. On a per route basis, quarterbacks are targeting Fleming more than any other cornerback. This makes sense, as he’s currently graded as our worst overall corner. Last week, Fleming was targeted 13 times and gave up nine receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown. While Jones’ raw level of talent leaves much to be desired, the rapport he has with Rodgers combined with one of the most attractive matchups of the week makes Jones a compelling GPP play.
Brandon Marshall vs Byron Maxwell – Last week, we told you to fade Marshall and start Eric Decker. At the end of the first half, we looked like geniuses. In the second half, once Vontae Davis and Decker both left with injuries, Marshall racked up an additional five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Decker is banged up on a short week and likely won’t be playing this Sunday. Despite coming off his second consecutive game with a touchdown, Marshall’s price has dropped by $200. He looks to be one of the chalkier plays of the week and his matchup supports it.
Marshall has been moving around in the formation quite a bit in his first two games, but has lined up to Fitzpatrick’s right on the majority of his snaps. With Maxwell as Philadelphia’s primary left corner, this projects as a very favorable situation for Marshall. This offseason, the Eagles gave Maxwell the fourth highest contract (in terms of guaranteed money) among all NFL corners. If Chip had been a PFF subscriber, he would have known just how much he overpaid for the former Seattle corner. Last season, Maxwell graded out as just our 29th overall corner in coverage (among 70 qualifying). This season, without the benefit of playing alongside Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman, he has looked like one of the worst corners in the league.
Over the first two weeks of this season, he currently sports the third worst coverage grade among 44 qualifying corners. Last week, a wounded Cowboys team continually exploited Maxwell in coverage, to the tune of six catches, 86 yards, and a touchdown on nine targets. Marshall also has three inches and a 23 pound advantage on Maxwell. Marshall should have no problem making the most of this matchup and will likely be one of my most-owned players in cash games.
Charles Johnson vs. Brandon Flowers – Johnson has struggled thus far, catching just five passes for 37 yards across two games. If you’ve been patiently waiting for the Charles Johnson breakout — the perfect time to slide him into your lineup before the rest of the DFS community catches on — it just might be this week against Flowers.
With aforementioned Jason Verrett expected to shadow Wallace, and Johnson having lined up to the left on over half his snaps, he looks to have a nice matchup against San Diego’s primary left corner, Flowers. Flowers did a good job containing Calvin Johnson in Week 1, though he did have consistent help from a safety over the top. Last week, Andy Dalton ripped the poor guy to shreds. In coverage, he was targeted against seven times, giving up five receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown to three different receivers. Not surprisingly, for the season, he has the worst fantasy points per pass route rate among qualified corners.
Johnson’s price has dropped $800 from last week (third-largest dip at the position). He is five inches taller and thirty pounds heavier than Flowers. Two years ago, he ran a 4.38 forty yard dash at his pro day. In 2010, Flowers ran a 4.56 forty at the Combine. Johnson makes for one of my favorite contrarian plays for the week.