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.
Randall Cobb vs. Tramaine Brock – Cobb has been our eighth most productive receiver on a fantasy points per snap basis this season, and this week, he’ll be going up against a corner who has given up the fourth most fantasy points per route run to opposing receivers. Cobb has run 95 percent of his routes out of the slot, where he will likely see a good amount of Brock. (He leads the 49ers with 45 percent of his coverage snaps assigned to the slot.) We have this ranked as our third best fantasy matchup for any receiver this week.
Last week, Brock gave up four receptions on seven targets for 65 yards and a touchdown. To date, Brock has played 38 snaps from the slot and, during that time, has given up six receptions on seven targets for 78 yards. Quarterbacks targeting him in coverage against the slot have a 113 QB Rating. Meanwhile, Cobb is leading all receivers in yards and touchdowns from the slot. This matchup is too good not to attack. Cobb looks like one of the safest plays in cash games and has one of the highest ceilings for GPPs. I’ll look past his likely high ownership percentage and will own a lot of Cobb in both formats this week.
Nelson Agholor vs. Bashaud Breeland – As Mike Clay pointed out earlier this week, Agholor has spent 81 percent of his snaps in coverage against Desmon Trufant, Brandon Carr, and Darrelle Revis. Last season, Trufant and Revis finished as our 11th and fourth highest graded corners respectively. It doesn’t get much tougher than that for a rookie’s first three games in the NFL.
While Agholor has only four catches for 36 yards across three games, he did run more passing routes than any other receiver last week. He’s also second on the team in targets and receptions. Unfortunately, the entire offense has struggled much more than we had anticipated. Over the last two years, the Eagles averaged 28.6 points per game. This year, they are averaging only 19.3.
If things were to come together for Agholor and the Eagles offense, this looks like the week to do it. Agholor lines up to the right on 76 percent of his snaps. Breeland, typically Washington’s primary slot corner, projects to take over as Washington’s left corner while DeAngelo Hall is out. Breeland gave up eight receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns on 10 targets last week. For the year, he’s given up the fifth most fantasy points per route run among all corners. Matthews has an attractive matchup as well, and although weather concerns have the potential to limit the passing attack in this contest, Agholor makes for an intriguing contrarian play this week.
Keenan Allen vs. Joe Haden – Allen has been on fire to start the year. He’s currently the No. 4 overall fantasy receiver and clearly looks like Philip Rivers’ favorite target. It’s no surprise then, that we expect Haden to shadow Allen this week. Coming off a monstrous 18-target game where he went 12-133-2, Allen also expects to be highly owned in DFS. Last year this would have made for an easy fade, but where we stand now, things are a bit different.
Allen is averaging 13 targets per game across his first three games, compared to just eight last year. Haden has gone from our 18th highest graded corner in coverage last season to second worst this season. Haden has played two games in shadow coverage, Week 1 against Brandon Marshall and last week against Amari Cooper. While in coverage against Haden, those two receivers combine for 11 catches on 11 targets for 143 yards and a score. Despite the high ownership percentage and Haden’s household name, this looks like a relatively safe play for Allen.
Vincent Jackson vs. Josh Norman – Norman has quickly established his place among the top tier of cornerbacks. Last season we had him graded out as our number 16 overall corner in coverage. This season, he’s second only to Tyrann Mathieu. Though it appears quarterbacks have not yet gotten the message. Through three games he’s been targeted 27 times. On those 27 targets, however, he has intercepted two passes and given up just 13 receptions for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Vincent Jackson, on the other hand, has been fairly disappointing to start the season. Despite injuries to Mike Evans and Austin-Seferian Jenkins, he’s caught just nine passes for 145 yards and a touchdown. Last week Jackson saw only five targets, while Louis Murphy was targeted six times and Evans saw a whopping 17.
It is possible Carolina decides to put Norman in shadow coverage against Evans, however, based on recent usage that appears unlikely. Neither receiver was shadowed in the two contests between these teams last season. Norman did not shadow Allen Robinson in Week 1 nor Brandin Cooks in Week 3. While he did shadow Hopkins in Week 2, Jackson is still much more of a threat than Nate Washington. With Evans back and playing close to 100 percent of the team’s snaps, Jackson slides back into his role lining up to the right of Jameis Winston. So far this season, Josh Norman has spent 63 percent of his snaps in coverage against the right wide receiver. This makes Jackson an easy fade in both cash games and GPPs.
Allen Robinson vs. Vontae Davis – Out of the triumvirate of elite outside corners who have dominated the league over the past few years – Richard Sherman, Revis, Davis – the latter’s matchup will likely have the biggest impact on fantasy owners this week. Without an imposing second receiver on the team, it looks fairly obvious like Davis will be shadowing Robinson this week.
Last season, Davis gave up the third fewest fantasy points allowed per snap (0.085) and ranked as our second-highest graded corner overall. This season, Davis again ranks among the top-10 highest graded corners. Robinson, meanwhile, struggled against another top corner earlier in the year. He faced off against Josh Norman and the Panthers secondary in Week 1 and escaped with just one catch for 27 yards. While he posted a 6-155-2 line in Week 2, Belichick held him to just four catches and 68 yards last week.
Despite giving up two touchdowns in the past two games (although offensive pass interference should have called the more recent one), Davis has been fairly dominant in shadow coverage this season. He held Sammy Watkins without a catch in Week 1, slowed Brandon Marshall in Week 2 before exiting with a concussion, and held Kendall Wright to only one catch on the 14 snaps he shadowed Kendall Wright last week. While I am a big fan of Robinson’s talent, it’s unlikely he’ll put up a fantasy worthy performance this week. I’ll be avoiding him in DFS.
Alshon Jeffery vs. T.J. Carrie – Oakland’s secondary has been really bad to start the season. Primary slot corner, D.J. Hayden, currently ranks as our third-lowest graded corner in the league. Primary right corner, Neiko Thorpe, has given up the eighth most fantasy points per route to receivers. The lone bright spot on the secondary has been their left cornerback, Carrie. Despite starting off his season in coverage against A.J. Green and Steve Smith, Carrie has only given up eight receptions, on 17 targets, for 103 yards and a score.
In Week 1, Jeffery spent 51 percent of his snaps lined right, while Carrie serves as Oakland’s primary left corner 54 percent of the time. The matchup isn’t as attractive as it looks on paper. Due to the uncertainty of his health status, the recent ineptitude of the offense, and the fact that the matchup is tougher than most might think, Jeffery won’t be making it into any of my DFS lineups.