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.
Michael Crabtree vs. Brandon Flowers – Chargers’ top outside corner, Jason Verrett, typically shadows the most productive receiver on the opposing team. To date, he’s given up just nine receptions for 166 yards and zero touchdowns on 16 targets across five games. This week, we’re projecting Verrett to shadow Oakland’s more explosive receiver, Amari Cooper. This would leave Crabtree in a lucrative matchup against Flowers.
Since Week 2, Flowers is averaging over 20 fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers. Over that same time-frame, he’s been targeted 30 times, yielding 19 catches, 311 yards, and five touchdowns. Only one other corner has given up more touchdowns for the year. Flowers has our second lowest grade among all corners in coverage (out of 171 qualifying). Crabtree, meanwhile, has played far better than his fantasy production might indicate. (He’s currently graded as our No. 10 receiver overall). Crabtree is primed for a big game. There might be no better time to add him into your GPP lineups than this week against the cornerback who is giving up the most fantasy points per route run.
Keenan Allen vs. Neiko Thorpe and David Amerson – Allen is coming off last week’s ridiculous 14-catch, 157-yard performance against the Packers. I’m not sure what’s more impressive, that he did it in only three quarters or that he did it while primarily in coverage against Pro Bowl corner, Sam Shields. Allen left the game early with “a minor hip strain”, but the team is optimistic he’ll play this weekend. Assuming Allen does play, he will have an attractive matchup against a weak Oakland secondary. The Chargers usually move Allen around the line of scrimmage, but since he only typically plays 20 percent of his snaps from the slot, the far majority of his time will be spent against outside corners Thorpe and Amerson.
Allen is currently third in the league in targets and is being targeted slightly more than once every four routes run. Among all corners we expect to play a significant role this week, Thorpe is giving up the most targets per route in coverage and Amerson is giving up the second most. Both corners also rank among our 30 lowest-graded corners in coverage. I don’t typically like playing receivers who are dinged up, but players listed throughout the week as ‘questionable’ do tend to be lesser-owned than typical. Given the high-target potential of this matchup and the production he’s demonstrated against far more talented corners, Allen makes for an attractive GPP play despite the injury. Just make sure you’re following up on his status throughout the weekend.
Calvin Johnson vs. Xavier Rhodes – The Megatron breakout we’ve been waiting for has finally come to fruition. Last week, Johnson caught six passes on nine targets for 166 yards and a touchdown. His ownership percentage will likely increase this week, but maybe not as much as it should. It was just his second game of the season with over 16 fantasy points or more. The only other game he scored over 16 fantasy points was in Week 2 against the Vikings when he scored 24.3, racking up ten catches, 83 yards, and a touchdown on a season-high 17 targets.
In that matchup, Minnesota’s Rhodes shadowed Johnson on 57 of Rhode’s 62 plays in coverage. The Lions clearly liked this matchup, as 13 of his 17 targets were while he was in coverage against Rhodes. We fully expect Rhodes to shadow Johnson again this week. Out of the 171 corners we’ve graded, Rhodes ranks tenth lowest in coverage. Johnson also has a four-inch, 19-pound advantage in this contest. Johnson should again command a high number of targets, giving him a safe floor for cash games. He always offers the potential for elite upside, but especially so this week given the matchup. Johnson makes for a strong play across both formats.
Julian Edelman vs. Darrelle Revis – Edelman is the fourth most expensive option at the position in this week’s slate. While his production has warranted it (he’s currently fourth among receivers in fantasy points per game), he has one of the toughest matchups of the week and is best avoided, given the price. We expect Revis to shadow his former teammate throughout Sunday’s game. Revis was our fourth highest graded corner in coverage last season. This year, he again ranks in the Top 10. Since Week 2, he has allowed 10 total yards in his coverage. No other starter has given up fewer than 50.
While other shut-down outside corners are less-experienced or struggle when defending the slot, that isn’t the case with Revis. This season, Revis has played 34 snaps from the slot, giving up just three receptions on six targets for 20 yards and an interception. Last season, he played 166 snaps, was targeted 22 times, and gave up just seven catches for 79 yards and an interception. These numbers were good for the best overall and sixth best QB Ratings from the slot over the past two years, respectively. These numbers are important because Edelman typically plays 50 percent of his snaps from the slot. Given the price and the matchup, Edelman makes for an easy fade this week, despite the typically high target-floor.
Steve Smith Sr. vs. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu – At 36 years old, Smith has been one of the most efficient fantasy receivers this season (fourth among receivers in fantasy points per route run). While he might be immortal, I’m not so sure he’s completely matchup-proof. This week, he has one of the toughest matchups around. We expect the Cardinals to shadow Smith on the outside with Peterson. On the 31 percent of snaps Smith typically moves to the slot, we expect Arizona’s slot corner, Mathieu, to cover him there. Peterson is our No. 12 overall corner in coverage, Mathieu is No. 2. This same strategy was used last week against the Steelers’ Antonio Brown. Brown was targeted eight times, but ended up catching just three passes for 24 yards. Despite the ridiculous numbers Smith has been putting up, matchups don’t get much tougher than this. Smith and his multiple back fractures should be faded this week in both cash and GPPs.
Golden Tate vs. Captain Munnerlyn – Tate, like Johnson, has had some really tough matchups to start the season. It seems like I’ve written more about him (as a “Downgrade”) than any other receiver. I did not write about him last week when he hauled in his first touchdown and posted his best fantasy week of the season. This week, however, he’s back on the fade-train. Tate runs 68 percent of his snaps from the slot. The Vikings’ Munnerlyn covers the slot on 99 percent of his snaps. Munnerlyn ranks as our No. 4 overall corner in coverage. In Week 2, when these two faced off, Tate caught only two passes for 28 yards on four targets against Munnerlyn in coverage. Although Tate did finish the day with six catches for 80 yards, it’s a stretch to expect him to put up a DFS-worthy day while being outmatched in coverage on two-thirds of his snaps. Don’t get caught up in the numbers Tate put up last week; he should be ignored this week in DFS.