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.
Calvin Johnson vs. Brandon Browner
Heading into Week 13, Johnson was coming off of a three-touchdown performance against the Eagles and six straight games with at least 80 receiving yards. Unfortunately, this was also the start of an ankle injury that has been nagging him ever since. Last Sunday, after missing practice earlier in the week, he was held to just one catch and 16 yards in a tough matchup against St. Louis’ Trumaine Johnson. Things are looking up for Johnson this week, as he gets ready to face off against our lowest-graded corner, Browner, on the majority of his routes.
Since getting burned by Odell Beckham Jr. in Week 10, Delvin Breaux has been terrific in coverage. He also has not shadowed since then, despite two recent matchups that may have called for it in Houston and Tampa Bay. Breaux, instead, mostly sticks to his side. Johnson, meanwhile, lines up to Stafford’s left on 55 percent of his routes, while Browner covers the left receiver roughly 67 percent of the time. So, while he could see Breaux roughly 33 percent of the time, he should more than make up the difference on the ~55 percent of routes he will likely see against Browner. Browner has given up the seventh-most yards (705) on the 20th-most targets (75) among all corners. Over the last two weeks, Browner has given up seven catches, 80 yards, and two touchdowns, on 14 targets. Given the soft matchup, Johnson makes for a very compelling GPP-play this week, even amidst the injury concerns.
Julio Jones vs. Davon House
Coming off of a difficult matchup last week, shadowed by Norman, Jones is in a terrific spot this week up against Jacksonville’s House. House has shadowed three times this season, against Brandon Marshall, DeAndre Hopkins, and T.Y. Hilton. In those three games, House allowed 16 receptions, 237 yards, and three touchdowns. While he wasn’t terribly effective, he’s still Jacksonville’s top corner. Given Jones’ lack of a supporting cast at the wide receiver position, having House shadow Jones makes the most sense for the Jaguars here. Still, this should be a matchup Jones makes the most of. Over the last three weeks, House has given up 11 catches, 185 yards, and two touchdowns on 18 targets. Since Week 6, he’s given up the ninth-most yards (475) and the second-most touchdowns (6) at the position. Jones is in a prime spot for a bounce-back game and makes for a top GPP-play this week.
Alshon Jeffery vs. Xavier Rhodes & Trae Waynes
Jeffery currently ranks fourth among receivers in targets per game and eighth among receivers in fantasy points per game. He’s in a great spot this week against Xavier Rhodes (a cornerback we’ve been targeting all season) and Trae Waynes (a rookie cornerback getting ready to make his second career start in the NFL). This season, Jeffery has run 73 percent of his routes on the outside and should split his time against either corner fairly evenly.
Last week, in his first career start, Waynes gave up four catches for 78 yards and a touchdown (on six targets). Rhodes, meanwhile, has given up the 11th-most receptions (50), the 18th-most yards (592), and the ninth-most touchdowns (6) among corners this season. When targeting Rhodes in coverage, quarterbacks are averaging a QB Rating of 112.8, which ranks 12th-worst among all corners to play at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps. Jeffery will have a major advantage on both outside corners this week and makes for a strong play in both cash and GPP games.
Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Josh Norman
Beckham Jr. is fantasy’s No. 1 wide receiver, arguably the best deep threat in the game, and he has more receiving yards in his past seven games than all but 20 receivers have all year. That being said, as crazy as it may sound, he might be outmatched this week up against Carolina’s Norman. Norman has shadowed the following receivers this season: DeAndre Hopkins, T.Y. Hilton, Vincent Jackson, Dez Bryant, Brandin Cooks, and Julio Jones. Despite the big names on the list, none of these receivers have amassed more than 33 yards against Norman in coverage.
Despite facing many of the best wide receivers in the game, Norman ranks as our No. 1 corner in coverage this season. In 13 games thus far, he has been targeted 76 times and has allowed only 37 receptions, 329 yards, and a touchdown 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 eighth among all corners in snaps. Opposing quarterbacks average a QB Rating of just 43.1 when targeting Norman, which leads all corners. He’s allowing just 48.7 percent of targets in his coverage to go for receptions, which ranks seventh-best among corners. He’s also giving up the fewest fantasy points per target to opposing receivers.
However, Beckham Jr.’s one saving grace is that Norman rarely plays the slot. Over the last two seasons, on 1,513 snaps, Norman has only covered the slot receiver on 14 snaps. Beckham Jr., meanwhile, has run 24 percent of his routes from the slot this season. On those routes, he has been excellent, catching 21 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns (on 27 targets). Earlier this week it was announced that Carolina’s typical slot corner, Bene Benwikere, was done for the year and will be replaced by, the formerly retired and 31-year-old, Cortland Finnegan. Due to Norman’s presence on the perimeter, Beckham Jr. should be faded in cash. He’ll be worth playing in a GPP if you can get a significant discount in ownership due to the matchup.
Brandin Cooks vs. Darius Slay
After a strong performance in Week 13, Cooks disappointed last week against Tampa Bay, catching only three passes for 29 yards. Cooks is likely due for another less-than-stellar performance this week against the Lions. We expect Detroit’s top corner, Slay, to shadow Cooks, just as he’s shadowed Jeremy Maclin, James Jones (x2), Amari Cooper, and Kenny Britt earlier this season. Slay is our No. 9-graded corner in coverage (out of 116) this year and is allowing the ninth-fewest fantasy points per snap.
Since Week 8, he’s allowing the fewest total yards (70), the lowest completion percentage (35.3%), and he has the second-best QB Rating against (24.1) among corners. While Cooks’ upside will be hampered against Slay, it isn’t necessarily dead. Cooks has run 29 percent of his routes from the slot this season. Slay, on the other hand, has covered the slot on just three percent of his routes in coverage. If Cooks ends up returning value this week, the far majority of his production will likely come from out of the slot. Still, Cooks is a risky play this week and should be faded in cash games.
T.Y. Hilton vs. Johnathan Joseph
Hilton accounted for over half of his team’s total passing yards last week, catching four passes on six targets for 132 yards. This week, Hilton is in a much tougher matchup against Houston’s Joseph. While Joseph has shadowed Jeremy Maclin, Julio Jones, and Sammy Watkins, he typically sticks to his side. If he doesn’t shadow Hilton this week, Joseph will still cover Hilton on the majority of his routes. Hilton typically lines up to his quarterback’s right on 49 percent of his routes, while, as Houston’s starting left corner, Joseph has manned that side of the field on 80 percent of his routes in coverage. After finishing as last season’s No. 17-graded corner in coverage, Joseph ranks fifth this year. He’s allowing the 11th-fewest fantasy points per snap and has the 18th-best QB Rating (73.7) among corners. Given the current state of Colts’ quarterback position and the difficult matchup, Hilton makes for an easy fade this week.