When it comes to season-long leagues, your lineup will always feature your top wideouts. You just have to go with your best players no matter what. In DFS contests, though, you better keep an eye on some of the upcoming WR/CB matchups if you want to really identify the best and worst plays of the upcoming slate of games.
With wide receivers being the second-highest scoring position only behind quarterbacks, it’s critical to pick the best possible players at the position if you want to rack up big-time points every week. One important point to consider that most people forget about: different wideouts face different cornerbacks, and different cornerbacks have wildly varying defensive levels.
I’m here to highlight three of the best WR/CB matchups to target, and three of the worst WR/CB matchups to avoid for the Week 11 slate of games.
Top 3 WR/CB Matchups To Target
JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) vs. Tre Herndon (JAX)
Nobody loves these Steelers. In fantasy terms, at least. Pittsburgh is 9-0 on the season, absolutely thriving, yet no wide receiver has gotten a clear lead over the rest in this offense. All of JuJu, Chase Claypool, and Diontae Johnson have reached 100 PPR points already and are averaging between 13 and 15 fantasy points per game each. JuJu—given the high expectations of him turning into a bonafide WR1—has disappointed a bit, though.
This is the perfect weekend to keep his fantasy GMs happy. It’s been back-to-back games for JuJu hitting 21+ PPR points, and prior to that he was able to score 17.5 and 13.7, clearly fixing his early-season woes. Playing from the slot, no corner has shadowed JuJu this season, and he’s faced multiple cornerbacks on a per-game basis more often than not. Not that that has helped defenses stop him.
In his last two games, JuJu has faced Jourdan Lewis (DAL) and Jalen Davis (CIN) and they finished with 4/7-57-1 and 7/10-68-1 receiving lines against in coverage. They were, simply put, cooked by JuJu. Next in line: Tre Herndon. Herdon has played every game, and so far he’s allowed a combined 87.9 PPR points on the year, for a 9.8 PPG average. That’s not bad, but looking a little deeper things look rather worse.
The problem with Herndon is that while he defends a lot of runs (267 so far), he gets targeted on just 16.7% of them and when that happens he can’t just stop a thing. Herndon has allowed 33 of 42 targets to connect (79%), the worst rate among CBs with at least 250 routes defended. His receptions-against go for 13.4 yards on average, he has no interceptions on the season, and has only broken up a single pass through nine games. As long as Pitt targets JuJu—and Herndon by extension—goods things will happen for the Black and Yellow.
D.J. Chark (JAX) vs. Steven Nelson (PIT)
If you read the blurb above about Herndon, then you know that although he is keeping up with his PPR per route allowed (0.34), he is being whopped on a per-target basis. That’s not the case with Steven Nelson, who can’t catch a break no matter how you look at his numbers.
Nelson ranks in the bottom-five of CBs with 250+ routes covered in terms of PPR/Route and PPR/Target. He has allowed a monster 135.3 PPR points combined over his nine games so far, and seemingly he doesn’t know how to stop nobody running his way—or past him. Nelson has given up 553 yards on 38 receptions, his targeted on 20% of his defended routes, and has allowed receivers to connected for the most touchdowns this season (tied with Sean Murphy-Bunting) with seven scores floating above his head.
This matchup doesn’t project to become a shadow coverage one, but Chark should face Nelson in most snaps given where they usually align on the field. Chark has not had an overly great year and he has only reached more than 13 PPR points twice over eight games. Those two times, though, he absolutely exploded getting 29.5 and 27.6 against Cincinnati and Houston.
This could very well mark another booming game for Chark, assuming Jake Luton plays his part and doesn’t put up a passing-dud. Truth be told, Nelson has been assigned very tough matchups (A.J. Brown, Marquise Brown, Amari Cooper, and A.J. Green as of late), so his numbers were always going to suffer a bit, but that doesn’t change a thing his atrocious play.
Steven Nelson has allowed at least 15 PPR points in coverage in six of his nine games overall. From another angle, he’s allowed 15+ PPR points in six of eight games in which he’s been targeted 4+ times. Luton, you know what to do.
Emmanuel Sanders (NO) vs. Isaiah Oliver (ATL)
As you know if you’ve read this column during any of the past weeks, I like to throw some WR2/WR3 play in here because those are the ones that could make the biggest impact/difference when it comes to facing good or bad corners and matchups. Nobody is sitting Michael Thomas even though no one is matchup proof—he’s just a freak, and you just have to play him weekly without much care. But lesser wideouts merit some deeper consideration and analysis.
Sanders took most advantage of Thomas’ absence in Weeks 3 to 9 (Sanders missed time between Weeks 6 and 8, though) hitting 13.8+ PPR points in each of the four games he played and reaching 23.2 in Week 5 against the Chargers. Sure, his last game was horrid (1.5 PPR points...) but he was facing San Francisco, which the Saints demolished, and he only saw one target on 34 snaps played.
Atlanta’s secondary stinks, with both A.J. Terrell and Isaiah Oliver ranking among the worst corners of the season, at least in fantasy matchups. Oliver, our man to target here, has allowed all of 113.2 PPR points to wide receivers over nine games played, averaging 12.6 PPG per contest. His per-route numbers aren’t too bad at 0.38 points per route covered, but he’s giving up 2.15 per target, which is just mental and explains why he’s been targeted 59 times already.
In those 59 targets, Oliver has allowed receivers to catch 38 balls for 512 yards (14 Y/R), got no interceptions, and been scored on four times already, almost once every two games on average. Oliver relatively improved his performance levels in his last two games (8.2 and 9.7 PPR points allowed) but he still gave up six receptions in the first one and 57 yards in the second while facing his softest WR-competition (Curtis Samuel and K.J. Hamler) of the season.
Top 3 WR/CB Matchups To Avoid
Chris Godwin (TB) vs. Troy Hill (LAR)
Among corners with 200+ defended routes, the Rams rank first of all teams in combined routes defended by their three qualified CBs at 1,023 on the season. No other team has more than 995 (Chicago), and Arizona’s secondary comes in third at just 904. Even leading in routes, which would mean more PPR points allowed just on pure volume, they have given up the second-lowest mark among teams with three qualified CBs, and their PPG mark is also the second-best at just 8.8 per game on average.
All of Hill, Jalen Ramsey, and Darious Williams rank in the top-20 in PPG allowed, at or below 9.3 PPR per game. Focusing on Hill, he’s played in all Rams’ games this season and is the “worst” corner of the team allowing 0.24 PPR points per route defended and 1.48 per target.
Those two marks rank last among the Rams trio. Oh, just in case, though, those two marks rank third-best and seventh-best among all cornerbacks with at least 300 routes defended through W10. Insane.
Godwin has been far from great playing under Tommy B with just one 18+ PPR-performance this season. He’s been targeted 41 times, but he’s not turning all of that volume into very productive outcomes with wildly-varying results.
Hill has allowed more than 12 PPR points to receivers in his coverage just once this season, has been targeted in only 12.2% of his defended routes in the past five games he’s played, and in those five matches he’s just allowed a 14/22-110-1 combined receiving-line against.
Mike Evans (TB) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR)
You already read about the Rams defense as a whole in the section about Troy Hill above. Introductions done, it’s time to focus on this concrete matchup, most probably the flashiest of all this weekend.
Mike Evans has been shadowed five times this season, and he has suffered a lot against top-level corners. He put up three goose eggs in those five matches, and in the other two he performed better (13.2 and 15.8 PPR points) but he needed a touchdown to help boost his fantasy scores.
Ramsey, on the other hand, has been one of the (if not the) best corners of the year, no arguing about it. Since his Week 1 nightmarish game against Dallas (20.4 PPR points allowed in his coverage), Ramsey has yet to give up more than 9.3 PPR points to any receiving corps. He’s just untouchable and impeccable in man coverage.
This is Ramsey’s combined line-against from Weeks 2 to 10, included: 35 targets, 20 receptions, 184 yards, one touchdown. That amounts to an average 3/5-26-0 line per game, which would suck for any fantasy wideout. Ramsey (64.8) is the only CB to have allowed fewer than 70 PPR points total through W10 while defending 300+ routes, and one of only three giving up fewer than 10 yards per reception (9.1).
Oh, and in case you missed it, Ramsey comes from shutting down DK Metcalf after limiting the stud to a putrid 4.8 PPR points in Week 10 on shadow coverage, which he’s expected to apply on Evans next Monday.
Robert Woods (LAR) vs. Carlton Davis (TB)
This sounds ridiculous, but yes, we’re keeping it all Rams-Bucs this week. Such strong units boast these two defenses, folks. Moving onto Tampa’s secondary, Carlton Davis has been a WR-killer in 2020. He has shadowed five receivers this season, none of them a joke: Michael Thomas, Allen Robinson, Davante Adams, Thomas again, and D.J. Moore. Only Robinson was able to score more than 7.5 PPR points against him.
Woods has been a shadow of himself this season, averaging 14.8 PPR points in nine games good to rank WR23, or a borderline WR2 on the year. While that’s not entirely bad, Woods’ average is boosted by his 28.4-game against Miami in Week 8. Not factoring that one in, his PPR per game would drop to a measly 13.1 over his other eight games.
Not a single group of wide receivers has combined to score more than 14.2 PPR points on Davis’ covered routes, the cornerback is allowing an average of just 10.6 PPR per game to wideouts in his coverage. He has broken up at least one pass in eight of his 10 games, intercepted five passes, and allowed a low 68% of targets thrown his way to connect.
Davis is one of two cornerbacks (J.C. Jackson) with at least 11 broken passes plus five interceptions on the season, and his 6.5 yards allowed per target rank third-best among CBs with 60+ targets through W10.