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Week 13 WR/CB Matchups: Who to target and avoid in DFS lineups

Identifying the best and worst DFS plays at the WR position based on CB matchups for Week 13.

NFL: Miami Dolphins at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

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 13 slate of games.

Top 3 WR/CB Matchups To Target

Justin Jefferson (MIN) vs. Tre Herndon (JAX)

Adam Thielen had to watch Minny from home last weekend as he was placed on the COVID list. It is not that rookie Justin Jefferson needs this type of opportunity to show his talents, but he didn’t let it slip either putting on a monster 26-PPR-point performance against the Panthers. Thielen is getting back this weekend, but the two of them have shared the field all season long and that hasn’t impacted Jeff one bit.

Tre Herndon has only played shadow coverage once this season, last weekend against Cleveland shadowing Rashard Higgins. Higgins could only score 2.5 PPR points on two targets (one reception, 15 yards), but that looks more like a fluke in Herndon’s season rather than his true-talent level of play.

While Herndon doesn’t rank inside the worst corners of the year in either PPR/Route or PPR/Target allowed to receivers (min. 100 routes defended), he’s still giving up 0.36 and 1.95 respectively. Looking at a much smaller group of cornerbacks with at least 300 routes defended, Herndon starts to look much worse: he is the 10th most-vulnerable corner in points-per-target and he has allowed the highest completion rate (76%) to quarterbacks targeting him this season (46 receptions on 62 targets) while surrendering a couple of touchdowns against his coverage.

Herndon has yet to intercept a pass, has just broken up a single throw in his 62 targets, and gives up an average of 13.6 Y/R to wideouts on his coverage. Justin Jefferson has scored 17+ PPR points three weeks in a row, all before the Vikings bye, while Herndon has allowed 10+, 21+, and 8+ PPR points in his last three games (17 receptions on 24 targets for 235 combined yards in that span).

Denzel Mims (NYJ) vs. Isaiah Johnson (LV)

Another rookie, this one a much more sneaky play, Mims has been good-not-great during the past three games he’s played. Mims is pretty much flying under the radar a bit, but he’s scored 10+ PPR points in all of his last three games while getting targeted eight times in each of them. He’s got a 11/24-200 line in that span. Again, good, but not so great.

Enter Isaiah Johnson, fixer of wide receiver wrongdoings. Johnson wasn’t part of the Raiders defense during the first half of the season (he defended 12 routes from Weeks 1-8), but is now an active part of it (he logged 28 and 31 routes defended in Weeks 9 and 12 respectively). In the two games he’s been used heavily by Las Vegas on cover duties, Johnson has been pretty bad: he allowed a 6/9-112 line against the Chargers, and followed that up with a 3/6-25-1 vs. Atlanta last weekend.

Johnson’s two games as a prime-corner have gone for 17.2 and 11.5 PPR points-against in his coverage, with the cornerback giving up around 1.9 PPR/Tgt in each of those games. And it is not that he has done better on smaller usage samples: He was targeted once by Kansas City in Week 5 and he allowed that pass to be completed for seven yards and a touchdown, and back in Week 1 he finished with a 2/3-24 against-line.

Mims seems to have found his floor at 10 PPR points, and this is a very exploitable matchup against one of the worst corners when he’s been called up for action. Johnson has not been on the field a lot, but when he’s played, quarterbacks have targeted him heavily (27% of his defended routes turned into targets) and his zero interceptions against two touchdowns don’t make him any favors.

Marquise Brown (BAL) vs. Rashard Robinson (DAL)

In what could have been the weirdest game in the history of the NFL—one that was played on Wednesday after it was originally scheduled for Thanksgiving more than a week ago—Marquise Brown kept things on that same vein and had his second-best game of the season: 18.5 PPR points catching four of eight targets for 85 yards and a touchdown... without Lamar Jackson active.

Brown has disappointing fantasy GMs left and right this season. He only has four games of 12+ PPR points, and two at 18+ fantasy points. That’s not very good, even less considering he’s the surefire WR1 of the Ravens. But the point of this pick is that while Brown is on an uptrend, Rashard Robinson is on a two-game streak in which he’s been cooked for good in the Cowboys secondary.

Robinson has only played a couple of games this season, both in the past two weeks, and these are the lines he’s allowed to wide receivers in his coverage: 2/4-23-1 against Minnesota defending six routes, and 3/3-33 against Washington on 23 routes. Those went for 10.3 and 6.3 PPR points.

While Robinson hasn’t played a lot, and he hasn’t been atrocious, his rate numbers aren’t good at all. He’s allowed 75 percent of passes thrown his way to end in completions, hasn’t intercepted or broken up a single pass, and has already surrendered a touchdown on his coverage. Robinson has the fourth-worst PPR/Route-against and the 11th-worst PPR/Target-against averages among cornerbacks with 29+ routes defended.

Top 3 WR/CB Matchups To Avoid

DeAndre Hopkins (ARI) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR)

No question we’re looking at the best matchup of the week in this one. Nuke’s production has dropped a bit as the season has grown older, while Ramsey has steadily improved his numbers weekly.

While Hopkins had seven games of 11+ PPR points from Weeks 1 to 7, he’s only had one such performance in the past five games. Splitting the season into thirds, Hopkins has gone from 21.2 points in Weeks 1-4 to 16.2 (W5-W9) to 15.4 (W10-W12). Ramsey allowed a massive 20.4 PPR-point score in Week 1 against Dallas (and it could have been worse) but since then he has yet to allow his covered wide receiver to reach even 10 fantasy points.

This was Ramsey in Week 1: 9/11-114. This is Ramsey in Weeks 2 through 12: 27/48-275-1. Just to make it clearer, Ramsey’s averages in his last nine games come out at 3/5-31, which would yield 6.1 PPR points to his covered wideouts. That, folks, is elite talent performing at top-tier levels.

It is expected that Hopkins faces shadow coverage—for the first time this season—against Ramsey. The wide receiver is one of the best around, surely, but Ramsey has put wide receivers to bed all year long. Ramsey’s resume includes DK Metcalf (4.8 PPR), Mike Evans (8.0), Stefon Diggs (9,3), Allen Robinson (7.5), and most recently Deebo Samuel (6.4). Tough as nails.

Jarvis Landry (CLE) vs. Desmond King (TEN)

If Marquis Brown has been disappointing (read his section above), then Jarvis Landry must be qualified as a fantasy GM nightmare in 2020. Landry has scored 13+ fantasy points just twice this season, and only this past weekend did he cross the 18 PPR-mark for the first time this year. That WR3-overall performance was a great sign to find in Landry’s season, but odds are he comes back down to earth this week facing a defensive dog in Desmond King.

After getting a CB1 role from Week 4 on (the first game in which he defended 10+ routes), King has been excellent in coverage. He has given up more than 12 PPR points just once (against Indianapolis in Week 10), and limited receivers to below 10 PPR points in three of the seven games in that span.

King has surrendered just one touchdown through Week 12 while facing 47 targets. For someone playing as good as King, quarterbacks are risking it by targeting the corner on 23% of his defended routes—and paying for it. King is allowing just 64% of passes to be completed, and his 10.4 Y/R-allowed ranks way below average (12.0) among cornerbacks with 250+ routes defended.

There are only 18 cornerbacks with fewer PPR points per route allowed on average, as King is giving up just 0.3 PPR/Rt this season. His 1.46 PPR/Tgt-against rank even better at 14th. That, combined with Landry’s already low 1.79 PPR/Tgt are more than enough to fade Landry this week.

Mike Williams (LAC) vs. Stephon Gilmore (NE)

Mikey has finished in the WR1-realm two times this season, back in Week 5 (27.9 PPR) and Week 8 (21.0), but he’s also been outside of the top-36 wide receivers in six of his 10 games in 2020. That’s plain bad. Full stop. The only thing saving Williams are his deep-threat profile as a pass-catcher, and the willingness and arm of rookie Justin Herbert throwing bombs his way down the field.

Although Williams has been much better in the second half of the season (12.5 PPR per game since Week 8) than in the first one (9.3), that doesn’t truly cut it for me. We can say the same about Gilmore’s year: he gave up an average of 14 PPR points in his first four games, but in his last four he’s dropped that mark to a paltry 6.5 PPR per game.

Gilmore missed some time to injury, but in his last two weeks he dried out Brandin Cooks and DeAndre Hopkins, limited his covered wideouts to an 6/8-74 combined line-against. Gilmore has been targeted in just 10% of the routes he has defended in the last two weeks, and in less than 20% of those he’s defended all year long. Quarterbacks are clearly avoiding Gilmore on a weekly basis, which makes absolute sense.

This projects as a shadow coverage matchup, and Gilmore’s four such games went for 0.0, 6.1, 7.8, and 19.2 PPR points against. Only DK Metcalf was able to have a good day against Gilmore, and that was all the way back in Week 2.