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 some of the best WR/CB matchups to target, and some of the worst WR/CB matchups to avoid for this weekend slate of games.
Top WR/CB Matchups To Target
DeAndre Hopkins (ARI) vs. Patrick Peterson (MIN)
Week 2 Showdown! And revenge-game for Patrick-P while at it! Can’t get much better than this thing, honestly, as two studs at their respective positions will go against each other for a few hours—or at least snaps—come Sunday. Peterson defended the third-highest number of routes last season while still in ‘Zona, which more than acknowledges his talents. That being said, though, Peterson was kind of meh while at work. Pete surrendered the 8th-most PPR/Target (1.81) and 5th-most PPR/Route (0.37) among players with at least 500 routes covered, and his only saving card was the low target rate he got, with “only” 111 targets in 590 routes (18.9%). His 9 touchdowns-against against 2 interceptions were highly inefficient, though again, his reputation saved him from being absolutely target-blasted.
While Peterson was on the field for all 69 defensive snaps, he was only targeted once (1-for-1, 7 yards allowed). That could very well change this weekend as he faces one of the best WRs out there in Nuk Hopkins. Hopkins himself appeared on 60 snaps for the Cards and is coming off a WR6 performance in which he put up a magnificent 8-6-83-2 for 26.3 PPR points. There’s no stopping Hopkins, much less playing under a leveling-up QB in Kyler Murray. This matchup might scare some people off Hopkins, but there is no reason to think Murray won’t keep feeding the wideout or that the actual Hopkins is going to underperform. Peterson is expected to shadow Hopkins, who wasn’t under such coverage at all in any game he played last season. Pete in shadowing matchups? 12.2 PPR points-against and a 5-4-50-1 receiving line-against. Not looking that bad for Nuk, am I right?
Keenan Allen (LAC) vs. Jourdan Lewis (DAL)
Even when Keenan had to play under a cornerback shadow in 2020 he still went on to average 14+ PPR points with at least 6 targets, 3 receptions, and 31 receiving yards in those three games. That’s obviously not something to get too excited about, but that also happened against the likes of AJ Terrell and Stephon Gilmore. He’s facing Jourdan Lewis this Sunday. I mean. Not to hate on the poor Jourdan, but PFF graded his 2020 season 123rd among 127 secondary defenders with at least 300 snaps on coverage. To say that Lewis sucked is probably falling short of describing his weekly struggles.
Jourdan Lewis only surrendered 3 touchdowns over 15 games, but he allowed 49 of his 78 targets to end in completions (62.8%) and gave QBs all they needed to finish above a 100 Pass Rating five teams throughout the season—all of that without picking a pass against any quarterback. PFF graded Lewis as the third-worst Slot-CB after Week 1 (min. 20 routes defended). Allen, in his season debut playing under sophomore QB Justin Herbert, went on to rack up 18.0 PPR points on a day in which he only lacked the scoring play: 9 passes hauled in on 13 targets total for 100 receiving yards was the line. The opportunity will be there, and odds are Herbert hits his top WR in the end zone after not doing so in W1 and only connecting with WR2 Mike Williams for a touchdown back then.
Davante Adams (GB) vs. Ifeatu Melifonwu (DET)
Get-right game! The Packers were completely stunned by the Saints in their season’s kickoff game to the tune of a 38-3 defeat. I don’t even know how Adams could score 10.6 PPR points on the night when everyone else didn’t even reach 5 fantasy points throughout such a putrid outing. But that’s Adams to you on the worst possible game. Imagine if things get just a little bit better—which, sorry Lions fans, is about to happen come Monday Night Football. Not much more to say about Davante Adams that you don’t already know, so just to mention something: DA went for a combined 20-target, 16-reception, 194-yard, 3-TD line last year against shadow coverage (in three games). Not bad.
Detroit, on the opposite end of the field to Green Bay this week, is playing without any sort of good secondary player. They’ve just lost Jeff Okudah for the year, and who knows if more (pesky Achilles injury), and outside of the 22-year-old the projected starters on the Lions' secondary are Ifeatu Melifonwu and Amani Oruwariye. I picked the latter in last week’s column as a soft matchup to exploit, and Oru indeed surrendered 3 receptions on 4 targets for 54 yards (18 YPR). Melifonwu, a rookie out of ‘Cuse, only played 12 defensive snaps (22%) in W1 and will now be forced not only into starting, but doing so against probably the No. 1 receiver in the NFL and a route-running phenom. Obviously, we have no NFL data on Meli because he’s had zero targets gone his way so far. That will most definitely change this Monday, and not precisely for the good.
Top WR/CB Matchups To Avoid
Zach Pascal (IND) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR)
I don’t even know where to start with this one. Zach Pascal was Indy’s No. 1 wideout in W1 (good) and he put up his best fantasy game as a pro (good) but in order to do that he had to score two touchdowns on five targets and four receptions (bad because “outlier” and “regression”) and he did so while facing FS Ugo Amadi for most of his reps (bad because “not talented opponent”). I don’t hate Zach; it’s just that he had a booming day that I don’t quite see happening again this soon, let alone against Mighty Ramsey.
Jalen Ramsey, tasked with covering Allen Robinson II for most of Week 1 snaps, just dried the Bears wideout as much as it was humanly possible. A-Rob got to finish the day with 9.5 PPR points on a 6-of-11 reception day for 35 yards. Again, we’re talking about a top-tier WR in Robinson. Pascal is ways away from A-Rob in terms of... well, everything. Ramsey allowed five of his targeted passes to end in completions for a “bad” 80% completion rate... but a measly 27 yards-against on W1. Pray for your boy Zacharias.
Christian Kirk (ARI) vs. Mackensie Alexander (MIN)
Whether Kirk has finally found his mojo or not is yet to be seen. I need more performances like Week 1’s to confirm that, and until we are at least a few games into the 2021 season we won’t be able to confirm Kirk’s seeming improvement and leveling up on offense, now as a fourth-year pro. Kirk is coming off one of his best games ever after finishing WR9 and second only to DeAndre Hopkins (26.3) among Cards after a wonderous 24-PPR performance against Tennessee. Kirk needed just 5 targets to convert all five in receptions while racking up 70 yards and two touchdowns on the day. Not bad, indeed. As a pure slot-WR, Kirk faced Elijah Molden for most of his snaps in W1; and the corner was no match even finishing with a missed tackle.
Mackensie Alexander, on the other hand, put the heavy clamps on Bengals’ Tyler Boyd rendering him virtually non-threatening at all as he went on to score a ridiculously low 6.2 PPR points on the day with a 4-3-32-0 line against Minny. Alexander, more impressively, got targeted just twice last Sunday (Boyd got two of his four targets while facing other non-Alexander defenders) allowing just one of those to connect for 9 yards. That’s all the camera-caught action he had to do to kick his season off. Kirk was great and didn’t need a lot of chances to put up numbers. Sadly for him, Alexander will probably cut his opportunities in half while making it a tall task for Kirk to perform out of the slot as he did against a dubious Titans D last week.
Deebo Samuel (SF) vs. Darius Slay (PHI)
Shout-out Deebo for his opening week exploits! Samuel, part of an offense in which Jimmy G had pretty much two viable targets (Deebo and Kittle, only players with 5+ targets), just had to be there to rack up passes, receptions, yards, and eventually end scoring a touchdown. The 31.9 PPR points were delightful if you rostered Samuel, and definitely a frustrating outcome if you opted to fade him. Perhaps the fact that the Detroit Lions were at the other end of the field helped Deebo, though, as he torched whoever happened to be covering him on any given play.
The Eagles will bring Darius Slay to Deebo’s table this week for most of the plays they’ll both be on the field. It is probable that Samuel dodges Slay’s coverage on a fair amount of snaps as the WR can play off the slot (44%) and off both sidelines (56%), but this matchup will definitely take place throughout this weekend’s game (PFF projects 24 man-coverage battles between these two). Just in case you missed it last Sunday, Slay went on to murder Atlanta’s offense. Matt Ryan targeted Slay 8 times for some reason, of which he only allowed 4 passes to connect for 27 yards and no touchdowns. Slay was one of only eight CBs with 8+ targets on the day, yet he finished second in FP/Tgt surrendered (0.84) only to Carlton Davis (0.83) league-best outing when targeted.