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Wild Card Round WR/CB Matchups: Who to target and avoid in NFL DFS lineups

Identifying the best and worst NFL DFS plays at the WR position based on CB matchups for the Wild Card Round

Las Vegas Raiders v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

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

Kansas City Chiefs v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Hunter Renfrow (LV) vs. Mike Hilton (CIN)

Two players from the Raiders have been able to break the 230-FP barrier this season, reaching at least 255 PPR points each: QB Derek Carr and WR Hunter Renfrow. That’s it, that’s the only two. Yes, no Waller. Yes, no Jacobs. If Las Vegas is in the postseason it is because of the Carr-Renfrow connection, and that should stay on this weekend when the Raiders face Cincy in their WC affair. Renfrow might not be the most exceptionally exciting player in the NFL, but he is steady as hell and a rather fantastic producer. He’s put up 13+ PPR points in six of the past seven games he’s played and is averaging 16.6 FPPG since his W8 bye. Most guys out there might fade him on the basis of his low 7.5-PPR outcome in W11 against the Bengals, but that only had to do with his low usage, as he still finished with a 4-for-4, 30-yard receiving line back then. Renfrow will see tons of targets, and Darren Waller will be on the field getting some attention from the D opening spaces for Renfrow to exploit.

Cincy is expected (per PFF) to drop Mike Hilton on Renfrow this weekend. And that should bode well for the wideout given Hilton’s bad regular season. Hilton is one of 20 CBs with at least 540 routes defended, but not precisely the best at his job: Mikey is giving up 0.27 FP/Route to his main cover wideouts while averaging 1.77 FP/Target against. For context, he’s the fifth-worst among those in that group on a per-route basis and the ninth-worst when targeted, both bottom-half marks. Not happy enough with that, Hilton is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete the most passes when targeting him (71.8%) while 18 other CBs aren’t allowing completion rates above 68.5% in that group. Hilton gets targeted a lot (85), surrenders receptions with a passion, and has been scored on four times already. Nothing to like about his D entering the WC, I’m afraid.

Tyreek Hill (KC) vs. Arthur Maulet (PIT)

I’m assuming Tyreek Hill is playing this weekend. Yes, he practiced on Wednesday only to get limited participation on Thursday’s drills, but HC Andy Reid has said that he expects to have Hill ready and available for the Chiefs WC game against Pittsburgh. There is risk involved in lining Tyreek up in your fantasy DFS roster (the injury, the potential blowout) but it might also be true that even the smallest of work volume could be enough for Hill to put on a monster PPR tally. Hill only played 29 snaps against Pitt in W16 to log a 2-2-19 receiving line for a measly 3.9 FP, yes. Hill, though, is pretty much a 10-PPR-floor player with upside to entering the 20-PPR realm without even blinking. Tyreek has posted 10+ FP in 11 of his games this season, and three of those came on 10-or-fewer-target days. Playing 40-to-50 snaps and getting his customary 10 targets, Hill should already be looking at some 70+ yards and perhaps a touchdown to his name. You can’t pass on that, even less considering the man expected to cover him on most of his routes.

That’d be Arthur Maulet as PFF has the WR/CB projections right now. Maulet has only been used to defend 204 routes all season long, starting just two of his 16 games played but featuring on D steadily week after week. The sample isn’t the largest, I know, but it definitely is a large-enough one not looking any good for the Steelers corner. Maulet has been targeted 27 times so far and he’s allowed 20 of those passes to end in the receiver's hands (74.1%). That’s a 7th-percentile mark among CBs targeted at least 27 times. Ugh. His 13.3 YPR-against and 9.9 YPT-against are absolutely ludicrous, too: just 10 CBs have such gaudy-high numbers through the year, including Maulet. Of course, all of those numbers combined have Maulet giving up 0.26 FP/Route and 1.95 (!) FP/Target on the season. Nothing Tyreek can’t deal with even on a tiny amount of targets/routes this weekend.

Top WR/CB Matchups To Avoid

Las Vegas Raiders v New York Giants Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Ja’Marr Chase (CIN) vs. Casey Hayward Jr. (LV)

Nothing against Chase nor putting him in your lineups today and for the remainder of his career. Word. Chase is just an absolute treat, a historically-great wideout, and what, a top-5 all-time rookie wide receiver? Jesus Christ, Ja’Marr! Chase dumped a ridiculous 55.6 PPR points on Kansas City just two weeks ago. He took a virtual week off last weekend appearing on just five plays... and he still reached 4.6 PPR points catching 2-of-4 targets for 26 yards. Chase is unstoppable, full stop. Now, for him to put up 20+ PPR points, we’d be banking on 1) QB Joe Burrow excelling in his first postseason game and 2) Chase doing the same while facing the coverage of one of the top-3, top-5-at-the-very-least players at the cornerback position this season. If Cincy wants to advance, the Burrow-Chase pairing will need to be fantastic, but given the tough matchup Chase will have to go through I’m of the opinion that Tee Higgins is probably the player to go with for DFS this weekend when it comes to Bengals’ players.

If Hayward has been on the field defending a total of 676 routes this season, that’s for a reason. Only nine other players have put up such defensive-volume numbers, and of those only two are labeled CBs instead of Safeties. That’s insane, but there is something even more ridiculous baked into Hayward’s season: he’s only been targeted 56 times through the year even playing and starting all games to date. Quarterbacks, simply put, prefer to just look in other (any) ways before daring to challenge Casey Jr. Makes sense, considering Hayward has allowed a measly 57% completion rate when targeted for 427 yards against and only 3 TDs on his coverage. Hayward’s 0.14 FP/route are tied for the second-best mark among CBs with 50+ targets, and if there is a player in the Raiders secondary (or full defensive unit, if you push it) that can change the outcome of this game, that’s mos def Casey H.

Kendrick Bourne (NE) vs. Dane Jackson (BUF)

I know you won’t be losing your mind and smashing that ROSTER button on Kendrick Bourne, but you might be one of those thinking about the Patriots wideout to fill your last WR slot this weekend in an effort to save funds to put on other positions/players with higher or at least more solid upsides and weekly outcomes. At the end of the day, Bourne is putting up almost 11 PPR points per game and he’s had seven outings of 14+ PPR this season, the latest happening just a couple of games ago. That said, you might want to reconsider that seemingly “safe” floor of around 10 PPR points he comes with. And that’s all because of the tough-as-nails matchup he’s projected to feature in this weekend.

PFF has Dane Jackson projected to be covering Bourne for most of the Wild Card game snaps. That’s no bueno for Bourne’s expectations. If you have read the paragraph on Casey Hayward Jr. above, let me tell you Dane Jackson has been pretty much his low-volume clone this season. Of course, defending 676 routes (Hayward) is not even remotely close to Jackson’s sample of just 291 such plays, but the latter number is large enough to believe Jackson’s production when handling wideouts. Jackson is, in fact, one of only 86 players with such a volume of routes defended. He ranks inside the top-5 in FP/Route allowed and is also a top-10 corner in FP/Target. Jackson has allowed opposing quarterbacks to log a putrid 55.6% completion rate while posting a diminute average Passer Rating of 77.8 (!) on the full season. He has yet to see a WR score a touchdown while on his coverage, and although he doesn’t have a single interception that’s probably more related to the lack of targets/chances he’s getting than anything else.