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Week 17 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 Week 17

Carolina Panthers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Eric Espada/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

Dallas Cowboys v New York Giants Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Jaylen Waddle (MIA) vs. Elijah Molden (TEN)

I get it. Ja’Marr Chase is the better rookie. Or is he? See, Chase has 243.4 PPR points over 15 games played to Waddle’s 223.4 over 14. The difference in actual FPPG is virtually nonexistent and with the two putting up 16.2 and 16.0 PPR points per game weekly. And hey, touchdowns are important and all, but if you ask me if I prefer Chase and his 10 scores or Waddle and his five, gimme the latter because of his not-so-huge reliance on scoring to rack up numbers. None of that will matter this weekend, though, as Waddle could very well demolish fantasy leaderboards with some 10-8-90-1 baseline (Waddle is coming off four consecutive games of 18+ PPR points and an average 10-9-95 line, just in case) on the receiving end of the Dolphins offense against a very soft (as projected) matchup against the Titans secondary—let alone facing Elijah Molden for most of his snaps.

Molden is the man projected to cover Waddle for the largest part of this weekend’s game as PFF sees it. Molden is, also, the man who has covered 375 routes to date while giving up averages of 1.81 FP/Target and 0.26 FP/Route. Now, if you haven’t been following this column this season, you might get those numbers for what they’re not: no bueno stats. Only 22 players are averaging those two figures combined among players with 375+ routes defended. Molden has only one interception against 3 TDs allowed on his targets, and he’s enabling opposing quarterbacks to reach Passer Ratings of 102+ on average. He’s allowed nearly 68% of his targeted passes to connect for 420 yards, and he often gets burned after the catch (234 YAC vs. 186 AYD).

CeeDee Lamb (DAL) vs. Antonio Hamilton (ARI)

Can’t lie about Lamb’s latest performances: from 19.2 to 14.6, 11.0, and most recently 10.4 PPR points. The last month of play hasn’t been very gracious for Lamb, but that might change in the game against the Cards this weekend, more than anything because of the projected CB matchup. Even then, though, Lamb has been good for a worst-case-scenario line of 5-4-50 (that is, combining his worst marks at each category from the past month of play), and has averaged an actual 9-6-66 more-than-healthy line. The touchdowns have been removed from his weekly appearances after he scored five prior to W11 when he went dry for good. That could change come Sunday.

Antonio Hamilton has appeared in all 15 games for the Cards, but he’s only “started” two of them. That’s why he has only defended 135 routes over the season, and why Arizona probably hasn’t had to regret a couple more losses throughout the year. Not a stretch, folks. Hamilton has allowed 19 of his 27 targets to end in his main-cover hands for a ridiculous 70%+ completion rate against him. Those 19 completions turned into 172 yards and 1 TD while QBs have posted Passer Ratings of 99.6 on average. Hamilton has definitely not been the worst corner out there defending low-volume routes, but he’s been rather bad while doing so and that explains why he’s lacked more opportunities as the season has advanced.

Top WR/CB Matchups To Avoid

Atlanta Falcons v Carolina Panthers Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Stefon Diggs (BUF) vs. A.J. Terrell (ATL)

While not having a career year—hey, don’t get mad, that already happened for him not long ago!—Diggs is putting together quite a season in 2021. He’s finished with 15+ PPR points in 9 of his 15 games and scored nine touchdowns already for a current rank of WR6 on total points and WR9 in FPPG. Not bad. But while the season-long numbers are great, Diggs was much better in the first half of the year than in the last month of play. He’s coming off a nasty 21.5 PPR-point game last weekend, sure, but before that one, he had scored 9, 14, and 13 not getting into the WR1-realm once and topping at WR18 overall in any of those three slates. Diggs is an absolute stud and you always play him, of course, but you might want to spend the big bucks in other players at the position not facing tough assignments such as Diggs will this weekend.

Terrell is an absolute menace and that hasn’t changed all year long. He’s posting the third-best FP/Target allowed among CBs with 500+ routes covered, and a top-30 mark in FP/Route. Those numbers are far from a joke considering Terrell has been targeted 74 times over 14 games. He’s allowed just 50% of those passes to connect, one of only three corners doing so while facing at least 70 targets on 500+ routes. Terrell’s 4.9 YPR allowed rank first by 0.5 yards over the second-best figure among that same group of players. And he has a good 2-INT against 3-TD ratio. Again, on 74 targets. Bona fide top-5 corner on the year, easily.

Rashod Bateman (BAL) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR)

Of course, nobody is going to mistake Hollywood Brown (or Mark Andrews, while we’re at it) for Rashod Bateman. That’s obvious, but you might have some feelings or thoughts about putting Bateman in your lineup this weekend if only at the low WR3/Flex slot. That might be a good move. At the end of the day, Bateman has had some sound games through the season putting up double-digit PPR points in five of the games Bateman has appeared in from Week 7 on. He’s also been able to put up a season-high tally of 17.3 PPR points not long ago (W14) when he reached an 8-7-103 receiving line, and he’s now coming off a 12.6 FP game in which he went for 26 yards and his first TD of the year on 4 receptions. Not bad for a lineup filler, right?

Very wrong. Very wrong, though, assuming Jalen Ramsey is the man facing Bateman on the other side of the field come Sunday. If the PFF matchups ring true for this weekend game, then Bateman will be facing the toughest secondary defender in the nation to many. Ramsey is a long-time defensive staple and surely not a surprising performer-out-of-left-field with an out-of-nowhere season. He’s gotten targeted a massive 86 times this year allowing 59% of those passes to end in the receiver's hands. He’s only surrendered 476 receiving yards on those completions, though, good for an average of 5.5 that is ground-level low when compared to same-volume corners. Ramsey has a top-4 mark on FP/Targets (1.29) and the second-best mark in FP/Route (0.20). No need for shadow coverages here, as Ramsey is good enough mix-and-matching with whoever faces him so odds are even if the snap count in which Bateman goes against him is low, the receiver will most probably struggle mightily.