WR/CB Matchups to Target and Downgrade - Week 6

WR/CB Matchups to Target and Downgrade - Week 6

Welcome to Week 6 of the WR/CB Matchups article. For those who are not familiar, this is a weekly series looking at fantasy football matchups for wide receivers versus the cornerbacks who are projected to cover them.

Creating the weekly matchup chart has been more challenging than usual this year due to the fact that most teams are moving their WRs around more than they ever have. It is difficult to pinpoint which CB each WR will be matched up. The chart is designed to give a 1-v-1 matchup for each player, but the reality is that most NFL WRs will see a mix of all the DBs they face each week. The chart is best used to understand how teams are defending outside versus inside receivers, if teams are shadowing, and how much emphasis they put on slowing down the opposing WR1.

While matchups do matter and every piece of information can give you an edge, it is important to understand that WR skill level and target share are more predictive than matchup in many cases. Blindly following the chart is not recommended, but it can be useful in making tough lineup decisions between two WRs close in skill level. The chart is best used to understand the context of matchups overall, not predict outcomes.

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The CB Matchup Chart below is a snapshot of each team's cornerback group as it relates to allowing fantasy points. There are inherent flaws within the data compilation of cornerback play. The first being the fact that quantifying a 1-on-1 matchup in an NFL game is unfair because of zone coverages, mental errors, certain passing concepts, and a million other things. Assigning fantasy points against a cornerback isn't a perfect science.

The purpose of this chart is to give more of a general sense of how defenses are handling opposing WR groups rather than identifying exactly where, when, and how every single encounter happened. Another factor to consider is that players are listed based on where they line up the majority of the time.  Most receivers do not line up on the right side on every single snap, so they won't be matched up with the same CB on every snap.

The "Rtng" column is the rating of each cornerback based on film study and analytics. The lower a player is graded, the easier the matchup for the WR, so low ratings are green and high ratings are red. The "PPGA" is the number of fantasy points per game that the player has given up. A name in blue means the corner could possibly shadow the WR1. A name in red means that the player is dealing with an injury. WRs highlighted in bright green have an easy matchup. WRs highlighted in light red have a tough matchup. The chart is a useful tool, but should not be used as a start/sit cheatsheet.

WR/CB Matchups to Target and Downgrade - Week 6

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WR/CB Matchups to Target

We start with Thursday Night Football when the defending champion Bucs travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles and their improved pass defense. I'll touch on Mike Evans and Antonio Brown later, but Chris Godwin will have the easiest matchup of the three with the burnable Avonte Maddox opposing him in the slot. Evans actually played more slot snaps than Godwin last week, but in terms of percentage of alignments I expect Godwin to see the most Maddox while Evans will have to deal with Steven Nelson and Darius Slay more.

On the other side of that game, stud rookie DeVonta Smith will match up with Jamel Dean. Dean is coming off an injury and has been susceptible to big games in the past. Quez Watkins also gets an upgrade, as the Bucs have given up the most PPG to opposing slots in the entire league.

Allen Robinson has been a massive disappointment so far this season but the Jaire Alexander-less Packers could be a get-right spot. The Packers are fresh off giving up a monster game to Ja'Marr Chase and have given up the most PPG to opposing WR1s.

Russell Wilson is injured, which puts a damper on D.K. Metcalf's rest-of-season value. Geno Smith looked capable enough in relief of Wilson last week, and Metcalf does have an enticing matchup against the Steelers, who have given up the 7th-most PPG to opposing WR1s. Keep an eye on the injury report, as Cameron Sutton's availability would make Metcalf a less attractive play. The Steelers have also been bad against slots, so Freddie Swain might be an option in a large-field showdown tournament.

Stefon Diggs made an embarrassing blunder last week, failing to score an easy touchdown because he wanted to showboat his way to the end zone. All three Bills WRs including Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, and the Twitter-less Cole Beasley get the Titans' leaky pass defense in a cake matchup.

Chris Conley scored a touchdown last week and this week takes on an Indianapolis pass defense that was just shredded by Lamar Jackson and friends. Brandin Cooks and even Chris Moore will likely spend time at RWR, which is the most advantageous spot to be in against the Colts defense. However, Conley should be there most, which is why he's highlighted.

Speaking of underperforming pass defenses, the somehow-atrocious Washington pass D is fresh off giving up three more TDs to one of the worst WR units in the NFL last week. I think Tyreek Hill is a little better than Deonte Harris. Mecole Hardman also gets a bump.

Three slots with easy matchups include Randall Cobb, Jakobi Meyers, and Jaylen Waddle. Cobb will face off against one of the worst slot corners in the league in Chicago's Duke Shelley, while Meyers gets the burnable Cowboy Jourdan Lewis. Waddle was featured in this article last week and delivered a complete dud in an easy matchup. Tua Tagovailoa might be back and just keep in mind that rookie WRs tend to get better as the season goes on. I wouldn't blame you for not believing in Waddle this week but guys like him, Rashod Bateman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Elijah Moore, and Terrace Marshall Jr. are not bad stashes if you have bench space in season-long leagues.

Tom Brady looks like he's chasing records, and his WR group is so outstanding that you should never consider benching them. However, the Eagles outside CB duo of Steven Nelson and Darius Slay has been dominant this season in terms of limiting fantasy points. I'm not advising to sit a Bucs WR, and Brady could easily overcome the trends, but this is not a good matchup for whoever plays the most outside snaps. Based on prior alignment data, that's Mike Evans and Antonio Brown.

The Bills look like the best team in the NFL and Tre'Davious White is fresh off somehow limiting Tyreek Hill. If Julio Jones plays, he should see plenty of White, which wouldn't be good for him. If he doesn't, A.J. Brown could be looking at yet another underwhelming week.

Yes, I've seen the gif of Kadarius Toney burning Trevon Diggs on an out-breaking route last week. I've also read some citations of stats implying that Diggs has not been as good in coverage as most people think. All I know is that based on my numbers, Dallas has been very good at limiting WR1 production, so I'm treating Diggs as a tough matchup until I have a mathematical reason not to. I really wanted to make this point this week, even though I don't think many people are actually considering starting Nelson Agholor.

Adam Thielen's yards-per-route-run metric has declined in each of the past three seasons and it seems like TD regression could make him a very poor fantasy play going forward. The Panthers have been stellar against RWRs thanks to Donte Jackson, so Thielen gets a downgrade this week.

Desmond King is playing LCB for the Texans now for some reason so please resist the urge to play Parris Campbell.

Casey Hayward has been awesome for the Raiders so far, so Tim Patrick gets a downgrade.

Keenan Allen and Mike Williams are matchup-proof thanks to their star QB, but the Ravens do have good corners. Allen specifically will have to deal with Marlon Humprhey, who might be one of the only DBs in the league who can keep up with him.

The Packers simply don't give up production to opposing slots, so Darnell Mooney gets a downgrade. Just keep in mind that the outside corners for the Packers aren't good so Mooney's outside snaps will give him opportunities to prove my chart wrong.

Similarly, the Giants funnel WR production to the perimeter and usually take away slots. Cooper Kupp can obviously also play outside, especially in condensed sets, so it's not like he's a bad play.

Thanks for reading and good luck this week.

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WR/CB Matchups to Target and Downgrade - Week 6