Matchups to Target
D.K. Metcalf, SEA (DK: $6,800 | FD: $6,900) vs. Xavien Howard, MIA
Week 4 is literally loaded with WRs in plus matchups. So much so, that finding WRs in actual difficult matchups took a great deal of extra effort this week. Of course, two games of being in jeopardy of actually being played didn’t help (Steelers at Titans & Vikings at Texans). Each week, I feel like I’m writing up a segment on both D.K. Metcalf as a player to target and Jalen Ramsey as a CB to avoid. Week 4 is no different.
Miami’s starting LCB, Xavien Howard, has shifted to the right side when Byron Jones has sat out. Drawing Metcalf in coverage is a difficult ask for any CB, so it’s notable that not only will Metcalf draw a top matchup in Howard, but that Howard will enter the matchup at less than 100%, if he even can find his way back onto the field. Late in Week 3 at Jacksonville, Howard intercepted a pass from Gardner Minshew II and left the field limping, holding his surgically-repaired right knee. Since Jones was unable to log a single limited practice last week, he will be highly questionable against Seattle. That would leave a 2020 first-rounder from Auburn, Noah Igbinoghene, and an undrafted sophomore out of UTEP, Nik Needom, defending Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.
Playing with a significant lead over the Jaguars last week led to some skewed coverage numbers. Miami dropped back into a zone shell on nearly two-thirds of snaps after featuring an NFL leading rate of man coverage over the first two weeks. I anticipate that we’ll see the Dolphins revert back to playing close to two-thirds of passing snaps in man shells. While Lockett holds a salary among the top-five highest WRs on both platforms this week, Metcalf is one of the absolute best values on FanDuel at only $6,900. MRI reports have actually been very positive, but Seattle could also be without Chris Carson this week due to a minor knee strain. The Seahawks’ offense that was already passing on two-thirds of offensive snaps could be forced to take to the air throughout Week 4. Russell Wilson will face a pair of young CBs who have been coverage liabilities this season standing between the fastest WR duo in the NFL and the end zone. Count me in.
Mike Evans, TB (DK: $6,400 | FD: $7,400) vs. Chargers’ Cover 1 | Cover 3
Chris Godwin pulled up limp last week with a hamstring strain that will likely keep him out multiple weeks. If Los Angeles had everyone healthy, I might have considered writing up Mike Evans as a fade-candidate against the vaunted Cover-3 defense of the Chargers. But we’re no longer discussing a secondary anywhere close to that suffocating defense. The Chargers will be without Derwin James, Nasir Adderley, and now Chris Harris Jr. in Week 4. Without Harris, Desmond King II, who has been excellent this season at safety, is now expected to cover the slot, with Michael Davis remaining at RCB. That leaves a 2020 6th-rounder from Notre Dame, Alohi Gilman, and Jahleel Addae, currently on the practice squad, as the vitally important safety valve, playing FS in the Chargers’ Cover 3.
Of course, All-Pro Casey Hayward Jr. will still be around, but he simply doesn’t have the luxury of shadowing singular threats with the secondary so short-handed. We saw an example of that in Week 3 when Hayward played every single coverage snap at LCB. The Chargers have shifted their secondary in response to personnel by greatly increasing Cover 1 (man with a single-high safety). They’ve already reached one-third of the Cover 1 snap usage that they played in all 16 games last season. That should set Evans up for a big game against a defense that's looking like a "shell" (pun intentional) of its former self, forced to play out of their comfort zone to mask the shortcomings of their secondary personnel.
Terry McLaurin, WAS (DK: $5,800 | FD: $6,600) vs. Ravens’ Cover 0 | Cover 1 | Cover 3
Terry McLaurin’s positive outlook remains unchanged facing a secondary featuring Jimmy Smith, Marcus Peters, and Marlon Humphrey. Why is it a matchup to target? In addition to Baltimore playing around half of their defensive snaps in Cover 0 and Cover 1 (both man shells), the Ravens will field a Cover 3 on the majority of their remaining snaps. McLaurin exploded onto the scene last season to become one of the top-20 WRs in only 17 career games. And he’s been able to achieve this feat despite having Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum, and Colt McCoy under center.
While his success against man and Cover 3 shells extends back to his rookie season, McLaurin has had the additional benefit of practicing against new DC Jack Del Rio’s Cover 3 this season. The numbers are very clear in highlighting McLaurin as a significant play against the Ravens’ Cover 3 with an impressive 25 percent increase to both his route yardage efficiency and FPs per offensive snap. And when Baltimore shifts to Cover 0 and Cover 1, McLaurin’s per snap efficiency since 2019 mirrors that 25 percent spike in production. Washington will likely play from a negative game script sitting as nearly two TD ‘dogs to Baltimore. With a plus stylistic matchup and the game script in his favor, McLaurin is a top value on both platforms this week.
DeVante Parker, MIA (DK: $5,700 | FD: $6,500) vs. Seahawks’ Cover 3
I am as excited about DeVante Parker’s potential this week as anyone on this list. First things first, Jamal Adams left last week’s matchup against the Cowboys with a non-contact groin injury. No updates to his Week 4 status have been released, but he will most definitely be less than 100 percent this weekend. Due to the insane production from the Seahawks’ offense through three weeks, opposing offenses have been forced to hold the gas pedal down over entire games. For all of his shortcomings, Ryan Fitzpatrick has made a name (Fitz-Magic) for himself in game scenarios exactly like he’ll face on Sunday.
Without Adams, Fitzpatrick may even do enough with this game’s expected pace against Seattle to provide value multiples at $5,400 on DK and $7,100 on FD. And Parker will be the focus of his offense with a history of exceeding his average results against Cover 3 secondaries. During his 2019 breakout, Parker’s FPs per snap increased from 0.37 to 0.47 against Cover 3. His YPRR increased from 1.84 to 2.85… a 35 percent bump! On the surface, this appears to be a risky recommendation. But Parker’s hamstring appeared to be entirely healthy against Jacksonville last week, and Fitzpatrick played an outstanding game. Vegas insiders have Miami keeping this game close as only 6.5 point underdogs and a healthy 54.0 Over/Under. I’ll populate my LUs this weekend with plenty of exposure to Parker.
Other matchups to consider: Keenan Allen, LAC (DK: $6,500 | FD: $6,900) vs. Buccaneers’ Cover 3 | Cover 6 / Kenny Golladay, DET (DK: $6,000 | FD: $7,300) vs. Marshon Lattimore, NO, John Brown, BUF (DK: $5,100 | FD: $6,100) vs. Nevin Lawson, LV
Matchups to Avoid
Tyreek Hill, KC (DK: $6,900 | FD: $8,000) vs. Jonathan Jones, NE
Tyreek Hill has been able to keep yearlong fantasy owners happy by scoring a TD in all three weeks to start 2020. However, he has not provided DFS LUs with the value at his inflated salaries that we’ve come to expect. In Week 4, Hill will face off with Jonathan Jones at Arrowhead Stadium. Jones has logged 1.23 yards per coverage snap (YPCS) out of the slot this season that sits right around league average.
We know Hill will be moved around the formation enough that he’ll be opposed by any one of the Patriots’ top cover corners. But Jones shadowed Hill on 64 percent of his snaps in Week 14 last year when Hill was limited to 10.4 FPs. It should also be noted that Hill has the kind of game-breaking speed (4.29) that only requires a pair of plays to make inclusion on this list look silly. On DK, his salary is reasonable if you so desire the exposure. You can consider this a FD fade recommendation, but I’ll be fading him on both platforms.
Allen Robinson II, CHI (DK: $6,700 | FD: $7,000) vs. Colts’ Cover 1 | Cover 3
It’s been an up-and-down season for Allen Robinson II despite seeing a 28 percent target share. When Mitchell Trubisky was finally benched in favor of Nick Foles in the mid-third quarter last week, he quickly added 60 percent of his 28.3 FPs. Can we finally expect to see consistent scoring from Robinson starting this week? Quite simply, no. Since 2019, DC Matt Eberflus’ mixture of six different secondary shells have limited opposing No. 1 WRs to 14.4 FPG. And those numbers are actually inflated by big games from Michael Thomas, Julio Jones, and two from DeAndre Hopkins.
In 2020, No. 1 WRs have averaged 7.7 FPG -- but for the life of me could not find a single New York Jet from Week 3 to refer to as a No. 1 WR. I settled on Chris Herndon. The addition of Xaver Rhodes, T.J. Carrie, and Julian Blackmon along with the development of Kenny Moore II and Khari Willis have turned the Colts’ secondary into what I feel is the top zone discipline in the NFL this season. Foles and Robinson will have a significant hurdle in front of them in Week 4 and I’ll be looking elsewhere for production.
Darius Slayton, NYG (DK: $5,000 | FD: $5,700) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
The weekly “Ramsey Atoll” entry. Dating back to his rookie season, Daniel Jones has seen a 26 percent dropoff in TD pass rate when facing a Cover 3 zone. It just so happens that two-of-three ‘20 opponents (Pittsburgh and San Francisco) have featured a Cover 3 secondary shell. However, the recommendation to fade Darius Slayton obviously goes much deeper. A remarkable 35 percent of Slayton’s FPs this season has resulted from targets of 20-or-more yards. Jalen Ramsey has only permitted a single reception of 20-plus yards this season and five since 2019. None of those have gone for a TD and two were intercepted. Easy fade.
T.Y. Hilton, IND (DK: $5,300 | FD: $5,900) vs. Bears’ Cover 1 | Cover 3 | Cover 6
Seeing T.Y. Hilton’s name on this list really sums up the difficulty of finding relevant Week 4 WRs facing poor matchups. That’s far from a knock on Hilton since the Indianapolis offense has taken a quick pass, run-heavy approach to success this season. Case in point, the Colts have the fifth-lowest average depth of target this season. And it’s disconcerting that TYH ran a route on only 60 percent of Colts' dropbacks last week.
Over his career, Hilton has utilized his lid-lifting 4.34 speed to produce five one-thousand yard seasons. But he’s seen a significant dip in production since 2018 that has not recovered with the change at QB from Jacoby Brissett to Phillip Rivers. In Week 4, Hilton will match up with a Chicago secondary that has only permitted a pair of passing TDs and the second-lowest QB rating this season. You know what to do.