Matchups to Target
Stefon Diggs, BUF (DK: $7,000 | FD: $7,100) vs. Johnathan Joseph, TEN
An automatic maximum DFS exposure notification should be programmed into all computers and cell phones whenever Stefon Diggs is facing a defense featuring man coverage. In Week 5, the upside for Diggs heads into the stratosphere facing off with Johnathan Jones. Through Week 4, Jones has allowed the sixth-most FPG (8.1) among all CBs and 1.78 yards per coverage snap (YPCS, league average is currently 1.20).
When Diggs has faced man coverage schemes, his yardage per route run (YPRR) increases by 29 percent and his FPs per route increases by 35 percent. Defended by man coverage on 35 percent of his routes since being traded to Buffalo, Diggs has collected 50 percent of his receiving yards. Did I mention that Tennessee is expected to use man coverages on over 40 percent of snaps?
The one downside to Diggs’ matchup will be when facing the Titans’ Cover 2 zone on around 20 percent of passing snaps. Josh Allen has thrown four INTs to a single TD against Cover 2 since the beginning of 2019. And Diggs experiences a 25 percent dropoff in YPRR and 12 percent decrease in FPs/route. However, Diggs remains as my top DFS WR with his ridiculous history of dominating man shells. Those rates extend back much further to his time with the Vikings. Kirk Cousins was/is one of the absolute best QBs in the NFL at making man coverages look silly.
Will Fuller V, HOU (DK: $6,600 | FD: $6,600) vs. vs. Tre Herndon, JAX
Stick with me as I throw a few usage statistics at you. The Jaguars currently rank top-five in the NFL in the rate of Cover 1 utility. The Jags also rank top-10 in Cover 3 and top-five in Cover 3 Seam usage. And I’ll be interested to see if Jacksonville intends to shadow Will Fuller V with either Tre Herndon or C.J. Henderson -- or at all -- since Fuller has shifted between left and right wideout in near equal proportion through four weeks. Both CBs have been rock-steady cover corners this season.
Fuller only provides a slight 2.9 percent increase in FPs/route when facing Cover 1 (man). However, it’s the routes he’ll run against Cover 3 and Cover 3 Seam that catapult Fuller from a decent play to must expose-status. Against Cover 3 since 2019, Fuller’s YPRR increases by 22 percent, and his FPs/route jumps up 21 percent. But my fingers will be crossed that the Jaguars field as many Cover 3 Seam shells as possible. Against Cover 3 Seam schemes, Fuller’s YPRR shoots up an amazing 47 percent, coinciding with a 21 percent increase in FPs/route.
The only factor keeping Fuller’s FPs/route against Cover 3 Seam in check is a lack of TD receptions. We should all know the volatility in projecting receiving TDs, especially considering a huge percentage of those red-zone looks previously went to DeAndre Hopkins. Even if the Jags utilize man coverage on half of Week 5 snaps, one of the best aspects of Fuller’s game is that he only requires a handful of snaps to produce an entire game’s worth of production. He’ll enter this matchup with TD receptions in back-to-back games, currently healthy, and waiting to pounce against Cover 3 and Cover 3 Seam shells.
Tyler Boyd, CIN (DK: $6,200 | FD: $6,000) vs. Ravens’ Cover 0 | Cover 1 | Cover 3 | Cover 6
Make no mistake, Marlon Humphrey is one of the top NFL cover corners out of the slot. He’s allowed 0.91 YPCS, a minuscule QB rating when targeted, and zero TDs permitted all season. However, as we saw with Terry McLaurin’s success from last week, the Ravens will fall back into a zone on around half of passing snaps, and, more importantly, into a Cover 3 shell. Even with Humphrey in man coverage on Boyd, I am still expecting a big game.
Joe Burrow produced historic numbers when facing man coverages while leading the LSU offense. Four weeks into his rookie season, Burrow has completed over 70 percent of attempts and three TDs to zero INTs against NFL man schemes this season. With that in mind, you may begin to see why I am confident in Boyd’s outlook against Humphrey. Since the beginning of last season, Boyd’s YPRR has increased 21 percent, and his FPs/route goes up 29 percent against man. Those increases are quite remarkable considering he was being fed by Andy Dalton and Ryan Finley in ‘19.
Any bright ideas of looking back to Boyd’s 2019 matchups against Baltimore provide zero reliability with Dalton and Finley under center. Burrow is simply on another level, in comparison. When the Ravens fall into a Cover 3, Boyd’s FPs/route jumps by a healthy 12 percent. In addition, when the Ravens have a lead this season, their rate of Cover 3 usage has increased by 22 percent. Boyd is quite simply one of the most reliable slot WRs in the NFL. With a history of success against man coverage, Cover 3, and playing from a negative game script, Boyd will provide excellent value in Week 5.
Odell Beckham Jr., CLE (DK: $6,400 | FD: $6,800) vs. Colts’ Cover 1 | Cover 2 | Cover 3S | Cover 6
Last week, I wrote about how the Colts’ defense has done an outstanding job against the majority of opposing No. 1 WRs. In addition, my opinion remains steadfast that the Indianapolis zone secondary, as a whole, is the premium unit in the game. So you can understand the uneasy feeling I have in recommending Odell Beckham Jr. for Week 5. Please do not interpret this writeup as a chase after OBJs big Week 4 output. We’re entirely unlikely to see him score on either another long TD run or on a TD pass from Jarvis Landry the rest of the season.
This referral is based entirely upon historical success. The Browns will face a Colts’ secondary that features no less than four different coverage shells with a zone scheme on nearly three-fourths of passing snaps. I do not see Beckham as a player to target based upon snaps facing Cover 1 on around one-fifth of Week 5 routes. It’s the history against zone shells that he’ll face that point Beckham toward success this week.
Beckham’s YPRR increases by a modest 11 percent and FPs/route by six percent against Cover 3 since 2019. When facing Cover 2 as a member of the Browns, Odell’s yardage efficiency and FPs/route both shoot up by an astounding 33 percent. Last but not least, Beckham’s YPRR boosts by 10 percent, and his FPs/route by a massive 31 percent against Cover 6 shells.
The data suggests that Indy will utilize Cover 3 on one-fourth of passing snaps. But they’ll field Cover 2 and Cover 6, the shells ODB has simply punished, on a total of one-third of snaps. Indianapolis actually utilizes Cover 6 at the league’s second-highest rate, simply music to our ears.
To conclude, Beckham will provide rostered LUs with the league's fourth-highest target share while never leaving the field. And it’s actually the feared Indy secondary that will provide him with the two shells he loves the most, Cover 2 and Cover 6, and at top-five NFL usage rates. This is a week that we simply do not have the option of fading Beckham.
Other matchups to consider:
Robert Woods, LAC (DK: $6,400 | FD: $6,700) vs. Washington Cover 3 | Cover 4
Mecole Hardman, KC (DK: $4,400 | FD: $5,100) vs. Raiders’ Cover 0 | Cover 1 | Cover 2 | Cover 6
Robby Anderson, CAR (DK: $5,900 | FD: $6,200) vs. Falcons’ Cover 1 | Cover 1 | Cover 2 | Cover 3
Matchups to Avoid
Terry McLaurin, WAS (DK: $6,100 | FD: $6,300) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
Another feature of last week’s WR/CB matchup piece was me gushing over the potential of Terry McLaurin against the Baltimore Cover 3. In Week 5, McLaurin will face off with a Rams’ defense that can also be counted on for a good amount of Cover 3 snaps. In fact, Los Angeles utilized Cover 3 at a 32 percent greater clip against the Giants last week than they have averaged this season.
It would, then, only seem logical to question my placement of “Scary Terry” in the fade category this week. McLaurin will see a chunk of routes facing Cover 3, remain on the field for 95-plus percent of passing snaps, and after previously being targeted with the league’s sixth-highest target share. Although, that answer should be more than obvious for any seasoned DFS player. “McLaurin F1” will unfortunately be stranded on “Ramsey Atoll” in Week 5.
The Rams have utilized Jalen Ramsey in shadow coverage eerily similar to Darrell Revis during his prime. Ramsey has held shadowed No. 1’s to 0.88 YPCS or 27 percent below league average. It’s important to remember that that league average is for CBs matching up against all WRs, not only with No. 1 WRs. However, we did see Amari Cooper generate 18.1 FPs in Week 1 against Ramsey.
That Week 1 result for Cooper stands as Dak Prescott’s evolutionary unveiling toward peppering his No. 1 WR with volume regardless of matchup. It stands to reason that Dwayne Haskins could attempt a similar targeting approach with McLaurin this week. With enough volume, McLaurin could conceivably do enough to reach solid value. But that approach would also likely be Haskins’ undoing toward Ron Rivera replacing him with Kyle Allen. Easy fade.
Jerry Jeudy, DEN (DK: $5,400 | FD: $5,500) vs. Jonathan Jones, NE
We all watched last Thursday as Jerry Jeudy #Moss’d Pierre Desir for a 48-yard TD. But rock has hit bottom for the Broncos with Courtland Sutton out for the season and both Noah Fant & K.J. Hamler facing possible multi-week absences. Denver desperately needs Jeudy to emerge as the go-to guy only five weeks into his rookie season.
However, Jeudy will not only face Bill Belichek’s murderer's row of top flight DBs, he’ll face them the week following a loss to Kansas City, and in Foxboro, no less. To top it all off, Drew Lock has been unable to practice to begin the week. And the last time we saw Jeudy opposed by a team featuring man coverage, he managed 9.6 FPs -- only 3.1 FPs of which gained against Kristian Fulton’s man coverage -- to the Titans in Week 1.
On paper, Jeudy is likely to be covered by Jonathan Jones since he’s ran over 80 percent of routes out of the slot. But I am not so sure that will end up being the case. We saw Stephon Gilmore shift down into the slot to hold Darren Waller to 2.9 FPs in Week 3. And there’s also the possibility that Gilmore covers Tim Patrick and J.C. Jackson shadows Jeudy. Either of those scenarios would leave Jeudy without a morsel of value in Week 5.
Even if Jeudy is fortunate enough to be covered by Jones, easily the most vulnerable of New England’s CBs, it will not be in shadow coverage. No matter who you think will cover Jeudy, it cannot be denied that upside for all Denver receivers are capped with either Brett Rypien or Jeff Driskel under center. The fact that an implied total for the Broncos hasn’t even been released this week should persuade you of the logical decision.
Diontae Johnson, PIT (DK: $5,600 | FD: $5,800) vs. Darius Slay, PHI
I was all over Diontae Johnson in Week 3 playing as home favorites in a favorable matchup against Houston's man coverage. To the detriment of my bankroll, Johnson exited early in that game with a concussion. The good news is that Johnson has cleared the concussion protocol in order to face the Eagles this week. The bad news is that he’ll draw the shadow coverage of Darius Slay.
I’m admittingly enamored by the elite quickness from Johnson that has allowed him to overcome a combine 40-time of 4.53 seconds. He’s easily one of the prime examples of why a player should never be written off based purely on a lack of “NFL speed” and perceived “percentile” limitations. But this is NOT the week to get cute with your exposure to Johnson. Slay has limited Terry McLaurin, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, A.J. Green, and Deebo Samuel to a combined 22.5 FPs and 0.90 YPCS this season. You can find much better value with that salary allotment.
Jamison Crowder, NYJ (DK: $5,800 | FD: $6,300) vs. Byron Murphy, ARI
The Jets are at the laughingstock of the NFL this season. Despite a vote of confidence from ownership, calls for Adam Gase’s job will endure until he is eventually fired. The singular bright spot for New York’s “offense” has been -- when healthy -- Jamison Crowder. In the two games in which he’s been healthy, Crowder has generated 21 FPG. However, it’s the health of Sam Darnold that has sealed Crowder’s Week 5 fate.
At one point in time, Joe Flacco could be relied upon for feeding receivers toward fantasy usefulness. Unfortunately, 2010 is long in the rearview, and ~6.8 yards/attempt does not exactly breed confidence. To make matters worse, the shelf life for Flacco may expire quickly with the absolute worst offensive line in the game protecting the 35-year-old journeyman.
Even if you wanted to set all of these factors aside, Crowder will face off with Byron Murphy in man coverage. Murphy has only allowed an average of 2.6 FPG this season. Finally, targeting Crowder in DFS should be reserved to weeks facing featured zone secondaries… and only when Darnold is at the helm.
Other matchups to avoid:
Brandin Cooks, HOU (DK: $4,100 | FD: $5,200) vs. C.J. Henderson, JAX
Tim Patrick, DEN (DK: $4,400 | FD: $5,200) vs. Stephon Gilmore, NE