In order to provide some additional perspective on coverage shell percentages and volume of WR success, I’ve added the following bar chart. Average NFL rates of secondary schemes are listed alongside the number of WRs that have managed to generate at least 0.50 FPs/route since the beginning of the 2019 season. As you can see, the WR totals are not very high. That’s especially true when you consider that a few of the WRs show up on multiple lists. Inclusion in the data is limited to at least 30 routes and 10 targets over that timeframe.
Matchups to Target
Julio Jones, ATL ($7,100 DK | $8,300 FD) vs. Amani Oruwariye, DET
Julio Jones can be found within the top five percentile on the list of wideouts with success against Cover 1. In Week 7, he’ll face the league’s top usage rate of man shells from the Lions. That said, Amani Oruwariye is certainly no slouch in coverage. Oruwariye is only permitting 0.87 yards per coverage snap (YPCS) and 0.15 FPs/coverage snap (FPCS) this season. However, Oruwariye has not been a frequent shadow corner to date. If he is not tasked with shadowing Jones, the two will still match up on around 40 percent of snaps, on average, on the left sideline.
Jones will face man coverage on over half of snaps Sunday afternoon. Since the start of the ‘19 season, Jones’ yardage per route run (YPRR) increases by a full yard per route to go along with a 28 percent increase to his FPs/route (FPR). “Quintorris” isn’t simply taking dink-and-dunk targets toward his success, either. His air yards per attempt actually increases by 10 percent with a man defender in tow.
Julio hasn’t gone up against Detroit since the 2017 season when he collected seven-of-12 targets for 91 yards against former DC Teryl Austin’s zone-heavy schemes. Even if Oruwariye were to attempt to stick with Jones, this is a smash spot for the Alabama alum to have a repeat of his Week 6 performance. However, I firmly believe Jones will not be shadowed. The Lions’ defense is allowing opposing WRs to score FPs at a rate 17 percent above league average. Matt Ryan also has a history of airing it out against Cover 1 shells. The two make for an intriguing Week 7 stack.
DK Metcalf, SEA ($7,200 DK | $7,300 FD) vs. Dre Kirkpatrick, ARI
Coming into the season, calls to #LetRussCook echoed from the mouths of Seattle fans and fantasy degenerates, alike. The previous play calling for the Seahawks barely allotted Russell Wilson with enough freedom to keep Tyler Lockett within the top-20 fantasy WRs. Fast forward to today, the Seattle passing offense is the premiere DFS target, and we simply must decide between exposure to Lockett or DK Metcalf each week. For Week 7, the majority of factors side in favor of Metcalf.
We have more than enough evidence from Arizona DC Vance Joseph’s defense to know that Dre Kirkpatrick will man right corner, Patrick Peterson on the left, and Byron Murphy in the slot. Murphy has easily been the best of the bunch within the Cardinals’ featured Cover 1 scheme. He’s only permitted 6.5 yards per target (YPT) that is, on average, 25 percent less than that of Peterson or Kirkpatrick. Since Lockett will be expected to run two-thirds of his routes from the slot, we have our first piece of evidence in favor of Metcalf.
In the last two games when Metcalf has faced man-heavy schemes, “Wolverine” dropped 3/85/1 on Stephon Gilmore in Week 2, and 4/106/0 on Xavien Howard in Week 4. Additionally, Lockett has averaged 7.2 FPG to Metcalf’s 21.0. Next, let’s consider the zone shells Seattle will face outside of the 51 percent of snaps in man coverage. The Cardinals will play in a Cover 3 on a fifth of snaps and 14 percent in a Cover 4. Scheming up a Cover 3 against Wilson is a dangerous proposition. You can read what I previously wrote about that here. Dating back to 2019, Metcalf has a four-to-one advantage over Lockett in receiving TDs with a 21 percent bump to DKs FPR.
However, when facing a Quarters concept (Cover 4), Lockett has a marked advantage with three-to-zero TDs scored, and a 41 percent increase over Metcalf’s FPR. I also expect to see Lockett get back on track much sooner than later. His success this season is no fluke. Mislabeled as a WR limited to the long ball, “The Rocket” is one of the most complete WRs in the NFL. Although, this matchup favors Metcalf. He’s expected to face Kirkpatrick’s 1.49 YPCS (CB league average is currently 1.19) on around half of his routes. I am also expecting that the 10 combined missed tackles between Kirkpatrick and free safety Budda Baker to come into play. Make no mistake, Wilson-Metcalf-Lockett triple stacks are quite sexy but, if you can only afford one WR, my money will be on Metcalf.
Kenny Golladay, DET ($6,700 DK | $7,600 FD) vs. Kendall Sheffield, ATL
One of the most underappreciated players in the game, I firmly believe that Kenny Golladay is a top-five NFL WR. As you can read here, he is able to call upon a full route tree to attack every level of the field. Golladay is only now approaching full health from the hamstring he pulled in preparation for Week 1. He’s still managed either a TD or 100-yards receiving over each of the last three weeks. Also provided within the above link, I’ve had this matchup circled since the offseason.
The Falcons’ struggles in the secondary this season are far from a secret. As a unit, they’re pacing the league with 18 TDs and 2,012 receiving yards allowed. With Isaiah Oliver playing the slot on the majority of snaps over the last three weeks, Kendall Sheffield has become a primary corner. The 111th selection of the 2019 draft has played at a replacement-level, at best. He is personally permitting 18.7 FPG within his coverage. At 2.62 YPCS and 10.3 YPT, Sheffield should be a weekly DFS target to be taken advantage of for as long as he holds down a significant role.
In Week 7, Sheffield will line up across from Golladay on around half of his routes. Even if A.J. Terrell ends up playing more snaps on Golladay, “Babytron” is set up for a monster game. The Falcons’ secondary schemes are very similar to what can be seen from the Titans’ defense: Cover 1, 2, and 3 shells in somewhat equal proportions. While Golladay has struggled historically against Cover 2 looks, he’s more than made up for that by punishing the four other schemes utilized the most in the NFL. Teams rolling out a Cover 1 or 3 shell beware, Golladay is on the prowl. His overall average FPR increases by 25 percent against Cover 3 and 15 percent against Cover 1 as one of the numbered WRs listed above in the bar chart against both schemes.
Terry McLaurin, WAS ($5,800 DK | $7,100 FD) vs. Cowboys’ Cover 1 | 3 | 4 | 6
Terry McLaurin finished Week 6 tied with the fourth-most receptions among all NFL wideouts. While far from a poor outing, I had counted on seeing more production. You can take McLaurin’s 27 percent target share -- sixth-highest in the league -- to the bank each week independent of the starting QB. But the most disappointing factor from the Giants’ secondary in Week 6 was that they played nearly half of all snaps from a Cover 3 shell -- they played Cover 3 on a third of snaps from Weeks 1-5. Write this down: “McLaurin F1” is one of the most lethal WRs in the NFL at diagnosing, destroying Cover 3 schemes. We can thank Kyle Allen for failing to take advantage of that matchup.
All of that said, a lack of surrounding talent at WR also played a substantial role. However, Washington added Robert Foster to their roster for this week. With 4.41 vertical speed, Foster will be able to pop the lid just enough on opposing secondaries to pull some of that attention away from McLaurin. Whereas the New York secondary has been decent this season, Washington will face the Cowboys in Week 7. In addition to anonymous complaints to the press directed at the coaching staff, Dallas has been decimated by injuries this season. Dak Prescott’s injury has received the press, but the secondary has taken the biggest hit.
The Cowboys will attempt to contain “Scary Terry” within their multitude of coverages with Daryl Worley lined up across from him on over half of expected snaps. Signed off the street in April, Worley is permitting completions on nearly 80 percent of targets to his coverage, and 14.9 YPT. Allowing deep completions at that rate is simply DFS gold for McLaurin. Against both Cover 1 and 3 over his career, Terry has seen at least a 25 percent increase to his FPR. As good as the matchup is on paper, the odds are against Allen passing for more than a TD or two. However, I expect McLaurin to approach double-digit receptions, top 100-yards receiving, and fingers crossed, one TD.
Tee Higgins, CIN ($5,300 DK | $5,700 FD) vs. Browns’ Cover 3 | 4 | 6
Joe Burrow has become the love interest of every knowledgeable analyst on the planet this season. Much of that love dates back to his historic Heisman-winning ‘19 campaign with LSU. He may not yet be the DFS darling we want so badly for him to be, but he has shown off a football IQ as a rookie that we’ve only seen from the likes of Patrick Mahomes in 2018, and, maybe, Peyton Manning in 1998. The factors that aided Mahomes in passing for 50 TDs his first season as the starter were sitting most of the 2017 season in preparation, and a top-five O-line. Manning had neither of those benefits, but he was also relatively wreckless, leading the NFL with 28 INTs while passing for 26 TDs and 3,700-plus yards.
Burrow will neither pass for 50 TDs or be able to surpass Manning’s legacy by the end of the 2020 season. But he has already put the entire league on notice of his arrival. As long as the Bengals’ O-line can finally learn to recognize an NFL stunt, very big offensive outputs are on the horizon for Cincinnati. A.J. Green finally put together four quarters of quality play last week. He stands as a stark reminder of the importance of playing through minor injuries in order to keep pace with the speed in the NFL. However, his relative absence in prior weeks provided Tee Higgins all the time he needed to become the new No. 1 WR on the outside.
Higgins has given Burrow the catch-and-run threat that the offense lacked the opening weeks. That’s taking nothing away from the elite route-running ability of Tyler Boyd. Without Boyd and Joe Mixon doing the dirty work moving the chains, the opportunities for Higgins would be limited. Higgins is the perfect complement to Boyd as toys for Burrow to exploit man coverages. But the Bengals will face the NFL’s fifth-highest utility of zone shells from the Browns in Week 7. Burrow and Higgins will have the advantage of already facing the Browns’ fierce pass rush and porous secondary. Cleveland has allowed the third-most FPG to opposing WRs this season. Finally, Higgins has clearly emerged as the most lethal threat for the Bengals when facing Cover 4 and 6 shells with over 20 percent increases to his YPRR.
Other matchups to consider:
Chris Godwin, TB ($6,300 DK | $7,400 FD) vs. Raiders’ Cover 2 | Cover 6
Matchups to Avoid
Davante Adams, GB ($7,900 DK | $8,900 FD) vs. Bradley Roby, HOU
We finally have Davante Adams back from a hamstring injury, guaranteed to see double-digit targets. And now I’m recommending that you fade him. What gives? If you’ve followed this column on a weekly basis, you won’t need an explanation beyond stating that Bradley Roby will be shadowing Adams. Roby may not receive the same recognition, but he is one of the top cover corners in the NFL. He is unfazed by blazing speed -- Roby tested at 4.39 seconds in the 40 -- and has contained a who’s who of NFL WRs since being tasked with shadowing opposing No. 1’s.
We were provided with another example in Week 6 when Roby held A.J. Brown to 10.4 FPs. Brown was finally able to slip away from Roby’s coverage to catch a second TD pass within the “coverage” of Brennan Scarlett. Which is the risk we will always run when playing the shadow coverage numbers. Even with Roby in man on Brown, Houston will scheme nearly 50 percent of snaps in Cover 2, 3, and 4 zones. Perhaps that’ll provide Adams with enough snaps to do his damage. But we just saw Adams struggle to break free from a similar set of coverages from Tampa Bay in Week 6.
One of the most discouraging factors for Adams is actually the inability of the Packers’ pass rush to pressure opposing QBs over the last three weeks. Without that ability to disrupt offenses on third downs, we’ll likely see the Green Bay offensive play count in the low 60’s as opposed to the 70-or-more from the first two weeks. If you feel comfortable paying a premium for Adams, I wish you the best of luck. For me, the 50/50 odds, at best, of Adams finishing as a top-five DFS WR in Week 7 is simply not worth the risk.
Amari Cooper, DAL ($6,900 DK | $7,800 FD) vs. Washington Cover 3 | 4
If only Andy Dalton could match his ability with his ambition. As we would expect every backup QB tossed into the lead role when the starter falls to injury, Dalton expressed complete confidence in the Cowboys’ offense attacking on all cylinders. However, with a patchwork O-line in front of him, Dalton’s performace on Monday night truly highlighted the reasons the Bengals had for walking him out the door. His accuracy and arm strength have simply fallen off a cliff from his days as an overachiever.
Facing off with the top-10 pass rush and top-five zone secondary of Washington is not going to help. The scary part for the Washington defense is that it’s been playing with Chase Young at less than 100 percent. With four weeks separating his groin injury and this matchup, Young’s game-changing ability to get to the QB cannot be understated. Let me put it this way, Dalton’s FPs per dropback decreases by 54 percent and 89 percent when facing Cover 3 and 4 shells, respectively. With the elite zone skills of Kendall Fuller looming in addition to these factors, can you really blame me for having zero confidence in seeing Dalton doing anything other than checking down to Ezekiel Elliot?
Allen Robinson II, CHI ($6,700 DK | $6,800 FD) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
So far, the list of recommended WRs to fade includes Adams, Cooper, CeeDee Lemb, and Michael Gallup. I actually find it a bit of a relief when uncovering in-depth evidence for avoiding expensive players. Well, we can add Allen Robinson II to that list without a second of hesitation. Jalen Ramsey is the equivalent of Christian McCaffrey / Mookie Betts / Ferrari LaFerrari / Tecmo Super Bowl / Metal Gear Solid (PS1) / Nirvana / Gal Gadot / Rihanna of shutdown cornerbacks.
Ramsey is so thoroughly automatic at single-handedly preventing opposing No. 1 wideouts from reaching the end zone that the only other thing I will say about Robinson is that he’s expected to be on the field Monday night. Too late, Ramsey already shut him down. The fact that Ramsey has made such an impact while playing 80 percent of total snaps within zone schemes is simply inconceivable. The only reasonable comparisons that come to mind are Darrelle Revis at his absolute prime and Deion Sanders. He is that damn good.
Will Fuller V, HOU ($6,800 DK | $6,900 FD) vs. Jaire Alexander, GB
Trust me, I already know. Will Fuller V has scored in four straight games with three games of over 100-yards receiving in 2020. He is on the verge of becoming an automatic DFS play as the heir apparent to DeAndre Hopkins. The Texans have finally moved on from Bill O’Brien, allowing Deshaun Watson to unleash his untapped potential. However, I hate the ruin the Fuller lovefest, but he is a hard fade in Week 7.
I actually should’ve wrote “vs. Packers’ Cover 2 | 6” across from Fuller in the heading. However, I am expecting that Jaire Alexander will shadow Fuller on enough snaps to matter. “Shadow” was not mistakenly added there, it was entirely intentional. That said, I am not expecting that Alexander will shadow Fuller to the extent that the Rams utilize Ramsey. But, on clear passing downs, you’ll see Alexander on Fuller’s side of the field more times than not.
If simply foretelling the 2020 breakout coverage of Alexander over Fuller is not enough to persuade you, I’ll attempt another route. Alexander has allowed a minuscule 0.68 YPCS this season. That’s 43 percent below league average. In coverage of Emmanuel Sanders, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Chris Godwin, and Mike Evans over the last three weeks, he’s allowed a combined line of 3/30/0 over his last three weeks. The fact that QBs have only attempted seven targets to WRs within his coverage on Alexander’s last 119 snaps is more than enough to express the challenge facing Fuller in Week 7.
Darius Slayton, NYG ($5,800 DK | $6,200 FD) vs. Darius Slay, PHI
Darius Slayton was already dealing with a busted up foot from Week 6, and now he’s facing the prospect of Darius Slay’s shadow coverage tomorrow night. For all of the Eagles’ flaws this season, they’ve been able to rely on two factors. A top-five pass rush and the elite man cover skills of Slay. Both of those factors will directly impact Slayton’s upside. The Giants’ O-line is the worst unit in the league and it’s not even close. In the amount of time required for Slayton to finish his routes, Daniel Jones will be forced to check down.
Even if Jones did somehow manage to stay alive long enough for Slayton to get downfield, would he even want to target him? Philadelphia will play around half of all snaps from a Cover 1. While Slay doesn’t ghost opposing WRs to the levels of a few others, what he does as well as any other is limit big plays. Within this anemic offense, Slayton’s saving grace has been on deep targets. Is it possible that he breaks the mold for a long catch-and-run for a TD on Thursday? Of course. It will all come down to your tolerance levels of odds. The risk aversion, odds-in-your-favor approach is to fade Slayton entirely from your Thursday-to-Monday LUs. If you must have exposure to this game, I really like Travis Fulgham’s chances of exposing the New York Cover 2 and 3 zones.
Other matchups to avoid: