We were gifted with an exciting week of action that provided us with the ever-important film to evaluate each team’s coverage strengths and insecurities. Very few defenses made the transition from last season without at least a slight shift in secondary strategy. By studying the film for these blueprint shifts and the historical data on player performance, we can use our better judgment to differentiate each receiver's expected performance.
Follow along throughout the season as I provide Fantasy Points premium subscribers with my personal WR vs. CB matchup analysis detailing the receivers I am targeting and avoiding in both season-long leagues and DFS on DraftKings and FanDuel.
Matchups to Target
DeAndre Hopkins, ARZ (DK: $7,700 | FD: $8,300) vs. Washington’s Cover 3/Cover 4
Any concerns that the move to Arizona would come with growing pains were laid to rest after Hopkins collected 14 receptions on a robust 16 targets in Week 1. The 49ers unveiled a new, predominant Cover 4 shell -- zone with four deep defensive backs -- against the Cardinals that directly played into DeAndre Hopkins’ wheelhouse. While he’ll face a lower percentage of Cover 4 from Washington, he’ll also see a significant drop off in secondary talent from that of the 49ers.
An argument can be made that the elite Washington pass rush could limit Kyler Murray’s time in the pocket. But the same could’ve been said about Murray prior to facing San Francisco’s front seven. Murray displayed a situational awareness to scramble between the tackles of the 49ers’ pressure to nearly reach 100-yards on the ground. The Washington Football Team did not face that level of maneuverability from Carson Wentz. With Murray forcing Washington to remain honest in coverage, Nuk will move around the Arizona formation to pick apart a secondary consisting of Ronald Darby, Jimmy Moreland, Fabian Moreau, and, if he’s able to return from injury, Kendall Fuller.
Julio Jones, ATL (DK: $7,400 | FD: $8,200) vs. Dallas’ Cover 3
Whereas Hopkins has historically crushed Cover 4 shells, Julio Jones has destroyed Cover 3 secondaries -- zone with three deep defensive backs. The matchup with Dallas currently holds the highest over/under on the slate at 52.5 points. And the Falcons are expected to face a negative script situation as 5-point underdogs. The emergence of Russell Gage in the slot has been key to pulling some defensive attention away from Jones and Calvin Ridley on the outside.
OC Dirk Koetter possesses the ability to create holes in zone coverages by utilizing a three-headed assault from talented receivers attacking with three-levels of criss-crossing routes. Secondaries simply cannot account for the Falcons’ playmakers at all times. Should the Cowboys decide to drop into man coverage on Julio to account for their weapons… oh my! The only coverage shell Jones has a history of better success than Cover 3 is against man coverage (Cover 0, Cover 1, or Cover 2 Man). As far as his previous matchups when facing Dallas, Jones put up a 6/118/1 line in Week 11 of the 2018 season. It’ll be nearly impossible to roster Jones, Hopkins, and Davante Adams on DraftKings, but I love that investment on FanDuel teamed with lower-priced RBs.
Stefon Diggs, BUF (DK: $6,500 | FD: $6,800) vs. Xavien Howard, MIA
The Miami contest at New England left us with very little footage to breakdown on coverage expectations from the Dolphins. Thank the Patriots’ offense for running the football on nearly 70 percent of plays. Even in the face of Miami stacking the box with eight defenders, the Patriots still managed to generate 37 more rushing yards than any other Week 1 offense. With that in mind, we can reasonably expect to see both Devin Singletary and Zack Moss find considerably more success on the ground than when they faced the Jets’ elite run defense. However, we also learned from Week 1 that the Josh Allen-led offense has its sights set on fielding a balanced attack this season. Despite jumping to a 21-3 lead at halftime against the Jets, Allen still attempted 21 passes during the second half.
In Week 1, Stefon Diggs played two-thirds of his snaps out wide to the right. That will place Diggs in opposition of Xavien Howard’s coverage -- who played two-thirds of his snaps at LCB in Week 1. Howard’s coverage, unfortunately for Miami, has become a liability since his breakout ‘18 campaign. It will not help matters that Diggs has averaged 3.42 yards per route run (YPRR) versus teams in Cover 0 and Cover 1 man shells over his last 16 games. New Dolphins DC Josh Boyer reduced the number of Cover 3 usage while also dropping a Cover 2 shell entirely last week. He replaced them with a massive increase in Cover 0 and continued the previous regime's strategy of featuring Cover 1. I expect Diggs to return multiple times his price in a road game the Bills are favored by less than a TD.
Amari Cooper, LAR (DK: $6,400 | FD: $7,000) vs. A.J. Terrell, ATL
If you are serious about DFS then you are well aware of the offensive display the Falcons both generated and allowed in Week 1. Russell Wilson had his way with Atlanta’s secondary and in spite of the Falcons’ pass rushing success. New DC Raheem Morris’ defense allowed an eye-opening 13 receptions of 15 yards or more in the contest. Dak Prescott has racked up more than 3,500 passing yards and 15 TDs since Week 1 of last season when facing the Cover 1, Cover 2, and Cover 3 shells he’s expected to see in Week 2.
As for Amari Cooper, he’ll line up outside right on around 50 percent of his snaps, matching him up with LCB A.J. Terrell. Terrell surrendered 22 FPS and a perfect QB rating when targeted vs. Seattle last week. This is a prime opportunity for Cooper to take advantage of a reeling secondary with Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb requiring constant attention of their own. When the Falcons utilize Cover 1, they’ll face Cooper’s near 3.00 YPRR average over his last 17 games. The Rams did a great job of bottling Prescott up last week. Do not expect Atlanta to do the same in a game with the highest expected total on the slate.
Other matchups to consider: Robert Woods, LAR (DK: $6,400 | FD: $6,700) vs. Avonte Maddox, PHI / Allen Lazard, GB (DK: $5,300 | FD: $5,600) vs. Tony McCrae, DET
Matchups to Avoid
Allen Robinson II, CHI (DK: $6,400 | FD: $7,000) vs. Corey Ballentine, NYG
The Bears’ offense is far from one that elicits a ton of DFS confidence. Mitchell Trubisky is the root cause of the offensive struggles, narrowly edging out Nick Foles to retain his starting job this offseason. Even though Chicago pulled out the victory over Detroit in Week 1, Trubisky struggled to get much going before connecting with Anthony Miller on the game-winning, 27-yard TD strike. The reliable aspect of Trubisky’s game has been consistently targeting Allen Robinson II. While the Bears will move Robinson around the formation, he played over 50 percent of Week 1 snaps out wide to the left. This sets Robinson up to face Corey Ballentine who, based on Monday night's matchup with the Steelers, exclusively plays at RCB.
Giants new DC Patrick Graham unveiled quite a bit of changes to his secondary against the Steelers. Rather than a Cover 1-heavy defense, New York featured a Cover 2 shell and tripled their usage of Cover 0 from last season. While Robinson has produced excellent numbers when up against the Giants, these coverage changes present him as a volatile play. But it’s Trubisky’s issues when facing these coverages that create a dip in Robinson’s value. Over his last 16 games, Trubisky has not thrown for a single TD when facing either Cover 0 or Cover 2. While Robinson may be able to overcome a lack of TD upside with target volume, you can find considerably-better plays (i.e., Robert Woods) with a similar price point.
D.K. Metcalf, SEA (DK: $6,000 | FD: $6,500) vs. J.C. Jackson, NE
I’ve already described in depth the success the Seahawks had against Atlanta. While Seattle may still be able to secure the victory at home against the Patriots, they will not produce the same positive results when targeting their outside receivers. Even though Seattle coaches moved D.K. Metcalf between the X, Y, and Z receiver spots last week -- he only played out wide last season -- he’ll face a defense that used the most eight defensive back coverages from Week 1. In contrast to Atlanta consistently sending five pass rushers, Russell Wilson will face New England’s high utilization of rushing with only three defenders. The Patriots will, instead, spy on Wilson with the intention of eliminating his strategy of moving outside of the pocket to give his receivers more time to separate.
If that was the extent of the challenge facing Metcalf, he would still be considered a solid DFS option since Wilson is not easily contained. However, with Metcalf playing more than half his snaps outside left, he’ll fall under the coverage of J.C. Jackson. Undrafted out Maryland, Jackson has erupted during the past year to become one of the top man coverage defenders in the NFL. The quartet of Stephon Gilmore, Jason McCourty, Jonathan Jones, and Jackson provide New England with the ultimate advantage when facing athletic receiver units such as Seattle. It’s simply unwise forcing Metcalf into your DFS lineup with the potential for a basement floor.
Jamison Crowder, NYJ (DK: $5,400 | FD: $6,000) vs. K’Waun Williams, SF
I listed Jamison Crowder as a matchup to target last week. But that was last week. The 49ers took a devastating loss at the hands of the Cardinals on their home field in Week 1. The combination of Kyler Murray’s legs and DeAndre Hopkins’ hands pushed them ahead late for the victory. Now San Francisco will head into East Rutherford with a chip on their shoulder. The Jets do not have a mobile QB nor an elite receiver of Hopkins’ caliber. The Jets may actually be able to keep this one close if their elite run defense is game to contain the 49ers’ bread-and-butter. And that belief is mirrored by Vegas calling for this to be a low-scoring affair.
Crowder will go up against slot CB K’Waun Williams on Sunday afternoon. Historical matchup data indicated that Crowder had been a matchup disadvantage for the Bills’ coverages. However, he’ll be facing an entirely different beast in the 49ers’ Cover 4 that will not permit screens to Crowder to go for 69 yards to the house. Williams permitted a mere 2.9 FPS to Arizona receivers out of the slot last week. In addition, Crowder will face what is likely the top linebacker coverage unit of the ‘9ers. With an implied scoring total of only 17.5 points, look elsewhere when setting your DFS lineups.
Preston Williams, MIA (DK: $4,800 | FD: $5,400)vs. Tre'Davious White, BUF
Were DeVante Parker to shock everyone by returning from his injured hamstring to face Buffalo, Preston Williams would make for a slightly better play. As it stands, when Williams lines up outside right, he’ll face the top cover CB in the NFL, Tre'Davious White. When he moves to the left, he’ll face off with Levi Wallace who limited his coverage responsibilities last week to 2.4 FPS. Without Parker drawing attention away from Williams, he will become a focus of the Bills’ Cover 3 secondary. I do like Williams’ dynasty value, but this is not the week in which to target the sophomore.
Other matchups to avoid: Sterling Shepard, NYG (DK: $5,500 | FD: $5,600) vs. Kyle Fuller, CHI / DeSean Jackson, PHI (DK: $5,100 | FD: $5,500) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR