Matchups to Target
DeAndre Hopkins, MIN (DK: $7,900 | FD: $8,500) vs. Amani Oruwariye, DET
Kyler Murray has taken the NFC West by storm this season with back-to-back wins behind the fifth-most rushing yards (442) and second-least total points allowed (35). Murray has actually pushed Kenyan Drake to the passenger seat with 21 rushing attempts (10 scrambles), 158 yards, and three TDs. Another unsubtle change for Arizona this season is a 30 percent target share gifted to its No. 1 receiver, DeAndre Hopkins.
Hopkins is accustomed to being peppered with targets after occupying the same role with Houston where, including six career playoff games, he saw an average of 166.7 over the last seven seasons. Hopkins is on pace for 200 targets this season after only topping 200 once in his career (213 in 2015). In Week 3, Hopkins will face the highest rate of Cover 1 in the NFL this season from new DC Cory Undlin’s Detroit Lions. Hopkins remains planted to one side of the field more than a lot of other top receivers with around three-fourths of passing snaps wide left.
Gift-wrapping his anticipated alignment on such a high number of snaps informs us that he’ll play the majority of the game across from former fifth-round, sophomore CB Amani Oruwariye. One of the data points I like to use when evaluating coverage performance is yards allowed per coverage snap (YPCS). Anything below 1.25 YPCS will usually beat the league average. For which, Oruwariye has permitted 1.32 YPCS this season in coverage of Allen Robinson II, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and a few others. Oruwariye plays his man coverage affixed to the right side of the field.
When facing Cover 1 shells this season, Hopkins has generated 3.03 yards per route run (YPRR). He also remained efficient with 1.82 YPRR last year with the Texans. Oruwariye was able to dodge DaVante Adams for the majority of last week’s game. While he played solid man coverage on Robinson in Week 1, the Chicago passing offense is not yet firing on all cylinders this season (more on them below). It requires a good amount of trust from DFS degens to fire up a receiver whose salary swallows up around 15 percent of total salary. Hopkins’ floor is elevated by garnering one-third of team targets and his ceiling is as high as any receiver in the game. Get Nuk into your lineups stacked with Murray with utmost confidence against Detroit. One other tidbit on Murray, he’ll have the huge advantage of facing the Detroit defense with their backs to him in man coverage.
Adam Thielen, MIN (DK: $6,900 | FD: $7,200) vs. Johnathan Joseph, TEN
For their slow start, the Vikings can thank Kirk Cousins’ play and, with elite edge Danielle Hunter on injured reserve, one of the league's worst defenses so far this season. Just do not blame Adam Thielen. While his offense doesn’t play at the same frantic pace, Thielen currently tops Hopkins’ target share to lead all NFL receivers at 32 percent. Thielen shredded Jaire Alexander’s and Darnell Savage’s coverage for a pair of Week 1 TDs to go along with 157 yards. In Week 2, he became the focus of Indianapolis’ Tampa 2 zone after their top-five run defense had contained Dalvin Cook and Alexander Mattison. The Colts have been terrific at limiting WR1s in the Matt Eberflus-era. New OC Gary Kubiak’s offense will have an opportunity for a rebound performance against the Titans’ lackluster run defense and pass rush in Week 3.
Tennessee has permitted the eighth-most total yards this season despite facing Denver and Jacksonville. Frustrating zones from Indy last week will have Thielen chomping at the bit to face the man coverage from the Titans. The Titans have simply been unable to replace the shadow skills of Adoree Jackson from the duo of Malcolm Butler at right corner and Johnathan Joseph on the left. Since Thielen is maneuvered around the formation, we’ll see him match up with both CBs. Thielen has owned all attempts at man coverage with 3.42 YPRR since 2019. With Thielen carrying that man success over to this season -- 2.90 YPRR -- having exposure to Thielen is a must.
Allen Robinson II, CHI (DK: $6,200 | FD: $6,900) vs. Isaiah Oliver, ATL
With Mitchell Trubisky under center, the matchup game must be played whenever considering Chicago receivers. And the Bears can entirely thank their defense for the 2-0 record. The offense ranks in the bottom-ten in total yardage and bottom-twelve in scoring. Although, this week just happens to be a prime opportunity to employ Chicago WRs. Disgruntled No. 1 Allen Robinson II will face a mix of Atlanta man and zone coverages across from CBs Isaiah Oliver and A.J. Terrell. 2020 footage suggests AROB will see a bit more Oliver, but it’ll work in his favor either way.
The Falcons’ secondary is permitting 476.5 passing yards and 39 PPG this season. Between Oliver, Terrell, and slot Darqueze Dennard, they’ve allowed more FPS to opposing receivers (43.4) than any such trio in the game this season. Cover 1 and Cover 3 shells, which history suggests he will face on two-thirds of Sunday’s snaps, have generated nearly half of Robinson’s receiving yardage, and 43 percent of his TDs since 2019. Providing the cherry on top, nine-of-22 Trubisky passing TDs since 2019 have come when facing a Cover 1 shell. A coverage he’s expected to see on one-third of snaps this week.
Tyler Boyd, CIN (DK: $5,900 | FD: $5,800) vs. Nickell Robey-Coleman, PHI
Through two weeks, NFL defenses have played zone coverages on over 90 percent of Cincinnati passing plays. Some may think they have a somewhat clear understanding of Joe Burrow’s game after watching him attempt 64 passes against Cleveland’s zone shells. But Burrow was simply taking what the defense gave him on Thursday Night Football. An entirely unique layer to his game will be revealed on Sunday: targeting receivers without defenders looking him in the eye. When I graded games for PFF over the better part of a decade, I had the luxury of a complete NCAA reference database. While that access is a thing of the past, I can tell you from memory that Burrow slices up man coverages.
Burrow is keen on generally progressing through his reads using an outside-in approach. Burrow will aim to attack wide over the top and, when coverages anticipate his wideout’s intentions, he’ll work inward to his slot receivers. When we see Burrow facing man-to-man this weekend, Tyler Boyd will be the recipient of a career game. I’ll provide insight on A.J. Green’s expected coverage below but, in short, I do not think Burrow will force-feed him against Philadelphia. Many of those available targets will fall to Boyd and, to a lesser extent, Drew Sample.
Boyd will be shadowed by Nickell Robey-Coleman on Sunday. Considering the Bengals’ nonexistent pass rush, they’ll likely be playing from a negative game script. NRC has been a WRs best friend this season. He’s permitted all targets within his coverage to be completed, along with allowing 12.6 FPG. Over his last 18 games against Cover 1 fronts, Boyd has generated 36 percent of his yardage, and three-of-six TDs on only 27 percent of his overall snaps.
Matchups to Avoid
Odell Beckham Jr., CLE (DK: $6,300 | FD: $6,800) vs. Washington’s Cover 3 | Cover 4
If you simply gloss over the matchup between Odell Beckham Jr. and a bottom-15 Washington pass defense, OBJ may seem to be a solid play. However, new DC Jack Del Rio has done a tremendous job protecting each of his healthy CBs shortcomings with quality safety play. Both Landon Collins and Troy Apke are allowing less than 0.22 YPCS this season. Even with the knowledge that Beckham will move all over the formation and that RCB Fabian Moreau has had a breakout performance, the compelling reason for fading OBJ is still yet to come.
That simple answer: Baker Mayfield. Mayfield, historically, has been a massive liability whenever confronted with a Cover 3 or Cover 4 secondary. With the Washington defense, he’ll face a combination of the two on nearly 70 percent of passing snaps this weekend. Consider that, when facing quarters (Cover 4) starting in 2019, Mayfield has a 38.5 QB rating, averages 3.3 yards/attempt, and a 44.7 completion percentage. Against Cover 3 over the same time, Baker has passed for two TDs compared to nine INTs. ODB is on the receiving end of a 0.31 YPRR versus Cover 4 but a solid 1.84 YPRR against Cover 3. However, Beckham has scored zero TDs on throws from Baker when facing either coverage. Easy fade.
D.J. Moore, CAR (DK: $6,100 | FD: $6,700) vs. LA Chargers’ Cover 3
D.J. Moore is fresh from posting an 8/120/0 line against the Tampa Bay secondary. The offense will be without Christian McCaffrey’s elite output and looking to end a two-game losing streak. The Panthers are also likely to face a negative game script as seven-point ‘dogs. However, none of these factors should compel you to expose yourself to Moore on Sunday. As labeled to me by Scott Barrett, Moore doesn’t see the “money” targets. His breakout ‘19 season ended with 89 receptions and 1,185 yards. But “Sleepy” has only scored a total of six TDs over his three-year career.
He’ll face the stout Cover 3 and Cover 4 zone shells of the Chargers in Week 3. I actually think Moore will see his normal allotment of targets this week. Also beneficial, Moore has historically lined up more on the left side, limiting his interactions with All-Pro Casey Hayward Jr.. And LAC is known for permitting high completion percentages as a tradeoff for limiting big gains. But we need more from that WR slot than a handful of empty receptions. One final stat line to persuade you toward the fade side of the fence… Since ‘19, Teddy Bridgewater has passed for zero TDs compared to a pair of INTs when facing a Cover 3 shell. But it should be noted that he could very well see so much underneath volume to post usable numbers in DKs PPR format. However, I’ll fade him entirely this week.
A.J. Green, CIN (DK: $6,000 | FD: $5,900) vs. Darius Slay, PHI
While I expect Tyler Boyd and possibly even Drew Sample to have excellent games, I am anticipating that we see low output this week from Green. No. 18 will be the unfortunate recipient of shadow coverage from Darius Slay. Slay limited Terry McLaurin to a 5/61/0 line -- much of which was collected outside his coverage -- and followed that with a solid performance against Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods. By my calculations, Slay has allowed a minuscule 0.74 YPCS through two weeks.
That said, Slay will move around the Philly formation enough to also affect the output of either Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, and/or Mike Thomas. But my money is on Slay focusing on containing Green. Joe Burrow is such a maestro at dissecting man coverages that he should be able to find receivers with more separation.
Stefon Diggs, BUF (DK: $7,000 | FD: $6,900) vs. Jalen Ramsey, LAR
Let’s face it, this is simply the weekly edition of “avoid the matchup” starring Jalen Ramsey. While Amari Cooper was shockingly able to generate 18.1 FPS in Week 1 against Ramsey, he only managed an average of 1.4 yards after the catch. Not only that, but Cooper was being targeted by Dak Prescott. In this weekend’s showdown, Stefon Diggs will obviously be fed by Josh Allen. While I do not want to take anything away from Allen’s play this season, his game has yet to reach that of Prescott’s.
I wrote in last week’s matchup piece that Diggs had averaged 3.42 YPRR when facing teams in Cover 0 and Cover 1 man shells over his last 16 games. He certainly lived up to the expectation with 24.1 FPS against Miami. It may be tough to resist the temptation of tapping into that well again this week. Of course, with Diggs’ athleticism on par with Ramsey’s own, anything is possible. But, from a risk aversion standpoint, you can pivot to other talented options facing a massive reduction in coverage aptitude.