Wild Card DFS Breakdown: WRs

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Wild Card DFS Breakdown: WRs

Hey there. If you weren’t already aware, you’re reading Part-3 of a 4-Part breakdown on this week’s Wildcard Weekend DFS slate. In this article, we’re breaking down all relevant WRs, after already covering QBs, RBs, and TEs.

We have an exciting collection of teams featuring the best-of-the-best facing off in the Wildcard Round of the playoffs. Follow along as we examine each positional grouping for each team to identify the DFS value/upside on both DraftKings and FanDuel.

Before digging too deep into the individual players, I did want to mention a few important notes this week:

1) On a typical full-game slate, I want to feel comfortable with every player I’m rostering. Ideally, even my punt-plays are tremendous values with high-upside. On a shorter slate like this (6 games or 3 games depending on which tournament you enter) it’s okay to roster a relatively “gross” name if you feel they give you a stronger lineup overall – allowing you to pay up elsewhere.

2) I can’t stress enough the importance of late-swap on these smaller slates. If you have any tournament lineups that seem unlikely to cash, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by adding exposure to some “riskier” lower-owned players. And, I suppose, there is something of an edge towards players with games later in the weekend.

3) In the TLDR, I’ve listed out the top plays in order of value (according to me). This isn’t super strict. And in some cases sort of arbitrary. But it also doesn’t matter anywhere near as much as most of my readers think it does. What really matters, and especially with this short slate, is that you’re building a lineup that’s well correlated. Or, as Johnny would say, “That tells a story.” And making sure you’re paying attention to ownership and then working off of that. Is Ezekiel Elliott a better play than Elijah Mitchell? On paper, and in cash, it’s Mitchell. But in tournaments, it depends. Who will be more highly owned? Elliott might make more sense if fading Jimmy Garoppolo and his pass-catchers and stacked with Dallas’ DST.

TL;DR

In order, with Tier 1 in bold:

DK: Cooper Kupp, Tee Higgins, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Zay Jones, Deebo Samuel, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Christian Kirk, Jakobi Meyers, Tyreek Hill, Byron Pringle

FD: Cooper Kupp, Deebo Samuel, Tee Higgins, Christian Kirk, Ja’Marr Chase, Zay Jones, CeeDee Lamb, Amari Cooper, Diontae Johnson

Notes: This is what you’re looking at for cash. These are the top point-per-dollar plays at the position (according to me)… For tournaments this isn’t so important, as, again, everything centers around ownership and the correlations and upside of your stack.

Cincinnati Wide Receivers (vs. LVR)

Ja’Marr Chase [WR3/WR3] reminds me a lot of Tyreek Hill. They both have obscene levels of upside, really unrivaled upside with the potential to single-handedly break the slate in any given week (and especially on a week like this with only 12 teams in play). To the point where it’s almost as though the entire slate comes down to one question: “Did you play him? Because, if not, you didn’t win any money.” But, like Hill, it’s so hard to predict ex-ante in any given week. Matchups haven’t tipped us off in any meaningful fashion. Really, it feels as though it comes down to this one question: “Did the team defend him with bracket coverage on every single play? Because, if not, he hits big.” And that’s not something we’ll know before the game gets underway.

With that said, obviously, if Chase gets shut down, Tee Higgins [WR8/WR11] could hit big. And Higgins’ upside is quite a bit underrated in relation to Chase, having secured highs of: 46.4, 31.8, 26.4, and 19.4 DK fantasy points over his last six games, and averaging 22.9 DK FPG over this span. I think Chase’s performance in Week 17 proved he’s clearly the team’s WR1, and who they’d prefer to lean on most in must-win games. But it’s close enough to where Higgins can be viewed as a WR1B. Or, at the very least, that he can put up high-end WR1 numbers in any given week. (Though, the double-stack may not be as strong as most think. As they rarely both hit big together, and are negatively correlated together at -0.11.)

In Week 11, when these two teams faced off in a run-heavy lopsided victory, CB Casey Hayward did not shadow and instead split time evenly between both receivers. Hayward is an extremely tough matchup (though Chase has had his way with high-end CBs all season). But Brandon Facyson, opposite him, is an extremely favorable one. And Slot CB Nate Hobbs is just as tough as Hayward. Respectively, and of 96-qualifying CBs, they rank 2nd-best, 2nd-worst, and 6th-best in fantasy points allowed per snap in coverage.

This means Tyler Boyd [WR16/WR16] isn’t at all in play; Hobbs and the Raiders are giving up the fewest FPG to opposing slot WRs (9.5).

Ruling: At his price-tag, Higgins is glaringly one of the best WR values of the slate on both sites. Chase, meanwhile, seems merely “appropriately priced.” But one problem with point-per-dollar projections is they tend to underrate Power Law players like Chase, who can single-handedly win you a week. Factor in ownership, I still like Higgins more for tournaments. But you can’t not have Chase exposure this week.

Las Vegas Wide Receivers (@ CIN)

Zay Jones [WR28/WR27] has now out-targeted Hunter Renfrow [WR10/WR7] in four straight games, averaging 9.4 to Renfrow’s 6.0. And Jones is also seeing high-quality targets, ranking 5th among all players in air yards since Week 12 (115.4 per game).

Both have favorable matchups, but Jones more so than Renfrow. Cincinnati is giving up the 2nd-most FPG to outside WRs (21.4) and the 10th-most FPG to slot WRs (14.6). But, by market share (receiving fantasy points allowed), Cincinnati is actually bottom-6 against outside WRs (and TEs), and only middle-of-the-pack against slot WRs.

After three straight 100-yard-games, Renfrow averages 40.3 over his last four games, but he does have four touchdowns over his last three games. Last week’s matchup was brutal, against the league’s best slot defense and slot CB (Chris Harris Jr.), but the other three matchups were nearly perfectly neutral.

And now Darren Waller is back. He earned 9 targets in his return to action last week, but wasn’t all that effective (2 catches for 22 yards). And hasn’t been all that effective this year. But in Week 11, when these two teams faced off, in a lopsided defeat, Waller was far-and-away the team’s most productive receiver, gaining 116 yards on 8 targets, which was 3.9X the next-closest receiver (Renfrow, 30).

So, what do we make of all this?

In DFS, price is usually the deciding factor. And pricing this week makes things easy. Renfrow isn’t at all cheap, but Jones certainly is. Over the last four weeks, Renfrow averages 12.2 XFP/G and 14.2 FPG. And Jones averages 12.8 FPG and 15.8 XFP/G. So, clearly, it’s close, but Jones is $1,800 (DK) and $2,000 (FD) less expensive. Jones’ numbers would rank 12th- and 5th-best among all WRs on the slate, but he’s priced as just the WR28 (DK) and WR27 (FD).

Oh, and, hard pass on Bryan Edwards [WR38/WR34] who averages 19.6 YPG since Week 11.

Ruling: Jones is one of the best pure values at his position. Renfrow is, at best, appropriately priced.

Buffalo Wide Receivers (vs. NE)

Although people kept chasing it, 2021 Stefon Diggs was not much like 2020 Stefon Diggs, who rounded out the 2020 season averaging 11.2 targets, 109.6 receiving yards, and 25.5 DK fantasy points per four quarters (adjusting for the one game he left early) over his final 11 games (including the postseason). For perspective, 25.5 DK FPG would rank 10th-best all-time. This season, Diggs is averaging just 9.6 targets and 17.1 DK FPG. And he hasn’t had much of a ceiling, reaching 24.0 fantasy points only once.

Diggs [WR4/WR5] will get a tough matchup this week, in shadow coverage against J.C. Jackson. Jackson held him to (7) 4-51-0 in Week 13 in horrible weather, before giving up (13) 7-85-1 in Week 16. Jackson has been excellent in shadow coverage all season, as his opposition has averaged just 8.1 FPG across 8 shadow games. Mike Evans was the only other receiver to reach double-digit fantasy points in a shadow game against Jackson (14.5 on 12 targets).

The matchup opposite Jackson should be a favorable one, as it’s been a perfectly neutral matchup all year, and now there’s a chance the starter will miss with COVID (Jalen Mills). That would have been one of my favorite targets this week, but it’s looking like Emmanuel Sanders (now off the injury report) will be back. He’s 34-years-old averaging 5.2 FPG over his last six games (high of 7.1).

If Sanders were out or severely limited, that WR2 role would be extremely valuable. Gabriel Davis (without Sanders) or Isaiah McKenzie (with Davis and Sanders both out), when serving that WR2 role, has averaged 9.0 targets and 17.2 FPG in four games this season. That includes McKenzie dropping 32.4 DK fantasy points on 12 targets against the Patriots in Week 16.

In full games Sanders has played, Davis [WR21/WR29] has eclipsed a 39% route share only once. And for McKenzie [WR41/WR44], eclipsing a 19% route share only once. So, neither would be in play for me if Sanders is active.

Cole Beasley’s matchup against Myles Bryant in the slot is bottom-10 by total FPG allowed but top-10 by market share (where New England is most vulnerable). Still, he’s 32 years old, scored 2.1 fantasy points against them in Week 13, and has reached double-digit fantasy points just once over his last 8 games.

Everyone wants to play Josh Allen this week, but if he doesn’t get it done with his legs, I’m not sure how he hits. Or who would go off. Because I don’t trust Sanders or Beasley, and the matchup is rough for Diggs, who has also been quite a bit overrated this year. (And Dawson Knox has the toughest matchup of any Bills receiver.)

Ruling: I’m probably not playing a Bills WR on lineups without Josh Allen, but Diggs would be the one you want. Still, at his price-tag, I’d rather pay up or down for someone else.

New England Wide Receivers (@ BUF)

In two games against Buffalo this year, Mac Jones is averaging 8.0 completions, 82.0 yards, 0.0 touchdowns, 1.0 interception, and 1.0 fumble per game.

New England is going to go massively run-heavy in this contest. And may or may not get blown out, depending on how successful that run game is. As we explained in the Mac Jones section, Buffalo’s pass defense is elite. And their numbers against WRs are the best I’ve seen since 2017.

You can and probably should fade the lot, but, for posterity, Jakobi Meyers [WR23/WR18] is the WR1, Nelson Agholor [WR43/WR37] is the WR2, and Kendrick Bourne [WR23/WR22] is the WR3. N’Keal Harry isn’t in play (14% route share last week). Those are the splits by volume at least.

But Bourne has been far more productive than Agholor (+51%) and not much less productive than Meyers (-5%). He does have something of a ceiling, hitting 20.0 fantasy points 3 times this year (versus Meyers’ 1). And, surprisingly not much of his production has come on deep targets (just 16%), which is good news as Buffalo is the league’s No. 1 “short funnel” defense, funneling everything into the short-to-intermediate portions of the field.

And that should also be good news for Meyers (9.7 aDOT), who ranks 10th among slate-eligible WRs in targets per game (7.8) and 13th in XFP/G (13.1), while Bourne (8.4 aDOT) ranks 28th and 30th. Meyers is also on something of a hot streak. Minus the outlierish wind game against Buffalo, he’s seen at least 8 targets in 5 straight games, averaging 68.8 YPG (up from 47.5). He’s also had a brutally difficult schedule this year, facing a defense ranking top-12 in FPG allowed to slot WRs in 10 of his 17 games. (His recent matchups have been much softer.)

On one hand, his matchup this week, running 67% of his routes from the slot, is brutal — Buffalo gave up the 5th-fewest FPG to slot WRs this year. But on the other hand, comparatively excellent. 28.8% of Buffalo’s receiving fantasy points allowed has gone to slot WRs, which ranks 2nd-most among all teams. So, maybe then it’s not surprising he walked away with a 41% YMS when these teams last met.

Ruling: Over/Under on Mac Jones: 175 passing yards? If the over on that hits in a meaningful way, Meyers could be a thing. He’s at least a clear XFP-related value on DraftKings, ranking 13th in XFP/G but just 23rd in salary. And not far ahead of Bourne on either site. But, unfortunately for him, 150 passing yards from Jones sounds about right.

Tampa Bay Wide Receivers (vs. PHI)

Without Antonio Brown (for about two-thirds of the game), a seriously hobbled Mike Evans still walked away with a (7)-4-47-1 line in Week 17. Last week, in a mostly meaningless game, Evans totaled (7)-6-89-2. Over his last four games with a snap share above 25%, he’s hit 89 receiving yards in 3 of 4, averaging 19.9 FPG. Without Brown, Brady likely has no choice but to look his way early and often. And, given their 27.75-point implied total (2nd-most), Evans has massive touchdown-upside.

That’s the good news. The bad news is he’s likely to draw shadow coverage from CB Darius Slay, PFF’s No. 4 highest-graded CB in coverage. In 8 shadow games, his opposition has averaged just 10.2 FPG (a 39% decrease against their expectation). And this includes Week 6, when Slay held Evans to just a (4) 2-27-0 line.

And Evans [WR6/WR3] himself has been highly shadow-sensitive this season, averaging just 29.7 YPG in shadow games this year (Slay, Marshon Lattimore 2X). And, dating back to 2019, Evans has historically struggled in shadow games, and far more than the typical WR1. So, with Evans, it’s a question of whether or not the volume (no Brown, no Godwin) will negate the tough matchup. It might.

With Evans in a tougher matchup, this opens up softer matchups for Tyler Johnson [WR30/WR34] and Breshad Perriman [WR19/WR29] / Cyril Grayson [WR25/WR27], and especially if Evans should flop. Well, maybe not Johnson, as the Eagles rank 5th-best in FPG allowed to slot WRs (11.4), and for the fourth straight season. But, Perriman at least. With Cyril Grayson dealing with a hamstring injury, and likely out this week, he’d be the clear WR3. He ran a route on 70% of the team’s dropbacks last week, and caught 5 of 6 targets for 44 yards.

On just 39% of the routes, Perriman has hit 40 receiving yards in three straight games. Grayson, prior to his injury, had at least 80 receiving yards in two straight games.

Ruling: Outside of Brady stacks, I don’t really love any of these options. Evans seems appropriately priced, and not quite a value. Perriman would be a little too thin, even as a punt, unless paired with Brady, in which case he’s a strong play.

Philadelphia Wide Receivers (@ TB)

Truthfully, I’m not sure of what to make of DeVonta Smith’s matchup, likely in shadow coverage against CB Carlton Davis. Davis has been strong this season, failing to give up 55 or more yards in any game this season, and ranking top-12 of 105 qualifiers in fantasy points per snap. But his opponents (Stefon Diggs, Marquez Callaway, and D.J. Moore 2X) have also averaged 82.0 YPG in shadowed games, because he’s only shadowed on 65% of their perimeter routes. And well, on the other 35% of routes, Smith will get a very favorable matchup against Jamel Dean (bottom-10 in fantasy points per snap).

That said, Smith [WR12/WR12] has the same issue as Hurts. Like Hurts, he seems to have been hurt by Philadelphia’s decision to lean heavier on the RBs. (This may or may not be due to gamescript as opposed to being a calculated decision.) As a result, he’s hit double-digit fantasy points just once over his last 6 games. But he definitely does have some upside if Philadelphia leans pass-heavy, and they should, given the spread and the pass funnel nature of Tampa Bay’s defense. Despite having seen more than 7 targets just 4 times, Smith has 5 games with 19.0 or more DK fantasy points. Though he averages just 7.0 DK FPG the rest of the time, hitting 11.5 fantasy points in just 1 of 12 games. So, he’s fairly volatile / boom-or-bust as well.

Quez Watkins [WR32/WR34] and Jalen Reagor [WR43/WR41], who (respectively) average 4.0 and 2.6 targets per game over their last five, can’t be trusted in any meaningful capacity. Watkins, working on the perimeter, will have a highly favorable matchup. And especially if Davis shadows Smith. But it feels extremely thin given the fact that he’s exceeded 3 receptions just twice in 17 games this year. But he does have some big-play potential.

And, all of this being said, Dallas Goedert has seemingly leapfrogged Smith as the team’s true WR1. And he does have (by far) the softest matchup of the bunch.

Ruling: At best Smith is just “appropriately priced,” and neither Watkins and (especially) Reagor are in play, even as punt or low-owned dart-throw types.

Dallas Wide Receivers (vs. SF)

Over the last five weeks, opposing WR1s are averaging 24.9 FPG against San Francisco (most), and +9.8 if schedule-adjusted (2nd-most).

This season, they’ve given up the 7th-most FPG to opposing slot WRs (14.8) and the 9th-most FPG to outside WRs. They’ve been a little worse on the perimeter in recent weeks, ranking bottom-5 over the past four and eight weeks. But they’ve also given up big games to the few competent slot WRs they’ve faced over this span: Cooper Kupp (24.8), Brandin Cooks (19.6), Russell Gage (23.1), and Tyler Lockett (19.8).

To start off the season, CeeDee Lamb [WR7/WR9] was looking like the clear WR1, besting Amari Cooper [WR11/WR10] in XFP in each of his first six games. But Cooper has bested him in four of their last five games, and by a wide margin, averaging 17.4 XFP/G to Lamb’s 9.3. Lamb will kick back outside, with Michael Gallup out, and his numbers have been a little worse without Gallup this season. And that’s even truer for Cooper, falling from 15.0 FPG to 12.2.

Cedrick Wilson [WR25/WR16], obviously, has seen his numbers improve without Gallup, averaging 11.2 FPG on a 71% route share. But that jumped to 87% last week, and he scored 31.9 fantasy points. And, in fact, despite mostly playing a part-time role over this stretch, he’s eclipsed 18.5 fantasy points in each of the last three games he’s played on at least 40% of the team’s snaps. As the (now) starting slot WR, he’ll have that great matchup we alluded to earlier. And he reminds me a lot of Tim Patrick, where I can see Cooper and Lamb drawing a lot more ownership, but Wilson walking away with the most fantasy points and to near-universal chagrin.

Ultimately, I just don’t really have a read on Cooper and Lamb. We really like Dak Prescott this week, but it’s hard to know which WR goes off. My advice would be to roll out multiple Prescott lineups, mixing and matching potential stacking partners. (For posterity, TE Dalton Schultz has a much tougher matchup than any WR this week, as San Francisco has ranked top-7 in FPG allowed to opposing TEs for four consecutive seasons.)

Ruling: On DraftKings Cedrick Wilson isn’t popping as a pure value, but he is one of my favorite tournament WRs of the slate. And even on non-Prescott lineups. Though he’s too expensive on FanDuel… And CeeDee Lamb and Amari Cooper are both great plays, popping as fringe top-7 WR values on both sites. The problem is, I’m not sure which one I prefer. Probably Lamb straight up, which means probably Cooper by a margin for tournaments once ownership is factored in. But that’s also the problem for everyone on this slate. They’re both fringe top-7 values, but their value is already being suppressed by the uncertainty between them. Which is to say, “Dallas’ highest-scoring WR” could be one of the most valuable or most important players of the slate.

San Francisco Wide Receivers (@ DAL)

On one hand, Dallas’ perimeter CBs appear excellent, allowing a passer rating of just 76.0 (5th-best). On the other, they’re still giving up a lot of production, ranking 6th-worst in FPG allowed (23.1). And, well, that’s way more important in fantasy.

For instance, Trevon Diggs has given up 5 touchdowns to 11 interceptions, but he also leads all CBs in yards and fantasy points allowed. He’s essentially the newest iteration of Marcus Peters; a gambling CB. He makes a calculated trade-off, willing to risk giving up big plays to come away with a big play of his own (interceptions and pick-sixes). For instance, he leads all CBs in interceptions but no CB has given up more plays of 30-plus yards than his 14. And only one other CB has given up more than 6.

Of 96 qualifiers, he ranks 2nd-worst in yards allowed per snap in coverage, while Anthony Brown (opposite him) ranks 19th-worst.

Against Left WRs (Diggs’ side of the field), Dallas ranks bottom-3 in FPG allowed, over the past four, eight, and 18 weeks of the season. So, this would be a dream matchup for someone like DeAndre Hopkins who just sticks to one side of the field, but HC Kyle Shanahan moves both of his WRs around quite a bit. (But, then again, he’s also smart enough to take the matchups a defense will give him, perhaps intentionally aligning Deebo Samuel and his top-3 big-play ability to that side of the field.) But Samuel typically runs 32% of his routes from the left, versus Brandon Aiyuk’s 41%.

Slot WR Jauan Jennings [WR34/WR29] shouldn’t be expected to do much of anything, as Dallas is top-3 against the slot, and a top-3 reverse-slot funnel.

Cooper Kupp is looking like Jerry Rice reincarnated (Vanilla Rice? Jerry White Rice?), and he’s no doubt the best on-paper play of the slate (ignoring ownership). But Samuel [WR2/WR2] is really not far off Kupp at all. Certainly, much closer to Kupp than public perception implies. Like Kupp, Samuel isn’t just good, he’s historically good. His 339.0 fantasy points (in 16 games this season) ranks 25th-best all-time. He’s hit double-digit fantasy points in 16 of 16 games, and exceeded 16.0 in 13 of 16 games (7th-most all-time). Within this context, his price-tag relative to (for instance) Stefon Diggs (+$700 on both sites) makes very little sense to me. And now, in the postseason, expect Samuel to be even more fully unleashed.

Aiyuk [WR13/WR14] has hit 90 receiving yards in back to back games. He’s reached 12.5 fantasy points in 7 of his last 10 games, and averages 13.5 FPG over his last 5. I can certainly see an avenue for him to hit. And an avenue for both he and Samuel to hit. But, at his price-tag, he certainly doesn’t stand out as one of the better plays of the slate.

Ruling: Only Samuel is strong enough to be considered outside of [email protected] gamestacks, but he’s a great option.

Kansas City Wide Receivers (vs. PIT)

Tyreek Hill [WR5/WR5] is weirdly cheap on both sites, and it’s making me really uncomfortable.

Hill suffered a heel injury in warmups last week. Per HC Andy Reid, “He just landed on it funny and he told me that he was hurting. He’s had that before [in 2018]… The heel was sore after the game and it’s making a little progress the other way, so we’re anticipating he’s going to be OK to go.”

In 2018, Hill spent one week on the injury report listed as questionable (due to the heel injury). On 3 carries and 7 targets, he scored only 8.1 fantasy points. Over his next two weeks he scored 13.1 (27% YMS) and then 31.6 fantasy points (36% YMS).

Hill has never played well with injuries throughout his career, so if he is seriously injured I don’t want much to do with him. He practiced in full on Wednesday, and did look okay. But then was limited on Thursday, which may or may not have been solely precautionary. Really, I have no idea, so just keep an eye on news throughout the rest of the week. But this is one of the more important questions of the slate, because Hill, like Chase, has ridiculous upside; always with the potential to single-handedly wreck a slate.

As far as tournament plays go, Hill is the archetype of boom-or-bust. In 13 games off the injury report and playing on at least 50% of the team’s snaps, he averages 19.7 FPG. But that’s better expressed this way: he averages 32.1 FPG in his best 6 games, and only 8.2 FPG in his 6 worst games. And for tournaments, that slate-breaking upside is far more valuable than whatever our point-per-dollar projections will suggest. So, like with Chase, just make sure you have some level of exposure to Hill in tournaments.

On paper, the matchup is tough, but comparatively (to Byron Pringle and Mecole Hardman) good. Pittsburgh ranks 11th-best in FPG allowed to opposing slot WRs (12.1), which is where Hill runs 53% of his routes. They rank 13th-worst to outside WRs (21.6), but, crucially, that drops to 15.2 FPG (2nd-best) in the 12 games Joe Haden has played.

Interestingly, Pittsburgh ranks best (by a wide margin) in schedule-adjusted FPG allowed to opposing WR1s (-7.9), but bottom-10 to WR2s (+1.3) and bottom-12 to WR3s (+0.7). I don’t know how much this matters for Hill as a predominant-slot WR, but it could be viewed as an argument for Pringle/Hardman in tournaments.

Without Kelce, and Hill limited, Pringle [WR32/WR25] did smash them in Week 16, catching 6 of 7 targets for 75 yards and two scores (25.5 fantasy points). This was his only game with at least 15.0 fantasy points, with highs of 25.5, 14.6, 14.3, and 12.3 across the full season

Last week (again, with Hill hurt) Pringle caught 5 of 8 targets for 56 yards. But Hardman [WR29/WR20] caught 8 of 11 for 103 yards, while also adding 10 yards rushing on the ground (19.3 fantasy points). This was his best game of the season, with highs of 19.3, 16.6, 12.5, and 12.1 across the full season. In comparison to Pringle, Hardman has two more 50-yard games, 23 more targets, and averages +12% more FPG.

So, who should you prefer? It’s easy. Pringle would be my clear lean, as Hardman has clearly been demoted in recent weeks; his route share has dropped from 69% to 42% since Week 10. Contrast that to Pringle’s 72% or Demarcus Robinson’s 59% over the same span. And Pringle deserves bonus points for already having success against this defense.

Robinson [WR39/WR37], given his route share, should be the preferred play over Hardman. But despite the route handicap, Hardman is still seeing better volume and has been significantly more effective.

Ruling: Tyreek Hill has massive upside, and can’t be fully faded, but isn’t as strong of an on-paper play as some of the other similarly priced options like Cooper Kupp and Deebo Samuel. I like Pringle a lot at his price and projected ownership for Mahomes stacks. And I like him probably more than most on non-Mahomes lineups if you’re an MME player. But not much beyond that. Still, I suppose, you can do a lot worse if touchdown hunting, given up role, matchup, and the massive 29.25-point implied total.

Pittsburgh Wide Receivers (@ KC)

We’ve seen some highly productive outings from WR1s against Kansas City in recent weeks: Hunter Renfrow (28.7), Keenan Allen (19.8), Diointae Johnson (15.1), and Ja’Marr Chase (55.6). Though Denver’s WR1 (whoever that is) flopped last week.

Overall, the matchups against Kansas City are slightly positive for both outside and slot WRs, and top-5 for this slate. When these teams met in Week 16, Johnson [WR7/WR9] led the team in targets, yards (32% YMS), and touchdowns, but Ben Roethlisberger imploded (4.5 YPA), so it was a below-average performance for Johnson.

And he’s struggled in recent weeks, failing to eclipse 51 receiving yards in four straight games. But he’s still the same target-hog and player he’s always been. The problem is Big Ben has been embarrassingly bad, averaging just 9.9 FPG and absurdly just 4.49 YPA over his last four games.

The volume will no doubt be there for Johnson, but it’s just a matter of how (in)competently Roethlisberger plays this week. But he definitely has the matchup in his favor, and volume, and price, and the matchup. (Though his matchup last week was even softer, and he wasn’t able to do much with it. Nor the week prior, with Roethlisberger attempting 44-plus passes in both games.)

Ray-Ray McCloud [WR36/WR41] has seen 27 targets over the past three weeks, but he’s reached double-digit fantasy points only once all year (Week 10). He does have a favorable matchup, however, as Kansas City ranks 13th-worst in FPG allowed to slot WRs (14.1). Within the <$4,500 range, he’s one of the better punts on DraftKings, but still not a great one, and a massive distance behind Zay Jones. And, simply, he’s never once hit for DFS, and in matchups far more favorable than this one.

On the off chance increasingly likely chance JuJu Smith-Schuster [WR45/WR61] suits up (shoulder) at the stone minimum salary on both sites, he’d replace McCloud in the slot. In only three full games, he averages 7.7 targets and 9.6 FPG. The slot matchup is favorable, and Big Ben’s inability to throw past the sticks should funnel more targets in his direction. And, McCloud (who is not anywhere near as good as Smith-Schuster, even at less than 100%) has seen 27 targets over the past three weeks, attesting to the value of this role. Apparently he’s a lot healthier than I had suspected. And, so, at the stone-minimum salary on both sites, he’s a “fine” punt on FanDuel, and a top-3 overall play on DraftKings. But he’s probably a pretty bad play for tournaments, at massive ownership and with minimal upside.

Chase Claypool [WR18/WR18] has slate-breaking upside based on talent, but certainly not with Roethlisberger inability to throw past the sticks. I don’t see him as being in play.

Ruling: Smith-Schuster is a top-3 cash value on DraftKings, but not a great play for tournaments. Johnson is popping as a good-but-not-great value. If Roethlisberger is merely Davis Mills-, Jared Goff-, or Trevor Siemian-levels of bad, he’d be a great play. If he’s the same Big Ben as over the past several weeks, he probably flops.

Los Angeles Rams Wide Receivers (vs. ARI)

Oh boy. Now, this is a matchup to target.

The Cardinals have given up the 5th-most FPG to opposing WRs this season, and the most schedule-adjusted FPG to opposing WRs over their last five games, with an astounding +20.3 over expectation.

Byron Murphy is their best CB, in the slot, but they’ve still given up the 5th-most FPG to slot WRs over the last 8 weeks. Marco Wilson (who would be replaced by Kevin Peterson if he’s out [who would be replaced by Breon Borders if he’s also out]) and Antonio Hamilton on the perimeter have given up the 2nd- and 10th-most FPG over the last four and eight weeks. Basically, Arizona is bad everywhere (against WRs), as evident by the fact that over their last 5 games, 12 different WRs have hit double-digit fantasy points, and 8 have exceeded 15.0.

Keep in mind, that includes Week 14 against the Rams, when Cooper Kupp (31.1), Odell Beckham Jr. (19.7), and Van Jefferson (14.8) combined for 65.6. Rams WRs were less productive in Week 4, however, but this was also prior to Arizona’s deterioration, at least partly due to the loss of CB Robert Alford. Kupp had his worst game of the year (11.4 fantasy points), while Jefferson scored 21.0 and Robert Woods dropped 14.8.

Kupp [WR1/WR1] is extremely expensive and will be one of the highest-owned plays of the slate, so there is some credence to fading him. But it’s hard not to like all of the WRs (and Stafford) in this matchup, and especially the guy who just scored the most fantasy points by any WR in any season all-time.

Is it worth paying up for OBJ [WR15/WR12] over Jefferson [WR19/WR20]? I think so. Jefferson has seen his route share drop to 65% over the last two weeks, in contrast to OBJ’s 96% and Ben Skowronek’s 36%. OBJ has now out-targeted him in five straight games. He’s hit double-digit fantasy points in 5 of his last 7 games, averaging 12.0 FPG (high of 19.7). But over the same span Jefferson has hit double-digits in 4 of 7, averaging 10.2 (high of 18.3).

Ruling: Kupp is the No. 1 cash-play at the position. For tournaments, there’s an argument to fading him, but that argument centers entirely around ownership. I’m not playing OBJ or Van Jefferson if I’m not rostering Stafford, but I like both (preferring OBJ) on Stafford-stacks.

Arizona Wide Receivers (@ LAR)

Christian Kirk [WR14/WR14] is averaging 8.0 targets, 88.8 air yards, 13.2 XFP/G, and 13.9 FPG since DeAndre Hopkins went down with injury. Among all slate-eligible WRs, those numbers would rank 7th-, 10th-, 13th-, and 11th-best if over the full season. So, that’s pretty good. But, not egregiously out of line with his pricing. And, of course, TE Zach Ertz has been closer to the team’s true WR1 over this span — 19.5 XFP/G and 13.3 FPG — and Kirk surprisingly flopped in a top-5 matchup last week.

It’s hard to say for sure what sort of matchup he’s looking at this week. Across multiple weeks this season, Jalen Ramsey has spent upwards of 70-75% of his time in the slot, and 64% in his one game against Arizona this year (Week 4), but that’s dropped to just 23% over the past seven weeks. It is possible he shadows Kirk or stays in the slot nearly full-time. I think that’s what the team should do, but I don’t know that they will. Otherwise, it’s a neutral to slightly favorable matchup, as Los Angeles ranks perfectly middle-of-the-pack against slot WRs over their last 4, 8, and 18 weeks of the season. And they did, oddly enough, just give up 27.4 fantasy points to slot WR Jauan Jennings.

If the Rams pass defense has a weakness anywhere, it’s (surprisingly) against opposing outside WR1s, where they’ve given up the 11th-most FPG, and games of 20.0-plus DK fantasy points to Deebo Samuel (2X), D.K. Metcalf, Michael Pittman, Justin Jefferson, Mike Evans, Davante Adams, Brandin Cooks, and A.J. Green. And, so, I suppose that would be A.J. Green [WR17/WR22] this week.

Over the last four weeks, Green has averaged 62.8 YPG on 6.8 targets per game (83% route share). Antoine Wesley has averaged 23.8 YPG on 5.0 targets per game (72% route share).

That makes Wesley [WR39/WR29] look much poorer in comparison, but he does have three touchdowns over his last three games in contrast to Green’s zero over his last 10 games. That said, Vegas is expecting Arizona to score only 22.75 points this week, which ranks 4th-fewest on the slate, and is 16% less than they’ve averaged this season. So, he’s a touchdown-or-bust option, but not a great one. And Green, at age 33, having failed to reach even 12.0 fantasy points in 9 of his last 10 games, isn’t inspiring much confidence either. But he does have the on-paper matchup firmly within his favor, and he is averaging 19.0 FPG against the Rams this year (in contrast to Kirk’s 6.6).

Ruling: I’m sure I just made the most compelling argument for Green, but, to me, he seems perfectly in line with his pricing. So, I definitely wouldn’t call him a value. But I would bet he goes lower-owned than he should. Kirk, on the other hand, does look like one of the better values of the slate (even at the risk of seeing Ramsey on ~60% of his routes), given the increased volume he’s seen of late. I have no interest in Wesley.

Scott Barrett combines a unique background in philosophy and investing alongside a lifelong love of football and spreadsheets to serve as FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and Lead DFS Writer.

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