Fantasy Football Week 10: Three WR/CB matchups to target and avoid

2T49P7G Cleveland Browns safety Grant Delpit (22) attempts to push Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba (11) out of bounds in the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 29, 2023, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

• WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks vs. CB Benjamin St-Juste, Washington Commanders: Smith-Njigba should return WR3-or-better value in what should be a high-volume outing against Washington.

• WR Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens vs. CB Martin Emerson Jr., Cleveland Browns: Bateman is no match for Cleveland’s elite perimeter coverage.

• Dominate your fantasy league in 2023: For up-to-date fantasy draft rankings and projections, check out PFF’s fantasy rankings tool!

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Knowing when an NFL wide receiver has an advantageous or disadvantageous cornerback matchup is critical for fantasy football start-sit decisions. This article details six players who should either be started with confidence or avoided at all costs, thanks in part to their primary defensive counterpart for Week 10.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

3 Wide Receivers to Target

WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Seattle Seahawks vs. CB Benjamin St-Juste, Washington Commanders

Seattle’s first-round rookie quietly vies for the No. 1 wide receiver role and most recently led the receiving corps in all Week 9 counting stats,  catching six receptions for 63 yards on seven targets.

The former Ohio State standout is a high-upside half-PPR WR3 in a fantasy-friendly matchup against a Washington team with a high-volume passing offense and a malleable pass defense.

The game’s 45.5-point total is tied for the fourth-highest of the week. FanDuel implies Seattle to score 25.75 points.

As detailed in Week 10’s QB Matchups, Streamer of the Week, Rankings and More, Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith should experience comfortable pockets against Washington’s neutered pass rush as he pushes for a season-high number of pass attempts. PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Seattle a 6.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage, tying for the 11th-best of the week.

Smith-Njigba functioned purely as a short-area weapon before Seattle’s Week 5 bye, but his post-bye usage notably diversified and crucially features a team-leading splash-zone role.

The term “splash zone” refers to the area of the field between the painted numbers and at least 10-plus yards downfield. On average, targets thrown into the splash zone yield more fantasy points than those thrown along the sideline at an equivalent depth.

Smith-Njigba caught all four of his splash-zone targets from Week 6 to Week 9, producing two explosive pass plays of 15 or more yards. Among the 41 NFL wide receivers with at least four splash-zone targets in that span, Smith-Njigba’s 8.88 yards per route run ranks second.

Washington employs a slot-coverage committee led by third-year cornerback Benjamin St-Juste. Although St-Juste’s overall coverage performance is largely volatile, he consistently struggles to defend against short-area targets. He's allowed a 70.0% catch rate and 1.34 yards per coverage snap on short targets (passes thrown 1-9 yards downfield), both of which rank dead last among qualifying Commanders defensive backs.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart has Smith-Njigba facing St-Juste on 22 of his 30 projected receiving snaps.

Smith-Njiba has also lined up on the outside 28.4% of the time, which gives him access to Washington’s struggling rookie cornerback Emmanuel Forbes. The Commanders' first-rounder has allowed 4.52 yards per coverage snap and a 13.5% explosive play rate, both of which rank 64th among the 64 cornerbacks with at least 75 snaps at outside cornerback this season.

Smith-Njigba is a half-PPR WR3, thanks to a high-volume, explosive-pass-play-friendly environment.

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WR Kyle Philips, Tennessee Titans vs. CB Christian Izien, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee slot receiver Kyle Philips is on the WR3/flex radar, thanks to quarterback Will Levis’ aggressive playstyle and the winnable matchup against Tampa Bay slot cornerback Christian Izien.

Titans head coach Mike Vrabel does not expect No. 2 wide receiver Treylon Burks (concussion, knee) to play in Week 10. And Burks’ expected absence reduces Philips’ target competition.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives Philips a good 65.1 matchup advantage rating against Izien.

Philips suffered a late-August MCL sprain that required a four-week injured reserve stint and a slow re-acclimation following his Week 5 return. However, his performances over the last two weeks are extremely encouraging — his four first-read targets tie Burks for second among Tennessee wide receivers, and his two splash-zone targets are tied first with DeAndre Hopkins and tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo.

Kyle Philips: Slot-receiving data among 33 NFL slot receivers with at least 25 snaps (Weeks 8-9)
PFF Receiving Grade 84.1 (No. 2)
Target % – YPRR 26.9% (No. 7) – 3.15 (No. 3)
Catch % 85.7% (T-No. 7)
Yards/Reception 13.7 (No. 7)
15+-Yard Pass Plays 2 (T-No. 7)
Deep-Target % 14.3% (T-No. 13)

Among 35 NFL cornerbacks with at least 40 slot coverage snaps, Izien’s 85.7% catch rate and 2.30 yards allowed per coverage snap rank 31st. He has allowed an explosive pass play of 15 or more yards on 5.5% of his snaps, 28th among that same group of players.

Cue the entrance for newly installed signal-caller Will Levis, who boasts an 8.3% big-time throw rate and a league-leading 11.4-yard average target depth over the past two weeks.

Philips is WR3/flex-viable in Week 10.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool you can use to help set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage or the individual defenders.

WR Tank Dell, Houston Texans vs. CB Cam Taylor-Britt, Cincinnati Bengals

Dell’s Hermes-like speed will be on full display against a Bengals secondary prone to allowing big plays in the passing game. And the Injuries to No. 1 wide receiver Nico Collins and No. 3 option Robert Woods would only push Dell’s Week 10 ceiling well into the position’s top 12.

The game’s 47.0-point total is the second-highest on the slate.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Houston a 4.0% pass-blocking advantage rating — a favorable opportunity for the team’s injury-plagued offensive line. Breakout rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud ranks top-three in both yards per passing attempt (8.1) and the percentage of passes thrown past the first-down marker (48.0%). His rapid ascension should only continue if given time in the pocket on Sunday.

Three cornerbacks and three safeties comprise Cincinnati’s unorthodox secondary. Safety Mike Hilton serves as the primary slot coverage defender. and No. 1 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie’s surgically repaired knee is not yet ready for a full-time workload, resulting in a three-player rotation.

Through nine weeks, Hilton has surrendered 1.76 yards per coverage snap and a 3.5% explosive pass play rate, which both rank outside the top 16 among the 32 defensive backs who have played at least 50 slot coverage snaps.

On the outside, Awuzie’s 70.0% catch rate allowed ties for 62nd among the 73 cornerbacks with at least 65 snaps outside, while Cam Taylor-Britt’s 2.87 yards allowed per coverage snap barely cracks the top 60 among that same group.

Dell regularly lines up across the formation and thrives in his field-stretching role. Among 67 NFL wide receivers with at least 200 receiving snaps, Dell’s 14.2-yard average target depth and 16.2 yards per reception both rank eighth.

Dell quietly profiles as a Week 10 half-PPR WR1.

PFF’s WR/CB Matchup Chart is a fantasy football tool you can use to help set the best lineups. You can toggle between showing the Matchup Advantage column against all projected coverage or the individual defenders.

3 Wide Receivers to Avoid

WR Rashod Bateman, Baltimore Ravens vs. CB Martin Emerson Jr., Cleveland Browns

Bateman’s unproductive downfield role on the outside pairs poorly with Cleveland’s air-tight coverage.

Bateman will see Martin Emerson Jr. and Denzel Ward in the contest but will likely spend most of his day across from Emerson. He should be ranked outside the position’s top 50 for Week 10. PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart does not look favorably on his prospects.

Among 64 cornerbacks with at least 75 outside coverage snaps, Emerson and Ward rank top-eight in catch rate allowed and top-15 in forced incompletion rate.

Bateman (14.3-yard average target depth) has totaled four explosive pass plays over his last three games, but his 98 scoreless yards during that span reflect his overall ineffectiveness. Bateman is also struggling to earn targets beyond the first-read opportunities given to him by the coaching staff, averaging just one non-first-read target per week during that span. His seven first-read targets in Weeks 7-9 tie for No. 3 on the team.

Bateman should not be trusted to return top-50 half-PPR wide receiver value in Week 10.

WR Elijah Moore, Cleveland Browns vs. S/SCB Kyle Hamilton, Baltimore Ravens

Cleveland slot receiver Elijah Moore‘s low-volume role and poor per-route efficiency signal low-scoring Week 10 results, especially against the Baltimore slot coverage tandem of Kyle Hamilton and Arthur Maulet.

As detailed in Week 10’s QB Matchups, Streamer of the Week, Rankings and More, Baltimore’s pass defense ranks No. 1 in NFL sacks (33.0), NFL sacks via blitz (15.0), yards allowed per coverage snap (4.70) and explosive pass rate allowed (8.0%). They have a chance to return free safety Marcus Williams to the lineup, too.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Cleveland a -5.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, with both starting offensive tackles now on injured reserve.

Moore is given few favors from the coaching staff, though. His eight splash zone targets tie for 34th among NFL wide receivers, and although his 35 first-read targets rank second among Cleveland's pass catchers, they distantly trail No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper’s 51.

Moore’s offseason change of scenery has failed to improve his overall performance. Among the 67 NFL wide receivers with at least 200 receiving snaps, Moore’s 17.5% target rate ranks No. 41, and his 1.01 yards per route run (YPRR) ranks No. 53.

Moore is unlikely to return top-36 wide receiver value in Week 10.

WR Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys vs. CB Deonte Banks, New York Giants

Dallas wide receiver Michael Gallup cannot be trusted in 12-team formats, even against New York’s struggling pass defense. He should be ranked firmly outside the position’s top 50, given his shrinking role and moderately difficult matchup.

Dallas’ 16.5-point home-favorite spread is nine points larger than the next closest team and ensures a run-heavy approach from head coach Mike McCarthy. Further reduced passing volume is a panic-worthy occurrence for Gallup, whose role has been reduced in recent weeks. Among 67 NFL wide receivers with at least 200 receiving snaps, Gallup’s 57.9% catch rate and 1.10 yards per route run rank outside the top 50.

Gallup has failed to earn a single splash-zone target over the last two weeks, earning just one non-first-read target during that span as a whole.

The once-promising field-stretcher’s poor performance even led to Dallas signing recent XFL wide receiver Martavis Bryant this week.

Gallup has lined up as the left wide receiver on 60.7% of his snaps, putting him against Deonte Banks. And while Banks has struggled at times, he has produced a top-25 forced incompletion rate through nine weeks.

Gallup is not on the Week 10 flex radar.


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