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Fantasy Football: Week 15 WR/CB shadow matchups and biggest mismatches

Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson (18) scores a touchdown on a pass from quarterback Kirk Cousins (not pictured) against the Green Bay Packers during the second quarter at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Fantasy Football: Week 15 WR/CB shadow matchups and biggest mismatches

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes

Shadow matchups are when a defense assigns a particular cornerback to follow one specific wide receiver all over the field.

Of course, wide receivers often can overcome difficult one-on-one matchups thanks to good ole’ fashioned volume. It’s also rare that a cornerback follows a single receiver around the field for each and every route. This leads to situations where Jalen Ramsey “shuts down” Justin Jefferson in their direct coverage (3-25-0), but Jefferson’s full game line (8-116-0) reflects the reality that fantasy managers were still better off playing him.

What follows is a breakdown on:

  1. Which cornerbacks shadowed in Week 14
  2. Projected Week 15 shadow matchups
  3. Notes on why certain cornerbacks aren’t expected to shadow

Week 14 shadow results

The following six defenses deployed at least one of their cornerbacks in shadow coverage last week. Note that receiving production refers to what the player achieved during the entire game, not just specifically in the referenced cornerbacks’ direct coverage:

Projected Week 15 shadow matchups

Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Colts CB Stephon Gilmore

Jefferson is fresh off an electric 11-223-0 performance that would have been even bigger with better reffing. Up next is arguably the biggest start-studded shadow matchup of the week against Gilmore, who is PFF’s 10th-highest-graded cornerback in coverage this season.

Gilmore has only been truly bested one time this season, but even then he’s yet to allow any of his shadow “victims” find their way to the end zone:

Verdict: It’d make sense if Gilmore makes life slightly more difficult than Jefferson than normal, but the Vikings’ stud third-year receiver earned upside WR1 treatment regardless of the matchup a long time ago. The Vikings should also be able to free up Jefferson from the matchup whenever they want in the slot, where Gilmore has only lined up on seven total snaps all season.

Bills WR Stefon Diggs and Gabriel Davis vs. Dolphins CB Xavien Howard and Keion Crossen

Howard has shadowed Diggs on four occasions since 2020:

  • Week 17, 2020: 7-76-0 (eight targets – Diggs also only played 48% of the game’s snaps)
  • Week 2, 2021: 4-60-1 (eight)
  • Week 8, 2021: 5-40-1 (seven)
  • Week 3, 2022: 7-74-0 (11)

Nothing ridiculously overwhelming, but obviously this matchup also hasn’t caused too much trouble for one of the game’s very best wide receivers. Howard also hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt in shadow coverage this season, badly losing to Tee Higgins (7-124-1), Justin Jefferson (6-107-0) and most recently Mike Williams (6-116-1) throughout the year.


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