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Week 17 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues

Inglewood, California, USA; Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (3) carries the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the first half at SoFi Stadium. The Rams defeated the Seahawks 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The fantasy football championship is here. Prepare accordingly.

I'll be breaking down the WR/CB matchups all season long with a focus on figuring out who could be facing shadow coverage as well as the best and worst overall situations. We'll also briefly touch on each team's tight end group.

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The following tables denote every player’s: most frequent alignment, height (inches), weight (pounds), 40-yard dash (seconds) and yards per route run/coverage snap. Note that wide receivers regularly move all around the formation; these are just their primary alignments. Additionally, shadow matchups almost never feature a true 100% matchup rate; general practice in fantasy land is to start your studs as opposed to overweighting a perceived tough matchup.

TB @ NYJ | LV @ IND | LAR @ BAL | JAX @ NE | KC @ CINATL @ BUF |
DEN @ LAC | HOU @ SF | CAR @ NO | DET @ SEA | MIN @ GB | CLE @ PIT

New York Giants @ Chicago Bears

Giants Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Kenny Golladay 76 + 213 4.5 1.32 Jaylon Johnson 72 + 195 4.5 1.08
R Darius Slayton 73 + 190 4.39 0.94 Artie Burns 72 + 197 4.46 1.43
S Kadarius Toney 72 + 193 N/A 2.14 Duke Shelley 69 + 180 N/A 1.69

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: PFF’s bottom-two graded quarterbacks in Week 16 among 37 qualified players: Mike Glennon (41.0) and Jake Fromm (34.0). This passing game hasn’t cleared even 200 yards in a game since Week 8. January, Chicago. That’s what we’re working with here.

Kadarius Toney had a rather robust nine targets last week and they only came on 39 targets; apparently you gotta keep Pharoh Cooper involved whenever possible. The reduced playing time probably was primarily due to this being Toney’s first game since Week 11; either way, we’re unfortunately forced to make a bit of a leap of faith in projecting the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 20 overall pick for a full-time role.

Kenny Golladay has one game above 65 yards all season and still somehow hasn’t scored a touchdown. Darius Slayton hasn’t met that relatively arbitrary, yet more than doable, yardage threshold all year and has made just one trip to the end zone. Gun to my head, I’d pick Toney as the best performer out of the group due to volume upside and a more than winnable matchup against the Bears’ 29th-ranked defense in yards per attempt allowed to receivers aligned from the slot. Even then, we’re talking about a boom or (more likely) bust WR4 here; neither Golladay nor Slayton are ranked inside my top-48 options on the week.

TE breakdown: Evan Engram scored a garbage time touchdown last week to “save” the day with a 4-17-1 performance. The PPR TE7 performance marked just the second time he’s finished as anything better than the TE20 since Week 10; there truly isn’t any level of upside for anyone involved in the league’s 30th-ranked scoring offense. Engram is a touchdown-dependent TE2 in an offense implied to score a pathetic 15.75 points.

Bears Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Allen Robinson II 75 + 211 4.6 1.17 James Bradberry 73 + 212 4.5 1.09
R Damiere Byrd 69 + 180 N/A 0.78 Jarren Williams 70 + 187 N/A 0.54
S Darnell Mooney 71 + 175 4.38 1.64 Aaron Robinson 73 + 193 N/A 0.81

Projected shadow matchups: Allen Robinson vs. James Bradberry

WR/CB breakdown: A-Rob still doesn’t feel back to normal from dealing with “beast” of Covid-19. He’s unplayable this week due to the heavy potential for a limited role, nevermind the fact that the veteran has finished inside the position’s top-45 receivers on exactly one occasions (WR32 in Week 9) all season.

Credit to Damiere Byrd on last week’s truly spectacular game-winning two-point conversion catch, but Darnell Mooney remains the only viable fantasy receiver in this offense. He’s posted the following fantasy finishes with Justin Fields (ankle) under center since September ended:

  • Week 4: PPR WR15
  • Week 5: WR66
  • Week 6: WR22
  • Week 7: WR51
  • Week 8: WR30
  • Week 9: WR6
  • Week 11: WR4
  • Week 15: WR23

Mooney — like literally everyone else in this offense — carries a low weekly floor, but WR2 or better finishes in five of eight qualified games isn’t anything to scoff at. The Giants stand as the league’s sixth-worst defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers through 16 weeks; fire up Mooney as a WR3 with sneaky upside; I’d start him over the likes of DeVonta Smith, Terry McLaurin and Jakobi Meyers.

TE breakdown: Cole Kmet has posted 6-71-0 and 4-49-0 receiving lines over the past two weeks while continuing to post snap rates north of 90%. The only problem has been Jimmy Graham (who has a no-trade clause) and his featured red zone usage. Overall, Kmet has out-targeted Graham 83 to 20, but Graham leads the way on opportunities inside the 10-yard line four to three. This renders Kmet as more of a low-ceiling TE2; he’s a better buy low candidate in dynasty than someone to chase a fantasy championship with this week.

Jacksonville Jaguars @ New England Patriots

Jaguars Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Laquon Treadwell 74 + 215 N/A 1.41 Jalen Mills 72 + 191 4.61 0.83
R Marvin Jones Jr. 74 + 198 N/A 1.25 J.C. Jackson 73 + 198 4.46 1.25
S Tavon Austin 68 + 179 4.34 1.16 Myles Bryant 69 + 185 4.62 1.2

Projected shadow matchups: Marvin Jones vs. J.C. Jackson

WR/CB breakdown: Trevor Lawrence has *one* touchdown since Week 9. Here’s a list of NFL players who also have that many scores through the air during that span:

Naturally this has led to some awfully depressed upside for everyone involved in the passing game. Remaining wide receivers have only posted two WR2 finishes during this span: Marvin Jones (WR21 in Week 16) and Laquon Treadwell (WR22 in Week 15). Does this sound like the sort of group to rely on with the fantasy championship on the line? Oh, they’re also facing the Patriots’ fourth-best defense in PPR points per game allowed to opposing wide receivers.

I’d probably gamble on Austin seeing enhanced rushing usage and thus racking up the most combined carries and targets; he’s still nothing more than a low-ceiling WR4 play at best. Stay the hell away from this group if at all possible.

TE breakdown: James O’Shaughnessy (58% snaps in Week 16) is losing way too much work to Jacob Hollister (49%) to be anything more than a borderline TE2. AKA: Don’t play him.

Related content for you: Fantasy Football: Week 17 Snaps & Efficiency Report for all 32 NFL backfields via Ian Hartitz
Patriots Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR Cornerback H + W 40 YPRR
L Kendrick Bourne 73 + 203 4.68 2.01 Tyson Campbell 74 + 185 N/A 1.39
R N'Keal Harry 74 + 228 4.53 1.35 Shaquill Griffin 72 + 198 4.38 1.01
S Jakobi Meyers 74 + 203 4.63 1.52 Rudy Ford 71 + 204 N/A 1.17

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: There’s nothing overly concerning about this matchup, but expecting Mac Jones to consistently keep his foot on the gas is problematic. Credit to Jones for being the year’s best rookie quarterback; that doesn’t mean he’s been anything better than slightly above average as a whole.

The following table denotes rookie quarterback performance in a variety of metrics, with each player’s average rank in each leading to a cumulative ranking. Note that the ranks are among 48 signal-callers with at least 60 dropbacks this season in order to include Trey Lance:

Player PFF Pass Grade YPA aComp% QB Rating Average
Mac Jones 14 22 26 22 21
Trey Lance 35 16 35 26 28
Davis Mills 38 32 23 30 30.75
Justin Fields 32 29 45 39 36.25
Trevor Lawrence 37 42 38 42 39.75
Zach Wilson 41 41 40 44 41.5

Maybe Jakobi Meyers finds the end zone for the second time in his life NFL career. Perhaps Kendrick Bourne gets back to posting top-five finishes like he did in Week 10 and Week 12. There’s probably a version of this simulation that we live in where N’Keal Harry finishes inside the position’s top-50 producers for the first time all season.

And yet, Meyers remains the only player from the group even remotely viable as a fantasy starter. Even then he’s best approached as a low-ceiling WR3 that is only a somewhat recommended start in full-PPR formats. Neither Harry (doesn’t have more than two catches in a game this season) nor Bourne (47% snaps last week) is worthy of consideration. This works out fairly well; the Jaguars have been far worse at yards per attempt allowed to receivers out of the slot (9.38, 31st) as opposed to those aligned out wide (8.59, 22nd).

TE breakdown: Hunter Henry routinely struggles to see any sort of real volume unless the Patriots fall behind early and often, something that seems awfully unlikely this week with Bill Belichick and company sitting pretty as 15.5-point home favorites. Jonnu Smith hasn’t played more than a third of the offense’s snaps in consecutive weeks. Henry is a touchdown-dependent TE2; just realize the ceiling is restricted due to the likelihood that we’ll only need one hand to count his total targets. Smith isn’t a realistic option unless you enjoy costing your fantasy squad a chance at success.

Los Angeles Rams @ Baltimore Ravens


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