Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Week 2: Three WR/CB matchups to target and avoid

2RTFE04 Houston Texans wide receiver Nico Collins runs a route during the second half of an NFL football game between the Baltimore Ravens and the Houston Texans, Sunday, Sept. 10, 2023, in Baltimore. The Ravens won 25-9. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

• WR Nico Collins (71.8 PFF offense grade), Houston Texans vs. CB Dallis Flowers (58.2 PFF perimeter coverage grade), Indianapolis Colts: He gets to face the NFL’s single-worst coverage defender this week.

• WR Drake London (45.5 PFF receiving grade) , Atlanta Falcons vs. CB Jaire Alexander (74.6 PFF coverage grade), Green Bay Packers: He is stuck in the NFL’s run-heaviest offense with incoming shadow-coverage treatment from Green Bay’s star cornerback.

• 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 either be started with confidence or avoided at all costs, thanks in part to their primary defensive counterpart for Week 2.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

3 Wide Receivers to Target

WR Nico Collins, Houston Texans vs. CB Dallis Flowers, Indianapolis Colts

Update 9/17/23: Quarterback C.J. Stroud (throwing shoulder soreness) is active. Nico Collins remains a recommended start. 

As detailed in Week 1’s “3 WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid,” Indianapolis perimeter cornerbacks Dallis Flowers (58.2 PFF perimeter coverage grade) and Darrell Baker Jr. (41.6 PFF perimeter coverage grade) form the league’s worst duo. Jacksonville Nos. 1 and 2 wide receivers Calvin Ridley (75.0 PFF receiving grade, WR6) and Zay Jones (74.6 PFF receiving grade, WR18) produced top-24 points-per-reception wide receiver finishes against them, setting the table for a top-24 finish for Houston No. 1 wide receiver Nico Collins (71.8 PFF offense grade) in Week 2.

PFF’s WR/CB matchups chart projects Collins to face Baker and Flowers on a combined 40-of-45 routes and gives Collins a good 72.3 receiving matchup advantage rating on 24 projected snaps against Flowers. Among 53 NFL cornerbacks with at least 25 perimeter-coverage snaps, Flowers ranks outside the top 40 in both catch rate allowed (80.0%) and yards allowed per coverage snap (1.87).

The table below ranks in parentheses Collins’ Week 1 receiving data among 43 NFL wide receivers with at least six targets.

2023 NFL WR Receiving Nico Collins
PFF Receiving Grade 69.0 (T-No. 26)
Targets 11 (T-No. 5)
Target % – YPRR 28.2% (No. 10) – 2.05 (No. 18)
Contested Catch % 50.0% (T-No. 9)
aDot – Yds/Rec. 15.0 (No. 6) – 13.3 (No. 13)
YAC/Rec. 3.7 (No. 19)
MTF/Rec. % 0.17 (T-No. 13)
15-plus-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 33.3% (T-No. 13)

The table below ranks in parentheses Indianapolis’ perimeter-cornerback coverage data among NFL teams’ perimeter cornerback coverage.

2023 NFL Team Perimeter-CB Coverage Indianapolis Colts
PFF Perimeter-Coverage Grade 46.0 (No. 29)
Targeted % 37.1% (No. 29)
Catch % Allowed 79.6% (T-No. 27)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 3.71 (No. 30)
15-Plus-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 8.6% (No. 29)

Collins projects to take single-digit repetitions against Indianapolis slot cornerback Kenny Moore II (57.1 PFF slot-coverage grade), whose 4.2% rate of 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed ranks 22nd among 28 NFL cornerbacks with at least 10 slot-coverage snaps.

Texans rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud (55.6 PFF passing grade) played well in his debut, earning Week 2 Streamer of the Week honors. His willingness to funnel targets Collins’ way helps insulate Collins’ WR2 potential.

WR Puka Nacua, Los Angeles Rams vs. CB Ambry Thomas, San Francisco 49ers

Update 9/17/23: Wide receiver Puka Nacua (oblique) registered “Did Not Practice” and “Limited Participant” designations on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Fantasy Points medical analyst Edwin Porras does not believe the injury to be severe. Porras speaks only about his familiar relationship with member(s) of Los Angeles’ medical team; his judgment can be trusted. 

Los Angeles found wide receiver Robert Woods’ (64.1 PFF receiving grade) long-term replacement in fifth-round rookie Puka Nacua (80.0 PFF receiving grade). He should be started as a PPR WR3 against San Francisco, with a shot at repeating his PPR WR9 performance from Week 1.

Per PFF senior fantasy analyst Nathan Jahnke, Nacua’s 10 receptions set the Week 1 rookie record in the PFF era. His 14 targets also rank first among Week 1 NFL rookie wide receivers since 2001.

The table below ranks in parentheses Nacua’s Week 1 receiving data among 22 NFL wide receivers with at least eight targets.

2023 NFL WR Receiving Puka Nacua
PFF Receiving Grade 80.0 (No. 6)
Target % – YPRR 40.0% (No. 3) – 3.40 (T-No. 4)
Catch % 71.4% (No. 13)
aDot – Yds/Rec. 10.0 (No. 13) – 11.9 (No. 10)
YAC/Rec. 4.2 (T-No. 9)
15+-Yd Pass Plays 3 (T-No. 6)
20+-Yd aDot % 14.3% (No. 10)

Nacua torched 2022 Pro Bowl cornerback Tariq Woolen (64.6 PFF coverage grade) for five receptions and 51 yards on six targets in Week 1, proving his preseason dominance had little to do with his competition quality.

As detailed in last week’s “3 WR/CB Matchups to Target and Avoid,” Los Angeles’ ancillary wide receivers are inefficient producers, leaving Nacua to dominate passing-game looks with No. 1 wide receiver Cooper Kupp (88.1 PFF 2022 receiving grade, hamstring strain) on injured reserve.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Nacua to face San Francisco cornerbacks Ambry Thomas (62.1 PFF coverage grade, 17 routes), Deommodore Lenoir (65.2 PFF coverage grade, 15 routes) and Charvarius Ward (81.6 PFF coverage grade, 20 routes) on at least 15 routes apiece. Slot cornerback Isaiah Oliver (81.6 PFF coverage grade) will factor in. Nacua logged a 34.0% wide-left route rate, a 26.0% slot-route rate and a 40.0% wide-right route rate in Week 1.

49ers No. 1 cornerback Ward is playing through a heel injury and remains glued to the field’s defensive left side.

The table below ranks in parentheses Thomas and Lenoir’s Week 1 coverage data among 74 NFL cornerbacks with at least 25 coverage snaps and Oliver’s Week 1 slot-coverage data among 23 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 15 slot-coverage snaps.

2023 NFL CB Coverage Ambry Thomas Deommodore Lenoir Isaiah Oliver
PFF Coverage Grade 62.1 (No. 39) 65.2 (No. 30) 63.0 (No. 13, Slot)
Catch % Allowed 83.3% (T-No. 61) 88.9% (T-No. 64) 100.0% (T-No. 13)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 1.00 (No. 44) 1.31 (T-No. 59) 1.00 (No. 14)
15+-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 3.1% (No. 58) 0.0% (T-No. 1) 0.0% (T-No. 1)

Nacua’s upward trajectory and exploitable matchup lock him in as a PPR WR3 with top-12 upside.

WR Gabe Davis, Buffalo Bills vs. CB Jakorian Bennett, Las Vegas Raiders

Buffalo wide receiver Gabe Davis (61.6 PFF receiving grade) is primed for a PPR WR2-worthy day against Las Vegas’ inept perimeter coverage.

Bills first-round tight end Dalton Kincaid (56.3 PFF receiving grade) lined up across the formation last week, increasing wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ (74.5 PFF receiving grade) slot-route rate to 46.8% — 12.6 percentage points higher than in 2022. Slot defensive back Nate Hobbs (70.7 PFF slot-coverage grade) is Las Vegas’ best coverage defender.

Davis’s 89.6% perimeter-route rate sets him up for near-full-game access to 30-year-old cornerback Marcus Peters (52.6 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) and fourth-round rookie Jakorian Bennett (36.8 PFF perimeter-coverage grade), who is filling in for Brandon Facyson (57.3 PFF 2022 perimeter-coverage grade, shin injury).

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Davis to face Bennett (29 routes) and Peterson (24 routes) on 54 of 61 routes and gives Davis an average 56.5 receiving matchup advantage rating against Bennett.

Prior to tearing his ACL in 2021, Peters never allowed a season-long catch rate higher than 68.5%, registering sub-59.0% makes in four of six NFL seasons. Peters allowed a 70.6% catch rate in 2022 and an 80.0% rate in Week 1 against the middling Denver Broncos (74.4 PFF passing grade). Among 74 NFL cornerbacks with at least 25 coverage snaps in Week 1, Peters’ 1.14 yards allowed per coverage snap ranks 49th. Bennett’s 1.05 yards allowed per coverage snap finished two spots ahead and he also allowed an 80.0% catch rate.

Davis maintained his trademark field-stretching role, earning three targets coming 15-plus yards downfield. Among 28 NFL wide receivers to do the same, Davis — standing at 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds — averaged a fifth-ranked 7.0 yards after the catch per reception and is one of five qualifying players to force a missed tackle.

Peters (6-foot, 197 pounds) and Bennett (5-foot-11, 195 pounds) will be vulnerable to Davis’ physicality. Las Vegas’ perimeter cornerbacks surrendered 10.50 yards per coverage snap on targets 15-plus yards downfield in Week 1, the fifth-worst mark in the NFL.

Davis brings PPR WR2 viability in Week 2.

3 Wide Receivers to Avoid

WR Drake London, Atlanta Falcons vs. CB Jaire Alexander, Green Bay Packers

Atlanta No. 1 wide receiver Drake London (45.5 PFF receiving grade) is a zero-floor flex option this week. Head coach Arthur Smith is intent on running his offense through running backs Bijan Robinson (71.2 PFF offense grade) and Tyler Allgeier (73.4 PFF offense grade), who totaled 25 rushing attempts and nine targets in Week 1. Robinson and Allgeier produced a perfect 100.0% catch rate in Atlanta’s 24-10 win over the Carolina Panthers, giving Smith little reason to deviate from his formula.

Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder’s (51.8 PFF passing grade) 22 dropbacks and 3.2-yard average depth of target in Week 1 ranked dead last among 32 NFL quarterbacks with at least 10 dropbacks. London’s one target and 5.0% target rate were career lows.

Green Bay tasked No. 1 cornerback Jaire Alexander (74.6 PFF coverage grade) with shadowing Chicago Bears No. 1 wide receiver D.J. Moore (59.7 PFF receiving grade) last week, while No. 2 cornerback Rasul Douglas (78.2 PFF coverage grade) did the same with No. 2 wide receiver Chase Claypool (46.8 PFF receiving grade). Alexander’s sticky coverage yielded a 5.9% targeted rate, second best among 74 NFL cornerbacks with at least 25 coverage snaps, and Moore was limited to two catches on two targets for 25 yards. Douglas finished just four spots behind Alexander with an 8.2% target rate.

PFF’s OL matchup chart gives Atlanta a mid-tier 6.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating one week after Green Bay’s interior defenders and edge rushers produced a second-ranked 51.0% quarterback pressure rate. Edge rusher Rashan Gary (77.8 PFF pass-rush grade, knee injury) was limited to 12 total snaps.

London will eventually return value as a PPR WR1, but the current circumstances push him to zero-floor flex territory.

WR Michael Gallup, Dallas Cowboys vs. CB D.J. Reed Jr., New York Jets

Dallas wide receiver Michael Gallup (57.6 PFF receiving grade) has failed to produce 65 receiving yards in any of his 17 games since tearing his ACL in Week 17 of 2021. He is unlikely to break the curse against elite perimeter cornerbacks D.J. Reed Jr. (73.9 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) and Sauce Gardner (61.9 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) and should be avoided in most scoring formats.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Gallup to face Reed (29 projected routes) and Gardner (24 projected routes) on 53 of 58 routes and gives Gallup respectively poor 23.0 and 8.1 receiving matchup advantage ratings.

Among 65 NFL cornerbacks with at least 250 perimeter-coverage snaps in 2022, both Reed and Gardner rank in the top 10 in yards allowed per coverage snap (Reed with 0.76 yards and Gardner with 0.65 yards) and explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed rate (Reed with 1.3% and Gardner with 1.1%). Gardner tacked on a top-five catch rate allowed (47.1%) for good measure.

Gallup’s 10.5% target rate ranks sixth among Dallas pass catchers with at least two targets. His 0.53 yards per route run is nearly 1.50 yards beneath the NFL ideal.

Gallup should not be in Week 2 lineups.

WR Josh Downs, Indianapolis Colts vs. CB Tavierre Thomas, Houston Texans

Colts third-round rookie slot receiver Josh Downs (55.6 PFF receiving grade) produced promising Week 1 results, but Houston's Tavierre Thomas (91.2 PFF coverage grade) has blossomed into an elite interior coverage defender. Thomas’ strong 2022 play led general manager Nick Caserio to waive cornerback Desmond King II (65.1 PFF 2022 slot-coverage grade) despite King’s 2022 renaissance.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Downs and Thomas to square off on 44 of 47 snaps, giving Downs a poor 14.6 receiving matchup advantage rating.

Among 28 NFL slot receivers with at least 15 slot routes run, Downs’ 7.3 yards after the catch per reception mark ranks fourth, but his inefficient 0.91 yards per route run figure reflects his overall inefficiencies.

Among 23 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 15 slot-coverage snaps in Week 1, Thomas’ sterling 0.47 yards allowed per coverage snap ranks seventh and his 0.0% rate of allowed 15-plus-yard pass plays is tied for the league lead. His 91.4 PFF slot-coverage grade placed second only to the Kansas City ChiefsTrent McDuffie (93.0 PFF slot-coverage grade).

Starting outside cornerback Steven Nelson (92.9 PFF slot-coverage grade) logged three slot-coverage snaps for Houston in Week 1, finishing with a fourth-ranked 84.9 PFF coverage grade among 74 NFL cornerbacks with at least 25 coverage snaps.

Downs remains a bench stash.


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