Fantasy Football Week 3: Three WR/CB matchups to target and avoid

2KCPWCK Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd (83) carries the ball for yardage during an NFL football game between the Detroit Lions and the Cincinnati Bengals in Detroit, Michigan USA, on Sunday, October 17, 2021. (Photo by Amy Lemus/NurPhoto)

• WR Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings vs. CB Michael Davis, Los Angeles Chargers: His explosive-pass-play abilities will be on full display.

• WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals vs. CB Cobie Durant, Los Angeles Rams: He has a tough matchup against an ascending, young slot 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: 8 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 3.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

3 Wide Receivers to Target

WR Jordan Addison, Minnesota Vikings vs. CB Michael Davis, Los Angeles Chargers

Minnesota rookie wide receiver Jordan Addison (66.7 PFF offense grade) is a points-per-reception (PPR) WR2 against Los Angeles’ big-play-friendly secondary in Week 3.

The Vikings-Chargers contest is the lone game this week with a total of more than 48.5 points (53.5 points on FanDuel).

Los Angeles head coach Brandon Staley is ineffectively using regular-season play to whittle his four-player cornerback group down to a starting trio. As discussed in QB Matchups and Streamer of the Week, “among 99 NFL cornerbacks with at least 25 coverage snaps, all four [cornerbacks] rank outside the top 60 in both yards allowed per coverage snap and explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed rate.”

Addison’s 43.0% wide-right pre-snap-alignment plurality suggests cornerback Michael Davis (29.5 PFF defensive-left coverage grade) will be his primary coverage defender. Among 33 NFL left cornerbacks with at least 30 left-side coverage snaps, Davis ranks in the bottom four in target rate (35.5%), catch rate allowed (81.8%), yards allowed per coverage snap (3.94) and explosive play rate allowed (9.7%).

The table below ranks in parentheses Addison’s wide-right receiving data among 29 NFL wide-right receivers with at least 25 wide-right receiving snaps.

NFL Wide-Right Alignment WR Receiving Jordan Addison
PFF Receiving Grade 68.3 (No. 11)
Target % – YPRR 24.1% (No. 12) – 2.79 (No. 7)
aDot – Yds/Rec. 14.7 (No. 10) – 20.3 (No. 3)
20-Plus-Yd aDot % 28.3% (T-No. 4)
15-Plus-Yd Pass Plays % 25.0% (No. 16)

Expect fantasy football’s highest-scoring quarterback Kirk Cousins (76.4 PFF passing grade) to deliver efficient passes in a cozy pocket. PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Minnesota a 15.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, the seventh-best rating of the week.

Addison is startable as a PPR WR2 in a dream matchup.

WR Tutu Atwell, Los Angeles Rams vs. DB Mike Hilton, Cincinnati Bengals

Inside/outside wide receiver Tutu Atwell (76.8 PFF offense grade) has found his stride operating as the Rams' field-stretcher two-plus years after blazing a 4.39-second 40-yard dash at Louisville’s pro day. Week 3 brings Atwell a slot-route matchup against Mike Hilton (55.1 PFF slot-coverage grade), putting Atwell on the PPR-WR3 radar with long-touchdown upside.

Los Angeles quarterback Matthew Stafford’s (79.9 PFF passing grade) career resurgence earns him a safe top-12 positional ranking as one of two quarterbacks with Week 3 matchups to target. Atwell will play a key role in extending Stafford’s 300-yard streak another week.

The table below ranks in parentheses Atwell’s slot-receiving data among 42 NFL slot receivers with at least 25 slot-receiving snaps.

NFL Slot-WR Receiving Tutu Atwell
PFF Slot-Receiving Grade 80.4 (No. 1)
Target % – YPRR 22.5% (No. 7) – 2.35 (No. 3)
Contested Catch % 100.0% (T-No. 1)
Yds/Rec. 13.4 (No. 8)
20-Plus-Yd aDot % 22.2% (No. 10)
15-Plus-Yd Pass Plays 2 (T-No. 2)

Among 34 NFL slot defensive backs with at least 15 slot-coverage snaps, Hilton ranks outside the top 20 in catch rate allowed (83.3%), yards allowed per coverage snap (3.19) and explosive pass play rate allowed (4.8%).

Cincinnati perimeter cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt’s (73.2 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) 1.25 yards allowed per coverage snap figure is unimposing. No. 1 cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (62.1 PFF coverage grade) is returning to form following his Week 8 2022 ACL tear. Los Angeles head coach Sean McVay would do well to test Awuzie’s surgically repaired knee with Atwell’s downfield speed.

Fantasy managers should count on Atwell to take the top off Cincinnati’s defense in Week 3.

WR Chris Godwin, Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs. CB Mario Goodrich, Philadelphia Eagles

Tampa Bay slot receiver Chris Godwin (71.4 PFF receiving grade) is primed for his first high-scoring 2023 outing against Philadelphia’s injury-ruined slot coverage.

Philadelphia slot cornerback Avonte Maddox (56.2 PFF slot-coverage grade) is out for the year (torn pectoral muscle) and the team’s ability to replace him is hamstrung by safety Reed Blankenship’s (78.2 PFF coverage grade) own ribs injury. Blankenship’s Week 3 status is currently unknown but he registered three straight Did Not Participate designations in Week 2, indicating he is far from full health. Were Blankenship readily available, head coach Nick Sirianni could promote talented backup safety Terrell Edmunds (52.5 PFF coverage grade) to a starting role and slide Blankenship’s co-starter Justin Evans (67.8 PFF coverage grade) into nickel coverage.

With Evans likely staying put, 2022 practice squad member Mario Goodrich (67.6 PFF slot-coverage grade) is thrust into the lineup. Among 28 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 25 slot-coverage snaps, Goodrich ranks No. 25 or worse in catch rate allowed (100.0%), yards allowed per coverage snap (2.04), explosive 15-plus-yard pass plays allowed rate (3.9%) and open-target rate (100.0%).

Update 9/23/23: Blankenship logged “Full Participant” practice designations on Thursday and Friday. He will play on Monday night. Evans’ 50.0% slot-target catch rate allowed is an upgrade on Goodrich’s dismal 100.0% rate, but Evans’ own 2.07 yards allowed per slot-coverage snap is in league with Goodrich’s ineffectual 2.04. Godwin’s floor decreases a tier but his ceiling remains intact.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Godwin to face Goodrich on 39-of-55 routes.

Godwin’s 20.6% target rate and 1.73 yards per route run (YPRR) rank No. 2 among Tampa Bay wide receivers with at least 25 receiving snaps. No. 1 wide receiver Mike Evans (78.7 PFF receiving grade) will command Philadelphia’s perimeter-cornerback and safety attention having parlayed the No. 2-ranked 3.76 YPRR into top-four yardage (237) and receiving-touchdown (two) sums.

Godwin should be locked into starting lineups as a chain-moving PPR WR2 floor-play with explosive 15-plus-yard pass play WR1 upside.

3 Wide Receivers to Avoid

WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals vs. CB Cobie Durant, Los Angeles Rams

Cincinnati slot receiver Tyler Boyd (54.5 PFF receiving grade) will likely be without quarterback Joe Burrow (58.2 PFF passing grade, calf strain) for a tough Monday Night Football battle against Los Angeles slot cornerback Cobie Durant (39.6 PFF coverage grade). Boyd should be ranked outside the top 50 wide receivers for Week 3.

Among 62 NFL preseason quarterbacks with at least 25 preseason dropbacks, backup quarterback Jake Browning’s 56.9 PFF passing grade ranks 46th.

Durant supplanted talented Los Angeles slot cornerback Troy Hill (67.8 PFF slot-coverage grade) in Week 13 of 2022, and his above-average play allowed general manager Les Snead to let Hill walk as a free agent. Among 47 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 100 slot-coverage snaps in 2022, Durant ranked in the top six with an 84.0 PFF slot-coverage grade, 56.3% catch rate allowed, 0.68 yards allowed per coverage snap and 0.0% explosive pass plays allowed rate.

Durant dissuaded Seattle Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith (72.8 PFF passing grade) from targeting his slot coverage at all in Week 1 and surrendered three receptions and 59 receiving yards on five targets to the San Francisco 49ers’ (88.3 PFF slot-receiving grade) elite slot receiver unit in Week 2.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Boyd to face Durant on 49 of 57 routes, giving Boyd a below-average 32.4 matchup advantage rating.

Among 42 NFL slot receivers with at least 25 slot-receiving snaps, Boyd’s 9.5% slot-target rate and 0.79 yards per route run rank outside the top 20, accurately reflecting his devolving play quality.

Remove Boyd from Week 3 starting lineups.

WR Kendrick Bourne, New England Patriots vs. CB Sauce Gardner, New England Patriots

New England journeyman wide receiver Kendrick Bourne (64.1 PFF receiving grade) convinced some fantasy managers to submit post-Week 1 waiver wire claims for him following his PPR overall WR5 (24.4 points) showing against the Philadelphia Eagles with No. 1 wide receiver DeVante Parker (69.3 PFF receiving grade, knee injury) inactive.

Bourne returned to earth last week, despite upstart rookie Demario Douglas (62.7 PFF receiving grade) getting benched following a first-quarter fumble. Douglas’ 1.90 yards per route run and 29.0% target rate are both top-two marks among New England wide receivers. His absence created a vacancy that Bourne unforgivably failed to fill. Bourne cannot be trusted to produce as a top-50 Week 3 wide receiver.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Bourne to face New York 2022 first-team All-Pro No. 1 cornerback Sauce Gardner (79.2 PFF coverage grade) on 20 of 40 routes, giving Bourne a poor 13.2 receiving matchup advantage rating. Bourne garners a below-average 36.5 matchup advantage rating against No. 2 cornerback D.J. Reed (79.1 PFF coverage grade) and a below-average 33.6 matchup advantage rating against slot cornerback Michael Carter II (76.2 PFF coverage grade).

Among 73 NFL wide receivers with at least 50 receiving snaps, Bourne’s 1.16 yards per route run and 50.0% catch rate both rank outside the top 45.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives New England a -6.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating against a New York defensive line (67.2 PFF pass-rush grade) that ranks in the top 10 in both quarterback pressure rate (33.0%) and pass-rush productivity (25.8).

FanDuel implies New York to score just 19.75 points.

Bourne can be dropped from 12-team rosters.

WR Romeo Doubs, Green Bay Packers vs. CB Marshon Lattimore, New Orleans Saints

Green Bay second-year wide receiver Romeo Doubs (73.0 PFF receiving grade) produced top-15 PPR results in Week 1 but finished outside the top 70 in Week 2. With No. 1 wide receiver Christian Watson (77.8 PFF 2022 receiving grade) likely returning from a hamstring strain, No. 3 wide receiver Jayden Reed (76.7 PFF receiving grade) emerging as a red-zone target and Doubs projected for an 18-snap matchup against New Orleans No. 1 cornerback Marshon Lattimore (90.7 PFF coverage grade), Doubs cannot be trusted to produce for fantasy purposes.

Doubs is a capable role player but fails to profile as strongly as Watson. The two played four healthy games together from Weeks 15-18 last year.

The table below compares Doubs and Watson’s 2022 receiving data during their four healthy games together.

2022 Green Bay WR Receiving Romeo Doubs Christian Watson
PFF Receiving Grade 67.0 80.0
Target % – YPRR 27.1% – 1.88 26.0% – 2.19
aDot – YAC/Rec. 8.5 – 3.7 13.8 – 5.7
15+-Yd Pass Plays 2 5

Reed’s three red-zone targets is tied for 12th among NFL wide receivers, and his 87.6 red-zone receiving grade ranks third among 44 NFL wide receivers with at least two such targets.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart gives Doubs a poor 6.3 matchup advantage rating, the seventh worst in Week 3. Doubs similarly received below-average 33.2 and 30.4 matchup advantage ratings against perimeter cornerback Paulson Adebo (56.0 PFF coverage grade) and slot cornerback Alontae Taylor (50.5 PFF coverage grade), respectively.

Among 33 NFL cornerbacks with at least 75 coverage snaps, Lattimore’s 90.7 PFF coverage grade ranks first.

Doubs should ride fantasy football benches in Week 3.


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