Fantasy News & Analysis

Fantasy Football Week 5: Three WR/CB matchups to target and avoid

2RWJXXP Tennessee Titans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (10) plays against the Los Angeles Chargers during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Sept. 17, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

• WR DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee Titans vs. CB Darrell Baker Jr.: Hopkins is nearing full health in time to face Indianapolis’ lacking secondary.

• WR Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos vs. CB Sauce Gardner, New York Jets: Sutton offers Gardner an interesting matchup.

• 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 5.

WR:CB Matchup Chart


3 Wide Receivers to Target

WR Calvin Ridley, Jacksonville Jaguars vs. CB Christian Benford, Buffalo Bills

Jacksonville No. 1 wide receiver Calvin Ridley (59.9 PFF offense grade) gets a winnable matchup against a Buffalo perimeter cornerback unit that allows plenty of explosive pass plays. And the group is now missing No. 1 cornerback Tre’Davious White (79.0 PFF coverage grade) following his Week 4 season-ending Achilles' tendon rupture. Ridley is a borderline WR1/2 for Week 5.

The game’s 48.5-point FanDuel over/under is the fourth highest on the week.

As detailed in Week 5’s “QB Matchups, Streamer of the Week, Rankings and More, PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Jacksonville’s offensive line a 13.0% pass-blocking matchup rating. The unit has a chance to return left tackle Cam Robinson (74.8 PFF 2022 pass-blocking grade) from suspension.

Ridley runs routes on the formation’s perimeter at an 83.8% rate with a near-even left-to-right split — 42.9% to 40.9%, respectively. His five explosive perimeter pass plays tie for No. 13 among 52 NFL wide receivers with at least 75 perimeter-receiving snaps. Those came in three consecutive games against the Kansas City Chiefs (3.8%, No. 7), Houston Texans (4.9%, No. 12) and Atlanta Falcons (2.2%, No. 1) — three of the league’s top-12 perimeter coverage units at limiting explosive pass plays.

Among 87 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 35 perimeter-coverage snaps, Christian Benford‘s (57.1 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) and Dane Jackson’s (65.2 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) respective 4.7% and 5.4% explosive pass plays allowed rates both rank outside the top 60. Benford’s 1.18 yards allowed per coverage snap ties for 43rd, and Jackson’s 1.43 yards allowed per coverage snap likewise ties for 55th.

Buffalo safeties Micah Hyde (81.8 PFF coverage grade, hamstring strain) and Jordan Poyer (58.7 PFF coverage grade, knee soreness) are on shaky legs, increasing Ridley’s long-touchdown odds.

Ridley should be started as a high-end WR2.


WR Michael Pittman Jr., Indianapolis Colts vs. CB Kristian Fulton, Tennessee Titans

Indianapolis No. 1 wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (67.0 PFF offense grade) is a half-points-per-reception WR1 against Tennessee’s pass-funnel secondary.

FanDuel implies Indianapolis to score 22.0 points.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives Indianapolis a 9.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, offering quarterback Anthony Richardson (57.6 PFF passing grade) mild-to-moderate pocket comfort.

Pittman frequently lines up across the formation pre-snap, registering a 34.6% wide-left rate, a 22.6% slot rate and a 40.6% wide-right rate. That should give him full access to Tennessee’s inept secondary.

Pittman's high-volume workload delivers fruitful results even with moderate efficiency.

Tennessee’s secondary ranks 30th in catch rate allowed to wide receivers (75.9%) and 26th in yards allowed per coverage snap to the position (8.02). The unit’s wide receiver coverage performance is lowlighted by safety/part-time slot coverage defender Amani Hooker’s (61.7 PFF coverage grade) 100.0% catch rate allowed, slot cornerback Roger McCreary’s (56.5 PFF slot-coverage grade) 2.12 yards allowed per slot-coverage snap and cornerback Kristian Fulton’s (41.8 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) all-around poor play.

Among 66 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 34 perimeter wide receiver-coverage snaps, Fulton ranks 50th or worse in catch rate allowed (75.0%), yards allowed per coverage snap (3.80) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (8.2%).

Tennessee notably lost its highest-graded safety Mike Brown (75.5 PFF coverage grade) to injured reserve last week.

The table below ranks in parentheses Pittman’s receiving data among 38 NFL wide receivers with at least 135 receiving snaps.

Michael Pittman Jr.
PFF Receiving Grade 68.4 (No. 28)
Receiving Snaps – Targets 157 – (No. 10) – 36 (No. 9)
Target % – YPRR 22.9% (No. 9) – 1.56 (No. 20)
Catch % – Contested Catch % 72.2% (No. 14) – 50.0% (T-No. 9)
YAC/Rec. 4.5 (No.12)
15+-Yd Pass Plays 4 (T-No. 18)

Pittman is a high-floor WR1.


WR DeAndre Hopkins, Tennessee Titans vs. CB Darrell Baker Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Tennessee No. 1 wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins (74.2 PFF offense grade) should be started aggressively this weekend. His underreported Week 1 high-ankle sprain slowed his overall production, but Hopkins’ per-play efficiency remains robust. Per Adam Hutchison’s “Injury Report,” Hopkins should be nearing the end of his rehabilitation cycle. Indianapolis’ beleaguered secondary experienced a Week 3 respite, but cornerback Dallis Flowers’ (70.6 PFF coverage grade) Week 4 Achilles' tendon rupture puts the unit back in turmoil. Hopkins is a high-end WR2.

FanDuel implies Tennessee to score 21.75 points.

The table below ranks in parentheses Hopkins’ receiving data among 71 NFL wide receivers with at least 100 receiving snaps.

DeAndre Hopkins
PFF Receiving Grade 74.5 (No. 24)
Target % – YPRR 27.9% (No. 6) – 2.08 (No. 18)
aDot 13.7 (No. 19)
15+-Yard Pass Plays 5 (T-No. 28)
Slot-Target % 8.6% (No. 16)
20+-Yd aDot % 20.7% (No. 6)

Tennessee head coach Mike Vrabel deploys Hopkins across the formation pre-snap at rates of 38.9% wide left, 28.3% in the slot and 31.0% wide right, providing Hopkins full access to Indianapolis’ cornerbacks.

Newly installed left cornerback JuJu Brents’ (72.6 PFF defensive-left coverage grade) 4.0% explosive pass plays allowed rate ranks 22nd among 28 NFL left cornerbacks with at least 65 such snaps. His 1.08 yards allowed per left coverage snap ranks a middling No. 14.

Indianapolis slot cornerback Kenny Moore’s (70.3 PFF slot-coverage grade) 2.5% explosive pass plays allowed rate ranks 20th among 28 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 50 slot-coverage snaps. He pairs it with a friendly 75.0% catch rate allowed.

Cornerbacks Darrell Baker Jr. (29.9 PFF coverage grade) and Jaylon Jones (62.2 PFF coverage grade) form a league-worst duo on the right side. Among 91 NFL cornerbacks with at least 75 coverage snaps, Baker ranks 89th or worse in targeted rate (24.4%), yards allowed per coverage snap (2.63) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (7.7%). Jones has logged two NFL coverage snaps since the Colts made him a seventh-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Hopkins is a top-15 NFL half-PPR wide receiver in Week 5.


3 Wide Receivers to Avoid

WR Courtland Sutton, Denver Broncos vs. CB Sauce Gardner, New York Jets

Courtland Sutton (68.2 PFF receiving grade) faces a battle-tested New York cornerback corps that boasts efficient coverage results despite facing the Buffalo Bills (79.5 PFF passing grade), Dallas Cowboys (67.2 PFF passing grade) and Kansas City Chiefs (71.5 PFF passing grade). Sutton cannot be trusted as more than a dart-throw flex option.

Among 38 NFL wide receivers with at least 135 receiving snaps, Sutton ranks 17th to 20th in targets (27), target rate (19.9%) and yards per route run (1.59). His moderate volume and efficiency fail to stand out in either regard.

Sutton’s results signal artificial inflation following contests against three of the NFL’s six worst secondaries — the Las Vegas Raiders (45.0 PFF wide receiver-coverage grade, 8.48 yards allowed per wide receiver-coverage snap, Week 1), Washington Commanders (57.2 PFF wide receiver-coverage grade, 8.55 yards allowed per wide receiver-coverage snap, Week 2) and Chicago Bears (35.4 PFF wide receiver-coverage grade, 8.28 yards allowed per wide receiver-coverage snap, Week 4).

New York cornerbacks D.J. Reed Jr. (74.0 PFF coverage grade), Sauce Gardner (75.6 PFF coverage grade) and Michael Carter II (70.8 PFF coverage grade) have conversely produced mid-to-high results despite facing league-best competition.

Update 10/6/23: D.J. Reed Jr. failed to clear the NFL’s concussion protocol and will not play in Week 5. Per PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart, Sutton runs routes at a combined 54% slot-and-wide-right rate, indicating he will face Gardner or Cater II on a majority of routes. Stud free safety Jordan Whitehead (70.1 PFF coverage grade) will assist backup cornerback Bryce Hall (28.1 PFF coverage grade) in covering Sutton. Among 35 NFL safeties with at least 62 wide receiver-coverage snaps, Whitehead’s 89.7 PFF wide receiver-coverage grade ranks No. 2, his 20.0% wide receiver-catch rate allowed ties for No. 1 and his 0.23 yards allowed per wide receiver-coverage snap rank No. 5.

The table below ranks in parentheses Reed’s and Gardner’s perimeter-coverage data among 63 NFL perimeter cornerbacks with at least 70 perimeter-coverage snaps.

D.J. Reed Jr. Sauce Gardner
PFF Perimeter-Coverage Grade 73.8 (No. 12) 68.2 (No. 24)
Catch % Allowed 73.7% (No. 51) 77.8% (No. 55)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 0.83 (No. 16) 0.91 (T-No. 24)
15+-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 2.0% (No. 25) 2.7% (No. 36)

The table below ranks in parentheses Carter’s slot-coverage data among 35 NFL slot defensive backs with at least 50 slot-coverage snaps.

Michael Carter II
PFF Slot-Coverage Grade 70.6 (No. 13)
Catch % Allowed 50.0% (T-No. 2)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 0.21 (T-No. 1)
15+-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 0.9% (No. 9)

Sutton is just a half-PPR WR5.


WR Tyler Boyd, Cincinnati Bengals vs. DB Jalen Thompson, Arizona Cardinals

Cincinnati No. 2 wide receiver Tee Higgins (57.7 PFF receiving grade) suffered a Week 4 ribs fracture, likely resulting in at least a one-to-two-week absence based on data provided by Fantasy Points' Edwin Porras. Fantasy managers should avoid starting slot receiver Tyler Boyd (57.4 PFF receiving grade, 89.8% pre-snap slot alignment), whose play began declining in 2021.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Boyd to face Arizona slot defensive back Jalen Thompson (56.4 PFF coverage grade) on 50 of 56 receiving snaps, giving Boyd an average 53.5 matchup advantage rating.

Boyd’s 13.3% target rate and 0.86 yards per route run from the slot are jarringly inefficient. He has failed to produce an explosive pass play.

A hip injury sidelined Cincinnati's No.1 wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase (74.7 PFF receiving grade) in Weeks 8-12 in 2022. Boyd managed just a 9.6% slot-target rate, 0.83 slot-YPRR and two explosive pass plays during that span.

Thompson's efficient slot coverage makes Boyd a complete Week 5 no-go.

The table below ranks in parentheses Thompson‘s slot-coverage data among 35 NFL slot defensive backs with at least 50 slot-coverage snaps.

Jalen Thompson
PFF Slot-Coverage Grade 61.0 (No. 24)
Catch % Allowed 63.6% (No. 6)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 0.80 (No. 12)
15+-Yd Pass Plays Allowed % 2.6% (No. 22)

As covered in “5 Players to Fade in 2023,” rookie wide receiver Andrei Iosivas (53.3 PFF receiving grade) is a talented prospect who could carve out a role this week.

Boyd should be ranked outside the position’s top 50.


WR Darius Slayton, New York Giants vs. CB Xavien Howard, Miami Dolphins

New York field-stretching wide receiver Darius Slayton (63.6 PFF receiving grade) faces a tactically difficult situation in Week 5 and cannot be started in 12-team leagues.

FanDuel implies New York to score just 19.5 points.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives New York a -29.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, the fifth-worst mark of the week.

As detailed in this week’s “QB Matchups” article, New York quarterback Daniel Jones (29.5 PFF pressured-passing grade) wilts under pressure. Jones’ guards and center (29.4 PFF pass-blocking grade) will struggle to slow Miami's interior defenders (60.9 PFF pass-rush grade).

Slayton’s downfield routes take a long time to develop, fitting poorly with the impending pass-rush dynamic. Among 33 NFL wide receivers with at least 125 receiving snaps, Slayton’s 13.3-yard average depth of target and 21.1% deep-target rate both rank in the top 10.

Slayton runs routes on a 43.6% wide-right plurality and his per-route inefficiencies (13.4% target rate and 0.93 YPRR) rank in the bottom seven among qualifying NFL wide receivers, boding poorly for his matchup against defensive-left cornerback Xavien Howard (50.3 PFF coverage grade). Among 28 left-side cornerbacks with at least 65 left-side coverage snaps, Howard’s 2.5% explosive pass plays allowed rate ranks 15th.

Miami’s three-headed safety trio boasts an 89.5 PFF coverage grade, ranking second among safety units. Their 56.0% catch rate allowed ties for fourth and his 1.9% explosive pass plays allowed rate ranks No. 10.

Slayton should not be started in 12-team leagues.

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