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Week 5 WR/CB mismatches and shadow coverages to leverage in DFS & fantasy football leagues

Green Bay, Wisconsin, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Diontae Johnson (18) celebrates after scoring a touchdown during the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Week 5 is here! 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.

LAR @ SEA | NYG @ ATL | MIA @ TB | NO @ WFT | PHI @ CAR | NE @ HOU | GB @ CIN | TEN @ JAX | DEN @ PIT | DET @ MINCLE @ LAC | CHI @ LV |
SF @ ARZ |

Los Angeles Rams Seattle Seahawks

Rams Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Van Jefferson 74 + 197 N/A 1.95 D.J. Reed Jr. 69 + 188 4.51 0.62
R Robert Woods 72 + 195 4.51 1.41 Sidney Jones 72 + 181 4.47 3.54
S Cooper Kupp 74 + 208 4.62 3.15 Ugo Amadi 69 + 201 4.51 1.27

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Through four weeks, Matthew Stafford has fed the following players at least five targets:

Kupp is fantasy’s overall WR1 through four weeks; he literally has more PPR fantasy points than any running back, wide receiver or tight end in the league. His 5-64-0 Week 4 performance could have been even bigger with a better ball from Stafford on a potential 30-yard score down the seam. Continue to fire up Kupp as a top-five option at the position, particularly against a Seahawks defense that has allowed a robust 8.81 yards per attempt to receivers aligned out of the slot this season.

And then there’s the artist known as Bobby Trees, who might (finally) be in line for a squeaky wheel recovery based on what head coach Sean McVay said earlier this week:

“Robert is a leader, he's a captain and he's been doing a good job up to this point. We just need to get him some more opportunities and that starts with me.”

Woods remains the clear-cut No. 2 receiver inside of the league’s sixth-ranked scoring offense; don’t expect his big-game drought to continue much longer even if Kupp is more established than ever as the true No. 1 pass-game option. Only the Chiefs, Cowboys and Vikings are implied to score more points than the Rams this week; try to find a spot in the starting lineup for Woods despite his lackluster start.

Jefferson is the preferred dart over D-Jax due to his full-time role in three-WR sets; just realize it only takes the veteran field-stretching talent one play to swing that equation in his favor. Neither are recommended starts in most season-long formats.

TE breakdown: Tyler Higbee has posted 5-68-0, 1-8-0, 5-40-1 and 4-36-0 receiving lines through four weeks, good for overall PPR TE15 honors on the season. It’d make sense if the touchdown total spikes at some point, but Stafford’s overwhelming reliance on featuring Kupp has made it tough for the complementary options to truly shine. Perhaps a spike week is on the way against the league’s seventh-worst defense in explosive pass-play rate allowed to tight ends; keep treating Higbee as a top-12 option at the position as long as the Rams continue to look like one of the league’s best overall passing attacks.

Seahawks Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L D.K. Metcalf 75 + 229 4.33 2.36 Darious Williams 69 + 187 N/A 0.96
R Tyler Lockett 70 + 182 4.4 2.71 David Long Jr. 71 + 196 N/A 1.08
S Freddie Swain 72 + 199 4.46 1.44 Jalen Ramsey 73 + 208 4.41 0.75

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Jalen Ramsey hasn’t explicitly shadowed a single receiver all season. Last year, the only three who earned his full-time attention were D.K. Metcalf, Davante Adams and Mike Evans. It seems like a philosophical decision to not utilize Ramsey in this matter for 60 full minutes this season considering he didn’t go out of his way to track either Evans or DeAndre Hopkins over the past two weeks.

Regardless, Metcalf needs to be in starting lineups of all shapes and sizes. He has posted the following production in four career matchups against Ramsey:

  • Week 14, 2019: 6 receptions-78 yards-0 TD (6 targets)
  • Week 10, 2020: 2-28-0 (4)
  • Week 16, 2020: 6-59-0 (8)
  • Wild Card, 2020: 5-96-2 (11)

The same sentiment is true for Lockett: You’d better have a damn good reason for putting fantasy’s overall WR10 anywhere near the bench. Only the Buccaneers and Football Team have allowed more total receptions to opposing wide receivers this season; sometimes an offense's answer to a beastly defensive line is simply to throw the hell out of the ball.

Both receivers deserve moderate downgrades considering Russell Wilson’s immense struggles with this defense in 2020; just realize both Metcalf (my PPR WR14) and Lockett (WR21) remain assets that should come out on top in virtually all start/sit decisions.

None of the Seahawks’ complementary receivers are realistic fantasy options this week.

TE breakdown: Will Dissly played a robust 82% snap rate with Gerald Everett (covid, IR) sidelined last week but caught just two passes for 5 scoreless yards. These are the sort of floor performances that can happen when your quarterback has to claw his way to 25 pass attempts. The expected return of Everett should return him to touchdown-dependent TE2 territory in his revenge game, while Dissly isn’t a recommended start either way.

Related content for you: Fantasy Football Utilization Report: Week 5 waivers, trades and drops via Dwain McFarland

New York JetsAtlanta Falcons

Jets Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Corey Davis 75 + 209 N/A 1.98 Fabian Moreau 72 + 200 4.35 1.05
R Keelan Cole 73 + 194 N/A 2.26 A.J. Terrell 73 + 190 4.42 0.3
S Jamison Crowder 69 + 177 4.56 2.18 Avery Williams 69 + 195 N/A 1.52

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: There was far more bad than good out of this passing game in early-season matchups against the Panthers, Patriots and Broncos. Finally Zach Wilson and company caught a break in Week 4 against the Titans, and the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 2 overall pick responded with a handful of absolutely ridiculous throws.

The Falcons’ league-worst scoring defense certainly falls closer to the latter defense than the first three units this passing game had to deal with. The floor remains low for everyone involved, but Corey Davis deserves upside WR3 treatment after posting 5-97-2, 2-8-0, 5-41-0 and 4-111-1 receiving lines to start the season.

I’m inclined to fade everyone else; the potential return of Elijah Moore (concussion) would greatly muddle the snaps and targets for himself, Keelan Cole and Jamison Crowder, among others. The Jets are still implied to score a rather meh 21.25 points despite the great matchup; don’t get too carried away here.

TE breakdown: Neither Tyler Kroft nor Ryan Griffin are realistic fantasy options as long as each continues to eat into the other’s snaps and targets. Note that Griffin should have had a walk-off touchdown in overtime last week, but Wilson threw the ball at his feet.

Falcons Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Calvin Ridley 73 + 190 4.43 1.55 Javelin Guidry 69 + 193 4.29 1.13
R Tajae Sharpe 74 + 194 4.55 0.72 Bryce Hall 73 + 200 N/A 0.67
S Olamide Zaccheaus 68 + 190 N/A 0.7 Michael Carter II 71 + 190 N/A 0.66

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Calvin Ridley was so close to putting together a massive Week 4 performance, as no fewer than three deep balls went off his hands throughout the afternoon. These weren’t Hollywood Brown-level drops by any stretch of the imagination; we’re just used to seeing a high-level talent like Ridley come down with these tough catches.

Overall, Ridley was one of just four receivers from last week to have over 100 unrealized air yards:

  1. Odell Beckham (160 air yards – 27 receiving yards = 133 unrealized air yards)
  2. Courtland Sutton (121)
  3. Ridley (116)
  4. Terry McLaurin (108)

Ridley is the overall PPR WR22 through four weeks, but the WR2 in expected fantasy points. It’s a matter of when, not if, Ridley bounces back in a major way; continue to fire him up as a top-10 option at the position.

None of the Falcons’ other receivers are realistic fantasy options with the group’s running backs and tight ends so heavily involved in the passing game. This is especially true against a Jets secondary that has been a pleasant surprise to this point, as they’ve posted top-eight marks in both explosive pass-play rate and yards per attempt allowed to wide receivers.

TE breakdown: Kyle Pitts is in a similar situation as Ridley: disappointing production despite elite usage. Overall, the rookie is just the PPR TE20 through four weeks but the TE7 in expected points. The only tight ends I’d start ahead of Pitts this week: Travis Kelce, Darren Waller, George Kittle, T.J. Hockenson and Mark Andrews. The Jets are one of just eight defenses to allow fewer than nine PPR points per game to opposing tight ends; just realize Pitts is this offense’s No. 2 pass-game option regardless of what his positional designation says. This sort of role is extremely rare for a tight end; the 2021 NFL Draft’s No. 4 overall pick is a ticking time bomb in fantasy land and I mean that in the best way possible.

New England Patriots @ Houston Texans 

Patriots Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Nelson Agholor 72 + 198 4.42 1.07 Terrance Mitchell 71 + 191 4.63 1.34
R Kendrick Bourne 73 + 203 4.68 1.45 Desmond King II 70 + 200 N/A 1.66
S Jakobi Meyers 74 + 203 4.63 1.46 Tavierre Thomas 70 + 205 N/A 0.5

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Mac Jones has fed the following players at least five targets over the past two weeks with James White (hip, IR) sidelined for all but four routes:

Great note from JJ Zachariason: The last time Meyers scored a non-passing touchdown was in December of 2018 against East Carolina. Madness. To say the man is due is an understatement: Meyers is the overall PPR WR31 this season but the WR16 in expected points.

Credit to the Texans for posting top-five marks in yards per attempt and explosive pass-play rate allowed to slot receivers. Meyers is seeing the sort of elite volume that is awfully tough to fade in fantasy land. Fire him up as an upside WR3 despite the potential for the Patriots to instill their will on the ground as touchdown favorites.

Sep 12, 2021; Foxborough, Massachusetts, USA; New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers (16) runs with the ball against the Miami Dolphins during the first half at Gillette Stadium. Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports

Trusting Bourne or Agholor is tough due to 1.) their clear-cut status as complementary options, and 2.) Mac Jones’ struggles with the deep ball. Nothing against Jones’ progression as a rookie; he’s largely been the best of the first-round group and has exceeded expectations this early in his career. Still, the results haven’t been good when asked to throw at least 20 yards downfield this season:

  • PFF passing grade: 62.4 (No. 31 among 34 qualified quarterbacks)
  • Yards per attempt: 5.7 (No. 34)
  • Adjusted completion rate: 23.5% (No. 33)
  • QB rating: 11.3 (No. 34)

TE breakdown: Henry and Smith are the PPR TE19 and TE21 this season. An injury to either would elevate the healthy option to top-10 status, but until then neither is a recommended start. Having two great tight ends is a great “problem” to have in real life, but it often simply produces zero big-time producers in fantasy land.

Texans Offense
WR Player H + W 40 YPRR CB H + W 40 YPRR
L Brandin Cooks 70 + 183 4.33 3.08 Jalen Mills 72 + 191 4.61 0.78
R Chris Conley 75 + 205 4.35 0.42 J.C. Jackson 73 + 198 4.46 1.68
S Anthony Miller 71 + 190 N/A 0.49 Jonathan Jones 70 + 190 4.33 1.68

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR/CB breakdown: Brandin Cooks is the only viable fantasy option in this entire offense. He’s put forward the following production through four weeks:

  • Week 1: 5 receptions-132 yards-0 TD (7 targets), PPR WR22
  • Week 2: 9-78-1 (14), WR8
  • Week 3: 9-112-0 (11), WR11
  • Week 4: 5-47-0 (7), WR51

Nobody has a higher percentage of their team’s air yards than Cooks (55%). Only Davante Adams is on his level in terms of target share (37%). It doesn’t feel good starting anybody involved in this offense; just realize Cooks has the sort of ridiculous volume to continue to warrant low-end WR2 treatment even in tough matchups. Fingers crossed Tyrod Taylor (hamstring) is back sooner rather than later.

TE breakdown: Jordan Akins has just 10 targets through four weeks; none of the Texans’ tight ends are realistic fantasy options until further notice.

Detroit Lions @ Minnesota Vikings 

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