Fantasy Football Week 8: Three WR/CB matchups to target and avoid

2RWC8X9 Houston, Texas, USA. 17th Sep, 2023. Houston Texans wide receiver Nico Collins (12) runs onto the field before pregame introductions prior to the game between the Houston Texans and the Indianapolis Colts at NRG Stadium in Houston, TX on September 17, 2023. (Credit Image: © Erik Williams/ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE!

• WR Nico Collins, Houston Texans vs. CB Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers: Collins is a half-points-per-reception WR1 thanks to his exceptional usage and soft matchup.

• WR Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos vs. CB Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs: Jeudy should again be relegated to fantasy benches for his and McDuffie’s rematch.

• 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: 10 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 8.

WR:CB Matchup Chart

3 Wide Receivers to Target

WR Nico Collins, Houston Texans @ CB Donte Jackson, Carolina Panthers

Nico Collins (87.3 PFF receiving grade) is a WR1 against Carolina’s talent- and injury-depleted defense.

FanDuel implies Houston to score 23.0 points.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives the Texans a 15.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, ranking 10th on the week. The Panthers placed edge rusher Yetur Gross-Matos (67.5 PFF pass-rush grade, hamstring strain) on injured reserve Tuesday. His 2.5 NFL sacks, 12.3% quarterback pressure rate and 8.2 pass-rush productivity rank second among Carolina front-seven defenders with at least 25 pass-rushing snaps.

Panthers No.1 cornerback Jaycee Horn (68.0 PFF coverage grade) and safety/slot defensive back Jeremy Chinn (55.6 PFF coverage grade) are both on injured reserve. Starting free safety Xavier Woods (80.4 PFF coverage grade) has yet to return from a Week 3 hamstring strain, and starting strong safety Vonn Bell (59.7 PFF coverage grade) suffered a quadriceps injury in practice a few weeks ago. The safeties’ statuses remain unknown, but soft tissue injuries are prone to setbacks.

Best Ball Mania III winner Pat Kerrane notes in the free section of his Week 7 Walkthrough that targets thrown both 10-plus-yards downfield and between the painted numbers yield more PPR points than those thrown outside the numbers at equivalent depth. The trend was first discovered by Underdog Fantasy’s Hayden Winks in 2019, and Kerrane coined the term, “splash zone” in Week 7 to describe that fruitful area of the field. The increased PPR value can be directly attributed to the targeted receiver’s extra room to run, resulting in a higher probability of post-catch production.

Collins’ 2023 breakout is keyed by exceptional splash zone usage usage and per-play efficiency.

The table below ranks in parentheses Collins’ splash zone receiving data among 14 NFL wide receivers with at least 10 splash zone targets.

Nico Collins
PFF Receiving Grade 94.3 (No. 3)
Target % – YPRR 50.0% (T-No. 5) – 8.79 (No. 2)
Catch % – Contested Catch % 78.6% (No. 3) – 100.0% (T-No. 1)
aDot – YAC/Rec. 15.3 (No. 8) – 8.2 (No. 2)
Yards/Reception 22.4 (No. 3)
Missed Tackles Forced 4 (T-No. 2)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays 9 (T-No. 3)
1st-Read Targets – Target % 12 (No. 3) – 54.5% (No. 3)
1st-Read YPRR 8.91 (No. 2)

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Collins to face perimeter cornerbacks Donte Jackson (38.8 PFF perimeter coverage grade) and C.J. Henderson (28.8 PFF perimeter coverage grade) on 12 snaps apiece, giving Collins excellent 93.1 and 99.0 receiving matchup advantage ratings over them, respectively.

Among 67 NFL cornerbacks with at least 55 perimeter coverage snaps, Jackson (3.29 and 7.9%, respectively) and Henderson (3.74 and 10.0%, respectively) both rank outside the top 55 in yards allowed per coverage snap and explosive pass plays allowed rate. The 5-foot-10 Jackson will struggle with the 6-foot-4, 215-pound Collins’ tackle-breaking ability. Henderson (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) can hold his own physically, but his 82.6% catch rate allowed ranks dead last.

Among 38 NFL cornerbacks with at least 30 slot coverage snaps, Troy Hill’s (57.1 PFF slot coverage grade) 2.15 yards allowed per coverage snap ranks 30th.

Collins is a week-winning WR1.

WR Chris Olave, New Orleans Saints @ CB Darrell Baker Jr., Indianapolis Colts

Chris Olave (75.4 PFF receiving grade) has failed to clear 15.0 half-PPR points since Week 1, but Week 8 offers a bounce-back opportunity against an Indianapolis secondary missing Nos. 1 and 2 perimeter cornerbacks Dallis Flowers (70.1 PFF coverage grade, injured reserve) and JuJu Brents (67.7 PFF coverage grade, Week 7 quadriceps strain). Olave is a back-end WR1 with long-touchdown upside.

Indianapolis’ opponents average 72.6 offensive plays per game against them, the second most in the NFL.

New Orleans’ interior offensive line’s matchup is made easier by starting nose tackle Grover Stewart‘s (64.1 PFF pass-rush grade, suspension) and backup Eric Johnson’s (62.4 PFF pass-rush grade, ankle sprain) looming absences.

Olave’s elite usage signals an impending fantasy-point outpouring. Among 34 NFL wide receivers with at least 140 first-read receiving snaps, Olave’s 58 first-read targets ranks second and his 28.6% first-read target rate ranks seventh.

Olave’s 61.1% pre-snap-alignment perimeter rate grants access to cornerbacks Darrell Baker Jr. (29.5 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) and Jaylon Jones (58.6 PFF perimeter-coverage grade). Among 67 cornerbacks with at least 55 perimeter coverage snaps, Baker ranks outside the top 60 in targeted rate (39.7%), yards allowed per coverage snap (3.98) and explosive pass plays allowed rate (10.3%). Jones is an inexperienced seventh-round rookie.

Olave’s 4.39-second 40-yard-dash speed and sixth-ranked 28.4% deep-target rate pair perfectly with Indianapolis’ 19 explosive pass plays allowed to opposing wide receivers on 15-plus-yard downfield targets, tying for the sixth most in the NFL.

Among 57 NFL safeties with at least 25 wide receiver coverage snaps on 15-plus-yard downfield targets, Indianapolis free safety Rodney Thomas II’s (59.0 PFF coverage grade) 6.5% explosive pass plays allowed rate is the eighth highest.

New Orleans’ near-league-leading target earner is a half-PPR WR1 against Indianapolis’ vulnerable secondary.

WR D.J. Moore, Chicago Bears vs. CB Asante Samuel Jr., Los Angeles Chargers

Chicago starting quarterback Justin Fields (60.0 PFF passing grade) Week 6 thumb injury prompted head coach Matt Eberflus to funnel the passing game through No. 1 wide receiver D.J. Moore (87.6 PFF receiving grade), and Moore saw three first-read targets in the fourth quarter alone. The fantasy-friendly usage largely continued in Week 7. Moore is a high-end half-PPR WR2 against Los Angeles (54.8 PFF coverage grade).

The game’s 46.5-point FanDuel over/under ties for the second highest of the week.

Moore lines up on the formation’s perimeter at an 84.6% rate, giving him frequent access to Los Angeles perimeter cornerbacks Asante Samuel Jr. (76.7 PFF perimeter-coverage grade) and Michael Davis (43.4 PFF perimeter-coverage grade). Former Los Angeles cornerback J.C. Jackson (45.0 PFF coverage grade) has been absent from the lineup since Week 2.

The table below ranks in parentheses Los Angeles’ perimeter coverage data among cornerbacks in Weeks 3-7.

Los Angeles Chargers
PFF Coverage Grade 62.5 (No. 8)
Catch % Allowed 63.2% (No. 25)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 5.02 (No. 27)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays Allowed % 9.5% (T-No. 16)

Moore’s 15.4% pre-snap alignment slot rate affords him the opportunity to exploit Los Angeles slot cornerback Ja’Sir Taylor’s (42.0 PFF slot coverage grade) 32nd-ranked 5.6% explosive pass plays allowed rate to opposing slot receivers among 34 NFL slot cornerbacks with at least 40 such coverage snaps.

Among 61 NFL wide receivers with at least 40 receiving snaps in Weeks 6-7, Moore’s 16 targets tie for 16th, his 25.8% target rate ranks 12th and his three explosive pass plays tie for 11th. Crucially, 81.25% of his targets have been deemed catchable despite small-school rookie quarterback Tyson Bagent (61.3 PFF passing grade) filling in.

Bagent keeps the chains moving with a 15th-ranked average-time-to-throw rate (2.67 seconds) and a third-ranked 84.6% adjusted completion rate among 31 NFL quarterbacks with at least 25 dropbacks.

Moore is a half-PPR WR2 with long-touchdown upside.

3 Wide Receivers to Avoid

WR Jerry Jeudy, Denver Broncos vs. CB Trent McDuffie, Kansas City Chiefs

Denver slot receiver Jerry Jeudy (62.7 PFF slot receiving grade) made good on his Week 6 “avoid” listing ahead of his mid-October bout with Kansas City slot cornerback Trent McDuffie (84.1 PFF slot-coverage grade), finishing as the WR80 (2.9 half-PPR points). He should again be relegated to fantasy benches for his and McDuffie’s rematch.

FanDuel implies Denver to score just 19.5 points.

As detailed in Week 8’s “QB Matchups, Streamer of the Week, Rankings and More,” Kansas City interior defender Chris Jones (89.6 PFF pass-rush grade) and edge rusher George Karlaftis (69.5 PFF pass-rush grade) have talent-based advantages over Denver right tackle Mike McGlinchey (53.7 PFF pass-blocking grade). Quarterback Russell Wilson (71.0 PFF passing grade) has accounted for 14 sacks and four interceptions in Denver’s past three games against Kansas City. Those totals respectively make up 18.7% and 26.7% of the 55 sacks and 15 interceptions Wilson has accrued during his two-year Denver tenure.

Jeudy was limited to just 0.56 yards per route run in Week 6, and his 15.4% target rate ranked fifth among Denver pass catchers. He has failed to eclipse 80 receiving yards against Kansas City with Wilson under center.

Head coach Sean Payton will likely design a handful of plays featuring Jeudy as the first-read target, in an attempt to inflate Jeudy’s value for a potential trade partner. Jeudy has struggled to earn targets outside on non-first-read play designs, though, totaling just 10 non-first-read targets through six games played.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Jeudy (66.7% pre-snap alignment slot) to face McDuffie on 19 of 33 receiving snaps. Among NFL wide receiver-cornerback matchups with at least 15 projected receiving snaps, Jeudy’s poor 20.4 receiving matchup advantage rating against McDuffie ranks eighth worst.

Jeudy will contend with perimeter cornerbacks L’Jarius Sneed (62.1 PFF coverage grade) and rising star Joshua Williams (64.6 PFF coverage grade) when he exits the slot.

The table below ranks in parentheses Sneed's and Williams’ perimeter coverage data among 67 cornerbacks with at least 55 perimeter coverage snaps.

L’Jarius Sneed Joshua Williams
PFF Coverage Grade 50.1 (No. 38) 61.4 (No. 15)
Targeted % 22.1% (No. 20) 17.9% (No. 7)
Catch % Allowed 55.6% (T-No. 21) 50.0% (T-No. 11)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 1.52 (No. 14) 0.71 (No. 2)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays Allowed % 3.3% (No. 13) 1.8% (No. 6)

Jeudy should be ranked outside the top 50 half-PPR wide receivers.

WR Wan’Dale Robinson, New York Giants vs. CB Michael Carter II, New York Jets

Giants slot receiver Wan’Dale Robinson (66.9 PFF receiving grade) flopped as a GPP tournament play last week, falling behind rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt (64.0 PFF receiving grade) and tight end Darren Waller (73.9 PFF receiving grade). Robinson’s bleak results are due for a repeat against Jets lockdown slot cornerback Michael Carter II (60.5 PFF coverage grade).

FanDuel implies the Giants to score just 16.75 points.

PFF’s OL/DL matchup chart gives the Giants a -35.0% pass-blocking matchup advantage rating, tying for Week 8’s third-worst rating.

PFF’s WR/CB matchup chart projects Robinson to face Carter on 22 of 26 receiving snaps, giving him an average 50.5 receiving matchup advantage rating.

Robinson failed to earn a Week 7 target outside of his two designed opportunities. Hyatt's (five targets) and Waller’s (eight targets) respective 20.8% and 26.7% target rates towered over Robinson’s 9.1% clip. Robinson’s yards per route run figure correspondingly tumbled to just 1.37 yards.

Carter is storming his way to a third-season breakout, and Robinson’s 83.7% pre-snap alignment slot rate offers little respite.

The table below ranks in parentheses Carter’s slot coverage data among 38 cornerbacks with at least 30 slot coverage snaps.

Michael Carter II
PFF Slot-Coverage Grade 54.8 (No. 24)
Targeted % 15.3% (No. 8)
Catch % Allowed 54.5% (No. 3)
Yards Allowed per Coverage Snap 0.83 (T-No. 4)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays Allowed % 2.8% (T-No. 11)

Robinson cannot be started in Week 8.

WR Amari Cooper, Cleveland Browns vs. CB Tariq Woolen, Seattle Seahawks

Cleveland No. 1 wide receiver Amari Cooper’s (69.7 PFF receiving grade) 16.0 half-PPR points in Weeks 6-7 are good for just the WR33 spot. No. 2 quarterback P.J. Walker (29.4 PFF passing grade) has been under center for seven of Cleveland’s past eight quarters, with starter Deshaun Watson (63.3 PFF passing grade) nursing a throwing shoulder injury. Cooper’s ceiling is likely capped near his current back-end WR3 status. He is a low-ceiling flex option against Seattle’s now-healthy six-headed secondary.

FanDuel implies Cleveland to score just 17.75 points.

Just 50.0% of Walker’s passes thrown to Amari Cooper have been deemed catchable.

Cooper has just a 50.0% catchable-target rate in Walker’s seven quarters played over the past two weeks.

The table below ranks in parentheses Cooper’s Weeks 6-7 receiving data among 61 NFL wide receivers with at least 40 receiving snaps in Weeks 6-7.

Amari Cooper
PFF Receiving Grade 57.7 (No. 56)
Target % – YPRR 21.9% (No. 23) – 1.78 (No. 25)
Catch % 37.5% (T-No. 58)
Missed Tackles Forced 0 (T-No. 35)
20-Plus-Yard aDot % 18.8% (T-No. 29)
15-Plus-Yard Pass Plays 2 (T-No. 29)

Seattle features three cornerbacks and three safeties in its secondary since emerging from its early-season injury woes, frequently cycling its elite defensive backs across the formation’s various pre-snap alignments.

The unit ranks third in yards allowed per wide receiver-coverage snap (4.26) and sixth in explosive pass plays allowed rate (7.7%).

Cooper cannot be trusted to return value against Seattle, especially with Walker under center.


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