- Both Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle are every-week must-start options even if they are facing a secondary with four clones of prime Darrelle Revis.
- The artist known as Hollywood Brown combines elite volume with the sort of salivating matchup that locks him in as one of Week 4’s top blowup candidates.
- Davante Adams is due for a major bounce back; he’s impossible to treat as anything other than an upside WR1 with weekly 15-plus target upside.
Estimated reading time: 24 minutes
Happy Week 4; let’s break down all things wide receiver ahead of another electric slate of NFL football. What follows is a look at the week’s projected shadow matchups followed by answers to bunches of key questions before getting to the fantasy football rankings.
Week 4 Shadow Matchups
Wide receivers often can overcome difficult one-on-one matchups thanks to good ol’ fashioned volume. It’s also rare that a cornerback follows a single receiver around the field for each and every route. This leads to situations where Jalen Ramsey “shuts down” Justin Jefferson in their direct coverage (3-25-0), but Jefferson’s full game line (8-116-0) reflects the reality that fantasy managers were still better off playing him.
Last week nine different defenses had at least one cornerback shadow the opposition’s No. 1 wide receiver all over the field:
- Dolphins CB Xavien Howard tracked Stefon Diggs (7-74-0) all over the field as expected, while Nik Needham matched Gabriel Davis (3-37-0).
- Giants CB Adoree’ Jackson shadowed CeeDee Lamb (8-87-1) as expected.
- Jaguars CB Tyson Campbell took Chargers No. 1 WR Mike Williams (1-15-1), leaving Tre Herndon to spend most of his afternoon across from Josh Palmer (6-99-0).
- Lions CB Amani Oruwariye was back in action, but surprisingly tracked Adam Thielen (6-61-1) as opposed to Justin Jefferson (3-14-0). This was so the Lions could have Jeffrey Okudah match Jefferson with constant safety help.
- Panthers CB C.J. Henderson rather unsuccessfully spent last Sunday afternoon across from Chris Olave (9-147-0). This could have been due to usual No. 1 CB Donte Jackson (hamstring) operating at less than 100%.
- Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie matched up with Elijah Moore (4-49-0) all game during the Bengals’ Week 3 win over the Jets.
- Browns CB Denzel Ward predictably shadowed Diontae Johnson (8-74-0), who is the only receiver to “earn” this treatment from Ward under defensive coordinator Joe Woods. Martin Emerson tracked George Pickens (3-39-0).
- Falcons CB A.J. Terrell continues to track the opposition’s No. 1 receiver far more often than he did last season, this time going to battle with D.K. Metcalf (5-64-1) for 60 minutes.
- Lions CB Darius Slay held Terry McLaurin (6-102-0) in check for most of the game that mattered in Week 3, although McLaurin wound up clearing the century mark in garbage time. James Bradberry was assigned to Jahan Dotson (2-10-0).
A good rule of thumb: Start your studs. Still, fantasy managers are always looking for an edge, so what follows is a breakdown of the week’s projected shadow matchups defined by instances in which a defense will ask one of their cornerbacks to travel with a specific opposing wide receiver for at least 50% of the game.
Dolphins WR Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle vs. Bengals CB Chidobe Awuzie and Eli Apple
With all due respect to the coverage ability of Awuzie and (to a lesser extent) Apple: This simply isn’t a matchup for fantasy managers to sweat. Waddle and Hill rank first and second in yards per route run inside the league’s second-ranked offense in EPA per play: They should be more than capable to escape either matchup if desired thanks to each spending plenty of time in the slot inside of the league’s most shift/motion-happy offense in the league. Both are every-week must-start options even if they are facing a secondary with four clones of prime Darrelle Revis.
Bengals WR Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins vs. Dolphins CB Xavien Howard and Nik Needham
Howard performed admirably against Stefon Diggs (7-74-0) and held DeVante Parker (1-9-0) in check back in Week 1. Of course, he was responsible for the “1” in Rashod Bateman’s 4-108-1 explosion; the Dolphins’ No. 1 cornerback has a tall task each and every week checking the opponent’s best receiver in a defense happy to run pure man-coverage more than just about anybody. Credit to the group for largely doing a great job at limiting big plays against Josh Allen and company last week, but no downgrade is needed: Both Chase and Higgins are weekly must-start options inside of a passing game with as much upside as any in the league.
Vikings WR Justin Jefferson vs. Saints CB Marshon Lattimore
Jefferson posted a relatively underwhelming 4-55-0 receiving line on eight targets in Lattimore’s direct coverage when these two faced off back in Week 16, 2020. Of course, Jefferson wound up with a 6-85-0 performance while escaping the matchup for portions of the game from the friendly confines of the slot. Lattimore has spent 88% of his snaps this season as an outside corner; Jefferson (33% slot rate) should avoid this matchup more than expected and at his best is good enough to dominate even the league’s better one-on-one corners like Lattimore anyway.
Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett vs. Lions CB Jeffrey Okudah and Amani Oruwariye
Last week the Lions managed to shut down Justin Jefferson thanks in large part to having Okudah track him with safety help. This put Oruwariye on Adam Thielen (6-61-1). Note that Oruwariye was beaten like a drum against A.J. Brown (10-155-0) in Week 1 and missed Week 2 with a back injury. Overall, Oruwariye and nickelback Mike Hughes are two of PFF’s bottom-12 corners in coverage grade among 117 qualified players at the position. Metcalf isn’t a full fade, but Lockett profiles as the blowup receiver to bet on this week with the expectation that his slot-heavy role will lead to a full game’s worth of snaps against the two-worst starting corners inside of the league’s 32nd-ranked scoring defense.
Bears WR Darnell Mooney vs. Giants CB Adoree’ Jackson
Jackson limited Robbie Anderson (3-32-0) and Robert Woods (4-39-0) to start the season before struggling a bit more against CeeDee Lamb (8-87-1) last Monday night. Ultimately, the bigger concern for Mooney is the fact that he has just 11 targets all season. Note that Lamb has 11 targets in every game this season. This matchup isn’t ideal, and the lack of volume involved makes Mooney only a FLEX option in deeper leagues. Even then it won’t feel good to start him.