Each week, unexpected wide receiver scores fall upon unsuspecting DFS players, for various reasons. Often, the culprit is the quality of the cornerback(s) lining up across the ball – many DFSers don’t foresee streak-busting matchups with the league’s top cover men. To that end, I rummaged through Week 1’s CB v. WR matchups to identify a handful of WR plays to exploit (listed in green), as well as a few to shy away from (in red).
Cornerbacks to target relentlessly and without mercy
Despite the two rookie quarterbacks making their NFL debuts, the Titans-Buccaneers matchup looks ripe for big pass plays. The two teams “boast” several of the league’s worst-rated CBs from 2014. With Jason McCourty likely out for the Titans, Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson should run circles around their replacements, Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Perrish Cox. Wreh-Wilson was especially putrid last year, but neither looks to match up well with Tampa Bay’s playmaking twin towers. Their wild card is the accuracy of Jameis Winston, who looked overmatched in the preseason, but Evans and Jackson are oversized dominators capable of reeling in misplaced throws. Both project to WR2 (or better) upsides this week.
On the other side, Kendall Wright looks primed for a solid PPR line from the slot. He seemed to develop a strong connection with Marcus Mariota in the preseason, and will kick off the year against an uninspiring slot CB crew of Leonard Johnson, Mike Jenkins, and Sterling Moore. If he indeed opens 2015 as Mariota’s security blanket, we could be looking at 7+ receptions at a relatively cheap price tag ($5,100). Beyond Wright, Week 1 is as good a time as any to roll the dice on the big-play potential of Justin Hunter and Dorial Green-Beckham. Bucs outside men Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks were miserable in 2014, so a handful of big downfield strikes could be on tap for Tennessee.
For whatever reason, the Cowboys like to use Brandon Carr to shadow certain opposing wideouts. But Carr has been atrocious in coverage in recent years, and things are even less rosy for Dallas on the other side: first-round mega-bust Morris Claiborne is likely only still on roster due to the team’s pathetic depth chart. Like Carr, he’s been picked on relentlessly as a Cowboy. As a result of this ineptitude, Giants WRs make for even stronger plays than usual this week, so upgrade Odell Beckham, Jr. even further through the Beckham-shaped hole in your ceiling. Even the wildly inconsistent Rueben Randle looks like a fair “punting” option in deep GPP games.
Doug Baldwin’s prospects get a solid bump as he takes on the Rams’ much-maligned CB crew -- specifically Janoris Jenkins, whom PFF docked with nearly 10 yards per target and five touchdowns in 2014. Baldwin soundly defeated Rams CBs last year, catching 10 balls for 166 yards and a touchdown in their two meetings. With the Seahawks likely to throw more in 2015 but lacking outside threats, Baldwin could post another WR2 (or better) line this week.
You don’t need me to outline the reasons Packers wideouts get a bump as they take on the Bears’ atrocious secondary. Second-year man Kyle Fuller is a promising playmaker, but he and the rest of the defense teamed to allow 7.71 yards per reception and a jaw-dropping 34 touchdowns in 2014. Even with Jordy Nelson sidelined, there’s plenty of firepower at play here, so Randall Cobb becomes a no-brainer WR1 while super-cheap Davante Adams holds real WR2 appeal.
Cornerbacks to run from, typically while screaming and wetting yourself
There’s trouble afoot for Brian Quick, a popular breakout candidate who comes cheaply this week (just $4,200), but will face Richard Sherman and the vaunted Seahawks secondary. Quick actually broke out last year, finally parlaying his mammoth physical ability into fantasy startability prior to his injury. But as much as I like Quick’s potential, this clearly isn’t the week to roll the dice. Last year, Quick dominated for the first four weeks before being thoroughly shut down by two highly successful pass defenses from the NFC West – the 49ers and the Seahawks. Seattle closed the 2014 season on a tear, allowing an anemic 118 pass yards per game over the final seven weeks. They did lose Byron Maxwell, and may take the field without All-Pro SS Kam Chancellor, but those may not be devastating losses. The Seahawks are well-stocked in the secondary; second-year man Dion Bailey hasdrawn raves this preseason, and Maxwell replacements Tharold Simon and Cary Williams posted promising 2014 seasons in coverage.
Twitterverse poster boy Allen Robinson has a tough task on his hands to open the year. He’ll face rising star Josh Norman, Carolina’s shadow CB who allowed a feeble 5.0 yards per target last year – nearly a yard and a half fewer than Richard Sherman. Robinson enters the year as the Jaguars’ unquestioned top option in the passing game, so he’ll see more Norman than he’d probably like. Robinson looks like a target hog in an offense that trails a lot, so he’s not without major fantasy appeal. But that appeal is volume-based – Robinson is not a dynamic downfield or red zone option – and that’s magnified against a shutdown CB that doesn’t allow big plays.
Rough news for Sammy Watkins: the Colts may be moving Vontae Davis around the field to shadow specific receivers. Davis played almost exclusively on the right in 2014 and, according to PFF, allowed 50+ yards in coverage just once all year. If he’s deployed exclusively on Watkins, the Bills’ only gamebreaking downfield wideout, it’s hard to expect big numbers for the second-year man.
The “Dodge Darrelle” strategy is rendered useless this week, as Darrelle Revis faces the pitiful Browns offense. Any scant appeal Dwayne Bowe holds for you should evaporate as quickly as Bowe’s productivity did in Kansas City.
Steve Smith looks poised to dominate targets in Baltimore this season, but this doesn’t look like his week. He’ll face rising star Chris Harris on one side of the field, and while Harris doesn’t mirror specific receivers, Smith’s outlook isn’t much rosier elsewhere. He’ll also see plenty of Aqib Talib this week. Simply put: Smith is likely reliant upon a pass-heavy game script to post usable fantasy numbers.Follow @JustinHoweFF