This article attempts to highlight some of the best and worst matchups for wide receivers and tight ends each week. Using player tracking data from various sources (NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, ESPN, etc.) as well as reviews of recent trends, I look for situations to exploit or avoid when setting your weekly DFS lineups. Given that this article is intended to help across all DFS sites, variations in pricing and scoring systems are not taken into account so obviously, the values could shift depending on where you are playing. The main intent of this article is simply to call out some players who could be significantly helped or hurt by their situations each week.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or twitter (@a_rudnicki)
The Panthers had Bradberry shadow Jones in one game last year and then didn’t bother in the other game. It didn’t really seem to matter as Jones went over 100 yards in both outings, so it’s unlikely they will be able to slow him down at all in this game. This remains one of the weakest cornerback units in the league and Jones should be highly involved again after his 19-target game last week.
Robinson had a relatively quiet debut with the Bears last week, catching four of seven targets for 61 yards, after seeing limited time during the preseason. Now that he has a full game under his belt, look for him to take on a bigger role in the offense. The matchup this week certainly should help as he should match up primarily with a rookie making just his second start as a cornerback. Flowers played safety in college and allowed Emmanuel Sanders to go off for 10 catches on 11 targets a week ago.
The Raiders cornerbacks are far from a strength, but they may be weakest over the middle. Leon Hall has plenty of experience, but at 33 years old his best ways are well behind him at this point. The addition of Courtland Sutton outside allows Sanders to spend much of his time in the slot, and that’s also where Case Keenum is most comfortable attacking the defense.
WR Golden Tate, DET vs SF (K’Waun Williams)
Richard Sherman may not be the shutdown corner he used to be in Seattle, but he’s still not a player you want to go up against that often. Tate will spend the vast majority of the game working out of the slot, which points to a matchup against Williams. Last week, Adam Thielen was in a similar situation and posted 6/102/0 against this defense so this matchup looks like a clear plus for Tate as the Lions try to rebound from their embarrassing effort on Monday night.
Hill showed last week he’s relatively matchup-proof as he shredded the Chargers and their talented secondary. Now he gets a matchup with a much weaker Steelers group. While they have some ability outside with Artie Burns and Joe Haden, Hill should be a huge mismatch for Mike Hilton in the slot where he will spend most of his time.
The Bills shuffled their secondary around last week with Vontae Davis getting scratched, which pushed Phillip Gaines outside and moved rookie Taron Johnson into the nickel corner role. Johnson is dealing with a shoulder injury, which suggests that backup safety Rafael Bush may be the next man up to cover the slot receiver. Keenan Allen works primarily out of the slot and will be a very appealing target if matched up against a safety or rookie corner here.
The Packers rebuilt their secondary this offseason and are letting their first-round pick Jaire Alexander start out as the nickel corner. Given that Adam Thielen has developed into one of the league’s most effective slot receivers, this should be a nice spot for him working against a rookie corner. He saw 12 targets a week ago and should likely see a similar workload this week.
Thomas took advantage of his great matchup last week, although most of it came in garbage time after the Saints fell way behind. He gets another favorable matchup this week as he figures to spend most of his time lined up against the Browns cornerbacks not named Denzel Ward. He saw most of his time last week working out of the slot, which should lead a great matchup against Boddy-Calhoun here.
The Cowboys don’t have any standouts at corner that can compare to the Jaguars tandem that Beckham faced last week. Awuzie is a young corner who has played well thus far and could develop into a very good corner, but he’s not someone to fear. Regardless, if Beckham can catch 11-of-15 for 111 yards against the Jaguars last week, you have to love his chances here.
Agholor is the primary slot receiver for the Eagles and he’ll get to face a Tampa secondary that gave up 16 catches to Michael Thomas last week. Last week’s nickel corner Vernon Hargreaves went on I.R. so it looks like Agholor will spend much of the game matched up against the rookie Stewart. The Eagles like to spread the ball around but Agholor should remain a focal point as long as Alshon Jeffery sits out as expected. The absence of Darren Sproles should also free up more targets.
Brown can beat any matchup out there but has a lot going in his favor this weekend. The absence of Le’Veon Bell combined with a home matchup against one of the worst corner groups in the league should make him a popular choice. Add in the shootout potential of this game and it seems hard to imagine Brown not having a huge outing.
Evans doesn’t spend much time working out of the slot and lines up primarily on the right side, which points to a very winnable matchup against Mills this week. He was one of the most targeted corners in the league a year ago and that trend continued last week as Julio Jones was targeted 19 times on 43 pass attempts for the Falcons (although many came against Ronald Darby too). Evans wasn’t slowed down by Marshon Lattimore last week and should be able to keep his momentum going here.
TE Ricky Seals-Jones, ARI vs LAR
The Rams are loaded at outside corner and are missing their best cover linebacker in Mark Barron, which creates a clear opening in the middle of the field. The Raiders took full advantage last week as Jared Cook exploded for 9 catches and 180 yards against this group. That points to a very nice matchup for Seals-Jones who is coming off a quiet game against Washington last week but could provide a nice low-cost option here.
TE Ben Watson, NO vs CLE
The Browns were terrible at covering tight ends last year and they haven’t really upgraded the safety position much. Last week, a plodding player like Jesse James hit several big plays against them to wind up with 60 yards on 3 catches so it looks like we will probably see the trend continue. That makes the ageless Watson a viable option after he caught 4-of-4 targets last week against Tampa.
TE Jared Cook, OAK vs DEN
Cook was the primary target for Derek Carr and the Raiders offense last week, and we can probably expect something similar in week 2. The Broncos gave up the 3rd most fantasy points to opposing tight ends in 2017 and let blocking specialist Will Dissly go over 100 yards last week on just 3 catches. If Chris Harris Jr can keep Amari Cooper in check, Cook should have another productive week.
TE Jordan Reed, WAS vs IND
Reed is the top receiver in the Washington offense, he’s healthy, and he’s going against one of the weakest groups of linebackers and safeties in the league. Add in an injury to Paul Richardson Jr and there should be plenty of targets available for Reed this week.
There wasn’t anything to like about the Bills offense last week in Baltimore, but the play of Benjamin stood out for being particularly bad. He had several drops and looked uninterested for much of the game, finishing with just a single catch on 7 targets. As the de facto #1 wide receiver for the Bills, he could get shadow treatment from Hayward this week. Throw in a rookie quarterback making his first start for the Bills and this matchup has ‘avoid’ written all over it.
The question here is whether what we saw from Lattimore and the Saints defense last week is likely to happen again. While certainly a possibility, it’s just as likely that we’ll see a bounce-back game as they both came into the year with high expectations. Lattimore established himself as one of the best cover corners in the league last year, and Gordon is still building chemistry with Tyrod Taylor after missing all of training camp.
Adams is dealing with a shoulder injury but appears on track to play this week. If so, he should have the toughest matchup of the Packers receivers as the Vikings will likely shadow him with Rhodes. Although he was questionable coming into the 49ers game last week, Rhodes wound up handling a full workload and gave up very little. Factor in the aggressive Vikings pass rush and a gimpy Aaron Rodgers (if he plays) and this looks like a good week to pass on Adams.
Cole was very quiet last week against the Giants as he finished with just 3 catches for 54 yards on 4 targets. The Jaguars don’t have a standout receiver this year so they will likely continue to spread the ball around and take what the defenses give them. This week, that should probably lead them to their other options as Cole figures to be matched up primarily with Gilmore. Dede Westbrook gets most of the slot snaps and should have the best matchup against nickel corner Jonathan Jones.
The Rams don’t have a clear #1 wide receiver that would warrant shadow coverage from shutdown specialist Peterson. Woods spends most of his time lined up to Peterson’s normal left cornerback position, however, so the two of them should see plenty of each other. Woods has been very productive since joining the Rams but he likely draws the toughest matchup here.
Stills looks like the clear top receiver for the Dolphins after his 2-TD performance last week, but they came on just 5 targets. He’s a deep threat who can hit on a big play but should have a tough matchup this week against Trumaine Johnson. He didn’t have a great game against the Lions last week but is an above average corner who should limit the damage Stills can do here.
It’s generally a good idea to avoid outside receivers going up against the Jaguars unless they are one of the elites. That doesn’t apply to Dorsett, who is coming off a strong opener against Houston that saw him catch all 7 targets for 66 yards and a touchdown. Chris Hogan will most likely be shadowed by Jalen Ramsey, who is one of the few shadow corners who will follow their target inside at times.
Anderson is a great deep threat but he only saw a single target last week from rookie Sam Darnold while matched up against Darius Slay. Throw in another tough matchup this week with budding shutdown corner Howard here and this looks like a matchup to fade. Quincy Enunwa was the top target last week and that will likely continue as he takes on rookie Minkah Fitzpatrick inside.
The Lions defense was hung out to dry a bit last week by all the turnovers, but Slay still had a strong showing. He figures to draw Garcon this week, who also had a quiet opener against a tough Vikings defense.
TE Rob Gronkowski, NE vs JAX
The Jaguars gave up the 4th fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends last year and this is clearly a defense that does everything well. The limited talent available at receiver for the Patriots right now should also allow the Jaguars to focus a lot more on limiting Gronkowski this week. He posted just 1 catch on 3 targets when these two teams met in the playoffs last year so this might be one of the rare weeks when you want to avoid the league’s best tight end.
TE Jimmy Graham, GB vs MIN
Graham was not a factor at all last week as he caught just 2 of 4 targets for 8 yards against the Bears. Now he’ll face a defense that allowed the fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends in the league last year. George Kittle had some success against them last week but Harrison Smith and company should be up to the task here.
TE Kyle Rudolph, MIN vs GB
The Packers did not defend outside receivers well last year but they have generally done well against opposing tight ends. In two matchups against Green Bay, Rudolph combined for just 6 catches and 53 yards. Last week, the Packers often used a cornerback to match up against Trey Burton and limited him to just 15 yards on a single catch while Rudolph only saw 2 targets against the 49ers. There will likely be better opportunities to use Rudolph in the future.
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