Exposed (WR/TE matchups) - Week 3

Breaks down some of the best and worst WR and TE matchups this week to help set your lineups

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 lineups. Given that this article is intended to help across all sites (both DFS and season-long), 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. I will also try to sort them in order of most favorable or least favorable where possible, but obviously the quality of the player needs to be factored in as well when making your decisions.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email (rudnicki@footballguys.com) or twitter (@a_rudnicki)

Favorable matchups:

WR Adam Thielen, MIN vs BUF (Rafael Bush)
Through 2 weeks of the season, Thielen is tied for 4th in the league with 25 targets. He gets possibly the easiest matchup of the week against a depleted Bills secondary. They lost Vontae Davis to retirement mid-game and nickel corners Taron Johnson and Phillip Gaines are both banged up. That should leave reserve safety Rafael Bush against Thielen for much of the game while Stefon Diggs will have a more difficult matchup with TreDavious White outside.

WR Emmanuel Sanders, DEN vs BAL (Tavon Young)
The outside receivers for the Broncos project to have tougher matchups this week, which should funnel more targets to Sanders working out of the slot. He’s already established himself as a reliable target for Case Keenum with 14 catches on 15 targets and should have a clear edge over Young. Last week, A.J. Green and Tyler Boyd both took advantage of Young when lined up inside.

WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, PIT vs TB (M.J. Stewart)
Antonio Brown is unlikely to be slowed down by any of the perimeter corners for Tampa this week, but Smith-Schuster has a great matchup against rookie M.J. Stewart inside. He took over for an injured Vernon Hargreaves last week and wasn’t able to slow down Nelson Agholor on his way to an 8/88/1 game. This game clearly has shootout potential given how both teams have been playing of late.

WR Calvin Ridley, ATL vs NO (Ken Crawley)
Julio Jones was shut down by James Bradberry last week and will likely see shadow coverage from Marshon Lattimore here. That’s not a strong reason to avoid him but Ridley should benefit from an easier matchup against Crawley, who has been targeted much more frequently thus far. Antonio Callaway and DeSean Jackson both faced a similar matchup and combined for 8/227/3 over the first two games.

WR Golden Tate, DET vs NE (Jonathan Jones)
Tate works primarily out of the slot, which is typically the best area to attack the Patriots defense. They struggled to defend slot receivers last year and things haven’t improved much this year as Bruce Ellington and Dede Westbrook have both found the end zone against them. With injuries to Patrick Chung and Eric Rowe, they will lean on Jones who is their most targeted defensive back on the year. Tate has 14 catches on 28 targets through 2 games and should see another 10+ targets here.

WR Nelson Agholor, PHI vs IND (Kenny Moore II II)
As the primary slot receiver for the Eagles, Agholor has been very steady with 8 catches in both games this year. The Colts secondary has played better than expected thus far this season but this remains one of the least talented corner groups in the league. Without Mike Wallace and Alshon Jeffery, the Eagles don’t have any other reliable targets at receiver and Zach Ertz could have a tough matchup here given how well the Colts have done against Josh Reed and Tyler Eifert. With the return of Carson Wentz at quarterback, this looks like a good spot for Agholor against Kenny Moore II.

WR Pierre Garcon, SF vs KC (Orlando Scandrick)
The 49ers hope to get Goodwin back in the lineup this week but he was limited in practice and may be too risky to count on. Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor could also find favorable matchups against a Chiefs secondary that has put up very little resistance all year. The player to target here with the highest floor and considerable upside is Pierre Garcon. He is off to a slow start after dealing with the Vikings in week 1 and then Darius Slay in week 2, so this looks like a great spot for him to bounce back.

WR Jarius Wright, CAR vs CIN (Darqueze Denard)
If you are looking for a flier at receiver this week, Wright is an interesting option to consider. With Greg Olsen out and rookie D.J. Moore not quite ready, Wright has emerged as a reliable option for Cam Newton over the middle. He caught 5-of-7 targets for 62 yards with a touchdown against Atlanta last week and now gets a great matchup against Denard and the Bengals. With Devin Funchess likely to be kept in check by William Jackson III, Wright could be the top target for the Panthers this week.

TE George Kittle, SF vs KC (Eric Murray)
With Eric Berry unlikely to return this week, the Chiefs secondary will have to rely on Eric Murray to try and slow down Kittle. Last week, he was clearly not up to the task as he gave up 72 yards and a touchdown on 3 catches to Steelers tight end Jesse James. Kittle has been the best receiver for the 49ers this year and should remain a focal point again this week.

TE Jesse James, PIT vs TB
TE Vance McDonald, PIT vs TB
It is hard to know which of these players to count on but there may be enough targets for both to be effective this week. The Eagles tight ends combined for 15 catches on 19 targets for 151 yards against the Tampa defense last week while the Steelers tight ends combined for 8 catches and 164 yards against the Chiefs. James saw a reduction in his snap count with the return of McDonald last week but has been surprisingly explosive.

Unfavorable matchups:

WR Kelvin Benjamin, BUF vs MIN (Xavier Rhodes)
There aren’t a whole lot of matchups you’d want to go against with Kelvin Benjamin and this Bills passing offense right now, but the Vikings are clearly one to avoid. With Xavier Rhodes likely to shadow Benjamin, it should be a very easy choice to keep him far away from your lineups this week.

WR Corey Davis, TEN vs JAX (Jalen Ramsey)
Davis is clearly the #1 receiver for the Titans but this offense has gotten off to a slow start and it’s hard to see any upside while Blaine Gabbert is the quarterback. Throw in a matchup against the league’s best defense and this is clearly a week to bench Davis if you have better options. Even if Ramsey doesn’t shadow him, he’ll spend plenty of time against A.J. Bouye and should be avoided.

WR Allen Robinson, CHI vs ARI (Patrick Peterson)
The Cardinals are a bad team so it might be tempting to consider Robinson coming off a 10-catch game against Seattle in week 2. He figures to be locked up with Patrick Peterson all week though, which figures to push more targets elsewhere. The Rams had success last week because they were able to spread things around so look for the Bears to take a similar approach and rely heavily on their running game.

WR Demaryius Thomas, DEN vs BAL (Brandon Carr)
Thomas had a dismal game last week against the Raiders as he gained just 18 yards on 5 catches. Now he’ll likely be shadowed by the surprisingly effective Brandon Carr in this matchup, who has allowed almost nothing to bigger receivers A.J. Green and Kelvin Benjamin the last two weeks. Green scored three touchdowns last week but only had 1 catch on 4 targets when matched up with Carr so this looks like a good week to fade Thomas.

WR Devin Funchess, CAR vs CIN (William Jackson III III)
Funchess lines up primarily on the left side which points to a clear matchup against William Jackson III for most of the game this week. While Jackson has seen a slight dropoff in his play following a big increase in workload this year, he is one of the best young corners in the league. While he didn’t go against them the entire game, he did very well against Michael Crabtree and T.Y. Hilton the past two weeks and should force Cam Newton to look elsewhere.

WR Mike Williams, LAC vs LAR (Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib)
The Rams defense is one of the few that you probably don’t want to start any receivers against if you have a choice. Keenan Allen has the best matchup out of the slot against Nickell Robey-Coleman though and should see enough targets to be a viable option in standard leagues. Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams, however, will have to deal with Peters and Talib outside. Those two have given up almost nothing to the receivers they have faced this year.

WR Robert Woods, LAR vs LAC (Casey Hayward)
The Chargers defense doesn’t appear to be playing at the level many expected from them and that’s likely related to the absence of Joey Bosa up front. Despite those struggles, Hayward is one of the best man coverage corners in the league and he seems likely to face off against Woods for much of this game. That should push more plays to Brandin Cooks once again who is coming off a huge 7-catch, 159 yard game against Arizona.

WR Amari Cooper, OAK vs MIA (Xavien Howard)
For the first two games of the year, Howard was left on one side of the field as the Dolphins didn’t see a need to shadow anyone on the Titans or Jets. He gave up a couple of big plays against the Jets last week but overall has allowed just 3 catches on 9 targets per Pro Football Focus and has shutdown ability. This week, it’s expected that Howard will be asked to shadow Cooper following his strong game against the Broncos (10 catches, 116 yards). While they have been helped by some weak matchups, the Dolphins secondary comes into the game playing very well and they actually lead the NFL in passer rating allowed so this looks like a tough spot for Cooper.

TE Note:
At the tight end position, I don’t see any clear matchups to avoid this week. Most of the defenses that have given up very little production to the position haven’t faced anybody yet and are going against tight ends you wouldn’t want to start anyway. Similarly, some of the defenses that I expect to defend the position well have gotten off to a poor start so there’s not much reason to avoid them right now.