Receiver plays are a week-to-week thought process in NFL DFS due to a variety of outside factors impacting receiver performance. One way to predict who will break out is by examining their secondary opponents for that individual game. Every week of the season, Sam Smith will take a look at advantageous matchups for receivers against vulnerable secondaries, whether it be schematic advantage or merely a weaker cornerback head up on a star receiver. Let’s get into some NFL Matchups and give out some Week 11 NFL DFS picks for your daily fantasy football lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.
NFL DFS Picks: WR-CB Matchups | Week 11 Daily Fantasy Football
NFL DFS Pick: Brandin Cooks vs. New England Patriots
Houston’s receiving corps is still a bit of a mixed bag of distribution and low ceilings, but Brandin Cooks has maintained a fairly solid floor with some ceiling potential. He’s had at least eight targets in every game since Week 5, and only one of those games was a real fantasy dud — last week’s six catches for 39 yards. Even his low-efficiency Week 9 line of three catches on nine targets resulted in 83 yards and a touchdown. The major disappointment has been his lack of downfield production, but part of that is due to Deshaun Watson being one of the league’s most pressured quarterbacks, and part is due to Will Fuller handling that role. Cooks has been the volume play and Fuller the home run threat.
The Patriots pass defense has slipped considerably from last year, currently holding the NFL’s third-worst pass DVOA. And while one may think that boils down to the absence of Stephon Gilmore — who hasn’t played since Week 7 — there has not been much of a drop-off in their mediocre pass defense with Gilmore on the sideline. Plus, Gilmore is questionable again this week and has not been at Defensive Player of the Year level when he has been healthy (his four penalties being the most glaring aspect), so there does not appear to be any help coming New England’s way. All but one of their starters in the secondary have been targeted at least 20 times. The one bright spot has been corner J.C. Jackson and his six interceptions, but he also has been targeted 40 times and allowed three touchdowns, so his picks may be as much about volume as anything else.
I am curious to see how the Texans choose to attack the Patriots secondary. On the one hand, they have surrendered 7.8 yards per attempt, one of the highest marks in the league. That deep ball potential could point more to Fuller, who severely outclasses Cooks in deep passing metrics. However, their secondary has only surrendered 13 touchdowns (on league-low volume, granted), so touchdown upside may be a bit less important than pure volume floor, and Cooks gets the nod there. Fuller is the more utilized player downfield and in the red zone, but Cooks has comfortably been more targeted as of late. As such, Awesemo’s projections see Cooks as the stronger value play as the much cheaper option of the two, and they are also projecting for similar ownership in Week 11.
NFL DFS Pick: Curtis Samuel vs. Detroit Lions
Curtis Samuel is lagging a bit behind teammates D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson in terms of season-long volume, but he has actually kept good pace with them over the last few games. Since Week 7, Samuel is out-targeting Moore and just barely trails Anderson in receptions and yards. As an added bonus, he is eighth among non-running backs in rushing yards this year and is one of only two receivers with multiple rushing touchdowns (Robert Woods). Because of his gadget usage, Samuel has a solid floor relative to other WR3s around the league. Of course, that is a bit dependent on the quarterback situation, and Teddy Bridgewater‘s injury leaves P.J. Walker to start. That difference could be a detriment to the passing game as a whole, but it also may be beneficial for Samuel, who thrives on short passes and screens to be productive.
Also fortunate for Walker and Samuel is the fact that the Lions have been one of the worst coverage teams in the NFL. While their pass rush is decent enough to place their pass DVOA merely 10th worst, their PFF coverage grade is third worst, and three of their starters are among the 15 lowest-graded individual defensive backs. Additionally, their two primary slot covers, Tracy Walker and Justin Coleman (who would line up against Samuel about two-thirds of the time in man situations), are near the bottom in yards per slot coverage snap. Normally individual matchups do not matter all that much here, but with Walker at quarterback, one-read throws will probably play more of a part. Therefore, coverage on quick-hitters to Samuel is more likely to matter, and Detroit does not fare well there.
As always, keep in mind that the Lions are quite a penalty-prone team, with four guys flagged at least three times this year. That said, the Lions are still in the bottom half of the league in passing yards and touchdowns allowed, so the penalties are not restricting their fantasy exploitability that much. The bigger question is whether Samuel will poach enough targets from Moore and Anderson via quick passes and screens to make him a viable flier. Awesemo likes Samuel as a salary-relative value just a little less than Anderson this week in daily fantasy football, but considerably more than Moore.
NFL DFS Pick: Diontae Johnson vs. Jacksonville Jaguars
The theme of the week in this column is throwing a dart at a committee of stud receivers and trying to land one to separate from the pack. That task is at its peak difficulty when parsing through the Steelers’ corps, as they have three legitimately top-shelf options who can splash any given week. All three of Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson and JuJu Smith-Schuster are in the same ballpark of popularity, and all three can benefit from a favorable matchup (which they have in spades this week). So oftentimes price is going to dictate where the dart ends up. This week, top honors goes to Johnson, who is the cheapest of the three but still coming in with Awesemo’s highest fantasy projection.
We covered the exploitability of the Jaguars secondary last week. Individually, their players largely grade out OK. However, the unit has the second-worst pass DVOA, the fourth-worst PFF coverage grade and the dirt-worst net yards per attempt allowed. They commit a lot of penalties, but also surrender enough real yardage to offset that mitigation. They also bring the advantageous element of a relatively pass-heavy offense, so on the whole Jacksonville brings fantasy production to their opponents’ passing attacks. That is especially important this week with the Steelers since they have three high-volume pass catchers to spread targets to, not to mention Eric Ebron and James Conner as secondary threats. Though he is being priced like the WR3, Johnson had at least 10 targets in three of the last four games, resulting in three touchdowns and nearly 70 yards per game over the stretch. He can exploit weak defenses enough to be a fantasy hit, even while competing for targets.
The one thing keeping the Steelers a hair below lock-button territory is the blowout risk. Yes, the Jaguars throw the ball a lot, which would be a plus in a more even matchup, but they aren’t exactly lighting up the scoreboard. They rank 26th in points and 31st in points allowed. Meanwhile, the Steelers are certainly the most complete team in the NFL (fourth in points, third in points allowed), if not the best team period. That said, I am comfortable biting the bullet of the game potentially ending early in hopes that Johnson would factor heavily into said early lead. He is the No. 4 Awesemo value on FanDuel, though you would have to eat the chalk of nearly 20% expected ownership there.
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