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Cover the Field: WR vs. CB | NFL DFS Matchups for Week 12 | DeAndre Hopkins

Sam Smith

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Week 3 NFL DFS picks. 4 hour Live Before Lock daily fantasy football NFL news, picks and injuries for DraftKings + FanDuel | Sunday 9/26

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 12 NFL DFS picks for your daily fantasy football lineups on DraftKings and FanDuel.

DraftKings + FanDuel NFL DFS Picks: WR-CB Matchups | Week 12

DeAndre Hopkins vs. New England Patriots

I covered the Patriots’ pass defense last week and made it clear that even with Stephon Gilmore playing, the Patriots are not a good pass defense anymore. That was why I touted Brandin Cooks despite the supposed benefit of adding Gilmore to cover him, and lo and behold, though Gilmore only surrendered one catch to Cooks (a 44-yarder), Cooks still went for a solid 85 yards on four catches with Gilmore largely in shadow coverage. The Patriots now have the NFL’s second-worst pass DVOA, trailing only the lowly Jets. At this point, with the chunk yardage they’re surrendering (dead last in net yards per attempt), most high-powered passing offenses are viable against them.

The Cardinals certainly apply, and this column will look to target Arizona in multiple spots. The top of that list, clearly, is DeAndre Hopkins, the league’s receiving leader (entering Week 12). Since his blistering start, Hopkins has actually cooled off a bit due to Kyler Murray spreading the ball more comfortably. Since Week 7, Hopkins has just a narrow target lead over Larry Fitzgerald, and Christian Kirk is not far behind him. Still, Hopkins has gone over 100 yards with a touchdown in two of those games; the other two games were relative duds. If we are into trends, then there is a supremely coincidental one with Hopkins: He has gone over 100 yards in every other game this season, and last week he went for just 51. Now, treating that as gospel is a fool’s errand, but it lends credence to Hopkins always finding a way to positively regress to upper-echelon fantasy production. The friendly matchup of likely shadow coverage from Gilmore only enhances Hopkins’ intrigue, so long as Gilmore does not inhibit downfield production with penalties — he has a team-high four this year.

Even though Hopkins’ floor is safer than a lot of receivers, his $8,100 DraftKings price tag is bordering on inhibitive. That is why Awesemo’s projections are not quite as bullish on Hopkins this week. However, the price tag is also driving his ownership down a bit, well below that of other top-shelf receivers on the slate. While there is considerable risk with rolling out Hopkins, the matchup and Arizona’s typical game flow speak to good volume and ceiling potential for Hopkins this week. Keep an eye on Murray’s injury, as that would obviously factor considerably into Hopkins’ upside. But by all accounts he is expected to play.

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Andy Isabella vs. New England Patriots

Ideally I will get multiple Cardinal receivers this week in an effort to exploit the favorable matchup with New England. Fitzgerald going on the Reserve/COVID list takes away one of those options, but it also exposes some value down the depth chart. In particular, it gives an opening for Andy Isabella to move into a more prominent role. Kirk is considerably more targeted — Isabella has one game of more than three targets and several games of single-digit yardage — but Isabella is also about half the price of Kirk and figures to step in as WR3 in a pass-heavy offense. Fitzgerald has mostly run his routes from the slot, as has Isabella, so virtually all those slot snaps in three-receiver sets should head the second-year receiver’s way.

There is not much from Isabella’s past performance that indicates a trend or super-high potential beyond a long touchdown grab last year and a two-score game in Week 3. For the most part, he has been nothing but a flier, and an unreliable one at that. Instead, I am rolling with the narrative of increased opportunity likely to come his way against a vulnerable opponent. His career-high target count is four, so I would set that as a baseline in Week 12. As a slot receiver, his primary man matchup would be Jonathan Jones, who is the NFL’s second-most targeted slot cover on a per-snap basis. He is also in the bottom five in catches and yards allowed to slot receivers, so it is not outlandish to think Isabella will see career-high usage this week.

The main draw is Isabella’s bare-minimum price tag in an offense that spreads the ball around considerably. It will not take a lot for Isabella to be worthwhile, and one long reception more than rewards the gamble. Isabella is a speedster with a lot of downfield potential, so it is not outlandish to anticipate a couple deep targets going his way. Despite minimal production to date, Awesemo places Isabella as the fifth-best receiver value on the DraftKings and FanDuel slates, and ownership is lagging well behind that projection.

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Jakeem Grant vs. New York Jets

Speaking of undersized speed threats, Jakeem Grant has maintained a fairly steady target share since Preston Williams went on IR and Isaiah Ford was shipped off to New England. It has not resulted in much splash, with his best game producing four catches for 43 and a touchdown, but his snap counts and targets have risen gradually week by week since the trade. The flux in the Miami quarterback room casts some doubt as to the viability of the Miami passing game, but increased target share and big-play speed make Grant a decent flier, as does the mild upside added from his role as return man.

Matchup has not been overly indicative of Grant’s positive games, as his two best fantasy days came against the Chargers, a middling pass defense, and the Jets, a miserable one. Rather, his usage has fluctuated based on Miami quarterbacks relying heavily on running backs for checkdowns and the like. Among wide receivers, Grant has consistently been the second-most targeted guy the last few weeks, but running backs keep leeching targets. That probably will not change anytime soon, and Grant’s questionable status does not point to any improved situation for him within the offense. Rather, like with Isabella, I am looking to a positive matchup and injuries in the receiving room as possible catalysts for a flier to pay off.

The Jets are probably the league’s worst pass defense, ranking a comfortable last in pass DVOA and PFF coverage grade entering Week 12 (the Lions dropped below them in the latter after a miserable Thanksgiving Day game). Most of their starters rate below average in coverage according to PFF, and Pierre Desir, who had committed a team-high six penalties, has been released. So now the Jets are rolling out a secondary that allows a lot of production (third-most yards, fourth-most net yards per attempt) and keeps relatively clean from pass interference calls. That means virtually unmitigated production for opposing pass catchers so long as the game does not get out of hand early to force a run-heavy script.

Assuming he plays and is healthy (which appears to be the case), Grant will be Miami’s WR2 this week. Even though Mike Gesicki and the backs will draw targets, Grant in that role is appealing at sub-$4,000 against a bad Jets team. Awesemo views him as a top-10 receiver value in Week 12. Plus, his middling ownership only enhances his value as a flier on DraftKings and FanDuel.

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Sam Smith is a writer and editor with Awesemo.com. He has been immersed in the world of professional sports data since 2015, while also writing extensively on the NFL for a multitude of blogs and websites. With Awesemo, Sam looks to blend his sports and editorial expertise with Awesemo's data to bring you the best fantasy information possible. You can follow Sam on Twitter @samc_smith.

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