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 NFL DFS picks for your daily fantasy football lineups, Week 9 on DraftKings and FanDuel.
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NFL DFS Picks: WR-CB Matchups | Week 9
Tyler Lockett vs. Buffalo Bills
If we’re riding the seesaw that is Seattle’s elite receiver duo, then naturally this is Tyler Lockett‘s week. He and D.K. Metcalf have almost literally switched off massive fantasy weeks, most exemplified by the last two — Metcalf had 16 targets for 161 and two touchdowns in Week 8, Lockett 20 targets for 200 and three scores in Week 7. Obviously, that’s not a reliable projection system, and Metcalf’s continued production automatically draws at least a modicum of opportunity away from Lockett. This week, however, there is not much question as to who on paper presents more NFL DFS value given the disparate price tags. Metcalf is $1,000 more expensive than Lockett on DraftKings and the third-most expensive receiver period. What’s more, Awesemo is actually projecting Lockett for slightly more fantasy points this week than Metcalf. Projection-wise, there is not much debate between the two beyond Metcalf’s pay-up-to-be-contrarian potential given Lockett expects to see high ownership.
That said, given the opponent, both are looking at pretty favorable circumstances, albeit a little less so for Metcalf. Though Buffalo purported as an elite coverage team prior to 2020, that has been far from the case. PFF rates their coverage middle of the pack, and they rank 22nd by pass DVOA. And the only reason they’re rating even that well is because they played two of the league’s worst passing offenses in the Patriots and Jets the last two weeks. The Seahawks, by contrast, are arguably the best passing offense in the NFL. Buffalo’s main bright spot in the secondary, Tre’Davious White, has frequently shadowed teams’ best perimeter threat, which would be Metcalf. Given the mediocrity elsewhere in the defensive backfield, that could leave some open space for Lockett.
Most likely, Lockett would line up across Taron Johnson in the slot the majority of the game. Lockett runs 58.3% of his routes from the slot and ranks 11th in slot yards and receptions and 10th in slot targets. Johnson, on the other hand, is the game’s most targeted slot cover. No one has surrendered more receptions or yards when lined up inside, and the only reason he has a middling targeted passer rating allowed is because he has yet to surrender a touchdown. Few slot receivers turn volume in efficiency like Lockett, and against a mediocre Buffalo coverage unit, his opportunities could be abundant. The only qualms would be Buffalo’s high penalty totals (11 among defensive backs) and Lockett’s chalkiness (projected third-most popular on DraftKings).
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Keenan Allen vs. Las Vegas Raiders
I don’t love double-dipping with two high-priced studs who are projecting for over 20% ownership, but frankly there is not a ton of matchup-based value in the middle tier at receiver this week. Most advantageous secondary matchups look to be benefiting the guys you’d expect to splash and perhaps some fliers down the depth chart. This week, Allen is probably the best of the bunch, with the Raiders presenting both a bad defensive backfield and ample passing opportunity given their typical game scripts. Totals in Raiders games have fallen shy of 50 only twice, though last week in Cleveland presented a total of 22.
Some of that is due to the Raiders offense clicking, but they have also been in a bunch of shootouts thanks to how poor their defense is playing. They rank sixth-worst by pass DVOA, and no team has a worse PFF coverage grade. I have covered them many times over the last couple season, generally focusing on Lamarcus Joyner‘s slot coverage, but frankly no one is playing well in their defensive backfield. And given how much Keenan Allen moves around his alignment, having no strongholds in the secondary to contain him means Allen should be able to feast wherever he goes.
Allen has returned to elite fantasy status thanks in large part to great play from Justin Herbert, and he is currently fourth in the NFL in targets, fifth in catches and third in PFF receiving grade. Herbert has relied heavily upon Allen, as he has nearly 30 targets more than any other Charger. Week to week, his targets are about as safe as it gets, with only two games of single-digit opportunities. So, while he has not turned those into huge fantasy days (only two touchdowns and two 100-yard games), at the very least we know Allen will see the ball a lot. The fact that Las Vegas’ defense is Swiss cheese only adds to Allen’s upside. Yes, I understand he is currently trending towards being the the second-most popular receiver. But Awesemo’s projections lend credence to eating the chalk, ranking Allen as the sixth-best receiver value and the second-best over $4,500.
Jakeem Grant vs. Arizona Cardinals
After Tua Tagovailoa spent his NFL debut being just sort of “there,” there is reason to be skeptical of all Miami receivers’ fantasy upside. There’s a decent chance the Dolphins will lean on the running game to work Tagovailoa in slowly. There’s also the chance they open things up for him with one game under his belt. Plus, Miami just shipped Isaiah Ford to New England, creating some target opportunity that needs dispersing elsewhere. As such, I feel this is a good spot to target a flier who could take on Ford’s role and his targets — Ford had 27, including two games of at least eight. And sure, Tagovailoa may just key in on the safety nets — Myles Gaskin, Mike Gesicki, dump-off options who are second and third, respectively, on the Dolphins in target share. But Jakeem Grant brings a bit of value as a flier given the circumstances and the opponent.
For one, Grant has a modest history as being a good YAC receiver, though that has dwindled a bit in recent years. He is, however, the Dolphins’ return man, which both brings some upside and gives a little optimism that Miami could use him on screens and quick passes to get Tagovailoa into rhythm. And while there is nearly no fantasy-viable production to speak of this year with Grant, he has 18 targets despite typically being the sixth option, and now he will be no worse than the fifth option since that’s what Ford was. Ford never broke the slate or anything, but those two eight-target games spell narrow ceiling potential if Grant can make better use of opportunity than Ford did. Again, it’s a narrow path, but not an impossible one, especially if the Dolphins grant Tagovailoa more freedom.
The other benefit for Grant’s potential value is a quality matchup with the Cardinals. Arizona’s strength in the secondary comes from Budda Baker and Patrick Peterson, and Grant should avoid both for the most part in one-on-one coverage. His main man matchup will be Byron Murphy in the slot (assuming Grant takes on Ford’s slot snaps), and Murphy is fifth in the NFL in slot yards allowed and ninth in slot targets. If Grant steps outside, his matchups still look decent, as Arizona on the whole ranks 23rd by PFF coverage grade, and Baker is the only starter rating above average. All three starting corners have seen at least 37 targets and allowed over 20 catches and 300 yards. Granted, the three have also combined for 10 penalties, but Grant is more of an “avoid the coverage” speed receiver than a hand fighter. As such, I’m not quite as turned off by the high penalty totals. The main turnoff, other than Grant’s non-existent production in 2020, is Tagovailoa’s usage in his second start. If he gets more chances to throw, then Grant stands out to me as solid flier value at min pricing and minute ownership.
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