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Cover the Field: WR vs. CB Matchups for Week 3 NFL DFS | 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 NFL DFS picks for your fantasy football lineups, Week 3 on DraftKings, FanDuel and Yahoo, including DeAndre Hopkins and Diontae Johnson.

NFL DFS WR-CB Matchups | Week 3

One Stud

DeAndre Hopkins vs. Detroit Lions (Sunday Afternoon Game)

Sample size aside, this marriage between Hopkins and Kyler Murray is trending towards the stuff of Air Raid fever dreams. Not only does he lead the NFL in targets and receptions, he is producing efficiently, catching 88% of targets and recording 2.44 yards per route run. While he is operating more with short-to-mid-level routes, Hopkins is arguably the most secure volume right now due to Arizona’s reliance on the passing game (Murray ranks fourth in dropbacks) and the relatively modest state of their receiving room — Larry Fitzgerald is the only other player with more than nine targets. It is also worth noting that Hopkins put up these strong numbers against Washington and San Francisco, whose coverage units PFF rank fourth and fifth, respectively.

Hopkins will not see nearly as strong of coverage this week with the Lions coming to Arizona. Detroit has the ninth-worst pass DVOA in the league and third-worst PFF coverage grade, looking extremely vulnerable despite not surrendering any huge fantasy outputs to opposing receivers of yet. On an individual basis, rookie Jeff Okudah had a tough day in his NFL debut in Week 2, allowing seven catches and 121 yards, and he also did not commit any penalties. He got burnt, plain and simple, including allowing all three of Davante Adams catches. Okudah will almost certainly get picked on if he lines up opposite Hopkins.

The rest of the Detroit secondary seems a bit less exploitable as of this moment. While Desmond Trufant looked past his prime in Week 1, he is also questionable to play and has committed two penalties, which dilute the receiver’s fantasy output. Lions defensive backs have committed eight penalties total in two games, which is certainly a concern, but they are also allowing decent volume. Every one has allowed at least two catches in their coverage, and safety Tracy Walker has surrendered two touchdowns. As such, Hopkins should be a high-volume target again, especially when lined up against Okudah. The Lions’ penalty risk does not appear to be scaring projections off of Hopkins either; he ranks as Awesemo’s No. 1 receiver in Week 3.

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Mid-Priced Semi-Chalk

Diontae Johnson vs. Houston Texans

Johnson is starting to climb up in every category but salary. He is still priced like an average WR2-3, and yet his numbers reflect a high-end WR2 or a solid WR1. Only five players have more targets and only eight have more receptions. And that production comes while having to share targets with several other solid pass catchers. In a sense, Johnson is taking on the Antonio Brown role on the edge for Ben Roethlisberger while JuJu Smith-Schuster returns to being a really good slot receiver and second option.

This week they get a reeling Texans defense. They have a bottom-10 coverage unit and a bottom-three pass rush, which is a terrible combination to bring against the pass-happy Steelers. Their defensive backfield is a particular mess of aging veterans and underperforming youngsters. They tightened their secondary rotations, going mostly with two corners and two safeties to handle all coverage duties with some Lonnie Johnson occasionally thrown in. The results have been targeted passer ratings of 130 for corners Bradley Roby and Vernon Hargreaves, with third-year safety Justin Reid serving as the lone bright spot.

The raw stats do not point to a terrible pass defense; they rank third in passing yards allowed. However, the Chiefs and Ravens ran the ball a lot due to comfortable leads, and Houston still ranks 10th-worst in passing DVOA. The Steelers are not quite juggernauts like Houston’s first two opponents. As such, this game should be closer and Pittsburgh should throw a lot more. As the team’s No. 1 volume target lining up primarily against the struggling Roby and Hargreaves, Johnson stands to have another high-volume game. And again, he is only $5,400 on DraftKings, well below the price tags of other receivers with similar target shares.

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Low-Priced Semi-Chalk

N’Keal Harry vs. Las Vegas Raiders

What to make of Harry? Through an extremely limited early-career sample, he has fallen far shy of his first-round draft position, even looking borderline unplayable at times. Which is why last week’s output was so encouraging for his forward projection. He achieved multiple milestones against Seattle not-totally-miserable secondary, recording double-digit targets, over 40 yards and more than five catches for the first time in his career. While his efficiency is still dreadful, 12 targets speaks to some level of connection with Cam Newton, and his occasional move into the slot (around a third of his Week 2 snaps) better lends to open-field play making and masks his lack of burst.

It is those occasional slot snaps that have me really intrigued for Harry’s production this week against the Raiders. Lamarcus Joyner has been one of the worst slot covers in football the last year and change, and the Raiders on the whole have allowed 15 catches on 23 slot targets in 2020. Yes, Julian Edelman will be the primary beneficiary here, but Harry has 10 slot targets himself, picking up eight catches for 61 yards. And that has come from only 22 routes from the slot, so he is an extremely efficient producer when he lines up inside.

Truth be told, no matter where Harry lines up, I like him to produce enough to pay off a low price tag. The Raiders rate as a bottom-tier coverage unit (sixth-worst by pass DVOA, second-worst by PFF grade), and they have miserable metrics without committing many penalties — only three, two by Damon Arnette, who should largely line up opposite Harry. Harry’s positioning lines up with Robby Anderson in terms of slot snaps and right/left alignment, and Anderson gashed the Raiders for 114 and a touchdown on eight targets. While that would be a true ceiling game for Harry, eight targets is a solid bet, and all he needs is a bit more efficiency with his targets to crush his price tag tenfold.

Low-Priced Flier

Michael Pittman Jr. vs. New York Jets (Sunday Afternoon Game)

With Parris Campbell and T.Y. Hilton drawing most of the targets, Pittman has flown under the radar both in terms of fantasy outlook and the Colts’ offensive gameplan. Six catches and 47 yards through two games is nothing to write home about. That said, circumstances are now working in the rookie’s favor, most notably Campbell’s knee injury that will sideline him for a long time. Pittman and Campbell do not share roles in the offense — Campbell is a small, speedy slot receiver while Pittman is 6-foot-4 and lines up outside. And presumably Zach Pascal, as the substitute slot guy, will take on a few of Campbell’s targets left on the table. That said, Pittman saw a big jump in snaps in Week 2 (39 to 67), a small jump in routes (24 to 29) and he out-caught and out-gained T.Y. Hilton while matching him in targets. In other words, Pittman is clearly becoming a bigger part of the Colts offense, and Campbell’s absence opens up more opportunity.

Opponents also do not get much more favorable than the Jets. With a bottom-five coverage unit and middling pass rush, there is not much standing in the way of Pittman having space. He will mostly line up against Blessuan Austin and Pierre Desir, who have allowed a combined 10 catches and 97 yards on 13 targets. Desir has also allowed two touchdowns and committed two penalties, so teams are taking shots on him downfield. The penalties could cut into Pittman’s upside a bit, but Desir is a former mediocre Colt — if anyone knows how to attack him, it’s Frank Reich.

Pittman is also a prime contested catch guy with his size and hands, and it would behoove Indianapolis to work him in more in the red zone. He has only three red zone targets and no end zone targets two games into his career, something I presume will change as the Colts deal with injuries among their pass catchers. Overall, this week Pittman has a favorable opponent and an expanding role, all with low ownership. He projects as one of Awesemo’s best receiver values among those $4,000 and below this week.


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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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