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 6 on DraftKings and FanDuel, including Adam Thielen and A.J. Brown.
NFL DFS WR-CB Matchups | Week 6
Adam Thielen vs. Atlanta Falcons
Thielen is the chalk of chalk at receiver this week, and it’s hard to argue with it given his quietly prolific production this year. Just by raw stats, Thielen has been arguably the top fantasy receiver in football outside of maybe D.K. Metcalf, averaging almost six catches on just under nine targets a game for an average of 72.8 yards and 1.2 touchdowns. Only one receiver — Metcalf — has at least five touchdowns and over 300 receiving yards. What’s even more impressive is that Thielen is putting up these volume and efficiency numbers is one of the league’s most conservative passing offenses; the Vikings pass on less than 50% of plays. His touchdown numbers are obviously boosting his overall value, but he is first in the NFL in red zone receptions and fourth in targets, and all six of his touchdowns have come in the red zone. As such, his scoring numbers are not quite as subject to big-play variance as other touchdown-heavy receivers.
Thielen has had two duds, both three-catch performances with fewer than 40 yards. But even with those weaker games, Thielen grades out as PFF’s top receiver in the league of those with at least 20 targets, for whatever that’s worth. Plus, one of those duds came when Justin Jefferson went off, and since that game, Kirk Cousins has mixed targets to Thielen and Jefferson well and kept both as high-value fantasy options. Thielen has gone over 10 targets with a touchdown in each of the last two games, and only once has he failed to score. With Dalvin Cook potentially hobbled or out, Thielen’s red zone value remains high, and he would be a strong play even in a less favorable matchup.
As is, Thielen gets the benefit of a Falcons coverage unit that has allowed the NFL’s second-most passing yards and touchdowns in 2020. Individually, three of their primary corners have been targeted at least 20 times, and a whopping five defensive backs have surrendered at least 140 yards in coverage. Granted, they have played some pass-happy offenses like the Cowboys and Seahawks, but Atlanta is also the second-worst passing defense in net yards allowed per attempt. In other words, they surrender volume and efficiency. With either no Cook or a slowed version of him, expect Minnesota to take a few more shots in the passing game, and for Thielen to convert at a high rate. For Week 6, he is one of the top values at his position.
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DeVante Parker vs. New York Jets (Afternoon Game)
Maybe I’m pushing the definition of “stud” with Parker, but he is the WR1 in a pretty solid passing offense and projects as Awesemo’s No. 12 wide receiver this week and priced well below that projection. Given that he gets a matchup with one of the worst defenses in the league, there is a lot of value here. Parker has been a bit boom-or-bust, only recording double-digit targets once and only exceeding 100 yards in that same game. However, he is still Ryan Fitzpatrick‘s favorite target between the 20s, and he has demonstrated big-play potential in the past with Fitzpatrick heaving him deep balls. The Jets have surrendered the eighth-most passing yards in the league this year, grade as the second-worst passing defense by DVOA and have done so despite seeing the 11th-most pass attempts in the league.
There are two modest concerns with targeting Parker here. For one, the Dolphins just blew out the 49ers, so they have the firepower to get up big on the lowly Jets, mitigating pass-heavy game scripts. Secondly, Pierre Desir, who Parker will see from time to time, albeit in a non-shadow matchup, is fourth in the NFL in penalties. Parker has the speed to be a huge factor downfield, so if Desir gets grabby, it will neutralize the matchup advantage from a fantasy perspective.
I still like what Parker can do downfield, however. While this year he has not been a huge factor with just three downfield targets, in 2019, with the same quarterback and similar receiving corps, Parker ranked third in the NFL in downfield targets and fourth in catches and yards. He has the ability to break a game against a terrible defense, and he is not priced among the top studs despite projecting in that neighborhood.
Jeff Smith vs. Miami Dolphins
Sticking with this potential value bundle of a game, the Dolphins rate just a notch better than the lowly Jets, not even a point better by PFF coverage grade. I should add that a portion of that poor grading comes from Nik Needham‘s five penalties, second most in the NFL, but the rest of the secondary has a combined three penalties, and Needham is primarily a slot corner. More of the outside coverage duties have been handled by Byron Jones, Xavien Howard and Noah Igbinoghene, the latter of who ranks in the bottom 10 in yards per coverage snap, yards allowed and targeted passer rating. Since Howard is easily the best defensive back Miami has, I would expect him to shadow the Jets’ only real receiving threat, Jamison Crowder. That could open up some opportunity to the Jets’ fringe receivers, namely Jeff Smith and Chris Hogan, assuming Breshad Perriman either sits or is limited.
Between the two, Smith stands out a bit due to his increased role as of late. All 20 of his targets have come in the last two weeks, including 11 last game. Though those 11 targets resulted in just three catches (thanks in part to two drops), he is getting chances, especially in the red zone. Five of his 20 targets have been inside the 20 — again, the efficiency in that regard is bad with zero catches. Still, the volume of late is extremely appealing, and the Jets project to fall behind like always, which means more passing volume in the second half. Keep in mind, Smith is min price. Double-digit targets at minimum pricing is pretty enticing value, even in an abysmal offense.
That brings us to the elephant in the room: Is Joe Flacco a competent enough passer to make any Jets receiver remotely viable? There really is no way to know for sure what version of Flacco will appear Sunday. That said, he was not excruciatingly bad last week, recording just under 200 yards and a passer rating over 80. Plus, the Jets maintained high-ish passing volume with 33 pass attempts, and again, Smith saw a lot of those targets. If Flacco keeps focus on Smith against a mediocre secondary, who’s to say that volume could not turn into some level of fantasy production? The Jets’ receiving room is enough of a wild card to make any of their min-priced receiving viable, and Smith rates out as Awesemo’s No. 1 receiver value. On top of that, he is at low ownership. This is a virtually risk-free play with pretty strong upside, even in the league’s least enjoyable offense.
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