In this week’s Sunday Review article, I alluded to the fact that targeting weak passing defenses came through this week. It’s an incredibly basic principle: target offensive players squaring off against bad defenses. Everyone can understand why playing a weak opponent would enhance a player’s matchup, right? Well this was one of those weeks where all the “chalk” (or heavily owned) plays hit big and therefore scores in all contests were higher than normal. The topic I wanted to focus on tonight is taking the matchup to the next level by analyzing a player’s likely one-on-one matchup… specifically wide receivers (WRs).
DVOA informs users how a defense has fared against opposing team’s number one WRs, number two WRs, third WRs and on, running backs (RBs) and tight ends (TEs). If you’re not familiar with DVOA, check out the Picking the Right NFL Defense article. Factors are considered in the DVOA statistic that do not directly affect fantasy football. All in all it’s very helpful, but alone cant ‘t used as a judge of a single player’s matchup, especially because the receivers are admittedly (there’s literally a disclaimer on the page) listed as the first and second target in a subjective manner. DVOA should be complemented with Pro Football Focus’ “Wide Receiver/Cornerback Chart.”
The great writers over at Pro Football Focus (PFF) take the time each week to use previous statistics of where a player has lined up and infer which cornerback will be guarding them a majority of the time. There are three “primary zones” in which WRs line up: left wide receiver (LWR), right wide receiver (RWR) and the primary slot receiver (slot). PFF goes on to list targets-per-route (T/R), fantasy-points-per-route (F/R) and finally gives each individual player a grade. They give each offensive player a grade as well as the corner who will be shadowing them. This is where this tool becomes extremely helpful. They have column you can sort called “advantage,” meaning you can sort by how much better a receiver is (by grade) than the likely corner who will be covering them.
While playing the matchups is easy to do for quarterbacks (aka the Saints allow the most fantasy points, so start a QB against them), you cannot look at the WR position the same. Some teams have top corners with the ability to shutdown good receivers. For example, Indianapolis allows the third-most fantasy points to WRs, but Vontae Davis is a top corner so avoiding the guy he is covering most weeks make sense. Instead, you’d want to use the receiver on the other side of the field… and that’s what PFF helps you do.
One week of data is usually not enough, but let’s take a look at PFF’s WRs with the best matchups from last week:
T.Y. Hilton – five targets, three receptions (RECs), 36 yards, 6.60 fantasy points
Julio Jones – 17 targets, eight RECs, 93 yards, 17.30 fantasy points
Odell Beckham Jr. – 11 targets, 6 RECs, 149 yards, touchdown (TD), 29.90 fantasy points
Martavis Bryant – eight targets, four RECs, 114 yards, TD, 24.40 fantasy points
Ted Ginn Jr. – 10 targets, five RECs, 80 yards, two TDs, 25.00 fantasy points
Bennie Fowler – two targets, zero RECs (but he would have never been considered)
Mike Evans – seven targets, five RECs, 61 yards, TD, 17.10 fantasy points
Bryan Walters – two targets, two RECs, 18 yards (but he would have never been considered)
A.J. Green – six targets, five RECs, 128 yards, TD, 26.80 fantasy points
Aside from the two unknowns and T.Y. Hilton, they absolutely nailed it this week. Again, this tool alone is not the end all but is an extremely helpful addition to the weekly research process. One of my mentors showed me this site a while back and it has gone a long way in helping me identify weekly WR targets. So now I pass the torch onto you, and I expect to see you in the PayoutZone on a weekly basis, kicking my butt using some of the tools I have passed on your way.
Working with the best minds in the business and having an inquisitive mind myself has led me to where I am today… with the best job in the entire world (seriously). They knew the answers and I wasn’t afraid to ask them questions, but I realize not everyone has access to that perk. Feel free to tweet me @RSandersDFS any time with any questions you may have and I’ll be happy to answer.