Loading scores...
Odell Beckham
AP
By the Numbers

NFL Week 1 WR/CB Matchups and TE Analysis

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: September 7, 2019, 9:17 pm ET

Giants at Cowboys

Giants Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left Bennie Fowler 73 217 4.52 Byron Jones 73 199 4.48
Slot Sterling Shepard 70 194 4.48 Anthony Brown 71 192 4.33
Right Cody Latimer 74 215 4.44 Chidobe Awuzie 72 202 4.43

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR breakdown: The Giants’ passing game is expected to flow through Saquon Barkley and Evan Engram more than any of their WRs. Sterling Shepard will play through his finger injury, but is a thin play against the Cowboys’ talented crop of CBs.

TE breakdown: Evan Engram worked as the PPR TE5 as a rookie in 2017 when Odell Beckham Jr. played in just four games, then as the TE2 over the final four games of 2018 with OBJ sidelined. Beat writers have speculated that 1,000 receiving yards on the season is firmly in play for the athletically-gifted TE.

Editor's Note: Drafting is only half the battle. Dominate all season long with our Season Pass! Use our NEW Start/Sit Tool, Trade Analyzer, Consensus Rankings, Projections and more on your way to a championship! Click here for more!

Cowboys Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left Michael Gallup 73 205 4.51 Deandre Baker 71 193 4.52
Slot Randall Cobb 70 192 4.46 Grant Haley 69 190 4.44
Right Amari Cooper 73 211 4.42 Janoris Jenkins 70 193 4.46

Projected shadow matchups: Amari Cooper vs. Janoris Jenkins

WR breakdown: Amari Cooper emerged as a true WR1 in Weeks 8-17 with the Cowboys last season.

  • Targets: 76 (tied for No. 11 among all WRs)
  • Receptions 53 (No. 11)
  • Yards: 725 (No. 10)
  • Touchdowns: 6 (Tied for No. 5)
  • PPR: 158.6 (No. 11)

Still, there’s potential for Michael Gallup to have the bigger Week 1 if the Giants go out of their way to continuously shade safety help towards Cooper. One of the rumored changes from new-OC Kellen Moore surrounds enhanced volume on deep balls, plays which Gallup made a habit of getting open on in 2018.

 

TE breakdown: Jason Witten shouldn't be considered as a fantasy option until we have a better idea of what his snap share will look like. Even then, he'll have a low floor/ceiling combination nearly every week.


Lions at Cardinals

Lions Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left Marvin Jones 74 200 4.46 Byron Murphy 71 190 4.55
Slot Danny Amendola 70 186 4.68 Chris Jones 72 200 4.57
Right Kenny Golladay 76 218 4.5 Tramaine Brock 70 195 4.54

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR breakdown: Everyone is excited about the Cardinals' new-look offense, but their secondary is a complete dumpster fire at the moment. Patrick Peterson (suspension) and Robert Alford (leg, IR) are both sidelined, meaning journeyman Tramaine Brock and second-round rookie Byron Murphy will be joined by a bunch of former undrafted free agents.

If there was ever a week to ride with Matthew Stafford and the Lions' passing game, this is it. Both Marvin Jones and Kenny Golladay offer upside in an offense that could feature more downfield opportunities under new OC Darrell Bevell. Jones is probably the better DFS play with hopes of reduced ownership. The duo has put up eerily similar numbers over the past two seasons.

  • Golladay (26 games): 167 targets, 98 receptions, 1,540 yards, 8 TDs
  • Jones (25 games): 169 targets, 96 receptions, 1,609 yards, 14 TDs

TE breakdown: It'd be surprising if No. 8 overall pick T.J. Hockenson sits on the bench for very long. Still, the Lions also handed Jesse James a four-year contract worth $22.6 million this offseason. This is a situation to avoid for now in what figures to be a more run-heavy Detroit offense in 2019.

Cardinals Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left Christian Kirk 71 201 4.47 Rashaan Melvin 74 192 4.47
Slot Larry Fitzgerald 75 225 4.48 Justin Coleman 71 185 4.53
Right KeeSean Johnson 73 201 4.6 Darius Slay 72 192 4.36

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR breakdown: The Cardinals showed absolutely nothing in the preseason and even refrained from giving presumed starters like Christian Kirk a full allotment of snaps alongside Kyler Murray.

The No. 3 WR spot remains murky, but it'd be borderline injustice from coach Kliff Kingsbury to take Kirk off the field for more than a small portion of snaps. Both he and Larry Fitzgerald are fully expected to work as Murray's top-two receivers this season.

Fitzgerald might be the play in this Week 1 matchup thanks to his robust size advantage over Justin Coleman.

TE breakdown: The Cardinals released their best receiving TE Ricky Seals-Jones and have been rumored to be favoring 4-WR formations as their base look. Neither Charles Clay nor Maxx Williams should be considered in any fantasy format for now.


Steelers at Patriots

Steelers Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left JuJu Smith-Schuster 73 215 5.54 Stephon Gilmore 72 190 4.4
Slot Ryan Switzer 68 181 4.51 J.C. Jackson 70 201 4.46
Right Donte Moncrief 74 221 4.4 Jason McCourty 70 193 4.35

Projected shadow matchups: JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Stephon Gilmore

WR breakdown: I'd love if the Steelers put JuJu in the slot with Donte Moncrief and James Washington on the outside. Alas, that doesn't appear to be the plan.

 

The Patriots are regularly the toughest defense to figure out when it comes to predicting who will be used in shadow coverage. My money is on Gilmore traveling with Smith-Schuster with safety help over the top while the Patriots take their chances with single-coverage elsewhere.

JuJu is not safe from Gilmore in the slot: His 18% slot rate in 2018 was the second-highest mark among all high-frequency shadow corners. Gilmore's teammate Jason McCourty (31%) was first.

Obviously JuJu is a staple in season-long lineups, but last year's 4-40-0 dud against the Patriots on 10 targets demonstrates his floor in this tough matchup. That performance did come against J.C. Jackson, however.

TE breakdown: Perhaps the dark days during the Ladarius Green “era” made it tough for fantasy football investors to ever fully trust a Steelers TE again. Well, get over it — Jesse James is in Detroit and there are plenty of targets to be filled from the departure of Antonio Brown. Ben Roethlisberger has averaged 8.54 adjusted yards per attempt when targeting McDonald, better than his rate with any other TE in his career (minimum 10 targets).

Patriots Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left Phillip Dorsett 70 185 4.33 Steven Nelson 70 197 4.49
Slot Julian Edelman 70 198 4.57 Mike Hilton 69 178 4.6
Right Josh Gordon 75 225 4.57 Joe Haden 71 193 4.62

Projected shadow matchups: Josh Gordon vs. Joe Haden

WR breakdown: Joe Haden didn't shadow Josh Gordon last season and battled an ankle injury for most of training camp, but the Steelers' No. 1 CB is ready to go for Week 1. I'm inclined to believe that Pittsburgh will show a new-found emphasis on slowing down Gordon now that Gronk is out of the picture.

I'm as big of a Flash truther as there is, and he's more than capable of balling out underneath the Sunday night lights.

 

Still, Julian Edelman is the man truly positioned to dominate against a Steelers Defense that has regularly proven incapable of covering elite slot receivers. He's posted 11-97-0, 9-60-0, 8-118-1 and 7-90-0 receiving lines in four games against Pittsburgh since 2015.

TE breakdown: Matt LaCosse is positioned to work as the Patriots' starting TE as long as Rob Gronkowski remains retired during Ben Watson's suspension. Tom Brady has shown reluctance over the years to consistently target his other TEs when Gronk was sidelined, so this will be a situation to avoid until we see how large of a role the Patriots have in mind for LaCosse.


Texans at Saints

Texans Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left DeAndre Hopkins 73 214 4.57 Marshon Lattimore 72 193 4.36
Slot Keke Coutee 70 181 4.43 Patrick Robinson 71 190 4.5
Right Will Fuller 72 186 4.32 Eli Apple 73 199 4.4

Projected shadow matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Marshon Lattimore; Will Fuller vs. Eli Apple

WR breakdown: This is a smash spot for Nuk and Fuller alike. The Texans Offense has been close to impossible to stop with each of Deshaun Watson, Will Fuller and Hopkins healthy over the past two seasons.

  • Watson: 65% completion rate; 9.0 yards per attempt; 32 total touchdowns
  • Hopkins: 69 receptions; 1,113 yards; 12 touchdowns
  • Fuller: 45 receptions; 782 yards; 11 touchdowns

Overall, the Texans have averaged 30.8 PPG in 11 games with their trio together since 2017.

I'd bet on Lattimore improving his play in 2019 after a sophomore slump last season, but it's tough to expect anyone to contain Hopkins. Fuller is positioned to ball out against Apple, who ranked outside of PFF's top-50 full-time corners in 2018.

TE breakdown: The Texans will utilize Jordan Akins and Darren Fells at TE after Jordan Thomas and Kahale Warring were each placed on the injured reserve list. Neither TE is a fantasy option this week with snaps and targets alike uncertain.

Saints Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left Michael Thomas 75 212 4.57 Bradley Roby 71 194 4.39
Slot Tre'Quan Smith 74 203 4.49 Aaron Colvin 71 177 N/A
Right Ted Ginn 71 180 4.43 Johnathan Joseph 71 193 4.32

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR breakdown: The Texans don't have the type of CB depth to put fear in pretty much any group of WRs, particularly one headlined by Michael Thomas.

Drew Brees and Thomas have formed the league's most-efficient combination in their three seasons together:

  • Thomas has the most receptions (321) and fourth-most yards (3,787) through three seasons among any WR in NFL history.
  • Thomas’ 80.6 receiving yards per game are the fifth-most in NFL history.
  • Thomas’ 77% catch rate is the highest since Pro Football Reference began tracking targets in 1992 (minimum 100 targets).

Ted Ginn is also a candidate for a big day. Johnathan Joseph's 4.3-second 40-yard dash took place back in 2005.

TE breakdown: Jared Cook has received a ton of offseason hype, with the Saints reportedly dusting off some of their old Jimmy Graham packages to better utilize the 32-year-old's athletic gifts. Cook is certainly capable of emerging as the No. 3 option in this offense, particularly this week against a Texans Defense that allowed the second-most receiving yards per game to the TE position a season ago.


Broncos at Raiders

*Note that the Raiders have released WR Antonio Brown.

Broncos Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left Courtland Sutton 75 218 4.54 Daryl Worley 73 204 4.64
Slot DaeSean Hamilton 73 203 4.57 Trayvon Mullen 73 199 4.46
Right Emmanuel Sanders 71 180 4.41 Gareon Conley 72 195 4.44

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR breakdown: The Raiders made a ton of moves on offense, but curiously failed to do much to address their horrific pass defense. Safeties Lamarcus Joyner and Johnathan Abram will help, although it's tough to see their CBs turning into a group of world-beaters over night.

Joe Flacco hasn't been an elite QB for quite some time. Still, he managed to largely enable three fantasy-relevant WRs with the Ravens last season: John Brown (WR22), Michael Crabtree (WR31) and Willie Snead (WR34) each ranked among the league's top-35 PPR WRs with Flacco under center in Weeks 1-9.

My money is on Courtland Sutton emerging as the group's top fantasy option thanks to his field-stretching and contested-catch ability that meshes well with the types of throws Flacco is typically willing to make.

TE breakdown: First-round TE Noah Fant has a rookie Evan Engram-esque vibe to him in that he's an athletic freak that specializes as a receiver, not a blocker, in an offense without an ingrained No. 1 pass-game option. The question is whether or not Fant will have an every-down role to begin the season, as Jeff Heuerman is currently slotted to start. Fant is an upside stash in deeper leagues, but not worthy of a Week 1 start.

Raiders Offense

Position WR Height Weight Speed CB Height Weight Speed
Left J.J. Nelson 70 156 4.28 Chris Harris Jr. 69 194 4.48
Slot Hunter Renfrow 70 184 4.59 Bryce Callahan 69 183 4.52
Right Tyrell Williams 75 204 4.48 Isaac Yiadom 73 190 4.52

Projected shadow matchups: None

WR breakdown: 43 QBs have started at least 16 games since 2014. Derek Carr has managed to rank outside of that group's top-25 signal callers in yards per attempt (38th), completion rate (28th), TD rate (26th) and QB rating (26th).Projected shadow matchups: Antonio Brown vs. Chris Harris Jr.

Even more problematic for the pass offense's 2019 projection is the fact that Carr has never made a habit of overly feeding any of his WRs. Michael Crabtree and Amari Cooper saw a combined average of 138.3 targets per season from 2015 to 2016. AB hasn't had fewer than 150 targets in a season since 2012.

Finally, both JJ Nelson and Tyrell Williams could struggle to put up #numbers if Carr doesn't grow a pair and start consistently testing defenses down the field. Carr has ranked 33rd, 16th, 29th, 21st and 26th in percentage of passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield over the past five seasons (PFF).

Further complicating matters in this matchup is a tough Broncos Defense that figures to take a step back toward regaining their previous elite form under new coach Vic Fangio. There aren't many other pass-rush duos better than Von Miller and Bradley Chubb.

TE breakdown: Darren Waller is locked in as the Raiders' No. 1 TE. The 6-foot-6 and 255-pound TE boasts a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and is capable of taking over Jared Cook's role as Carr's security blanket while also threatening defenses down the seam.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.