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This article attempts to highlight some of the best and worst matchups for wide receivers and tight ends each week. Using player tracking data from various sources (NFL.com, Pro Football Focus, ESPN, etc.) as well as reviews of recent trends, I look for situations to exploit or avoid when setting your weekly DFS lineups. Given that this article is intended to help across all DFS sites, variations in pricing and scoring systems are not taken into account so obviously, the values could shift depending on where you are playing. The main intent of this article is simply to call out some players who could be significantly helped or hurt by their situations each week.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me via email (email@example.com) or twitter (@a_rudnicki)
The Cardinals are going through a transition on offense, but Larry Fitzgerald should remain a focal point. He gets a plus matchup this week against Washington, who traded an excellent slot corner in Kendall Fuller to the Chiefs. That leaves them with the completely unproven Fabian Moreau, a 3rd round pick last year who should be overmatched by one of the best slot receivers in the league.
The Ravens upgraded their receiver group this offseason with the signings of Michael Crabtree and John Brown and Joe Flacco also looks much healthier. The Bills thought they upgraded their right cornerback spot with the addition of Vontae Davis, but he looked very shaky in the preseason. Although he used to be great, he may not have much left at this point in his career and that should make Crabtree a very attractive target while Brown has to deal with TreDavious White on the other side.
WR A.J. Green, CIN vs IND (CB Kenny Moore)
This will become a recurring theme this year most likely, but you will want to target receivers going against the Colts secondary. They are relying heavily on 5’9” Kenny Moore, who likely won’t match up well at all with the 6’3” A.J. Green. The Bengals upgraded their offensive line this offseason, which should give Any Dalton more time to find his favorite target downfield.
The Chargers lost one of their top weapons on offense to injury in Hunter Henry, which should force them to rely even more on Allen this year. He often works out of the slot, which points to a matchup against Nelson who ranked among the league leaders in fantasy points allowed last year. The Chiefs did add a quality slot corner in Kendall Fuller but are planning to use him outside.
WR Chris Hogan, NE vs HOU (CB Jonathan Joseph)
The Patriots are missing Julian Edelman to suspension and traded away Brandin Cooks to the Rams. That means Chris Hogan will be the primary wide receiver for Tom Brady for the first month of the season. The matchup this week looks pretty favorable as the Texans normally strong defense is weak at corner. Hogan will likely see some time working out of the slot in a tougher matchup against Aaron Colvin, but his primary matchup outside against 34-year old Jonathan Joseph should yield some big plays,
WR Michael Thomas, NO vs TB (CB Carlton Davis)
The weakest link in the Tampa Bay defense is their questionable secondary, which they have tried to upgrade with the selection of Carlton Davis late in the 2nd round of this year’s draft. He brings ideal size to the position but is very green and will likely be tested early and often by opposing quarterbacks. Look for Drew Brees and Thomas to connect frequently in this matchup, particularly when he’s lined up against Davis.
The key for receivers going against Arizona is to avoid a matchup with Patrick Peterson. Since Crowder works primarily out of the slot, that shouldn’t be a problem for him. He’s more likely to match up against Budda Baker when they use a 3-WR formation, but Baker may also be more focused on tight end Jordan Reed. That could leave Crowder with a great matchup against Bene Benwikere or Brandon Williams.
TE Delanie Walker, TEN vs MIA
The Dolphins allowed more fantasy points to the tight end position than any other team in the league last year. While they attempted to upgrade that weakness with the selection of Minkah Fitzpatrick in the first round, it may take some time for him to adjust to the NFL. Walker was not on the injury report this week after being banged up earlier in camp and should remain a focal point of the new Titans offense, especially if Xavien Howard is able to shut down Corey Davis.
The Chargers lost Jason Verrett to injury but still have a very strong group of cornerbacks, led by Hayward. He doesn’t often venture into the slot, which likely means he’ll be focused on Sammy Watkins this week while Tyreek Hill should have the easier matchup. The Chargers pass rush is also a concern given that the Chiefs are breaking in a new quarterback. Watkins has big-play potential, but this looks like a good week to fade him and perhaps focus on the Chiefs running game.
WR Odell Beckham, NYG vs JAX (CB Jalen Ramsey)
Ramsey was suspended for a week in the preseason but returned in plenty of time to suit up for the opener, which presents a great one-on-one matchup of two of the best players in the league. Even if Ramsey isn’t asked to shadow Beckham, the Jaguars are fortunate to have another elite shutdown corner in A.J. Bouye to pass him off to. Combined with a great pass rush the Jaguars have that should force Eli Manning to get rid of the ball quickly, this looks like a clear week to steer clear of Beckham.
WR Robby Anderson, NYJ vs DET (CB Darius Slay)
Darius Slay is an underrated performer who has been stuck on some bad Lions teams in the past. He has an intriguing matchup with Anderson this week, who proved last year he was one of the best big-play threats in the league. The change at quarterback from Josh McCown to rookie Sam Darnold should be an upgrade eventually, but it’s tough to count on a rookie quarterback in his very first NFL start.
The Raiders got rid of Michael Crabtree this offseason and replaced him with veteran Jordy Nelson. All reports indicate that Cooper will become more of a focal point of the offense and occasionally see time in the slot. When he lines up outside at his natural position, however, he should have a tough time with Talib. The Rams boast a great pass rush up front as well now that Aaron Donald has been signed, which likely points to a rough night for Derek Carr and the Raiders offense.
WR Doug Baldwin, SEA vs DEN (CB Chris Harris)
Baldwin announced that he’s likely to play at less than 100% this year due to a knee issue, which raised concerns about how effective he will be. He doesn’t get a chance to ease into the season either with a matchup looming against the league’s best slot corner in Chris Harris. While the Broncos cornerback group aren’t as fearsome as they used to be with Aqib Talib, they have upgraded their pass rush with the addition of Bradley Chubb.
Goodwin emerged as the #1 receiver and primary option for Jimmy Garoppolo late last year. While his speed is tough for any corner to match up with, he’s not the most precise route runner. The Vikings may not ask Rhodes to shadow Goodwin given that Pierre Garcon is just as capable on the other side, but Goodwin lines up primarily on the left which means plenty of snaps against the shutdown corner.
Marshon Lattimore helped turnaround the Saints leaky secondary last year and looked like a clear shutdown corner in the making. Assuming he can replicate that performance in his sophomore campaign, he should be able to keep Evans in check here. Last year in two matchups against New Orleans, Evans posted 6 catches (on 19 targets) for 68 yards with no touchdowns. With Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback, the entire Tampa passing game should likely be downgraded but Evans, in particular, will have a hard time providing value given his salary.
The Dolphins may have found a solution to their cornerback issues with the emergence of Xavien Howard last year. He looks the part of a shutdown corner and will likely be asked to shadow Corey Davis this week. While Davis is a very talented receiver loaded with potential, he is still raw and likely to start off slow as the Titans adjust to a new offense and coaching staff.
TE George Kittle, SF vs MIN
The Vikings have one of the best defenses in the league, and they also gave up the fewest fantasy points to the tight position last year. Kittle finished 2017 strong and could be ready to join the ranks of the top players at his position this year. That’s not likely to happen this week, however, as he missed much of the preseason with a shoulder injury and gets a brutal matchup to open the season.