Best, worst wide receiver matchups for Week 3 in fantasy football

Mike Clay
ESPN PLUS ($ MATERIAL)




By utilizing our play-by-play data, we're now able to identify where each wide receiver and cornerback lines up on each play. By tracking matchups between the two positions, including potential shadow situations, we can offer the best projections, rankings and fantasy advice each week.

Below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 3 matchups, as well as the corresponding fantasy impact.

To view the primary defenders the top three wide receivers for each team will see this weekend, be sure to check out our weekly WR vs. CB cheat sheet.

Advantageous matchups


Vikings' Adam Thielen vs. Bills' Rafael Bush

The Bills entered the season already a mess at corner behind stud Tre'Davious White, and injuries to Phillip Gaines and Taron Johnson, along with Vontae Davis' midgame retirement, have just added to the trouble. Bush, who is really a safety, has been forced into slot duties and figures to operate in the same capacity in Week 3. That's great news for Thielen, who has aligned inside on 62 percent of his routes this season. White figures to travel with Stefon Diggs (78 percent perimeter) and Thielen (38 percent) when they're aligned on the outside, which obviously is more trouble for Diggs than it is Thielen. Downgrade Diggs slightly and upgrade Thielen.

Steelers' Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Buccaneers' Carlton Davis, Ryan Smith and M.J. Stewart

The Buccaneers have allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to wide receivers, including the most to players lined up in the slot this season. The situation got even worse with Stewart replacing Vernon Hargreaves (injured reserve) last week. Players aligned across from the rookie have been targeted on 32 percent of their routes and have scored 0.74 fantasy points per route. Both are very poor. Smith-Schuster (88 percent slot) will see a ton of Stewart in Week 3. Brown and rookie James Washington, meanwhile, will work against Ryan Smith and rookie Carlton Davis if Brent Grimes isn't back from a groin injury. This game has the makings of a shootout and the Steelers wide receivers figure to be a huge part of it.

49ers' Pierre Garcon and Marquise Goodwin vs. Chiefs' Steven Nelson and Orlando Scandrick

Kansas City's defense has allowed the most fantasy points to quarterbacks, the second most to running backs and the third most to both wide receivers and tight ends this season. The struggles of a weak secondary that is devoid of talent at corner and without top safeties Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen has been a major culprit. Garcon has lined up on the perimeter on 77 percent of his routes this season, which means he'll see Nelson and Scandrick most of the time. The same can be said for Goodwin if he's able to return from a quad injury. If not, rookie Dante Pettis will step into a good matchup, leaving Trent Taylor to battle Kendall Fuller in the slot.

Falcons' Calvin Ridley vs. Saints' Ken Crawley

Before we get to Ridley, let's first get to Julio Jones. Expect Marshon Lattimore to shadow Jones in this one. Lattimore is one of the game's better, young corners, but it's tough to downgrade Jones when Lattimore has struggled out of the gate and after Jones lit up New Orleans in two meetings last season with Lattimore shadowing him in both games. Jones caught 12 of 22 targets for 247 yards on 62 routes in those games. He made 11 catches on 18 targets for 228 yards on 45 routes when aligned against Lattimore. Now to Ridley, who will primarily see struggling Crawley on the other side of the formation. Crawley has been heavily targeted, and receivers aligned across from him are averaging 0.95 fantasy points per route this season. In all, Crawley has allowed 208 yards. Only Malcolm Butler has fared worse in each category. Ridley is a sneaky flex this week.

Colts' T.Y. Hilton and Ryan Grant vs. Eagles' Ronald Darby and Jalen Mills

Darby is a solid corner, but offenses haven't been afraid of him. He has been targeted on 24 of 80 coverage snaps and has allowed a league-high 14 receptions. Mills, meanwhile, has allowed 11 catches for 156 yards (fifth most). Only the Saints and Titans have allowed more fantasy points to perimeter receivers this season. And that's notable here as Hilton (73 percent) and Grant (85 percent) have held down the fort for the Colts on the outside this season. Especially in a game in which the Colts should be throwing the ball plenty, Hilton and Grant should be upgraded.

Other notables:




Tough matchups


Chargers' Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams and Keenan Allen vs. Rams' Marcus Peters, Aqib Talib and Nickell Robey-Coleman

The Rams have allowed a league-low 23 fantasy points to wide receivers through Week 2. For perspective, the league average is 75 points. The dominant play shouldn't be a shock considering the team's absolutely loaded secondary. This week, Mike Williams (75 percent perimeter), Tyrell Williams (58 percent) and Travis Benjamin (59 percent) will do most of their work against Peters and Talib. The duo has combined to allow five catches for 37 yards on 13 targets this season. None of the three Chargers secondary receivers should be in lineups.

Allen, meanwhile, aligns in the slot 60 percent of the time. This means he'll still see some of Talib and Peters, but most of his run will come against Robey-Coleman. Los Angeles' slot corner is one of the league's best, but he has surrendered nine catches for 93 yards on 11 targets this season. He's good, but he's the weak spot of this trio and Philip Rivers figures to go after him plenty. Allen should be downgraded, but should still be in lineups.


Titans' Corey Davis vs. Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey (shadow)

The Jaguars did not shadow against Tennessee last season, but I suspect that will change this time around as Davis has clearly been the Titans' No. 1 wideout in 2018. Though Davis wasn't shadowed in last year's meetings, the then-rookie receiver struggled badly. He caught one pass for 4 yards on five targets over 32 routes (30 of which came against Ramsey or A.J. Bouye). Davis has aligned on the perimeter on 75 percent of his routes this season, which means he'll see a ton of the two stud corners even if Ramsey doesn't chase him. Downgrade Davis massively and obviously stay away from Tajae Sharpe and Taywan Taylor on the other side of the field. Rishard Matthews could be sneaky in the slot against D.J. Hayden, but that's a risky move considering his slow start.

Bills' Kelvin Benjamin vs. Vikings' Xavier Rhodes (shadow)

Benjamin found the end zone in Week 2, but it has been a rough go this season. He has caught only three of nine targets for 29 yards and the lone score. As a team, Bills wide receivers have totaled 169 yards and an atrocious 41 percent catch rate. That said, Benjamin was already a poor fantasy option and will have his hands full with shadow coverage from one of the game's top corners in Rhodes this week. Stay as far away as possible from the Bills' offense this week.

Broncos' Demaryius Thomas vs. Ravens' Brandon Carr (shadow) and Broncos' Courtland Sutton vs. Ravens' Marlon Humphrey

Cincinnati's A.J. Green had a huge Week 3 against the Ravens, but consider this: Green aligned across from Humphrey and slot man Tavon Young on 10 pass plays. He caught four of five targets for 51 yards and three touchdowns on those plays. Green lined up against Carr on 24 plays and was limited to one, 18 yard catch on four targets.

Carr has been terrific this season while shadowing both Benjamin and Green. With the rookie Sutton on the other side, dot-connecting tells us Carr is a good bet to follow Thomas this week. Despite some trouble against Green, Humphrey has been terrific since he entered the league as a 2017 first-round pick. Carr and Humphrey have combined to allow eight catches for 71 yards on 23 targets this season. Both Thomas and Sutton should be downgraded.

This matchup opens the door for a big performance from Emmanuel Sanders against Young. Baltimore has allowed the seventh-most fantasy points to players lined up in the slot this season. Sanders has lined up inside 69 percent of the time. Sanders remains in the WR2 mix.

Saints' Michael Thomas vs. Falcons' Desmond Trufant and Robert Alford

Thomas ran 44 of his 57 routes against Trufant and Alford during the two meetings between these teams last season. New Orleans' top wideout totaled nine catches on 13 targets for 118 yards and no touchdowns on those plays. That said, he did run eight routes against Brian Poole and caught all five targets for 65 yards and a score on those plays. Thomas (68 percent perimeter this season) will mostly see Trufant and Alford this weekend, but he's good enough that the downgrade should only be slight.

Giants' Sterling Shepard vs. Texans' Aaron Colvin

Colvin has been terrific as the team's primary slot man and the team is allowing the fifth-fewest fantasy points to slot receivers this season. Shepard has aligned inside on 71 percent of his routes, which means these two will face off most of the time this weekend. Colvin sports the third-highest coverage grade among cornerbacks, according to Pro Football Focus. Shepard should be downgraded in one of his toughest matchups of the season.

Other notables:


  • Giants' Janoris Jenkins is a good bet to shadow Texans' DeAndre Hopkins this week, but Jenkins has been far from a dominant presence thus far this season. He is a good corner, however, so he could keep Hopkins in check if he does indeed shadow.