Best, worst wide receiver matchups for fantasy football in Week 15

Mike Clay
ESPN PLUS


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 15 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 my weekly WR vs. CB cheat sheet.


Advantageous matchups

Los Angeles Rams' Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds vs. Philadelphia Eagles' Rasul Douglas and De'Vante Bausby
The Eagles have allowed the most fantasy points to perimeter wide receivers this season during the past eight weeks and during the past four weeks. They've been equally bad against the left and right sides. And that was with their starting corners -- Ronald Darby, Jalen Mills and Sidney Jones -- on the field for most of the season. Cooks (72 percent) and Reynolds (67 percent) align outside most of the time, so they'll see the largest share of heavily targeted and struggling Douglas and Bausby (assuming Jones is out with his hamstring injury).


The Eagles have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to the slot (fewest over the past month), but Robert Woods shouldn't have much trouble against recently signed Cre'Von LeBlanc. All three Rams wideouts are top-35 fantasy options.


Cincinnati Bengals' Tyler Boydvs. Oakland Raiders' Nick Nelson


Boyd has been all over this article in recent months, but Week 15 sets up as a positive matchup. Boyd will face off with Nelson, who has been targeted on a hefty 23 percent of his coverage snaps and is allowing a massive 0.41 fantasy points per coverage snap. With Nelson recently taking over inside, Oakland has allowed the ninth-most fantasy points to the slot during the past two months. Only four qualified cornerbacks have a worse coverage grade than Nelson over at Pro Football Focus. Boyd is a strong WR2 play even with Jeff Driskel under center.


Cleveland Browns' Jarvis Landry vs. Denver Broncos' Justin Simmons


Denver is a mess at cornerback. Heading into Saturday's game against Cleveland, Chris Harris Jr. is out, Isaac Yiadom is doubtful and Tramaine Brockis questionable after missing each of the team's past two games. Safety Simmons hasn't missed a single snap this season, but the injuries have him operating as the team's primary slot corner in recent weeks. Newcomer Jamar Taylor could also get some inside run in his second game with the team. Though this sets up as a great matchup for all Browns receivers, Landry especially should be able to take advantage of a defense that is worst against the slot during the past two months.


New York Giants' Odell Beckham Jr. vs. Tennessee Titans' Adoree' Jackson (shadow)


Jackson has been called on to shadow Josh Gordon, T.Y. Hilton, DeAndre Hopkins and Robby Anderson since Week 10, so he's a strong bet to travel with Beckham this week. The second-year corner is the team's best option at the position, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been exposed. Jackson has been targeted on a robust 23 percent of his coverage snaps and has surrendered 0.23 fantasy points per route. Tennessee is allowing the sixth-most fantasy points to perimeter receivers this season, including the eighth most over the past two months. Beckham lines up outside on 72 percent of his routes and is a terrific DFS option at home in Week 15.


Other notables


The Carolina Panthers didn't shadow against the New Orleans Saints last season, but they've gone the shadow route more often this season. I suspect James Bradberry will travel with Michael Thomas and rookie Donte Jacksonwill stick with Tre'Quan Smith. Both receivers should be upgraded against a pass defense allowing the fifth-most fantasy points to perimeter receivers this season.


Players to upgrade:





Tough matchups

Atlanta Falcons' Julio Jones vs. Arizona Cardinals' Patrick Peterson(shadow)
Jones is arguably the best wide receiver in the entire NFL right now. He's heavily targeted, highly efficient and suddenly a force in the touchdown department (five in his past six games). That said, he will face one of his toughest matchups of the season this week. Peterson has been nothing short of outstanding this season. He's rarely targeted (14 percent of coverage snaps) and allows little fantasy production (0.21 points per route). Peterson has shadowed at least part time in all but one game this season, including Sunday's shutdown effort against Kenny Golladay.


Jones has run 98 career pass routes against Arizona and Peterson has lined up against him on 76 of those plays. Jones toasted him for 10 catches on 11 targets for 189 yards and a touchdown in a 2014 meeting, but Peterson got the most recent laugh by holding him to just four catches on seven targets for 35 yards in 2016.


Jones is a risky DFS play and, though you're downgrading him in season-long ranks, he's obviously a must-start.


Detroit Lions' Kenny Golladay vs. Buffalo Bills' Tre'Davious White(shadow)


I have some bad news for those of you expecting a bounce-back week from Golladay after Sunday's ugly 5-yard effort against Arizona. The Lions wideout is primed to face shadow coverage from one of the game's top cover corners in White this week. This comes after Peterson shadowed him on all but one of his 15 perimeter routes in Week 14. Though he has shadowed most weeks, White has lined up at left corner on 65 percent of his coverage snaps this season. Buffalo has allowed the fewest fantasy points to players lined up at that spot both on the season and during the past eight weeks. Golladay's role would normally allow him fringe WR1 production, but this matchup knocks him to WR3 territory.


By the way, Golladay's Week 16-17 prospects aren't much better with shadow coverage from Xavier Rhodes and Jaire Alexander looming.


New England Patriots' Josh Gordon vs. Pittsburgh Steelers' Joe Haden (shadow)


One of Week 15's biggest games will feature a showdown between a pair of ex-Browns. Haden has shadowed often (at least on the perimeter) in recent months, including matchups with Keenan Allen, Emmanuel Sanders, Devin Funchess, John Brown, A.J. Green and Julio Jones. Gordon lines up outside on 90 percent of his routes, so these two figure to see each other on nearly every play. Haden has been exceptional in coverage this season, helping Pittsburgh to the second-fewest fantasy points allowed to outside receivers over the past two months.
These two squared off back in 2017: Gordon grabbed four catches on seven targets for 115 yards on 32 routes in the game, with five targets leading to two grabs for 87 yards when aligned across from Haden on 15 of those plays.


Gordon should be downgraded a bit, but Patriots slot man Julian Edelmanshould be upgraded against the Steelers' Mike Hilton. Hilton is a good corner, but Pittsburgh has been lit up by players lining up inside this season. The Steelers have allowed the second-most fantasy points to slot receivers, including the seventh most over the past month.


Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Mike Evans and Chris Godwin vs. Baltimore Ravens' Jimmy Smith and Marlon Humphrey


Evans' target share has taken a dip in recent weeks, but he's still been able to post top-10 fantasy numbers at the position. Godwin's target share has eclipsed 20 percent during each of the past two weeks, though he was bizarrely held to only one catch on 10 targets in Week 14. The duo benefits greatly from the Buccaneers' high-volume pass offense, but efficiency could be a concern this week against Baltimore's terrific secondary. Smith has been solid in coverage following a slow start, and Humphrey has been avoided by opposing quarterbacks and has been terrific in coverage when called upon. Baltimore is allowing the second-fewest fantasy points to outside receivers on the season and the fifth fewest during the past month.


Slot man Brandon Carr is solid, but Baltimore has allowed the 12th-most fantasy points to inside receivers during the past month. He'll see a lot of Adam Humphries, who makes for a strong WR3.


Pittsburgh Steelers' Antonio Brown vs. New England Patriots' Stephon Gilmore (shadow)


We can expect to see Gilmore shadowing Brown this weekend. Gilmore has been one of the game's top corners this season, and though he's targeted at roughly an average rate, he does a great job keeping opposing receivers' efficiency in check. That strong play has come despite tough shadow assignments against the likes of Stefon Diggs, Robby Anderson, Corey Davis, Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, Sammy Watkins, Marvin Jones Jr. and DeAndre Hopkins.


These two have lined up against each other on 29 pass plays during their careers (all while Gilmore was with Buffalo). Brown managed five catches (out of 12 targets) for 85 yards on those plays.


Brown has had a lot of success against the Patriots during his career. He's played four full games against them during the past five seasons, and his stat lines in those games are as follows: 9 catches (11 targets) for 133 yards, 1 TD; 7 catches (11 targets) for 106 yards; 7 catches (9 targets) for 77 yards; 5 catches (9 targets) for 71 yards, 1 TD. Though Gilmore is a star, Brown barely needs to be downgraded. Consider looking elsewhere only in DFS cash games.


Chicago Bears' Allen Robinson vs. Green Bay Packers' Jaire Alexander (shadow)


Alexander has been moved all over the field and has battled injuries during his rookie season, but the first-round pick seems to have finally settled in as the team's No. 1 corner. Alexander shadowed for the first time in his career against Adam Thielen's perimeter routes in Week 12 and then shadowed Julio Jones full time last week. Jones had little trouble against the rookie (8 catches out of 11 targets for 106 yards and two scores), and Alexander has allowed a ton of fantasy production this season. Still, the Packers corner has shown flashes and actually rates out well in coverage over at PFF (13th-best grade).


When these teams met earlier this season, Robinson had a solid day, racking up four catches on seven targets and 61 yards (38 routes). Only four of those routes came against Alexander, and Robinson caught a 33-yard pass on one of those plays. Robinson should be downgraded but not significantly.


Other notables


The Dallas Cowboys' Amari Cooper could draw shadow coverage from the Indianapolis Colts' Pierre Desir after Desir traveled with DeAndre Hopkins last week. Desir and the rest of the Colts' cornerbacks have been better as of late, but Cooper is still the clearly superior talent here. He doesn't have to be downgraded much, if at all.


Bears standout slot CB Bryce Callahan went down early with an injury on Sunday night, but replacement Sherrick McManis has posted similar numbers in a small sample this season. Downgrade Packers slot WR Randall Cobb in this matchup.


Players to downgrade: