Best, worst wide receiver matchups for Week 16

Mike Clay
ESPN PLUS


By using 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.


Down below are the receivers with the best and worst Week 16 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 Cheatsheet.


Advantageous matchups


Falcons' Julio Jones vs. Panthers' James Bradberry (shadow) and Falcons' Calvin Ridley vs. Panthers' Donte Jackson (shadow)


Jones faced perhaps his toughest challenge of the season last week via Patrick Peterson's shadow coverage and still managed to produce 82 yards and one touchdown on eight targets. Life will be easier for the red-hot Jones against Carolina this week.


These teams met in Week 2 and Bradberry shadowed Jones on 17 of his 24 routes (16 of 18 perimeter routes). Jackson covered Ridley on six of his 18 routes. Despite the low-volume game, Jones posted a 9-5-64-0 line and Ridley went for 5-4-64-1. Last season, Bradberry shadowed Jones in Week 9 and Jones ripped off six catches for 118 yards on 11 targets. Carolina didn't shadow in the Week 16 meeting and Jones managed an 11-7-149 line. Suffice to say, Jones has had Carolina's (and Bradberry's) number.


Jones is an elite fantasy option and worth the cost of admission in DFS. Ridley has fallen off the fantasy radar in recent weeks, but Jackson's struggles make him an intriguing flex option.


Texans' DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas vs. Eagles' Rasul Douglas and Avonte Maddox


For the first time in a while, the Eagles might actually have some life at cornerback. Douglas has been a steady presence in an every-down role in recent weeks, and Maddox showed well in his debut as a full-time perimeter corner against the Rams last week. Still, this remains a very inexperienced duo and one that has been both heavily targeted and given up a lot of fantasy production this season. As a team, the Eagles have allowed the most fantasy points to the perimeter over the past eight weeks and for the season.


Hopkins (78 percent perimeter) and Thomas (65 percent) will get a lot of run against both young corners and will see some of Cre'Von LeBlanc in the slot (assuming Sidney Jones is unable to return). Both should be upgraded. Though they haven't been quite as dominant recently, the Eagles have allowed the third-fewest fantasy points to slot receivers this season. That doesn't make Keke Coutee particularly intriguing as a flex if he returns this week.


Jets' Robby Anderson vs. Packers' Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson


Anderson seems to be back on track lately, having cleared 75 yards and scored a touchdown during each of his past two games. Anderson also has been targeted at least seven times during five of his past six games. If that volume continues this week, Anderson should be in for a big fantasy day. Granted, Alexander has been impressive and Jackson has been serviceable during their rookie seasons, but Green Bay has been annihilated by opposing wide receivers in fantasy. The Packers have allowed the third-most fantasy points to the perimeter over the past two months and the sixth most over the past four weeks. Their struggles have been pretty equal against both sides of the field.


Anderson lines up on the outside 76 percent of the time and really shouldn't have much trouble with Bashaud Breeland when he's in the slot. This is a talented Packers secondary, but Anderson's recent usage and play combined with Green Bay's failure to slow opposing receivers sets up well for a big day from the Jets' top wideout.


Packers' Randall Cobb vs. Jets' Buster Skrine


Cobb hasn't been particularly productive in fantasy since returning three weeks ago, but his targets have trended up from five in Week 13 to six in Week 14 to seven this past Sunday. He hasn't cleared 43 yards in a game since Week 1 but did score a touchdown in Week 14. Cobb is clearly operating as Green Bay's No. 2 receiver and has a very strong matchup against Skrine this week. Receivers aligned against Skrine have been targeted on a huge 27 percent of their routes and are averaging an equally massive 0.43 fantasy points per route this season. The Jets are allowing the third-most fantasy points to the slot this season and fourth most over the past month. Cobb (92 percent slot) and Skrine (96 percent) will be up against each other a ton this weekend. Upgrade Cobb.


Other notables:


- Broncos' DaeSean Hamilton vs. Raiders' Nick Nelson
- Raiders' Jordy Nelson vs. Broncos' Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock



Tough matchups

Vikings' Stefon Diggs vs. Lions' Darius Slay (shadow)
Slay shadowed Zay Jones last week and has now traveled with an opposing top wide receiver in nine of 13 games played this season. When these teams faced off back in Week 9, Nevin Lawson shadowed Adam Thielen and, because Diggs was out, Slay shadowed replacement Aldrick Robinson. Slay shadowed Diggs during both meetings between these teams last season. Diggs totaled 10 catches for 164 yards and no touchdowns on 59 routes in the two games. Of that production, nine targets, seven catches and 92 yards came on 37 routes lined up across from Slay.


With Thielen continuing to work primarily from the slot and Slay having never shadowed a primary slot receiver, it's fair to say Slay will travel with Diggs again this week. Diggs should escape to the slot occasionally (23 percent of his routes have come inside this season) and could take advantage of Lawson on those plays, but he'll be a risky DFS investment with most of his work coming against one of the league's best corners. You should still be starting Diggs during your fantasy championship. Thielen, by the way, should be upgraded against Lawson despite the Week 15 dud in what was also a terrific matchup.


Patriots' Josh Gordon vs. Bills' Tre'Davious White (shadow)


These teams met back in Week 8, and White shadowed Gordon on 33 of his 42 routes. Gordon was held to a 6-4-42-0 line in that game, 4-3-24-0 of which came while aligned against White.


White has aligned on the perimeter 97 percent of the time, which is where Gordon has been on 89 percent of his routes this season. That said, same as earlier this season, we can expect these two to go head-to-head on nearly every pass play this week. Gordon, who isn't seeing a ton of volume the way it is, should be downgraded to WR3 status. Buffalo has allowed the fewest fantasy points to perimeter receivers this season and the fifth fewest over the past two months.


Julian Edelman (68 percent slot) can be upgraded against Rafael Bush.


Steelers' Antonio Brown vs. Saints' Marshon Lattimore (shadow)


Lattimore has been an on-again, off-again shadow corner this season but has traveled with several star perimeter receivers, including Mike Evans (twice), Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Crabtree, Alshon Jeffery and Amari Cooper. That said, it's likely he'll shadow Brown here in Week 16.


Brown's targets and fantasy production have been down this season, but he has still been a terrific presence on the perimeter (80 percent of routes). New Orleans has been pummeled by receivers throughout most of the season, but there have been signs of progress as of late, and Lattimore has settled in as a strong cover corner following a slow start. Brown should be downgraded, but his propensity for big plays and touchdowns combined with the Steelers likely needing to throw the ball a ton to keep up certainly keeps him in the WR1 mix.


The Saints have shut down slot receivers this season, but P.J. Williams is no match for JuJu Smith-Schuster, who can be fired up with confidence.


Lions' Kenny Golladay vs. Vikings' Xavier Rhodes (shadow)


Golladay exceeded low expectations last week in a matchup with Bills' star shadow corner Tre'Davious White (8-7-146-0). Detroit's top target beat White a few times but also got more work than usual in the slot, which allowed him to pick on Bills slot man Rafael Bush. Golladay may get some slot run this week as well, but life won't be as easy as it was against Bush. Vikings' slot corner Mackensie Alexander has played well lately, and Minnesota has allowed the fewest fantasy points to the slot over the past two months.


Of course, when aligned outside, Golladay will be shadowed by Rhodes. Thanks in part to Rhodes' strong work as a shadow corner this season, Minnesota has surrendered the second-fewest fantasy points to outside receivers. Marvin Jones Jr. was active when these teams faced off earlier this season, so Golladay has actually yet to run a route against Rhodes in his young career. Golladay needs to be downgraded, but last week's strong game against White gives us more confidence in him as a fantasy starter with championships on the line.


Rams' Brandin Cooks vs. Cardinals' Patrick Peterson (shadow)


These teams faced off back in Week 2, which marked the only game this season in which Peterson did not shadow at least part of the time. Cooks was terrific in that first meeting, posting seven catches and 159 yards on nine targets. Of his 34 routes, only four came against Peterson (zero targets). These two did face off twice (2015, 2016) when Cooks was with New Orleans. Cooks put up 16 targets, 11 catches, 235 yards and two scores on 94 routes in those two games, with 8-5-154-1 coming on 57 routes when aligned against Peterson.


Though Peterson didn't shadow in the first game, I suspect he will this time around for two reasons: (1) With Cooper Kupp out, Robert Woods primarily works from the slot, which leaves Cooks as the team's clear No. 1 perimeter receiver ahead of Josh Reynolds and (2) the early-season plan with Peterson didn't appear to involve shadowing, but that plan changed pretty quickly. Cooks doesn't need to be downgraded massively, but you may want to pivot to someone else in DFS cash games. Reynolds and Woods, meanwhile, are set up with good matchups against Brandon Williams and Budda Baker.


Dolphins' Kenny Stills vs. Jaguars' Jalen Ramsey (shadow)


The Jaguars haven't shadowed during their past two games, but Ramsey has done so enough this season that I suspect he'll travel with Stills this week. Ramsey has shadowed Beckham, Tyreek Hill, Hopkins, Jeffery, T.Y. Hilton(twice), Brown and Kelvin Benjamin at least part time this season. Stills has lined up outside on 64 percent of his routes and, with DeVante Parker demoted, has re-emerged as Miami's clear top perimeter receiver. Ramsey has been targeted quite a bit this season but has been terrific in coverage, and the Jaguars are allowing the fourth-fewest fantasy points to outside receivers.


Even if Jacksonville doesn't shadow, Stills will see Ramsey or A.J. Bouye on nearly two-thirds of his routes. The matchup is better in the slot (D.J. Hayden), though the Jaguars are allowing the seventh-fewest fantasy points to the slot this season. Stills is best left on benches (or waivers) this week.


Titans' Corey Davis vs. Redskins' Josh Norman (shadow)


Davis' season has been an odd one. The first half of the season saw him enjoy a massive target share while having to deal with a brutal opposing cornerback schedule and injuries all around him on offense. In recent weeks, his schedule has been lighter, but his target share has dipped and Tennessee has generated success from its running game. Davis is still the top target in the Titans' passing game, but he'll be hard to trust in fantasy with shadow coverage from Norman likely.


Norman has shadowed Beckham, Jones, Evans, Hopkins, Jeffery and Donte Moncrief over the past eight weeks. Receivers in his coverage have been targeted on only 15 percent of their routes and are averaging an underwhelming 0.25 fantasy points per route. Norman is still one of the best in the business and Davis will have his hands full the 70 percent of the time he's on the perimeter this weekend. If you fire him up with your championship on the line, you'll be hoping for some production against whomever replaces injured Joshua Holseyin the slot (quite possibly previously benched Greg Stroman).


Other notables:


- Cardinals' Larry Fitzgerald vs. Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman
- Ravens' Willie Snead vs. Chargers' Desmond King
- Chargers' Mike Williams and Tyrell Williams vs. Ravens' Marlon Humphreyand Jimmy Smith
- When the Bills and Patriots met in Week 8, Stephon Gilmore shadowed Benjamin. Benjamin has since been released, so the most likely bet is that Gilmore will travel with Zay Jones this week. That'd be trouble for Jones, who was quiet against Slay in Week 15. Robert Foster would then draw a lot of J.C. Jackson, who quieted JuJu Smith-Schuster last week. Both should be downgraded slightly against New England.
- If Browns' Denzel Ward returns from a two-game absence this week, expect him to shadow Bengals' John Ross. Ross will be a much-less appealing flex dart throw in that scenario.