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Thread: WRs with the easiest, toughest schedules in 2019

  1. #1 WRs with the easiest, toughest schedules in 2019 
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    Hache Man's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
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    Fantasy football: WRs with the easiest, toughest schedules in 2019


    Football analysis has reached a new era in which player participation data has allowed us to analyze, predict and project wide receiver/cornerback matchups.

    Although this data becomes exceptionally useful during the regular season, a thorough examination of each team's depth chart can allow us to determine potential upgrades and downgrades for each wide receiver before the season begins. Strength of schedule is one of many variables that allows us to generate rankings, projections and draft-day decisions, and WR/CB matchup data allows us to take that analysis to the next level.

    For the purpose of this exercise, I've ranked each cornerback unit by focusing primarily on each team's top three corners (offenses had three wide receivers on the field for 75% of pass plays last season), while also considering the health, talent and pedigree of each team's additional depth at the position. I also examined team's "shadowing" tendencies to determine how each figures to fare against top-end No. 1 targets, as well as secondary and slot receivers.

    Once I had each cornerback unit ranked and analyzed, I took a look at each offense's 2019 schedule and determined which wide receivers will face the easiest and toughest cornerback slates this season.

    Note that since many of your leagues won't include Week 17 in the fantasy schedule, only Weeks 1-16 are included in this analysis.

    It's important not to overreact to any one variable when it comes to player evaluation, but this analysis should help you make better decisions (or at least break some ties) on draft day.

    Check back throughout the season for the weekly WR/CB matchup chart and analysis.

    Cornerback rankings

    Where else to start but with a quick look at what our favorite fantasy wide receivers will be dealing with in coverage this season? Here is my ranking of each of the league's 32 cornerback units:

    Shadow report

    The next step is to take a look at the cornerbacks we often see shadowing No. 1 wide receivers. I broke them down into three categories. Note that cornerbacks who rarely or never shadow simply aren't shown here.

    The 15 players listed with an asterisk(*) are those I've identified as "standout shadow corners" or cornerbacks who, when facing a team with a clear No. 1 perimeter receiver, will usually shadow and create a tough matchup/downgrade. This group will be referenced throughout the article.

    Almost always shadow

    Patrick Peterson, Cardinals* (suspended Weeks 1-6)
    James Bradberry, Panthers
    Darius Slay, Lions*
    Xavier Rhodes, Vikings*
    Stephon Gilmore, Patriots*
    Josh Norman, Redskins*

    Often shadow

    Tre'Davious White, Bills*
    Marshon Lattimore, Saints*

    Denzel Ward, Browns*
    Jalen Ramsey, Jaguars*
    Casey Hayward, Chargers*
    Xavien Howard, Dolphins*
    Joe Haden, Steelers*

    Sometimes shadow

    Marlon Humphrey or Jimmy Smith, Ravens*
    Jaire Alexander, Packers*
    Janoris Jenkins, Giants*


    New York Jets: Robby Anderson

    I'm leading with Anderson because the Jets' No. 1 wideout will face the fifth-toughest overall schedule for a top receiver, which is fueled by having to face a standout shadow corner during a league-high 11 of 15 weeks (Gilmore twice, Howard twice, White, Ward, Ramsey, Jenkins, Norman, Smith/Humphrey and Haden). Three of those come during Weeks 14-16 (the fantasy playoffs for many). Overall, Jets' receivers face the eighth-toughest schedule.

    Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green
    The Bengals are scheduled to face the eighth-toughest overall CB slate, including the fifth hardest for a No. 1 wide receiver. Even worse, Green is expected to miss roughly two weeks to open the season, which is when the Bengals will face two weaker cornerback groups in Seattle and San Francisco. Green, assuming he's back for Week 3, probably would then face nine standout shadow corners the rest of the way (Haden twice, Smith/Humphrey twice, White, Ramsey, Ward, Gilmore, Howard). Like Anderson, the latter three come during Weeks 14-16. Only four teams face a standout shadow corner each of those three weeks (Minnesota and Buffalo are the others).

    Dallas Cowboys: Amari Cooper
    Only the Jets are scheduled to face more standout shadow corners than the Cowboys this season. That's not good news for Cooper, who is likely to be followed by Jenkins twice, Norman twice, Howard, Lattimore, Alexander, Rhodes, Slay, Gilmore and White during 10 of his first 12 games this season. Although he probably won't be shadowed during Weeks 14-16, life won't be much easier with the Bears, Rams and Eagles' talented defenses on the slate.

    Oakland Raiders: Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams
    Brown's efficiency took a dip in his final season in Pittsburgh, and now he'll have to deal with the league's second-toughest slates for a No. 1 wide receiver in Oakland this season. Oddly, Brown will "only" need to deal with six standout shadow corners (Hayward twice, Rhodes, Alexander, Slay, Ramsey), although the Raiders face a lot of teams with good depth on the perimeter like Chicago and Denver. Additionally, with the Titans, Jaguars and Chargers on tap during Weeks 14-16, Oakland's "playoff" schedule is the hardest in the league. Brown is expected to be shadowed by Ramsey, Hayward and perhaps even Jackson those weeks.

    Kansas City Chiefs: Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins
    Chiefs' wide receivers actually had a very tough schedule last season and we saw how that played out. Nonetheless, we can't ignore the tough challenge that is ahead for this group, as it's scheduled to face the hardest slate against No. 1 wide receivers, slot receivers and overall. Seven standout shadow corners are on the schedule (Ramsey, Smith/Humphrey, Slay, Alexander, Rhodes, Hayward, Gilmore), although expect their snaps to be split between Hill and Watkins. That's because Hill aligns in the slot on roughly half of his routes and most shadow corners rarely chase receivers inside.

    Los Angeles Chargers: Keenan Allen
    The Chargers are set up with the fifth-toughest CB schedule, including the 11th hardest against No. 1 receivers and third toughest against the slot. That's not ideal for Allen, who aligned inside 58% of the time last season. Los Angeles will face only six standout shadow corners, but most of them rarely travel inside, which helps Allen's cause. However, with strong slot corners Chris Harris Jr. (twice), Lamarcus Joyner (twice), Kenny Moore, Justin Coleman, Logan Ryan, Kendall Fuller and Mackensie Alexander all on the slate, Allen will have a tougher challenge ahead than usual.

    Cleveland Browns: Odell Beckham Jr. (after the bye)

    This one is a bit odd, as Cleveland will face only one standout shadow corner before its Week 7 bye (Smith/Humphrey), but will then need to deal with seven during its final nine outings (Gilmore, White, Haden twice, Howard, Peterson, Smith/Humphrey). The Titans, Rams and Broncos are also on the slate, which explains why Cleveland has the third-overall toughest CB slate, including seventh toughest for No. 1 receivers.

    Houston Texans: Keke Coutee
    The Texans will face the second-hardest overall CB schedule, but the primary area where it stands out as tough is against the slot (third hardest). Coutee is set to face 10 "above-average" slot corners, five of which come during Weeks 11-15.

    Buffalo Bills: Zay Jones and John Brown
    The Bills will face the seventh-toughest overall and No. 1 WR slate. With Cole Beasley in the slot, Jones and Brown are favorites for perimeter work (with Robert Foster also mixing in). Expect the three outside receivers to have their hands full this season, especially with the Bills coming in as one of four teams set to face three standout shadow corners during Weeks 14-16 (Smith/Humphrey, Haden, Gilmore).

    Chicago Bears: Anthony Miller
    The Bears are set up with the second-hardest schedule against slot receivers. Miller, who aligned inside 71% of the time as a rookie, is set up with showdowns against Alexander (twice), Coleman (twice), Harris Jr., Joyner, Robinson, King, Robey-Coleman and Fuller. Allen Robinson, by the way, will need to deal with nine standout shadow corners, though that's mostly offset by some lightly matchups throughout the season.


    Atlanta Falcons: Julio Jones
    Atlanta is set up with the ninth-easiest overall cornerback schedule, which includes the sixth-easiest slate for its No. 1 receiver Jones. Jones will see only four standout shadow corners (Rhodes, Lattimore twice, Ramsey), which is third fewest in the league. Falcons' receivers will face a CB unit ranked 20th or lower in eight of its 15 games, though note Jacksonville is on the slate in Week 16.

    Carolina Panthers: DJ Moore and Curtis Samuel
    Carolina's top receivers are sitting pretty with the league's eighth-easiest CB slate, including the fifth easiest for a No. 1 receiver and seventh easiest for slot receivers. Moore is the top perimeter receiver and will need to deal with only four standout shadow corners (Ramsey, Alexander, Lattimore, Norman), none of which are on the slate during weeks 14-16. Slot receiver Jarius Wright stands to benefit, as well, but is well off the fantasy radar.

    New Orleans Saints: Michael Thomas
    As if Thomas' five-year, $100 million contract wasn't enough, New Orleans' No. 1 receiver is projected to face a league-low two standout shadow corners this season (Ramsey, Peterson). That works out to the third-easiest schedule for a top wide receiver. New Orleans' slot receiver will enjoy the second-easiest schedule, although that position isn't exactly locked down just yet (with Thomas, Ted Ginn Jr., Tre'Quan Smith and Keith Kirkwood all figure to get slotted inside).

    Los Angeles Rams: Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp
    The Rams already have one of the league's best offenses and their cornerback schedule is overwhelmingly favorable this season. Rams' wideouts will enjoy the second-easiest overall schedule, the third easiest for No. 1 receivers and the second easiest for slot targets (Kupp is the slot man). Only five standout shadow corners are on the slate (Lattimore, Ward, Haden, Smith/Humphrey and Peterson), and the Rams also enjoy the easiest Week 14-16 CB schedule (Seattle, Dallas, San Francisco).

    Indianapolis Colts: T.Y. Hilton
    The Colts are set to face only five standout shadow corners (Hayward, Haden, Howard, Ramsey, Lattimore) and, in turn, the ninth-easiest schedule for a No. 1 wideout. That bodes well for Hilton, who will also benefit from the Colts sitting tied for the easiest projected Week 14-16 schedule for a No. 1 wide receiver. Week 15's Lattimore shadow coverage aside, Hilton will benefit from matchups with the Buccaneers and Panthers during the span. Indianapolis does have the seventh-toughest slate for slot receivers, which could limit rookie Parris Campbell's upside a bit.

    New England Patriots: Julian Edelman
    New England will face off with eight standout shadow corners (seven of them before their Week 10 bye), although that won't matter much to Edelman, who aligns inside on roughly half of his routes. New England is set up with the easiest overall CB schedule and the third-easiest slate for slot receivers. Ten of the Patriots opponents have a CB unit ranked in the bottom half of the league, and they face only one unit ranked better than 10th (Ravens).

    Arizona Cardinals: Christian Kirk and Larry Fitzgerald
    The Cardinals' deployment of wide receivers is still a bit uncertain with Kliff Kingsbury calling the shots, but it's fair to say that whomever is on the field will benefit from a relatively light schedule. That includes fifth easiest overall, third easiest against No. 1 receivers (presumably Kirk on the perimeter) and ninth easiest against the slot (Fitzgerald).

    Washington Redskins: Paul Richardson, Josh Doctson and Trey Quinn
    It's hard to get too excited by the Washington offense, but we can't ignore a schedule that shows up as third-easiest overall, including ninth easiest against No. 1 receivers and seventh lightest against the slot (Quinn). Washington will face eight standout shadow corners, so if teams view Doctson as the No. 1, Richardson could benefit in a big way. Washington receivers also enjoy the second-easiest slate during Weeks 14-16 (Packers, Eagles, Giants).

    Mixed bag

    Philadelphia Eagles: Upgrade Nelson Agholor, downgrade Alshon Jeffery
    The Eagles slate is also interesting, as they're set to face the sixth-easiest overall CB schedule. That includes the seventh easiest against the slot (Agholor), but also the 11th hardest for a No. 1 receiver and nine standout shadow corners (Norman twice, Slay, Alexander, Rhodes, White, Gilmore, Howard, Jenkins). And that doesn't even include stay-at-home corners Trufant, Johnson, Fuller and Jones (twice).

    Jacksonville Jaguars: Upgrade perimeter receivers, downgrade Dede Westbrook

    With two, the Jaguars are tied with New Orleans for fewest matchups against standout shadow corners (Lattimore, Heyward). That's good news for its perimeter receivers, but they're currently isn't much clarity on who the starters will be at those spots. Marqise Lee's health, Chris Conley's transition from Kansas City and DJ Chark's second-year progress are worth monitoring. Westbrook, meanwhile, is the team's No. 1 wide receiver, but aligns in the slot 89% of the time. Whereas Jacksonville will face the fifth-lightest schedule for No. 1 receivers (again, generally this will apply to receivers who primarily align outside), the team will deal with the seventh-hardest slate against the slot. Westbrook will face King, Joyner and Kazee during Weeks 14-16.

    Category leaders

    Easiest overall CB schedule
    1. New England Patriots
    2. Los Angeles Rams
    3. Washington Redskins

    Toughest overall CB schedule
    1. Kansas City Chiefs
    2. Houston Texans
    T3. Cleveland Browns
    T3. Oakland Raiders

    Easiest schedule for No. 1 wide receivers
    T1. Arizona Cardinals
    T1. Los Angeles Rams
    T1. New Orleans Saints

    Toughest schedule for No. 1 wide receivers
    1. Kansas City Chiefs
    T2. Oakland Raiders
    T2. Pittsburgh Steelers
    T2. Denver Broncos

    Easiest schedule for slot receivers
    1. New Orleans Saints
    T2. Los Angeles Rams
    T2. New England Patriots

    Toughest schedule for slot receivers
    1. Kansas City Chiefs
    2. Chicago Bears
    T3. Denver Broncos
    T3. Houston Texans
    T3. Los Angeles Chargers
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  2. #2  
    RX Junior
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    Dec 2013
    Thanks for posting these articles Hache, I look forward to them this time of year. Good info
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  3. #3  
    RX Junior CADILLACJACK's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
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    Yes thank you!!! Too bad this thread doesn't get more traffic...always like that sucks
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  4. #4  
    RX Wizard
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    Dec 2006
    Yes. Thank you, Hache. I always read what you post here in FF.
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  5. #5  
    RX Member
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    New York
    Thanks for posting
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