Receiver plays are a week-to-week thought process in NFL DFS due to a variety of outside factors impacting receiver performance. One way to predict who will break out is by examining their secondary opponents for that individual game. Every week of the season, Sam Smith will take a look at advantageous matchups for receivers against vulnerable secondaries, whether it be schematic advantage or merely a weaker cornerback head up on a star receiver. Let’s get into some NFL Matchups and give out some NFL DFS picks for your fantasy football lineups, Week 5 on DraftKings and FanDuel, including Tyreek Hill and Evan Engram.
NFL DFS WR-CB Matchups | Week 5
Tyreek Hill vs. Las Vegas Raiders
The Raiders may be my favorite secondary to target because not only are they weak, but they also do not commit many pass interference penalties. That means they get burned without inhibiting fantasy upside with grabbiness. PFF rates their coverage unit as the league’s second worst, while Football Outsiders gives them the third-worst pass DVOA, so there is pretty much consensus on the exploitability of the secondary. Also helping fantasy players is the fact that their offense is playing reasonably well, so the passing volume they face isn’t mitigated by blowouts. The only thing really preventing the Raiders from being a permanent short is the fact that they do not allow many passing touchdowns. Teams have instead resorted to the running game in the red zone, as evidenced by Vegas allowing the 20th-most passing yards but only five passing touchdowns and an NFL-high eight rushing touchdowns. Individually, Las Vegas’ six regular defensive backs have all been mediocre, none terrible (save for Lamarcus Joyner), but none good enough to shadow one of the game’s most explosive players.
Hill has not quite fit into that reputation this year, placing 17th in yards, 15th in yards after catch and zero games over 100 yards yet. However, he has managed a touchdown in all four games, and the overwhelming majority of his receptions have gone for first downs. So he is still the lethal downfield target, just not quite at the volume he has been in years past. Patrick Mahomes is spreading the ball around a bit with Travis Kelce, Sammy Watkins and Clyde Edwards-Helaire all seeing over 15 targets in four games. Plus, though Mahomes has yet to throw an interception against 11 touchdowns, the Chiefs offense has not always maintained levels of dominance that 2019 led us to expect. That said, when big plays come, more often than not Hill is the recipient.
It’s highly unlikely that the Raiders will in anyway let anyone take Hill one-on-one, but on the off chance they do, Hill’s slot snap percentage slightly over 50% would place him opposite Joyner much of the time. Joyner is notoriously one of the most targeted slot corners in the league, ranking top 10 in slot targets, receptions and yards allowed. Again, he likely will not be man up on Hill much, but those rare moments where he will are the moments Hill could snap off a 50-yard touchdown. Whatever tactics the Raiders do take to slow down Hill, he is in easily one of the most exploitable matchups for stud receivers this week. He is not prohibitively expensive either, hence why he is coming in at fairly high ownership.
Chalk Tight End
Evan Engram vs. Dallas Cowboys (Sunday Afternoon Game)
I am going a bit off-book here and picking a tight end. At a glance, Engram hardly looks like the tight end worthy of stretching the definitions of this article. He ranks third at his position in targets (29) and eighth in receptions (17), yet somehow he drops to 20th in yards with just 131. That amounts to 7.7 yards per reception, which is bottom 10 among qualified tight ends. Much of that, however, comes down to the general malaise of the Giants offense, in particular that of quarterback Daniel Jones, leaving Engram with minimum-efficiency targets. As a result, his price tag has dipped considerably, down to the 12th-most expensive tight end on DraftKings and 11th on FanDuel. Given his snap and opportunity share (90.1% and 21.6%, respectively), Engram has the volume to break a slate at his diminished price tag.
All that said, the Cowboys’ miserable defense is the main reason for this play. They have allowed the most points in the league, putting themselves in shootouts every week, and that includes 12 passing touchdowns, the third most in the NFL. Granted, they have played some explosive offenses that have helped them get to these abysmal numbers, but the Browns and Rams, both mid-tier passing offenses, found success.
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Three things point to the Giants, and in particular Engram, getting off the offensive schneid this week. For one, Jones has been one of the most pressured quarterbacks in football, partially contributing to his lackluster play. Only Joe Burrow has more pressured dropbacks, and Deshaun Watson is the only quarterback sacked more often. Dallas’ pass rush is pretty miserable, almost entirely falling on the shoulders of a rejuvenated Aldon Smith, who has more than a quarter of the team’s pressures and half of their sacks. In other words, Jones projects to see more time in the pocket.
Second, Dallas’ running defense has allowed chunk yardage at excruciating levels, allowing opponents to move the chains. However, they have been better in the red zone, ranking 19th in rushing touchdowns allowed but second to last in rushing yards allowed. That points to red zone opportunities for Engram, something that has really inhibited his fantasy value thus far — he has only five red zone targets and zero touchdowns. If there is to be a week where he breaks through in that regard, this is the one.
Lastly, Engram’s individual matchups are extremely appealing. Jaylon Smith, one of the most well-regarded linebackers a few seasons ago, has been a massive liability in coverage, allowing over 200 yards, 151 after the catch, and the 13th-most yards per coverage snap at his position. Linebacker mate Joe Thomas has been no better, nor has most of Dallas’ safety play. Only Xavier Woods has had success in coverage this year, and he is the lone potential Engram matchup with a targeted passer rating under 110. Given the Giants’ receiver situation, Jones should be targeting Engram a lot, and the middle of the field could be wide open for him to make plays after the catch. At his price, he is one of the best tight end values in Week 5.
Low-Priced Play Before He Gets Priced Up For Good
Laviska Shenault vs. Houston Texans
Gadget receivers can be extremely fickle, but something about Shenault seems a bit more sustainable. He was profiled as a screen/sweep specialist coming out of college due to his ability to make plays in open space, and Jacksonville has been smart by looking to get the ball in his hands in whatever ways necessary. Shenault only has nine carries, but he has had at least one in all four games, and his 5.9 yards per attempt are fifth highest among non-running backs, trailing only the obvious (Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and Robert Woods) and Daniel Jones. And since Houston has one of the worst run defenses in the league (fourth-worst run DVOA), Shenault has some added ceiling there.
But the rushing is only an upside factor with Shenault. Here we are looking at how he stacks up as a receiver against a miserable secondary. By now it should be obvious what defenses I am looking to target in this column — the Texans, Vikings, Raiders will remain my frequent collaborators year-round — and often I am looking for lower-cost receivers who could pop in these amenable circumstances. Houston’s pass coverage rates seventh worst by PFF grade, with four of their six primary defensive backs surrendering passer ratings over 100 and the team recording exactly zero interceptions. Now, part of that latter stat comes from the fact that they have played run-heavy offenses that have also built big leads, hence the fewest pass attempts seen in the NFL. But also, their secondary has been a liability for years, and Bill O’Brien did exactly nothing this offseason to offset that weakness.
Now, Shenault has not been a high-volume target per se through four games. He is averaging five targets and four catches a game for a shade under 50 yards and just the lone touchdown. However, his snap counts have been consistent (around 60%), he leads the Jaguars in yards after the catch, and he is coming off back-to-back five-catch games. Only two rookie receivers (CeeDee Lamb and Justin Jefferson) rate better by PFF grade, and only Lamb has a higher targeted passer rating. In other words, Shenault is one of the better young receivers in the league at making the most out of opportunities. Against a Houston defense that combines awful run defense with lax coverage, Shenault could be in line for the most touches he has ever seen. And he is still priced like a modestly producing receiver at middling ownership, so he is the whole package as far as fliers go.
Sunday Night Football Bonus
Tyler Lockett/D.K. Metcalf vs. Minnesota Vikings
This game is off the main slate, so I will be brief. Lockett and Metcalf are currently the most lethal stacking pair in the league, stronger than Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley, Lamb and Amari Cooper, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry or whoever else wants to make their case. Yes, much of that comes down to the quarterback throwing the ball, but as far as I know, Russell Wilson will be throwing to them Sunday night. Lockett and Metcalf are sharing targets and producing at obscene rates, placing 13th and first, respectively, in yards and top six in touchdowns. On a per-route basis, Metcalf is probably the better value due to his incredible downfield ability, but Lockett has a better floor with a larger target share and positional versatility. Against a Vikings defense ranking bottom of the barrel in every defensive metric, Wilson and his two favorite targets are the stack of the week. You could even throw in David Moore, who himself has become an undeniable deep threat.
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