Week 12 WR/CB Matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Stephon Gilmore, Shadow Grades & More

Week 12 WR/CB Matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. Stephon Gilmore, Shadow Grades & More article feature image
Credit:

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images. Pictured: Stephon Gilmore #24 of the New England Patriots.

Wide receiver-cornerback showdowns might be the most important individual matchups in football.

In this piece, I leverage snap data from Pro Football Focus (PFF) to project NFL Week 12 WR/CB matchups, especially shadow situations.

For more, see the FantasyLabs Matchups page, where we provide basic and advanced data — including fantasy and red-zone performance — for each offensive skill-position player based on his matchup.

As we get more clarity during the week on the injury status of receivers and corners, I will update my WR/CB projections.

Let’s start with this week’s featured matchup and then run through all the potential shadow matchups, the most notable upgrades and downgrades and the injury situations to monitor.

WR/CB Injury Updates

UPDATE (Sat. 11/28): I have made updates based on injury reports for the week. Here are some changes and key situations to note.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • Vikings WR Adam Thielen (COVID-19) is projected OUT.
  • Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald (COVID-19) is OUT.
  • Bills WR John Brown (ankle) is OUT.
  • Packers WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Achilles) is projected OUT.
  • 49ers WR Brandon Aiyuk (COVID-19) is projected OUT.
  • Jaguars WRs D.J. Chark Jr. (ribs) & Chris Conley (hip) are OUT.
  • Titans WR Adam Humphries (concussion) is OUT.
  • Bengals WR Auden Tate (COVID-19) is projected OUT.
  • WR Deonte Harris (neck) is projected OUT.
  • Chiefs WR Byron Pringle (ankle, IR) is OUT.
  • Lions WRs Kenny Golladay (hip) & Danny Amendola (hip) are OUT.
  • Texans WRs Randall Cobb (foot, IR) & Kenny Stills (leg) are OUT.

Wide Receivers: IN

  • Falcons WR Julio Jones (hamstring) is tentatively projected IN.
  • Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy (ankle/Achilles) is projected IN.
  • 49ers WR Deebo Samuel (hamstring) is IN.
  • Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring/calf) is IN.
  • Jaguars WR Laviska Shenault Jr. (hamstring) is IN.
  • Colts WR Zach Pascal (knee/foot) is tentatively projected IN.
  • Dolphins WR Jakeem Grant is tentatively projected IN.
  • Packers WR Equanimeous St. Brown (knee) is projected IN.
  • Football Team WRs Terry McLaurin (ankle) & Dontrelle Inman (hamstring) are IN.

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr. (groin) is OUT.
  • Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean (concussion) is OUT.
  • Panthers CB Donte Jackson (toe) is projected OUT.
  • Titans CB Adoree’ Jackson (knee) is OUT.
  • 49ers CB K’Waun Williams (ankle) is OUT.
  • Jaguars CBs C.J. Henderson (groin, IR), Sidney Jones (Achilles), D.J. Hayden (hamstring, IR) & Chris Claybrooks (shoulder) are OUT.
  • Jets CBs Brian Poole (knee, IR) & Blessuan Austin (neck, IR) are OUT.
  • Browns CBs Denzel Ward (calf) & Greedy Williams (shoulder, IR) are OUT.
  • Raiders CB Lamarcus Joyner (COVID-19) is projected OUT.
  • Vikings CBs Mike Hughes (neck, IR), Holton Hill (foot, IR) & Mark Fields II (chest, IR) are OUT.
  • Seahawks CBs Quinton Dunbar (knee, IR) & Shaquill Griffin (concussion/hamstring) are OUT & projected OUT.
  • Eagles CB Cre’Von LeBlanc (ankle) is projected OUT.
  • Lions CBs Jeff Okudah (shoulder) & Mike Ford (concussion) are OUT.
  • Cowboys CBs Trevon Diggs (foot, IR) & Anthony Brown (ribs) are OUT.

Cornerbacks: IN

  • 49ers CB Richard Sherman (calf, IR) is projected IN.
  • Saints CB Marshon Lattimore (abdomen) is IN.
  • Chargers CBs Chris Harris Jr. (foot, IR) & Brandon Facyson (COVID-19) are projected IN.
  • Broncos CB Bryce Callahan (foot) is projected IN.
  • Packers CBs Kevin King (Achille) & Josh Jackson (concussion) are tentatively projected IN.
  • Bills CBs Levi Wallace (COVID-19) & Josh Norman (COVID-19) are projected IN.
  • Bears CB Buster Skrine (ankle) is projected IN.
  • Bengals CB Mackensie Alexander (hamstring) is projected IN.
  • Lions CB Amani Oruwariye (back) is IN.

Jump To: WR/CB Matchup Matrix

WR/CB Matchup of the Week

Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

In this matchup, we get a three-time All-Pro receiver going against the 2019 Defensive Player of the Year.

It absolutely must be the featured matchup of the week.

Hopkins has been fantastic in his first season with the Cardinals: He leads the league with 912 yards receiving.

But 2020 has been rough on Gilmore, who was hit with COVID-19 in Week 5 and a hamstring injury in Weeks 8-10.

And on the field he hasn’t been his typical All-Pro self.

  • 2020: 61.9 PFF coverage grade | 8.7 yards per target
  • 2019: 85.4 PFF coverage grade | 5.7 yards per target
  • 2018: 90.8 PFF coverage grade | 5.7 yards per target
  • 2017: 87.2 PFF coverage grade | 5.1 yards per target

In just one game this year has Gilmore allowed more than 25 yards directly in his coverage — but in that game he pretty much had his soul stolen by D.K. Metcalf.

In his three-plus years with the Patriots, Gilmore has held receivers to a 51.3% catch rate and 6.6 yards per target, so he’s still a corner to be feared, but he’s no longer the best cornerback in the game.

Even so, he’s still good enough to slow Hopkins, who has been something of an up-and-down producer this year. Against Xavien Howard and the Dolphins in Week 9, Hopkins was just 3-30-0 receiving on three targets. The next week against Tre’Davious White and the Bills, he was 7-127-1 on 12.

Hopkins could go off against Gilmore, but I think it’s likelier that we see one of his more muted performances this week.

Action: Large downgrade for Hopkins

Potential Week 12 Shadow Matchups

Here are the shadow matchups I’m projecting.

Chargers WRs Mike Williams (& Keenan Allen) vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

Ordinarily, we would see White shadow opposing No. 1 receivers, but he almost never goes into the slot, whence Allen has run almost half (47.9%) of his routes.

That’s right, “whence.”

So when Allen is in the slot I expect to see White man up Williams, who has run a supermajority (70.8%) of his routes on the perimeter.

Allen is dominant: He is 75-769-5 receiving on 102 targets in his eight full games with quarterback Justin Herbert. When he’s on the outside, there’s a chance White will be on him.

But Williams is also more than worthy of attention: He is 22-403-4 receiving on 38 targets in six games since returning from injury in Week 5. And since 2018 he has been one of the best receivers in the league on a per-target basis.

He fits the prototype of the big-bodied alpha perimeter White tends to shadow.

A 2019 All-Pro defender, White has had an inconsistent year. On the one hand, he has allowed an egregious 10.7 yards per target. On the other hand, he has shadowed most opposing No. 1 receivers — including D.K. Metcalf and DeAndre Hopkins in Weeks 9-10 before the bye — and allowed only 3.6 targets per game.

For his career, White has a 55.7% catch rate allowed.

Action: Large downgrade for Williams, no change for Allen

Jaguars WR D.J. Chark Jr. vs. Browns CB Denzel Ward

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

UPDATE (Fri. 11/27): Chark (hip) is out. Life …

UPDATE (Tue. 11/24): Ward (calf) has suffered an injury and is likely to miss a few weeks. I now expect the Browns to play sides with their corners and for Chark to match up most with Terrance Mitchell and Kevin Johnson on the perimeter.

In his three games with rookie quarterback Jake Luton, Chark is No. 4 in the league with 434 air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC) and easily leads the team with 25 targets, 15 receptions and 243 yards receiving.

AirYAC is a leading indicator of fantasy production and can be found in the RotoViz NFL Player Statistical Summary.

But this week he’s likely to face Ward, whom the Browns have used in shadow coverage over the past two weeks.

For his career, Ward has allowed just 5.9 yards per target with a 51.7% catch rate.

Action: Large downgrade for Chark

49ers WR Deebo Samuel vs. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey

Kickoff: 4:05 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Note: I’m writing this before the Rams play on Monday Night Football for Week 11.

Coming out of the bye, the 49ers have an unsettled wide receiver unit. Brandon Aiyuk (COVID-19) was put on the pandemic reserve list a few days ago so he’s highly uncertain for Week 12, as is Deebo Samuel (hamstring).

But before the bye head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the team hoped to have Samuel back this week. Right now I’m tentatively projecting him in and that means he’s likely to face No. 1 cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who typically matches up with top opposing receivers.

Against the Cowboys in Week 1, Ramsey had a tough matchup and allowed a line of 8-81-0 receiving on nine targets. On top of that, he was beat deep for a long reception toward the end of the game that was called back by a questionable pass interference.

By the eyes and the numbers, it was a bad performance.

Since then, however, Ramsey has allowed just 4.2 yards per target on a 40.0% catch rate and 3.6 targets per game.

Opposing quarterbacks want no part of Ramsey.

Action: Large downgrade for Samuel

Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: NBC

Allen Robinson hasn’t always had it easy …

… and this week it’s likely to be even harder. Quarterbacks Nick Foles (hip) and Mitchell Trubisky (shoulder) are uncertain to play, so he could have third-string journeyman Tyler Bray throwing to him.

Plus, he could be shadowed by Alexander.

Not always does Alexander match up with No. 1 receivers: He missed Week 10 with an injury, but in Weeks 9 & 11 he played almost solely at left corner.

But Alexander has shadowed in five games this year, and given the type of receiver Robinson is and how thin the Bears are at the position outside of Robinson, this looks like a shadow spot.

Alexander is No. 1 among all cornerbacks with his 89.9 PFF coverage grade.

Action: Large downgrade for Robinson

Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf vs. Eagles CB Darius Slay

Kickoff: 8:15 p.m. ET on Monday | TV: ESPN

Metcalf is No. 3 in the league with 135.7 AirYAC and 86.2 yards receiving per game. His second-year breakout has been one of the big stories of the season.

But despite his big performances against Stephon Gilmore (4-92-1 receiving, Week 2) and Tre’Davious White (7-108-1, Week 9), he has struggled recently against the shadow coverage of Patrick Peterson and Jalen Ramsey.

  • Week 7 (at ARI): 2-23-0, five targets
  • Week 10 (at LAR): 2-28-0, four targets
  • Week 11 (vs. ARI): 3-46-1, five targets

Slay lacks the size and physicality of Peterson and Ramsey, but Metcalf is the type of big-bodied receiver Slay typically shadows, so I expect to see him on Metcalf for most of the game.

Slay was one of the league’s most reliable cover men for over half a decade in Detroit.

  • 2014: 70.0 PFF coverage grade | 7.0 yards per target
  • 2015: 77.0 PFF coverage grade | 8.5 yards per target
  • 2016: 80.2 PFF coverage grade | 6.8 yards per target
  • 2017: 80.0 PFF coverage grade | 6.8 yards per target
  • 2018: 78.2 PFF coverage grade | 6.2 yards per target

Slay was especially strong in 2016-18, a period highlighted by a 2017 All-Pro campaign in which he had league-high marks with eight interceptions and 26 passes defensed.

With the Lions, he regularly faced opposing No. 1 receivers and was one of the few shadow defenders who followed his man from the perimeter to the slot.

After a down 2019 season — perhaps because of head coach Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme — Slay has rebounded a little in his first year with the Eagles.

He hasn’t regained the elite form he had with the Lions, but he has a serviceable 67.3 PFF coverage grade and has forfeited only one touchdown.

Action: Small downgrade for Metcalf

Week 12 Shadow Borderline

There are three cornerbacks this week with somewhat complicated potential shadow situations.

Bills WR Stefon Diggs vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr.

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

UPDATE (Fri. 11/27): Hayward (groin) is out.

The Chargers used Hayward in shadow coverage in Weeks 9-10, but in Week 11 he returned to his customary spot at left corner, where he is still likely to match up most with Diggs on Sunday.

Diggs is No. 3 in the league with 90.6 yards receiving and No. 6 with 129.2 AirYAC per game.

But Hayward entered the season as PFF’s No. 3 cornerback, and he has allowed a catch rate of just 52.2% since joining the Chargers in 2016.

This year, his catch rate allowed is only 45.6%.

Action: Large downgrade for Diggs

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers vs. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Peterson has shadowed in each of his past four games — but in those matchups he faced D.K. Metcalf (twice), Stefon Diggs and DeVante Parker.

This week, his options are Jakobi Meyers and Damiere Byrd.

Meyers has team-high marks with 34 targets, 26 receptions, 324 yards receiving and 414 AirYAC in four games without No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman (knee, IR). But he’s 8-97-0 receiving over the past two weeks, whereas Byrd was an explosive 6-132-1 receiving just last week.

It’s not clear which receiver Peterson should shadow, so the Cardinals might put him at his usual spot at left corner, where he will defend Meyers most.

For the year, Peterson has a mediocre 51.0 PFF coverage grade.

Action: No change for Meyers

Bengals WR Tee Higgins vs. Giants CB James Bradberry

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Monday | TV: FOX

Although Bradberry has shadowed for most of the year, before the bye the Giants in Week 9 played him primarily at left corner, and I bet they do the same this week, given how similarly the Bengals have used Higgins and veteran A.J. Green.

At left corner, Bradberry will likely match up most with Higgins, who is 40-594-4 receiving on 65 targets in eight games since his Week 3 breakout with a team-high 133.2 AirYAC per game.

A physical, press-man defender, Bradberry has allowed just 5.9 yards per target with a 55.4% catch rate this year.

Action: Large downgrade for Higgins

Notable Wide Receiver Upgrades

Here are a couple of advantageous matchups that should not be ignored.

Panthers WRs D.J. Moore & Robby Anderson vs. Vikings CBs Cameron Dantzler & Kris Boyd

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Moore and Anderson will combine to run the supermajority of their routes on the perimeter against rookies Dantzler and Boyd.

Moore is having a very underappreciated season.

Anderson is the No. 7 wide receiver in the league with a 27% market share of targets.

In his five full games, Dantzler has allowed four touchdowns. Boyd has allowed 10.3 yards per target this year.

Action: Large upgrades for Moore & Anderson

Dolphins WRs DeVante Parker & Jakeem Grant vs. Jets CBs Bryce Hall & Lamar Jackson

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: CBS

The Jets are without Week 1 starters Blessuan Austin (neck, IR) and Pierre Desir (waived), so backups Hall and Jackson are manning the perimeter.

Parker has a 26% target share and Grant has six opportunities per game in their two weeks without teammate Preston Williams (foot, IR).

Hall has allowed a 72.7% catch rate in his two NFL games. Jackson has allowed 17-249-3 receiving on 20 targets.

Action: Large upgrades for Parker & Grant

Notable Wide Receiver Downgrades

Here are a couple of disadvantageous matchups to keep in mind.

Steelers WR Diontae Johnson vs. Ravens CB Jimmy Smith

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | TV: NBC

Johnson has suffered injuries in several games this year.

  • Week 3: Concussion
  • Week 5: Back
  • Week 7: Leg/ankle
  • Week 8: Hamstring

But in the seven games in which Johnson has played at least 70% of the snaps (Weeks 1-2, Weeks 7-11), he is 48-539-4 receiving with a team-high 78 targets.

In Week 8 against the Ravens he tweaked his hamstring in the first quarter, but he quickly returned to the game and had a 77% snap rate seemingly without limitation. In the first practice of Week 9, Johnson was a full participant with no mention at all of the hamstring in the practice report, so the injury truly seems to have been a nonissue.

Here’s why it’s important: Johnson was just 1-6-0 receiving on three targets in the game — and people are writing off that performance because of the hamstring.

I think it might’ve had something to do with the Ravens pass defense and Smith in particular.

Smith is a should-be All-Pro corner who has allowed just 4.8 yards per target with a 50% catch rate on just four targets per game since last year.

Action: Large downgrade for Johnson

Cardinals WR Christian Kirk vs. Patriots CB J.C. Jackson

Kickoff: 1 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

With No. 1 cornerback Stephon Gilmore on DeAndre Hopkins, the smaller Jackson will likely defend Kirk for most of the game.

In seven games since returning from injury in Week 4, Kirk is 28-420-6 receiving.

But Jackson is a ballhawk with a career 5:14 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In his two-plus NFL seasons, he has allowed just 6.6 yards per target with a 50.6% catch rate.

Action: Large downgrade for Kirk

WR/CB Injuries to Monitor

I take a cautious approach to players I think are likely to be questionable at best. If they look probable to play by the weekend, I will include them.

Here are the injury situations I’m monitoring and projecting early in the week.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • NA

Wide Receivers: IN

  • NA

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • NA

Cornerbacks: IN

  • NA

NFL Week 12 WR/CB Matrix

Pos = left, right or slot WR or CB
Projected shadow matchups are CAPITALIZED

WR Exp = Wide Receiver Expectation: I rank from 3 to -3 how much I think we should adjust expectations for wide receivers based on matchups. 3: Large upgrade. 2: Medium upgrade. 1: Small upgrade. 0: No change. -1: Small downgrade. -2: Medium downgrade. -3: Large downgrade.

Thanks to Scott Barrett for providing me with some of PFF’s historical data.


Matthew Freedman is 788-631-37 (55.5%) overall betting on the NFL. You can follow him in our free app.

The Editor-in-Chief of FantasyLabs, Freedman is commonly called the Oracle & the Labyrinthian.

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