Week 14 WR/CB Matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. James Bradberry, Shadow Grades & More

Week 14 WR/CB Matchups: DeAndre Hopkins vs. James Bradberry, Shadow Grades & More article feature image
Credit:

Harry How/Getty Images. Pictured: James Bradberry.

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 14 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 (Sun. 12/13): I have made updates based on injury reports for the week. Here are some changes and key situations to note.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • Texans WR Brandin Cooks (neck/foot) is OUT.
  • Falcons WR Julio Jones (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Lions WRs Kenny Golladay (hip) is OUT.
  • Panthers WR D.J. Moore (ankle/COVID-19) is OUT.
  • Jets WR Denzel Mims (personal) is OUT.
  • Bills WR John Brown (ankle, IR) is OUT.
  • Texans WR Randall Cobb (foot, IR) is OUT.
  • Browns WR KhaDarel Hodge (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Titans WR Adam Humphries (concussion, IR) is OUT.
  • Ravens WR Dez Bryant (COVID-19) is projected OUT.

Wide Receivers: IN

  • Cardinals WRs DeAndre Hopkins (neck/back) & Larry Fitzgerald (COVID-19) are IN.
  • Buccaneers WR Mike Evans (hamstring) is IN.
  • Steelers WR Chase Claypool (illness) is IN.
  • Ravens WR Willie Snead IV (COVID-19) is IN.
  • Jets WR Jamison Crowder (calf) is tentatively projected IN.
  • Panthers WR Curtis Samuel (COVID-19) is IN.
  • Packers WRs Allen Lazard (core) & Equanimeous St. Brown (knee/concussion) are projected IN.
  • Bears WR Darnell Mooney (personal) is projected IN.
  • Dolphins WRs Jakeem Grant (back) & Malcolm Perry (chest) are projected OUT.

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • Broncos CBs A.J. Bouye (suspension), Bryce Callahan (foot, IR) & Essang Bassey (knee) are OUT.
  • Steelers CB Joe Haden (concussion) is OUT.
  • Buccaneers CB Jamel Dean (concussion/groin) is projected OUT.
  • Raiders CB Damon Arnette (concussion/neck) is OUT.
  • Bears CB Buster Skrine (concussion) is OUT.
  • Cowboys CBs Trevon Diggs (foot, IR), Chidobe Awuzie (COVID-19) & Anthony Brown (ribs) are OUT.
  • Cardinals CB Johnathan Joseph (neck, IR) is OUT.
  • 49ers CB Emmanuel Moseley (hamstring) is projected OUT.
  • Titans CBs Adoree’ Jackson (knee) & Breon Borders (hip, IR) are OUT.
  • Saints CB Patrick Robinson (hamstring, IR) is OUT.
  • Texans CBs Bradley Roby (suspension) & Phillip Gaines (knee/shoulder) are OUT.
  • Giants CB Darnay Holmes (knee) is OUT.
  • Lions CBs Desmond Trufant (hamstring, IR) & Jeff Okudah (shoulder) are OUT.
  • Seahawks CB Quinton Dunbar (knee, IR) & Tre Flowers (hamstring, IR) are OUT.
  • Jaguars CBs C.J. Henderson (groin, IR), D.J. Hayden (hamstring, IR) & Chris Claybrooks (shoulder, IR) are projected OUT.
  • Vikings CBs Mike Hughes (neck, IR) & Mark Fields II (chest, IR) are projected OUT.
  • Jets CB Brian Poole (knee, IR) is projected OUT.
  • Browns CBs Denzel Ward (calf) & Greedy Williams (shoulder, IR) are projected OUT.

Cornerbacks: IN

  • Eagles CB Darius Slay (knee) is projected IN.
  • Ravens CB Jimmy Smith (groin) is tentatively projected IN.
  • Saints CB Janoris Jenkins (knee) is projected IN.
  • Panthers CB Donte Jackson (toe) is projected IN.
  • Steelers CB Steven Nelson (knee) is projected IN.
  • 49ers CB K’Waun Williams (ankle) is projected IN.
  • Jets CB Blessuan Austin (neck, IR) is projected IN.
  • Jaguars CB Sidney Jones (Achilles) is tentatively projected IN
  • Texans CB Phillip Gaines (knee/shoulder) is projected IN.
  • Bengals CBs Darius Phillips (illness) & Mackensie Alexander (knee) are projected IN.
  • Giants CB Darnay Holmes (knee) is projected IN.
  • Vikings CB Jeff Gladney (calf) is projected IN.

Jump To: WR/CB Matchup Matrix

WR/CB Matchup of the Week

Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins vs. Giants CB James Bradberry

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

For the third week in a row, Hopkins is the featured receiver in our top WR/CB matchup.

That’s what happens whenever a three-time All-Pro receiver faces cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore, Jalen Ramsey and now Bradberry in consecutive weeks.

Hopkins has been fantastic in his first season with the Cardinals. He’s No. 6 in the league with 1,019 yards receiving and No. 10 with 1,361 air yards and yards after the catch (AirYAC).

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

But Hopkins has been something of an up-and-down producer this year. In his five games since the Week 8 bye, he has been shadowed four times. Aside from a game-winning last-second Hail Mary, he has looked rather human.

DeAndre Hopkins vs. teams w/ shadow CBs:

– W9 vs. MIA (Xavien Howard): 3-30-0 (3 targets)
– W10 vs. BUF (Tre'Davious White): 7-127-1 (12)
– W12 at NE (Stephon Gilmore): 5-55-0 (7)
– W13 vs. LAR (Jalen Ramsey): 8-52-1 (13)

He faces CB James Bradberry this week.

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 7, 2020

The big issue with Hopkins is that his volume and efficiency have diminished as the season has progressed.

  • Pre-Week 7 Bye: 10.4 targets per game | 9.6 yards per target
  • Post-Week 7 Bye: 8.6 targets per game | 7.3 yards per target

Against shadow cornerbacks and in his present form, Hopkins has not looked like an all-world dominator.

A physical, press-man defender, Bradberry is the type of cornerback who has recently given Hopkins problems.

For the year, he has allowed just 5.8 yards per target with a 55.9% catch rate. With his 76.6 PFF coverage grade, Bradberry is having the best season of his career.

Hopkins could go off against Bradberry, but it’s likelier that we see yet another muted performance.

Action: Large downgrade for Hopkins

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Potential Week 14 Shadow Matchups

Here are the shadow matchups I’m projecting.

Projected Week 14 shadow matchups:
– Nuk vs. Bradberry 🔥🔥🔥
– Woods vs. Gilmore 🔥
– Meyers vs. Ramsey 🤣
– Cooper vs. W. Jackson 🤷‍♂️
– Slayton vs. Peterson 💤
– Evans vs. Dantzler ❓
– Thielen vs. Davis 🔥
– Thomas vs. Slay 🚀
– Jones vs. Hayward 🔥🔥
– Claypool vs. White 🔥🔥

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 8, 2020

Rams WR Robert Woods vs. Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | TV: FOX/NFL

Teammates together on the 2013-16 Bills, Woods and Gilmore will match up for much of the game.

Although Woods had a slow-ish first couple of months to the season (37-436-4 receiving), he is 34-328-1 receiving on 44 targets since the Week 9 bye. Over the past four games, he has looked every bit like the guy who put up 1,376 and 1,249 yards from scrimmage in 2018-19.

As for Gilmore, he hasn’t been his typical All-Pro self this year.

  • 2020: 58.6 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

But he seems to be rounding into shape. Over the past two weeks, he has allowed just 5-53-0 receiving on 10 targets while defending the likes of Hopkins, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams.

In his three-plus years with the Patriots, Gilmore has held receivers to a 51.4% catch rate and 6.7 yards per target. Even though he’s no longer the league’s best corner, he’s still a defender to fear.

Action: Large downgrade for Woods

Patriots WR Jakobi Meyers vs. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey

Kickoff: 8:20 p.m. ET on Thursday | TV: FOX/NFL

Even since Julian Edelman (knee/COVID-19, IR) suffered an injury in Week 7, Meyers has been the No. 1 receiver for the Pats with 33-391-0 receiving and 547 AirYAC on 46 targets in six games.

Meyers has run 56.9% of his routes from the slot this year and with his inside/outside versatility, he’s normally able to escape opposing No. 1 perimeter corners by moving into the interior of the formation.

But Ramsey isn’t a typical No. 1 corner.

In Weeks 4-5, Ramsey played primarily in the slot, and he also spent significant time there in Weeks 6 and 12.

He’s more than capable of shadowing a receiver into the slot, and that’s what I expect him to do with Meyers this week.

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 4.0 yards per target on a 42.9% catch rate and 4.2 targets per game.

Opposing quarterbacks want no part of Ramsey in 2020.

Action: Large downgrade for Meyers

Cowboys WR Amari Cooper vs. Bengals CB William Jackson III

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

Over the past three weeks, the Bengals have deployed No. 1 corner Jackson in shadow coverage against Terry McLaurin, Darius Slayton and DeVante Parker, so they’ll probably put him on Cooper.

Although Jackson has just three career interceptions, he has been a decidedly above-average cornerback for three of his four NFL seasons (based on PFF coverage grade).

  • 2017 (14 games): 90.4
  • 2018 (16 games): 72.9
  • 2019 (14 games): 55.2
  • 2020 (11 games): 73.1

For his career, Jackson has allowed a catch rate of just 52.6%.

Cooper was 6-112-1 receiving last week and is pacing for his fifth 1,000-yard season, but Jackson has the talent to slow him down at least a little.

Action: Small downgrade for Cooper

Giants WR Darius Slayton vs. Cardinals CB Patrick Peterson

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

Peterson has been used heavily in shadow coverage over the past two months, and Slayton looks like the type of receiver Peterson typically mans.

A three-time All-Pro corner, Peterson used to be great but has a subpar 50.2 PFF coverage grade this season. Since returning from his PED suspension last year, he has allowed 9.2 yards per target with a 68.3% catch rate.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Slayton will go off. Since No. 1 wide receiver Sterling Shepard returned from injury in Week 7, Slayton is 14-192-0 receiving on 24 targets in six games.

This matchup feels like a big meh-burger.

Action: No change for Slayton

Buccaneers WR Mike Evans vs. Vikings CB Cameron Dantzler

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

The Vikings have used Dantzler in shadow coverage since he returned from injury in Week 11, so he will likely be on Evans this week.

Although Evans is pacing to fall short of the 1,000-yard threshold for the first time in his career, he is still No. 4 in the league with 11 touchdowns receiving.

And even with Antonio Brown active over the past month, Evans has ranked No. 1 on the Bucs with 35 targets, 491 AirYAC and four touchdowns receiving.

Evans is still a receiver worthy of shadow coverage.

Dantzler looked like one of the worst corners in the league in his first four starts, as he allowed 27-316-4 receiving on 37 targets.

But since returning from injury he has looked like an entirely different player. Over the past three weeks, he has held opposing receivers to just 3.6 yards per target with a 35.7% catch rate.

Still, this is Evans vs. a rookie cornerback who weighs 185 pounds.

As good as Dantzler has been recently, the edge has to go to the veteran.

Action: Small upgrade for Evans

Vikings WR Adam Thielen vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis

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

Ever since rookie Justin Jefferson moved from the slot to the perimeter in Week 3, he has looked like the No. 1 receiver for the Vikings.

  • Justin Jefferson (10 games): 56-969-7 receiving, 131.8 AirYAC per game
  • Adam Thielen (nine games): 48-580-10 receiving, 107.5 AirYAC per game

But since Week 3, Thielen still leads the Vikings with a 28% target share, and for the season he is No. 3 in the league with 12 touchdowns receiving.

The Bucs might choose to play Davis primarily at left corner, but if they use him in shadow coverage, I bet he will be on Thielen.

For the first half of the season, Davis looked like an All-Pro defender, but he has been exploited for 13.7 yards per target on a 78.8% catch rate over the past four games.

Against the Chiefs in Week 12, Davis was especially outmatched as the primary defender on Tyreek Hill. If it’s possible, Davis was probably worse than indicated by the 12-236-3 receiving stat line he forfeited on 15 Hill targets.

But coming out of the bye and facing a non-speedster in Thielen, Davis should be improved.

Action: Moderate downgrade for Thielen

Saints WR Michael Thomas vs. Eagles CB Darius Slay

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

A longtime shadow corner for the Lions, 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

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

But Slay struggled in head coach Matt Patricia’s defensive scheme in 2019 and although he flashed early in the 2020 season, he has underwhelmed in his first year with the Eagles.

The past couple of weeks have been especially brutal for Slay, as he has faced D.K. Metcalf and Davante Adams in shadow coverage and allowed 16-269-2 receiving on 20 targets.

I expect more of the same this week with Michael Thomas, who is a team-best 22-259-0 receiving on 29 targets and a 39% target share in his three games with quarterback Taysom Hill starting.

Action: No change for Thomas

Falcons WR Julio Jones vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr.

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

UPDATE (Fri. 12/11): Jones (hamstring) is out. I know expect Hayward to shadow wide receiver Calvin Ridley. 

Jones has missed some time to injury this year, and some fantasy players are starting to worry that he’s slowing down at the age of 31.

I’m not.

In Julio Jones' 7 full games this year, he has averaged exactly 100 yards.

That's down from his 2013-19 per-game average of 102.8 yards.

He's clearly slowing down.

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) December 7, 2020

In his Week 13 return from injury, Jones was 6-94-0 receiving on 10 targets.

He’s still Julio.

But the Falcons offense has been anemic of late, and the matchup is tough.

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, Hayward’s catch rate allowed is only 45.6%. Last week, he had zero targets in his coverage.

Action: Large downgrade for Jones

Steelers WR Chase Claypool vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White

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

Note: I wrote this before the Bills and Steelers play in the Week 13 Monday Night Football doubleheaders.

White tends to match up best with big-bodied perimeter alphas, so I think he’s likely to shadow Claypool instead of No. 1 receiver Diontae Johnson.

And there’s a case to be made that Claypool is the true No. 1 option on the Steelers anyway. Since breaking into three-wide receiver sets in Week 3, Claypool has easily been the team’s most productive receiver.

  • Diontae Johnson (eight games): 43-434-3 receiving, 99.6 AirYAC per game
  • JuJu Smith-Schuster (nine games): 53-455-4 receiving, 71.2 AirYAC per game
  • Chase Claypool (nine games): 40-470-7 receiving, 116.3 AirYAC per game

In his 11 career games, Claypool has 10 touchdowns.

Why shouldn’t he draw White’s shadow?

A 2019 All-Pro defender, White has had an inconsistent season. On the one hand, he has allowed an egregious 10.0 yards per target. On the other hand, he has shadowed most opposing No. 1 receivers and allowed only 4.6 targets per game. His 72.1 PFF coverage grade this year speaks to his overall talent and play.

For his career, White has a 56.5% catch rate allowed.

Action: Medium downgrade for Claypool

Week 14 Shadow Borderline

There is on cornerback this week with a complicated shadow situation.

Ravens WR Dez Bryant vs. Browns CB Terrance Mitchell

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

Note: I am writing this before the Ravens play their Week 13 game on Tuesday night.

Without No. 1 cornerback Denzel Ward (calf), as well as 2019 starter Greedy Williams (shoulder, IR), the Browns have used Mitchell in shadow coverage for the past two weeks.

A seventh-year, seventh-round journeyman, Mitchell is actually not a bad player. In not one season has he had a PFF coverage grade lower than 60, and for his career he has allowed a manageable 7.2 yards per target with a 54.2% catch rate.

But Mitchell also has never been the top corner on his team, and he allowed 5-95-1 receiving on eight targets last week.

Mitchell doesn’t have the speed to hang with Marquise Brown, and he shadowed the bigger-bodied A.J. Brown in Week 13 so I tentatively expect him to tail the elderly Bryant, even though he’s not the No. 1 receiver for the Ravens.

In his two games this year as a regular contributor in three-wide receiver sets, Bryant has leveraged seven targets into 4-28-0 receiving.

In the words of Bert Cooper, “Who cares?”

Action: No change for Bryant

Notable Wide Receiver Upgrades

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

Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Texans CB Vernon Hargreaves III

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

Robinson is on pace to surpass last year’s 98-1,147-7 receiving campaign.

Hargreaves has allowed 9.2 yards per target for his career and has a dirty 39.7 PFF coverage grade on the year.

Action: Large upgrade for Robinson

Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf vs. Jets CBs Lamar Jackson

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

UPDATE (Fri. 12/11): Jets CB Blessuan Austin (neck, IR) is expected to return to action, sending Jackson to the sideline

Metcalf is Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in the NFL with 93.3 yards receiving and 144.5 AirYAC per game.

Jackson is an undrafted rookie backup who in five starts has allowed five touchdowns, the most recent of which you’ve probably seen …

HENRY RUGGS FOR THE GO-AHEAD TD!!!!#LVvsNYJ | CBS pic.twitter.com/82kLmV1e5a

— Las Vegas Raiders (@Raiders) December 6, 2020

… and for the season he has allowed 11.2 yards per target.

Action: Large upgrade for Metcalf

Notable Wide Receiver Downgrades

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

Lions WR Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander

Kickoff: 4:25 p.m. ET on Sunday | TV: FOX

Jones has six touchdowns in his eight games without a healthy Kenny Golladay (hip), but he has been extremely volatile with a median of just four receptions and 50 yards in those games.

Alexander is No. 3 among all corners with his 83.1 PFF coverage grade, and he has allowed just 5.6 yards per target this year.

Action: Large downgrade for Jones

Browns WR Jarvis Landry vs. Ravens CB Marlon Humphrey

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

Note: I am writing this before the Ravens play their Week 13 game on Tuesday night.

In his five games without No. 1 wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. (knee, IR), Landry has a smoking 32% target share but still has only 25 receptions in that span.

Humphrey was an All-Pro slot defender last year, and he has allowed just 6.2 yards per target this year.

Action: Large downgrade for Landry

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 in the WR/CB matrix.

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

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • NA

Wide Receivers: IN

  • N/A

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • NA

Cornerbacks: IN

  • NA

NFL Week 14 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 847-663-30 (56.1%) 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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