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Week 7 WR/CB Matchups: Allen Robinson vs. Jalen Ramsey, Shadow Grades & More

Week 7 WR/CB Matchups: Allen Robinson vs. Jalen Ramsey, Shadow Grades & More article feature image

Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Ramsey.

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

In this piece, I leverage snap data from Pro Football Focus to project NFL Week 7 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 and most notable upgrades and downgrades.

UPDATE (Sat. 10/24): I have made updates based on injury reports for the week. Here are some changes and key situations to note.

Wide Receivers: OUT

  • Saints WRs Michael Thomas (hamstring), Emmanuel Sanders (COVID-19) & Bennie Fowler (shoulder, IR) are OUT.
  • Jets WR Jamison Crowder (groin) is projected OUT.
  • Chiefs WR Sammy Watkins (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Panther WRs Keith Kirkwood (shoulder, IR) is OUT
  • Bills WR John Brown (knee) is OUT.
  • Football Team WRs Steven Sims (toe, IR), Antonio Gandy-Golden (hamstring) & Isaiah Wright (shoulder) are OUT.

Wide Receivers: IN

  • Cardinals WR DeAndre Hopkins (ankle) is projected IN.
  • Steelers WR Diontae Johnson (back) is IN.
  • Panthers WR Curtis Samuel (knee) is projected IN.
  • Titans WR Corey Davis (COVID-19) is IN.
  • Broncos WR K.J. Hamler (hamstring) is IN.
  • Rams WR Robert Woods (groin) is projected IN.
  • Jets WR Denzel Mims (hamstring) is projected IN.

Cornerbacks: OUT

  • Bengals CB William Jackson III (concussion) is OUT.
  • Lions CB Desmond Trufant (hamstring) is OUT.
  • Steelers CB Mike Hilton (shoulder) is OUT.
  • Bills CBs Levi Wallace (ankle, IR), Josh Norman (hamstring) & Tre’Davious White are respectively OUT, OUT & projected OUT.
  • Packers CB Kevin King (quadricep) is projected OUT.
  • 49ers CBs Richard Sherman (calf, IR) & K’Waun Williams (knee/hip, IR) are OUT.
  • Panthers CB Rasul Douglas (COVID-19) is OUT.

Cornerbacks: IN

  • Broncos CB A.J. Bouye (shoulder) is projected IN.
  • Panthers CBs Donte Jackson (toe) & Eli Apple (hamstring) are tentatively projected IN.
  • Saints CB Janoris Jenkins (shoulder) is IN.
  • Cardinals CB Dre Kirkpatrick (foot) is projected IN.
  • Bears CB Buster Skrine (ankle) is tentatively projected IN.

JUMP TO: WR/CB Matchup Matrix

WR/CB Matchup of the Week

Bears WR Allen Robinson vs. Rams CB Jalen Ramsey

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

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 penalty.

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

Since then, however, Ramsey has allowed just 2.0 yards per target on a 37.5% catch rate.

A 2017 All-Pro pass defender, Ramsey has always been great, but this year he has really come into his own. He seems to attack each play with the mindset that he’s the best cornerback in the NFL — and he’s probably not wrong.

For the season, Ramsey has allowed just 4.5 yards per target and only 4.2 targets per game.

Over the past few weeks, Ramsey has played in the slot more than he has at any point of his career, but that usage should be contextualized.

In Weeks 4 and 6, Ramsey played most against Golden Tate and Deebo Samuel, opposing No. 1 wide receivers who see a high percentage of their snaps in the slot (Tate is almost exclusively a slot receiver, and Samuel lines up all across the field).

I can’t explain what happened in Week 5, when Ramsey played almost all of his snaps in the interior and faced Washington slot fodder Isaiah Wright instead of perimeter star Terry McLaurin. That was weird.

But his shadow usage in Weeks 1-4 and 6 suggests that Ramsey will match up with Robinson this week and follow him all over the field.

As for Robinson, he is 32-367-2 on 48 targets over the past month. The quarterback switch from Mitchell Trubisky to Nick Foles has reinvigorated him.

This week, though, our expectations for Robinson should be held in check. When the Bears and Rams played last year in Week 11, Robinson was just 4-15-0 on six targets. Ramsey faced him on 57.1% of his routes and held him to zero catches on two targets.

Given that he made his NFL bones as a rookie by going against Robinson every day in practice with the 2016 Jaguars,  it wouldn’t be surprising to see Ramsey force the receiver into his worst performance so far with Foles under center.

Action: Large downgrade for Robinson

Potential Week 7 Shadow Matchups

Here are the shadow matchups I’m projecting.

Allen Robinson, Bears Jalen Ramsey, Rams
Davante Adams, Packers Bradley Roby, Texans
Will Fuller, Texans Jaire Alexander, Packers
Darius Slayton, Giants Darius Slay, Eagles
Travis Fulgham, Eagles James Bradberry, Giants
Deebo Samuel, 49ers Stephon Gilmore, Patriots

Eagles WR Travis Fulgham vs. Giants CB James Bradberry

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

With injuries to wide receivers Alshon Jeffery (illness/foot), DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and Jalen Reagor (thumb, injured reserve) and tight ends Zach Ertz (ankle) and Dallas Goedert (ankle, injured reserve), Fulgham has started over the past three weeks and flashed with 18-284-3 on 26 targets.

Jackson is reportedly planning to play in Week 7, and Goedert is now technically eligible to be activated off the IR, but both are far from certain to suit up. Even if they play, they could be limited.

Fulgham has seen double-digit targets in each of the past two weeks, and he could hit that threshold again on Thursday Night Football.

He’ll need that volume if he’s to make up for his tough matchup against Bradberry, a physical press-man defender who has been used in shadow coverage over the past five weeks. Over that time, Bradberry has allowed just 16-140-0 and 5.0 yards per target while breaking up six passes and grabbing two interceptions.

In his first season with the Giants, he has been a lone bright spot for the defense, putting up an 84.4 PFF coverage grade. No other key contributor in the secondary has a mark of even 60. Given how poorly the rest of the secondary is playing, it seems highly like that Bradberry will shadow the big-bodied Fulgham.

As well as Fulgham has played recently, we should expect him to regress to a more sustainable stat line in Week 7.

Action: Large downgrade for Fulgham

Giants WR Darius Slayton vs. Eagles CB Darius Slay

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

Sometimes, life just works out. I was so excited about this matchup earlier in the week that I forgot to type the word “for” in my Slayton-Slay tweet.

Already getting excited the Week 7 Darius Slayton-Darius Slay WR/CB matchup, and it 100% has to do with the name, that's it, I'm really that vacuous.

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 19, 2020

Watching Slay on Slayton go at each other all game might be the best part of this lackluster Thursday Night Football matchup.

There’s no guarantee that Slay will actually tail Slayton. In Weeks 2 and 4-6, he played almost exclusively at left corner. But in Weeks 1 and 3, Slay shadowed Terry McLaurin and A.J. Green, and of all the other receivers he has faced this season, Slayton might be the most comparable to McLaurin and Green in terms of his size, athleticism and playing style.

Slayton is 25-406-3 on 44 targets for the season. He’s the heart of the Giants passing offense. A boom-or-bust, big-play receiver, Slayton has the capacity to go off for 100 yards and a touchdown in any game — but when he doesn’t have a big yardage total or find the end zone, he usually underwhelms, often for stretches at a time.

In Weeks 2-4, he was 9-134-0 on 20 targets.

His ceiling is high but floor is low, and we could see a game closer to his floor this weekend if he’s shadowed by Slay, who was one of the league’s most reliable cover men for over half a decade in Detroit.

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

Slay was especially strong in 2016-18, a period that was 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 capable of tailing his man from the perimeter to the slot.

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

He hasn’t regained the elite form he had with the Lions, but he has allowed a manageable 7.5 yards per target on 5.5 targets per game and is yet to forfeit a touchdown.

When they matchup up, Slayton will be challenged.

Action: Medium downgrade for Slayton

Packers WR Davante Adams vs. Texans CB Bradley Roby

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

Under the impression that Roby is a shutdown corner, the Texans have had him tail No. 1 receivers over the past six games (going back to the Divisional Round of the playoffs).

Only one cornerback has shadowed opposing No. 1 receivers in every game this year.

Bradley Roby.

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 12, 2020

I must admit: His individual numbers look good. This year, he has allowed just 6.5 yards per target in his coverage.

“In his coverage” is the key phrase there.

In Week 4, Adam Thielen went off for 8-114-1 on 10 targets with Roby as the primary corner on him, but against Roby specifically, he was just 2-14-1 on four targets.

In Week 6, A.J. Brown was 5-56-2 on seven targets, again with Roby as his primary defender, but against Roby in particular he was 2-22-1 on three targets.

How is that possible?

Thielen and Brown were able to escape Roby often enough to get their production against linebackers and safeties in zone coverage — because even when Roby follows a receiver all across the field to line up opposite him, that doesn’t mean he actually defends that guy throughout the entirety of his route.

In other words, even though Roby has good numbers when targeted, that doesn’t mean the receivers he shadows can’t have big games.

And I’m a little dubious of Roby’s production to begin with.

In Weeks 1 and 2, the Chiefs and Ravens racked up 34-20 and 33-16 victories against the Texans. They didn’t need to throw the ball, and when they did throw, they didn’t need to throw downfield.

In Week 3, Roby benefitted from injury luck against wide receiver Diontae Johnson, who left early in the second quarter with a concussion.

And then in Week 5 he faced the inconsistent Jaguars, who saw No. 1 wide receiver D.J. Chark exit in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

I doubt that Roby is actually as good as his numbers suggest.

In 2017, Roby had a career-high 77.5 PFF coverage grade with the Broncos and looked like a solidly above-average defender — but he was the No. 3 cornerback next to All-Pro shutdown men Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr. He benefited from silk-soft matchups.

But since 2018, when Talib left the Broncos and Roby was elevated to the No. 2 role, he has allowed 8.5 yards per target first with the Broncos (2018) and now with the Texans (2019-20).

What Roby has done recently against No. 1 receivers — and what he’s done across his career — has been solidly unremarkable.

Roby isn’t a bad corner, but he’s not someone a quarterback should avoid.

As for Adams … he’s Davante Adams. He underwhelmed last week with 6-61-0 on 10 targets in his return from a hamstring injury, but there’s a case to be made that Adams is the NFL’s best wide receiver.

Even with Roby on him, Adams should return to form this week.

Action: No change for Adams

Texans WR Will Fuller vs. Packers CB Jaire Alexander

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

This is a matchup between two players coming into their own.

For the first four years of his career, Fuller played behind former teammate DeAndre Hopkins and missed significant time to various injuries.

This year, though, with Hopkins gone and Fuller mostly healthy, he has broken out with 28-455-4 on 41 targets in six games — and that includes his hamstring-impacted, zero-target Week 2. In all other games, Fuller has either 100 yards or a touchdown.

The day I stop being optimistic about Will Fuller is the day I lie dead and buried six feet under in the coffin Will Fuller has put me in.

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) September 23, 2020

Fuller forever … but maybe not this week.

Alexander is No. 2 at the position with a 90.7 PFF coverage grade and has just 5.3 yards per target allowed on 4.6 targets per game.

Ever since his rookie year, the Packers have periodically tried to use Alexander in shadow coverage, and it usually hasn’t gone well for him.

His first shadow assignment was against divisional rival Adam Thielen in Week 12 of 2018. Thielen went off for 8-125-1 on nine targets. In Week 1 of this season, Alexander once again shadowed Thielen, who was 6-110-2 on eight targets.

As the Meat Puppets once put it: “Some things will never change. You just stand there looking backwards half unconscious from the pain.”

But things have started to change for Alexander. In Weeks 4 and 6 (with a Week 5 bye), he shadowed Calvin Ridley and Mike Evans, both of whom underwhelmed (production vs. Alexander directly in parentheses).

  • Calvin Ridley (Week 4): 0-0-0, five targets (0-0-0, two targets)
  • Mike Evans (Week 5): 1-10-0, two targets (0-0-0, one target)

Given his recent performance and usage as well as his athleticism (4.38-second 40-yard dash), Alexander seems likely to shadow Fuller.

With this matchup, Alexander might revert back to his pre-Weeks 4-6 shadow form. Fuller is dynamic enough to beat any corner.

But Alexander also might be fulfilling the promise he showed three years ago when the Packers selected him in the first round.

Action: Medium downgrade for Fuller

49ers WR Deebo Samuel vs. Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore

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

Despite spending most of Week 6 in Jalen Ramsey’s shadow, Samuel was able to avoid him on enough of his routes to go 6-66-1 on six targets. Under the circumstances, that’s a great line.

Samuel looks to be fully over the foot injury that sidelined him for most of training camp and Weeks 1-3.

The Patriots have the league’s most shadow-heavy defense, and I imagine that Gilmore will spend most of the game on Samuel.

In his return from COVID-19 last week, Gilmore moved across the formation and spent time on both Tim Patrick and DaeSean Hamilton, and although Patrick went off for 4-101-0 on eight targets, none of that came against Gilmore, who was his usual self with zero catches allowed on two targets.

The 2019 Defensive Player of the Year, Gilmore has held receivers to a 50.8% catch rate and 6.6 yards per target in his three-plus years with the Patriots.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will figure out ways to scheme Samuel open and move him out of Gilmore’s coverage when he can, but WR/CB matchups don’t get any harder than this one.

Action: Large downgrade for Samuel

Week 6 Shadow Borderline

There are two cornerbacks with matchups on the shadow borderline. Although these cornerbacks shadow periodically, I cannot say with confidence that they will follow opposing No. 1 receivers across the formation this week.

Jets WR Breshad Perriman vs. Bills CB Tre’Davious White

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

Against No. 1 receivers, the Bills almost always use White in shadow coverage, who has allowed just 7.2 yards per target on a 54.9% catch rate for his career.

Of course, Perriman is hardly anyone’s idea of a No. 1 receiver.

They will likely line up on the same side of the field anyway for many of Perriman’s routes, but the All-Pro defender might not go the full distance of tailing Perriman all over the formation.

Action: Large downgrade for Perriman

Raiders WR Henry Ruggs III vs. Buccaneers CB Carlton Davis

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

I have become enamored with Davis this year.

Bucs CB Carlton Davis still playing like All-Pro: 5.7 yards per target, 52.6% catch rate allowed.

Shadow matchups since Week 12, 2019:
– Julio: 4-58-0 (6 targets)
– Nuk: 4-19-0 (7)
– Julio: 4-58-0 (6)
– MT: 2-9-0 (4)
– Keenan: 1-9-0 (3)
– A-Rob: 6-50-0 (9)
– Davante: 3-33-0 (5)

— Matthew Freedman (@MattFtheOracle) October 19, 2020

Dating back to last season, he has allowed just 6.1 yards per target and become a true shutdown defender.

Davis typically shadows larger No. 1 receivers, so I doubt he will tail Ruggs this week, but they should still see each other a lot through the natural course of the game.

Ruggs has the speed to get deep on any corner, but as long as Davis is able to get his hands on Ruggs early in his routes to slow him down and redirect him, the rookie receiver could struggle.

Action: Large downgrade for Ruggs

Notable Wide Receiver Upgrades

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

Falcons WR Calvin Ridley vs. Lions CB Jeffrey Okudah

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

Ridley is No. 1 in the league with 160.1 air yards and yards after the catch combined per game (AirYAC, a leading and simple-to-understand indicator of receiving production, available in the RotoViz Weekly Stats App).

Okudah was benched in Week 4 and has allowed 19-299-0 on 26 targets and limited action. He’s dead last among starting corners with a 30.4 PFF coverage grade.

Action: Large upgrade for Ridley

Football Team WR Terry McLaurin vs. Cowboys CB Daryl Worley

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

McLaurin is on pace for a 1,300-yard season despite facing the league’s toughest schedule of No. 1 cornerbacks to date. He’s No. 4 with 141.9 AirYAC per game.

Worley is the No. 5 cornerback on a bad pass defense and has allowed 10.1 yards per target on an 81.8% catch rate this year.

Action: Large upgrade for McLaurin

Notable Wide Receiver Downgrades

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

Broncos WR Jerry Jeudy vs. Chiefs CB Tyrann Mathieu

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

Even without wide receivers Courtland Sutton (knee, injured reserve) and K.J. Hamler (hamstring) and tight end Noah Fant (ankle), Jeudy has played behind backup Tim Patrick over the past two weeks.

Mathieu is a two-time All-Pro safety who has shifted to full-time slot corner.

Action: Large downgrade for McLaurin

Jaguars WR Laviska Shenault Jr. vs. Chargers CB Casey Hayward Jr.

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

Shenault was 3-10-0 on seven targets last week and has been inconsistent as a rookie.

Hayward is coming off the bye and has allowed only 6.8 yards per target with a 50% catch rate this year.

Action: Large downgrade for Shenault

NFL Week 7 WR/CB Matrix

I take a cautious approach to injured players who I expect to be questionable or out. If by the weekend it seems likely that they will play, I will include them in my updates.

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 680-545-26 (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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