NFL Week 16 Fantasy WR Breakdown: Robert Woods Is Safe in the Slot
Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Robert Woods (17).
- Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen has a great matchup on the road against the Lions' defense.
- Rams receiver Robert Woods is expected to be used all over the field against the Cardinals.
- Here's a deeper dive on both receivers' potential during a crucial week in fantasy.
We are just two weeks away from the end of the regular season, and the NFL is still on pace for a record-breaking campaign with an average of 23.4 points per game per team.
But scoring has dropped precipitously as injuries have mounted, game tape has accumulated, weather conditions have worsened, pace of play has slowed and divisional opponents have rematched.
For example: In Weeks 10-12, NFL teams scored 24.3, 25.8 and 23.7 points per game. In Weeks 13-15, however, they managed just 21.4, 21.8 and 19.3 points, which are the three lowest-scoring weekly averages for the season. Year over year, scoring is up, but within 2018, we’ve seen a very notable downward trend.
Will scoring continue to decline in Week 16? Or will teams put up more points in the last “real” week of the NFL season?
The action continues with a 12-game main slate that kicks off on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.
In this positional breakdown, I’m looking at four wide receivers at the top of the individual Pro Models that Jonathan Bales, Peter Jennings (CSURAM88), Adam Levitan, Sean Koerner, Chris Raybon, Kevin McClelland (SportsGeek) and I have constructed.
After this piece is published, FantasyLabs is likely to provide news updates on a number of players. Stay ahead of your competition with our industry-leading DFS-focused news feed.
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Model Wide Receivers
This week, two slot receivers with good matchups stand out in the FantasyLabs Pro Models.
- Adam Thielen: $7,800 DraftKings; $7,600 FanDuel
- Robert Woods: $6,600 DraftKings; $7,500 FanDuel
Adam Thielen: Minnesota Vikings (-6) vs. Detroit Lions, 43 Over/Under
Thielen is the only NFL player in history to open a season with eight consecutive 100-yard receiving games — and that’s a nice fact for the history books — but over the past two weeks he’s managed just 97 scoreless yards on nine targets and one carry.
Last week in particular he had by far his worst performance of the season, scoring just 2.9 FanDuel points with a 2-19-0 stat line on two targets as the team employed a run-heavy game plan that saw the Vikings rush the ball 40 times and attempt just 21 passes.
Given that offensive coordinator John DeFilippo was fired after the team’s Week 14 loss for reportedly not calling enough running plays, it’s likely that interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski’s Week 15 commitment to the running game will be more than a one-week state of affairs.
For a volume-dependent receiver like Thielen, the Vikings’ desire to run more is catastrophic.
Of course, it’s hard to be pessimistic about a guy who’s second in the league with 105 receptions, fourth with 143 targets, seventh with nine touchdowns receiving and eighth with 1,255 receiving yards. On top of that, there’s a difference between wanting to run the ball more and actually doing it.
Against the Lions, the Vikings might find themselves unmotivated to run the ball. Although the Lions were weak against the run to open the season, they have been much better on defense since trading for run-stuffing nose tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison in Week 8.
- Lions defense with Harrison (Weeks 8-15): 21.9 points, 97.4 yards rushing
- Lions defense without Harrison (Weeks 1-7): 26.3 points, 139.3 yards rushing
Harrison (ankle) has missed practice this week and is questionable to play, so the Lions might be more vulnerable against the run than they have been recently, but the Vikings will still have plenty of reason to attack through the air: The Lions are dead last in the league with a 32.7% mark in Football Outsiders’ DVOA.
Needless to say, Thielen has a great matchup against the Lions. A masterful technician, Thielen has run 57.4% of his routes from the slot, where he leads the league with 82 targets and 64 receptions.
Historically, when the Vikings and Lions have faced each other, cornerback Darius Slay has shadowed wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and that’s likely what’s going to happen in this game, which means that Thielen will run most of his routes against cornerback Nevin Lawson, who has been the team’s primary Y defender since the Week 6 bye.
For the season, he has a poor 54.9 Pro Football Focus (PFF) coverage grade of 54.9, and in his eight games as the primary slot defender, Lawson has allowed a catch rate of 66.7%. He’s entirely exploitable.
And on the outside, Thielen figures to run most of his routes against cornerback Mike Ford, an undrafted rookie who has just five games of NFL experience. He has an abominable 42.6 PFF coverage grade and has allowed an unfathomable 92.0% catch rate and 383 yards (along with a touchdown) on 25 targets.
With such an enticing matchup, Thielen is in a clear get-right spot, but he could have a reduced ownership rate because of his poor performance last week.
Robert Woods: Los Angeles Rams (-14) at Arizona Cardinals, 44 O/U
UPDATE (12/23): Running back Todd Gurley (knee) is a game-time decision after missing practice all week. The Rams reportedly would prefer to sit Gurley, who will test his knee in pre-game warmups.
On the Wednesday edition of The Action Network NFL Podcast, there was some mention of Woods as candidate for cash games this week: The Rams are top-two on the slate with an implied Vegas total of 29.5 points.
The Rams have lost two games in a row, scoring a combined total of 29 points over the past two weeks, and their offense has really struggled (especially in the passing game) since wide receiver Cooper Kupp (knee, IR) suffered a season-ending injury in Week 10.
- With Kupp (eight games): 33.4 points, 3.03 points per drive, 34.3 pass attempts, 23.8 completions, 329.6 passing yards, 2.12 passing touchdowns, 0.75 interceptions
- Without Kupp (six games): 30.2 points, 2.06 points per drive, 40.3 pass attempts, 23.7 completions, 275.8 passing yards, 1.67 passing touchdowns, 1.17 interceptions
With significantly more attempts, the Rams without Kupp have completed slightly fewer passes for way fewer yards and points.
But the Rams are still third in the league this season with 32.0 points per game, and the Cardinals are the dead last in The Action Network Power Rankings. Fighting for a first-round playoff bye, they should be highly motivated to put up points.
Although he underwhelmed for the first four seasons of his career, Woods has been a significant contributor to the team’s success since signing with the Rams last offseason, and this season he leads the team with 90 targets and 78 receptions and ranks a close second with 1,106 yards receiving and 1,348 air yards.
There’s nothing exceptional about Woods’ numbers, but he’s one of the most consistent receivers in the league: Only once this season has Woods not had at least 60 yards receiving in a game and that was Week 1 — he still had nine targets and one carry.
With Kupp out, Woods has served as the team’s primary slot receiver, and that will likely continue this week. Over the past two season (including playoffs), he’s exhibited some notable Kupp-based splits.
- Kupp plays fewer than 60% of snaps (nine games): 16.9 DraftKings points per game, 39.7 snaps in slot, 24.3 snaps out wide, 8.8 targets, 5.7 receptions, 81.2 yards receiving, 0.22 touchdowns
- Kupp plays at least 60% of snaps (18 games): 15.9 DraftKings points per game, 16.6 snaps in slot, 38.2 snaps out wide, 7.8 targets, 5.1 receptions, 72.1 yards receiving, 0.44 touchdowns
In terms of production, Woods hasn’t done much more without Kupp than with him, but he’s been employed much more in the slot without Kupp, and where he lines up could matter this week.
Week 16 Positional Breakdowns
Be sure to read the other Week 16 positional breakdowns.
For more in-depth NFL analysis information, check out The Action Network.