1. #1
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    WRs with the easiest, toughest schedules in fantasy football 🏈

    WRs with the easiest, toughest schedules in fantasy football


    Football analysis has reached a new era in which player participation data has allowed us to analyze, predict and project wide receiver/cornerback matchups.

    This data becomes exceptionally useful during the regular season, but a thorough examination of each team's depth chart can allow us to determine potential upgrades and downgrades for each wide receiver even before the season begins. Strength of schedule is one of many variables that allow us to generate rankings, projections and draft-day decisions, and WR/CB matchup data allows us to take that analysis to the next level.

    For the purpose of this exercise, I've ranked each cornerback unit by focusing primarily on each team's top three corners (offenses had three wide receivers on the field for 73% of pass plays last season), while also considering the health, talent and pedigree of each team's additional depth at the position. I also examined each team's shadowing tendencies in order to determine how each figures to fare against top-end No. 1 targets, as well as secondary and slot receivers.

    Once I had each cornerback unit ranked and analyzed, I took a look at each offense's 2020 schedule and determined which wide receivers will face the easiest and toughest cornerback slates this season.

    Note that since many of your leagues won't include Week 17 in the fantasy schedule, only Weeks 1-16 are included in this analysis. Weeks 14-16 are given some extra attention, as that will be the fantasy playoffs for many of you.

    It's important not to overreact to any one variable when it comes to player evaluation, but this analysis should help you make better decisions (or at least break some ties) on draft day.

    Check back throughout the season for my weekly WR/CB matchup chart and analysis.

    Cornerback rankings

    Where else to start but with a quick look at what our favorite fantasy wide receivers will be dealing with in coverage this season? Here is my ranking of each of the league's 32 cornerback units:

    NFL Cornerback Unit Rankings

    1 LAC Casey Hayward, Chris Harris Jr., Desmond King, Michael Davis, Brandon Facyson
    2 NE Stephon Gilmore, J.C. Jackson, Jonathan Jones, Jason McCourty, Joejuan Williams
    3 BLT Marlon Humphrey, Marcus Peters, Jimmy Smith, Tavon Young, Anthony Averett
    4 MIA Byron Jones, Xavien Howard, Noah Igbinoghene, Nik Needham, Cordrea Tankersley
    5 NO Marshon Lattimore, Janoris Jenkins, P.J. Williams, CJ Gardner-Johnson, Patrick Robinson
    6 DET Desmond Trufant, Jeff Okudah, Justin Coleman, Amani Oruwariye, Darryl Roberts
    7 PIT Joe Haden, Steven Nelson, Mike Hilton, Cameron Sutton, Justin Layne
    8 SF Richard Sherman, Emmanuel Moseley, K'Waun Williams, Ahkello Witherspoon, D.J. Reed
    9 TEN Adoree' Jackson, Malcolm Butler, Kristian Fulton, Johnathan Joseph, Tye Smith
    10 LAR Jalen Ramsey, Troy Hill, Darious Williams, David Long, Donte Deayon
    11 PHI Darius Slay, Avonte Maddox, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Rasul Douglas, Cre'Von LeBlanc
    12 SEA Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, Tre Flowers, Ugochukwu Amadi, Neiko Thorpe
    13 BUF Tre'Davious White, Josh Norman, Taron Johnson, Levi Wallace, E.J. Gaines
    14 CIN William Jackson, Trae Waynes, Mackensie Alexander, Darius Phillips, LeShaun Sims
    15 TB Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean, M.J. Stewart, Ryan Smith
    16 DAL Chidobe Awuzie, Daryl Worley, Jourdan Lewis, Anthony Brown, Trevon Diggs
    17 CLV Denzel Ward, Greedy Williams, Kevin Johnson, Terrance Mitchell, Tavierre Thomas
    18 IND Kenny Moore II, Rock Ya-Sin, Xavier Rhodes, Marvell Tell III, T.J. Carrie
    19 CHI Kyle Fuller, Jaylon Johnson, Buster Skrine, Kevin Toliver, Duke Shelley
    20 ARZ Patrick Peterson, Byron Murphy, Robert Alford, Christopher Jones, Kevin Peterson
    21 LV Trayvon Mullen, Prince Amukamara, Lamarcus Joyner, Damon Arnette, Isaiah Johnson
    22 DEN A.J. Bouye, Bryce Callahan, Michael Ojemudia, Isaac Yiadom, Duke Dawson
    23 GB Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Chandon Sullivan, Josh Jackson, Ka'dar Hollman
    24 MIN Jeff Gladney, Mike Hughes, Holton Hill, Cameron Dantzler, Harrison Hand
    25 JAX CJ Henderson, Tre Herndon, D.J. Hayden, Rashaan Melvin, Josiah Scott
    26 KC Charvarius Ward, Bashaud Breeland, Rashad Fenton, L'Jarius Sneed, Chris Lammons
    27 NYG James Bradberry, Deandre Baker, Darnay Holmes, Sam Beal, Corey Ballentine
    28 HST Bradley Roby, Gareon Conley, Vernon Hargreaves, Lonnie Johnson Jr., John Reid
    29 WAS Kendall Fuller, Ronald Darby, Fabian Moreau, Aaron Colvin, Jimmy Moreland
    30 ATL Isaiah Oliver, A.J. Terrell, Kendall Sheffield, Blidi Wreh-Wilson, Jordan Miller
    31 CAR Donte Jackson, Eli Apple, Troy Pride Jr., Cole Luke, Corn Elder
    32 NYJ Pierre Desir, Blessuan Austin, Brian Poole, Arthur Maulet, Bryce Hall
    Shadow Report

    The next step is to take a look at the cornerbacks whom we often see shadowing opposing No. 1 wide receivers. I broke them down into two categories: cornerbacks who shadow most weeks and ones who occasionally are asked to travel, especially when the opposing team has a clear standout No. 1 receiver. Generally, these corners will create a tough matchup/downgrade. This group will be referenced throughout the article.

    Often shadow

    Patrick Peterson, Cardinals
    Tre'Davious White, Bills
    Darius Slay, Eagles
    Stephon Gilmore, Patriots
    Marshon Lattimore/Janoris Jenkins, Saints
    James Bradberry, Giants
    Jaire Alexander, Packers
    Casey Hayward Jr., Chargers
    Jalen Ramsey, Rams

    Sometimes shadow
    William Jackson III, Bengals
    A.J. Bouye, Broncos
    Bradley Roby, Texans
    Rock Ya-Sin, Colts
    Xavien Howard, Dolphins
    Carlton Davis, Buccaneers
    Adoree' Jackson, Titans

    Wide receiver downgrades

    Jets' Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims
    New York is set to face the league's toughest cornerback slate, including the hardest for No. 1 perimeter receivers. The latter role will likely belong to newcomer Perriman, who figures to draw shadow treatment against defenses who use that strategy. That would include projected matchups against Tre'Davious White (twice), Stephon Gilmore (once -- the second matchup is Week 17), Patrick Peterson, Casey Hayward and Jalen Ramsey.

    Perriman and the rookie Mims will also need to deal with tough cornerback groups of the 49ers, Dolphins (twice) and Seahawks, and they're set to face only one CB unit I have graded among the 10 worst in the league.

    Slot WR Jamison Crowder is set to face a relatively average slate overall and, in fact, the easiest for a slot WR during Weeks 14-16. He can actually be upgraded.

    Bills' Stefon Diggs, John Brown and Cole Beasley

    In a similar boat to New York, Buffalo is projected to have the second-hardest overall CB schedule. That includes the fourth hardest for No. 1 perimeter receivers and hardest for slot receivers. The schedule is just as tough during the fantasy playoffs. Newcomer and No. 1 WR Diggs will be a candidate for shadow coverage via Ramsey, Gilmore (twice), Peterson and Hayward. The group will also need to deal with tough Miami, Tennessee, Seattle, San Francisco and Pittsburgh CB units, though it should benefit from a pair of early-season meetings with the Jets.

    Jaguars' DJ Chark Jr., Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley and Laviska Shenault Jr.

    Jacksonville is projected for the third-toughest overall CB schedule, which applies to both perimeter and slot receivers, as well as during the playoffs. The good news is that Chark won't need to deal with shadow coverage very often (Hayward and Jaire Alexander are the only obvious ones). Still, the overall schedule is very tough for this group, with seven opposing CB rooms grading out among the league's 10 toughest and only Houston ranking in the bottom 10.

    Seahawks' DK Metcalf

    Seattle's overall CB schedule is fairly average, but it's not kind to No. 1 perimeter receivers. That's not good news for DK Metcalf (89% perimeter) but shouldn't affect Tyler Lockett (69% slot) too much. Seattle is projected to face the seventh-hardest slate for a No. 1 perimeter receiver, which includes eight shadow situations (second most). Metcalf can expect to be matched up against Gilmore, Peterson (twice), White, Ramsey (twice), Darius Slay and James Bradberry, not to mention showdowns with tough Miami and San Francisco secondaries. There is a silver lining here: During the fantasy playoffs, Seattle is set for the fourth-easiest slate overall and second-easiest for No. 1 receivers (Jets, Redskins, Rams).

    49ers' Deebo Samuel

    Samuel broke his foot and seems likely to miss a week or six to open 2020. Even if he's ready to roll for Week 1, life won't be easy for the second-year receiver, as the 49ers' No. 1 WR is projected to face shadow coverage in a league-high 10 games. That includes Peterson (twice), Bradberry, Slay, Ramsey (twice), Gilmore, Alexander, White and Marshon Lattimore. And that doesn't include tough showdowns with Seattle and Miami CB units. On the plus side, San Francisco's playoff schedule is on the lighter side, with the Redskins, Cowboys and Cardinals on the docket.

    Patriots' N'Keal Harry

    New England will face the fourth-hardest projected CB schedule, which includes the second hardest for No. 1 perimeter receivers. Life will be even tougher during the fantasy playoffs (second hardest overall and hardest for No. 1 WRs). Julian Edelman and Mohamed Sanu Sr. stand to suffer from the slate a bit, but both spend a lot of time in the slot, which helps their causes. Harry, however, aligned outside on 88% of his routes last season. He's a candidate for shadow coverage from White (twice), Peterson, Hayward and Ramsey, and will also face tough challenges from Miami (twice), Seattle and San Francisco.

    Bengals' Tyler Boyd

    Cincinnati is staring at the fifth-toughest CB slate overall, as well as the third-toughest projected schedule for slot receivers. Boyd aligned inside 62% of the time last season, and that number figures to be only larger with healthy perimeter WRs A.J. Green, John Ross III and Tee Higgins in the mix. Boyd will need to deal with the likes of Chris Harris Jr., Nickell Robey-Coleman, Marlon Humphrey, Kenny Moore II and Mike Hilton (twice).

    Texans' Randall Cobb

    Houston is set to face the hardest slate of slot cornerbacks. That's a big concern for career slot WR Cobb (94% last season), who is expected to work inside, with Will Fuller V and Brandin Cooks on the perimeter. Cobb's schedule includes projected matchups with Moore (twice), Humphrey, Hilton, Tyrann Mathieu, Jonathan Jones and Justin Coleman.

    Raiders' Hunter Renfrow

    The Raiders are set to face the hardest overall schedule, the third-toughest schedule for slot receivers and the toughest against the slot during the fantasy playoffs. Renfrow (74% slot as a rookie) will face off with the likes of Mathieu (twice), Harris Jr. (twice), Jones, Moore and Bryce Callahan, though what may be his easiest matchup of the season comes in Week 1 against Carolina.


    Lions' Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola

    Detroit is set to face the easiest slate in all three of our categories: overall, against No. 1 receivers and against the slot. Golladay will generally receive No. 1 WR treatment, but his two most obvious shadow situations come in Weeks 3 (Peterson) and 4 (Lattimore). Alexander is another possibility in two games against Green Bay, though the young corner didn't travel with him last season. Otherwise, it's pretty clear sledding for this group, as the Lions will face 12 CB units I have ranked in the bottom half of the league and only one I have ranked better than ninth (Saints). Slot man Amendola's biggest challenge will be against Moore in Week 8.

    Packers' Davante Adams

    Some think Adams should be the first wideout off the board in 2020 drafts, and a very attractive schedule certainly helps his chances of overtaking Michael Thomas. Aaron Rodgers' top target is set to face the second-easiest schedule for a No. 1 receiver. That includes the seventh easiest during the fantasy playoffs. Adams' only clear shadow scenarios are Lattimore in Week 2 and Slay in Week 13. Matchups with underwhelming and/or unproven CB rooms of the Vikings (twice), Falcons, Jaguars and Panthers present multiple opportunities for huge outings.

    Saints' Michael Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders

    Adams might get the larger boost, but Thomas gets one as well, as New Orleans is set to face the fourth-easiest CB slate overall, including the eighth easiest for a No. 1 receiver. Thomas is a strong bet to be shadowed by Alexander, Hayward and Slay, but that might be it. New Orleans will face only three CB units I have graded among the 10 best in the NFL but nine I have in the bottom half of the league. The Saints' extremely attractive second half CB slate pops off the page, with matchups against Atlanta (twice), Denver, Philadelphia, Kansas City and Minnesota on the docket during Weeks 11-16. Newcomer Sanders also stands to benefit, which adds to his late-round appeal.

    Panthers' DJ Moore, Curtis Samuel and Robby Anderson

    New coach Matt Rhule wants to feature the wide receiver, and that may be easier than expected in his first season. Carolina is set to face the second-easiest CB slate both overall and during the fantasy playoffs. That includes one of the easiest schedules for a No. 1 receiver, which boosts Moore's value a bit. Moore primarily aligns on the perimeter (though it's possible he's moved around more with Anderson in the mix), so he'll need to be downgraded against projected shadow corners Hayward, Peterson, Lattimore and Alexander. Of course, he'll also benefit from matchups with Atlanta (twice), Minnesota and Washington. Overall, Carolina is set to face 10 units I have ranked 19th or worse. That includes Minnesota, Denver, Green Bay and Washington during Weeks 12-16.

    Chargers' Keenan Allen and Mike Williams

    Philip Rivers' departure is a negative for the Chargers' wide receivers, but some of the sting is certainly offset by the third-easiest projected CB schedule this season. The slate is also third easiest for a No. 1 receiver and 11th easiest against the slot, with similar numbers showing up during the playoffs. Allen runs roughly half of his routes from the slot, so he's not affected by shadow corners as much as many other No. 1 receivers. That will mean dodging at least some coverage from the likes of Gilmore, White and Lattimore. Some of that coverage will be deflected over to Williams, but the duo will benefit from nine of their matchups coming against CB units I have graded 21st or worse.

    Vikings' Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson

    Minnesota's wideouts don't have quite as strong a case as some of the others on this list, but they're notable for a few reasons. Overall, the Vikings are projected to face the league's seventh-easiest CB slate. That includes the eighth easiest for No. 1 receivers and second easiest for slot receivers. Thielen aligned outside 70% of the time last season and figures to be used similarly in 2020, with Jefferson profiling as a slot receiver in the pros. Moore and Coleman are the two toughest corners Jefferson will see out of the slot, and he'll have a plus matchup most weeks. On the negative side, Minnesota's playoff schedule is sixth toughest overall, though on the lighter side against the slot.

    Buccaneers' Chris Godwin, Bears' Anthony Miller, Falcons' Russell Gage and 49ers' Trent Taylor

    I listed these four receivers together, as their teams are tied for the third-easiest schedule for slot receivers this season. Godwin's and Gage's toughest matchups are the same: Harris Jr., Mathieu and Coleman. Miller's hardest are Coleman (twice) and Moore. Taylor (or whoever locks down slot wide receiver duties in San Francisco) will have his toughest challenges against Robey-Coleman and Jackson. Godwin, Miller and Taylor have light playoff schedules as well, though Gage's is second toughest, with Mathieu and Harris Jr. on the docket.

    Full-season category leaders

    Easiest overall CB schedule

    1. Detroit Lions
    2. Carolina Panthers
    3. Los Angeles Chargers

    Toughest overall CB schedule

    1. New York Jets
    2. Buffalo Bills
    3. Jacksonville Jaguars

    Easiest schedule for No. 1 wide receivers

    1. Detroit Lions
    2. Green Bay Packers
    3. Los Angeles Chargers

    Toughest schedule for No. 1 wide receivers

    1. New York Jets
    2. New England Patriots
    3. San Francisco 49ers

      Easiest schedule for slot receivers
      1. Detroit Lions
      2. Minnesota Vikings

      Toughest schedule for slot receivers

      1. Houston Texans
      2. Buffalo Bills

      Weeks 14-16 (fantasy playoffs) category leaders

      Easiest overall CB schedule

      1. Chicago Bears
      2. Carolina Panthers
      3. Los Angeles Chargers

      Toughest overall CB schedule

      1. Las Vegas Raiders
      2. New England Patriots
      3. Jacksonville Jaguars
      4. Buffalo Bills

      Easiest schedule for No. 1 wide receivers

      1. Seattle Seahawks
      2. Chicago Bears

      Toughest schedule for No. 1 wide receivers

      1. New England Patriots
      2. Las Vegas Raiders

      Easiest schedule for slot receivers
      New York Jets
      Toughest schedule for slot receivers
      Las Vegas Raiders

  2. #2
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    Great info!!