Week 6 was brutal to watch for all of us in the fantasy football community; 12 of 15 games went under their projected totals. Please join me in prayer as we head into next week- Lord, may the overs hit, and may our fantasy receivers flourish once again. Welcome back for Week 7 of The Elites Outside; let’s get to it!
The elites outside – Week 7 wide receiver matchups
Jacksonville Jaguars vs. New Orleans Saints (TNF)
The Jaguars continue to be an elite coverage team in 2023- they are currently graded at 87.6 (PFF) as a unit; that’s good for 3rd overall in the NFL. The pair of Darius Williams and Tyson Campbell on the outside is a challenge for any receiving group; Williams is the top-graded corner in coverage across the league to play in all six games. Campbell also cracks the top 10 in the same category at number six. This is bad news for Michael Thomas, who has played just under 70% (PFF) of his snaps out wide this season; he will have a better chance with Campbell but will likely need to come down with contested catches as the two share nearly identical aDoTs (PFF).
For access to our complete weekly player rankings, including for PPR and Half-PPR scoring formats, subscribe to the Playbook newsletter.
There’s hope for Chris Olave in this one because of his ability to play out of the slot, where he will find Jags’ corner Tre Herndon. Olave’s aDoT out of the slot is 15.7 (PFF) in comparison to 6.7 (PFF) for Herndon, who has conceded 2 touchdowns and a competitive passer rating of 131.6 (PFF). I expect Olave to be productive and also expand on his season-high total of 29 (PFF) snaps out of the slot in Week 5.
The absence of Trevor Lawrence would definitely impact the upside for the Jaguars’ receiving group, but regardless of whether or not he is able to go, we will find a similar dynamic from the Saints’ secondary while covering Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, and Zay Jones.
Christian Kirk will have the upper hand going against Alontae Taylor, who is the only member of this Saints coverage group to give up a touchdown thus far, conceding three. Kirk’s receiving grade at 69.1 (PFF) is superior to the coverage grade of Taylor at just 48.8 (PFF). Kirk has converted multiple contested catches this year, which will serve him against Taylor, whose strongest category is pass breakups, of which he has four (PFF).
Marshon Lattimore will be playing on the right and Paulson Adebo will be on the left at corner for the Saints. Calvin Ridley and Zay Jones will be taking turns going up against both wide corners- I am going to fade both of these Jacksonville receivers as Lattimore and Adebo rank inside the top 20 in the NFL in reception percentage when targeted (PFF).
Matchup Winners: Chirs Olave, Christian Kirk
Matchup Losers: Michael Thomas, Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones
Detroit Lions vs. Baltimore Ravens
This is a matchup of two elite units, with the Lions’ receiving group taking on the Ravens’ secondary. The strength of this Baltimore coverage unit happens to be their linebackers and safeties; Amon-Ra St. Brown and Josh Reynolds have been moved across different formations thus far, and I am anticipating them drawing a variety of matchups throughout the day.
I like these two Lions receivers against Marlon Humphrey on the left, Brandon Stephens on the right, and Arthur Maulet in the slot. Humphrey has struggled since his return, giving up a touchdown, receptions on 71.4% of targets, and a competitive passer rating of 139.9 in just 2 games this season (PFF). Amon-Ra St. Brown should have no problem beating Humphrey and Stephens as he outgrades both overall; when they are able to track him down, Amon-Ra has an eye-popping contested catch rate of 87.5%, converting 7 of 8 contested targets in 2023 (PFF). I like Josh Reynolds more in PPR formats- he should take advantage of these corners conceding receptions underneath but may struggle to find the end zone.
I am banking on Sam LaPorta catching a touchdown against Patrick Queen, setting up a nice day for the rookie TE; Queen and Roquan Smith both give up receptions at a rate north of 70% on routes on which they are targeted (PFF). Zay Flowers and Mark Andrews have been the main fantasy threats off the Ravens’ offense thus far, and Flowers should have an advantage as long as he is playing out wide in week seven. Lions’ corner Jerry Jacobs will be firmly planted on the right side, where I see Flowers having chances to beat him for a touchdown, as Jacbos has already conceded three in 2023 (PFF).
On the opposite side, Cameron Sutton is giving up 11.7 yds/rec (PFF); Flowers should be able to maintain production there as well. Ideally, Lions’ corner Brian Branch will be back to eye the slot this week, which is where Mark Andrew plays the most. Andrews has been excellent on routes between 10 and 20 yards with a receiving grade of 98.0 and 17.1 yards/rec (PFF). Branch has an aDoT of only 5.0 (PFF); he will be asked to extend his coverage while covering Andrews and is giving up five inches in height to the tight end. I like Andrews despite the promise the rookie corner has shown.
Matchup Winners: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Sam LaPorta, Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews
Matchup Losers: Josh Reynolds
Miami Dolphins vs. Philadelphia Eagles (SNF)
These numbers are, in fact, real for Tyreek Hill through six games; 814 yards, 6 touchdowns, 19.4 yds/rec, and an overall receiving grade of 94.9 (PFF). The majority of Hill’s snaps out wide have come on the right side of formations in 2023; Darius Slay will be greeted with a tall task upon his return to the field if he can go, typically playing corner on the left side.
If this is the matchup Tyreek sees come Sunday night, he will keep up his explosive ways, as Slay has posted a coverage grade of just 50.6 and has allowed receptions on 71.1% of targets this season (PFF). The Eagles are patching together their slot coverage efforts with Avonte Maddox out; when Tyreek moves inside, forget about it. James Bradberry will be the better coverage option for arguably the best fantasy player in the NFL, but Mike McDaniel should be moving Hill around to avoid that matchup.
Jaylen Waddle should be seeing James Bradberry for most of the evening, which could cause him issues as his ceiling partially relies on YAC registering just over 30 yards in the category in each of his six games. Bradberry has allowed only 49 YAC all season and will not need to extend his coverage with a deeper aDoT than Waddle (PFF).
A.J. Brown has an even split of where he is lining up on the outside (left vs right side)- he will be trading looks against Xavien Howard and Eli Apple of the Dolphins, where he should be winning as both corners have a sub 50 coverage grade (PFF). Brown has tallied 232 YAC thus far, an area where Howard is vulnerable; look out for Jalen Hurts trying Brown between the numbers in space or deep down the left side.
DeVonta Smith has been cold fantasy-wise over the past two weeks; I like him bouncing back this week against the soft coverage grades of Howard and Apple, perhaps on one big touchdown catch. Over half of Smith’s receiving yardage and a quarter of his total targets have come on routes over 20 yards (PFF). This matchup will give him an opportunity to get open on those plays- consider him a reliable WR2/Flex.
Matchup Winners: Tyreek Hill, A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith
Matchup Losers: Jaylen Waddle
San Francisco 49ers vs. Minnesota Vikings (MNF)
The 49ers’ offense has multiple skill players up in the air for Monday night. If Christian McCaffrey cannot go, there will be plenty of vacant touches to go around for the receivers, as well as George Kittle. Both Deebo Samuel (who is questionable) and Brandon Aiyuk move around for San Francisco, which will offer them opportunities against Byron Murphy Jr. and Akayleb Evans.
Brandon Aiyuk is running beautiful routes with an overall receiving grade of 92.2 (PFF) and can stretch the field against these corners as his aDoT of 15.1(PFF) surpasses that of both Murphy Jr. and Evans. Brock Purdy is at his best when targeting Aiyuk with a passer rating of 119.0 (PFF), and may lean on him with the injuries on this offense. I am guessing if Deebo Samuel is able to play, he will get the ball in different ways (handoffs/end-arounds) with an injured shoulder. There is a ceiling on receptions for Deebo this week, as well as opportunities to find the end zone through the air; I am going to put the fade on there.
George Kittle is likely to see Vikings’ safety Harrison Smith and linebacker Jordan Hicks on most of his routes. Smith and Hicks grade out excellent in coverage, and neither has given up a touchdown through six weeks. Kittle will inevitably get involved if San Francisco is short-handed, but I see the Vikings keying on him in the red zone, ultimately capping his fantasy output.
Without Justin Jefferson last week, the target distribution in Minnesota was as follows: Jordan Addison with five, KJ Osborn with five, and TJ Hockensen with eight. The Vikings are overmatched in the air this week, with all of these pass catchers coming in graded lower than their counterparts on the San Francisco defense. I am fading Addison and Osborn; consider other options for those WR/Flex slots.
Hockensen will see Fred Warner and Dre Greenlaw, who are both excellent coverage linebackers. Kirk Cousins will be eyeing Hockensen when he draws Greenlaw, potentially further down the field than normal, as the 49ers linebacker’s very shallow aDoT of 3.3 (PFF) may be one of the few areas the Vikings can expose offensively. If the Vikings spend any time in the red zone, I expect Hockensen to get those targets when he draws Greenlaw, who has given up 3 touchdowns in 2023.
Matchup Winners: Brandon Aiyuk, TJ Hockensen
Matchup Losers: Jordan Addison, KJ Osborn, Deebo Samuel, George Kittle
Subscribe to our newsletter on Substack to get full access to 5th Down Fantasy’s award-winning fantasy football player rankings and our weekly playbook email packed with everything you need to win big on Sunday. Your subscription will also help keep 5thDownFantasy.com the best FREE fantasy football advice website on the planet. Learn more.