The New 2018 Strength of Schedule: Wide Receivers (Fantasy Football)
Raise your hand if you’ve heard that strength of schedule means little-to-nothing over the years? I know I’d raise my hand, because it seems like it’s the cool thing that people say. Would those same people tell you that their fantasy football rankings don’t matter, especially at the top of the draft? No, because then they wouldn’t have jobs.
While other positions can be highly debated, every little piece of information that we can get matters. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but we’re playing a game where if you get the correct information more than 60 percent of the time, you’re going to have a shot at a fantasy championship. But as for wide receiver…
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE FOR WIDE RECEIVERS ABSOLUTELY MATTERS.
I never write in all caps, but I felt the need to do it here to drive my point home. Why do we continually have Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham Jr., Michael Thomas, and Deandre Hopkins atop our rankings? Because they are very good football players. But Mike, this is about strength of schedule and you can’t predict how good a team will be in 2018! Correct, but if you can say that those guys are very good football players, why can’t we talk about the players they’ll be lining up against? Wide receiver and cornerback matchups are not always one-on-one, but we know who the very good cornerbacks are, just like we know who the very good wide receivers are.
So instead of attacking this article like the other strength of schedule articles, I’ll do what I did last year where I let you know who is going to face the toughest competition in 2018. Last year, I warned you not to draft Dez Bryant because of this exact method. I also told you to draft Stefon Diggs due to the lack of talent he’d face.
I’ll be focusing on top-tier wide receivers in this article, the alpha-dogs, the clear-cut No. 1 receivers on their team, because they are the one’s who’ll be affected the most. They are the ones who will see the shutdown cornerbacks. As a heads up, slot wide receivers cannot be factored in because they would require a completely different chart. In this study, we’re going to focus on teams that have a shutdown cornerback, or at the very least, a defense that severely limits opposing wide receivers. Those teams in 2018 include the Jaguars, Chargers, Cardinals, Vikings, and Rams. There are other teams factored into their overall score, but these are the ones you should want no part of on your wide receiver’s schedule.
Wide Receivers with a Great Schedule
Marqise Lee (JAX) Score: 15
This one wasn’t even close, as Lee almost tripled the score of any other wide receiver. There’s just one matchup on his schedule that’s semi-worrisome, but it’s against Josh Norman, who doesn’t even shadow opposing No. 1 wide receivers. Some are still wondering who the Jaguars No. 1 receiver is, but Lee is the one they just paid the most to when they could’ve let him walk in free agency. His plus-matchups include the Chiefs, Cowboys, Texans, Colts (twice), and Dolphins. If he doesn’t produce in 2018, it won’t be because of his schedule.
Keenan Allen (LAC) Score: 6
After remaining healthy for the entire season, Allen dominated over the second half of the season, finishing as the WR3 in fantasy despite scoring just six touchdowns. It’s important to note that he does play out of the slot almost half the time, and that typically helps wide receivers evade the tougher cornerbacks in the game. The only shutdown cornerback he’ll play against is Patrick Peterson, who he won’t see until Week 12, and Peterson doesn’t typically travel into the slot. He will play against the Broncos Chris Harris Jr. (who is slot-only) as well, which is in Week 11, right before the Peterson matchup. Outside of those two, it should be smooth sailing for Allen en route to another top-10 finish.
A.J. Green (CIN) Score: 4
It was maybe the quietest top-10 finish that any wide receiver has ever had, but Green hasn’t gone away despite the Bengals nightmare-ish season in 2017. He doesn’t have a single top-tier cornerback on his schedule until Week 10, and that’s against the young Marshon Lattimore. Outside of him, the Chargers are the only other team I’m worried about, and he does play them in Week 14, the first week of the fantasy playoffs. Hopefully you earn yourself a bye week so you don’t have to worry about it because you’ll get the Raiders and Browns over the next two weeks.
Wide Receivers with a Bad Schedule
Tyreek Hill (KC) Score: -24
If you didn’t see the scores of the wide receivers with a good schedule, you should go look now, because it’ll give you an idea of just how bad Hill’s schedule is. It’s similar to Dez Bryant‘s schedule last year, only Hill won’t see the attention that Bryant did because of Sammy Watkins on the other side of the field. Still, he’s going to play against shutdown cornerbacks or semi-shutdown teams in seven of his first 14 games of the season. Bryant’s number was 9-of-16 last year, so you at least get the idea. Hill was as efficient as they come in 2017, something that won’t happen with this schedule in 2018, so if you’re drafting him, you’re doing so hoping for more volume.
Davante Adams (GB) Score: -19
Another terrible score for a big-name wide receiver, as Adams is set to face shutdown cornerbacks in four of his first 13 games, including matchups with Xavier Rhodes twice, Marcus Peters (and Aqib Talib), and Patrick Peterson, who happens to be the cornerback that Adams called “the best cornerback in the game.” On top of those shutdown cornerbacks, Adams will see Josh Norman and Darius Slay, who are just outside the shutdown category. It obviously helps that his quarterback is Aaron Rodgers, but it won’t be a cakewalk through those matchups.
Pierre Garcon (SF) Score: -16
This score could’ve gone to Marquise Goodwin, as we really don’t know who the top receiver will be in San Francisco, but I’m viewing it from the defense’s point of view. Garcon would be the one most likely to attract the top cornerback, provided he returns to form after his season-ending injury from 2017. Whatever the case, I’d likely try to avoid drafting both Garcon and Goodwin in drafts, only to acquire them later in the season. Over their first eight games, they will play against six against the Vikings, Chargers, Cardinals (twice), Rams, and Lions, which accounts for all of their bad matchups on the season. After that, things open up quite a bit.