The New 2020 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 Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, Julio Jones, 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 2020!” Correct, but if you can say that those guys are 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 top-tier cornerbacks are, just like we know who the top-tier wide receivers are. So, instead of attacking this article like the other strength of schedule articles, I’ll let you know who is going to face the toughest competition.
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. Some of those teams in 2020 include the Ravens, Patriots, Chargers, Bills, and Saints. All other teams are 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
Mike Williams (LAC) SOS Score: +23
There are many things that could hold Williams back in 2020, but his schedule isn’t one of them. 11 of his 15 games are against opponents that I’ve deemed below average. Outside of three games with the Saints (Week 5), Bills (Week 12), and Patriots (Week 13), he doesn’t have a must-avoid matchup. He does, however, have a league-high five matchups with bottom-five teams.
Odell Beckham (CLE) SOS Score: +22
The offense should bounce back in Cleveland, and the schedule says that Beckham should be one of the main beneficiaries of that. He’ll have eight matchups with bottom-12 secondaries, including the Giants in Week 15, and Jets in Week 16 (championship week). The downside to his schedule is that he’ll play the Ravens in Week 1, which is one of the toughest in the league, and then again in Week 14, the first week of the fantasy playoffs. He’ll also play the Steelers in Week 6, but outside those three games, Beckham doesn’t have another tough one on the schedule.
Michael Thomas (NO) SOS Score: +18
Not that Thomas needs any help to score fantasy points, but his schedule is third-best in the league. He opens the year playing against the Bucs, who he scored 66.6 PPR points against in two games last year (33.3 per game), then the Raiders in Week 2, who really don’t have that shutdown presence on the team. His playoff schedule against the Eagles, Chiefs, and Vikings isn’t too shabby, either. Thomas was also on this list of great schedules last year.
Davante Adams (GB) SOS Score: +16
If you were struggling to decide which wide receiver to put alongside Michael Thomas as the No. 2 receiver, this should be your tiebreaker. Not only will Adams be the lone go-to option for Aaron Rodgers, but he also has a great schedule to boot. Outside of a matchup with the Saints in Week 3 and the Bears in Week 12, Adams does not have a matchup to be worried about as a fantasy owner. He’s the only receiver in the league who has just two below-average matchups on his schedule. His playoff schedule could win you a championship, as he’ll play a Darius Slay-less Lions defense in Week 14, a Panthers secondary led by Donte Jackson in Week 15, and a Titans secondary led by Adoree Jackson in Week 16.
Allen Robinson (CHI) SOS Score: +15
After seeing 154 targets (third in the NFL) and finishing as a top-12 fantasy receiver in the Bears inept offense, Robinson should have a good shot at repeating his 2019 campaign. He’s one of just four wide receivers who have three or less below average matchups in 2020. Robinson’s tough matchups are all located in the middle of his schedule, as he’ll play Jalen Ramsey in Week 7, Marshon Lattimore in Week 8, and then Jaire Alexander in Week 12. His playoff schedule is mint, as he’ll get the Texans, Vikings, and Jaguars, who are all currently rebuilding their secondaries.
Wide Receivers with a Bad Schedule
Denzel Mims/Breshad Perriman (NYJ) SOS Score: -17
If you’re planning on drafting a Jets wide receiver, my advice is to wait until Week 10 to acquire them. They have a gauntlet of a schedule to start the year, as they’ll play the Bills twice, 49ers, Chargers, and Patriots over the first nine weeks. Even after that, they have just one matchup that you’d consider top-notch, and that’s against the Raiders in Week 13. Mims may have a great career, but it’s unlikely his rookie year is anything draft worthy.
Deebo Samuel/Brandon Aiyuk (SF) SOS Score: -17
We talked about players like Michael Thomas, Davante Adams, and Allen Robinson only having two or three tough matchups all year in the section above, right? Well, Samuel and Aiyuk are going to have 9-of-15 games against secondaries who should be considered above average, while having just four games against teams who are considered below average. From Week 6 through Week 13, the 49ers will play (in order) the Rams, Patriots, Seahawks, Packers, Saints, Rams, and Bills. That’s a horrendous stretch of games. The schedule isn’t going to do them any favors, so if you’re torn between someone like Samuel and someone else, this could be your tipping point.
Alshon Jeffery (PHI) SOS Score: -11
The whole “staying healthy” thing has been a problem for Jeffery over the course of his career, so when you add in a bad schedule, it doesn’t make drafting him any easier. Looking over his schedule, there’s not a two-week stretch where you’d feel extremely confident using him. He’ll play the Redskins in Week 1, and that’s his best matchup of the year. Unfortunately, the second matchup with them doesn’t come until Week 17, when fantasy seasons are over. His playoff schedule includes Marshon Lattimore in Week 14, then Patrick Peterson in Week 15. Jeffery’s schedule doesn’t do him any favors.
N’Keal Harry (NE) SOS Score: -9
Not only do we not know who the Patriots quarterback will be, but we now know that Harry’s schedule is among the worst in the league. If the quarterback play is solid, he should get off to a decent start, but once their bye comes in Week 6, it’s practically the end of his good games. From Week 7 onward, he has exactly two plus matchups on his schedule, and neither of them come in the fantasy playoffs. Don’t forget that Julian Edelman is the primary slot receiver, so it’d be Harry seeing the top-tier perimeter cornerbacks.