Life comes at you fast. Right as the WR-CB Matchups series was heating up with excellent calls in Weeks 3 and 4, I got Covid. Fortunately, your Salary Cap-tain is BACK and ready to start a new momentum train! During my writing hiatus, I was still researching players in Weeks 5, 6, and 7. I’m excited to say that my process is still sound and the results were there. Now it’s time to get wide receiver weekly takes out to the RotoUnderworld audience.
Because it’s been a few weeks, let me remind the readers what the purpose of this article series is. Using ESPN’s rostered player percents, my goal is to identify players rostered in less than 50-percent of ESPN leagues that can put up top-30 WR performances for the week. The other purpose of this article series is to identify players starting in over 50-percent of leagues that I believe will finish outside the top-36 WRs for the week. With that out of the way, let’s get into Week 8!
Kalif Raymond – START
If you thought Kalif Raymond‘s 17.6 (No. 12 among qualified wide receivers) fantasy point performance last week was a fluke and can’t happen again, be open to the unlikely. First, the Lions are No. 7 in Team Pass Plays Per Game with 39.4 on the season. Next is his recent usage. Raymond ran 32 routes in both Weeks 6 and 7 while exceeding 80-percent Snap Share for the first time all season in those games. He’s been the most productive wide receiver for the Lions in each of those games in receptions and receiving yards.
Let’s dive deeper. Raymond and his 4.39 (95th-percentile) 40-Yard Dash is utilized in a role that allows him to create Yards After Catch. Per PlayerProfiler’s Data Analysis Tool, he is top-25 among wide receivers in Yards After Catch Per Target (3.38) and Yards After Catch Per Reception (5.08). Why is this important? The Eagles defense is allowing a completion percentage of 74.36-percent of all passes and their 821 Yards After Catch Allowed is 12th-most in the NFL.
Raymond’s expected primary coverage will be Steven Nelson (No. 76-ranked cornerback). Nelson allows 2.14 (No. 147) Fantasy Points Allowed Per Target. He’s leaking fantasy points to his coverage assignments. His 13.0 Yards Per Reception Allowed and 8.9 Yards Per Target Allowed are both outside the top-80.
Terry McLaurin – SIT
It may be Halloween, but it won’t be Scary Terry’s day. McLaurin is Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde for the
holiday season. He’s either been a top-5 WR (3 games) or outside the top-40 (4 games). Bryce Callahan (No. 9-ranked cornerback) and Patrick Surtain (No. 40-ranked cornerback) are two tough matchups for McLaurin if he finds himself matched up with them. On top of a difficult secondary to face against, he is also dealing with two separate injuries: a lingering hamstring injury and an ankle injury that caused him to miss practice this week.
This isn’t McLaurin’s fault to find himself as a dreaded SIT candidate (again). Over the past three weeks, his quarterback Taylor Heinicke has only two passing touchdowns and four interceptions. The QB-WR duo couldn’t take advantage of an inferior pass defense in Kansas City two weeks ago. With a 71.0-percent (No. 78) Catchable Target Rate, it’s difficult to see McLaurin being startable in Week 8 against an objectively better pass defense.
The Broncos pass defense is susceptible to allowing big pass plays. They are allowing 1,001 (No. 11) Completed Air Yards and an Average Target Distance of 9.6 (third-highest in the NFL). Unfortunately for the Washington Football Team, Heinicke is averaging 7.1 (No. 25) Yards Per Attempt and only 46.3-percent of his 1880 (No. 13) Air Yards have been Completed Air Yards (No. 18). That rate is the 11th-lowest among QBs with at least 50 pass attempts. If McLaurin can’t get his yards through the air, he’ll have a difficult time getting it after the catch. The Broncos have allowed 653 (third-fewest) Yards After Catch this season.
Van Jefferson – START
Last week, Van Jefferson had a 100-percent Snap Share and had 42 Routes Run. These weren’t empty-calorie routes either! He saw 7 targets (2 in the red zone) and exceeded 100 Air Yards. Despite his WR22 performance in Week 7, Jefferson is rostered in less than 10-percent of ESPN leagues. He has had the same amount of Routes Run over the past two weeks as his teammate Robert Woods.
Jefferson is a big play waiting to happen. Of his 454 (No. 38) Air Yards, 236 (No. 30) are Unrealized Air Yards. His Average Target Distance of 13.8 is No. 16 among WRs. This brings us to the Rams’ opponent, the Houston Texans. Their defense has allowed 1149 (No. 4) Completed Air Yards and have allowed an Average Target Distance of 8.7 (ninth-most in the NFL). There aren’t many wide receivers available in free agency that have six consecutive weeks of 25-plus Routes Run. Scoop up Jefferson and start him this week!