IDP – Man Coverage: Week 10

In Man Coverage, IDP Editor Ross Miles takes an in-depth look at how cornerbacks are being used on a game-by-game basis and how it effects their fantasy production.

| 4 years ago
Johnathan Joseph

IDP – Man Coverage: Week 10


Johnathan JosephHere at Pro Football Focus we chart every play of every NFL game, recording advanced statistics on exactly what a player does on every snap. Then as fantasy analysts we take that data and use it, along with our experience from years of playing fantasy football and watching games ourselves, to form the opinions that drive our advice and decisions. This series is for the hardcore IDP gamers among you in CB-required leagues and will take a deep look at how teams are using defensive backs against opposing offenses, and apply a fantasy spin.

Any of you who watch our weekly IDP Google+ Hangout (or now listen on iTunes), The Nickel, will know that I’ve been putting in some serious hours in mining all the data that will be used in this series of articles over the past few weeks, and I’m very happy to be able to finally share the information I have gathered with our loyal subscribers. As an initial foray into the subject I thought a season overview would be a good way to kick off, so without further ado, let’s get stuck into some numbers…

One aspect of the data collection that surprised me as the stats began to accumulate was in fact how few cornerbacks are used to exclusively shutdown an elite wide receiver during a game. The media attention given to the phenomenal job by Charles Tillman in Week 7 against the Lions in blanketing Calvin Johnson was deserved; Tillman shadowed Johnson on 88.2% of his 68 snaps and restricted one of the league’s unquestioned superstars to a meagre three catches for 34 yards on eight targets in his coverage. But what it does is help maintain the prevailing belief that most teams employ a similar strategy in locking down top players with their own defensive studs, but as the data shows, this is not the case. In fact, so far this season only nine players have played four or more games in which they have played 30+ snaps and covered the same player for 65%+ of their plays. An even closer look at the numbers show that five of those players come from two teams, the Giants and Texans, denoting that it is a schematic tendency rather than deliberate gameplan.

 

#

Player

Team

30+/65%

WR1

WR2

WR3

WR4

1

Champ Bailey

DEN

6

64.6%

20.8%

7.0%

1.6%

2

Corey Webster

NYG

5

63.9%

12.7%

5.2%

4.6%

3

Kareem Jackson

HST

5

14.9%

55.1%

15.7%

7.2%

4

Johnathan Joseph

HST

4

57.5%

14.7%

14.1%

8.6%

5

Patrick Robinson

NO

4

47.9%

30.6%

5.0%

6.4%

6

Eric Wright

TB

4

43.0%

22.1%

17.1%

3.9%

7

Morris Claiborne

DAL

4

31.6%

32.1%

19.4%

2.7%

8

Brice McCain

HST

4

17.9%

30.7%

31.3%

12.5%

9

Jayron Hosley

NYG

4

12.1%

39.6%

33.2%

4.9%

10

8 Players

n/a

3

n/a

n/a

n/a

n/a

Of these shutdown cornerbacks, only three of them – Champ Bailey, Corey Webster and Johnathan Joseph – are covering the opposing team’s #1 wideout on more than 50% of their snaps this season. Bailey has not really been a fantasy relevant option for years, but it is worth delving deeper into his numbers to see what his changing man coverage percentages are doing for his fantasy output.

Champ Bailey

Wk

Most Covered

Pos

Cov%

CovTA

Solo

Ast

PDef

Int

F-Pts

1

Antonio Brown

WR2

77.8%

3

1

0

1

0

2.5

2

Roddy White

WR1

56.9%

2

3

1

0

0

5

3

Andre Johnson

WR1

66.2%

3

1

0

0

0

1.5

4

Denarius Moore

WR1

43.2%

5

5

0

1

0

8.5

5

Brandon Lloyd

WR1

91.6%

5

3

1

0

0

5

6

Malcolm Floyd

WR1

81.0%

2

4

0

0

0

6

8

Marcus Colston

WR1

74.5%

5

6

0

2

0

11

9

AJ Green

WR1

81.8%

6

5

1

1

1

15

Bailey’s best two fantasy games of the season have come in the last two weeks, and looking at his slate of games and match-ups, it’s not too difficult to puzzle out why. Regarded as one of the best cover corners in the game it is not a difficult decision for duel-threat receiving teams such as the Steelers and Falcons, his opponents in Weeks 1 & 2, to simply throw to the non-Bailey covered receiver, in these cases Mike Wallace and Julio Jones. Week 3, another poor fantasy day, came against the run-first Texans who struggled to get Andre Johnson involved in their gameplan over the first five weeks of the season, targeting him on average only 5.8 times a game (10.3 p/g since). In Week 4 Bailey has his 3rd best game of the year against a Raiders team that is currently the 4th ranked most pass-heavy offense in the league, but rather than track a player around the field he played 39/44 snaps as the LCB. Another mediocre fantasy game matched up against an under-performing Brandon Lloyd in Week 5 doesn’t come as a surprise when Tom Brady has weapons at his disposal such as Wes Welker and Rob Gronkowski. In Week 6 Philip Rivers simply choose not to challenge Bailey as he did move around (RCB 44, LCB 27, SCB 1) to limit Malcolm Floyd. On the 64 of Floyd’s 79 snaps that he was covered by Bailey he only saw two targets, compared to the three further targets he received in just 15 snaps without Bailey covering him. Then we get to Bailey’s best two games of the season, against a pass-happy Saints team and shadowing AJ Green who has been the beneficiary of 43.2% of Andy Dalton’s targets at Bengals WRs. It’s worth noting that Bailey did not get on the field for the final Saints drive (15 plays, 11 passes) which did limit his scoring potential, and even when removing his Week 9 interception, it still would have been his second best fantasy score of the season.

The main fantasy takeaway for me after having looked at Bailey’s fantasy production when taking into account his on-field usage each week is that being asked to follow a WR1 is only a starting point in identifying potentially high scoring week. A team’s run-pass ratio will also factor in, as evidenced by our IDP Points Against data that shows Seattle, San Francisco, Houston and Jacksonville as four of the worst five match-ups for fantasy cornerbacks thanks to their run-heavy offenses. Also of course, a plethora of offensive weapons can also mean a shutdown corner can be avoided altogether so being asked to shadow an elite opponent isn’t a ticket to double-digit targets.

Jonathan Joseph was another name highlighted in the data as being used to track a particular receiver around the field, and normally the opposing team’s WR1. Rather than study him on a game-by-game basis I wanted to look at his four games that qualified under then 30 snaps & 65%+ on one player criteria.

Jonathan Joseph

Wk

Most Covered

Pos

Cov%

CovTA

Solo

Ast

PDef

Int

TD

F-Pts

2

Laurent Robinson

WR2

84.8%

3

3

0

0

0

0

4.5

3

Demaryius Thomas

WR1

93.8%

9

5

0

3

0

0

10.5

6

Jordy Nelson

WR1

87.5%

8

6

1

0

0

0

9.5

7

Torrey Smith

WR1

96.5%

10

4

1

1

1

1

19.5

His fantasy woes in Week 2 can be partly explained by facing off against a non-elite option such as Laurent Robinson (Kareem Jackson spent 69.7% on WR1 Justin Blackmon), but also by the low snap count that week for the Texans, who played just 46 defensive plays. His Week 3 points total is the most he has scored in a single game week this year when not recording and interception, while in Week 6 he posted his highest number of total tackles in a single game against a Packers team leaning on Jordy Nelson and only just discovering Randall Cobb’s true potential. He capped it all off with his fantasy-game-of-the-season in Week 7 with a pick-6 of Joe Flacco on top of 5 total tackles and a pass defensed.

Taking the knowledge forwards that Jonathan Joseph certainly benefits from his shutdown games against oft-targeted top wideouts, you’ll be glad to see his upcoming schedule. And when I say glad, I actually meant elated. This week he faces the Bears and I’d expect him to see nearly 80%+ of his snaps aligned across from Brandon Marshall who is averaging 10.75 targets per game. In Week 12, and quite possibly your fantasy play-offs, he’ll be expected to “do a Tillman” so to speak and shutdown Calvin Johnson who has seen on average 10.1 targets per game this year. Week 14 is interesting as the Texans travel to New England and the question is whether Joseph draws Brandon Lloyd (8.5 TA p/g) or Wes Welker (10 TA p/g). Joseph has played 23.9% of snaps as a slot cornerback so far this year, so he has the skillset to take on Welker if Wade Phillips asks it of him. Then Joseph owners hit the proverbial jackpot with the new and improved NFL scheduling throwing a divisional showdown with the Colts in Week 15 & Week 17 (your fantasy championship weeks?). Our IDP Points Against data marks out Indy as the clear #1 match-up for CBs, worth on average 29.5pts per week to opposing CBs, 3.7pts p/g clear of the next best (Tennessee, who Joseph faces in Week 13!). Of course you have to expect he’ll shadow Reggie Wayne, the most targeted receiver in the league (106 times) who has averaged 13.25 targets per game.

Expect to see Jonathan Joseph as a sneaky DB2 play in my rankings and CB1 this week, then again in Weeks 12 and 15 (you shouldn’t be playing in Week 17. If you are, take a vote to cut the season by a week. It’s stupid). I’ll have him a little lower in Weeks 13 and 14 as he’s already played the Titans (albeit without Kenny Britt) and only recorded 4 total tackles, and I think he’ll be more likely to cover Lloyd than Welker, although he may split time on both.

 

Ross Miles is the IDP Editor and a Senior Fantasy Writer for Pro Football Focus Fantasy, as well as 2011’s most accurate IDP expert according to FantasyPros. Follow him on Twitter –@PFF_RossMiles



Ross Miles is a lead fantasy writer on PFF Fantasy. He contributes IDP content to the site. He was the 2011 winner of the FantasyPros IDP Expert Rankings contest for both weekly in-season rankings and also for pre-season rankings and finished second in IDP rankings in 2012 and 2015. Ross is also a member of the FSWA.

  • Truck_1_0_1_

    Dubious on many points really.
    The top guys should be able to shut down anybody, whether they are #1 or #2.
    Joseph is having a poor season thus far.

  • lightsout85

    Oooo, I can’t wait until PFF lists stuff like this in the premium section (the cov%, not the fantasy relation, I really don’t care about that).

    I would like to challenge the point that Antonio Brown is listed as a #2 WR in the table. Regardless of what he’s listed as or believed to be, it’s arguable he’s the superior WR to Mike Wallace. More complete, and more consistent in his production (and PFF’s own grades agree). The Broncos wanted their most skilled CB to match up with the WR on PIT who could beat them in the most ways (as opposed to Wallace, where they just really need to make sure he doesn’t get a free run down the field).

  • PFF_RossMiles

    It is a fair point that Brown could have been considered the WR1 in Week 1 after Wallace’s off-season issues, but the Steelers depth chart still lists Wallace as the #1, so the data will continue to chart him as such.