Let’s start this off with some bad news: It appears quite tough to project matchup strength for WR defenses in fantasy.
We dug into strength of schedule for QBs and RBs over the past 2 weeks, and each of those positions gave us some signals to look for in projecting which defenses might provide the toughest and easiest matchups in fantasy football for 2018. For wideouts, however, the signals don’t flash so clearly.
First let’s look back at recent history.
Effects on WR Scoring
Here’s where the data stayed similar. Looking back on the past 10 years of WR points allowed, we see the friendliest and stingiest matchups providing the largest effects on fantasy scoring. And before you say “duh,” what I mean is that the gaps between consecutive defenses get larger at each extreme of the rankings. (Now you can say “duh” if you want.)
Like in the previous 2 articles, the “Avg” column represents the average difference (2008-2017) between the D in that ranking spot and median WR points allowed. The “Diff” column represents the change in percentage between that ranking spot and the 1 below (listed by percentage points rather than true percentages).
Here, we see the worst 6 defenses adding 10+% to WR fantasy scores, while the best 7 defenses take away 10+% of scoring. And, as you can see, the gaps between consecutive defenses grow at the top and bottom of the list.
What Makes a Tough WR Defense?
WRs score their fantasy points in fewer categories than either of the previous 2 positions we checked, but that leaves a clearer top correlation.
The table above shows that receptions and receiving yards lead the way in terms of strongest correlation to fantasy points allowed to WRs. Receptions, however, have proved more volatile in their correlation over our tested span, duking it out with TDs for a few years in there. Yardage, on the other hand, has dominated.
When we’re calculating correlation, we’re looking for a result as close to 1 as possible for 2 related factors. Over the past 10 years, receiving yards have produced an average and median correlation of 0.93 with WR points allowed. Receptions checked in at 0.81 (median: 0.80), with TDs following at 0.74 (median: 0.73) and then targets at 0.59 (median: 0.62).
After sorting that out, I looked into the correlations between the stat categories and found yards not especially closely tied to either targets or receptions. Targets, in particular, came in weak. The correlation between catches and yards, on the other hand, has been inconsistent. Six of the past 10 years found a correlation of 0.75 or stronger between yards and receptions. It’s possible that tie is getting stronger, though, as all 4 seasons of 0.8 or greater in the tested span came among the past 8 years.
What’s that all mean? We want our WRs facing the defenses giving up the most yardage. It doesn’t necessarily matter whether they’re facing the most targets or yielding the most catches.