2021 WR Strength of Schedule

If you’ve been eyeing any of the Panthers wideouts or Kenny Golladay, then you might want to read on.

And if you’re already looking ahead to fantasy-playoffs schedules for your drafting, then you should probably stick around for some Washington info.

Before we get to that, though, let’s step back and specify what we’re here to do.

This article should not shape your drafting. Adhering too closely to strength-of-schedule even following in-season data can get you into trouble. You might watch your stud wideout rack up points on the bench because you favored a #3 WR in a good spot.

That risk only grows in the preseason, when there’s much more we don’t know.

What we’re looking for here is tiebreaker-level info: a nudge toward 1 wideout or the other when you’re struggling to decide. Or perhaps a sleeper for the early or late weeks because of what could be some favorable matchups.

What Makes a Favorable Matchup?

Once the season begins, it gets easier to tell where the easy and difficult matchups lie. Which defenses are yielding more pass attempts? Which defenses are proving most stingy vs. wideouts?

I looked back over a bunch of categories, with stats dating to 2008, and found fantasy points per target to be most worthwhile.

First of all, it makes sense. Looking at points allowed on a per-target basis can reveal defenses that are playing better or worse than their total numbers might indicate. Seattle, for example, allowed the 4th-most total PPR points to wideouts last season. But the Seahawks ranked 6th toughest in points per target.

That fell more in line with their 2019 performance against fantasy wideouts than the total points allowed did. And Seattle has ranked among the league’s bottom half in TDs allowed to WRs every year since 2011.

So you’ll find the Seahawks included among the negative WR matchups below, in spite of their seemingly weak performance in that area last season. We’ll also pick out 5 other tough matchups, as well as 6 friendlier defenses.

Fantasy points per target also proved more predictive year-to-year. It still didn’t correlate strongly from season to season, but it did so at a higher rate than any of the other categories I looked at -- and much higher than most.

The Effect

As I’ve done with each other position, I found the median fantasy points allowed to WRs for every included season and then compared each spot in the rankings to that median. Here are the resulting effects, in terms of scoring added or taken away vs. the median:

The big splits came at the top 7 and bottom 7 here, whereas we used top 8 and bottom 8 at other positions.

The effects for those ranges remained similar. The 7 friendliest WR defenses all added more than 10 percentage points to position scores, while the 7 toughest defenses took away more than 10 percentage points worth of scoring. I used just the past 3 seasons for this portion, because we’ve seen an uptick in the scoring effect at the top of the charts.

The approximate average impact of the 7 easiest defenses: +16.9 percentage points.

The approximate average impact of the 7 stingiest defenses: -16.5 percentage points.

We’ll use those numbers in the schedule adjustments below.

The Matchups