Posted by Matt Olson

WR Fantasy Stats vs Zone & Man Defenses

October 15, 2022

When I do my weekly rankings for FantasyPros I try and take everything into consideration and a big part of ranking wide receivers is knowing the matchup and the defense they are going up against. So we are going to look at the top 50 wide receivers score vs zone and man defense. From there we’ll look at matchups in Week 6 that may be better than what meets the eye.

Let’s start by understanding what teams play which of the two defensive styles and how often they are in them. This graphic from Pro Football Focus gives us that information. Check out their full article on this here, it has some excellent insight. One big thing to take away from this is that teams predominately play Zone defense outside of the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots – the Dolphins also are trending to be 50+% after this week.

From here let’s look at the two graphs for wide receivers vs man and zone defenses. Then we are going to put all that info together and make some predictions for this weekend.

Wide Receivers vs Man Defense

Wide Receivers vs Zone Defense

I messed up the formatting for them to be similar but we’ll all survive.

Looking at these we want to look for players with high Target Share and a Fantasy Points Per Target. The reality is there is going to be a lot of great names on here and that certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play a big name WR against a defense they don’t perform incredibly against; the fact I have to make this disclaimer kills me.

Key takeaways from the Man graph:
Michael Thomas doesn’t surprise me, separation vs Man defense has always been his thing, we just need to get him consistently on the field, this would be a dream against a top 10 Man playing defense.
• Its really interesting to see Zay Jones this high up there, I think the Jaguars comes back to life against Indy who has been playing more Man as the season has progressed.
• The Chiefs have been played Man on 31.7% of defensive plays over the last three weeks and this is why I have Stefon Diggs ranked as my WR3 this week.
Amari Cooper is going up against the second most Man based defense in the New England Patriots. Look for him to have an above average game this weekend especially with Belichick most likely focusing on shutting down the run.

Key takeaways from the Zone graph:
• Fire up Keenan Allen against Denver this week assuming reports are promising – with him playing Monday night it’s vital to keep on top of this. If Allen doesn’t go Mike Williams also made the tail end of this graph and should return a great game.
• Look for Gabe Davis to build on last week as gets to just tear apart the Zone defense in the intermediate part of the field.
• Jakobi Meyers is in a great spot here as the Browns matchup in Zone 78.9% of the time. Look for him to continue off his last two weeks.

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