Fantasy Football: 3 Defenses Wide Receivers Should Feast on in 2020
Are you a dish-soaker like me? You know, the sort of person who tells themselves that they are putting their plate in the sink because they “need to soak for a while,” when you’re actually just being lazy about washing them right away. Dish detergent “Lemon Sqezy” (pronounced SKWEE-zee) made washing by hand easy-peasy – and, yes, that’s where the phrase comes from.
We all want maximum results with minimum input, even in fantasy football when trying to parse matchups for our wide receivers. Fortunately for you, we’re helping with some of the research ahead of time. This article will identify a few defenses that should be susceptible to fantasy wide receiver scoring in 2020.
When targeting a defense with our fantasy receivers, we want: a defensive secondary lacking in previous production, a roster that didn’t address its needs in free agency or the NFL Draft, and (ideally) an up-tempo offense that will keep the game close so opponents can’t just run the ball and run off clock.
That’s why I’m here to make it “easy-peasy, lemon squeezy” for you. Now, let’s get those streaming targets lined up so your roster feels squeaky-clean.
New Orleans Saints
I really could just call these articles the “Why the NFC South Loves Shootouts” series. In 2019, the New Orleans Saints came in fourth in terms of most fantasy points allowed per game to opposing wide receivers (39.7), largely due to giving up barrels of yardage (seventh-most; 175.1 per game) and the fifth-most targets per game (21.5). They also ran the fifth-most offensive plays in a neutral or positive game script (while within one score or leading) last year, which means they forced other teams to throw to keep up.
The one wrench in our “stream against the Saints” plan is cornerback Marshon Lattimore. In 2019, Lattimore was top-25 in lowest separation allowed (0.96 yards), top-15 in lowest catch rate allowed (55.3 percent), and top-10 in lowest yards per reception allowed (10.1), all per PlayerProfiler.com; in short, he good and he will be a tough matchup for anyone lining up at the LWR spot, but that means offenses will likely funnel the ball to the right side and the slots. Veteran Janoris Jenkins was one of the most generous cover men last year, affording 1.93 fantasy points per target to receivers with a 63 percent catch rate.
As to who takes the slot role, we’re not sure yet. P.J. Williams was re-signed, veteran Patrick Robinson could compete, and even safeties Chauncey Gardner-Johnson or Malcolm Jenkins may be options. Only Jenkins would be troubling, as he limited targets against him in the slot to just 0.94 fantasy points allowed per target. P.J. Williams would be ideal, having given up 2.20 last season, and he appears to be the nominal starter at the position for now.
We probably shouldn’t start WR1’s against the Saints in 2020, but streaming slot guys and second-receiver options looks like it’ll be fun yet again.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Yes, I know -- we covered the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ coverage woes in the 3 Defenses to Stream Quarterbacks Against article, but it bears repeating here: quarterback-receivers stacking against the Bucs' defense looks like a really good move in 2020.
Top cornerback Carlton Davis allowed 12.0 yards per reception and a 56.3 percent catch rate, resulting in 1.60 fantasy points allowed per target in 2019, and Sean Murphy-Bunting (projected as the second corner this year) posted very similar numbers – making both passable, if unspectacular cover cornerbacks. Things get muddy at the slot position, though, where Jamel Dean or M.J. Stewart are the top candidates to man the spot and allowed 2.71 and 1.77 fantasy points per slot target in 2019, respectively. Outside receivers should work against the Bucs this year, but the slot is where they’ll really make noise.
It should be no surprise that this defense was so mediocre last year, either: they gave up the most fantasy points per game to opposing wide receivers by quite a bit. They were also solidly first in receiver targets allowed per game (25.2) and wideout receiving yards per game (198.5). We can expect some regression on receiver touchdowns allowed per game, where they tied for third (1.3), but a slight downturn in scoring on the field shouldn’t affect fantasy scoring too much.
With only rookie safety Antoine Winfield Jr. entering as reinforcements for Tampa Bay’s secondary, we shouldn’t expect much change from last year. If anything, the Bucs will be leading games more often thanks to their offensive improvements, meaning opponents will have more game scripts that lend themselves to high-flying shootouts.
Where once there was a “Legion of Boom,” there is now a collection of young guys trying to find their place in the Seattle Seahawks’ secondary. Last season was moderately successful for the ‘Hawks, as they gave up just the 14th-most fantasy points per game to opposing receivers (35.3).
After holding opposing receivers to the 19th-most receiving yards per game (155.4) and 18th-most touchdowns per game (0.8) but allowing the 10th-most targets per game (20.8), however, I expect 2020 to be tougher sledding. If Seattle’s yards per reception allowed and touchdown rate allowed were simply the league average last year, they would have been a top-10 team in fantasy points allowed to opposing wide receivers; if their defense sags a bit beyond that in 2020, there’s potential for this unit to absolutely rupture for wide receivers.
Unfortunately for Seahawks fans, there’s a real chance of that. Their top cornerback going into this season, Shaquill Griffin, allowed 11.4 yards per reception on a 65 percent catch rate last season, good for 1.70 fantasy points allowed per target. Tre Flowers, the number-two, gave up a solidly better 1.48 fantasy points per target (20th-lowest among qualifying cornerbacks), but afforded 1.80 back in 2018 and could still be susceptible. The real weak spot is projected nickel corner Ugo Amadi, who allowed an absurd 92.3 percent catch rate despite giving up just 8.1 yards per reception and allowing 1.67 fantasy points per target. If his coverage ability doesn’t improve, and the Seahawks don’t replace him as the starter, this could be a great spot for high catch volume receivers in PPR formats.
Considering the only mediocre showing of their secondary and the fact that they’re still in a competing window, one would have expected a defensive back to be a bigger target in free agency or the draft for Seattle, but only undrafted rookies and trade acquisition Quinton Dunbar make up the list of new faces on this defense in 2020. The Seahawks could allow some high-flying performances for fantasy wideouts this year.