THE SHADOW KNOWS Week 10 2020
THE SHADOW KNOWS: Week 10
Jalen Ramsey of the Los Angeles Rams may well be the first cornerback in the NFL. His level of play in 2020 makes a pretty compelling argument that he is. But the 26-year-old isn't a true "shadow" corner.
In fact, sometimes he isn't a cornerback at all.
As Gary Klein reported for the Los Angeles Times, Ramsey is playing the "STAR" position in Brandon Staley's defense-a rover role that involves time on the boundary, in the slot, at safety and even the occasional snap as a subpackage linebacker or edge-rusher. Staley said that versatility is critically important to the success the Rams have had defensively in 2020.
"I see him like a LeBron James is used on the basketball court," Staley said ."He's what his team needs him to be in that particular game in order for them to be successful. That's what makes him one of the best players of all time. ... I feel like Jalen's that same way. We're going to put him where we feel like it's best and fortunate, he's got skill sets to be able to move him around some."
That's heady praise indeed. But this week Ramsey and the Rams (appearing every night at 7 PM in the Tropicana Lounge) welcome in Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, and the Seattle Seahawks are coming to town.
Outside of a rough Week 1, Ramsey has been outstanding this year. Since Week 1, he's giving up 3.8 yards per target and has a completion percentage against of under 40 percent. He also hasn't been asked to shadow a No. 1 receiver this season. Assuming the Rams don't switch up (which is possible in that all things are possible) it will be Metcalf who draws Ramsey in coverage most of the day.
Is Metcalf still a must-start? Well, duh-the second-year superstar has one game this year where he didn't post 90 plus yards and a touchdown, and he just posted a 7/108/1 line on nine targets against Tre'Davious White and the Buffalo Bills.
But this week is probably Metcalf's stiffest test to date this season, and he blows up again his legend will only grow.
Jacksonville Jaguars at Green Bay Packers (DJ Chark Jr. vs Jaire Alexander)
DJ Chark Jr of the Jacksonville Jaguars is coming off his biggest game of the season yardage-wise, hauling in seven passes for 146 yards last week against the Houston Texans. Michael DiRocco of ESPN wrote that it isn't a coincidence that happened in the first career start from rookie quarterback Jake Luton.
"Luton has a better arm than Minshew. And, more importantly, he's a little more willing to let it rip and take more downfield shots," DiRocco said. "Minshew was reluctant to try that as much, partly because he was uncomfortable in the pocket and bailed out early, but also because he was overly concerned with avoiding turnovers. I don't think that Chark will put up big numbers every week, but the possibility of a big play down the field is always there with him."
Unfortunately, this week the newly formed Luton-to-Chark connection has to contend with Green Bay's Jaire Alexander, who is playing as well as any cornerback in the league. Alexander has regularly shadowed No. 1 receivers this year and thrived doing it. The Packers are surrendering the fifth-fewest PPR fantasy points to receivers as a result.
At least there's always Jaguars garbage time. Or as it's known in Duval County-Bortles time.
Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants (Darius Slay vs. Darius Slayton)
It has been a disappointing season for Slayton's fantasy managers, especially of late-since Sterling Shepard re-joined the team, Shepard and Evan Engram have been targeted four times as much as Slayton has. However, per Mark Inabinnett of AL.com, Slayton said he hasn't let the lack of looks break his stride.
"At the end of the day, it's my job to try to get open," Slayton said, "and when (Daniel Jones) does put the ball in my vicinity, it's my job to catch it. So as far as helping him, that's how I can help him better, and there were definitely some plays where I could have helped him and made a play for him. So as far as my role in helping him, that would be it."
We've seen this movie before-recently. That Week 7 return game for Shepard came against the same Eagles team the Giants will host on Sunday. In that game, the "Battle of Slay" went to the Eagles corner via TKO-Slayton had just two catches for 23 yards on three targets.
If you're starting Slayton in Week 10, it had better be because you don't have a choice.
Washington Football Team at Detroit Lions (Terry McLaurin vs. Desmond Trufant)
Were Washington's Terry McLaurin playing with Russell Wilson or Patrick Mahomes, we may well be talking about the second-year pro from Ohio State alongside guys like DK Metcalf, Stefon Diggs and DeAndre Hopkins-in other words, as an elite wide receiver.
Stop looking at me like that. It hurts that you don't believe me, but I'm hardly alone in that assessment.
"He leads the NFL with 45.3 percent of his team's air yards, while no other receiver is over 42.6 percent," Mike Tagliere of Fantasy Pros wrote. "Despite being in a tough matchup with James Bradberry last week, McLaurin overcame that and another quarterback change to post 7/115/1. Despite already getting his bye week out of the way, McLaurin sits as the No. 12 wide receiver in fantasy. It surely helps that he's averaging a massive 9.83 targets per game, which ranks sixth among receivers. Start him as a WR1 every week until he gives you a reason not to."
Desmond Trufant isn't a bad corner by any stretch, but he's also the wrong side of 30, coming off an injury and not the player he used to be. Frankly, if there's a concern with McLaurin this week it's passing game volume given how easy Washington is to run on-and even then, McLaurin's ridiculous target and yardage shares make it a minimal one.
Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals (Tre'Davious White vs. DeAndre Hopkins)
Both Hopkins and his fantasy managers would likely just as soon forget that Week 9 ever happened-"Nuk" had a season-low in targets (three), receptions (three) and yardage (30) in a surprising loss to the Miami Dolphins. That came against Miami's high-priced one-two punch at corner of Xavien Howard and Byron Jones, and Hopkins could be looking at another big-name corner Sunday in Buffalo's Tre'Davious White.
However, Scott Pianowski of Yahoo Sports rightly asserted that doesn't preclude one of this year's most productive fantasy receivers from a Week 10 rebound.
"Maybe he draws Tre'Davious White against Buffalo, one of the best cover corners in the NFL," he said. "But still, Buffalo's overall pass defense has just been average. White probably won't see Hopkins on every snap. You're gonna play Hopkins in any format. Just maybe not punch him for DFS in week 10. He's had a strong track record of bouncing back after weak games."
Hopkins is seventh in targets and sixth in PPR fantasy points despite last week's dud. And as we already mentioned, Buffalo gave up a big game to Metcalf last week. But the Bills are also 27th in the league in PPR points allowed to wide receivers even after giving up 390 passing yards last week.
Buffalo Bills at Arizona Cardinals (Stefon Diggs vs. Patrick Peterson)
DeAndre Hopkins isn't the only wide receiver in that matchup who is having a great season. Nine weeks into the 2020 season, Stefon Diggs of the Bills leads the NFL in targets (91), receptions (63) and receiving yards (813). That explosion in his first season in Buffalo has surprised many people-but Diggs isn't one of them.
"As far as like people doubting me, they've been doubting me for a very long time," Diggs said, via the Associated Press. "I'm kind of just relishing the moment of continuing to grind and continuing to take those steps, build it brick by brick, and let the results be what they be."
There's real shadow potential here-the Arizona defense has done more of that with Peterson, who has even slid inside to the slot on occasion. Peterson is playing better in 2020 than the year before-his passer rating against is over 12 points lower relative to 2019. But it's still not great, and Paterson struggles now against quicker receivers like Diggs.
A top-10 week is well within the realm of possibility, and top-five isn't out of the question.