Does Shadow Coverage matter…..I mean I hope so I just spent the whole year writing about it. However, instead of just hoping it does let’s take a look at 2020. Just an FYI if we find out it doesn’t, I just want to say I can’t wait to try something new here at the great company of Razzball in 2021.

The first thing we should do is review the data of all the wide receivers we wrote about in are articles weeks 1- 17 weeks. Granted not all these players ended up seeing shadow coverage, but it is important to look at the players who we typically think will see shadow coverage week in and week out. Later on we will review PFF’s shadow coverage matchups to see the overall impact shadow coverage had in 2020, but for now let’s dive into the weekly finishes of the players we tracked this season.

Shadow Coverage Tracker
WR Finish Total
1 23
2 13
3 14
4+ 31
Grand Total 81

Based on the chart of above we tracked 81 wide receivers who started the game along with the potential shadow cornerback in that matchup. We highlight this because in some cases the WR or CB didn’t play after the article was published. Of the players we charted 31 (38%) finished outside the top 36 WRs. This list has some notable WRs who fell outside this mark multiple times including Amari Cooper (3 times), DeAndre Hopkins (Twice), D.K. Metcalf (Twice) and Mike Evans (Twice). Even though a WR4 or worse finish didn’t top 50% it was still the most likely outcome. This is very surprising as most of the WRs we charted were top 24 WRs on the year.

Ironically the next highest percentage of finishes was WR1 at 28% (23 WRs). A WR1 finish means that the player was a top 12 WR on the week. These 23 WRs averaged 23.5 PPG in those specific matchups with 19 topping 20 points and 6 going over 25 points or more.

Overall, 62% of the performances were still inside the top 36, and with most fantasy league either featuring 3 WRs or a flex it’s tough to truly say any players are must sits.

On the flip side it would be short sighted to say shadow coverage doesn’t matter. Let’s take stud 2nd year WR D.K. Metcalf for example. Below we highlight D.K. Metcalf’s stats in 2020 vs. shadow coverage and all other opponents.

D.K. Metcalf vs. Shadow Coverage
Opponent Games Rec Yards TDs PPG
All Other Opponents 7 5.7 83.4 1 17.2
Vs. Shadow Coverage* 10 4.8 81.5 0.5 13.6

*Includes 1 playoff game

As we see in the chart Metcalf’s stats are impacted when he sees shadow coverage as his PPG drops by nearly 4 points per game in .5 PPR. However, his 13.6 PPG would still make him the WR 12 in .5 PPR in 2020. This level of production is still useful in season long fantasy, but his 17.2 PPG when he doesn’t see shadow coverage would put him as the clear WR3 in fantasy PPG last season.

When diving deeper into Metcalf’s game logs we can see his finishes were all over the place when facing shadow corners. In the 9 regular season games he faced shadow coverage he posted 3 WR1, 3 WR3 and 3 WR4 or worse finishes. This means in 2/3 of his games he faced shadow coverage in 2020, Metcalf finished outside the top 24. Now for season long fantasy this probably doesn’t mean you sit Metcalf, but for anyone playing daily fantasy we can clearly conclude that these WRs aren’t worth the price.

Over the next few articles, we will take a deeper dive into the most shadowed wide receivers and the most utilized shadow covers in the NFL. This will allow us to get a better understanding of which WRs are impacted the most by shadow coverage and which CBs were the toughest in shadow coverage in 2020.


*Sources – Pro Football Focus, Razzball and Pro Football Reference