When you hear slot receiver you probably think of a small, shifty, receiver with good hands who can help move the chains. Perhaps you think of Julian Edelman, Jamison Crowder or even the man who put slot receivers on the map, Wes Welker! What you need to know is the slot is a complete mismatch, as teams have started to line up their best receivers in the slot, while defenses are lagging behind and keeping their best cornerbacks lined up out wide. You may not realize that JuJu Smith-Schuster runs the second most routes per game from the slot, or that four of A.J. Green's five touchdowns have come from the slot. Adam Thielen is currently the top scoring WR in PPR leagues, running over 60 percent of his routes from the slot.
Taking advantage of players who line up in the slot, specifically against teams that struggle against guarding it, is a great way to get an advantage in fantasy football. That is exactly what I will strive to do in this article going forward. Additionally, I will give recommendations for those in leagues of all sizes, from 10-teams to 18-teamers.
Speaking of Adam Thielen, he is an obvious must-start every week, but his streak of 100+ receiving yards in every game this season should continue this week. Thielen faces the Jets this week, who have allowed 106.8 receiving yards per game to slot WRs, the second most in the NFL this year.
Tyler Boyd may seem like an obvious start to many, but those in 10-team leagues may be questioning if they should use Boyd or another stud WR this week. Boyd is in a very favorable position facing the Chiefs. What you may not realize is the Chiefs allow 6.0 receptions per game to slot WRs, the seventh-most in the NFL. The Bengals will need to put up points this week, and Boyd should see plenty of targets, as he runs nearly 70 percent of his routes from the slot. He is a safe top-20 WR this week regardless of format.
Robert Woods has been great for fantasy owners this season, but he should get an added bump this week with Cooper Kupp out. Kupp runs 73 percent of his routes from the slot, while Robert Woods has seen only 38.4 percent of his routes from the slot. The expectation is that all the Rams WRs will continue to get mixed into the slot, as both Brandin Cooks and Josh Reynolds run about 28 percent of their routes from the slot. That should lead to a boost in value for Cooks as well, although, with Woods already running more routes from the slot he should be the one that slides in there the most in Kupp's absence. The 'Niners porous secondary is allowing the seventh-most YPG to enemy slot wideouts.
Sterling Shepard is in a prime position this week. Not only does he get the Falcons, who have allowed the second most points per game this season, but they also struggle against slot WRs. On the season, slot receivers have averaged 16.2 PPR fantasy points per game, seventh-most in the NFL. They have also allowed four receiving TDs to slot receivers, which is tied for the second-most. In a game in which the Giants will be chasing points, with a QB who ranks 30th among 35 QBs in average depth of target (aDOT), and against a team that struggles against slot receivers, Shepard should bounce-back after a dismal Week 6 (3/37 receiving).
Keke Coutee has stepped up for the Texans and given them a three-headed monster in the passing game. Yes, the Texans offense has not fully lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon them and they get the vaunted Jaguars this week. Still, Coutee should be trusted in 12-team leagues and deeper. Since being activated in Week 4, Coutee has averaged 9.0 targets per game, the second most on the Texans. He's mainly taking away from Will Fuller, who has seen just 3.7 targets per game since Week 4. Not only does Coutee have volume in his favor, but he should be the Texans biggest mismatch this week. The Jaguars biggest weakness on defense is guarding slot receivers, as they've allowed 16.7 PPR PPG to slot receivers this season, the fourth-most in the NFL. They've allowed four TDs to slot receivers and we saw Cole Beasley have a career day against them just a week ago. You can fire up Coutee with confidence this week.
Jermaine Kearse was not only a top waiver wire target, but he is firmly entrenched in the WR3/Flex discussion this week. With Quincy Enunwa going down with an ankle injury, Kearse stepped in and replaced him as the Jets top slot receiver. Last week five of his 10 targets came from the slot, catching all five for 41 yards. The Vikings have allowed 22.4 PPR PPG to slot receivers since Week 4, the fifth-most in the NFL, along with four touchdowns to slot receivers this season. Enunwa has provided Sam Darnold with a safety blanket all year, averaging over eight targets per game in the first five weeks. Kearse should step in and see volume close to that. He is one of my favorite bye week replacements in a favorable matchup. Kearse can be trusted in PPR formats as long as Enunwa is out.
Who to pick on the Bucs with this week?
You can expect this to be a regular section in this article. Why? Well, the Bucs, who have already had their bye (meaning 26 teams have played one more game then they have), and have still allowed the most receiving yards and touchdowns to players in the slot. On the season the Bucs are allowing 27.7 PPR PPG to slot wide receivers. To put that into perceptive, the Jets have allowed the second most PPR PPG to slot receivers ... at 22.9. That is nearly five more points per game than the second-worst team at covering slot receivers. They allow 107 receiving yards per game and seven touchdowns to slot receivers, both the most in the NFL. This week the Browns take on the Bucs, and Jarvis Landry -- who runs 72.9 percent of his routes from the slot -- should be in store for a big day. Landry has averaged 8.0 targets per game from the slot this season, which trails only JuJu Smith-Schuster (8.3) and Adam Thielen (8.2) for the league lead. You don't need to be told to start Landry, but he comes in as a top-10 receiver play this week and should be started with confidence in all formats.
Danny Amendola is not a sexy name by any stretch, but he is in a good position this week. First, he faces the Lions, who have allowed 109 receiving yards-per-game and 23.4 fantasy points per game to slot WRs since Week 4. Not only that, but Amendola ran 32 routes and saw seven targets and five receptions from the slot with Brock Osweiler at the helm. In total in Week 6, he had 11 targets and 8 receptions, both of which are season-highs. Osweiler had a 6.5 aDOT in Week 6, which would rank 34th in the NFL if he qualified. No one ever wants their fantasy success to rely on Osweiler (unless you have the opposing defense) but he and Amendola seem like a match made in afraid-to-throw-down-the-field heaven. Those in 14-team leagues or deeper can stream Amendola this week.
Willie Snead faces the Saints in a classic battle of a powerful offense against a great defense. Snead runs 80 percent of his routes from the slot this season, which bodes well for him this week. The Saints have allowed the ninth-most PPR PPG (16.0), to go with four receiving touchdowns to slot receivers. The Ravens could be chasing points this week, which should lead to Flacco throwing Snead's way as they move the ball down the field. He is a solid option in 14-team leagues or deeper.
-- Michael Florio is a freelance fantasy writer at NFL.com. Make sure to check back every Thursday to find out which slot receivers you can stream in the upcoming week. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelFFlorio.