6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 2
I have always found it fascinating that there is a fairly thriving economy -- both literary and in general social cachet -- for conversation starters.
In my pop culture-riddled mind, it’s a very 70s or 80s thing to have a bowl of folded pieces of paper with questions on them or a book of hypotheticals to encourage dinner party guests to open up to each other. These books and blogs still exist today, however, and they baffle me. What I’ve surmised may really drive this phenomenon is simply a desire to have fresh things to talk about -- novelty and excitement in discussions with old friends and colleagues.
That desire to shake things up is a very valid urge, even for fantasy analysts.
I got that same urge just this second week of the NFL season. I realized it would be way more interesting and informative to offer a fourth lesser-known fantasy wide receiver with a compelling cornerback matchup in Good Stocks than it would be to give a third “start your stud real hard this week” recommendation in Lineup Locks. That’s the way I’m going to go forward, because I want the conversations about these matchups to be more than surface-level fantasy chitchat; I want them to be deep and meaningful for you.
Now, pass the hors d’oeuvres and let’s get another round in our glasses while we politely debate these Week 2 wide receiver-cornerback matchups.
One of the things I try to do is reflect on my process and focus on the successes and fix the failures, so that I can give you all the best fantasy football advice possible. Each week, we’ll look at the previous one’s hits and misses. I consider 17.5 PPR fantasy points (the weekly fantasy average of the WR24 over the last five years) a hit for Lineup Locks, and a score of 9.0 (the average WR48) a hit for Good Stocks. A player with 7.5 PPR fantasy points or fewer as a Smoking Crater is a hit as well.
Lineup Locks: Michael Thomas, Tyreek Hill, and A.J. Brown. Admittedly, this was a bad outcome for us. The #Process for each was very good, but Thomas suffered a high-ankle sprain, Hill was a victim of blowout game script, and Brown’s targets went to Corey Davis. Hill was a top-25 option, but none cracked the WR1 ranks. C’est la vie when trying to predict Week 1.
Good Stocks: DeSean Jackson, Stefon Diggs, and Jamison Crowder. Diggs and Crowder both came up big -- for 16.6 and 24.5 PPR points, respectively, this week -- as the Buffalo Bills-New York Jets duel turned into a messy slap-fight full of garbage time points. Jackson, who was working through a health issue earlier in the week, was more limited in his snap count than expected, and his team’s offensive line issues derailed the offense.
Smoking Craters: Brandin Cooks and Parris Campbell. Cooks was a strong call for us, though part of his poor performance may have been due to injury. Campbell posted a solid 6 grabs for 71 yards on 9 targets despite going up against the seemingly tough D.J. Hayden most of the day.
Two Lineup Locks
Julio Jones vs. Trevon Diggs – This week’s column is fairly rookie-heavy, and we kick things off with Atlanta Falcons star Julio Jones matching wits with first-year Dallas Cowboys corner Trevon Diggs. The setup is simple: it will largely be Diggs’s job to defend target hog Jones, who absorbed a whopping 26% target rate (how often he was targeted when on the field) and turned in a stellar 3.34 yards per route run -- per Pro Football Focus (PFF) -- in Week 1.
Diggs was actually fairly adept at discouraging throws his way last week, with an 88th percentile target rate allowed. Still, when targeted, he gave up a catch rate and clip of yards per route run that rank in the bottom quarter of Week 2's expected starting cornerbacks. Should Jones find himself across from Diggs’s teammate Chidobe Awuzie on the other side of the formation, things could look a lot different. Awuzie almost made it onto the Smoking Craters list for the week, and I believe that the Falcons' offense will try to avoid his side of the field. That makes Diggs’s side (and the slot) excellent fantasy targets for us.
Amari Cooper vs. A.J. Terrell – On the flip side of this same game, another proficient veteran receiver will square off with another highly drafted rookie cornerback. Here, that means it’s Amari Cooper of the Cowboys against Atlanta’s A.J. Terrell. For all the talk of spreading the ball around, Cooper soaked up a 30% target rate and almost a 38% target share in Week 1, making him the undisputed top receiver on the team. The only lackluster part of his receiving profile is the 1.88 yards per route run, which still does rank in the top half of Week 2 wideouts but isn’t overwhelming by any means.
Against Terrell, that should be enough. The 2020 first-rounder did post a stout 15% target rate in Week 1, but he didn’t prevent a catch when targeted and allowed an absurd seventh percentile yards per route run (2.56). If the Cowboys continue to force-feed Cooper in what projects to be a shootout (over/under of 53 on FanDuel Sportsbook), Terrell may not be able to stop him.
Four Good Stocks
Jerry Jeudy vs. Mike Hilton – Another matchup, another rookie. This time, however, it’s on the other side of the ball. Denver Broncos versatile and shifty first-rounder Jerry Jeudy posted a whopping 32% target rate in his first NFL game, partly a testament to Denver being down one Courtland Sutton, but also partly a testament to Jeudy’s impeccable route-running and ability to get open. Pittsburgh Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton has been average at best in all areas of coverage, so while Jeudy is by far Denver’s top receiving threat (assuming Sutton sits again), he won’t be followed into the slot by Pittsburgh’s top corner by any means.
Anthony Miller vs. Darnay Holmes – The New York Giants got roasted in Week 1, particularly slot corner Darnay Holmes, who allowed bottom-third numbers in all three categories of target rate, catch rate, and yards per route run. He’ll be charged with stopping Chicago Bears receiver Anthony Miller -- who is coming off of a 27% target rate and 3.45 yards per route run as a slot receiver -- in a game that may feature no defense. Good luck, Darnay.
Scotty Miller vs. Troy Pride Jr. – Slot receivers like Scotty Miller of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers plus Tom Brady equals fantasy points. That formula works especially when facing cornerbacks like rookie Troy Pride Jr. of the Carolina Panthers. Two mediocre defenses means a budding throw-fest, and Brady loves his checkdowns, which Pride – who comes into the week having allowed bottom quarter marks in all areas – will be abjectly absent on. Plus, Chris Godwin (concussion) may be out.
Robby Anderson vs. Jamel Dean – Run it back, as the kids say, with Carolina’s Robby Anderson against Tampa defender Jamel Dean. Dean was on Michael Thomas last week, and while that didn’t end up good for our receiver recommendation, Dean still allowed a 21% target rate (21st percentile) and 3.08 yards per route run (4th percentile) the rest of the game. Anderson is a DFS firework waiting to go off in Week 2.
Two Smoking Craters
John Brown vs. Byron Jones – What do you get when you mix an inaccurate quarterback with perhaps the top cover man in the NFL? A huge avoid situation for Buffalo Bills wideout John Brown in Week 2. Brown’s 16% target rate already this year makes him a shaky option on the best of days, but Miami Dolphins defensive back Byron Jones should destroy him here. Jones allowed a minuscule 4% target rate in Week 1 (allowed 10% all of last season) and just 0.3 yards per route run (0.6 in 2019). Look elsewhere this week, because Brown can’t do it for you.
Tyreek Hill vs. Chris Harris Jr. – One week you’re up, the next you’re down. Such is the life for a speed threat in the NFL. Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill was the best recommendation we had in Week 1, but he’ll face potential shadow man Chris Harris and the Los Angeles Chargers this time. Harris has the speed to run with the absurdly fast Hill, and the versatility to follow him the Chiefs’ top threat around the field. He’s also by far the most dominant cornerback on the field in Week 2, limiting his Week 1 opponents to a 5% target rate, a 50% catch rate, and just 0.3 yards per route run. Hill’s not a WR1 for fantasy this week.
Week 2 Potential Shadow Situations: Marvin Jones Jr. (DET) vs. Jaire Alexander (GB); Tyreek Hill (KC) vs. Chris Harris Jr. (LAC); Robert Woods (LAR) vs. Darius Slay (PHI); D.K. Metcalf (SEA) vs. Stephon Gilmore (NE).