6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 12
I’m really lucky to have two people I consider my best friends. It’s tough to distinguish them in stories to people, however, so I refer to David – who I’ve known since we were three – as my brother and Adam as my best friend. There’s no hierarchy to it; it’s really just that David had wandered into my parents’ house and rummaged through the kitchen cabinets from time immemorial to me. With Adam, I can pinpoint the day we became that close.
As we head into the holiday season(s), many people feel pressured by the stress of obligation to family members. There are meals to cook, presents to wrap, and events to attend (hopefully virtually). If you consider making a decision to shirk one of those for physical safety or mental wellbeing, you worry about angering or ostracizing your blood relations. I hope I can serve as an example, however, that blood is not truly thicker than water – that family is a privilege, not a right. If you’re concerned about family pressure while making a safe and smart decision this holiday season, maybe they aren’t the ones you should be spending this holiday season with anyway. After all, “found family” is still family, but ones we can truly be thankful for.
For a seamless pivot to football talk: which wide receivers will you be thankful to find have great cornerback matchups this week?
One of the things I do is reflect on my process, analyzing the successes and fixing 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: Tyler Boyd and Julio Jones. Boyd (17.5) hit the mark despite his quarterback suffering a season-ending injury; negative game script will help with that. Jones (5.9) played just 35 snaps thanks to a nagging hamstring injury, which required frequent in-game treatment.
Good Stocks: Amari Cooper, Jarvis Landry, Randall Cobb, and Chase Claypool. Cooper (14.1) was back to leading the team in targets and delivered in a shockingly competitive game for his team. Landry (4.6) was undone by a run-first game script, and the continued emergence of *checks notes* Khadarel Hodge and Rashard Higgins; sometimes you can’t plan for these things. Cobb (8.7) nearly made the mark but might’ve had a much bigger game if not for the potentially season-ending first-quarter toe injury he suffered. Claypool (15.9) saw eight targets, converting four for 59 yards and a score. He’s locked into a top-two spot in his offense.
Smoking Craters: Jalen Reagor and Josh Reynolds. On a day where every Eagles receiver struggled, Reagor (9.2) was the lone bright spot, finishing above the mark despite seeing just five targets. Reynolds (6.2) still saw six targets in a shockingly voluminous Rams air attack but was passed in the pecking order even by rookie Van Jefferson.
Two Lineup Locks
Keenan Allen vs. Taron Johnson – For a passing offense we thought would be a fantasy football disaster in 2020, the Los Angeles Chargers have been an absolute revelation thanks to quarterback Justin Herbert. Chief among those resurgent receivers has been Keenan Allen, who is lighting the league on fire once again. In Week 12, Allen will take on the poster boy for this column, Buffalo Bills slot cornerback Taron Johnson.
Per Pro Football Focus, Allen holds a 29% target per route run rate (second-highest among Week 12 starting wide receivers), 76% catch rate when targeted (top-quarter), and earns 2.3 yards per route run (top-10). Allen has averaged 12.3 targets per game over the last month – more than every wide receiver except Cooper Kupp and Tyreek Hill – and is in a great position to take over this week, yet again.
Johnson has been getting rocked up and down the field in 2020, despite playing in the slot – a position which typically results in shorter and quicker routes. Johnson is allowing an 18% target rate on coverage snaps, 80% catch rate when targeted, and 1.6 yards per coverage snap (all top-20 marks among Week 12 starting cornerbacks). In addition, 28% of targets against Buffalo go to the slot, which is in the top half of the league. There are many reasons we love Taron Johnson in this column, and all of them are reasons to love Keenan Allen this week.
Cooper Kupp vs. Jamar Taylor – Another target hog having a thrilling year out of the slot plays just across town from Allen. Cooper Kupp of the Los Angeles Rams is putting together another whopper of a season and is on pace to match last year’s career-high receiving yards and shatter his reception mark. He should continue that trend in a divisional contest against the flailing San Francisco 49ers and slot cornerback Jamar Taylor.
Taylor is actually having just as tough a year as our best cornerback friend Taron Johnson in many respects. He is allowing an 18% target rate on his snaps in coverage (top-20), as well as a top-half catch rate when targeted (70%). He has also been quite permissive in the yardage column, allowing a top-10 mark of 1.7 yards per coverage snap. With Taylor reeling, the Niners allow the fourth-highest percentage of targets to the slot.
Kupp is seeing a target on 25% of his routes run (top-10) and catches 74% of them (a top-third mark). He is also earning 2.1 yards per route run (top-20 among Week 12 starters), with a not-insignificant amount of that yardage coming from run-after-catch plays like his tackle-shaking highlights this past Monday night. We shouldn’t expect another 13-target, 145-yard outburst from Kupp, but he’ll still be the anchor of any lineup this week.
Four Good Stocks
Robby Anderson vs. Chris Jones – Even in a “down” Week 11 performance with backup quarterback P.J. Walker at the helm, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Robby Anderson still saw nine targets, catching seven for 46 yards. While we’ll hope for greater yardage next time out, that resilient workload is reflected in Anderson’s top-10 target rate, to go along with a top-quarter catch rate and top-15 yards per route run. His cover man, Chris Jones of the Minnesota Vikings, is allowing the third-highest catch rate among starters in Week 12. Robby Anderson – whether field-stretcher or possession monster – should find your lineups.
Corey Davis vs. Rock Ya-Sin – I’m willing to say it: Corey Davis is the actual WR1 in this Tennessee Titans offense. Forget what you know about A.J. Brown from last year; Davis is finally emerging (in actuality, it might be that this passing attack can only sustain one fantasy-worthy wideout at one time, and Davis is now being afforded the easier coverages – but that’s something we’re willing to exploit here).
In Week 12, that means Rock Ya-Sin of the Indianapolis Colts is his coverage man. RYS allows a top-20 target rate on coverage snaps and a top-five yards per coverage snap. Davis, his opponent, has earned a top-15 target rate when on the field and a top-five yards per route run. Don’t overthink it -- Corey Davis is in a great spot here.
Sterling Shepard vs. LeShaun Sims – Cincinnati Bengals cornerback LeShaun Sims appears to be over his injury concerns, just in time to try to stop New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard this week. Shepard hasn’t earned a massive yards per route run (just below the 50th percentile) but is dominating looks when on the field (top-15 target rate) and snaring everything that comes his way (top-five catch rate). Sims is allowing a top-20 catch rate, as well as a top-10 target rate and the third-highest yards per coverage snap. Expect a big day for Shep.
Keke Coutee vs. Justin Coleman – With Randall Cobb likely out for Week 12 (and perhaps the season), the Houston Texans will likely turn to Keke Coutee in the slot. In relief of Cobb last time out, Coutee saw four targets, catching two for 10 yards and a score. Despite his total numbers being low, he has only played 40 snaps this year; in the past, Coutee has performed very well when given the chance. The matchup is a big chance for him to juice his season-long rates; Detroit Lions slot corner Justin Coleman is allowing the fifth-highest target rate when on the field, as well as a top-quarter catch rate. That could be enough to make Coutee a deep value this week.
Two Smoking Craters
Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk vs. Jalen Ramsey – Whichever of the 49ers’ receivers makes it to the field in Week 12 (and it likely won’t be both) will find themselves shadowed by Rams lockdown corner Jalen Ramsey. They won’t be able to escape to the slot, either, as Ramsey has added that to his repertoire as well – his 20% of snaps played inside in 2020 is double his previous share in that position. Ramsey is our toughest cornerback to match up against this week, ranking bottom-five in target rate (11%) and catch rate allowed (51%), as well as second-toughest in yards per coverage snap (0.5). If it’s Deebo Samuel against him, his top skills are just barely inside the top-third of Week 12 receivers. Look elsewhere for value, especially if it's Brandon Aiyuk.
A.J. Green vs. James Bradberry – The Giants nailed it when they signed cornerback James Bradberry to be their lockdown shadow corner this offseason. Bradberry has allowed a bottom-quarter target rate in coverage this season (14%), as well as bottom-15 marks in catch rate (55%) and yards per coverage snap (0.8). He’ll face veteran Bengals receiver A.J. Green in this one. While Green has had a minor resurgence of late, the injury to quarterback Joe Burrow means Green can’t be trusted as the third option in this offense. Worse, he has the lowest catch rate (47%) among Week 12 starters and a bottom-15 yards per route run (1.0). Green is a fade the rest of the year, but especially this week.
Week 12 Potential Shadow Situations: DeAndre Hopkins (ARZ) vs. Stephon Gilmore (NE), A.J. Green (CIN) vs. James Bradberry (NYG), D.K. Metcalf (SEA) vs. Darius Slay (PHI), Deebo Samuel or Brandon Aiyuk (SF) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR).