6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 14
I am notoriously bad at keeping up with pop culture.
My best friend will tell me about a band he’s found out about, I’ll respond that I’ll check them out, and then I’ll completely forget about them. Ten years will go by, the band will pop up in my Pandora station, and then I’ll send a message to my friend asking if he’s heard of this group. I’m this way with TV shows, movies, even video games -- when I am going to spend my precious time or money, I want to know that it’s going to be worth my while. I’m willing to let others be the first to experience it so I can get more evidence for my decisions.
In fantasy football, one week’s waivers or one dollar of FAB money can be the difference between a playoff spot and being sidelined in December; one start/sit decision can be the margin between cashing and flopping in DFS. Still, we want evidence and data to help us make those decisions.
That’s why I write this column: when the stakes for a decision get especially high, it’s always a good idea to get extra input. By following my evidence-based advice, you won’t be able to say that you were first to know Marvin Jones would go on a fantasy playoffs tear, and you won’t be able to say you were on Brandon Aiyuk from the first. My goal is to give you reliable results every single week and – when the season is over – that you find yourself first in the standings.
Which wide receivers will lift you to the head of the fantasy line in Week 14, thanks to their cornerback matchups?
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: Brandin Cooks and Tyler Lockett. Neither Cooks (11.5) -- both of whom exited mid-game with injuries before ultimately returning -- nor Lockett (12.3) met the Locks mark, but both were serviceable starting options if you used them. Lockett’s entire team was shut down, so this was about as good as we could have hoped.
Good Stocks: Adam Thielen, Cole Beasley, Hunter Renfrow, and Laviska Shenault. Thielen (21.5) was all systems go in his return from a week out. Beasley (28.0) filled exactly the role the Bills needed to target against San Francisco. Renfrow (8.7) nearly made the mark in what became a shootout. Shenault (15.8) would have made the mark even without the fluky tip-drill touchdown, but we won’t complain about the bonus points.
Smoking Craters: Jalen Reagor and Marvin Jones. Reagor (11.5) and Jones (25.6) were both well over the Craters threshold. Reagor didn’t end up shadowed, and there was a lot of negative game script where his team threw downfield; I didn’t consider that. I also missed that the Lions would actually open up the offense sans fired head coach Matt Patricia and injured star wide receiver Kenny Golladay.
Two Lineup Locks
D.K. Metcalf vs. Lamar Jackson – The Week 14 wide receiver matchups are largely extremely favorable, so I’m leaning toward discussing ones with the highest upside. For that reason, Seattle Seahawks receiver D.K. Metcal; makes a return to our column. Despite his team getting largely shut down last week, I believe the ‘Hawks will get back to their high-flying ways against the lowly New York Jets. Metcalf himself should “bounce back” from his “down” 80-yard game with a matchup against Gotham cornerback Lamar Jackson.
I’m being facetious when I bemoan Metcalf’s five-catch, 80-yard game last week, but that is shockingly just the fourth time in 12 games that he’s failed to reach 90 yards receiving and just the fifth game in which he hasn’t found the end zone. That’s how good he’s been. Despite a sub-average marks in targets per routes run (19%; data per Pro Football Focus) and catch rate (67%), Metcalf has been extremely efficient: his yards per route run (2.2) ranks in the top-15 among Week 14 starting wide receivers. His downfield usage and stable floor of targets have given him reliable weekly upside.
Jackson -- no, not that one -- can hang with Metcalf’s size; the former stands 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, while the latter has only a 15-pound advantage. Where Jackson falls behind, however, is in the speed game: Metcalf runs a blazing 4.33 forty-yard dash, while Jackson clocks in at 4.58. This is reflected in the cornerback's rates, as well. He ranks near the bottom-third in target rate per coverage snap (15%) among Week 14 starting cornerbacks -- but allows a top-third catch rate (71%) and a top-five mark in yards per coverage snap (1.7). Metcalf is in line for another healthy dose of deep targets.
Keenan Allen vs. Isaiah Oliver – What is the medicine that can solve the ailment of a 45-point blowout shutout for the Los Angeles Chargers? Why, a date with the Atlanta Falcons’ secondary, of course! That’s good news for slot receiver Keenan Allen, who saw 11 targets last week against a much tougher defense; it’s bad news for cornerback Isaiah Oliver, who will likely guard Allen the most.
The entire Falcons secondary has been a sieve in the passing game, allowing the second-most schedule-adjusted points to wide receivers every week. Oliver in particular has been taken advantage of, allowing top-quarter marks in target rate (18%) and catch rate when targeted (73%), while forking over a top-10 rate of yards per coverage snap (1.7). Atlanta has allowed 26% of targets against it to the slot, which is a fairly high number -- although certainly not the highest in the league. Still, Oliver presents an inviting target for any team.
Allen should be able to take advantage of his opening here, as he ranks in the top-five in target rate (27%) when on the field, has a top-half catch rate (72%), and has earned a top-quarter mark in yards per route run (2.0). Despite an incredibly low average separation from his defender (1.3 yards, 91st among receivers per PlayerProfiler), he continues to make contested catches (57% catch rate, 23rd highest) and deliver in traffic. Allen should continue his target hogging ways and provide upside to boot.
Four Good Stocks
CeeDee Lamb vs. Mackensie Alexander – No one wants to trust backup quarterback Andy Dalton and the Dallas Cowboys’ passing game, but they have been surprisingly effective when the Red Rifle is on the field. Last week, all three of the top wide receivers on the team met our threshold for Stocks, and two were in or near the Locks value level. That’s why you shouldn’t feel nervous about starting CeeDee Lamb, especially as he faces Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Mackensie Alexander.
Lamb doesn’t have an overwhelming profile in his rookie year. Still, he ranks in the top-quarter of Week 14 wideouts in target rate (22%) and has a top-half rate of yards per route run (1.7). Alexander is the real draw here, allowing a top-15 mark in target rate (19%), a top-third catch rate (72%), and a top-half yards per coverage snap (1.2). In a game that is a sneaky shootout candidate, look to Lamb for some unheralded value.
Donovan Peoples-Jones vs. Davontae Harris – A rookie drawing much less attention this year has been Donovan Peoples-Jones of the Cleveland Browns. Last week, however, the sixth-rounder exploded with two catches for 92 yards and a score on three targets. While his usage is low so far this year, he’s a worthy punt play thanks to a top-quarter catch rate (78%) and top-five rate in yards per route run (2.4) mark. His matchup with cornerback Davontae Harris of the Baltimore Ravens is very enticing. Harris has allowed the highest target rate (28%) and highest yards per coverage snap (3.0) of any cornerback this week. Both have small sample size concerns, but this is a matchup worth trying to exploit.
Keke Coutee vs. Buster Skrine – Thanks to injuries, Keke Coutee has vaulted into the starting ranks for the Houston Texans and has not disappointed. His top-20 catch rate (78%) and top-quarter mark in yards per route run (2.0) make for an enticing option, even though he’ll be more priced up in DFS this week than last. His opponent, Chicago Bears slot cornerback Buster Skrine, ranks in the top-15 of every production category this week. Keep on the Coutee train.
Allen Lazard vs. Justin Coleman – It takes a lot to convince Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to not throw the ball to Davante Adams, but slot receiver Allen Lazard seems to have what it takes. Though still getting up to speed, Lazard has a top-20 yards per route run mark (2.1), showing his efficiency when thrown the ball. Detroit Lions cornerback Justin Coleman will primarily guard him, but Coleman allows a top-quarter target rate (18%), a top-10 catch rate (80%), and a top-half yards per coverage snap (1.3). Lazard is a great play here.
Two Smoking Craters
Henry Ruggs III vs. Xavier Rhodes – Fantasy owners were given a major gift last week when Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs scored the game-winning, bombs-away touchdown in the final seconds of Week 13. They might not be so lucky here, though, as Ruggs will be covered by Indianapolis Colts cornerback Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes has turned his performance around in 2020, allowing a bottom-quarter target rate (14%), the lowest catch rate among Week 14 starters (43%), and a bottom-20 mark in yards per coverage snap (0.9). Ruggs has had a nearly average rate in yards per route run due to his deep ball skill set, but it’s best to avoid him this week in all but the most dire situations due to this coverage.
N’Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd vs. Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams – Let’s start with this: New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton has failed to throw for at least 100 yards in each of the past two weeks. That’s not what you want if you’re rolling out a Pats pass-catcher in your fantasy playoffs. To make matters worse, wide receivers N'Keal Harry and Damiere Byrd now have to contest the vaunted Los Angeles Rams secondary, led by Jalen Ramsey and Darious Williams. Ramsey and Williams have allowed bottom-five catch rates (50% or less) and bottom-10 yards per coverage snap marks (0.5 and 0.8, respectively), to go with a bottom-three target rate (11%) for Ramsey and a bottom-20 one for Williams (13%). Harry and Byrd are below-average in every production category, so it’s best you leave them on the bench for this game.
Week 14 Potential Shadow Situations: Darius Slayton (NYG) vs. Patrick Peterson (ARZ), Robert Woods (LAR) vs. Stephon Gilmore (NE), DeAndre Hopkins (ARZ) vs. James Bradberry (NYG), Michael Thomas (NO) vs. Darius Slay (PHI), Marvin Jones (DET) vs. Jaire Alexander (GB).