6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 15
I always assumed as a younger man that life would remain incessantly exciting, that adventure would be just around the corner every day, no matter how old I was. As I’ve begun to move into adulthood, gained more responsibilities -- a real career job, a wife, a house -- I’ve started to realize that life is way more about mundanity than action. It’s about the boring, simple work of sticking with what you’ve set out to do and finishing it, rather than leaping from place to place or project to project. It’s about consistency, not spikes and peaks.
For so many of us fantasy football players, we imagine every week could bring a monster point total. We convince ourselves that this will be the week we take down the big tourney in DFS. And, largely, I think that’s fine; playing those fanciful mental games can be fun. We simply don’t want to lose sight of the fact that fantasy success isn’t always due to a one-week sample in the playoffs. The hardest work is often the season-long grind you took to get yourself there or the season-long bankroll management that brought you to this point in DFS. Those are achievements to be proud of too, and it’s worth treasuring that, even when playoff action gets all the glitz and glory.
Keep playing, no matter how you got to this point in the season, and these wide receivers will help you finish the year strong thanks to favorable cornerback matchups in Week 15.
I reflect on my process and results every week, 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: D.K. Metcalf and Keenan Allen. Any worries about Metcalf (18.1) and his volume in a potential blowout were allayed by the Seahawks continuing to pour it on well into the fourth quarter. Allen (20.2) scored early in the Chargers’ get-right game and continues to soak up targets.
Good Stocks: CeeDee Lamb, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Keke Coutee, and Allen Lazard. Lamb (8.1) was close to our mark, but Dallas blew out the opposition and went into a running shell. Peoples-Jones (12.4) averaged nearly 15 yards per target, despite only catching three balls; we should have been higher on teammate Rashard Higgins. Coutee (9.4) salvaged his fantasy day with a touchdown, but it was Chad Hansen who saw the most target attention with Brandin Cooks out. Lazard (3.9) played under 70% of the offensive snaps for the fourth straight game, splitting time with Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
Smoking Craters: Henry Ruggs III, N'Keal Harry, and Damiere Byrd. We were dead-on with Ruggs (4.8), who averaged just 6 yards per target -- a far cry from his field-stretching potential. I underestimated the volume that Harry (7.9) and Byrd (9.8) would see, but the Patriots scored just three points and struggled to move the ball; that capped their ceilings.
Two Lineup Locks
DeAndre Hopkins vs. Darius Slay – We haven’t had many chances to feature Arizona Cardinals wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins in this column, since the star wideout in the desert tends to draw top-tier shadow coverage wherever he goes. He should be shadowed this week, as well, if Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay (concussion) is active. Still, even when healthy, Slay has not been a cornerback matchup to fear in 2020.
You might have been justified in expecting a hitch for Hopkins’s play when he was traded to the Cards this season, but he picked up right where 2019 left off. He continues to hog looks, drawing a top-15 rate of targets per routes run (24%; data per Pro Football Focus) among Week 15 starting wide receivers. He remains a steady hand, with a top-12 catch rate (78%), and he also has continued to be one of the most efficient receivers in the league, generating a top-eight mark in yards per route run (2.3). Arizona would certainly like to continue its momentum and is currently in line for the third wild-card spot, so don’t expect them to let up on the gas in this in-conference matchup.
Despite his brand name as a cover corner and the Eagles using him as a shutdown shadow, Slay hasn’t really lived up to the billing in his new home. So far, he has allowed a top-third rate in targets per coverage snaps (17%) among Week 15 starting cornerbacks, a top-20 catch rate when targeted (76%), and a top-five mark in yards per coverage snap (1.7). Slay is extremely exploitable, and Hopkins is a top-notch lock if Slay plays and shadows him.
If Slay is out, it’s likely that either 2020 undrafted rookie Michael Jacquet starts opposite Hopkins or Philly moves Nickell Robey out of the slot and starts reserve safety Marcus Epps there. Either way, neither decision should dissuade us from Hopkins this week.
Allen Robinson II vs. Cameron Dantzler – Just imagine what wide receiver Allen Robinson could be with good quarterback. Seriously, just imagine that. Now, stop imagining this fantasy land, because his Chicago Bears will still have to rely on him picking up the slack for now. Fortunately, he gets a favorable matchup this week against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Cameron Dantzler.
Though the third-round round rookie has shown flashes of potential, Dantzler has undergone a steep learning curve in 2020. He’s allowing the second-highest target rate among Week 15 starting corners (21%) and a top-20 rate in yards per coverage snap (1.5). He has done fairly well at preventing catches, however, with a catch rate allowed ranking in the bottom-quarter this week (61%). Dantzler’s top skill right now is his imposing 6-foot-2, 185-pound frame, and that should be accounted for, but he has proven to be a vulnerable spot on the field for the Minnesota defense.
Expect the Bears to line up Robinson against him for much of the day in Week 15. Robinson ranks top-10 in target rate (25%) and top-20 in yards per route run (2.0), and while his catch rate is just below-average (68%), it’s still a fairly strong number considering his quarterback play. Robinson is quietly doing Davante Adams-Lite type things for Chicago -- this passing offense runs through him, and he has the ability to beast most any matchup. Even better for him that this one should be easy.
Four Good Stocks
Antonio Brown vs. A.J. Terrell – Speaking of rookies struggling, Atlanta Falcons first-rounder A.J. Terrell has been flummoxed for most of the year and now faces one of the better receiving corps in the league. Antonio Brown and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will look to stomp all over their division rival, and I think AB vs. AJ is the matchup to target. Brown has drawn a look on 25% of his routes run (top-10 target rate) and is still average or better in the other two categories. Terrell, on the other hand, is a top-20 permitter in catch rate and yards per coverage snap and allows a top-third target rate.
Lynn Bowden Jr. vs. Jonathan Jones – The Miami Dolphins are ailing in their skill position groups, and they’ll need all the help they can get against their division rivals, the New England Patriots. Fortunately, Miami has a player who can fill roles at both wide receiver and running back: Lynn Bowden Jr. Bowden has seen limited run so far but should see a lot of playing time in the slot this week, and he has a top-10 catch rate as a reliable safety valve. We’ve said it before, but how you attack the Pats is in the slot, testing Jonathan Jones. Jones is allowing the highest target rate among Week 15 starters and a top-12 yards per route run.
Jakobi Meyers vs. Nik Needham – The volume the Patriots' passing offense has offered lately is not something to covet, but there's some value to be had here for wide receiver Jakobi Meyers, as he faces off with Dolphins slot cornerback Nik Needham. Meyers actually has really good peripheral numbers, coming in top-20 across the board (and top-15 in yards per route run). This is heartening for his future potential and his potential to hit at some point this season; we just have to lower our ceiling expectations. Needham, on the flip side, allows a top-20 target rate, top-quarter yards per coverage snap, and a top-half catch rate. This could be just what the fantasy doctor ordered for Meyers.
Sterling Shepard vs. Kevin Johnson – Perennially undervalued, New York Giants wide receiver Sterling Shepard is reliable (top-third catch rate) and has dominated looks for the G-Men (top-20 target rate) in 2020. Volume is king in fantasy -- especially in PPR formats. His outlook is even more idyllic thanks to facing Cleveland Browns cornerback Kevin Johnson, who allows a top-quarter catch rate. We shouldn’t expect a high ceiling out of Shepard, but if you need a reliable option for your FLEX, Shep is the way to go.
Two Smoking Craters
D.J. Chark vs. Jimmy Smith – Normally, I’d suggest that the return of quarterback Gardner Minshew to the starting job is a great sign for Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver D.J. Chark, but that’s not the case in Week 15. Chark will contend with veteran shutdown cornerback Jimmy Smith of the Baltimore Ravens, and that could be a problem. Smith has been one of the top cornerbacks in the league this season, allowing the third-lowest target rate (9%) among starters in Week 15, a bottom-15 catch rate (55%) when targeted, and the second-lowest rate of yards per coverage snap (0.4). Chark’s numbers are somewhat skewed from playing with Jake Luton and Mike Glennon, but he’s below-average in every category and bottom-six in catch rate. I’d look elsewhere this week.
Breshad Perriman vs. Darious Williams – The New York Jets are an auto-avoid for offense most weeks anyway, but this is just an extra reminder to not get cute with wide receiver Breshad Perriman in Week 15. The Jets are three-score underdogs in this contest, so one would think they’ll need to pass early and often in an attempt to keep pace with the Los Angeles Rams. Still, cornerback Darious Williams will put a cap on Perriman’s potential. Williams has allowed a bottom-20 target rate (13%), the second-lowest catch rate (47%), and a bottom-10 yards per coverage snap (0.8). Perriman has seen a target rate ranking in the bottom-third (17%) and a bottom-10 catch rate (58%). There’s a chance he busts a big play, but I highly doubt it. Don’t risk your fantasy semifinals on that longshot.
Week 15 Potential Shadow Situations: Robby Anderson (CAR) vs. Jaire Alexander (GB), Jerry Jeudy (DEN) vs. Tre'Davious White (BUF), Darius Slayton (NYG) vs. Terrance Mitchell (CLE), Marvin Jones Jr. (DET) vs. Malcolm Butler (TEN), Diontae Johnson (PIT) vs. William Jackson III (CIN), Calvin Ridley (ATL) vs. Carlton Davis (TB), DeAndre Hopkins (ARZ) vs. Darius Slay (PHI).