6 Wide Receivers with Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 16
Every year, when the NFL Draft rolls around, I have a little tradition that I mainly do for myself. I like to live-tweet the first-round picks, but offer no commentary on the talent, fit, value, or anything else outside of attaching to the tweet a GIF that expresses my sentiments.
A player I really liked goes to a situation I think will suck for fantasy purposes? Slap a “Thanks, I hate it” meme on there. A person I thought would go high on Day 1 gets nabbed at the end of the round? An Owen Wilson “Wow” fits that perfectly. A person I’ve never even heard of gets taken in the first 32 (looking at you, Seahawks)? John Mulaney’s “It’s a horse loose in a hospital” stand-up routine gets the nod.
I often think in memes (clear sign that my brain is broken), and all I can see as an appropriate summation of the 2020 fantasy season, especially as things have gotten particularly weird down the stretch, is Bill Hader’s SNL sketch performance, where he whispers quietly to himself: “In a word: chaos.”
Still, even while the fantasy world burns around your team, we can help you figure out the method to the madness in fantasy championship week. Which wide receivers will be your ties to sanity and order in Week 16?
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: DeAndre Hopkins and Allen Robinson. Hopkins (30.0) came through with the second-best wide receiver performance of the week in a surprisingly competitive game that yielded plenty of passing chances. Robinson (12.3) was under the “Locks” mark but was still extremely startable. The only flaw was no touchdown to bump him past teammate Darnell Mooney.
Good Stocks: Antonio Brown, Lynn Bowden Jr., Jakobi Meyers, and Sterling Shepard. If Robinson was slightly lacking, Brown (20.3) picked up that slack in a big way, scoring late to cement an impressive week. Bowden (10.6) had a poor yardage total of 37 (plus a 9-yard run) but did bring in 6 catches. Meyers (16.1) stunned even me, posting over 100 yards for the first time since Week 9. Shepard (8.8) would have met our threshold if not for a three-yard loss on a rushing attempt.
Smoking Craters: D.J. Chark and Breshad Perriman. Chark (9.3) was usable thanks to the absurdly negative game script Jacksonville faced all game. Perriman (3.1) got squelched by the smothering Rams’ secondary, despite the Jets remaining competitive all game – and, in fact, picking up their first win.
Two Lineup Locks
Amari Cooper vs. Michael Jacquet III – The most quality wide receivers in the league don’t actually have the most ideal cornerback matchups for fantasy purposes as we get into the later parts of the season. We’ve moved from the sometimes-mismatched intra- and interconference games to the highly-competitive, marquee divisional slugfests that make for great viewing – but not always for predictable fantasy numbers. The NFC East does bring us one matchup that is utterly mismatched (and therefore exploitable), however, as Dallas Cowboys star receiver Amari Cooper squares off with undrafted rookie cornerback Michael Jacquet III of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cooper has been remarkably consistent in 2020, posting between 14.0 and 18.0 PPR points in half his games so far this year. He certainly has had a lower ceiling, thanks to playing with suspect quarterbacks for a large portion of the year, but he’s as reliable a bet to give us at least high-end WR2 production in fantasy championship week as anyone. His personal production metrics aren’t overwhelming, to be honest: in each of targets per routes run rate, catch rate when targeted, and yards per route run, he ranks in the top third of Week 16 starting wideouts (21%, 73%, and 1.8, respectively; data per Pro Football Focus). That said, he’s well above the threshold we look for in a solid wide receiver play. For DFS, Cooper has the added bonus of a poor outing last week (2-10-0 on three targets, for 2.3 PPR points) that should suppress his rostered percentage a bit.
The major selling point for this matchup is Jacquet, who will make only his second career start this week. Last week, MJ3 allowed 10 targets on 41 coverage snaps, allowed 80% of them to be caught, and gave up 158 yards and a score on those catches. To date, he is among the top-five starting cornerbacks in target rate allowed (21%), the top-half in catch rate allowed (69%), and the top cornerback in yards per coverage snap allowed (2.8). Jacquet presents our single best cornerback matchup in Week 16, and Cooper’s full talent should be on display here in a must-win matchup for the NFC East title.
Jarvis Landry vs. Javelin Guidry – What kind of bizarro world is this, where one of the premier options of the championship week is a Cleveland Browns slot receiver who was basically droppable just earlier this season? 2020 has been a wild mistress, but – yes – Jarvis Landry is one of the best fantasy options possible this week. He will see a significant amount of slot cornerback Javelin Guidry, not to mention the entire New York Jets secondary.
Landry has now seen four straight weeks with eight or more targets, has caught six or more of them every week, and has found the end zone in three of those contests to boot. A bit surprisingly, he is top-10 among Week 16 starters in target rate (25%) when running a route, sits in the top third in catch rate (74%), and has a top-15 yards per route run mark (2.1). Landry has become the clear top receiving target for the Browns at a point where their offense is clicking really well, and they are pushing hard for a strong seed in the AFC playoff picture.
On the flip side, the Jets are in danger of losing out on the number-one draft slot in 2021 thanks to last week’s win. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a fairly phoned-in defensive performance this week and next due to that. Guidry unfortunately is an unwilling participant in that impending collapse, as he is in the top-half of Week 16 starting corners in target rate allowed (16%) and yards per coverage snap (1.2) but allows the 10th-highest catch rate (80%). Landry’s biggest draw is his stable floor in PPR leagues due to steady volume; Guidry affords that profile a potential ceiling that could push you over the top.
Four Good Stocks
Jakobi Meyers vs. Taron Johnson – I don’t like to repeat players in back-to-back weeks, but New England Patriots slot receiver Jakobi Meyers is in too good a spot not to highlight. As we mentioned last week, Meyers’s peripheral numbers are all outstanding (top-12 target rate, top-quarter catch rate, top-8 yards per route run) and it was only a matter of time and positive passing volume regression before he had another strong outing. That could be the case here as well, as Meyers faces our favorite slot corner: Taron Johnson of the Buffalo Bills. Johnson allows top-15 marks in target rate and yards per coverage snap and a top-20 one in catch rate. The Pats should also be underdogs against their division rivals here, meaning they’ll need to play catchup through the air quite a bit.
Emmanuel Sanders vs. Chris Jones – With star Michael Thomas finally down for the count for the regular season and young gun Tre'Quan Smith ailing, the New Orleans Saints turn to veteran Emmanuel Sanders as their top option going forward. Sanders has a mediocre profile, with a top-quarter catch rate and a top-third mark in yards per route run, but the volume should be there for him. He’ll have an easy go of it against Minnesota Vikings cornerback Chris Jones, another column favorite, who is top-two in catch rate allowed and top-four in yards per coverage snap allowed. This should add a little giddy-up to old horse Sanders’ Week 16 outlook.
Chase Claypool vs. Rock Ya-Sin – The Pittsburgh Steelers look broken right now, but that’s actually not the worst thing for wide receiver and deep threat Chase Claypool. The more this juggernaut falls behind, the more their already pass-happy offense has to throw – especially down the field and at his massive 6-foot-4, 230-pound frame in the red zone. Claypool is top-20 in target rate and yards per route run this week, and should be able to bully Indianapolis Colts cornerback Rock Ya-Sin – two inches shorter and forty pounds lighter – who allows a top-third catch rate and a top-five yards per route run mark.
D.J. Chark vs. Kindle Vildor – The Chicago Bears’ top asset in this rough season has been their defense, but the past few weeks have seen cornerbacks Buster Skrine and Jaylon Johnson suffer brain and shoulder injuries, respectively. That provides an opportunity for rookie fifth-rounder Kindle Vildor to draw his second career start here – though he is allowing a top-15 target rate, a top-4 catch rate, and top-quarter yards per coverage snap. Jacksonville Jaguars top wide receiver D.J. Chark will line up opposite him, and (despite a horrific year for the Jags) he is still in the top half of starters this week in target rate and yards per route run. Chark is a fine deep option or GPP play in Week 16.
Two Smoking Craters
Marquise Brown vs. James Bradberry – Speaking of teams that look out of sync in the AFC North, the Baltimore Ravens have finally gotten their own passing game back in rhythm after a slow start to the year. Top receiver Marquise Brown has posted an average 15.6 PPR fantasy points over the last month, never dropping below 13.0 points in a week in that span. This week, though, he has to contend with top New York Giants cornerback James Bradberry, who should shadow him around the field. Bradberry allows a bottom-15 mark in target rate (13%), bottom-20 catch rate (56%), and bottom-12 yards per route run (0.8). Brown himself, having only recently turned his 2020 campaign around, still ranks outside the top-third in both target rate and yards per route run, with a bottom-20 catch rate. Avoid the volatility Brown presents this week if you can.
Denzel Mims vs. Denzel Ward – If only Academy Award-winning actor Denzel Washington was in the commentary booth for this one, we’d have Denzel vs. Denzel, presented by Denzel. That serendipitous name situation and silly fantasy may be the most exciting fantasy thing to happen this week for Jets receiver Denzel Mims, however, as he should be blanketed by Browns cornerback Denzel Ward. Ward allows a bottom-third target rate (15%) and a bottom-20 mark in catch rate (56%) and yards per route run (0.9). That should be daunting enough to avoid Mims, whose target rate and yards per route run are barely above average, while his catch rate is in the bottom-10 of Week 16 starters.
Week 16 Potential Shadow Situations: Marquise Brown (BAL) vs. James Bradberry (NYG), Brandin Cooks (HOU) vs. William Jackson III (CIN), Marvin Jones Jr. (DET) vs. Carlton Davis (TB), Davante Adams (GB) vs. Malcolm Butler (TEN).