6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 3
Peanut butter and jelly. Peaches and cream. Hall and Oates. These are the pairings that make for true, sweet, delicious greatness. Peanut butter is fine on its own, as is a piece of toast with jelly, but something about the other one makes each better. Seriously, Daryl Hall might be a very talented musician, but did he have John Oates’ mighty mustache? That’s right – each of these pairs make each other better.
That’s the thing about fantasy wide receivers: getting good ones is important for a solid season-long or DFS performance. If you get a good one paired up with an equally sweet cornerback matchup, though -- now you’re making my dreams come true.
Which wide receivers will make a blissful mix with their equally dreamy cornerback matchup in Week 3?
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 15.0 PPR fantasy points (the weekly fantasy average of the WR24 over the last six years) a hit for Lineup Locks, and a score of 9.0 (the average WR48) a hit for Good Stocks. A player with 7.0 PPR fantasy points (the average WR60) or fewer as a Smoking Crater is a hit as well.
Lineup Locks: Tyreek Hill and D.K. Metcalf. Hill (5.9 PPR points) was a colossal bust this week and would have been much worse if not for a 15-yard run. Kansas City seemed to decide they liked tight end Travis Kelce's matchup much more and even targeted Mecole Hardman more than Hill against the Baltimore Ravens' defense. Metcalf (11.3) saw 11 targets, the exact same as teammate Tyler Lockett. The only difference is that Lockett snared eight for 178 yards and a score, while Metcalf caught just six 53 yards. The process worked immensely well here; it’s just that sometimes football is like that.
Good Stocks: Mike Williams, Sterling Shepard, Van Jefferson, and A.J. Green. Williams (22.1) rocked both his cornerback matchup and burned linebacker Jaylon Smith twice for 42 receiving yards. Shepard (17.5) remains the New York Giants’ security blanket with 10 more targets. Jefferson (2.4) hit a major snag this week, with Cooper Kupp getting peppered for 11 targets. Green (13.4), “washed” old goat that he is, was targeted third-most on the team and dusted Bashaud Breeland for two grabs, 38 yards and a score on two targets.
Smoking Craters: Emmanuel Sanders and Kenny Golladay. Sanders (6.8) came in just under our threshold for this category. The positive game script certainly played some role here, but he got covered well by Byron Jones (not Xavien Howard), allowing just two catches on five targets. Golladay (6.8) also fell just short of the mark, making this a hit. He did see eight targets in this game, so it’s a testament to the skill and talent of William Jackson III that he was held to just two catches for 26 empty yards on five targets directed his way.
Two Lineup Locks
Cooper Kupp vs. Ross Cockrell – The Los Angeles Rams’ game plan last week appeared to be “feed Cooper Kupp”, and it worked well. Kupp saw 11 targets, leading to 168 receiving yards and two scores on nine catches. This week, there’s no reason to expect the Kupp will not continue to overflow, as Kupp faces off with Tampa Bay Buccaneers slot cornerback Ross Cockrell.
So far this season, Kupp has been the main man for quarterback Matthew Stafford, with 21 targets leading to 271 receiving yards and three touchdowns. The underlying numbers back up his production, too: Kupp has a target-per-route-run rate of 34% (98th percentile among Week 3 starting wide receivers), an 80% catch rate (77th percentile), and an absurd 4.6 yards per route run (98th percentile). He’s done all of this while running 75% of his routes from the slot, a role that typically yields lower yards per route run due to its short-area responsibilities and quick-hitting routes. Kupp is on fire and shows no signs of stopping this week.
With Sean Murphy-Bunting on injured reserve, the Bucs have had to shuffle their initial cornerback depth chart. That gave an opening for the veteran Cockrell to fill in as the temporary slot starter, and he’s been torched in his duties to this point. Cockrell has allowed a target rate of 26% (96th percentile), an 86% catch rate (82nd percentile), and 2.3 yards per coverage snap. Both Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis are solid cornerbacks, so it wouldn’t be a surprise at all if looks funnel to the middle of the field again in this game.
Tyler Lockett vs. Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander – I promise this isn’t point chasing; both Kupp and the Seattle Seahawks’ Tyler Lockett have really good early-season schedules for wideouts. The juicy matchups continue for Week 2’s wide receiver points leader, Lockett, who finds himself lining up across from the Minnesota Vikings’ Bashaud Breeland and Mackensie Alexander. Minnesota uses Breeland almost exclusively on the defensive left side of the field, while Alexander’s domain is the slot, and Lockett splits his snaps nearly evenly between those two areas. Fortunately for us, both cornerbacks roaming those spots are vulnerable.
Alexander has been a slightly more staunch defender than Breeland, allowing just an 18% target rate (70th percentile) to Breeland’s 21% (90th percentile) and 2.1 yards per coverage snap (89th percentile) to Breeland’s 2.7 (96th percentile). The one area that Breeland outstrips his teammate is in catch rate allowed, with Breeland allowing 75% of his targets to be caught (64th percentile) while Alexander gives up a 90% catch rate (92nd percentile). In short, both of these guys are liable to allow a big Week 3 performance to Lockett.
Lockett has the talent to take advantage, too. In spite of a just above average 75% catch rate (67th percentile), Lockett has earned a target on 26% of his routes (88th percentile) and converts those into 4.5 yards per route run (97th percentile). Through two weeks, Lockett has drawn 16 targets, catching 12 for 278 receiving yards and three touchdowns. He has a great chance to add to those totals on Sunday.
Four Good Stocks
Julio Jones vs. Travis Carrie – In his Tennessee Titans debut, Julio Jones’ three catches for 29 yards seemed on the surface to be a sign that either he would slot in as a natural second fiddle to A.J. Brown or that age was finally catching up to him and the decline had begun. The encouraging signal, however, was his six targets in that contest. With Week 2 in the rearview, we can see that the low opening-week output was likely just a blip. Jones is running a ton of routes and has converted those into 2.1 yards per route run (75th percentile), though his other peripherals are still a little lacking. Week 3 is a get-right spot for Julio against the Indianapolis Colts and Travis Carrie, who is allowing a 19% target rate (76th percentile), 75% catch rate (64th percentile), and 2.9 yards per coverage snap (98th percentile). This is the game where Julio really hits the ground running.
Sammy Watkins vs. Bobby Price – The Detroit Lions’ secondary seemingly took a turn for the worse when former first-round cornerback Jeff Okudah went on injured reserve. Fill-in Bobby Price has done admirably -- and even outshined Okudah in many ways, but hurdling over a one-inch high obstacle isn’t a major achievement. Price is allowing a 29% target rate (98th percentile) in addition to a just above-average 1.2 yards per coverage snap (55th percentile). That may be enough room for Baltimore Ravens wideout Sammy Watkins, who sees a target on 22% of his routes (64th percentile) and creates 2.2 yards per route run (76th percentile). Watkins is a big play waiting to happen, and Price may still be vulnerable to allowing those plays; something’s gotta give in this matchup, and I bet it’s Price.
Christian Kirk vs. Tyson Campbell – Getting a piece of this high-octane Arizona Cardinals offense whenever you can is never a bad idea, and Christian Kirk presents perhaps the most affordable option among their wide receivers in fantasy or DFS. Kirk hasn’t drawn a ton of looks yet, but when he does, he makes the most of it. In 2021, he has an 89% catch rate (89th percentile) and 2.6 yards per route run (89th percentile). This week, it will be Jacksonville Jaguars rookie cornerback Tyson Campbell's job to stop him. Campbell, however, allows a 23% target rate (91st percentile), 75% catch rate (64th percentile), and 2.1 yards per coverage snap (92nd percentile). Kirk should dazzle in this one.
DeVonta Smith vs. Anthony Brown – Anthony Brown of the Dallas Cowboys is rapidly becoming one of our best cornerback targets this season. So far, he has allowed an 18% target rate (70th percentile), 76% catch rate (71st percentile), and 1.9 yards per coverage snap (85th percentile). This week, he has to deal with rookie phenom DeVonta Smith, who is already wowing opponents for the Philadelphia Eagles. Smith has some skills to work on, but he’s running routes and getting open to earn targets, with a 22% target rate (64th percentile). If any cornerback can give his underlying numbers a boost, Brown is it.
Two Smoking Craters
Van Jefferson vs. Jamel Dean – As mentioned before, the Buccaneers are a tough matchup for any passing-game member operating on the outside. Cornerback Jamel Dean is a big reason for that, as he is holding opponents to an 11% target rate (15th percentile), 55% catch rate (23rd percentile), and 0.7 yards per coverage snap (17th percentile). Dean spends about 80% of his snaps on the defensive right side, which is typically where Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson lines up.
Jefferson draws the toughest matchup of the week for LA and will likely end up as the Rams’ sacrificial lamb against Tampa Bay. He is earning a paltry 11% target rate (13th percentile) and catching just 50% of his targets (9th percentile) on top of that. With a sweltering defensive assignment for Van, it’s a good idea to bench him in all lineups this week.
Nelson Agholor vs. Bradley Roby – The New England Patriots' passing attack has gone from low-volume and mediocre in value last season to average volume and still fairly mediocre in quality this year. That said, wide receiver Nelson Agholor has some sleeper value in most contexts -- but not this week. Agholor already has posted just a 13% target rate (21st percentile) and 1.3 yards per route run (42nd percentile) so far this year.
The New Orleans Saints' secondary presents a tough assignment for rookie passer Mac Jones, especially cornerback Bradley Roby. Roby is the toughest defender on the Week 3 slate, allowing just an 8% target rate (4th percentile), 50% catch rate (13th percentile), and 0.4 yards per route run (4th percentile). He also is versatile in both the slot and on the outside, so -- depending on how the Saints use him -- Roby can roam anywhere and disrupt any Patriots pass-catchers.
Week 3 Potential Shadow Situations: DeAndre Hopkins (ARZ) vs. C.J. Henderson (JAX); D.K. Metcalf (SEA) vs. Patrick Peterson (MIN); JuJu Smith-Schuster (PIT) vs. Mike Hilton (CIN); Julio Jones (TEN) vs. Travis Carrie (IND); Chris Godwin (TB) vs. Jalen Ramsey (LAR); Mike Evans (TB) vs. David Long (LAR).