6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 13
Sometimes, when you’re looking at the same information for the hundredth time and it’s not clicking, you just need a different perspective on the situation. I’ve heard from friends that when they’re writing and get stumped, it helps them to stand up, do a lap of the house, and let their fingers rest while their minds puzzle through the writer’s block. I myself have learned that if I sit upside-down on a couch or chair, that helps me literally get a different angle on what I’m doing. Something about it – blood flow, spinal comfort, maybe laughing at myself – helps me shake things out of stasis and get back on track.
These are physical ways to get different perspectives on something. My goal, however, is to help you find a different perspective on fantasy football. Each week, I hope to offer you information and rationale that confirm your hunches – or stress test them and force you to reconsider your assumptions about certain wide receiver matchups with cornerbacks. My hope is that this zoomed-in angle at least gets you thinking about the minutiae and individual components of what makes a good wide receiver play as we head into the next week.
Don’t flip your lineups upside-down in frustration; which wide receivers have beneficial cornerback matchups in Week 13?
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: Deebo Samuel and Michael Pittman Jr. This was largely a bad week. Even our biggest success, Samuel (20.8), ended up getting hurt in this game and will miss Week 13. Sure, he was a top-five receiver while still missing part of the game, but this is a pyrrhic victory at best. Pittman (9.3) was startable but didn’t meet the threshold for star-level, which is surprising considering the two teams in his game combined for almost 70 points.
Good Stocks: Brandin Cooks, Ja'Marr Chase, Sammy Watkins, and Ja'Marcus Bradley/Donovan Peoples-Jones. In the battle of the AFC’s worst franchises, Cooks (13.5) went off as expected due to his inexperienced cover men. Chase (6.9) took a surprising backseat to Tee Higgins. The Bengals scored 41 points, but they didn’t need to push the pace with Pittsburgh mustering only 10. Watkins (1.8) and both Bradley (3.8) and DPJ (3.0) were fantasy disasters in Week 12, as only the teams’ top receivers were startable in this 26-point, turnover-happy AFC North slugfest.
Smoking Craters: Nelson Agholor and Tre'Quan Smith. Agholor (5.0) ceded all the fun to teammate Kendrick Bourne last week, as expected. Smith (7.1) barely pushed above “Craters” territory but was still one of the least usable fantasy wideout options last week.
Two Lineup Locks
Adam Thielen vs. Ifeatu Melifonwu – I haven’t been on the Adam Thielen bandwagon all season long, so I’m admitting my mistake now as I hop on board at this point. Thielen has scored in all but one of his last six games, seeing no fewer than seven targets in each and averaging 8.8 targets per game. In all but one contest in that time, he has racked up no less than 62 receiving yards. I can’t resist it anymore: Thielen is still on fire from 2020, and the flames are burning even hotter. I have only slight quibbles with his peripherals, as the Minnesota Vikings’ veteran wideout has just a 19% target rate on his routes run (57th percentile among Week 13 starters), and he has created only 1.6 yards per route run (64th percentile). That said, he is one of the most surehanded receivers in the league this year, catching 78% of his targets (87th percentile).
His profile is made all the better by facing Detroit Lions cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu this week. The third-round rookie hasn’t played a ton yet, but in a limited span of time, he has allowed a 24% target rate on his coverage snaps (99th percentile among Week 13 starters), an 80% catch rate when targeted (91st percentile), and a whopping 4.1 yards per coverage snap (99th percentile). Expect the wily wideout to exploit the young corner, despite Melifonwu’s ability to play physical defense and his obvious eventual upside.
Tyreek Hill vs. Kyle Fuller – The Denver Broncos' edition of Kyle Fuller is nothing like his old self used to be. At one point, Fuller was one of the deadliest shutdown corners in the entire NFL. At this point, the veteran cornerback is getting torched semi-regularly with seemingly no explanation for it. The 2021 Fuller has allowed a 17% target rate (68th percentile) while limiting receivers to just a 59% catch rate when targeted (33rd percentile). When they get the ball in their hands, however, his assignments are putting up 1.6 yards per route run (85th percentile) on Fuller. Even if he makes Kansas City wide receiver Tyreek Hill's day tougher than usual, expect the big plays to ruin Fuller’s outing.
Hill, both an NFL WR1 by team target share and a blazing deep threat, is earning a target on 28% of his routes (97th percentile), has caught 70% of them (68th percentile), and turns them into 2.2 yards per route run (93rd percentile). It’s not likely that Fuller will roll over and play dead for Hill in this divisional matchup, but Hill has enough talent and Fuller’s game has enough holes that it’s easy to see how the KC speedster could (and should) go off in Week 13.
Four Good Stocks
Cooper Kupp vs. Rudy Ford – I don’t need to sell you on Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp. He leads the league in target rate (99th percentile) and yards per route run (99th percentile), and the reason he is just “good to great” in catch rate (79th percentile) is that he is seeing downfield looks more frequently than ever. What I would like to sell you on today, however, is that matching up Kupp in the slot with Jacksonville Jaguars safety Rudy Ford is a terrible idea for the Jags and a great one for Kupp's fantasy managers. Ford allows a 95th-percentile target rate and an 86th-percentile catch rate. It’ll be another big day for Kupp in Week 13.
Jerry Jeudy vs. L’Jarius Sneed – Since returning from injury, Jerry Jeudy has continued his breakout for the Broncos. Jeudy has produced at least 87th-percentile marks in every category this season, and he now matches up with a Kansas City cornerback doing basically the exact opposite. L'Jarius Sneed mans the slot for KC and has forked over at least 80th-percentile marks in every category. Jeudy is the guy to target in the Denver offense for this week.
Marquise Brown vs. James Pierre – The Baltimore Ravens’ Marquise Brown was one of our few saviors in this column last week, and we’re turning to him again. Brown has earned an 87th-percentile target rate and 88th-percentile yards per route run as Baltimore’s high-volume deep threat. He gets to take on a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that allowed more than 40 points last week, and he will be squaring off with cornerback James Pierre. Pierre is giving up a 68th-percentile target rate and 88th-percentile yards per coverage snap. Expect another good day from Brown.
A.J. Green vs. Artie Burns – A little more of a long-shot here, A.J. Green may end up the top receiver for his Arizona Cardinals in Week 13 if DeAndre Hopkins sits again. If Green is the top guy, he’ll get increased volume while he faces cornerback Artie Burns of the Chicago Bears. Burns, who flamed out as a hybrid defensive back with the Steelers years ago, is allowing an 88th-percentile target rate and 98th-percentile yards per coverage snap so far in 2021. That elevates Green’s admittedly underwhelming profile, though he does have a 68th-percentile yards per route run. AJG isn’t an every-week NFL WR1 anymore for a reason, but he has a chance to taste that level of dominance once again in Week 13.
Two Smoking Craters
Adam Humphries vs. Nate Hobbs – The Las Vegas Raiders’ secondary has been giving up a ton of big plays and causing a defense that was dominant early on in 2021 to implode. That said, those big plays are coming from weak boundary and safety play; the slot, manned by cornerback Nate Hobbs, has been a no-fly zone this season. Hobbs has forced just a sixth-percentile target rate and 11th-percentile yards per coverage snap for his assignments. That’s a bad sign for Washington Football Team slot man Adam Humphries, who has a fifth-percentile target rate and 11th-percentile yards per route run rate. Humphries should remain stuck in neutral even if Washington goes off elsewhere.
Zach Pascal vs. Tavierre Thomas – One of the league’s worst starting wideouts this year has to face one of the league’s best cornerbacks. Indianapolis Colts slot receiver Zach Pascal cannot catch a break this season, going from one bad matchup to the next. This week, he’s taking on Houston Texans slot corner Tavierre Thomas, the boogeyman of our 2021 column. Thomas is allowing a fourth-percentile target rate (just 10%), a 23rd-percentile catch rate (59%), and the lowest yards per cover snap rate (0.4) among all Week 13 starting corners. Pascal’s rates are all below the 20th percentile. Don’t start Pascal here -- or for a while.