6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 17
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 17?
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: Davante Adams and D.K. Metcalf. Adams (33.4) remains a one-man wrecking crew for fantasy football and gobbled up a 39.4% team target share, converting it into a devastating stat line. Metcalf (12.1) did score the most of any Seattle wide receiver, but in a game where they slumped behind the Bears and he was managing a foot injury, it’s little surprise that the peak was relatively low for the offense.
Good Stocks: Diontae Johnson, D.J. Moore, Ja'Marr Chase, and DeVante Parker. Johnson (15.1), as expected, ravaged the Kansas City defense in the slot. Nine targets and a touchdown pushed Johnson into elite territory for the week. Moore (10.5) surprisingly scored just the third-most among Carolina wideouts, but his 11 targets pushed him over the startable finish line. Chase (19.5) was a distant second in receiving as part of Cincinnati’s offensive blowout, and yet he still blew almost every other recommendation out of the water this week. Parker (0.0), in spite of a choice matchup in theory, got completely blanked by cornerback Marshon Lattimore.
Smoking Craters: Quez Watkins and Robby Anderson. Watkins (7.3) was uncharacteristically effective downfield in this game, seeing only three targets in a run-heavy blowout, but catching all three. Anderson (10.8) was a beneficiary of major negative game script, and his 10 targets outweighed the poor passing efficiency and general scoring effectiveness.
Two Lineup Locks
Diontae Johnson vs. Greedy Williams: Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Diontae Johnson has been promoted from “Stock” to “Lock” this week after his summary decimation of a lacking cornerback in Week 16. Week 17 sees Johnson square off with the Cleveland Browns’ Greedy Williams, who just let up 65 receiving yards on 4 catches (6 targets) in man coverage against Green Bay’s Adams. High-volume receiving for Johnson plus lagging coverage from Williams seems like a great mix for fantasy football managers. Do the numbers bear this out?
Johnson has seen a target on 27% of his pass routes this year (94th percentile among Week 17 starting wide receivers), is catching 65% of his targets (47th percentile), earning 2.1 yards per route run (84th percentile). Williams has allowed an 18% target rate on routes he’s covered (81st percentile among starting cornerbacks in Week 17), a 60% catch rate when targeted (33rd percentile), and 1.4 yards per coverage snap (75th percentile). Despite the potential for inconsistency due to a mediocre catch rate (largely thanks to quarterback play), Johnson is a high-end fantasy football option for this week once again. Elite volume surpasses a lot, and it should smooth over any flaws in Johnson’s Week 17.
Ja’Marr Chase vs. Mike Hughes: The Cincinnati Bengals’ offense went off in Week 16, and -- while it would be silly to expect the same in Week 17 -- rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase should be plenty effective once again. We’re just shuffling our exploitable cornerbacks around here, and Kansas City's Mike Hughes -- who the aforementioned Johnson diced up for four catches on five targets last game -- has the unenviable job of stopping Chase.
Hughes, for the season, is allowing a 20% target rate on his snaps (90th percentile), a 61% catch rate (35th percentile), and 1.2 yards per cover snap (61st percentile). Hughes hasn’t dissuaded opposing passers from throwing his way at all, even though he hasn’t been wildly blown up once the ball is in his coverage zone. That’s just enough of a gap in the armor for Chase to exploit, though: he has drawn a target on 20% of his routes (63rd percentile), catching 64% of them (42nd percentile) but racking up an eye-popping 2.2 yards per route run (88th percentile). Expect Chase to smash his peripherals here in what will likely be a high-powered passing shootout.
Four Good Stocks
Hunter Renfrow vs. Kenny Moore II: It’s hard to overstate how impactful Hunter Renfrow has been in 2021, not only to the Las Vegas Raiders but to PPR league fantasy managers. He ranks 12th among wide receivers in PPR scoring, is on pace for over 104 receptions, and is still a top-20 receiver in the format when adjusting for points per game. He should be just as dependably impactful in the fantasy championships, with the second-best wideout matchup on the week. The shifty slot receiver gets Indianapolis Colts corner Kenny Moore, who has been hammered with targets this year (97th percentile target rate) while also allowing an above-average catch rate (60th percentile) and yards per coverage snap (64th percentile). Renfrow himself has a 79th percentile target rate, a 98th percentile catch rate, and 82nd percentile yards per route run.
Courtland Sutton vs. Davontae Harris: In a divisional matchup that is more about pride for the Denver Broncos, wide receiver Courtland Sutton will also look to continue his forward progress made in the 2021 season. Sutton has an exactly league-average target rate and yards per route run (50th percentile), which would normally be a tough sign for his fantasy chances. His matchup against Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Davontae Harris is choice, however. In Harris’ defense, he has only played 37 snaps this season. On those snaps, though, he has allowed 99th percentile marks in every single category. I wouldn’t be relying on Sutton as a fantasy superstar this week, but he has plenty of upside due to this fantastic matchup.
Christian Kirk vs. Anthony Brown: Things get a little dicier here, with Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk going up against Dallas Cowboys cornerback Anthony Brown. Kirk is above-average across the board, and -- as a short-area receiver with speed -- has excelled in catch rate (89th percentile) and yards per route run (74th percentile). Brown is no pushover but has given up quite a bit in terms of target rate (81st percentile) and yards per coverage snap (72nd percentile). With quarterbacks still testing Dallas corners quite a bit and Arizona’s depth chart thinner ahead of him than before, expect Kirk to be a solid option with a decent production ceiling.
Amon-Ra St. Brown vs. Ugo Amadi: The Detroit Lions’ fourth-round rookie receiver, Amon-Ra St. Brown, has been a revelation over the last month. He is seeing 11.5 targets per game and has caught no fewer than 8 of them for 70-plus yards in each contest. In addition, St. Brown has scored three times across that month, averaging no fewer than 22.4 PPR points per game. In sum total for the year, St. Brown has seen a 69th-percentile target rate and caught them at a 94th-percentile rate. He’ll match up with one of the defensive stars of this column, Ugo Amadi of the Seattle Seahawks. Amadi has allowed production at rates in the 70th percentile or higher in each category we track, so St. Brown is all systems go for the fantasy finals.
Two Smoking Craters
Van Jefferson vs. Jimmy Smith: There have been some high highs for Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Van Jefferson in 2021, but on the whole things have been a bit lackluster for the second-year pro. With a target rate in the 29th percentile, a catch rate in the 11th percentile, and a 45th percentile yards per route run, he’s not put together a stellar resumé for the year. Now, matched up with Baltimore Ravens veteran Jimmy Smith in Week 17, things could get a lot worse for the speedy wideout. While Smith hasn’t dissuaded a ton of throws, he is allowing just a 43% catch rate when targeted (2nd percentile) and stopping receivers before they can pick up a ton of yards per coverage snap (4th percentile). Jefferson has intrinsic upside in his profile, but this week is messy for him.
Jauan Jennings vs. Tavierre Thomas: Though the big slot presence of San Francisco 49ers receiver Jauan Jennings makes him a unique talent among starters this week, the fresh man in gold and red might not have the muster to break through Tavierre Thomas, slot defender extraordinaire for the Houston Texans. Thomas remains the toughest matchup of the season. He is allowing a target on just 10% of his snaps (1st percentile) and a mediocre catch rate (35th percentile) while absolutely stonewalling them on yards per cover snap (2nd percentile). Jennings has a poor 57% catch rate (13th percentile) and little to no yards per route run impact (22nd percentile). Keep Jennings on the bench in this most crucial of fantasy slates even in deep leagues.