6 Wide Receivers With Great Cornerback Matchups in Week 5
It’s the beginning of October, and it’s finally hit 50 degrees in Minnesota. Naturally, most people have taken to trading their summer shades for autumn scarves, their shorts for sweatpants, and their iced coffee for hot.
I am not most people. I’m a stubborn mule, and until it is painfully uncomfortable, I plan to continue wearing shorts and ordering my cold brew -- just like every year. It’s a little bit of a challenge for me: how long can I last before I give in to what the weather is telling me is inevitable?
It’s fun and harmless to play these little mind games with yourself in insignificant ways, but the early weeks of the NFL season see a lot of results that should change our perspectives from the summer. When it comes to the landscape of the NFL, we’ve got to listen to the crisp breeze rolling across our necks that demonstrates the new outlook we need to take in stride. Whether that’s a previously impermeable cornerback slipping in his coverage or a former afterthought of a wide receiver gaining more usage, it’s important to pay attention to the changing color of the environment in our leagues and adapt our own strategies to fit.
Let’s get you a toasty mug of matchups and settle in. Which fantasy wide receivers have the best cornerback matchups in Week 5?
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: Stefon Diggs (10.2) and Michael Pittman Jr. (6.1). Across the board, you’ll see that this past week was a debacle versus expectations. The Baltimore Ravens' secondary buckled down and was able to rise to the challenge with Diggs, limiting him to six targets -- a season-low. The Tennessee Titans' secondary was also able to key in on Pittman, the lone threat Indy has gotten going, and hold him to the same workload.
Good Stocks: Tyler Lockett (13.1), Drake London (3.7), Michael Thomas (DNP), and Richie James (-0.1). Lockett continues to roast bad defenses as an outlet option for quarterback Geno Smith. London saw seven targets, tying for his second-highest total on the season; still, bad quarterback play means London and Kyle Pitts are both volatile receiving threats in any given week. Thomas ended up missing the game in London, and on Twitter, I nominated Curtis Samuel (7.8) as his replacement; Samuel still fell short. James potentially aggravated an ankle injury in this game, saw just three targets on 31 snaps over the course of the contest, and lost a fumble on his lone catch. *guttural internal screaming*
Smoking Craters: Kenny Golladay (0.0) and George Pickens (16.2). Golladay, despite getting another chance to start and prove himself, is still bad. With the change in quarterback, Pickens actually got attention in the passing game and saw better-placed targets than usual, helping him easily torch this category’s thresholds.
Two Lineup Locks
Cooper Kupp vs. Jourdan Lewis – It still boggles my mind to remember that Los Angeles Rams slot receiver Cooper Kupp was once a third-round draft pick out of a relatively unheralded football program at Eastern Washington. If you put it in that meme format -- “How It Started/How It’s Going” -- that’s a pretty strange start for the current wide receiver fantasy points leader and reigning NFL Offensive Player of the Year.
Kupp hasn’t stopped the annihilation of opposing secondaries just because he has some hardware now, either: coming into Week 5, he is earning a target on 31% of his routes run (96th percentile among Week 5 starting receivers) and securing 81% of those targets (90th percentile). He’s turning those looks and catches into a whopping 2.4 yards per route run (84th percentile), and absolutely devastating defenses and fantasy opposition alike. In spite of getting held to just six targets in Week 3, he bounced back with a season-high 19 looks and a career-high 14 receptions. How it started? Yawn. How it’s going? Wow.
This week, Kupp will face most of his coverage from Dallas Cowboys slot defender Jourdan Lewis, who allowed seven targets to the aforementioned Samuel last week. With an even more prolific passing attack and better receiver on the horizon (plus Dallas’ ever-dangerous pass-rush forcing the ball out quickly), Lewis should see a lot of work versus Kupp. So far, he has dissuaded targets at a stern 14% rate (34th percentile among Week 5 starting cornerbacks) but has given up a lot of receptions when they do come. His catch rate allowed is 87% (95th percentile), and receivers have put the moves on with the ball in their hands, as Lewis allows 1.4 yards per cover snap (66th percentile).
Kupp will have work to do, but Lewis is beatable and is clearly the weakest link in the Cowboys’ strong defense. Fortunately for the Rams, Kupp is also their biggest strength.
Tyreek Hill vs. Michael Carter II – I’d normally hesitate to put Miami Dolphins veteran receiver Tyreek Hill in this spot as a lock: he’s the top receiver in the offense but not by much (he has just eight more targets than teammate Jaylen Waddle). In addition, his starting quarterback went down with a severe injury last week, and the backup will be in for the indefinite future. That said, the landscape of WR/CB matchups this week is pretty tough and our options are somewhat limited for star potential. Also, the Miami backup is capable veteran Teddy Bridgewater, who displayed a solid connection with Hill in relief last week (10-of-14 targets for 160 yards in the game).
Hill has remained one of the best receivers in the league in 2022. He holds a 34% target rate (99th percentile), catching 72% of his targets (66th percentile), and turning in a whopping 3.7 yards per route run (98th percentile). Dangerous and reliable is a good combination for a fantasy receiver.
His main opponent this week will most likely not be this matchup, but Hill will get worked into the slot plenty. That’s where the New York Jets solely run defensive back Michael Carter II, who has played 94% of his coverage snaps inside. Carter has been fine at discouraging throws over the middle, with just a 15% target rate (42nd percentile), but receivers have caught 85% of their targets (93rd percentile) against him and turned those catches into 1.9 yards per coverage snap (88th percentile). I’d expect to see about a third of Hill’s reps come from the slot this week, which could provide enough production on their own to get him to “Lock” status.
Four Good Stocks
Davante Adams vs. L’Jarius Sneed – It’s quite a fall from grace to have the one of the top receivers of the last five years considered anything less than a lock, but that’s where we’re at these days with the Las Vegas Raiders' version of Davante Adams. Adams is still drawing a strong 26% target rate (89th percentile) and turning in a solid 1.8 yards per route run (61st percentile), but quarterback play has reduced the number of catchable targets he’d normally see. He still has high upside, though, even facing a formerly stalwart cornerback in L'Jarius Sneed of Kansas City. Sneed’s 82nd-percentile catch rate allowed could be the medicine Adams needs to get back on track as an elite fantasy producer.
Courtland Sutton vs. Stephon Gilmore – New quarterback woes haven’t plagued Denver Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton; with Russell Wilson hucking the rock to him, Sutton is drawing a 77th-percentile target rate and 83rd-percentile yards per route run. We’d typically be concerned to see a name like Stephon Gilmore across from him, but the Indianapolis Colts' cornerback is particularly permissive in target rate; the 17% he allows per coverage snap is in the 68th percentile. Sutton should be fine for Thursday night despite the name brand of one of his primary cover men.
Garrett Wilson vs. Kader Kohou – So far, Jets first-round rookie Garrett Wilson has stunned NFL defenses and fantasy managers alike. Despite playing with a backup quarterback for most of the first month and then the inaccurate stylings of his team’s starter, Wilson is earning a 77th-percentile target rate and 64th-percentile yards per route run. Given that he’s running 58% of his routes in the slot, he should see a lot of Dolphins interior corner Kader Kohou, and that’s a welcome matchup. Kohou allows 66th-percentile or higher marks across the board, including a 74th-percentile yards per cover snap. Another big day from Wilson is possible this week.
Robert Woods vs. William Jackson III – The "Tennessee Titans passing offense” sounds like one of those “jumbo shrimp” oxymorons, but there’s reason to take a long look at wide receiver Robert Woods this week for fantasy. First-round rookie Treylon Burks is almost guaranteed to miss this game with injury, and Woods already has a league-average 18% target rate per route run. Even better, he’s been a reliable target for the perpetually under-siege Titans passers, with a 74th-percentile catch rate and 66th-percentile yards per route run. Washington Commanders top cornerback William Jackson III is nominally assigned to him, but he shouldn’t present much issue; Jackson allows an 87th-percentile catch rate and 84th-percentile yards per coverage snap. This could be a sneaky PPR upside day for Woods.
Two Smoking Craters
Parris Campbell vs. K’Waun Williams – The Colts remain one of the most frustrating passing attacks in the league, piloted by a theoretically above-average quarterback with potentially good weapons around him. Theory has not yet made it to practice, however, and Indianapolis’ upside remains untapped. That’s the same story with wideout Parris Campbell this week. Campbell sports an abhorrent 8% target rate (4th percentile) and 0.6 yards per route run (9th percentile). He’ll face one of the better slot corners in the NFL, K'Waun Williams, who is allowing a paltry 12% target rate (15th percentile) and -- coincidentally -- 0.6 yards per cover snap (7th percentile). Don’t start Campbell, even if you’re desperate.
Marvin Jones Jr. vs. Steven Nelson – The Jacksonville Jaguars’ offense has been a pleasant surprise to this point in the year, rebounding from production that was somehow both horrifically bad and boringly unremarkable last year. They just couldn’t get anyone going in 2021, but they have now unlocked the talents of their key players. Unfortunately, wide receiver Marvin Jones is not one of those keys. Jones has a target rate of 15% (32nd percentile), and that’s the high point of his skills. In Week 5, he’ll face underrated Houston Texans offseason acquisition Steven Nelson, who is holding opposing receivers to a 6th-percentile target rate and 15th-percentile yards per coverage snap. Don’t get cute searching for a cheap piece of a burgeoning Jacksonville offense; Jones ain’t it.